Monthly Archives: December 2020

Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2020’s New Releases, Part One

What was said about the reissues of 2020 is even truer for the new releases of the year; this list could’ve easily been doubled. This is partly because there was just so much more time for listening.

10. Nap Eyes, Snapshot of a Beginner (Jagjaguwar) & Lewsberg, In This House (12XU) Give a listen to the latest by Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes, and you might agree; vocalist and songwriter Nigel Chapman is a pop auteur. His tunes and delivery are a big part of the reason Snapshot of a Beginner made this list. But unlike many pop auteurs, Chapman is also fronting a full-fledged band, which leads us to the other major aspect of the record’s success, specifically that the playing is often superb, as Chapman seems to thrive on the sturdy rapport of the participants.

Jaded fucks might grumble, before retreating to their bunker of solitude to frown at the wallpaper, that Rotterdam’s Lewsberg are merely an art-punk/ post-punk extension of moves the Velvet Underground dished out over half a century ago. Bet you’re glad you’re not a jaded fuck. As for Velvets influences (or Beatles, or Stones, or Byrds, or Cheap Trick, or Thin Lizzy…), what’s the problem, exactly? Lewsberg’s take on VU is pretty unique however, seemingly as heavily impacted by “The Gift” as other bands are by “What Goes On” or “Sweet Jane.” In This House also brings Plurex Records to mind, and that’s just great.

9. Gwenifer Raymond, Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain (Tompkins Square) & Mary Lattimore, Silver Ladders (Ghostly International) On her 2018 debut You Never Were Much of a Dancer, Welsh guitarist Raymond was already prodigious. She was also in the thrall of the American Primitive, a circumstance which elevated the record to knockout status. As Raymond’s fingerpicking remains dexterous, her melodic chops are sharpened (this is a beautiful album) and she’s even travelling into experimental territory, which opens up all sorts of possibilities going forward.

Raymond is a master of six strings, but as a harpist, Mary Lattimore has 47 to contend with, and she once again handles them with aplomb on Silver Ladders, which documents her collaboration with Slowdive guitarist Neil Halstead. His playing on the record (he also helped produce), along with a bountiful infusion of synth, expands the instrumental palette without minimizing Lattimore’s presence in the framework. There are a few times where her plucking takes on an almost electronic glisten, which is just one delightful aspect of an LP as vast as it is concise.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2020’s New Releases, Part Two

As explained in part one, the bench for the Best New Releases of 2020 is deep. On another day, in a different mood, some of those records could’ve easily made it into the rotation of this very list. So, fret not if your favorite music of the year is absent, for these selections aren’t intended to be in any way definitive. Rather than attempting any kind of last word (what hubris that would be), these selections are simply intended to be part of the greater discussion.

5. ONO, Red Summer (American Dreams) + “Kongo” b/w “Mercy” (Whited Sepulchre) & Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris, EarthSeed (FPE) Chicago’s ONO emerged as part of the 1980s underground, with a sound that encompasses Industrial, noise, free jazz, experimentation in general (they’ve been described as an “Avant-Industrial Gospel Band”), and spirted protest that is roaring (appropriately) like a four-alarm fire in 2020 with Red Summer and the very much complementary 12-inch, which arrived a little later in the year. Absorbed together, the contents are unflinching in their historical clarity on the subject of American racism and cruelty.

Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris’ EarthSeed, recorded live in Chicago, is flautist, composer and educator Mitchell’s third work in a series devoted to the culturally prescient work of the great science-fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler. It’s also Mitchell’s first compositional collaboration with the classically trained vocalist and interdisciplinary artist Harris, as the co-composers add electronics (Harris contributes Theremin) to an ensemble featuring vocalist Julian Otis, violinist Zara Zaharieva, trumpeter Ben LaMar Gay, cellist Tomeka Reid, and percussionist Avreeayl Ra. Jazz threads are certainly tangible, but the whole, invigorating and fascinating, is perhaps best described as lengthy dive into the avant-opera zone.

4. Jake Blount, Spider Tales (Free Dirt) & Sally Anne Morgan, Thread (Thrill Jockey) Spider Tales is banjoist-fiddler-vocalist Blount’s solo debut, but it radiates experience that’s unsurprising given its maker’s prominence in the contempo old-time community, where technique and feeling in performance are necessities. Blount’s also a member of The Moose Whisperers and half of Tui with fiddler-vocalist Libby Weitnauer, and he brings his adeptness at collaboration to this album, which features the great fiddler and singer Tatiana Hargreaves. Spider Tales also documents a gay Black man contributing with nary a trace of compromise to a scene with nasty bumps of intolerance in its historical road.

Blount is part of a younger generation that’s helping to keep old-time music vital through inclusion and curiosity into untapped possibilities. Sally Anne Morgan also holds a place of prominence in this category as fiddler in the Black Twig Pickers and as half of House and Land with Sarah Louise Henson, though Thread is her first solo album as it welcomes her partner Andrew Zinn on guitar and Black Twig Picker Nathan Bowles on drums. The results are a striking combination of Appalachian roots, Brit-folk sensibilities, and touches of experimentation. Morgan blossoms as a multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, banjo, guitar, piano) and her singing is absolutely delightful. This record and Spider Tales are future focused.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2020’s Reissues, Part One

As in years previous, the picks for the best reissues and new releases of 2020 have been paired-up to varying thematic degrees. Until the reader gets to the top spot in part two tomorrow, they shouldn’t consider each number to be a tie…unless one wants to, because y’know, that’s cool. These lists are, along with championing excellence, about making people happy. And as rough of a year as it has been, it did feature a sweet mess of reissued and archival material. What’s below (and what’s to come tomorrow) isn’t even all of it. Another day, and the list would be different. This is how these things go…

10. Flaming Tunes, S/T (Superior Viaduct) & Michele Mercure, Pictures of Echoes (Freedom to Spend) This Heat are one of the more revered bands to have hovered on the fringes of what can be considered as the post-punk era. The late Gareth Williams was that outfit’s bassist and keyboardist, and he was half of Flaming Tunes with his childhood friend Mary Currie. The contents of their sole release from 1985 are markedly distinct from This Heat, being nearer to UK DIY experimentation, The Residents in instrumental mode and even the lo-fi psych-pop of Tall Dwarfs. In short, a subterranean beauty.

The Flaming Tunes set was reissued on black and clear vinyl, both sold out at the source, but it was originally released on cassette. Spooled tape was also the initial format for most of the selections on the Pictures of Echoes compilation, which is Freedom to Spend’s follow-up to their first Mercure collection Beside Herself. The one came out on 2LP and CD, but for Pictures, cassette was the format of choice, with an emphasis on past tense, as the 150 copies are also sold out. Mercure’s work surely fits into the ’80s cassette subculture, but the sans-vocals soundtrack aura increases with repeated listens.

9. Giant Sand, Ramp (Fire) & Jolie Holland, Escondida (Cinquefoil) Howe Gelb is no stranger to this website’s best of the year lists, either solo or with the band that established his rep. Cited as the second in a trifecta of early ’90s classics by Giant Sand, Ramp gets a 25th anniversary expansion here, only magnifying Gelb’s breadth, which by this point was already considerable. Featuring the 1991 Mad Dog Studio sessions, this edition of Ramp reinforces the band as rough and occasionally twisted, contrasting sharply from much Alt-country and Americana to come. But make no mistake; Giant Sand is desert rock.

Jolie Holland’s Escondida is not desert rock, though I’ve no doubt it would make for fine listening in arid climes. A sophomore effort from 2004, it showcases Holland’s powerhouse voice as well as her skillful songwriting (most of the record) and strengths at interpretation (two traditional tunes), all while blending strains of early jazz (Ara Anderson’s trumpet is a gas), pre-war gal blues singers, and even country, with this element decidedly closer to Appalachia than Nashville. The result is a record that sounds old as it consistently reminds the listener that its not. A gem…

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Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2020’s Reissues, Part Two

It seems the year’s lack of live shows might’ve played a role in the sheer number of performance documents on this list. If so, that’s fine. Having something snatched away can really illuminate its value.

5. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Just Coolin’ (Blue Note) & Jimmy Giuffre 3, Graz 1961 (ORG Music) It might seem paradoxical, but that Just Coolin’ is just now seeing release roughly 61 years after its recording is ultimately indicative of Art Blakey’s good fortune as a drummer and bandleader. The creative juices were flowing, the club dates were happening, and the personnel was changing. This lineup, featuring Hank Mobley on sax, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass, didn’t last long, which adds to the worthiness of this fantastic hard-bop session.

Drummer-led combos like Blakey’s are rare in jazz. So are combos lacking in a drummer, though multi-reed man Giuffre’s groups made a habit of it. He started out with Woody Herman and came to be associated with cool jazz, but by the early ’60s Giuffre’s trio with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow were exploring a unique, and far less frequently traveled, avenue of the budding avant-garde. That Giuffre chose this route over the more accessible-commercial opportunities pursued by many of his West Coast cohorts is laudable, as Graz 1961 is amongst the most rewarding jazz documents of its era.

4. Dexter Gordon, The Squirrel (Rhino / Parlophone) & Marion Brown, Porto Novo (ORG-Music) To be blunt, the live recordings of saxophonist Gordon are plentiful. It’s unlikely that a subpar one (excluding issues of fidelity) has been released, because by the time he was being documented on the bandstand on a regular basis, he was blazing trails of positivity with consistently solid sidemen. Still, some nights are better than others, and the one heard on The Squirrel, with Kenny Drew on piano, Bo Stief on bass and Art Taylor on drums is one of the very best, partly because the band stretches out so intensely.

Like The Squirrel, saxophonist Marion Brown’s Porto Novo dates from 1967 and also transpired in Europe; Gordon’s show is from the Cafe Montmartre in Copenhagen, while Brown’s session was held in Soest in The Netherlands, with the Dutch rhythm section of bassist Maarten Van Regteren Altena (later just Maarten Altena) and the prolific drummer Han Bennink. Porto Novo ranks as one of Brown’s greatest, partly because the blowing is fiery and is all Brown (many of his other great records feature larger ensembles). It’s another of ORG’s commendable reissues of classics from the jazz avant-garde.

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Graded on a Curve: The Best of 2020’s Box Sets

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, with many of those twists and turns unpleasant, and we’re not out of the woods yet. One of the consistent balms for uncertainty, pain, fear, and loneliness across this pileup of months has been art, with music prominent in the mix. This week, as a change of calendar is in the wings, we spotlight a more positive side of 2020 with a series of lists, beginning with the best box sets and expanded releases of the year.

10. Michael Rother, Solo II (Groenland) Those passionate over Krautrock are surely familiar with Rother from his cornerstone work in Neu! and later in Harmonia, and I’m willing to wager they know that he also thrived as a solo artist. Last year, Groenland rounded up his first four albums from 1977 to ’82, added some soundtrack work plus a little live material and remixes to shape the 6LP/ 5CD set Solo, a doozy of a box that missed contending for placement in TVD’s 2019 Best of list only through a delay in checking it out.

Solo II offers more across seven CDs. It isn’t as strong as Solo, though it’s inclusion here is still warranted, in part because it presents such a contrast with his earlier stuff. Indeed, non-synth-pop-loving sticklers for Rother’s groundbreaking work in Neu! (before that, he was also briefly in Kraftwerk) might want to dabble in the albums individually before dropping coin on its contents. However, the truly solo Fairlight CMI-infused Lust from ’83 is a cool snapshot of the era, and from there, some beautiful tranquility is heard, with Rother’s largely non-vocal approach, and his guitar playing, very much appreciated.

9. Peter Stampfel, Peter Stampfel’s 20th Century in 100 Songs (Louisiana Red Hot) Stampfel is best-known for his work in the Holy Modal Rounders, who helped give the 1960s folk surge a needed dose of the weird. They kept on trucking into the ’70s, as the Unholy version of the outfit joined with Michael Hurley, Jeffrey Frederick, and the Clamtones to wax Have Moicy!, which stands as one of the best records of its decade. Hey, it’s lists within lists!

In fact, this very set, featuring 100 versions by Stampfel of songs, one a year from the 20th century, across three CDs, is an act of audio list making, very personal, though its maker does admit to fielding suggestions from the last 20 years of the span. And speaking of 20 years, that’s roughly how long it took for this set to reach completion, but the production by Mark Bingham and Stampfel’s instantly recognizable singing insures crucial cohesiveness. It feels like a spoiler to reveal the unexpected choices, so I won’t. Like so much in 2020, this set’s been pushed to January 2021; here’s one to look forward to.

8. Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks 26 – 4/26/69 Electric Theater, Chicago, IL 4/27/69 Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN (Real Gone) As a fan of the Dead, I’ll listen to any live recording of the band, as there is reliably something, and more often, many things of interest, even from inside stretches of their existence that don’t thrill all me that much.

But as pertains to the band, I have a special fondness for the 1960s, and ’69 in particular. Folks up to speed with the Dead know that Live/Dead, one of the very greatest official (non-jazz) live albums, was recorded that year (compiled from assorted shows from January to March), and this volume of Dick’s Picks expands upon that brilliance, with the Labor Temple show (which is the majority of the set) even including the “Live/Dead sequence” of “Dark Star”> “St. Stephen”> “The Eleven.” Another big bonus is the organ of Tom Constanten. Real Gone’s 4LP edition (1,500 hand-numbered copies) sold out fast…

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TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Laurel Canyon!

Listen, the snow is falling o’er town / Listen, the snow is falling ev’rywhere / Between Empire State Building / And between Trafalgar Square / Listen, the snow is falling o’er town

Listen, the snow is falling o’er town / Listen, the snow is falling ev’rywhere / Between your bed and mine / Between your head and my mind / Listen, the snow is falling o’er town

Between Tokyo and Paris / Between London and Dallas / Between your love and mine / Listen, the snow is falling ev’rywhere

Seeing that Christmas and New Years fall on the next two Fridays, these few lines and this episode of The Idelic Hour wraps me for 2020. As covid rages through LA, it’s hard to really say “it’s not over until it’s over,” but if I could sum up 2020 in one word…that would be:


Well, as the Brits say, “Carry on….”

A decade ago when I started cutting my weekly Idelic Hours I would never have guessed the “work” that I put into the shows would be such a “sanity-saver” during a world crisis. Love to all who listened and thanks to Jon Meyers and TVD for providing a home for my obsession with sharing music.

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Bernard Fowler,
In-store with TVD at
DC’s Som Records

As 2020 comes to a close it’s not lost on us that we—and most likely you—spent very little time in a record store this year (if you even did at all). As we close the book on this trying year, this week we’ve been looking back at some of our favorite pre-pandemic visits to our local record shop to revive that record store experience—with a friend or ten that you just might know.Ed.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AUGUST 2019 | Bernard Fowler has been singing with the Stones since the ’80s and his CV reads like a Who’s Who of music legends. But this veteran rocker is anything but intimidating—in person he’s warm, charming, and full of great stories. Cratedigging with Bernard feels like cratedigging with an old friend, even if you just met him five minutes ago.

When we met up at Som, his most recent record, Inside Out, was up on the wall. It’s a collection of Rolling Stones songs, but instead of merely covering familiar tracks like “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Dancing with Mr. D,” Inside Out uses elements of free jazz, funk, and spoken word to completely reinvent songs you thought you knew. Nobody’s better qualified to do this than Bernard, with his impressive musical pedigree and years of personal experience with the Stones.

The day before the No Filter tour’s rescheduled stop at FedEx Field, I asked him what his favorite thing was about playing with Mick and Keef and Ronnie and Charlie. He’s got the best seats in the house, he said, with a laugh. What song would he add to the setlist, given the opportunity? “Dandelion.”

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TVD Radar: The Holiday
Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 17: Christmas Spectacular

Welcome to the 2020 Radar Christmas Spectacular brought to you by WFDU, 89.1 FM and The Vinyl District! Prepare to earn some frequent flyer miles, because we will be trotting all across the globe to speak with some of the brightest musical stars this holiday season.

Of course, we begin our journey from the great Garden State, then it’s on to Nashville, Tennessee, where Nicole Atkins joins us to talk about the creation of her latest rowdy holiday single, “Every Single Christmas.” From there it’s a day’s long road trip down to Plant City, Florida where actress and musician Charleene Closshey joins us to discuss her holiday film An Evergreen Christmas and her involvement in the soundtrack.

Then, make yourself comfortable, because it’s a long-haul flight all the way to New Zealand to speak with Tami Neilson about the current state of performing affairs in NZ and her recently released—and breathtaking—Willie approved version of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper.” After that, it’s on to sunny Los Angeles, California where we chat with Johnny Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls about his favorite Christmas song, what’s on his Christmas list and, of course, the band’s fun new album, Christmas All Over.

Finally, we close with a trip back to the mountains of Colorado to speak with Anthony D’Amato about his brand new holiday song, “Merry Christmas, I Guess.” It’s a little somber and wistful, but doesn’t that feel appropriate this year? Throughout our entire journey, the sleigh’s dashboard stereo will be sharing music from Philadelphia’s fantastic steel guitar fronted jazz group, Slowey and the Boats who also have a new album out this year titled, Merry Christmas from Slowey and the Boats.

It’s great to speak with these musicians about their newest releases, but there is a common thread running through these discussions. It’s how—just like the rest of us—they are carefully navigating the holidays and wondering what comes next. This show is an opportunity to learn that no matter where we are located, we’re all closer than we think; even though we’ve grown accustomed to feeling that we’re all connected, we’re realizing that humans share a deeper bond than just clicks and likes. There’s another layer there that we’re all yearning to explore.

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Wire: In-store with TVD at DC’s Som Records

As 2020 comes to a close it’s not lost on us that we—and most likely you—spent very little time in a record store this year (if you even did at all). As we close the book on this trying year, this week we’ve been looking back at some of our favorite pre-pandemic visits to our local record shop to revive that record store experience—with a friend or ten that you just might know.Ed.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JANUARY 2018 | “They’re here already,” Bart our videographer laughed, motioning to Som Records’ entryway under the large, wrought iron stairs. “Yea, Neal says they’ve been here for almost an hour…”

“Wait—what?!” was the collective first thought. Better to keep it fresh for the cameras is our general thinking, despite the band’s obvious enthusiasm. But hell, the Pixies’ Joey Santiago popped by Som the day before shooting to get the lay of the land in advance of last summer’s record rummage—so, what’s an hour in advance then?

Turns out, not that much at all. After some warm hellos to the gentlemen of Wire, front man Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis, and guitarist Matthew Simms (where was Robert?), the band shrugged off their early arrival. “We’d be doing this anyway,” Simms confessed.

So why wait any longer? We’re record shopping with post punk Legends (cap L!) Wire at Washington, DC’s Som Records.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Gladiators, Full Time and Ethiopian & His All Stars, The Return Of Jack Sparrow

Remembering The Gladiators’ Albert Griffiths.Ed.

The sun is shining, it’s hot enough to induce sweat just by standing up, and there’s a substance (or two) tickling the brain: this is maybe the best framework for soaking up deep reggae grooves, but it’s also true that any time can be a good time to engage with the style. Omnivore Recordings knows this, as they’ve recently reissued The Gladiators’ Full Time compilation and rescued Ethiopian & His All-Stars’ The Return of Jack Sparrow from the realms of the unreleased. Both compact discs commence a reissue program focused on the catalog of the St. Louis label Nighthawk Records, and as the goodness on display here indicates, it’s going to be quite the enjoyable ride.

I’d say The Gladiators need no introduction, but reggae is such a cavernously deep genre that even a multidecade discography including a series of LPs for a major label can manage to go unnoticed by folks receptive to Jamaican sounds. Formed in the mid-’60s by singer-songwriter-rhythm guitarist Albert Griffiths, the group cut their first single for the Wirl label in ’67 and then hooked up with producers Duke Reid, Lloyd Daley, Lee Perry, and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd for a series of hits. In the second half of the ’70s they landed on Virgin Records, as Dodd’s Studio One milked the vaults for comps.

Roots reggae entered a period of commercial decline in the early ’80s, and the Gladiators’ final record for Virgin, an eponymous Eddy Grant-produced misfire, only worsened their personal circumstances. And yet by adjusting to the smaller Nighthawk label they bounced back artistically with ’82’s Symbol of Reality, ’84’s Serious Thing, and ’86’s collaboration with the Ethiopian (real name Leonard Dillon) Dread Prophecy.

In ’92 Nighthawk issued Full Time, which gathered up two cuts from the ’82 various artists comp Calling Rastafari and the entirety of the group’s ’83 US Tour EP (enticingly pictured on clear vinyl in the CD booklet) in combination with then unreleased selections from the ’82-’86 sessions. It’s all engineered by Sylvan Morris, who’d worked with The Gladiators at Studio One starting in the early ’70s, so the quality is high throughout. This is anything but a plate of leftovers.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bob Dylan,
Christmas in the Heart

Well, the Holiday Season is upon and soon it will be Christmas Eve, that magical time when families gather together and go for the throat. Uncle Bob will overdo it on the eggnog and topple into the Christmas tree, while ancestral family grudges will explode into bitter recombinations and shouting matches. Your sister and her boyfriend will sneak upstairs to the coats heaped on mom and dad’s bed, while the little ones will stop their shrieking and fighting just long to upload videos of a passed-out Uncle Bob, face draped in blinking Christmas lights, to YouTube. The only bright spot is your 12-year-old nephew Timmy won’t unwrap his bb gun until the next morning.

But what to play amidst the chaos? Aunts Gladys and Sue bicker over the respective merits of the Michaels Bolton and Bublé, dad clamors for Brad Paisley, while Timmy petitions for Afroman’s A Colt 45 Christmas because it’s one long pussy joke. In short it’s a free-for-all, during which some unknown somebody–perhaps the Spirit of Christmas himself–slips Bob Dylan’s 2009 Christmas in the Heart on the stereo.

And at the first strains of “Here Comes Santa Claus” everything stops. The bickering ceases, long-harbored grudges are forgotten, the kids stop running and shrieking, and Uncle Bob sits up, still wrapped in Christmas lights. It’s as if the Prince of Peace has walked into the room. A silent night has, unthinkable as it is, come to pass, because for the first time in decades everyone agrees about something.

“What is that horrible croaking noise?” asks Aunt Gladys.

“Sounds like a frog with throat cancer,” says Mom.

“Or a guy being strangled with piano wire,” says Grandma.

“Reminds me of a fella I knew in the Army, took a bullet to the neck at Chosin,” says Grandad. “He sounded just like that. Before the mortar shell blew him to smithereens.”

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In rotation: 12/18/20

Austin, TX | Austin brothers amp up local music scene with new stereo and record shop: This may sound like a broken record: 2020 sucks. But two Austin entrepreneurs are trying to change that tune with a meticulously curated lifestyle record store in South Austin that is likely to strike a chord with music lovers. Located at 4361 S. Congress Ave., Living in Stereo is more like a hip, cozy lounge than a retail outlet, evoking a midcentury modern design aesthetic and a vintage Austin vibe. It’s the brainchild of brothers Robert and Enzo Johnson, who were laid off early in the pandemic but chose to invest their savings to open their dream shop. The emporium showcases high-end stereo systems, both new and refurbished, as well as collectable guitars, home décor, custom neon signs, and vinyl records, and the space includes an onsite coffee bar featuring locally roasted beans from El Tigre Coffee. From the design elements to the eclectic offerings, each characteristic of Living in Stereo was chosen with intention, with the Johnson brothers aiming to capture the cultural significance and character of Austin’s halcyon days.

San Francisco, CA | San Francisco’s Best Local Retail Store of 2020: Amoeba Music: Amoeba is open for business, but the best is yet to come: Local retail businesses have never faced as big of a challenge as 2020 has presented them. And while some haven’t been able to survive, others have found ways to adapt with online sales. The one that The Bold Italic readers chose as the Best Local Retail Store is iconic Amoeba Music. Founded in Berkeley in 1990, Amoeba survived decades of turmoil from the music industry to become a renowned location for musicians, music lovers, and tourists to the Bay Area. As we’ve transitioned from one method of enjoying music to the other with breakneck speed, you’d think that crate-digging would have been engulfed by the annals of history, rendered obsolete. It hasn’t. For some of us, there’s nothing more soothing than rifling through a box of buried treasure we can listen to. Amoeba in San Francisco mirrors the bespoke experience of finding your favorite song on vinyl. Since retail has been allowed back open, business has kept up—the store also has an online collection available to peruse.

Godfrey, IL | River Bend Records Now Open In Godfrey, Has Huge Collection Of Old School Vinyl Records, Hopes To Expand In Future: The past decade has seen a resurgence in vinyl records, as many current artists have put their most recent releases on vinyl, along with compact discs, and more recently digital downloads on streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, and other services. At the newly-opened River Bend Records in Godfrey, the vast majority of music is offered on vinyl, as the store has a vast collection of music from all genres from the 50s through today. The new store has gotten off to a great start among music collectors around the area. “Things have been going really well,” said Billy Hurst, who co-owns the store along with his wife, Tara. “Really, really busy, You know, we’ve been here about six weeks, and the response from the general public has been just amazing. So supportive.” The fact that vinyl records are making a comeback is something the Hurst feels has been coming for some time. “It’s been probably about 10 years in the making,” Hurst said, “a second wave or resurgence of sorts. In the last two years, vinyl’s outsold CDs. So yeah, very, very cool.”

Columbus, OH | The ’13th best record store in Columbus’ celebrates 10 years in business: Even amid a pandemic, Elizabeth’s Records co-owner David Lewis has held tight to a community grown steadily over the last decade. The three years that David Lewis worked at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, the shop was consistently voted the top record store in the area by various publications. “It was always like, ‘We’re number one!’ And we had shirts that said, ‘Number one record store in Austin!’” said Lewis, who co-owns Elizabeth’s Records in Clintonville with wife Laura. “And I hated that. I didn’t want to be that at all [when we opened]. I’m always the underdog.” Lewis embraced that beloved misfit role when Elizabeth’s opened in November 2010, joking at the time that it was the 42nd best record store in town. “And we’ve worked our way up to 13th,” Lewis deadpanned during a recent interview in the shop, which is currently open to the public Friday through Sunday, its hours curtailed by the ongoing pandemic. “And I’m happy with that. That’s a comfortable place. It’s close enough to the top for me. I can deal with that.”

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TVD Radar: David Bowie, Lazarus streaming event 1/8–1/10

VIA PRESS RELEASE | To remember David Bowie on his birthday and to mark the fifth anniversary of his untimely death, producers Robert Fox and RZO Entertainment Inc are exclusively releasing the stream of the London production of Lazarus, captured live on stage. The streaming will be available for three performances only. This will be the UK premiere of the filmed version of this remarkable show. Find tickets here.

Lazarus includes songs from Bowie’s iconic catalogue as well as new songs written for the stage including the title song, Lazarus. Inspired by the book, The Man Who Fell To Earth, by Walter Tevis (The Queen’s Gambit) Lazarus focuses on Thomas Newton, as he remains still on Earth—a “man” unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. We follow Newton during the course of a few days where the arrival of another lost soul—might finally set him free.

Michael C Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) stars as Newton, the character famously portrayed by David Bowie in the 1976 screen adaptation of The Man Who Fell To Earth directed by Nicolas Roeg. Lazarus co-stars Sophia Anne Caruso (Beetlejuice on Broadway) and the production is directed by Ivo van Hove (All About Eve, Network, and A View From The Bridge).

Lazarus opened at The New York Theatre Workshop in November 2015. The London production opened in November 2016 where it played a sold out run. This live-streamed event will be available for three performances only in multiple time zones (GMT, AEDT, EST, PST, CST) from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 January 2021.

The Lazarus Cast Album is available on ISO/Columbia Records.

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Alicia Witt, In-store with TVD at DC’s Som Records

As 2020 comes to a close it’s not lost on us that we—and most likely you—spent very little time in a record store this year (if you even did at all). As we close the book on this trying year, all this week we’ll be looking back at some of our favorite pre-pandemic visits to our local to revive that record store experience—with a friend or ten that you just might know.Ed.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AUGUST 2019 | You’ve seen her in films as diverse as Dune, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Vanilla Sky, and Urban Legend. On the smaller screen in The Walking Dead, Nashville, Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Ally McBeal, Law and Order, Two and a Half Men, and most recently the final season of Orange Is the New Black.

And we saw Alicia Witt here in our own backyard of Washington, DC on tour in support of her current EP “15,000 Days”—multi-talented indeed. Prior to the evening’s show at DC’s record store and vinyl cafe Songbyrd, we invited Alicia to the set of our long running record shopping series at Som Records for an afternoon record rummage.

Turns out Alicia is just as much of a music fan and vinyl addict as we confess to be with a run through at the shop before we even arrived on scene. (No method acting here.) Engaged in the mission at hand, warm and funny with a hearty laugh and certainly not camera-shy, it was quite the lovely afternoon.

So, down Som’s stairs, shall we? We’re record shopping with Alicia Witt at DC’s Som Records.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Replacements,

Remembering Bob Stinson on what would have been his 61st birthday.Ed.

One thing you’ve got to say for the Replacements; they knew how to record an album. The story I’ve heard, and it could well be apocryphal, is that after the Replacements finished one recording session, some poor sap had to go in to clean up the puke—off the ceiling.

The Replacements’ hard-drinking, hit-or-miss live shows became legendary; they might be great or they might be wrecked, and proceed to abandon songs in midstream, commit bodily harm to their defenseless instruments, perform covers they only kinda sorta knew, and generally muck about until they decided enough was enough. Lots of bands lay claim to being room-clearers, but the Replacements were the real deal, the kings in a world full of pretenders to the throne.

The Replacements were formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1979. Their career trajectory was rather odd; instead of starting as a hardcore band and then softening the edges as most bands did, they did just the opposite, by recording 1982’s decidedly hardcore “Stink” EP after the tangentially more melodic (which bears definite traces of vocalist/guitarist and chief songwriter Paul Westerberg’s gift for writing great, heart-wrenching melodies) debut LP, 1981’s Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take Out the Trash.

Westerberg was supported by the Stinson brothers, Bob on guitar and Tommy—who was 11 when he first started playing, and had to drop out of 10th grade to join the band on its first national tour—on bass, and Chris Mars on drums. Bob Stinson, a lunatic and hardened alcoholic, would leave the band in 1986 and die a sad drug-related death in 1995, but all that was far in the future when the Replacements recorded “Stink.” Westerberg hilariously summed up the young band’s general attitude towards their chosen profession on Sorry Ma’s “I Hate Music,” when he sang, “I hate music/Sometimes I don’t/I hate music/It’s got too many notes.” And Westerberg hit the nail on the head on “Something to Dü” (a reference to their relatively friendly rivalry with Minneapolis’ Husker Dü) when he described the band’s job as “delivering noise.”

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