Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Letter Cs Not In My Vinyl Collection

A couple of more shots from the family vacation. This is one of the plethora of hot springs at Yellowstone National Park. The bacteria mats growing on the top of the boiling water made for some of the most unusual colors I have ever seen. You felt like you were on another planet. The strong stench of sulfur was the only downside to the gorgeous display.

It's mating season for the bison, and that made for some swell battles for the affection of the good-lady bison. Here is a couple looking for a quiet spot away from my prying eyes. We spent quite a bit of time watching the wildlife, and we saw wolves, wild horses, elk, foxes and even a bear... from a safe distance, of course. If you head that way, bring your binoculars. I promise it's better than any television you'll turn on tonight.

I have access to the music room again, and I'm back to ripping vinyl. The series will resume next time. Meanwhile, I thought I would choose a few more random artists from the C section of my CD shelves. This first one was a recommendation from reader (and occasional Nottingham correspondent) MisterPrime. A couple of years ago he told me about Preston, UK's the Cavalcade, a duo that recorded the album 'Many Moons' in a bedroom around 2010. It's sad-sack music Matt and Clare would have salivated over if Sarah was still around. The fine folks at Pebble Records ended up with the honors. I will be forever grateful to that label for bringing back my beloved Orchids. It's obvious those folks have impeccable taste.

"Your Old Room"

Just about everything by Neko Case can be found on the CD shelf, including all of her work with the New Pornographers. I love that voice, but I have to admit I have continued to buy her work more for the entertainment of Mrs. LTL than for myself. Her fandom eclipsed mine around 2008 with the release of 'Middle Cyclone.' If my wife chose one song from Ms. Case's vast discography for this post, I believe it would be this one. According to my iTunes, it has been played nearly 300 times.

"This Tornado Loves You"

I believe Camera Obscura made quite a leap between the albums 'Underachievers Please Try Harder' and 'Let's Get Out of This Country,' but I can't help myself from having a soft spot for the simple sounds of the early years. Here's the opener from the aforementioned 2003 album. This is where I came in. Still can't believe you are gone, Carey. You are missed by so many.

"Suspended From Class"

Drew at Across the Kitchen Table was waxing poetic just yesterday about his time in Stockholm, and I noticed he mentioned the Concretes, a band that I got into in 2004, but I didn't stick around beyond that brilliant debut album. I think it was the departure of Victoria Bergsman that may have prompted my apathy. If this was a mistake on my part, feel free to let me know it. Here is a very memorable song from the self-titled debut. It got some traction here in America when it was used on a Target commercial. Somehow, I managed not to hold that against them.

"Say Something New"

Last time, I was going on about how in the middle of the last decade the Crayon Fields had become a blogging sensation. Here is another one of those bands that caught fire at about the same time, with lots of help from the hype machine, but the flames were extinguished the moment they got signed. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had a terrific self-released debut album that seemed inspired by David Byrne, and I bought the sound hook, line and sinker. That's the last thing I ever bought from them.

"Is This Love?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Some Letter Cs Not In My Vinyl Collection

Just back from a week at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. All I can say is "wow!" I had never stepped foot in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming before, and I found the expansive landscape stunning. The photo above was taken by yours truly at the brink of lower falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Even an amateur shutterbug like myself couldn't blow that shot. We got out just in time. The parks have been overcome by fires in the past 48 hours.

As I mentioned last time, my mother is bunking in the music room, but I'll be back to ripping vinyl from the letter C section this weekend. In the meantime, I have selected a few bands from the Cs in the CD collection to tide us over. First up is Casper & the Cookies, a band I would have gladly seen last week in their hometown during Athens Popfest. The sound is vintage Elephant 6... right out of Of Montreal's early playbook. This one is taken from the '09 release 'Modern Silence,' but you can't go wrong with any of their albums. I'm cheating a little with this one because Casper & the Cookies can be found in my vinyl section, just not this album.

"Little King"

The 2009 Rev-Ola compilation 'Black Path' is the only title I have from the Claim, but what a keeper! It's a 25-song retrospective covering much of the indie-popsters' work from 1985 to 1992. The band is often compared to the Dentists and Jasmine Minks, but they didn't have quite the name recognition of those two. I was happy to see they were included on the excellent 'Scared to Get Happy' box set Cherry Red put out in 2013. If you're into '80s indie pop, that's a must buy. This song was the A-side of a 7" Bob Stanley released on his Caff label in 1991.

"Birth of a Teenager"

This song is the opener from the 2005 album 'Strange Geometry,' my favorite from the Clientele. Merge has done such a wonderful job of touting this London-based band. So much so, in fact, the Clientele is bigger on this side of the Atlantic. I have lost track of them the past couple of years, but I hope the Clientele stuck with this cleaner sound that borders on chamber pop. Simply beautiful and seemingly from another time. They must have been listening to a lot of the Left Banke.

"Since K Got Over Me"

Now for something completely different. This song from Texas band the Clique was an obscure B-side in 1969, but most of my generation learned of this rocker when R.E.M. covered it in 1986 during the 'Lifes Rich Pageant' era. Although it was a single for Michael Stipe and the fellas, it didn't fair well, despite it being bassist Mike Mills' first stab at a lead vocal. I may like the cover better than the original, but they are both very good.


I thought for sure Melbourne's the Crayon Fields were finished. There was a huge six-year gap between their second and third albums while Geoff O'Connor went solo for a while, but last year's comeback album 'No One Deserves You' was a pleasant and welcome surprise. For today, let's go back to the early days. From debut album 'Animal Bells' comes "Living So Well." It's a little bit Beach Boys, a little bit Zombies and a lot a bit the Association. Things have cooled, obviously, but this is one of those bands that caught fire on all of the blogs back in the day, but this one actually deserved the acclaim. I'll try to do another one of these letter C roundups from the CD section before returning to the vinyl. Hope you like it.

"Living So Well"

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Macca and MacManus Demos

My mother is in town for much of this month. It's nice to have her here, but the extra bed in our house happens to be in the music room. I had hoped to rip ahead for my vinyl series, but it didn't happen. I popped my head in the doorway yesterday with the thought that I would work on the next artist, but I saw clothes folded on top of my turntable and a suitcase on the desk where my laptop would normally sit. In other words, I'm going to have to take a break from ABCs of My Vinyl Collection.

I know some of you can't stand Paul McCartney. Hopefully the other half of the above equation will get you to stick around for the rest of the post. A few weeks ago I read at the excellent Super Deluxe Edition that McCartney's 1989 album 'Flowers in the Dirt' is up for a blowout reissue in October. Excitement is brewing because Sir Paul has promised demos from his work with Elvis Costello back in the summer and fall of 1987. You know some of their work together because they turned up as finished songs on Costello's albums 'Spike,' 'Mighty Like a Rose' and 'All This Useless Beauty,' as well as McCartney's albums 'Flowers in the Dirt' and 'Off the Ground.' Others have never had an official airing, and there might even be one or two demos, such as the rumored "Indigo Moon," that have never even made it to the bootleg stage.

What I would really like to hear, though, are the songs Costello produced for McCartney during the making of 'Flowers in the Dirt.' McCartney ended up scrapping those takes because they were considered too sparse, but I have always felt the biggest problem with 'Flowers in the Dirt' is the too-polished sound. Will any of the songs produced by Costello become extra tracks on the reissue? I'm hopeful but skeptical.

In the late '90s I lived in Washington, D.C., and I used to make frequent trips up to New York. One of my regular stops was to a record store, now sadly closed, at least in the physical sense, called Midnight Records. They specialized in bootlegs, and I got many great ones from the Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello sections. In 1998, Vigotone Records released 'The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration.' The disc included, among other things, eight demos the duo did together. I thought this is as good a time as any to give a few of these a listen. To me, these four are the best of the lot. They are sung in unison, much like the Everly Brothers or Gary and Marc from the Jayhawks, and I really like their voices together. Some of the finished songs may have missed the mark, but the demos are pretty special.

"The Lovers That Never Were" (demo)
"My Brave Face" (demo)
"You Want Her Too" (demo)
"So Like Candy" (demo)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Farewell to Fortuna POP!

In the lower right-hand corner of this blog's front page I pay homage to my favorite music labels, past and present. In case you haven't heard, Fortuna POP! has recently moved from present to past with founder Sean Price's announcement that, "Nothing lasts forever. After 20 years, 200 releases, a mountain of debt and very little sleep, Fortuna POP! is drawing to a close." This is a real blow, but I'll be forever grateful to Price, and I know we will be in good hands with Slumberland, Matinée Recordings and other indie labels that have helped the stable of stars at Fortuna POP! receive exposure here in America and around the world.

Here are some of my favorite moments through the years. Thanks for all of the great music and the passion, Sean, and best of luck with the next chapter in your life. As Airport Girl proclaimed during your label's infancy, "the foolishness that we create through love is the closest we come to greatness."

Friday, August 5, 2016

Reissue Roundup

Time to catch up on some reissues that have caught my eye. A few of these came out earlier in the summer, and some should be marked on our calendars for later in the year. Let's start with the ones you can buy right now:

Josef K - 'It's Kinda Funny'

Les Disques du Crépuscule has assembled all of the band's singles on one lovely piece of vinyl, even the B-sides. Yes, that includes the Crépuscule and Postcard offerings. As you can see, the art from the 'Sorry For Laughing' single has been used for the album cover. Seeing it in the 12" size after all of these years is startling but cool.

Paul Haig - 'Metamorphosis'

While we are on the subject of Josef K (and Les Disques du Crépuscule, for that matter), 'Metamorphosis' is a two-disc collection of Paul Haig's singles, demos and experimental tracks from between 1981 and 1983. Haig's liner notes take you through this interesting time in his career before he signed with Island. If you are a fan, you may know quite a bit of the work on disc one, such as "Justice" and "Running Away"/"Back Home" (12" version), but even you seasoned veterans are bound to find something new on the second disc or rarities, like the electronica of 'Drama.'

The Bangles - 'Ladies and Gentlemen... the Bangles'

Earlier this year, I beamed as I shared a couple of favorites from my vinyl collection... the first single and EP from the Bangles. Now you can own them, too. This 16-track collection of remastered rarities, demos and live recordings concentrates on the band's earliest recordings before they were signed to a major label. This has been available as a digital download for ages, but Omnivore Recordings has taken the extra step to release it on CD. I got it for the demos, and it was well worth it. This is one you need to have on the shelf.

Velvet Crush - 'Pre-Teen Symphonies'

Omnivore has a couple of other reissues that have piqued my interest, but I'll just tell you about one more today. As you no doubt know by now, the '90s isn't my favorite decade for music, but Velvet Crush is an exception, particularly the 1994 album 'Teenage Symphonies To God.' It's a power-pop classic, produced by my hero Mitch Easter. If you can't get enough of that one, you will surely be interested in 'Pre-Teen Symphonies,' a look at the creation of the band's most revered album. There are eight demos and eight live tracks taken from their 1994 show at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. You'll fall in love with Velvet Crush all over again.

The Chills - 'Kaleidoscope World'

What can I possibly say that hasn't already been said? So many fans of the Chills were introduced to the band with this compilation of early works that first came out in 1986. It's an absolute must for fans of the Dunedin Sound and bands that adopted their indie guitar pop aesthetic in ensuing years. The eight-song album has grown through subsequent reissues, and this incarnation has a whopping 24 tracks! If you haven't yet fallen for the charms of the Flying Nun label, this is a great spot to dip your big toe. The double album with expanded gatefold (or CD) should be out Aug. 19.

14 Iced Bears - '14 Iced Bears'

I never pass on an opportunity to promote something from the C86 era. At the time, outside of some nice words in the press and the backing of one John Peel, 14 Iced Bears seemed like a bit player, but the Brighton band's legend continues to grow. There have been at least three comprehensive compilations (I own two myself), and they are rarely forgotten when labels celebrate that golden age of indie pop with box sets and such.

The folks at Optic Nerve Recordings have taken a different and more comprehensive tack with this reissue series. They are releasing the actual albums with a bevy of bonus tracks included. I have snatched several vinyl reissues by Optic Nerve, including ones by the Monochrome Set, McCarthy, Girls at Our Best and Wolfhounds, to name a few, and I'm always so impressed by the love and care they put into these packages. The 1988 self-titled debut of 14 Iced Bears will be a double album that includes the singles that preceded it. Frankly, bonus tracks "Inside," "Balloon Song" and "Come Get Me" are worth the price alone. Follow-up album 'Wonder' will be receiving the same treatment. Although the 1991 effort was a radical shift in sound, both of these albums are worth the wait. Look for them around Nov. 11.