Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Experiencing Vinyl #3: "Best of The Rest" 2014

For the last few years, I focused my interests and purchases on contemporary musicians. The simple fact is, there are plenty of musicians making good music, and it's fun to go to the record store and look through the New Arrivals for the most interesting or crushing or heartbreaking or emancipatory music. 2014 was completely different. This year, those older records hollered louder, and they outlined many trends or counterpoints to what I purchased from contemporary artists (which was admittedly much less organized -- and perhaps way more fun than any previous year of music collecting).

I owe plenty of thanks to Elastic in Chicago, and especially the Elastro Series, for providing spaces that expanded my musical interests and experiences in 2013 and 2014. The venue is reliably experimental, and its move for 2015 brings thrilling possibility (please have another clothing and record swap!). With Elastro, I experienced experimental music live more frequently than in previous years, which in part must explain why I've listened to so much old music. At the Victim of Time record fair, I landed a $0.50 copy of The Very Best of the Everly Brothers (WB), which hit as hard as the exceptional Gross Pointe tape; from scuzzy motorcycle rock to commercial rockabilly, I found shockingly straightforward and even heavy songs. This was the perfect backbone, or grounding, for my free-jazz and improvisational leanings. 

The Everly Brothers reminded me that I had been looking for a vinyl version of "Mystery Train," which has been in the Greil Marcus-dominated sphere of my subconscious ever since high school, I suppose. But that's another therapy session. Anyway, For LP Fans Only (RCA), sealed and reissued from the 1970s, popped up in a record bin one fine day, and I completed my heavy rockabilly hits from 2014. What I particularly like about The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley is that their music shines through so much skepticism about cultural appropriation or cynical reappraisals of the golden past. Certainly, these artists straddled boundaries of popular music during a tumultuous time, but their ravaged sense of delivering the song at all costs, and remaining faithful to the brief, sudden encounter is the strongest element of their music. 

Sudden and brief trends peppered my purchases throughout the year, including a full-on dive into the Homostupids. I think I almost landed everything they released, which is way less offensive than the name suggests, and quite focused (for as completely wrecked as it is). I don't know why I didn't spend the entire year we lived in Cleveland listening to this, it certainly would have accompanied the broken glass bike lanes with measured harmony (The Edge, P.Trash pictured here). The Homostupids rush fit perfectly next to my recent Obnox spree, which I gladly indulged in once Thee Oh Sees announced their (false) hiatus. We are blessed as music fans to jump from a band like the "classic" Oh Sees to Obnox releasing multiple discs in a year, and Obnox is only getting better as he moves forward (Canibible Ohio, Slovenly / Black Gladiator pictured here). 

I hated Stress Apes when I first heard them years, and years, and years ago. Well, not hate. But while speaking with my friends about CAVE and everything related, my young ears were afraid to admit that I didn't quite understand Stress Ape. Luckily for me, Bad Drugs, Cacaw, and Rotted Tooth Recordings in general completely opened my ears to bleak, unconscionable noise, and so I luckily stumbled upon a copy of Mergers (Hardscrabble Amateurs). I only wish my noise ears were hardened earlier, for I now face a desire to buy every single Hardscrabble title after the fact. Oh, what we've lived through that we miss -- hell, I probably missed 500 great tapes this year alone. 

Thanks to my family members, I received a batch of delicious tapes and LPs for my birthday, two of which included The Doors Live at The Hollywood Bowl (Elektra) and The Rolling Stones Some Girls (self?). Some Girls is such a ridiculously cringeworthy album at certain points, if only because I find it very hard to believe that Mick was short on "jam" by the mid-1970s. Like the debauchery of the 1970s Stones in general, the notes of redemption shine brighter than the trash, and if you don't get your fix from absurd MXR phasing, Mick's sad-sack country howls on side-B will drive you nuts. I almost fall over every time I hear Mick talk about driving through 40 consecutive red lights once he learns that Jesus is always with him (Hahahahahahahaha!). The Doors shocked me, if only because of their harsh moments that punctuate light, enjoyable jazz-psych moves. I'm really quite indifferent to Morrison, but the honest truth is that it's quite difficult not to "wake up" at the noise that introduces "Light My Fire."

Trouble In Mind is a label that requires serious back-purchasing into my collection. I finally started this year, as Doug Tuttle's exploitation-psych-wheelhouse pop burned into my brain for the first half of the year (I seriously think that album burned into my brain. I recommended it to a friend who turned me on to Back from the Grave, who promptly reported, "Yep, Nick knows what I like"). Woolen Kits was my first "back purchase," and the CD is preferable to the vinyl only because you can toss it into the dashboard when you're tooling around town. Once you do, you'll hear crystal-clear pop that is outlined by raw nerves and group-vocal oblivion. 

I also owe a lot of thanks to Drew Gibson, both for providing review copies (Josh Millrod review is forthcoming, as is a Daniel Wyche interview/review), as well as providing a copy of Clearing's Tape Drag. As I documented earlier in the year, this was undoubtedly one of my favorite, and most consistent, ambient listens of the year. 

Rounding out the short listens is a whole batch of Geographic North 7" singles, specifically from the You Can't Hide Your Love Forever series. Pictured here is the brilliant 80s pop revival by Psychic Powers, but the series also includes experimental percussion, shortform drones, and both upbeat and downer variations of the best of 1980s pop. Much like Tuttle's release, any music that uses the snare drum as a lead instrument is quite all right with me, and this is one particularly stellar element of the Psychic Powers delivery. 

P.S., "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" is a phenomenal song, and The Monkees are much better than a lot of people might expect. 

Since a lot of my 2014 listens were longer-form artists, I did not add terribly many longform psych oldies this year. However, the two longform performances I dug into were a Neu! reissue (Gronland), and Lyonnais, Want For Wish For Nowhere (Hoss, both pictured below). 

The Neu record was instantly recognizable, if only through the patterns and moves that have been appropriated by contemporary psych artists. It is always fun to hear early sources of inspiration for contemporary musicians, and Neu must hold a specific place among those who appreciate the gang of psych groups that populate current releases and trends. 

Neu showcase two elements of krautrock that are arguably missing from even the best contemporary variations on that scene:

 (1) They exhibit more moments of complete freedom than contemporary variations. This results in some powerful sequences of cymbal scratches, as well as some oddball moments (such as the LP-closing singsong, which I'm still not sure what to make of after all these listens). In between those extremes, the group hammer their repetitive exercises and beats.

(2) Neu exhibit the light-hand and restraint that matches elements of Can and Kraftwerk, among other early electronic artists. There is a type of "warmth" or softness that counteracts the urgency of the beats and grooves. As a result, the rhythmic exercises feel organic, almost rolling along in a gentle manner, which allows those repetitions to breathe. 

Granted, there are many current psychedelic groups with fine touches and freeform moments, but Neu combine the best of both elements on their debut. 

While I was mourning the closing of the great San Francisco resurgence, given the disbandment of key groups and the mass migration to Los Angeles, I found a new source of inspiration in Jefferson Airplane. Most will call the group a key hippie band, but the honest truth is that this group produces rebel rhythm & blue distortions that almost perfectly coincide with "classic" Oh Sees records (I here have Help! and ...Master's Bedroom in mind, but there are other Oh Sees records that fit this argument). "3/5 of a mile in 10 seconds" could have appeared on either one of those records, with only a minimal amount of de-polishing needed to match the rowdy, live timbre of classic Oh Sees. It's all there: boy-girl vocals, prominent harmonies, reverb-clean percussive guitar, untamed leads, you name it. I always though Surrealistic Pillow (RCA) was quite a good record, but I never had as much fun listening to it as I did once I finally found an original vinyl version. 

Finally, I missed the Clone Records resurfacing the first time it hit Permanent Records, so I dutifully obliged this time the records showed up. While I listened to more punk this year than in any other year of my life (probably), I found this 1970s blend of pub rock, progressive moves, and hard rock absolutely stunning. These musicians feel like they're not quite sure what they want to do; it's rather aimless in some ways, or completely without genre. Clone perfectly captures the coexistence of glam, punk, and metal ideals in the midst of the 1970s, which effectively destroys the fashionable orthodoxy for any of those particular genres. What a breath of fresh air! The Teacher's Pet single was one of my favorite recommendations I received all year, and I truly enjoyed it along with these wicked Bizarros and Rubber City Rebels jams.

Experiencing Vinyl
Experiencing Vinyl #2

Record Collection, 2009-2014
Tapes With Friends

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Language of Reconciliation

I am guilty. Guilty of taking every privilege I have ever been granted, guilty for being born into a neighborhood secured by insurance agencies and reaped the benefits of urban planning, guilty for being placed into schools that were freely chosen, guilty for having access to solid financial aid for college, guilty for having a family that is able to support that aid, guilty for being able to freely shop, guilty for questioning authority without violent retribution or expulsion, guilty for exerting authority even in situations where I am not the uniformed person, guilty for freely walking, guilty for living in neighborhoods where the violence does not apply to me.

I am guilty of even more than this.

This feeling is appropriate. I wish that I could do more. More than writing politicians, engaging with friends, trying my best to be a good person, and working as best as I can to empathize with every person I encounter. This is simply not enough. Feeling guilty is a perfectly rational response to horrendous injustices, especially when those injustices are executed in my name, or rather, for my face, or for my privilege, to ensure my secure status in society. And those injustices burn my eyes, they destroy the value of any security whatsoever, for that security requires that the backs of others carry the absolute weight of sheer volatility, vagrancy, and violence.

At what point is this security worthwhile? As we become more aware of the startling, violent injustices committed in our names against others, will white Americans be willing to challenge their own securities to improve society? We are insulated from violence: our people conspired to form slums through financial measures and planning policies that designed our neighborhoods-in-fortresses. Our people conspired to perpetuate those slums by lending insecure funds to minorities looking for any chance to improve their lifestyle and gain a piece of security. Our people continually encourage a form of political austerity that forces budget cuts that harm the least among us, and in fact allow us to strengthen our position in society.

This is unacceptable.

Encountering our guilt is one way to form a language of reconciliation. We must face ourselves, and truly interrogate our privilege, in order to create an equal society. We can only listen; we must stop our condemnations of "black rioters," and our "outrage" at other forms of black violence. We must listen to pleas that describe specific wrongs, specific transgressions, however large, or however small, and we must urge them to stop. If we are outside of the realm of protest movements, if the comfort of the middle class has swallowed us whole, we must use that power to our advantage: write our representatives, demand changes, or even not that we do not want atrocious injustices committed in our names.

If these ideas seem convoluted and strange, it is because the institutions that have formed our privileges have also successfully masked themselves and pinned the blame on others. A brief history of racism bears this out: We steal your land; when you don't own property, we point and say, "Why are you so poor and lazy?" We steal your ability to own your labor; when you're unable to apply your abilities in the best possible labor market, we say, "Why can't you get a job?" We impede your access to sound credit, and when you can't own your business, or can't afford college, can't own your home, or default on your mortgage, we say, "Why aren't you able to better your own lot? Why can't you pull yourself up from your bootstraps and make it work?" We take away your access to institutional justice, barring your chance to successfully see your transgressors in court, and when you protest, we ask, "What is the point of this violence?" We declare war on your neighborhoods, call your neighborhoods war zones, and violently enforce those areas, then say, "Why are you so violent? Why can't you accomplish your goals peacefully?"There is more to racism, of course, but it is worth noting that the history of racism can be summarized in five sentences.

This is unacceptable. This is why I feel guilt. My identity, on the surface, is oppressor. This is accomplished in my name. We must reconcile these wrongs, and we have the benefits to do so: we have the security of police forces, equity, financially sound neighborhoods, open ears from politicians, media, and other privileged and powerful people. Instead of asking for specific gains, it would be telling to write our representatives and tell them that our white privilege is no longer acceptable. We want everyone to be able to share in our open, secure society, to be free from violence, to be able to take the same chances, learn the same theories, work in the same executive offices, hold the same political offices, own the same homes, and have the same access to credit.

This is our burden. Make no mistake, it is ours. This is why I feel guilty. Yet, by confronting this guilt, by letting it flow through my veins, I understand this much: we must listen. We must write. We must encounter our own privilege, and we must either make peace with it, or demand that others share in it. Our language of reconciliation begins here, with guilt, but also open ears. Are we up to the task to invite others into our circles? Do we want better institutions? If we care for society to improve, this is where we must begin, and we must know that we can improve our society even if we are not on the frontline of protest, violence, or combat.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

American Band Championship Belt: Challengers

Steven Hyden wrote an article on Grantland this week entitled "The American Band Championship Belt," in which he handed out Championship Titles for the most iconic, successful, and/or influential American bands of the last 50 years. Overall, the list is quite good, including exceptional picks like Sly & The Family Stone for 1971. Those types of tough picks exemplify a music fan laboring over difficult decisions about which stories to tell about American music. As an ardent apologist for the last decade of American music, I was stuck on the following entry for Deerhunter (they won the belt for '08-'10):

Overview: I love Deerhunter. My favorite album of the ’10s so far is Halcyon Digest, and I like Microcastle nearly as much. But let’s be frank: The last six years are the weakest ever for American bands. It’s not even close, really. There are still good bands, but they don’t matter like the other groups on this list. If you don’t know who Deerhunter is, you’re likely with the majority of readers. Please listen to them. You’ll thank me later.
The Black Keys followed Deerhunter as the Champion from 2011-2014, which is somewhat difficult to stomach in an era that saw the rebirth / re-exposure of garage rock. For example, Thee Oh Sees destroyed all comers, even their own scene, with their prolific output. Pick an album, any album, they're all probably better than The Black Keys. That's not a knock on The Black Keys as much as it's a recognition of the fact that albums like Carrion Crawler / The Dream are pinnacles of garage rock's potential.

Yet, it is worth noting the difficulties of spreading the message of Thee Oh Sees far and wide: their records are mostly distributed by outfits such as Revolver / Midheaven, which basically ensures they won't ever have to worry about embarrassing themselves on Saturday Night Live (although, Ty Segall Band proves this "distribution argument" wrong with their lightning-quick performance on David Letterman. Thee Oh Sees did appear on Carson Daily's show). This factionalism inherent in American rock represents an earlier era, one peppered with small labels, stacked independent touring caravans, and bands that play raw, breakneck paces. I'm referring as much to the late-1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s as much as I am to the hardcore explosion of the 1980s.

Curiously, the 1950s are absent from Hyden's list, which could be explained by convenience (50 years of Champions has quite a nice ring to it). On the other hand, America's 1950s bands exhibit a type of primal rock, rockabilly, or country sound, or flat out rhythm & blues. The divisions between rhythm & blues and rock are unfortunate, and one of the strengths of Hyden's lists is that he masterfully nods to important rock, rap, funk, and R&B acts. So far so good. If one pushes the rhythm & blues tension back to its origins, and stretches the Championship Belts into the 1950s, suddenly factionalism, niches, and small-scale success is not as problematic (although there are certainly some popular artists in the 1950s, too).

Interestingly, Hyden includes a rule that no "& the" bands can be included in his list of Champions.

A very important rule that clarifies the process and makes the list more interesting. Without it, the belt winners would simply be the same old familiar list of popular singer-songwriters with celebrated backing bands. While I agree that, say, the E Street Band is a vital organization, its identity is absorbed by Springsteen’s persona. Springsteen is known simply as “Springsteen” whether or not he’s recording with the E Street Band. Therefore, it is not a true band for our purposes. Every band on this list is known first and foremost as a band(Warning: I violate this rule twice.)
This is not a problem in R&B, where working with a solid leader or revolving corps of backing players was quite normal (this should sound familiar to anyone who follows the line-ups of most contemporary independent bands, who swap players rather frequently depending on their needs, vision, touring schedules, etc.). If the list begins in the 1950s, there ought to be no issue with "& the" bands, for almost everyone is an "& the," from Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters to Buddy Holly & The Crickets (both absolutely necessarily Champions, by the way, or at least serious Challengers). Elvis with The Jordanaires is another interesting -- and chart-topping -- pair, and there's all sorts of backing-band magic, personnel swaps, and intrigue during the girl group era of the early 1960s. Besides, overall, there shouldn't necessarily be an issue with celebrated backing bands following popular singer-songwriters (see The Byrds, one of Hyden's challengers, for several interesting reasons: not only did the group itself cut their teeth recording seminal Bob Dylan songs, but Roger McGuinn played lead guitar and sang in key incarnations, and there's always the issues of studio players inserted into the mix). This happens everywhere, including Deerhunter (a Champion) and even popular rock bands like Weezer (where Rivers Cuomo sings lead and plays lead guitar).

Those 1950s: The 1950s featured some raucous American bands, as well as some delightfully soft pop and folk music. As previously mentioned, The Drifters started their extensive career, certainly playing some of the best songs during the vocal driven R&B era (and backing the inimitable Clyde McPhatter). The Clovers' "Sh-Boom" is a strong enough song to enter them into the equation of Champions. Roy Orbison started his career, Buddy Holly enjoyed considerable success forming a minimal rockabilly sound (as well as more symphonic excursions), and other extremely successful groups included The Kingston Trio, The Platters, The Everly Brothers, and The Fleetwoods. Bandleader Big Joe Turner also provides considerable trouble for the "band" list, as two of his key songs ("The Chill is On" and "Sweet Sixteen") were recorded with Van "Piano Man" Walls and his orchestra. Certainly it is worth extending the string of American Band Champions to 1951 to celebrate Big Joe Turner's rowdy rhythm & blues achievements.

Girl Groups: Before the American Band Championships begin in 1964, a curious trend occupies the Billboard's "hot" charts. A gang of girl groups, such as The Shirelles and The Ronettes, turned rowdy R & B into lovestruck, empowering, or wistfully short sides. Hyden touches on this with The Supremes, who are a Challenger to The Beach Boys in 1964, but the girl group trend is arguably more significant than a secondary mention (and one sees this if the American bands story is started several years earlier).

The girl group narrative is important because it can be cashed-out, continuously, throughout American music history. Be it through new wave music like The Go-Gos, R&B like TLC, SWV, Salt-N-Pepa, or Destiny's Child, or rock music like Sleater-Kinney (a Challenger in Hyden's article, but arguably the greatest single band in American music history, for their appropriation of punk rock, their application of feminist scenes in popular culture, and their RIFFS!). Obviously, one can dive ever deeper into this scene of great American girl bands -- in fact, I gather an entire list can be made of girl-centric music from 1964-present, and that such a list would tell a significant story about American bands.

Influential Patterns: While thinking about The Black Keys and Deerhunter, it struck me that several extremely influential bands were missing from the list of contenders. Of course, this will happen in any list exercise -- I'll miss influential bands in this feature, too. Depending on the story, though, missing influential bands can be an issue, and in this case Deerhunter and The Black Keys owe considerable debt to American bands ranging from The Bassholes and Mr. Airplane Man to The Amps / The Breeders, The Everly Brothers, and The United States of America. In fact, depending on your viewpoint, one could argue that Deerhunter is The United States of America, The Amps, and The Everly Brothers.

Certainly, one could counter that citing influential groups would defeat the purpose of such a list -- Deerhunter are a great band because of how they churn influences into equally ambient and rocking sounds. Goodness, could you imagine how Nirvana breaks down if you simply look at their influences? Arguably, Mudhoney released the most important (and best) grunge record with Sub Pop, and The Pixies exemplified college rock, but Nirvana certainly was more than the sum of hardcore underground ("actual"?) grunge and college rock. No, Nirvana were great because of their energy, conviction, and songwriting chops, as much as their exemplification of certain influential independent bands.

On the other hand, this argument about influence can go the other way, too. What good is influence if the corporate hands turn Nirvana into years of Nickelback (thankfully not American) and Creed (unfortunately American)? Creed is another band that didn't made Hyden's list, presumably because Nirvana and Pearl Jam were already mentioned. That Kurt Cobain's suicide created a power-vacuum filled by clueless executives says more about major labels than it does about Nirvana, but Nirvana's influence must bear the years of Creed and Nickelback, too. Oddly enough, if one is concerned about factionalism or niche markets in contemporary music, one can blame Cobain and major label executives for that, too. It seems difficult to call Nirvana's legacy influential without recognizing that because of the series of events in the 1990s, we now have fractured independent markets (which are GREAT!).

The way one views influences is significant for developing a specific story about American rock. Perhaps if the goal is to culminate with Deerhunter and The Black Keys, it is indeed important to list The Velvet Underground as the most influential band during the mid-to-late 1960s. But, if one lists The 13th Floor Elevators as the most influential group during that era, perhaps it is less difficult to see small, regional, factional groups like Thee Oh Sees as significant bands in the current era.

Regions: If one thinks about contemporary factions, one notices strong regional influences. Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, and Ty Segall Band are just some of the artists first associated with San Francisco's scene of musicians and labels, and now associated with Los Angeles. Following that legacy, one can find interesting traditions to mine, from Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service (both worthy Challengers, if not Champions, in America's band traditions). In this case, an album like Surrealistic Pillow by The Jefferson Airplane might be more important than The Velvet Underground (I should make it clear that I'm not bashing The Velvets. I absolutely love them, especially their grand bootleg series and gnarly guitar tones. But, the point is to really press exactly what was influential and great in the history of American bands).

One especially interesting region that has (at least) a six decade story to tell is that of Texas (and, specifically, Austin). The 13th Floor Elevators are one of the most significant regional bands in American history, and they spur a series of continually under-the-radar-yet-on-the-pulse group of musicians from Nice Strong Arm to current groups like Spray Paint (who are employing one of the most radical guitar sounds amidst washes of unceremonious fuzz in contemporary American rock). The Texas list of challengers gets even more fun if one expands their reach to Houston, which includes everyone from ZZ Top to Red Krayola.

Arguably, the same lineage can be traced throughout many other regions; Seattle, Olympia, CLEVELAND, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Athens, Minneapolis, etc. Some of these regional acts appear on Hyden's list -- particularly Minnesotans Husker Du and The Replacements (in fact, Hyden's list includes an excellent Minnesotan lineage from Husker Du through to The Hold Steady). Undoubtedly, those bands tell a significant story about the development of American music distribution from "major labels" back to small-scale, factional scenes. That story is told over, and over, and over again in many other American cities.

The Monkees: If The Black Keys are the most significant American Band currently playing, there is an interesting logic that can be applied backwards on the list. Specifically, The Black Keys are most important because they are incredibly popular (I remember when they sold out Chicago's Aragon Ballroom for several consecutive New Year's Eve shows a few years back), and one cannot possibly know which underground groups will be most important from the contemporary scene (this is the gist of an argument The Empty Bottle and Hyden conveyed to me via Facebook and Twitter, respectively).

Yet, if one cannot know which contemporary acts will be most influential, and popular groups therefore are given more importance during their specific time, including groups like The Velvet Underground as Champions tells an incomplete story: if this list was made in 1967 or 1968, The Monkees would probably be regarded as the most popular, significant American band -- certainly, their place on TV, radio, and record sales supports that claim. Why do we use hindsight to forget about, or disparage, or underplay the importance of acts like The Monkees? Presumably, this is exactly what journalists will do when they're writing this list in 2030: The Black Keys will be booted, in favor of someone like Purling Hiss or Bitchin' Bajas or something. And the argument will be, "well, Bitchin' Bajas turned out to be really influential due to their fusion of krautrock, jazz, and experimental music within an accessible rock framework." Or, "Purling Hiss effectively used shred-happy, wide open guitar tones to return rock music to a competent, solo-happy exercises." Or who knows: maybe it will be a Drill group from Chicago, etc.

(One can make this argument in nearly every American decade. Groups like Chicago, Boston, Journey, Bon Jovi, Creed, etc., have been quite popular to Americans. Obviously, one can argue that they weren't necessarily influential in the way The Velvet Underground, Parliament, or Black Flag were. Yet, if one can note that The Black Keys are currently the most influential American band, it shouldn't be that far of a stretch to praise Creed at the turn of the decade.)

It simply is not satisfying to say, "we cannot know what the future will bring." This is precisely the type of exercise where one can put their neck on the line and argue about what is most important in contemporary music. I say this as a total apologist for contemporary groups, precisely because American bands are quite good at the moment. Probably better than ever. Factional, regional templates allow musicians to fuse krautrock, R&B, experimental formats, and other sorts of noise in ways that acts like Guns N'Roses never had to do in a large commercial format. So, if we cannot know the future, and can only judge what is influential, important, or great via what is most popular, The Monkees ought to claim their rightful spot as America's finest purveyor of beat music in the mid-to-late-1960s. Just like The Black Keys currently are regarded as quite a popular band.


(1) Hyden's "& the" rule seems to create quite an interesting series of exclusions throughout American history.

If the list is expanded beyond the 1960s, and into the 1950s, Les Paul & Mary Ford are absolutely crucial to American music. In fact, without this duo, it is arguable that other forms of experimental multi-tracking would not have been palatable in pop tastes. Les Paul manipulated tape as much as anyone in music history, and his combo records with Mary Ford are playful and surreal (as much as they are good, clean pop).

Excluding Simon & Garfunkel in the mid-1960s seems rather strange. Same with The Mamas & The Papas -- they were so influential, they actually helped organize one of America's most important pop music festivals ever. Yet, Simon & Garfunkel were a band; they were a duo, just like The Black Keys. That they needed supporting musicians at times is not really important -- last I saw, The Black Keys play with extra musicians, too. Simon & Garfunkel exemplified American folk tropes in the pop format, and even if some of their jokey attempts to rip off Bob Dylan are tough to stomach, their light, psychedelic stylings on albums like Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme more than make up for the rough spots.

There are some other uniquely American "&" bands (but not "& the"): Sonny & Cher, Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and so on. I'm not sure if these groups were all excluded because of their "&," but some of these bands are absolutely crucial to the development of American pop tastes.

(2) Some factional genres are surprisingly absent from Hyden's list -- this, of course, can be understood, for Hyden appears to be working toward a grand narrative about the development of R&B and rock tastes through major commercial American acts (with some notable punk canon exceptions).

It may be due to my age, but the exclusion of emotional hardcore groups seems intriguing. I'm not arguing that bands from The Nation of Ulysses to Fugazi, or Alkaline Trio to Braid to Sunny Day Real Estate to Death Cab For Cutie necessarily need to be American Band Champions. Perhaps these groups exemplify American factionalism, which explains why they are not noted as significant influences in the history of American bands. I also remember an era in which every damn one of us were starting high school emo-influenced bands.

I absolutely despise the idea of "Adult Alternative," but there were a series of soft-rocking bands that appeared once again in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s: Third Eye Blind, Tonic, Matchbox 20 immediately come to mind, perhaps fulfilling the legacy of Chicago or Simon & Garfunkel (albeit with a louder, slightly more distorted sound). Again, I'm not arguing that these bands are Championship-material, but I do think it's worth asking whose tastes determine what is influential. In the grand scheme of things, "Adult Alternative" might be the rock'n'roll age's answer to the crooners or pre-pop forms of the 1950s.

Folk music also has a number of serious threads throughout the 20th century, some of which enter pop markets. Here, one can jump from The Kingston Trio or Chad Mitchell Trio to Simon & Garfunkel and The Mamas & The Papas to Fleet Foxes. These types of trends exhibit a rather interesting trait to American music: perhaps American music is fatally factional, and groups are influential precisely according to the type of music one is attempting to make. In this scenario, American bands speak to specific traditions, or communicate via specific codes, rather than attempt to speak to broad audiences. So, obviously, if you're trying to start a band like Fleet Foxes, The Velvet Underground is probably not as important or influential as Simon & Garfunkel. That's not a bad thing; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme is quite a good record, and so is White Light / White Heat. Those records are talking past one another in a really important way.

(3) I might be a total sucker, but I remember Boyz II Men as an incredibly popular fusion R & B group. In fact, their album title even advertised their affinity for Philadelphia soul and Motown R&B.

(4) What does one do with gangsta rap? This probably falls under the same issue of, "What does one do with emotional hardcore"? N.W.A. get a shout-out from Hyden, but perhaps they deserve more for basically launching the careers of an entire set of musicians hellbent on brutal commentary. (I'd argue that gangsta rap might even be more important than punk insofar as gangsta rappers actually spoke to specific injustices and perceptions of violence and authority, rather than producing fashionable angst).

Ultimately, if one wants to argue that contemporary American bands are weak, one has to retell previous American music history in one specific way. Perhaps American commercial bands really must take off after the British Invasion, which forever holds American bands to a position of inadequacy around the world. On the other hand, one can embrace contemporary American bands by exploring the 1950s, girl groups, and regionalism in American music. American bands are always better than they used to be: they are always great, because they are always speaking to factionalism and regionalism. This story about American bands predates The Beatles, and it begins with everything from Les Paul & Mary Ford to Chad Mitchell Trio to The Drifters to The Ronettes to The Sonics, etc. It is in this spirit that one can specifically understand the influence, importance, and greatness of contemporary American bands. This history of extensive factionalism and regionalism is precisely why I am an apologist for contemporary American bands.

Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 NL Central 8 Week Race

Date Brewers Cardinals Pirates Reds
August 4 Off Off Off @ CLE
August 5 v. SFG v. BOS v. MIA @ CLE
August 6 v. SFG v. BOS v. MIA v. CLE
August 7 v. SFG v. BOS v. MIA v. CLE
August 8 v. LAD @ BAL v. SDP v. MIA
August 9 v. LAD @ BAL v. SDP v. MIA
August 10 v. LAD @ BAL v. SDP v. MIA
August 11 @ CHC @ MIA v. DET off
August 12 @ CHC @ MIA v. DET v. BOS
August 13 @ CHC @ MIA @ DET v. BOS
August 14 @ CHC v. SDP @ DET @ COL
August 15 @ LAD v. SDP @ WSH @ COL
August 16 @ LAD v. SDP @ WSH @ COL
August 17 @ LAD v. SDP @ WSH @ COL
August 18 off v. CIN v. ATL @ STL
August 19 v.TOR v. CIN v. ATL @ STL
August 20 v.TOR v. CIN v. ATL @ STL
August 21 off off off v. ATL
August 22 v. PIT @ PHI @ MIL v. ATL
August 23 v. PIT @ PHI @ MIL v. ATL
August 24 v. PIT @ PHI @ MIL v. ATL
August 25 @SD @ PIT v. STL off
August 26 @ SD @ PIT v. STL v. CHC
August 27 @ SD @ PIT v. STL v. CHC
August 28 off off off v. CHC
August 29 @SF v. CHC v. CIN @ PIT
August 30 @ SF v. CHC (2) v. CIN @ PIT
August 31 @ SF v. CHC v. CIN @ PIT
September 1 @ CHC v. PIT @ STL off
September 2 @ CHC v. PIT @ STL @ BAL
September 3 @ CHC v. PIT @ STL @ BAL
September 4 v. STL @ MIL off @ BAL
September 5 v. STL @ MIL @ CHC v. NYM
September 6 v. STL @ MIL @ CHC v. NYM
September 7 v. STL @ MIL @ CHC v. NYM
September 8 v. MIA @ CIN @ PHI v. STL
September 9 v. MIA @ CIN @ PHI v. STL
September 10 v. MIA @ CIN @ PHI v. STL
September 11 v. MIA @ CIN @ PHI v. STL
September 12 v. CIN v. COL v. CHC @ MIL
September 13 v. CIN v. COL v. CHC @ MIL
September 14 v. CIN v. COL v. CHC @ MIL
September 15 off off off @ CHC
September 16 @ STL v. MIL v. BOS @ CHC
September 17 @ STL v. MIL v. BOS @ CHC
September 18 @ STL v. MIL v. BOS off
September 19 @ PIT v. CIN v. MIL @ STL
September 20 @ PIT v. CIN v. MIL @ STL
September 21 @ PIT v. CIN v. MIL @ STL
September 22 off @ CHC @ ATL off
September 23 @ CIN @ CHC @ ATL v. MIL
September 24 @ CIN @ CHC @ ATL v. MIL
September 25 @ CIN off @ ATL v. MIL
September 26 v. CHC @ ARI @ CIN v. PIT
September 27 v. CHC @ ARI @ CIN v. PIT
September 28 v. CHC @ ARI @ CIN v. PIT

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Autobiography #2: Tapes With Friends

This post is a long time coming. Some of my closest friends have sent me wonderful tapes within the last six months, and several of my current music obsessions have played out on tape. A couple of months ago, I also dove into one of the Sanity Muffin batches, while there are others that are oscillate between meditative, exploitative, and uninhibited.

BRE'R, Mobility in Six Parts (Sanity Muffin)
In part, one of the reasons I picked up one of the Sanity Muffin batches was the Invocation of Magnetic Spirits series. This volume ostensibly opens a series of rare tapes found around Oakland by Sanity Muffin, although the tape is not necessarily what one expects -- the tape is as much contemporary noise as it is old, lost Gospel worshippers. Part of me expected to hear a tape of earnest Gospel worship and testimony, but heavy industrial noise drives the set. By contrasting enthusiastic -- eschatological, terrifying -- preaching and parish testimony with brutal noise, Sanity Muffin accomplish a troubling dichotomy that reaches equal parts exploitation and exploration. Exploitation, insofar as the honest vision of these worshipers is abstracted from its cultural context and presented for entertainment or artistic purposes. Exploration, insofar as the noise compositions offer a completely opposing structure to the free, improvised statements of faith and devotion. Together, these poles allow for a range of experiences, and therefore, plenty of return listens.

(It would also be wonderful to simply hear these source tapes -- Sanity Muffin arguably has a mine of valuable glimpses into the worship lives of everyday people. This kind of stuff is golden -- maybe archival stuff is boring to some, and the manipulation and noise makes it interesting, but there is something to be said for using recordings to allow people to speak in a voice that they might not otherwise have. This need not even be viewed as some grand argument about cultural reconciliation or emancipation: even a celebration of the ordinary or anonymous would be worthwhile).

BRE'R moved me to tears with beautiful, suspended guitar compositions that exude peacefulness and steadiness. This tape perfectly accompanies the Talk West, Bid People, and Clearing tapes -- these slow, unfolding spaces feature suspended beauty and repetition suited for meditation. 2014 is nothing more than a cycle through tapes like this, and thankfully, the pile is consistently growing. There is no other way for me to say this -- it is music like this that convinces me that the soul, mind, and brain are not coextensive; that our experiences cannot be reduced to material explanations, brain scans, or physiology; our reactions to this music cannot be mapped. Rather, each path through these repetitions allows for our soul to fold once more, tracking back over itself, turning inward beyond knowledge and contemplation. Thank you, BRE'R.

TALK WEST, Canyon Lip (Notice Recordings)
BIRD PEOPLE, Terma (Jehu & Chinaman)
CLEARING, Let Go (Solid Melts)

Drew Gibson curates Solid Melts, a label that follows his own musical projects and aesthetic, while also  diving into nearby themes or neighborhoods of experimental explorations. This Clearing tape is the newest member to my meditative tape pile, but I am thankful to have it and add to the number of absolutely ethereal minutes of music listening in any given week. 40 minutes of recording time allows Joseph Volmer -- aka Clearing -- to truly extend his vision and instruments, which shifts between woozy and bright electronic landscapes. Incidentally, one of my favorite pop groups, Nada Surf, have an album called LET GO. They actually issued a statement when they released that album, since it is also apparently the title of an Avril Lavigne album. Volmer needs no statement -- one can let go into his compositions, perhaps only wondering why these timbres do not occupy an infinite loop somewhere. 

In the winter of 2013, Notice Recording's set of Talk West and Seth Cluett tapes set me on obsessive drone adventures. Talk West's tape especially clicked with my ears -- a set of warm, organic chiming on side A morphs into a longform drone on side B. The long drone offsets the fragmented chiming with a consistent synthetic theme, emulating the re-emergence of wildlife following a torrential spring rain. Absolutely vital, life-affirming tones. Even suggesting the word "fragments," now that I think about it, is a shortcoming, because the chiming fragments on side A feel complete within themselves, in the sort of way that a just-blooming tulip feels complete before the flower. That first glimpse of life is an awakening, and that is the feeling that leaps throughout Canyon Lip.

After the turn of 2014, Steve Dewhurst of Jehu & Chinaman (and my colleague at Decoder Magazine) turned me on to this unrelenting set of synthetic exercises. If I had heard Bird People earlier, Terma would have made my year-end list (if that means anything; I guess I'll put it on this year's list!!!), although the reasons almost perfectly clone my motivations to love the Talk West effort. This is steady, purposeful ambiance, at once aggressive / dramatic and tender / fragile. Subtle electronic beats gently propel the synth lines, which offers optical depth that clarifies the battle lines between these fragile and aggressive overtones. In fact, I wonder why this isn't called "space rock;" or rather, anything called "space rock" should really sound like this, given that the structures of the beats do not drive the music into 4x4 oblivion, but instead outline the paths of exploration. Space rock, also, because this sounds like serious music about the future that embraces outer limits without caricature.

SCAMMERS, A Song That Can Exist (Jehu & Chinaman)
EETS FEATS, Trash from Our Lips (Aye Aye Aye)
HEAVY TIMES, Jacker (Hozac / Priority Male)

For goodness sake, Phil Diamond's Scammers imprint consistently (constantly) freezes me from the moment the rumbling drums drive "27" into deep crooning and decompressing synth horns. Tension is the name of this pop that exploits easy-listening tropes, 1980s gloom, and blissful rhythm and blues into song-oriented solidarity and earnest working-class expression. There are few moments of release on A Song That Can Exist, which means that Diamond's sense of humor and confessions translate into glorious layers of compulsion that coerce his listener's ear through extremely ambitious production. Make no mistake about it, this is what makes this tape so great and consistently worthwhile on listen after listen -- Diamond delivers everything on his own terms, and takes none of his listener's sympathy (or now budding affection!) to heart. You're going to like this -- it's catchy, it's tongue-in-cheeck, it's self-loving, it's a big pop sound, etc. -- or else. More, please. 

There's a lot to be said about Austin, TX rock music that revolves around Nice Strong Arm, and I feel this way about Spray Paint and (now) Eets Feats. Of course, I owe my Nice Strong Arm obsession to an Implodes blog post, so it's not my insight, but anyway, this Austin band straddled dense goth, wailing-guitar punk, and emotional vocals into a surprisingly relevant 80s sound (they thankfully escaped certain production elements of the time, and I gather a reissue of their albums would go over quite well with contemporary guitar-rock fans). Anyway, I felt that Spray Paint channeled Nice Strong Arm's creepy-someone's-going-to-get-stalked-and-murdered vibe quite well through their (relatively) clean-guitar attacks, and Eets Feats expands Spray Paint's advances into goth ecstasy. There's a pervasive darkness that overrides the bright, surf-oriented "let's play punk songs really fast and loud" vibe on Trash From Our Lips, which incidentally gives this tape crucial flexibility. You may dismiss this tape on first listen, but give it a second (and more!) -- out of nowhere, their dulled goth edges will not mortally wound you, but instead entice you for a second blow.

Or, in better words, I think I like Eets Feats more than Spray Paint. Thanks, Austin!

Heavy Times must be my desert island band. I can't shut up about this tape, and I've probably listened to it (on average) once a week since the summer of 2013. This is the inverse of the Eets Feats tape, a solid block of blink-and-you'll-miss-it-pop-punk that will absolutely bludgeon with well-placed guitar licks and frantic group vocals. Pop punk is an entirely redeeming and worthwhile genre, by the way. So, yes, my desert island pick. If I ever have to be stuck on a damn desert island, I want to be dreaming of being stuck in traffic thanks to assholes passing me on the right on the West Side, inching along on a cramped Kimball bus, and the brutal emptiness of staying inside during winter. Heavy Times RAGE with this fury of Chicago as no other Chicago band I've heard. Still can't stop listening to this, in fact, I'd better buy a few other copies before I wear this one out -- this will probably end up in the same pile with my Implodes tape, or, "The Only Tapes I've Actually Broken From Playing Too Much." Implodes was really, really good, but Jacker is better; the difference being that one can say "Implodes expanded their sound and enhanced their rhythm section to grow on Recurring Dream" instead of "If Heavy Times change, I'm going to be pissed."

DAN BURKE & TRAVIS BIRD, Negentropy (Notice Recordings)
For some time, I've been obsessed with Neil Young's 1980s recordings, especially his experimental futuristic communications masterpiece, Trans. Growing up, I always heard Young referred to as the "Godfather of Grunge," but I thought that was more a statement about his legendary status in classic rock in general, rather than a statement about his pulverizing 1980s hard rock. Indeed, an album like Ragged Glory stands up quite nicely to just about any "Seattle" album, but it is Young's noisy, overblown live guitar sound that exemplifies this era of American rock. Oh, those opening notes on "Hey Hey, My My..." Young's amplifier volume, his octave divider, his right-place-at-the-right-time band; Young turns abrasive rock into sugary candy, digging into his listener's ears with promises of treats to come. One can listen to Weld solely on the basis of searching for that first high once again. Perhaps Young and Crazy Horse even surpass those opening moments, be it on the outer reaches of the synthesizer driven "Like A Hurricane," the NASTY bar rock on the back end of tape two, or the riotous breakdown of "Welfare Mothers" (which, as a song on its own, is probably more biting commentary than released on any "grunge" album). Even better, for every moment that is great due to Young's guitar sound, there is greatness from Crazy Horse, which must be one of the steadiest, hardest bands in American history. But, I keep coming back for those overblown first notes, and I stay for the volume and riot every time.

From these uninhibited guitar tones to the blistering rock of Eets Feats and Heavy Times, I happily returned to Travis Bird & Daniel Burke's Negentropy, which I believe was their debut cassette release. Bird and Burke comprised one of Chicago's most promising guitar duos -- and I speak as an unbiased listener and a completely biased friend -- at the turn of the 2010s, and on Negentropy the pair provide perfect decay to Young's Weld signal. This is not deconstructed rock -- indeed, the lack of structures throughout their debut cassette probably means that Bird and Burke are not playing rock whatsoever. Yet, it's indeed a celebration of the guitar, which in some senses provides an overlap with rock (insofar as some rock is guitar worship). However, Bird and Burke use their guitars for percussive pursuits, resulting in absolutely tooth-rattling distortion tone and steely stabs. Taken with the Talk West tape, Bird and Burke offer the absolute inverse to those organic chimes, as their timbres are much more foreboding and unapproachable. Despite these darker pastures, Negentropy is a rewarding return listen, not simply because it satisfies many of those primal urges that standard guitar rock worship aspires toward (but often fails). This is not guitar worship. A celebration of guitar, yes, but one that is not self-indulgent or structured. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Autobiography #1: Record Collection, 2009-2014

Over the last few months, I've had the feeling that my record collection is complete. Both my wife and I have a  lot of pop titles we like, and over the years, I've traded psychedelic, experimental, and other titles to shape new acquisitions. Over time, our collection shifted with our respective identities and interests, first out of necessity -- it would be impossible to buy new records without trading old ones-- and then for fun. For some time, I felt anxious about whether my new release acquisitions could keep up with release schedules and shifts in taste, but once I became familiar with trading records, I enjoyed that as much as acquiring new titles. Suddenly, our record collection became curated, rather than expansive. Now it's a lean, sharp collection.

I grew up with music on vinyl, so there's always been a part of me that connects the enjoyment of music with spinning records. My dad taught me how to play records at a young age, and I vividly remember listening to loud James Gang records with him. I started buying records for myself in high school, after my family moved the stereo to the basement, and I loaded up on a few Folk Implosion and Sleater-Kinney records. Unfortunately, after high school I did not have a turntable for quite some time, as I moved frequently between college dorms and apartments, eventually migrating to Chicago in 2008. Around this time, I began searching for records of some of my favorite bands, including The Dandy Warhols (my first "gateway drug" from pop music to psychedelic music) and Darker My Love. This collection began in earnest in 2009, expanded greatly when my wife and I purchased our stereo after our wedding, and then contracted as moves, budgets, and taste changes instigated a period of trades. My feeling that this record collection is complete corresponds quite nicely with the fifth anniversary of getting reacquainted with vinyl.

Consuming records can be a rich, engaging, and revealing experience, for tastes can lead in many different directions. Our collection follows several threads and identities: records by bands that my wife and I both like (or, records that she turns me onto), pop and rock projects, records by bands related to Chicago and Permanent Records (as well as a constellation of related outsider labels), experimental records following my time with Foxy Digitalis and Decoder, and gifts from others. These threads can reveal contradictory and joyous tastes; perhaps gifts are the most revealing, as friends think about records you might not have, or relatives hunt for Beatles records when they're at flea markets, etc. After five years, it is quite clear that I do not have one musical narrative, and neither does my wife; together, our experience with vinyl is a unique partnership.

There are so many landmarks one can find within a collection. I remember, to this day, reconnecting with my childhood friend Travis Bird, who once drove me home and said, "I really think you'll like this;" this music came from the CAVE / California Raisins split 10" (and CD!) from Permanent Records. It was the type of revelation that friendship often brings. A lot of music I consumed between 2008 and 2011 matched different conversations and explorations through our musical friendship.

I've always loved digging for "related bands," ever since I first heard the KIDS Soundtrack in middle school and learned that seBADoh and The Folk Implosion had tons of related projects. After The Dandy Warhols' tour introduced me to Darker My Love in 2008, Darker My Love led to The Strange Boys, All the Saints, A Place to Bury Strangers, Lumerians, etc.; their tour partners in 2008-2009 seemed incredible (and almost unbelievable, in hindsight). Following All the Saints -- one of my introductions to hard psych rock, I learned of The N.E.C. in Atlanta, and began another lasting musical friendship. In some way, records by CAVE and The N.E.C. were the catalysts for my experimental music narrative. Little did I know that California Raisins would also foreshadow most acid or noise punk records I'd come to enjoy.

I owe an awful lot to my friends along the way. Both Travis and Evan (founders of Notice Recordings), as well as cinchel, provided direct access points of amazing experimental music and DIY spirit. Thanks to them, and The N.E.C., I started 'Spective Audio, a journey of several tapes that spread into a CD (Bird's Bourgeois Treats) and LP (N.E.C.'s Last Point of Radiation). Consuming records always brings surprises, and I also learned that pressing records can bring some personal touches -- in the process for creating Last Point of Radiation, Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland pressed six handmade clear+explosive color records.  This record is a reminder of a valuable musical journey and friendships (and, it's a killer record, too!).

Thanks to my partnership with my wife, there are so many pop records that I never would have known about. One of the best surprises of collecting records is each blindspot uncovered -- Cyndi Lauper's Prince cover that serves as a prelude to Tegan & Sara's latest record, Bowie's phenomenal / polarizing Let's Dance, The Monkees' teen exploitation pop, etc. These threads lead into other areas of our collection -- we love 80s music from Echo & The Bunnymen to Nice Strong Arm, and "exploitation" pysch from Simon & Garfunkel through SRC, Food, Gandalf, and The Common People.Again, the lessons are crucial -- there is no need to tell one set musical narrative, since each thread or series of records can push in its own valuable direction.

During this period of time, my digging guided me toward Permanent Records, which has become a brick-and-mortar locale for much of Chicago's outsider explosion over the last five years. Through friendships and recommendations forged by their clerks, and voyages into related record labels, I've learned a lot about the history of Chicago's music (and outsider music in general). I've also learned to embrace those disparate threads and narratives that run through a record collection; it's not necessarily a strange thing to have a Destruction Unit record next to a Lee Hazlewood collection.

Ultimately, at this point, there are so many stories tied into this set of records. Beyond the wax itself, consuming records also allows for the chance to build friendships, sustain local businesses and small labels, and explore the depths of art and music. Concrete places tell their own stories, too, as records from each Reckless Records branch and Permanent in Chicago, Hausfrau, Loop, and Bent Crayon in Cleveland, Deaf Ear in La Crosse, among others, are spread through this collection. In a lot of ways, the narratives of a record collection not only showcase specific sounds, but also the places, projects, or states of mind associated with each acquisition. One might argue that this is a record collecting triviality, but I beg to differ; what one buys in Chicago can differ quite greatly than what one thinks about or encounters in Cleveland, La Crosse, Brooklyn, etc.  This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of a record collection -- with no vision or expectations for our future collections, I can already anticipate that our collection in five years will hold another string of stories, friendships, and explorations.

The N.E.C. / Jovontaes (Double Phantom)
The N.E.C. Is (Double Phantom)
The N.E.C., Last Point of Radiation ('Spective)

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's (Capitol)
The Beatles, Abbey Road (Apple)
Filardo, Falling Up (Holy Page)
Hiro Kone, s/t (Bitterroots)
Laughing Eye Weeping Eye, Beway (Hairy Spider Legs)
Les Rallizes Denudes, Blind Baby has its Mother's Eyes (Pheonix)
Joey Molinaro, The Inalienable Dreamlress & We (Inverted Music Company)
Queen, The Game (EMI)
The Ronettes, Introducing the Fabulous...(Sundazed)
Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme (Columbia)
Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Ancient Patience Wills it Again (Hairy Spider Legs)
The United States of America, s/t (Sundazed)
Various Artists, 2131 South Michigan: USA Records (Sundazed)
Various Artists, The Breakfast Club OST (A&M)
The Velvet Underground, Quine Tapes boxed set (Sundazed)

MARRIAGE RECORDS! (All on original labels, no reissues)
The Beatles, Meet the Beatles
The Beatles, Yesterday and Today
The Beatles, Rubber Soul 
Pat Benetar, Seven the Hard Way
Pat Benetar, Precious Time 
David Bowie, Let's Dance
Belinda Carlisle, Heaven on Earth 
Devo, Freedom of Choice
Dire Straits, s/t
Duran Duran, The Reflex 12"
Echo & The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
Eels, Wonderful Glorious
Elton John, Greatest Hits
Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual
Miami Sound Machine, Primitive Love
The Monkees, Greatest Hits
Nada Surf, The Proximity Effect
Nada Surf, LET GO
Nada Surf, The Weight is a Gift
Nada Surf, Lucky
Nada Surf, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
The Police, Outlandos d'Amour
The Police, Reggatta de Blanc
The Police, Synchronicity 
Lou Reed, Live
Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends
Simon & Garfunkel, Greatest Hits
Tegan & Sara vinyl box
Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob

Afflicted Man, Off Me 'Ead
Bad Drugs, Raw Powder (RT)
Black Math, s/t
Black Math, Phantom Power 
CAVE / California Raisins
CAVE, Neverendless (Drag City)
Cheveu, Cheveau (S.S. Records)
Cosmonauts, s/t
The Dreebs, Bait an Orchard (RT) 
End Result, Ward (Ruthless)
Implodes, Black Earth (Kranky)
Jealousy, viles (Moniker)
Lumerians, Transmissions from the Telos V.1 
Mako Sica, May Day at Strobe
Miracle Condition, s/t (Tizona)
Moonrises, Frozen Altars (Captcha)
Obnox, Rojas
ONO, Albino (Moniker) 
Plastic Crimewave & Djin Aquarian, Save the World (Prophase)
Purling Hiss, s/t 
Purling Hiss / Puffy Areolas
Rind, Exhaust Yourself (RT)
Running, s/t
Running, Asshole Savant (Captcha)
Running, Vaguely Ethnic (Castle Face) 
Steel Pole Bathtub, Unlistenable
Toupee, Dinner Parties (RT)
Various Artists, Busted At Oz
Warhammer 48k, Ethereal Oracle
Wume, Distance (RT)

All the Saints, Fire on Corridor X (Touch and Go)
Band of Horses, Infinite Arms (Columbia / Fat Possum)
The Byrds, Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia)
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man (Sundazed)
The Byrds, Younger than Yesterday (Sundazed)
The Common People, Of..By..and for the Common People (Label Unknown)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys (Fantasy)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pendulum (Fantasy)
The Cyrkle, Neon (Columbia)
The Dandy Warhols, ..Come Down (Tim Kerr / Capitol)
The Dandy Warhols, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia (Label Unknown)
The Dandy Warhols, Earth to... (Beat the World)
The Dandy Warhols, ...Are Sound (Beat the World)
Darker My Love / Moccasin (I Hate Rock n Roll)
Darker My Love, s/t (Dangerbird)
Darker My Love, 2 (Dangerbird)
Darker My Love, Alive as You Are (Dangerbird)

Destruction Unit, Deep Trip (Sacred Bones)
Fleet Foxes, s/t (Sub Pop)
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
Folk Implosion, Dare to be Surprised (Communion)
The Food, Forever is a Dream (Label Unknown)
The Fresh & Onlys, Play it Strange (In The Red)
The Fresh & Onlys, Secret Walls (Sacred Bones)
Gandalf, s/t (Label Unknown)
Jacco Gardner, Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)
Bruce Haack, Electric Children's Record (Mississippi)
Has a Shadow, Sky is Hell Black (Captcha; whoops! Actually a "Gift" record)
Lee Hazlewood, The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, Backsides ('68-'71) (Light in the Attic)
Hot & Cold, Border Areas (Moniker; whoops! Also a "Gift")
Lumerians, Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)
Lumerians, Horizon Structures (Knitting Factory)
The Men, Leave Home (Sacred Bones)
Nice Strong Arm, Reality Bath (Homestead)
Nice Strong Arm, Mind Furnace (Homestead)
Thee Oh Sees, Single Collection 1 & 2 (Castle Face)
Thee Oh Sees, Castlemania (In The Red)
Thee Oh Sees, Carrion Crawler / The Dream (In The Red)

A Place to Bury Strangers, s/t (Important)
A Place to Bury Strangers, Onwards to the Wall (Dead Oceans)
A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship (Dead Oceans)
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
Psychedelic Psoul, Freak Scene (Columbia)
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Nancy & Lee (Reprise)
Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars)
Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space (Plain)
Spray Paint, s/t (S.S. Records)
SRC, s/t (Label Unknown)
Various Artists, Nuggets (Sire Promotional Edition)
Various Artists, Experiments with Destiny (Bomp!)
The Velvet Underground, White Light / White Heat (Label Unknown)
The Velvet Underground, Scepter Studio Sessions (Polydor)
Vivians, Vivicide (Hit & Run)
The Who, Who's Next (Decca)
Wooden Shjips, Volume 1 (Holy Mountain)
Wooden Shjips, Dos (Holy Mountain)
Wooden Shjips, West (Thrill Jockey)
Neil Young, Trans (DGC)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Re*Ac*Tor (Reprise)

Cinchel, Stereo Stasis (self)
Cleared, s/t (Immune)
Ornette Coleman, Free Jazz (Label Unknown)
Corum, Beguiling Isles (Psychic Sounds)
G.I. Gurdjieff, Improvisations (Mississippi / Psychic Sounds)
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath 1972 (Kranky)
Kraftwerk, Autobahn (Vertigo)
Liquorball, Hauls Ass (Blackjack)
Lustmord, The Word as Power (Blackest Ever Black)
Pharmakon, Abandon (Sacred Bones)
Shampoo Boy, Licht (Blackest Ever Black)
Various Artists, Offstrings: Inventions for Guitar (Complacency)
Various Artists, Drop on down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music (Florida Folklife)