I admit it: I haven’t listened to much Bill Callahan, who has spent the bulk of his career recording under the Smog moniker. But I’ve listened to 2003’s Supper about a quarter of a million times, and why, given how much I enjoy it, I haven’t listened to any of his other albums is an imponderable mystery, like what happened to D.B. Cooper, why the dinosaurs and the 8-track went extinct, and what exactly it is about the Police that other people hear but I don’t.
Callahan followed the patented path from lo-fi to high, although in his case the increasing sophistication was due less to shifting aesthetic preference to sheer lack of access to more expensive recording technology in his early years. He has however, stayed faithful to his relativity primitive songwriting approach, which emphasizes simple and repetitive song structures, and often eschews choruses. That, compared with his deadpan vocal delivery, gives his LPs a unique feel, one that is often simultaneously down in the mouth and exhilarating. Or, depending on your tastes, it makes them exercises in monotony, which are likely to send you running to something with more variety, say Prince or just about everybody, really.
“Feather by Feather” is a lovely and haunting slow burner of a country rock tune on which Callahan is joined by Sarabeth Tucek. The organ is pretty, as is the pedal steel guitar, and while I can’t say I know what the song is about, I sure do like it when Callahan sings, “When they make the movie of your life/They’re going to have to ask you to do your own stunts/Cuz nobody nobody nobody nobody/Can pull off the same shit as you/And still come out alright.” I also like the ending, when Callahan and Tucek sing, “And you are a fighter/You are a fighter/You are a fighter” and so on until a synth comes in and they repeat, “The kids got heart.” I’m not enthralled by “Butterflies Drowned in Wine,” which opens with some stop and start until it breaks into an enthused passage, which in its turn is followed by some slow country music. And so it goes, the tune twisting and turning about on itself and going every which way—there’s even a section where Callahan and Tucek sing, “Temporary sister and brotherhood” over and over again—and it’s just too busy for my tastes.
“At risk of doing that whole ‘cryptic songwriter’ thing, I’d like to keep ‘Bella Tell’ open to interpretation. I don’t want to ruin the story. Sometimes I write songs based on very clear stories that were told to me, or that are known folklore, but this one is based on my own specific experiences and I wouldn’t want them to taint the listeners’ personal experience of the song based on their own histories. If I were to choose keywords for the song, though, they’d be these: RUCKUS, GUILE, GRIT, and DEBAUCHERY”
“Something I think quite a lot about is intention. Living at a time when things are constantly thrown at us, constantly changing, buzzing, flashing, it can be very easy to lose sight of intention. What vinyl represents for me is intentional listening. It’s an opportunity to break out of mindless scrolling and pressing buttons.
It’s delicate. It’s about listening to an album for the pure experience of it, rather than simply cutting the silence. It’s more than the listening too, isn’t it? It’s a full sensory experience—the smell of the record, the artwork, the feeling of it in your hands as you gently place it onto the player.
The Vinyl District’s Play Something Good is a weekly radio show broadcast from Washington, DC.
Featuring a mix of songs from today to the 00s/90s/80s/70s/60s and giving you liberal doses of indie, psych, dub, post punk, americana, shoegaze, and a few genres we haven’t even thought up clever names for just yet. The only rule is that the music has to be good. Pretty simple.
Hosted by John Foster, world-renowned designer and author (and occasional record label A+R man), don’t be surprised to hear quick excursions and interviews on album packaging, food, books, and general nonsense about the music industry, as he gets you from Jamie xx to Liquid Liquid and from Courtney Barnett to The Replacements. The only thing you can be sure of is that he will never ever play Mac DeMarco. Never. Ever.
Much of The Replacements’ deserved reputation rests upon their work for the Minneapolis indie Twin/Tone, and last year fans desirous of owning said material on vinyl were given the treat of a 4LP box set. But it’s hard to find a lover of the ‘Mats who gives up on the crew after the transition to Sire; if The Twin/Tone Years ended with a peak, a high percentage of its follow-up collection hangs in the vicinity of those heights as the remainder documents their decline. Offering a pair of absolute gems and the rocky but convulsively interesting later period of an oft disheveled band, The Sire Years is out now.
Born in the tail end of the 1970s and surviving into the early ’90s (of course, there was a reunion), The Replacements stand as one of the defining acts of the decade between. Consequently, there is no shortage of synopses of these booze-soaked underdogs’ existence, though the consensus on later achievements gets a little bit thornier as the story heads to its conclusion.
1981’s Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash established trashy punk parameters as ’82’s “Stink” EP found them dabbling with hardcore a la hometown contemporaries Hüsker Dü. ’83 brought Hootenanny’s rough-edged growth spurt, the album capturing increasing flirtations with true greatness; ’84’s follow-up marked a more significant rendezvous with the masterful, Let It Be standing as one of the ‘80s finest albums and a cornerstone of proudly unpolished pop-rock.
Part of The Replacements’ appeal derived from their collective persona as the guys least expected to succeed, and like many of those told they ain’t never going to amount to nothin’, they could engage in bouts of self-sabotage; the gradually deteriorating gig issued on the ’85 cassette-only release The Shit Hits the Fans would’ve spelled serious trouble for most bands, but in this instance hearing the wheels come off proved part of the allure (the admittedly small Okie crowd stayed to the end).
Record Store Which Served South Coast For More Than A Half Century Closes: It’s a record store which opened in Oxnard when Elvis was King, in the 1950’s. It was there for the Beatles, and the changing sounds of the 1960’s. And, when the Rolling Stones and other bands dominated the music of the 70’s, Peacock’s Record Bar had the 45’s, and albums…Richard Ordaz has owned Peacock’s for the last two decades. Ordaz says Peacock’s actually started as part of a diner owned by Richard Peacock in the 1950’s.
Seasick Records joins SlossFest, adding fourth stage to the mix: Birmingham’s Seasick Records will be a part of this year’s Sloss Music and Arts Festival. Partnering with Single Lock Records, a Florence-based record label, Seasick will have its own stage that will feature six Alabama acts. Attendees will be able to enjoy a Seasick-sponsored meet-and-greet with some of the festival’s performers, shop Seasick merchandise and local music at pop-up shops, and spin a prize wheel.
Vinyl Spotters Meet Coming To Rozelle: The Rozelle Collectors Market are putting on Vinyl Record Spin, a special event for vinyl lovers to buy, sell, talk and play records on 9 Jul at Rozelle Public School. There will be long-time vinyl lovers and players in attendance to offer advice and share stories of both buying and selling retro records, as well as market stalls that will focus on the very best of vintage vinyl and record players.
PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The recollection is still quite vivid—my pal Shawn sidling by my room with a copy of The Posies’ 1990 release Dear 23 in hand. He’s tapping the CD jewel case deliberately. “I know you…you’re going to love this record.” And, as it turned out, both were true. Plus, it didn’t hurt one iota that I was, in fact, 23 at the time.
Hooked since then through stylistic turns, rhythm sections, break-ups, solo projects, Big Star status, reformations, and happily new (vinyl) releases, The Posies’ brand new full Length LP Solid States is in stores as you’re reading this right now.
Touring to support Solid States, Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, and new drummer Frankie Siragusa embarked on a set of band-booked, intimate house concerts. The day after what was apparently one hell of a Washington, DC show, The Posies joined us at DC’s Som Records for a rummage through the racks—warm, chatty, and hilarious throughout.
So, onward—we’re record shopping with The Posies at Washington, DC’s Som Records.
Rootwork may appear like three mild-mannered office workers, but don’t let looks deceive you.
Since the release of their EP “Gallows Humour” last year, the London-based trio has been receiving steady praise for their tight riffs and abrasive sound. They’re a heady combination between Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon, bringing both the heavy and melodic elements of metal together in glorious harmony.
They recently released the video for track “Code Talker” (also available on the aforementioned EP), and whilst it may not be the most spectacular visual accompaniment, it shows a band that are slowly finding their feet on the scene—these boys can certainly make some noise. Who knows what they’re capable of next and, quite frankly, we cannot wait to find out.
The Vinyl Guide is a weekly podcast for fans and collectors of vinyl records. Each week is an audio-documentary on your favourite records, often including interviews with band members and people who were part of the project.
It’s hosted by Nate Goyer, a self-described vinyl maniac who enjoys listening to records and sharing the stories behind them. Despite his Yankee accent, Nate lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, 2 kids, and about 1,500 records. (But only about 1,000 of them his wife knows about.)
The Vinyl Guide takes records one by one, telling the tale of how they came to be, why the work is important, and then shares how collectors can tell one pressing from another. Learn more at the TheVinylGuide.com or simply subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed.
What will happen to your body when you die? Jason at AndVinyly.com has an option; get your ashes pressed into vinyl records to be enjoyed by your loved ones. Hear his interview as well as some discussion on cratedigging in Northern China. I travel to the city of Dalian and made a video of a record hunt, available on Facebook.com/vinylguide.
John Coltrane’s Atlantic period presents an arresting convergence of circumstances. It was a time of raised profile and of considerable transition, the artist’s confidence audibly growing as he united jazz tradition and experimentation; most of all it was an era of major breakthroughs establishing the saxophonist as a leader in his field. TheAtlantic Years in Mono doesn’t include the entirety of his work for the label, but it does ably document a thrilling era that brought Coltrane to a mainstream audience. Don’t be scared by the audiophile angle; Rhino’s 6CD/6LP+7-inch set is a splendid acquisition for both newbies and longtime fans. One gets to hear the thriving mastery as it was originally released.
By the time John Coltrane hooked up with the Ertegun brothers he’d already chalked up a significant list of achievements, serving as a powerful voice in post-bop’s development via the bands of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, guesting for a track on Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness, teaming with Hank Mobley, Al Cohn, and Zoot Simms for Tenor Conclave, and leading bands for Prestige and for one LP Blue Note.
Top billing came with Coltrane in 1957, and next was Blue Train for Blue Note, which many consider to be his first great album. John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio followed in ’58 (aka Traneing In for its ’61 reissue), and Soultrane retained the services of the Garland band. As Coltrane’s fame grew Prestige would later release nearly a dozen albums under his name from unissued sessions and elevated sideman dates, in turn possibly lending a false impression of the saxophonist as unusually prolific during ’57-’58.
Coltrane was constantly playing but was nowhere near popular enough to have that many albums produced in such a short span; indeed, his two ’58 records with Wilber Harden as co-leader, Jazz Way Out and Tanganyika Strut, are rarely discussed in spite of their being positioned directly before Coltrane’s move to Atlantic. Well, not quite; the closest correspondent recording to his ’59 Atlantic debut Giant Steps is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.