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.