A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/7/21

UK | UK vinyl sales surpassed 1 million units in early 2021: Continuing an upward trend from 2020. UK vinyl sales surpassed 1 million during the first three months of 2021, according to data from the Official Charts Company. Vinyl sales were up 16.1% compared to the first three months of 2020, with a total of 1,080,653 records sold. With the UK’s third national lockdown having started in early January, the increase in sales relates to a wider trend from 2020 that saw both new and second-hand vinyl sales increase during lockdowns. Discogs reported a strong jump in sales during the first lockdown in March 2020. The numbers also reflect a more general increase of vinyl sales, with UK sales reaching a record high of 4.8 million records sold during 2020 — all of which bolsters the British Phonographic Industry prediction that record labels will earn more from the sales of vinyl than CDs in 2021 for the first time since 1987. The re-opening of non-essential shops on the 12th April also seems likely to have an impact on this year’s vinyl sales, with HMV recording over twice the number of visitors on its re-opening weekend compared to the weekend after the lifting of the first lockdown in 2020, as The Guardian reports.

Redwood City, CA | Fire at Redwood City record store considered suspicious, investigators say: An early Wednesday morning fire is being called suspicious by Redwood City fire investigators. A popular peninsula record store was damaged in the blaze. Investigators questioned a man near the fire scene to see if he had any involvement. The store’s owner says he’s lucky the flames didn’t wipe out his record collection, and part of the Peninsula’s culture. “Down the road, people many want them, hard copies of the music they grew up with,” said Gary Saxon, owner of The Record Man. Wearing an eyepatch and a western hat, Saxson is part curator, and part record sales guru. The inside of his Redwood City store reflects a time when vinyl, not digital downloads was the way to experience music. “You didn’t just cherry-pick one or two songs, generally, that you liked. You would sit down with a group of friends and listen to that whole album side,” said Bruce Barber, general manager of WNHU-FM, the student radio station at the University of New Haven. For the most part, Saxon’s irreplaceable collection, dating back a hundred years, was spared from the Wednesday morning fire. The resulting second lease on business life means more turns for listeners who are getting younger, not older.

Paris, FR | Alain Marquet and His Jazz Museum: In Paris, after you’ve hiked up many flights of stairs to Montmartre and made your way to Sacré-Cœur, the basilica that overlooks the city, walk a little further. Along Rue du Poteau, you’ll find one of the city’s best kept jazz secrets. There, at No. 68, is a small shop called Jazz Museum, run by Alain Marquet. The oddly named store opened in 2009 and specializes in rare jazz recordings and artifacts. I’ve never been to Jazz Museum and only learned about it recently from Parisian photographer Gilles D’Elia. Gilles frequents the store and was willing to pay a visit last week with his camera. Fortunately, Alain isn’t camera shy. We may not be able to travel to Paris now, but thanks to Gilles, we can do the next best thing. Here’s Gilles on Jazz Museum and its swinging proprietor: “Marc, Alain is so in love with the records he owns that he often regrets selling them to customers. In other cases, he’ll refuse to sell, and for good reason. His collection includes original first pressings by Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt. In 2013, when the city of Paris asked Django’s family for items they could include in the exhibit, “Django Reinhardt, Paris Swing,” at the La Cité de la Musique, Django’s family rushed to Jazz Museum to seek out material. Of course, Alain had plenty on hand.”

Dallas, TX | Dallas’ vinyl heyday brings memories of a record of a good time: Before technology evolved, the only way to buy your favorite tunes was at the record store. For many generations of music fans, the only way to get a hold of their favorite artist’s latest release was to sift through aisles of records. Record shops not only introduced audiences to new genres of music, but were places for fans to gather. While some were national chains, others were local favorites that were run by North Texas music lovers. The Dallas Morning News takes a look back into its archives to remember the joy of discovering new music through a listening booth and the hours lost searching through vinyl. The Melody Shop: The Melody Shop not only held a vast music selection, but it was also one of NorthPark Center’s inaugural stores on opening day in 1965. The store was already an established name in Dallas where they made their debut in 1941 at 205 North Ervay. In addition to records, the store also sold musical players and instruments so customers could experience both being the entertainer and the audience. All of this came together when they opened their fifth and largest shop in NorthPark.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: The Parallax View OST from Michael Small, first ever vinyl release in stores 5/7

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Cinema Paradiso Recordings is proud to announce the release of the soundtrack to the motion picture The Parallax View, on vinyl for the first time ever, this coming May 7th 2021.

Based on the book by Loren Singer, The Parallax View is directed and produced by Alan J. Pakula as the second installment of his Political Paranoia trilogy—alongside Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976). With cinematography by Gordon Willis (The Godfather trilogy, Annie Hall) and starring Warren Beatty, this political thriller from 1974 is perhaps even more relevant today than it was back then.

The legendary score by composer Michael Small is regarded as a benchmark in the sound of paranoia thrillers that dominated cinema in the 1970s, with revered film critic Pauline Kael hailing the film as essential for all fans of the genre. Now, 47 years later, the soundtrack newly remastered by Bob Weston, will finally be available to own on vinyl.

The single LP, deluxe gatefold limited edition in coloured vinyl includes liner notes with two essays by Scott Bettencourt and Alexander Kaplan (of Film Score Monthly), which provide a fascinating insight into the making of the film and an analysis of the score.

The CPR edition of The Parallax View soundtrack includes for the first time the infamous brainwashing scene, an influence on countless films and TV shows over the years. Notably, most recently with the Watchmen series and shows Mr. Robot and Homecoming even using the music from the film.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Colin Hay, Going Somewhere first ever vinyl release in stores 6/4

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Compass Records is proud to announce the release of Colin Hay’s (Men at Work) 2001 classic album Going Somewhere on vinyl for the first time on June 4. This 20th anniversary edition will include a limited pressing of white vinyl on the first 1,000 units and can be pre-ordered now.

For many of his post-Men At Work fans, Going Somewhere was their point of discovery of Colin Hay and his music. The album includes some of Colin’s best known solo work, including “Beautiful World,” “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin, and “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You,” which was featured in the hit film, Garden State. That song has gone on to be featured in numerous television shows including Dawson’s Creek and Judging Amy. “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin” was featured on Scrubs where it was sung by the entire cast. (Fun fact: Hay appears as himself in three episodes.)

Writing about “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You,” guitarist John Mayer said: “This is without a doubt my favorite song of the year. I’m still trying for a tune like this of my own. It’s my favorite kind of ballad, ‘chin up’ sadness that even a cold bastard would get swept away by—‘And if I lived ‘til I could no longer climb my stairs / I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.’ No further comments.”

Hay stepped onto the international stage as the frontman and principal songwriter for ‘80s Australian hitmakers Men at Work, becoming one of the recognizable vocalists in pop music with his soaring infectious melodies and pointedly quizzical lyrical outlook. Classic songs like “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now” unscroll like miniature movies, with timeless twists and a bittersweet sense of humor. That wry humor has stuck with Hay though his solo albums and projects, from his most recent solo release, 2017’s critically acclaimed Fierce Mercy, to international tours as a member of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. A Hay-penned song (“What’s My Name”) not only made its way onto Starr’s 2019 album but also became the title track.

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Graded on a Curve:
Elton John,
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

Celebrating guitarist Davey Johnstone on his 70th birthday.Ed.

It took Elton John’s fabulousness a while to catch up to him. Until 1973, in fact, when Sir Elton abandoned the tortured singer-songwriter look (see the cover of 1972’s tres funky Honky Chateau) to reinvent himself as a glorious glam cartoon on the cover of double-LP masterpiece Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

At which point there was no looking back; on the cover of 1974’s Caribou he’s still a cartoon, but he’s A CARTOON IN REAL LIFE, right down to the tiger fur jacket (unzipped to reveal one very sexy chest pelt) and a pair of pink glasses of the sort I would later wear to disguise the fact that I was perpetually stoned.

And when it comes to fabulous how can you beat “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” which Elton almost didn’t include on the album because, well, let’s let Elton tell it: “That’s a load of crap. You can send it to Engelbert Humperdinck, and if he doesn’t like it, you can give it to Lulu as a demo.”

But if you thought Elton was simply couldn’t get any more Glam along came 1975’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, on the cover of which Sir Pudgealot looks like A CARTOON OF A CARTOON, and is even riding a bucking piano like John Travolta in Urban Cowboy across a lurid background thronged with inexplicable beasties straight out of Hieronymus Bosch. When asked about the cover of the LP the human toon would say only, “Took me six years to crochet that.” Which just goes to show that Elton, who once leaped on stage during an Iggy Pop show in a gorilla suit and almost got beat up for his troubles, is a real wild card.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that Elton’s was Glam’s ultimate nebbish remake/ remodel unless you count Gary Glitter, who basically trundled himself up like a plump Christmas turkey in aluminum foil. But whereas Herr Glitter was a strictly English pop sensation, Elton was a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, and filling arenas in the Land of Opportunity across the pond, which he was celebrating in songs like “Philadelphia Freedom.”

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Charm of Finches,
The TVD First Date

“We’ll be honest and say we’re pretty new to vinyl. We’re 18 and 21 years old and we grew up with CDs and now we live in the age of streaming.”

“When we were really little, our dad had a bizarre record player called the “sound burger.” It didn’t really look at all like a burger, but because it was called that we were fascinated and thought it did look like one. We loved watching him put the record on as if it was the meat pattie in the middle (we have always been vegetarians, btw). He listened to a LOT of Bob Dylan on that player, and we both realised he must have played Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks extremely often because we know the lyrics for “Tangled Up In Blue” deep in our bones. Also, “Idiot Wind” was a pretty funny song name to us. Something unfortunate must have happened to the burger, because at some point it disappeared and was replaced by a regular turntable.

It’s not until we recently inherited an old record player and a few records from our parents that we’ve started collecting vinyl. We hunted through the shed and cupboards of our family home to see what was lying around. Our mum is a Kate Bush fan, and we claimed Hounds of Love and The Kick Inside, both sublime albums. It’s interesting transitioning to the two-sided listening experience. You start wondering how the artist decided which were to be on side 1 or side 2. There is the choice to create two moods, two shades.

One of our friends gave us Sufjan Stevens’ The Greatest Gift: Mixtape (Outtakes, Remixes and Demos from Carrie and Lowell) on vinyl—an album we revere. The mixtape is an incredible collection, containing everything from iPhone demos to the heart-wrenching epic track “Wallowa Lake Monster,” a song which features so much beautiful poetry and tragedy and small details which Sufjan does so well. Our song “Treading Water” has a fairly generous nod to that aspect of Sufjan’s writing. We played around with mixing in small details into that song, and we are very happy with the effect.

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The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2021, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May 2021. 

NEW RELEASE PICK: V/A, Arc Mountain (Hausu Mountain / Deathbomb Arc) This release, a benefit with all profits going to the Last Prisoner Project (a nonprofit committed to cannabis criminal justice reform), features artists from the Deathbomb Arc and Hausu Mountain labels in collaboration, with the cassette released by Hausu Mountain and the CD by Deathbomb Arc. Contributors include Dustin Wong, Margo Padilla aka I.E., They Hate Change, J Fisher, Fielded, Signor Benedick the Moor, TALSounds, Angry Blackmen, George Chen, Jonathan Snipes, White Boy Scream and more, with particularly heavy input from Fire-Toolz and Khaki Blazer. The contents range from wild blasts of underground hip-hop to varied strains of avant-pop to bent electronics to noisy soundscapes, with some instances of overlap and the uniting bonds being the liberating spirit of experimentation and a clear disdain for the soul-sucking rigidity of norms, both musical and societal.  Upon repeated listens, the gripping assemblage of twisted teamwork (mostly twos but a couple threes) coheres into a larger statement of considerable power. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: BMX Bandits, Star Wars (Last Night From Glasgow) Headed by sole constant member Duglas T Stewart and with input on this album from Francis McDonald and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Gordon Keen and Eugene Kelly of Eugenius (Kelly was also in The Vaselines), BMX Bandits are one of indie pop’s finest cult bands, but with a refined blend of kindheartedness and twee tendencies that inspired many to reject them. Although there is a sense of the awkward in Stewart’s vocals (which has resulted in comparisons to Jonathan Richman, though they don’t sound alike to my ear), it never comes of as a mannerism, and that’s cool. What definitely not awkward is Stewart’s songwriting, which blossoms beyond the standard indie pop jangle. One example is “Extraordinary,” (sure to drive twee-haters up a wall), which sounds a little like young Dan Treacy if he was heavy into Nilsson and bubblegum pop rather than Syd Barrett. And instrumentally, the flare-ups of baroque strings remind me a bit of Big Star’s Third. And that’s just dandy. First time on vinyl outside of Japan. A-

V/A, Made to Measure Vol.1 (Crammed Discs) As part of Crammed Discs’ 40th anniversary, here’s a reissue on vinyl and compact disc of the inaugural entry in the Belgian label’s series dedicated to music that either could’ve been or deliberately was made as a soundtrack to other artforms, e.g. film, theater, dance, and even a fashion show, as is the case with this album’s track by Benjamin Lew, “A la recherche de B.” The other contributors are Minimal Compact, with four tracks commissioned for live dance; Aksak Maboul, with the album highlight “Scratch Holiday,” supposedly crafted (with a turntable, a ’60s pop 45, and orange marmalade) to soundtrack a movie, and six tracks intended to accompany a theatrical play; and Tuxedomoon, with three cuts composed for a documentary film. The guest violin by Jeannot Gillis (of Julverne and Univers Zero) for Minimal Compact, who are sequenced first, lends an appealing circularity, as Tuxdeomoon (and violin) close side two. But in fact, as the record plays, the sound is quite unified as it stirs thoughts of Rock in Opposition, Ralph Records, and early ’80s avant-pop in general. A-

Telex, This Is Telex (Mute) The best way to experience Telex is probably by soaking up one of their songs in a larger mix of material, like during some cat’s late night college radio show, in the midst of a friend’s mixtape, or as spun by a DJ in a club while waiting patiently for the headliner. Over the years, I’ve heard a few people opine that Telex was a novelty act, a conclusion drawn essentially because of their penchant for interpreting the material of others in the then nascent electronic pop style. I disagree. Taken individually, Telex’s songs are frequently pleasant, partly through catchiness but also due to the enduring appeal of their formative aura. But when heard sandwiched between the songs of others, Telex sticks out, largely because they were operating with a different sensibility. The trio’s versions of “La Bamba” (included on this LP/ CD compilation) and “Rock Around the Clock” (which isn’t, giving hopes for a follow-up volume) underscore the non-angsty ’50s-ish R&R spirit they brought to the scene. But there’s more to Telex, like a sweet version of Sparks’ “The Number One Song in Heaven.” A-

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/6/21

Buffalo/Niagara, NY | Record stores in Buffalo Niagara: One doth not need a hipster be to appreciate the superior analog aurality of records. Need a list of record stores in Buffalo Niagara? Vinyl stores have come back in a major way in recent years, and our region’s are rockin’! Find a great record store near you and start the hunt. Some things have such a significant effect on culture that even past their heyday, they can resurrect themselves like a pop-culture Lazarus and continue that wave of popularity like it never stopped in the first place. The vinyl record is such a thing. Vinyl has risen from the dead for a great many years now, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon, so its reign of influence doesn’t seem to have a clear end in sight. Which is great because who doesn’t love the retro/modern sensibilities of vinyl? So, for those of you out there looking to add a few more gems to your vinyl collection or you’re looking to start one, the many record stores in Buffalo Niagara will indeed have what you’re looking for!

Melbourne, AU | A vinyl lover’s guide to Melbourne’s best specialty record stores: For all your genre-specific vinyl needs. There’s no greater pleasure than an afternoon spent rifling through the stacks at a local record shop. Luckily for wax heads, mild enthusiasts and newcomers just dipping their toes into the rapid, winding river that is vinyl obsession, Melbourne has hundreds of shops to choose from. Whether your eyes are on hardcore, hip hop or funk, you can bet there’s several locations with the expertise, knowledge and – of course – the stock, to guide you to your vinyl Valhalla. While a really good dig is second to none, sometimes we know exactly what we want. Or, at least, the general genre gist we’re after. So, we’ve taken the liberty of collating all of Melbourne’s specialty record stores, selected the best, then divvied them up by genre(ish), for your perusing and pursuing pleasure.

Washington, DC | A City Guide to Record Shops: Why Vinyl? Many people who have never owned vinyl or a record player question their modern relevance. Why pay for music when you already subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music? Why go through the effort of putting on a vinyl when music is mindlessly available at your fingertips? The average record-lover doesn’t collect vinyls based on convenience or economical reasons, rather for the authentic and tangible ownership of the music that makes us who we are. Record players can act a mini time machine, romanticizing and transporting listeners back to a simpler era. As Goodboy Vinyl (Wilmington, DE) says, “In my view, this ties in with claims of sound quality (warmth, crackle, etc.) when people make such claims they’re really asserting something about ‘the way things used to be.’ Which, if you pay attention to current events, may sound problematic and to be sure, it is. But I also get it. If you collect used or “original” records, you’re collecting artifacts.”

London, UK | Grooves in the heart: We investigate the UK vinyl revival, one of the greatest comebacks on record. They are cumbersome and quite faffy to grasp, scratchable to death by uninitiated hands and – unless crackle-doused, bargain bucket specials are your bag – a costly way to hear music. Yet last year UK vinyl records sales increased for the 13th year in a row, according to trade music body BPI, despite streaming now accounting for 80% of the country’s music consumption. In fact, revenue from vinyl sales is set to overtake that of CDs for the first time since the late Eighties. And all this from century-plus-old shellac discs that looked to be rolling out of aural and cultural relevance during the CD-dominated Nineties. Jon Tolley, 43, Banquet Records owner in Kingston said: “It’s quite strange to have an industry which is based on something that in some ways is perceived as archaic but in some ways has almost gone full circle where it’s such a reaction to how modern things are. “And it’s not people who’ve been left behind who don’t understand the digital revolution, it’s people who fully embrace it and are discovering new music.”

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: In the Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 2LP purple and gold vinyl in stores 6/11

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “96,000,” the second track from the Atlantic Records companion soundtrack to the Warner Bros. Pictures cinematic event of the summer, In the Heights arrives today, one week after the pre-order launch for In the Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and the release of the film’s title track.

The new song from the upcoming musical family film also arrives alongside Warner Bros. Pictures’ announcement of special advance screenings this Mother’s Day, May 9th. Tickets are available for free, while supplies last, in select theaters nationwide.

In the Heights, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Jon M. Chu, is based on the TONY Award-winning stage musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes with score by Miranda and Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, additional score by Ryan Shore. The film is scheduled to world premiere at the Tribeca Festival on June 9th.

In the Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was produced by Alex Lacamoire, Bill Sherman, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Greg Wells, with soundtrack production for Atlantic Records by GRAMMY Award winners Kevin Weaver (President, Atlantic Records West Coast), Pete Ganbarg (President A&R, Atlantic Records) and Craig Rosen (EVP A&R and Label Operations, Atlantic Records), along with Riggs Morales (SVP Urban A&R, Atlantic Records). For Warner Bros Pictures, soundtrack produced by Darren Higman and Steven Gizicki.

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TVD Radar: Eastern Rebellion, (s/t) 45th anniversary reissue in stores 5/28

VIA PRESS RELEASE | In 1975, four legends teamed up and gave birth to one of THE best rhythm groups of the 1970s—four musicians that had played music at the highest level all their lives and gained their status as both stand-alone artists and important sidemen. Each of them had participated in many of jazz’s great moments and all four shared the ability, documented on many albums, to inspire their fellow musicians to even greater heights. In 1975, the Eastern Rebellion collective was born.

​On saxophone, we have George Coleman (born in 1935) the self-taught saxophone maestro from Memphis who (after working with Ray Charles) played in B.B. King’s band in the 1950s and in Miles Davis’ quintet in the 1960s. Coleman played on four historical Miles albums (including My Funny Valentine) within one year. George Coleman went on to perform and record with legends such as Charles Mingus, Ahmad Jamal, Idris Muhammad, Melvin Sparks, Nina Simone and was an essential member of many more noteworthy groups throughout his freelance career. He was named a NEA Jazz Master, inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015 and received a brass note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame​.

On the piano, we have Cedar Walton (1934-2013) who was also the bandleader and producer of the Eastern Rebellion collective. He was a Dallas-born hard bop jazz pianist virtuoso who came to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s The Jazz Messengers before establishing a long career as a bandleader, arranger and composer (several of his compositions have by now become much-played jazz standards). Walton was known for his fantastic recordings and performances and of course for being part of the in-house rhythm section at Prestige Records. Cedar Walton arranged and recorded for Etta James, helping her win a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 1994.​

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Giulia.,
The TVD First Date

“My relationship to vinyl is a weird one, given the fact that I grew up with streaming services and have rarely had to buy music—let alone a hard copy.”

“Growing up, I listened to CDs in my little Walkman and danced in my room while Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” blasted through the shitty speakers of my Hello Kitty CD player (but I was 10, so sound quality meant nothing to me). But by the time I was around 12 or 13, streaming services began taking over, and my short-lived CD phase was over.

That being said, I always knew what vinyl was and how it worked, mainly because of my dad. Not only did we have a record player in our living room that sat on top of a massive collection of hundreds of vinyl records, but my dad was a musician. So our house was always filled with a soundtrack of some sort—usually, him fiddling around at the piano.

I think that because of my upbringing, and the way that sound was so ingrained in our house, music—and the experience of listening to music (which is an experience that we take for granted nowadays because of how easy it is to consume)—is always something I’ve felt very connected to. Though it wasn’t until later that connection started happening with vinyl, it was always there.

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ecoustics at TVD

ecoustics at TVD: The Top 3 Phono Preamps

Phono preamps come in all shapes and sizes—consumers have never had as much choice as they do in 2021 regardless of budget and the availability of so many great options will only help keep new users in the fold.

Listening to records has never really been a simple endeavor; especially for those of us who suffer from a form of OCD when it comes to cleaning, storage, table set-up, and constant tweaking to extract that last piece of music from the grooves. But unlike listening to CDs or streaming, there is a more obvious and tangible reward from all of that attention to detail when listening to vinyl; the uptick in sound quality is far easier to discern when a cartridge is set-up properly and the matching phono preamp is amplifying that tiny signal to its fullest.

Over the past twelve months of the pandemic, I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful local record dealer (who just closed his physical location after 11 years due to COVID-19) who kept me supplied with new music, and a constant flow of audiophile phono preamps to review.

Entry-level products like the Schiit Audio Mani, Cambridge Audio Duo, and U-Turn Audio Pluto did their best to not rob music of its pace and keep the sound relatively balanced. Mid-tier products like the LP110 V2 from Moon by SimAudio delivered exceptional results with warmer sounding cartridges and made a strong case for itself in systems in the $10,000-$20,000 range. This $400 Canadian workhorse will never leave any listener up “Schitt’s Creek” without a paddle.

But what about audiophile phono preamps priced closer to $1,000? If your existing integrated amplifier or pre-amplifier doesn’t include a phono stage and you want to really raise the bar on the quality of your analog playback, then it does make sense to consider either the Croft Acoustics RIAA phono pre-amplifier ($995), iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label ($995), or Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 ($699). All three of these phono preamps sound exceptional for the money—yet sound nothing alike.

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Graded on a Curve:
Elsa Hewitt,
LUPA

Based in London and hailing from Sussex via Yorkshire, Elsa Hewitt is an electronic producer and songwriter who’s been active since 2017, and with a fondness for releasing her music on cassette. To wit, LUPA, her latest and sixth overall, is available on tape in an attractive edition of 50, but it’s also fresh out on vinyl through Tompkins Square. As a document of her consistently evolving skills, it’s both inviting and elusive, as likely to please curious dabblers as those with an undying jones for electronic sounds.

LUPA isn’t Elsa Hewitt’s vinyl debut. Her 2019 release, Citrus Paradisi, received a wax pressing late last year that’s still available through the Lobster Theremin label. There’s also a self-released single LP distillation of Becoming Real – Trilogy, a 3CD set that corrals Hewitt’s three tapes from 2017, Cameras From Mars, Dum Spiro Spero, and Peng Variations.

The contents of Becoming Real – Trilogy; that is, the full 3CD version (I’ve not listened to the compilation), reinforce Hewitt as a writer of songs (as distinct from a crafter of soundscapes, rhythmic thickets or tangles of abstraction), though her music gravitates not toward synth-pop but rather a blend of experimental techniques and progressive dance impulses with samples (occasionally humorous). Singing (and even rapping during Cameras From Mars track “Rainbowz”) aids considerably in establishing the songlike aura.

Cool thing is, Hewitt’s songs roam around a lot, so that the progression is never predictable. Circus Paradisi can be considered a rapid-fire spurt of advancement, the tracks more wide-ranging and more confident as the brightness/ boldness doesn’t break the spell cast by her 2017 tapes. Contrasting, the cassette “Quilt Jams,” described as wordless, spontaneously created and modest, was issued shortly before Circus Paradisi.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/5/21

Record Store Day buying guide: June 12 and July 17 releases: Record Store Day looks a little different this year. Considering the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Record Store Day will take the form of “RSD Drops,” taking place on two separate days, June 12 and July 17. Independent stores will remain in charge of their own sales and releases, depending on their particular location’s setup. “The spread of titles over two dates in two months allows some flexibility for the struggling vinyl pressing plants and distribution companies,” reads a statement on the Record Store Day website, “as well as provide stores time to prepare budgets and place the orders that safely get music into the hands of customers on a larger than normal release day.” This year’s class of releases features an impressive array of music. Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s She’s the One soundtrack album has been reimagined and retitled as Angel Dream, Pearl Jam will release a new version of “Alive,” the single from their debut album which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and, for the first time, the estate of Prince will put forth The Truth, the acoustic accompaniment to 1998’s Crystal Ball.

Little Rock, AR | UA Little Rock alum opens vinyl store in Benton: Audra McAnally has been out of school for less than three years, but the 25-year old entrepreneur has already opened her second business – a stylish throwback to the popular era of vinyl stores called Retro Rose. After graduating from Bryant High School in 2014, McAnally joined the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Business. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a certificate in sales, all while working around 60 hours a week managing a property preservation company. “I went to UA Little Rock because I wanted to stay local for college,” McAnally said. “It was intense. I was probably getting four hours of sleep a night, and now I can’t stay up past 10 p.m. …I opened Retro Rose Oct. 30, 2020, mid pandemic,” McAnally said. “I didn’t want to lose my space in downtown Benton since it’s becoming a prominent area. My boyfriend Brandon and I both collect records and we are super antiquers. I thought it would be so cool to open a music store where everyone feels welcome. One thing led to another, and I kept finding bulks of used records that fueled the fire.”

UK | Noel Gallagher announced as Record Store Day 2021 ambassador: “Record shops were really important when I was growing up. It’s something that’s in my DNA.” Noel Gallagher has been announced as the official ambassador for Record Store Day 2021. The former Oasis musician will take on the role as well as releasing a limited edition coloured vinyl of his upcoming High Flying Birds Best Of album, ‘Back The Way We Came: Vol 1 (2011-2021)’. Arriving as part of RSD 2021’s first drop on June 12, the numbered hand-pressed LP will come with an art print created exclusively for indie record stores. “Record shops were really important when I was growing up. It’s something that’s in my DNA,” Gallagher explains in an official announcement video, which you can watch now below. “I think if we can keep record shops open for as long as possible, we owe it to the young people of this country. For this year’s Record Store Day I’ll be getting involved. I’ve got something unique coming out.”

Chicago, IL | Bric-A-Brac Records Moving To Avondale, Opening Horror-Themed Coffee Shop Next Door: The coffee shop, which the owners are opening with a friend, will be called The Brewed, a play on David Cronenberg’s horror flick “The Brood.” Since opening Bric-A-Brac Records at Diversey and Kedzie avenues eight years ago, husband-and-wife owners Nick Mayor and Jen Lemasters have had to work other jobs to keep the record and collectibles shop afloat — Mayor at a restaurant and Lemasters selling merch at big venues. But with both industries hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, the couple has decided to focus solely on Bric-A-Brac in hopes of growing the small business into even more of a community hub. The couple is moving the shop to a bigger space in Avondale, and they’re teaming up with a friend to open an adjoining coffee shop. …The couple has signed a lease on a storefront at 2843 N. Milwaukee Ave. The space is about 20 percent larger than their vibrant current home at 3156 W. Diversey Ave., Mayor said, which is overflowing with records, cassettes, books, collectibles and more.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: The Empire Strikes Back (Symphonic Suite) by John Williams, reissue in stores 7/23

VIA PRESS RELEASE | In Celebration of Star Wars Day 2021, Varèse Sarabande Records is re-issuing the long out-of-print LP The Empire Strikes Back – Symphonic Suite from the Original Motion Picture Score by Academy Award®-winning composer John Williams.

Out of print since 1980, the record is pressed on 180-gram black vinyl and housed in a gatefold jacket featuring the original Star Wars paintings and notes. Available now for pre-order along with two limited exclusive versions: “Ice Planet Hoth Blue” (Vinyl Me Please) and “Imperial Grey Marble” (Newbury Comics). A Canadian exclusive on “Cloud City Orange” will be available only at Sunrise retail shops as of July 23rd.

Originally released to supplement and not compete with the 2-LP Motion Picture Soundtrack, this 1-LP release skillfully combines a “Symphonic Suite” that John Williams created for concert performance with new arrangements of other cues from the film score.

The Empire Strikes Back has become not only one of Williams’ most iconic scores, but one of the most iconic film scores of all time. The LP comes in a gatefold jacket with the original iconic Star Wars paintings by William Stout, images of John Williams, and notes from author Ray Bradbury, composer and critic Christopher Palmer, and from the maestro himself.

“The Suite, which I had specially written and adapted for concert performance […] had been skillfully augmented with other music from the film to form a unified whole. A great orchestra and Gerhardt’s opulent sound and dramatic phrasing combine to make a fine addition to a rapidly growing list of great recordings of film music.” —John Williams

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Black Sabbath,
Master of Reality

Celebrating Bill Ward who turns 73 tomorrow.Ed.

Is Black Sabbath the dumbest band in rock history or what? Even as a wee lad “Iron Man” struck me as the work of a band that was slow, and I don’t mean slow as in sluggish in tempo but slow as in dim in cerebral wattage—heavy metal half-wits who wore boots because the alternative was those shoes with Velcro straps on them. They reminded me of the weird kid down the street who chewed then swallowed the heads off a full battalion of little green plastic army men but continued to play with them, despite the fact they were dead.

And I’m not alone: rock crit Robert Christgau gave Sabbath’s debut LP an unprecedented “E,” and when I asked my younger brother to sum up Black Sabbath he said simply, “Apparently the Devil likes doofuses.” Personally I lay the responsibility for this perception of the band from Birmingham as English oafs at the feet of Geezer Butler, whose wooden, stilted, and startlingly stupid lyrics make the boneheads in Bad Company look like MENSA material in comparison.

Let’s be honest: The Geez’s “I’m living easy where the sun doesn’t shine” may well be the most unintentionally hilarious rock lyric of all time (what, has he rented a penthouse in a giant’s bunghole?) And “I looked through a window and surprised what I saw/A faerie with boots and dancing with a dwarf” runs a close second. Then there’s “Into the Void,” wherein Butler comes up with the bright idea of sending freedom fighters to the sun to escape a doomed Earth, which ought to work out just dandy until they spontaneously combust.

But if I’m coming off all condescending (and I am) the joke’s on me, because Black Sabbath must have had something going for them (I know I’m talking past tense when they’re still around, but are they really?) or they wouldn’t have spawned a thousand heavy metal, doom metal, sludge rock, thrash, goth, and stoner rock bands, to say nothing of that Satanic duo Loggins and Messina. And that something wasn’t the dumb lyrics but duh, the music, which was murky, heavy-as-Leslie-West, and doom-laden, and kicked the bats out Hell because frankly Black Sabbath made a scarier noise and Ozzy was more than happy to bite the head off any bat that thought different.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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