16 December 2009

The Great Migratory Patterns of Bloggers

Holy hell. Has it really been August 20 since I last updated this thing? There has been no lack of activity in my realm. Much has been doing and much has been brewing; many reviews posted on Stereo Subversion and many more albums to dig out from under.

I will be migrating from Blogger (bah!) to Wordpress (heh!). Data needs to be transferred, RSS feeds updated, and you, dear reader (all two of you) will be asked to follow me, if you so desire. This changeover will take place after the new year.

In the meantime, here are the two latest reviews from yours truly posted at Stereo Subversion:

The King Khan and BBQ Show, Invisible Girl
(In the Red Records, 2009)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Beware
(Drag City, 2009)

My year-end Top 10 List is coming next.

Merry Christmas, friends! Here's a link to one of my favorite bloggers who is extremely generous with allowing you to grab awesome, free mixes. Check out his previous Christmas mixes, too.

20 August 2009

Interview :: We Were Promised Jetpacks

One of these days, I'm gonna have all the time in the world to blog to my heart's content...but it won't be any time soon. So, in the meantime, here is my latest interview at Stereo Subversion with the Scottish group, We Were Promised Jetpacks. Click on the image to read the interview.

These Four Walls
We Were Promised Jetpacks, These Four Walls
Fat Cat Records, 2009

Also, my latest disc review of Sian Alice Group, Troubled, Shaken, Etc. can be read by clicking the image below:
Troubled, Shaken Etc.

Sian Alice Group, Troubled, Shaken, Etc.
The Social Registry, 2009

PS--I really am starting to hate Blogger...

PPS--Congrats to my homeys in B'ton! Together we are all fans of Chickenfoot!

15 July 2009

The Role of the Critic

I wrote an essay that is included in Stereo Subversion's "The Role of the Critic" series being published every Wednesday in July. Read my essay, "I Can't Be Your Apologist Very Long:" Producing Something Akin to Excellence in Music Criticism by clicking on the nifty image below.

For those music nuts like myself, the title is nicked from a Built to Spill lyric. But you have to find out which song it is on your own.

And here's a review of the new Pete Yorn disc, Back and Fourth that ran on Stereo Subversion about a month ago. Incidentally, the "Comments Section" after the review provide good examples of some of the points I illustrate in my essay. Click on the album cover to read the review.

Pete Yorn, Back and Fourth
(Columbia Records, 2009)

Thanks to everyone for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the essay, especially if they're nasty. Because I love a good argument...in case you didn't know.

13 July 2009

I Love St. Vincent

Well, I do love St Vincent (aka Annie Clark). Her new album, Actor, is a great follow-up to Marry Me. I reviewed her latest at Stereo Subversion. Enjoy!

St Vincent, Actor

(click on the image to read the review)

And dig her new video for "Actor Out of Work":

And watch her kill the song "Marrow" live on David Letterman:

She's getting ready to tour as the opener for Andrew Bird, also. Check out all the tour dates here.

29 June 2009

Song Obsession :: Company of Thieves, "Oscar Wilde"

I'm finding my self gravitating more and more to single tracks than entire albums. I think it may be a product of summer or my desire to make mixtapes. Here's a song I've been hitting "Repeat" on for a few weeks. The album is only so-so, but I love this track unabashedly.

Oscar Wilde - Company of Thieves

And the video is pretty great, too. Gotta love a Rushmore reference...

I found out at the last minute that these guys and girl were playing Friday night down the street from me. At the most divey-dive sports bar I've ever been to. The kind where the whores, uh, I mean, servers wear skimpy sports outfits that show the cellulite and bullet holes in their thighs. To the band, I would just like to say, I apologize for that place and I apologize that we could not find another suitable venue for you to perform at. On behalf of Charleston and West Ashley, I am sorry. I doubt you will return, but if you do, I will personally take you all out for steak dinner and wine.

22 June 2009


Boy, I don't know about you guys, but if I go for a week without checking Google Reader, it's damn near impossible to catch up. (And is it just me or does that "+" in the (1000+) header look extremely menacing?) So I spend an hour or two glancing at headlines and clicking the links that I should have been reading instead of being productive. Then I post them here. Sure it's old news by now, but any news is old after ten minutes in the modern age. Here's what has caught my eye as of late:

--Videogum rants about Bruno here.

--Chromewaves reminds us why we still care about 90s alt-rock here.

--Muzzle of Bees has 5 Questions with Jay Farrar of Son Volt here.

--A double dose of Band of Horses courtesy of Charleston City Paper: Word association and a full profile. We really love these guys...can you tell?

--One of my favorite pop bands, Audible, has a new disc out for a "name-your-own-price" download here. Chip in and help out a great band. You'll love 'em.

--And Stereo Subversion has an interview with the excellently-bearded Matisyahu here.

Link-o-rama! Yippee! Serious buyers only, please...


21 June 2009

The Thermals :: Interview + Live Review

Hey kids. I've got a feature from one of my current favorite bands right now, Portland, OR's The Thermals. They rolled through Chucktown about a month ago and were gracious enough to sit down and talk to me before rocking and rolling onstage that night. Here's the interview on Stereo Subversion, followed by a live review of the show at The Pour House. Click on the album cover to read the interview.

Now We Can See
The Thermals, Now We Can See
Kill Rock Stars, 2009

And the live review...click on the image to read it.

The Thermals, Live @ The Pour House
Charleston, SC, 5/15/2009

Thanks for still reading. I'm seriously thinking about switching over to WordPress for the blog. Thoughts? Anybody using it? Blogger is starting to piss me off...

01 June 2009

Interview :: The Champion and His Burning Flame

Whew. Been a while, but there has been shortage of work marching on here at the headquarters for all things polarizing (see previous two posts). Maybe I have a new reason for hating Canadians now (not like I didn't have sufficient reasons before).

A new interview is posted at Stereo Subversion conducted by your humble blogger. It's for the Nashville band The Champion and His Burning Flame. I really dig this band and think the Dave Arnold has a clear view of what he wants to do--something missing from most bands (I'm looking in your direction, Kinetic Stereokids). Boy I just can't leave well enough alone can I?

(Click on the image to read the interview)
The Champion and His Burning Flame
The French EP (2009)

Buy the album at their MySpace page. Thanks to Dave and his bandmates for being swell and making great music!

18 May 2009

Mr. Pitchfork's Final Response

If you've just joined the blog, you have caught myself and a Mr. Aaron Thomas Smith in a somewhat spirited discussion on the role of the critic in society, with specific regards to record reviews. To recap, Mr. Smith took umbrage with my review of one of his favorite bands' (Kinetic Stereokids) latest release, Kid Moves. After posting a comment on my blog and the webzine I write for, Stereo Subversion, I responded in the post previous to this one. He has since "retaliated" with the following response:

"Mr. Pitchfork,

my comment was removed from my own blog to spotlight a mini-tour put together last minute. It's now back-up, it had nothing to do with anything else!

While trying to stay awake throughout your elaborate assessment of my comments, I found amusement in your presented inquiry to defend the album in words, to your readers I state 'listen to it'. My favorite quote in music is by Trent Reznor (of all people)
"the goal was to create a record that, ultimately, you'll like - but probably not the first time you hear it"

Let people judge for themselves, (especially in today's myspace world) unless you choose to promote something. In doing listening sessions (in which the Kinetic Stereokids floored me past 1,000 other applicants) for the Pop Montreal festival, I've realized it gets tiring to stroke ones own ego downplaying others music, rather spotlight what merits in your mind. See KSK live, than let's talk!

I love your patting me on the head, like a God appointed journalist telling me how it is!
"I do not take the power of the written word lightly as it is very prone to upset the balances of human nature from time to time". Wow, good thing we are in this solely for music!!!

I give you a 4.3/10. Leave it to pitchfork already!!"

What follows is my response to his response to my response to his response of my original record review:

Mr. Smith,

First, thanks for responding to my comment. I must tell you I have very much enjoyed our little back-and-forth on the role of the record reviewer in our "MySpace world [capitalization mine]." And, I have to tell you, I'm flattered that you would place me in the same league as Pitchfork Media, although I assure you I am nowhere near as large or opinionated as they. But I did have a good laugh when you graded my reponse using their 10-point scale!

I know you struggled to make it through my last lengthy response, so I'll cut right to the heart. I have two main points:

1) I assume you read, Mr. Smith. You seem to be somewhat literate and so I would have to guess that at some point in your brief tenure on this planet, you have picked up a magazine dedicated to music, musicians, art, record labels, film, books, etc. If this assumption is correct, then you have taken part in the media/marketing machine that helps comprise popular music post-1950. Therefore, I feel it is safe to suggest that at some point in your life you have read a record review--actually, you must have read one because you decided that you did not care for them (per your original comment). And, truly, how can you care for something that you have never read? That would be ignorant.

So, unless you learn of all the bands you listen to from word-of-mouth, live shows with no prior exposure, or random selection at a record store, then, I'm afraid you have to acknowledge that critics have played a major role in the dissemination of such fledgling artists as Kinetic Stereokids into the "mainstream" (whatever that is now). For more on this topic, please see the brief history of bands with the names Vampire Weekend, The Black Kids, Hootie and the Blowfish, or Green Day.

Good, bad, or indifferent, you are a part of the publicity machine. Welcome! And I find it highly ironic (and a little comical) that you would deem my opinions impertinent or somehow irrelevant just because I call myself a record reviewer and you disagree with what I say.

Which brings me to my next point...

2) Hypothetically, ask yourself (and be honest, Mr. Smith), what would you have done if I had given the Kinetic Stereokids' album a glowing review? Say I gave the album a 9.5/10. Would you have linked to my review on your blog? Would you have left a pleasant, agreeable comment on my blog or at Stereo Subversion, patting me on the back for agreeing with your opinion? Would you have ignored it completely, happy to know that others think just like you? Or would you have done exactly what you did--leave a comment disparaging me for being a critic with a narrow assessment of the world? Hmmm...puzzling isn't it? What would you have done?

Well, I've already gone on too long as it is. So, in closing, I would like to say that I am through. I doubt you will respond to me again and, if you do, I (most likely) will have moved on to destroy the next fledgling, hopeful band with my Pitchfork-wielding words.

But, honestly, I'm glad you enjoy the music that you enjoy. We certainly need individuals who are willing to get behind a band that they support; we just shouldn't be surprised when others are not as quick to support our views.

Mr. Pitchfork

PS--I gave your reponse a 2.2/10. Very little substance for me to work with!!! And why so many exclamation marks!?!? Do you get paid everytime you use one?!?!!!

11 May 2009

In Response To...

What follows is a response to Mr. Liam Smith's comment regarding my review of the Kinetic Stereokids' LP Kid Moves. If you wish to completely skip and ignore this petty internet squabble, please do so and feel free to visit this site.

If you're still here, you can read Mr. Smith's comment here in the "Comments" section at the end of the review. His blog is Quietly Loud. The very same "comment" he left was published a blog posting on his blog, but it has since been removed.

Mr. Smith:

First, thanks for reading my review of Kinetic Stereokids' LP Kid Moves. I hope you found it interesting or that it at least presented a different viewpoint from your own. Judging by the post you left on your own blog and the subsequent cut and paste in the "Comments" sections of my blog and the "Comments" section of Stereo Subversion, I gathered (from intuition) that you clearly wanted me, and possibly others, to be aware of how you felt. Mission accomplished, and congratulations! You now know what it feels like to be a critic!

I suspect that when it comes down to brass tax, you and I are not that different. We both maintain a blog, we both clearly love music, and we are passionate defenders of the things we appreciate and enjoy. I deduced by reading over your blog that you enjoy the music of Kinetic Stereokids. Fantastic! I enjoyed some of their songs, too. The album as a whole, though? Not so much. But you knew that. And instead of choosing to offer an opinion or reason for why you enjoyed the music of the Kinetic Stereokids, you simply choose to deride the role of the record reviewer and, seemingly, all reviewers' inability to "assess the world" accurately.

Well. Guilty as charged.

I am quite unable to assess the world accurately because I have no frame of reference for the world we inhabit--besides my own frame of reference, of course. As you say, once you grew up and "realized...[you] knew nothing," you found yourself incapable of speaking to the state of the world at large. Realizing that there is more out there than you first imagined is a daunting realization. I daresay that's why there are millions of bands who believe they have something special and something worthwhile that other folks beyond themselves and their garage walls should hear. The problem is (and here's where it all ties together)...not everyone wants to hear your opinion--or your "music," per se. (Yes, I'm using 'music' as a metaphor for 'criticism'--ironic, isn't it?)

Now, I respect and admire that you do not want to hear my opinion. But then you must assume that others may not want to hear yours, either. Correct? Or did you assume that we were only interested in your opinion? Now that would be ironic! But, let me see if I can address you argument a bit and, hopefully, illuminate the essence of the diagreement.

The metaphors in your posting/comment are a little exaggerated if I may suggest so. You assume that no critic or record reviewer has ever played an instrument "in a legitimate band"--by the way, how do you define legitimacy? By lack of recorded material? Or by the minuscule realm of your own scope of listening?--and you also assume that we learn nothing from the "small town" of our youth. But is not the "small town" of our youth the basis for our continuing frame of reference? Or does all memory and "legitimacy" disappear once we realize something bigger is out there for us to explore? Also, your example of a five-year-old describing "Paris" is just dumb. I don't think you thought that idea through very well.

But let's not digress.

I am at fault for being long-winded (probably due to my small town frame of reference). Maybe that's because I spend what I consider to be an ample and sometimes superfluous amount of time thinking about what goes into my reviews--you know the ones that "remind [you] of [your] youth"? I do not take the power of the written word lightly as it is very prone to upset the balances of human nature from time to time. And, as for frame of reference, I like to think I have a pretty good one, though I'm not sure it would be worthwhile to convince you of that. Your world view is obviously much greater than mine, since you have obviously been privy to some type of Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion (i.e., "Than [sic] I grew up and realized…all that time I knew nothing").

Anyway, I'm glad we had this chat. And I'm glad you like the Kinetic Stereokids as much as you do. I'm tempted to break out their CD once again to see if it strikes a different chord in me this time. But that's pretty narrow minded of me to say and I wouldn't want you to think that my word "holds supreme." Because it doesn't. Not at all. But thanks for saying so.

Scott E

PS--I wasn't really planning on responding to you, but when you left the same post twice, once on my blog and once on the site I write for, Stereo Subversion, I figured you really wanted me to know what your opinion was. And I certainly wouldn't want it to go unnoticed.

05 May 2009

Robert Wyatt, on Amie Street

Right now, right this very second one of the most brilliant artists of the 20th Century is available for a FREE download on Amie St. It will probably go up in price by the end of the day, but not by much. You'll probably end up paying less than $2 for an album with 17 songs.

Click on the image below to download Robert Wyatt's insane masterpiece, Comicopera. RIYL :: Scott Walker, Soft Machine, Brian Eno
Album: Comicopera by Robert Wyatt
Robert Wyatt, Comicopera
(Domino Recording Co., 2007)

Curious about Wyatt? Read the Wikipedia entry here. I also recommend his 1998 album, Shleep. You can thank me for introducing you later.

If you are not a member of Amie Street, why the hell not? Between it and eMusic, that's where I get the majority of my music. And their customer service is outstanding.

03 May 2009

Album Review :: Kinetic Stereokids, "Kid Moves"

A newish album review was up last week at Stereo Subversion. This one is for Kinetic Stereokids, Kid Moves. Eh. Good ideas, poor follow-through. It holds the title of "the only album I've ever listened to that gave me a headache whenever I listened to it from start to finish." Curious?

Click on the image below to read the review.

Kinetic Stereokids, Kid Moves
(Overdraft Recordings, 2009)

29 April 2009

Help, Venice Is Sinking

Every once in a while we, the singular individual behind the keyboard, here at SIO like to help out. Not in any way constructive, mind you; we're not asking you to help eliminate poverty or curb emissions or even pick up the trash around your front yard. Nope. We're asking you to help by listening to music and exercising your pseudo-democratic right to vote--for the candidates we supply you and none others. Think of it as a local election, only a lot less fascinating.

A really great band (in this humble blogger's opinion), Venice Is Sinking, has a shot at getting onto the latest Paste Magazine CD Sampler. I'm not a huge fan of Paste Magazine because they seems a little insular and generic, but I did find this article in their latest issue and found it refreshing and worthwhile. Also, they're one of the few and dwindling print magazines left covering music, so that counts for something.

Here's the rundown; follow this link:


And follow the instructions. Bear in mind, you may actually have to devote about 20-25 minutes of time listening to the artists, so if you don't have that kind of time, visit when you do. Five artists will play and you rate them on a scale of one to five; one being the lowest and five being the highest. I guess whichever artist scores highest by the time voting/rating is over gets to be on the next Paste Magazine CD Sampler.

Honestly, all the artists I heard were incredibly talented and very enjoyable to listen to; some I plan to read up on and possibly purchase music from. Personally, I would like for you to vote for Venice Is Sinking because they are great people, a great band, and they deserve wide recognition, but I in no way am attempting to be the political machine that attempts to influence your vote. (Though I understand that subsconsciously this post alone may have achieved that effect.)

If you are so inclined you can order the new disc by Venice is Sinking by following this link. Or it is available for download on eMusic or Amazon. (It's on iTunes, too, but I'm still bitter about how long it took them to come around to the whole "no DRM on music" idea.)

That's it. Click, listen, rate, and enjoy.
AZAR cover
Venice Is Sinking, AZAR
(One Percent Press, 2009)

27 April 2009

Album Review:: Indigo Girls, "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug"

New review posted last week on Stereo Subversion of the latest album by Indigo Girls, "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug." I'm not ashamed to say that I spent some very formative musical years listening to Indigo Girls records and I still have an affinity for the duo. Click on the album image to read the review.

Indigo Girls, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug
(Vangard Records, 2009)

As always, thanks for reading.

17 April 2009

Record Store Week, Day 5: 52.5 Records (Fifty-Two Point Five Records), Charleston, SC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

I was apprehensive about moving to The Coast of South Carolina. There are about 10,000 reasons to live in ridiculously-hot Charleston; the ocean is a mere 20-30 minutes away from wherever you are, there's more American history and culture in the city than in most Western states, and the scenery is stunning--not everyone crosses two major rivers on their way to work every morning. Still, despite these obvious benefits, I was irrationally apprehensive.

Edisto Island was always a vacation destination for my wife and I. We would venture down to the secluded island with her family for a four to five days every year. Inevitably we would encounter one day where restlessness would set in; rain would appear or sunburn would prohibit another walk to the beach. These days we would venture into downtown Charleston for shopping and sight-seeing. I'm not one for shopping, so I always try to locate a bookstore or record store and spend hours on end in its loving arms.

We had the misfortune of being scheduled to go to Edisto the week of September 11, 2001. On September 11 my wife and I travelled somewhat reluctantly and sullenly down to the island from the Upstate. We were both unsteady, scared, and felt a little guilty for trying to enjoy a vacation in the wake of a national tragedy. That vacation sucked, anyway. Folks were glued to the TV in anger, frustration, and awkwardness, the weather was cloudy and rainy (except for the day we left), and internal political tensions were high. In a last-ditch effort to salvage some semblance of a good time, a few of us travelled downtown to Charleston for our requistite shopping excursion. I quickly located a record store by asking a few folks on the street and secluded myself in the small brick enclave that was 52.5 Records.


52.5 is no longer at the same spot that it was at in 2001. It's got some swanky new digs up the street about five or six blocks. (That seems to be a recurring theme with record stores this week, no?) In additiona to tons of vinyl, they've got a damn good DVD selection and magazine/zine selection. And they actually rent DVDs and offer a lending library for community donated books. They also are combining two of my favorite pasttimes into one stop: beer and records. That's the kind of progressive thinking I want in my record store.

But back to that rainy, bleak day in September. I only bought one item in the two and a half hours I perused the bins at 52.5, but it was a solid purchase: Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um. It's a pinnacle in the realm of jazz and in many ways it opened the door to my jazz-listening
experiences. It stayed with me all that week and felt like a cool balm on a deep burn and that's mostly how jazz feels to me now. It's also one of the reasons I have such great memories of going to record stores and perusing the shelves; when you find that perfect album, it can alter your mood, perception, your day, your week, or even your life. That sound corny, I know. But I love that feeling and I get it everytime I visit an independent record store.

Have fun out at Record Store Day tomorrow! Support the day with a big purchase. There's gonna be tons of awesome, limited stuff for sale. I'll be down at 52.5 in the morning and then will make my way to Monster Music after that. Thanks for reading this week.


16 April 2009

Correction: Record Store Day, Day 4, Horizon Records, Greenville, SC

Correction: This morning I stated that Gene Berger, owner/operator of Horizon Records turned me on to Chuck Prophet. This information is only partially true. The individual who first turned me on to Chuck Prophet is one Woody Moore from the town of B'ton. Indeed, Woody went to see Chuck Prophet play at The Handlebar (the local music venue down the street from Horizon Records) and promptly purchased a copy of Chuck Prophet's disc No Other Love. He was good enough to make me a copy of said CD, though I did not care for it at the time, mostly because I was going through a highly regrettable pop/punk/emo phase.

In late 2008, I picked up a copy of Chuck Prophet's excellent Soap and Water at the behest of Mr. Gene Berger. I have since returned to previous Chuck Prophet albums including the friend-made copy of No Other Love. So, the corrected statement from the previous post should read: "I was turned on to Chuck Prophet with the help of Gene Berger."

Silence Is Overrated greatly regrets this error and wishes to express our deepest and most sincere apologies to Mr. Moore. Our oversight was unintentional and the result of shoddy memory, mostly due to all of the homemade beer Mr Moore forced upon your humble blogger.

No Other LoveSoap and Water

15 April 2009

Record Store Week, Day 4: Horizon Records, Greenville, SC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

Yesterday, I devoted the post to Earshot, one of the two fantastic independent record stores in my sorta-hometown of Greenville, SC. Today, Day 4 of Record Store Week, is all about the other, equally-as-awesome independent record store, Horizon Records.

First, one should know that Horizon Records can NOT be compared to Earshot in anyway. It's like comparing a great beer to a great wine: both satisfy the same need only in different ways. The two stores sell records, CDs, books, DVDs, and other assortment of musicalia. Their similarities end there. Each store serves a specific purpose for a specific and discerning crowd and the fact that these two stores have coexisted for over a decade in the same conservative city in the Upstate of South Carolina (really, one of the most unususal places for two great independent records stores, don't ya think?) is nothing short of phenomenal. I got nothing but love for both of them. G-vegas, baby! Fo-eva!...sorry...


Horizon Records has been owned and operated for nearly 35 years by Mr. Gene Berger (aka, The Cranky Dub Master). He is, undoutedly, one of the coolest guys to pass your time conversing with. His musical knowledge is awe-inducing, and he's turned me on to more than seven or eight artists that are now regular staples in my repetoire including Chuck Prophet, Rogue Wave, Southern Culture On the Skids, Mingus, etc. Gene is synonymous with Horizon Records and in an age of shifting CEOs and business turnovers, that is saying something.

One of Horizon Records' main attractions, however, is the numerous FREE in-store performances that the store hosts on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I died a little inside a few months ago when The Silver Jews showed up to play a free in-store and I no longer lived a mere 15 minutes away. (In case you missed it The Silver Jews have retired from music as of Feb 2009.) And I missed the Rogue Wave in-store because I was lazy and it was a hot summer day and I had no air conditioner in my car. But I have seen everyone from The Avett Brothers (me and six other people saw that--this was very much before they were the megastars they are now) to Bela Fleck, to Charlie Louvin, to Aimee Mann. All for free. And in a comfortable setting, with beer and coffee. And, tellingly, every artist that has ever walked through the door at Horizon Records has always said the same thing: "You all are lucky to have a store like this because there aren't many of these left."

Horizon Records moved into a swanky new building about four or five years ago. It's all hardwood floors and exposed ceilings now, but I remember when they were stationed in a smaller trailer-esque building on the (now) kind of crappy part of Greenville. My first trip there I picked up a used copy of Minor Threat, Complete Discography and a record by The Cars (Candy-O, I think). Later that year I paid $6 for a copy of George Harrison, All Things Must Pass and as I exited the store I literally remember thinking, "Why did I ever go to Best Buy to buy music?" I don't know why it suddenly hit me that day, but I do remember it as my "great awakening" to the need and role of the independent record store in a free-market society and the role the consumer plays. So, in more than one sense, Horizon Records changed my perception of what a record store is, let alone what it can and should be. But I'm sure I'm not the first person to say that about them, nor will I be the last.


(The record cover wasn't in color when I bought it, ya know.)

Record Store Day, Day 3: Earshot, Greenville, SC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

The city of Greenville, SC is nestled in the Upstate of South Carolina between the picturesque mountains of Blue Ridge and the used-to-be farmland of the Piedmont. It's is a lovely city with a burgeoning arts community and a myriad of culinary shops and restaurants. There's lots of bars, but none you would really want to go to. Oh, and it's also home to Bob Jones University and it is the absolute BUCKLE in the Bible Belt. A trip down Main St on a Saturday evening will allow you at least three accostings from men with Christian pamphlets, hand-painted signs, and megaphones. And did I mention that it's home to Bob Jones University?

For a city with a fledgling, mostly adult contemporary music scene, Greenville does have one thing that I loved: two of the finest record stores in the Southeast. The first one, Earshot, was formely Manifest Disc and Tapes, so it's still a little odd for me to refer to the store as Earshot. (In fact, most people I know in the area still refer to it as Manifest.) But Manifest closed all of its Southeast locations (except for one or two) and packed it in, foreseeing the downfall of the independent record store. The Greenville store was slated to close its doors; I made a farewell trip and purchased Braid, Frame and Canvas. And then I heard rumors that someone had bought the record store and planned to continue its existence. This rumor remained unconfirmed until I road by the store one day and saw a giant sign that read, "We Ain't Going Nowhere." Hell. Yeah.

Earshot is huge. It has a used section that runs at least 50-60 feet long (the length of one wall of the store). The other walls is nothing but DVDs and used movies and the entire middle section houses all the CDs you could want. I have NEVER gone to Earshot and not found exactly what I was looking for. Their music selction is exceptional; it's the largest I've seen. And they have books and magazines--and you know how I feel about books and magazines.

I've bought too many things at Earshot to recall here. But, oddly enough, the last purchase I made there is the one that sticks out most to me. I was back in Greenville my good friend's baby shower. He used to reside in Greenville, but has moved to the large metropolis of Hickory, NC. Apparently the independent record store scene in Hickory is somewhat lacking, so he requested that we all make a trip to Earshot while he was in town. We obliged and spent most of our time digging through the mountain of used CDs. (Interesting detour: my friend brought up an interesting point that the used CD sections are record stores get exponentially better the worse the economy gets because people are selling off their collections for cash.)

As I gathered my significant other and prepared to say my goodbyes, I found my friend struggling over whether or not to buy a DVD copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. His spending limit for the trip was $10 (babies = expensive, ya know), but HMPL was a whole $13. I purchased it for him because I believe that any man who is about to be a father deserves, at the very least, his very own copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot on DVD.


My friend posed a very important question regarding this cover: "Who knows what that guy is saying, but, more importantly, who knows what that girl is thinking? She's probably thinking, 'Heh, heh, we gonna have some sex tonight!'"

14 April 2009

Record Store Day, Day 2: Harvest Records, Asheville, NC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

And speaking of patchouli...Harvest Records in lovely Asheville, NC is, thankfully, free of any of the usual cliches that the city of Asheville embodies so well.

Harvest Records
There are many great things about Harvest Records; it's not a large store by any means, but somehow they seem to pack every inch of space with music that you feel like you absolutely must buy. Plenty of vinyl, a decent used section, a wall of new releases, and (this really can make or break a record store) a great section for music mag and homemade zines. (Sometimes I feel the need to read about my music in sloopily put-together, handmade black and white, disproportionately sized zines.)

Harvest Records is not positioned in downtown Asheville--which is great, because downtown Asheville really is maddening. So you're free to peruse the fruits of the Harvest (Jesus, I'm sorry for that one...) without being accosted by a 40 year-old hippie looking to recruit you to his commune where Dennis Kucinich is their leader. The guys who own the store are really swell and friendly dudes and when you hear them talking with customers about how much they love Pearl Jam, Ten, it's not ironic at all. They really love that album (for some reason). Additionally, they have managed to bring some of the best shows I've seen to one of the best venues (The Grey Eagle, if you're keeping score) in the Southeast: Mark Kozelek, Magnolia Electric Co, Damien Jurado. Bonnie "Prince" Billy is making an rare appearance that I won't be around for thanks to these guys and their little record store.

The last time I made it to Harvest Records was in early August of 2008 (it's a quite a drive to Asheville from the Coast of South Carolina). I picked up The Black Kids, Partie Traumatic and The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy and rocked foolishly all the way to my Grandma's house in Kingsport, TN. I don't think I'll make it back to Harvest Records anytime soon and that saddens me. I used to live a mere hour and fifteen minutes from Asheville, NC but now I've tacked on an extra three hours to that equation. And quizzically enough one only begins to realize how good things were once they're gone. I think Tupac Shakur said that, later echoed in a sentiment by small-time rap artist-turned millionaire mogul Puff Daddy when he said:

Yeah livin the raw deal, three course meals Spaghetti, fettucini, and veal But still, everythings real in the field And what you cant have now, leave in your will But dont knock me for tryin to bury Seven zeros, over in rio dijanery

Or something like that.

12 April 2009

Record Store Day, Day 1: The Sound Garden, Baltimore, MD

This record store, The Sound Garden (bad name, I know), near the Inner Harbor of Baltimore slips in merely as a record store of interest. I believe I spent approximately 30 minutes in this vast and oddly shaped store--hardly enough time to offer a distinct recommendation one way or another on it merits. But the reason I'm including it as part of the five days in countdown to Record Store Day this Saturday, April 18, is for one simple reason: nostalgia.

The element of nostalgia cannot be underestimated when it comes to the field of music and that extends to the stores that sell the music we ingest, too. Before I knew that music was sold at independent record stores, I would venture with my best friend to the nearest metropolis, an hour's drive away, and we would load up on CDs from Best Buy. Mostly because the prices were cheap, but also because we didn't know any better at the time. (We were young and foolish then.)

The aforementioned best friend moved to Baltimore for a brief stint a few years ago and I came to visit him in his fair city. As a whole, Baltimore is not a pleasant place; it's dark, poverty-stricken, and more than a little creepy in an ominous-feeling way. The Inner Harbor is the fancier, more gentrified area of Baltimore and it is nice to see. But it still seems like a facade, like someone threw some white paint on a wall that needed to be scrubbed with bleach. Nonetheless, it's passable for a nighttime stroll.

My friend, his roommate, and I made a last-minute decision to go to the record store about an hour before they were set to close. We got in, got out and all walked away with a CD each. He with Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam, his roommate with a house/techno disc I don't recall the name of, and me with the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, self-titled debut disc. I missed the hype on that particular band and was playing catch-up in the used bin and $6 seemed like a fair price for hype.

Needless to say, the disc has become one of my favorites; a rare disc I do not grow tired of. I can queue it up right now and still love every minute of it. After our respective purchases the three of us walked to the local ice cream shop for some over-priced desserts. We road around Baltimore that night listening to a blend of discs including St. Vincent, Marry Me, The National, Boxer, Silversun Pickups, Carnavas, and Kevin Drew (of Broken Social Scene), Spirit If... We discussed the merits of bands past and present, argued over the direction of indpendent music, and got way too drunk for our own good that night. CYHSY became the soundtrack to my time spent in Baltimore; the record became entrenched in consciousness as an artifact forever married to a specfic point in my life, and the record store it came from stands out as a beacon of nostalgia.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Record Store Week, All Week

In celebration of Record Store Day this Saturday, April 18, I thought I'd take a look at some of the independent record stores that have been pretty instrumental in furthering my addiction to the purchasing of used and new LPs, CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs, and music magazines. It's an addiction that has fostered and developed over many years and its incessant nature has driven some mad and delighted others. But it's always been fun.

For me, there's nothing quite like visiting an independent record store. You may not always find what you want, but the experience is always worth it. I could say more but the triteness of any sentiment I could muster would only appear stereotypical and lame. I love music; I love buying music. And I really love buying music from a store I feel a connection to either physically or emotionally, however fleeting or long-standing.

Everyday this week I'm going to highlight a specific record store each day, hopefully with an small anecdote about what that particular store means or meant to me. So thanks for reading and feel free to leave whatever great record stores you think I should check out in the "Comments" section.

09 April 2009

Interview:: Horse Feathers

Recently I spoke with Justin Ringle of the fantastic folk/americana band Horse Feathers. Their latest release, House With No Home was one of my favorite discs from 2008. I highly recommend purchasing it...on vinyl. Read the interview at Stereo Subversion. (Click the album image to go directly to the interview.)


Horse Feathers
House With No Home, (Kill Rock Stars, 2008)

03 April 2009

Beer + Records = Genius

Holy crap. Why has someone not thought of this idea before? I've seen bars in record stores, but 52.5 (aka the coolest record store in Charleston) is selling mixed 6 packs of specialty beers. They're featuring a new one every couple of weeks.

So, let me get this straight; I can go buy some used vinyl, the latest Bonnie "Prince" Billy release, and get this beer all at the same time? Genius. Read more here.

Oh, and a happy belated 12th birthday to the peeps at 52.5. Apparently local celebrity Ben Bridwell of some band you may have heard of called Band of Horses, is a supporter of the store, too.

31 March 2009

Album Review :: Great Lake Swimmers, "Lost Channels"

Toronto's Great Lake Swimmers released their fourth proper LP today, Lost Channels. AmieStreet has the album for $5 with the lead single "Pulling On A Line" free as a complimentary download. I have a review of the album posted at Stereo Subversion. Click on the image to read the review.

Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels
(Nettwerk Records, 2009)

I love this band and you will, too. Tony Dekker, the band's visionary singer/songwriter, is an extremely nice guy. Stereo Subversion has an interview with him, as well. Read it here.

The next post will be more than an album review announcement...I promise.

29 March 2009

Album Review:: Cursive, "Mama, I'm Swollen"

Last Thursday Stereo Subversion posted my review of Cursive's latest offering, Mama, I'm Swollen. Click on the image to read the review.

Cursive, Mama, I'm Swollen
(Saddle Creek Records, 2009)

On a separate but no less important note, I'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my pal Justin Gammon. His blog is the tops and you should go and read it here. It's about toys. Weird toys. Weird, weird toys. Likewise, you should follow him on Twitter.

24 March 2009

Interview:: I Heart Lung

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Schlarb, one of the men behind the avant-jazz duo I Heart Lung. Here is a link to the full interview posted on Stereo Subversion.

The band's latest album, Interoceans, is available on Asthmatic Kitty Records and comes highly recommended by me and one of my fellow reviewers at Stereo Subversion. Read SSv's review.

(click the image to purchase the LP from the record label)

23 March 2009

Live Review: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, North Charleston Performing Arts Center, March 11, 2009

I don't go to many shows at venues that hold more than 500 people. So I already felt out of place at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center the night Ryan Adams and the Cardinals were set to play. The lobby at the 1000+ seat venue was overloaded with trampy sorority girls, bearded folkies, and more than four pregnant women in Ugg boots (?); all were sipping wine and mixed drinks that they paid WAY too much for. (Two Guinness for me and my friend ran a total of $15--you do the math.)

Like everyone else, we heard a rumor that the night before Mr. Adams wed his one-time teenage pop star fiance', Mandy Moore, but I didn't believe it until the woman beside me pulled up the story on MTV.com on her Blackberry. And I don't believe anything until MTV.com confirms it to be true. Taking the stage at 8:45 to shouts of "Congratulations!" and "Where's Mandy?" the band seemed relaxed and official sounding. The guitars were tuned and ringing, and the floor tom had enough bass to it to shake a ribcage loose from it's skin.

Adams stuck to his livelier, more focused albums for the set: Cold Roses, Easy Tiger, and Cardinology, with the occasional tune from Heartbreaker and the Love is Hell series. In one sense it was the most predictable set of songs one could imagine, but with an artist like Adams, sometimes predictability is exactly what you want. After a number of songs, though, Adams announced there were some problems with the in-ear monitors (apparently they were picking up a radio station) and took a short ten minute intermission before returning--only to discover that the problem had not gone away. But Adams promised to "persevere and make this awesome." I took him at his word, even when some of the rhythmic noodle-jams between him and guitarist Neal Casal went on way too long with no direction.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who seemed bored because Adams signaled out a woman about three rows back in a red dress who was less than enthusiastic about the band's show. "We've been rockin' so hard for you!" he pleaded. "And we're sorry we suck so bad." He then proceeded to serenade her with an impromptu song called, "We Suck." If it wasn't the highlight of the night, it was definitely a rare show of humor from an otherwise humorless, unstable artist.

The show crested after that; now we got more guitar noodling, and some safe songs. And I was just getting settled in when Adams announced that the next song was about "Satan and fucking." A thumping version of "Magick" was followed by the end of the show. "Thanks you guys for coming out," and the house lights went up.

I checked my watch: 10:20. Disbelief all around. Surely an encore? Nope. They're taking equipment down onstage. "That's it," my friend said. We headed for the car and listen to folks outside who were visibly seething at the lack of an encore. And I felt the same way; a piano went untouched onstage, almost no songs from Gold, and we got three Neal Casal songs. "I didn't pay to see a Neal Casal show," my friend said, and he dropped me off at home and decided to head to The Pour House to catch Lucero. He'd never seen them before and I tell him that, even if they play the worst show of their life, it's probably still better than the Ryan Adams show we saw.

The Setlist, as I heard it:
Beautiful Sorta
Born Into the Light

Cold Roses
Come Pick Me Up
Everybody Knows
Neal Casal sings song #1
(brief intermission with house lights while in-ear monitors are fixed)
Fix It
Why Do They Leave?
Neal Casal sings song #2
Goodnight Rose

Shakedown On 9th St
We Suck (impromptu song)
Let It Ride
I See Monsters
Neal Casal sings song #3

Funniest, yet saddest, conversation overheard at the show:
"Dude, how about him playing Oasis? That was cool, right?"
"Yeah...are you sure that's an Oasis song? You sure it's not one his songs?"
(*note to reader, these two gentlemen were approximately my age, 28-32)
"I don't know man, it could be..."
"I'm pretty sure it is. It's on one of his albums."
"What...you think Oasis covered his song?"
"Yeah, probably. I mean he wrote that song 'Stars Go Blue'..."
"So you think he licensed his song to Oasis?"
"Yeah, definitely."
"That's awesome."

The local paper, Charleston City Paper, has a review that is a little less flattering in it's sentiment and also contains some incorrect information. Read it here.

And here's some shitty cell-phone pics of the stage:

Good luck with the writing career, Mr. Adams. I mean that sincerely.

22 March 2009

But I'm NOT Dead...

Okay, so for the three of my friends who have been good enough to mark my blog in their RSS Readers I want to say, "Thank you." According to the Blogger Gods, my last update was September 22, 2008. Today is March 22, 2008. That's a long time to be absent. Do I have an excuse? Sort of...

Back in August of 2008 I started writing for a little website called Stereo Subversion. It turned into a full-time gig pretty quickly, so the blog quickly fell by the wayside. But the thing is, I missed my own little site/blog. I missed working on it late into the night and then not being able to tell a difference the next day. I missed checking my feed stats everyday and seeing where all the strange places people were hitting the site from. And most of all, dear reader, I missed YOU.

Part of my issue was that I never really found a niche to write about or a set time to update regularly. As such, most of my postings and updates were sporadic at best, disheveled at worst. But I'm working on that, as I turn my attention to what might make this blog a bit more interesting than a standard mp3 blog or music news blog. (I think we have plenty of those and don't need one more.) So thanks for coming back. I'll also plug my reviews at Stereo Subversion on the blog, too. Check out the site, it's a great one and deserves some loyal readers.

Here's my latest review (click on the image to read the review):

Twin Tigers 7" "Sexless Love" b/w "Envy"
Old Flame Records, 2009

In the next day or two I will post a review of the Ryan Adams and the Cardinals show at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. In the meantime, thanks for reading. I'm glad you're still here. And I'm glad I'm not dead.