Saturday, July 25, 2020

July Pandemic Record Shopping at Music Millennium, Speck's, and the Trunk of My Friend's Car.

Hadn't been to a record store in months, though I've been buying stuff from Music Millennium through the mail during that time. MM has been reopen for a while now, with strict mask and customer-limit guidelines, so I felt like they were doing it right. They had masks and gloves at the door, and everybody in there was at least wearing a mask. I met a friend there and we hung out for an hour or so, and I ended up grabbing more than I thought I might, as usual.

The picture above is of a jukebox that I saw in an old dude's garage later that same day. Long story. But it's up there because I forgot to take any pictures while I was shopping because I was in pandemic mode. Here's what I got at Music Millennium:

Ghostface Killah - Adrian Younge Presents: Twelve Reasons to Die (2013)

Ghost releases music at such a clip that I miss albums here and there and this was definitely one of them. Standard black vinyl original press that I paid a tiny bit too much for but whatever. I feel like I have so many Ghostface records and there are still a solid handful that I am missing. Like I said, he's prolific. I never copped that Ghostdini or Apollo Kids. Damn.

Crazy 8's - Nervous in Suburbia (1985)

Sophomore album from the early-80s Portland pop-ska legends. I think I've got about half of their full-lengths now. The music is mad dated but always fun and I'm enjoying learning more about this band and their fervent following. Their YouTube video comments sections are just full of 80s Portland stories.

James Gilstrap - Love Talk (1976)

Sultry disco that I picked up for no good reason other than the cover, which encompasses that sultriness.

Heart - "Never"/"These Dreams" 12" (1988)

Etched 12" single that I bought on a whim. It was cheap and an import and I am an unabashed fan of cash-in era Heart, plus I knew I"d never see it again and it's not the kind of record I'd bother buying on the internet. And what a conversation piece! I am, no joke, looking very forward to hearing the extended remixes on this thing. The etching takes up one side and is a band photo. You can see it here.

Quarterflash - Take Another Picture (1983)

Autographed by all five members. Been wanting a copy of this for a while (not hard to find, really) and this one, with signatures all over the front, is indeed a sweet copy to have. This and the Heart record and the next record were all clearly from the same collection.

Rail - Arrival (1980)

Also autographed by all members! I've had this LP for a while - these guys are a hard-rock outfit out of Bellevue, WA - but I think I'll be swapping out my non-autographed copy for this one personalized to a guy named "Brant," with whom they "hope to do it again."

Summit - The Tuna Boat Blues (1981)

Private-press Portland blues (?) that I am not familiar with and haven't listened to yet, but I really love the cover and the price was not high. Collecting local records is just the best. Always more to find. From what I can gather, that car is the "tuna boat" and maybe I don't want to know any more about that.

After that we were going to head to Speck's in our respective vehicles, but first my friend had some stuff to hand off to me that he and another friend were nice enough to secure for me during the recent closing of Salem's Ranch Records, where deals were being made and I was lucky enough to have a couple proxies. This first one is a doozy:

Beauregarde - Beauregarde (1971)

Featuring a pre-Wipers Greg Sage, this LP by Portland wrestler Beauregarde was reissued semi-recently and I've long had my eye on an original. Well, I got one and man: it is a sweet copy. Been putting in some work on my wrestling-record collection lately and this one really shines, sucka.

V/A - Rhino Royale (1978)

Rhino comp with a wrestling theme to the whole thing. Looks like the music is more "wacky" than directly wrestling-related, with the exception of "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Record is clear with blue and red splattered all over it. I enjoy the old Rhino wrestling stuff.

Dwarves - "Lucky Tonight" 7" (1991)

Three quick ones on black vinyl on the Sub Pop label. I think these versions are exclusive to this release. There's actually like five minutes of music on this thing, which is unheard of.

Dwarves - Sex and Violence...Live! 7" (1993)

Bootleg Dwarves on clear yellow vinyl. Exactly the kind of record I'd buy in a close-out, discount sort of situation. Like this.

Next we went to Speck's, put the masks back on, and got to work. I was trading some stuff, which meant I was more willing than usual to pick up whatever, including some mildly high-ticket items. Here's what I left with:

Johnny and the Distractions - "Guys Like Me" 7" (1979)

Portland's Bruce Springsteen. This is an early single, I think from right before the release of their full-length debut. These guys are gritty and they just hammer it out like a seasoned bar band. It's cool.

Uncle Sam - "Welcome to America" 12" (1984)

Private press patriot rock out of Seattle that really leans into the America shit. They had that Los Angeles Summer Games fever.

Madhouse - Madhouse (1985)

Private press hard rock out of Texas that has a great band photo on the back but I could barely find this shitty photo and I'm too lazy to take one of my record. They've got a keyboard player and big aspirations and I'm looking forward to it.

Rist Rocket - Rist Rocket (1978)

Hard rock out of Fresno on the private press tip and I'm not sure I understand the name of this band, but I do love their album cover. My copy is sealed, and I will break the seal when the time is right, and not a moment before.

Gigolo Tony - Ain't It Good To Ya (1989)

1989 rap that is most likely not going to be very good, but I'm a sucker for 1989 hip hop and the price was right on this one. 

As to which of those dudes is Gigolo Tony, it's anybody's guess.

Support your local record stores!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Picks for the Top Fifteen Albums of 2019.

This might be my shortest list yet, and I'd like to blame it on having a two-year-old, but I'm not sure it was entirely that. Am I losing touch? Do rappers release music too fast for anyone to keep up with? Do I clown streaming services yet subscribe to one? Whatever. I still found time for 15 albums this year that I enjoyed to certain and different extents.

15. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

Took me a while to warm up to this one, and I think I just wasn't in the mood for calculated mellow bullshit this year. I've since grown slightly fonder, but if nothing else, this album was just too long. I always liked that they got in, did their thing, and got out. Still, some solid songs on here.


14. DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

Another one that some might find a little too long, but I actually dig the instrumental first half of this record. Probably gets a little more exciting once the sweet slew of guest rappers show up for part 2, but it ain't like Shadow isn't great at just making beats you can listen to all by their lonesome. Lots of shitting on current society, too, which I endorse.

"Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)"

13. Ghostface Killah - Ghostface Killahs

Not Ghost's strongest effort - and definitely not his strongest album title - but there are still some hard-hitting songs on here. Nice amount of Cappadonna but I could always use a little more. Raekwon nowhere to be seen? Shawn Wigs still hanging around? I do love the cover art.

"Me Denny & Darryl"

12. Beck - Hyperspace

Beck's last album, Colors, was some disappointing pop nonsense to me, so I didn't hold hope too high when I saw this one coming down the future-road in that cherry Supra. It ended up being better than his previous record but still not something I became overly invested in. He dropped the best songs pre-release, and some of the other shit just fizzles. Him clearly trying for radio play makes it not work.

"Uneventful Days"

11. Conway the Machine - Look What I Became

Conway also put out Everybody is F.O.O.D. 3, which should probably get equal weight here, but I can barely keep up with the amount of music these Griselda dudes release. Each release feels like the next chapter of the bigger thing, and this is no exception. Hard ass raps and wrestling references. My shit.

"Tito's Back (feat. Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn)"

10. Cross Control - Outrage Culture 7"

6 songs in 13 minutes, hardcore 7" style. Not my typical fare, but I really like these songs and the fact that these dudes are all around my age and still making music that is aggressive and calling out shitheads. We need that.

"Imaginary Conflict"

09. Mudhoney - Morning in America

7-song EP that gathers up some b-sides and other songs that didn't end up on Digital Garbage, their very good LP from 2018. I really like Mudhoney's recent output. They're pissed, the songs are straight to the point - it's what I'm looking for from this band. It's what we're all looking for from this band.

"One Bad Actor"

08. Griselda - WWCD

Conway the Machine and the whole crew: Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Daringer, the dude who makes all their sample-free beats from scratch. No hooks. Just guys rapping about cracking your skull open amidst wrestling samples and beats that are simple, dense, and thanks to the use of just one producer, consistent. These guys put out so much music. Benny the Butcher is an insane rapper.

"Cruiser Weight Coke"

07. Pixies - Beneath the Eyrie

Most of the previous post-reunion Pixies music made me uncomfortable and often sad, and it was such a relief to be able to say I'd give this one a solid 7/10. The lyrics are ambitious again, everything about the songs sounds more Pixie-ish without full-on copycatting themselves, and the overall vibe is just much more fluid and competent. A real pleasant surprise.

"On Graveyard Hill"

06. Czarface & Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface

Czarface makes some really great rap music. Esoteric and Inspectah Deck sound strangely similar and they're usually working with upbeat songs, moving quick. Ghostface knows exactly how to get down on tracks like that, and there end up being some really great songs on this thing. And come on: they've got one called "Czarrcade '87." I can't front on that.

"Powers and Stuff"

05. Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied

Definitely one of Steve's more masturbatory projects, but that's what solo home-recorded projects are by definition, aren't they? Saw somebody compare this to McCartney II, and that makes a lot of sense to me. It's got the same feel: experimental, unpolished, and often doesn't work quite right. That's OK.

04. Dope KNife - Things Got Worse

Been really into this guy's music for the past few years and this one picks up where his last one left off but it's a little more antisocial, a little more paranoid, and just as stoned. Love the beats here and KNife's gravelly voice is pitch perfect for the dark feel of it all.

"So Upset"

03. Royal Trux - White Stuff

Of course the whole release was a mess, with the band breaking up again before this came out and fighting on the internet, and of course the tour got canceled. But man: this is still a really great record, no matter how it came to be. You can definitely feel the Black Bananas influence on the production, but I'd argue that just makes it sound more modern. Still sounds like Trux. Still sounds sleazy and satisfying.

"White Stuff"

02. Alex Cameron - Miami Memory

This one didn't quite take complete control of my life like Forced Witness did, but I still listened to this record a lot over the past year. Alex is in love, and it informed the trajectory of this batch o' songs, sometimes I think to its slight detriment. But overall this is a great album from an increasingly singular performer. Seen him live three times now and he's never disappointed.


01. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana

Gat damn. Album of the year for me for sure. The beats on this thing are just nuts and Freddie Gibbs doesn't waste a word, delivering some of the most on-the-ball lyricism I've heard in a while. The music videos that have accompanied the whole release have been especially dope, and this thing is just a front-to-backer. Can't wait for their next one. Though I'm not sick of this one yet.

"Half Manne Half Cocaine"

Thursday, December 20, 2018

My Picks for the Top Twenty Albums of 2018.

Yet another year where I think I haven't listened to too much but I still manage to scrape together a lean twenty. Let's get into this thing!

20. They Might Be Giants - John Henry Demos

This music is from 1994, but they just put this out this year and I bought it and listened to it, so here it is. Still waiting for my sweet 12" + 7" set, but I got the digital files immediately and was excited to hear 'em, as John Henry is definitely one of my favorite albums of theirs. These demo versions aren't wildly different, but there are variations and just hearing the songs in their raw(er) form is super interesting.

"Sleeping In the Flowers"

19. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Always up for artists experimenting with their sound but this one just never really caught on with me. Though it seems to be one of those types of records. That's cool. Maybe I just don't "get it," man. Maybe I'm old and shitty. Or maybe I just thought the whole thing was a bit much. Though I did really like this song, which is vaguely about pro wrestling:

"Golden Trunks"

18. Westside Gunn - Supreme Blientele

Speaking of wrestling, this record starts with a track called "Big Homie Arn," which sample Arn Anderson talking about Chris Benoit, and the wrestling samples and references just spill out from there. That's why I checked it out in the first place (one of the working titles was Chris Benoit, which is, at the very least, a bold move), but man: the beats on here are gritty in just the right kind of way for an aging rap fan like myself, and dude can go.


17. The Voidz - Virtue

This record starts with a really straightforward Strokes-esque synth number but then goes haywire, sprawling into weirdness after that. Most of it ends up being pretty cool, if not a little overworked, but ol' Julian can still write a catchy song. Plus I dig their whole VHS vibe. It's radical.


16. Cat Power - Wanderer

She can put out an album like this that is super solid and it really didn't make much of a ripple because it's expected. I get it. This probably isn't her strongest collection of songs, but it is a great mix of both sparse, old-style Cat Power strummers and modern sounds with more slick production. And of course her voice still sounds really cool.


15. Surfbort - Friendship Music

Stinky punk rock from three 40ish dudes (two guitars, no bass) and a lady in her late 20s on vocals and general weirdness. The lyrics are angry yet naively sweet at the same time; it's really something. I saw this band live last year with like 15 other people and now they're already out on tour with some hotshots. Just remember I was in on the ground floor. Not a huge deal, just wanted to point it out.


14. Ice Cube - Everythang's Corrupt

Can't believe it's been 8 years since Cube dropped an album. This one is in line with his past two efforts, style-wise, but overall it's a little more focused and a lot more legit pissed, which is when Ice Cube is at his best. He's never been huge on features, and where there were maybe 3 or 4 tracks on his past two records with other dudes on 'em, this time there is only one, and it's a guest spot from Too $hort, who is still rapping about the same shit he's always been rapping about.

"Good Cop, Bad Cop"

13. Method Man - Meth Lab Season 2: The Lithium

Method Man, on the other hand, is no strangers to letting dudes jump all over his songs, and this record is no different. That being said, once you sift through the wholly unnecessary skits (another Mef staple) and get down to the rappin', the songs on this album are actually about as good as I could hope for. Always a pleasure to see Cappadonna and Masta Killa show up. Plus I'm starting to really like Hanz On. And Method Man is still one of the best rappers alive. Never gets enough credit.

"Grand Prix"

12. Robyn - Honey

My wife's album of the year, for sure. I don't think this record is quite as strong as her previous one, but it's real close and it's still got the whole incomparable weirdo dance vibe you're looking for. I thought "Between the Lines" was straight-up one of the best songs I heard all year. We ordered the UK import on white vinyl and the sleeve is glossy, gatefold, and really nice. Thick and substantial. How I like it.


11. MC Paul Barman - (​(​(​echo chamber​)​)​)

First MC Paul Barman record in almost ten years, and it's easily his most cohesive and unpretentiously meticulous, plus it features guest spots from Open Mike Eagle and a great beat from Prince Paul, so the whole thing feels like it's come full circle. Paul sounds focused and the beats are right up my alley. It ain't for everybody, but I've been listening to Paul Barman for a long time, so maybe I just understand it on a deeper level than you. Something to consider.

"Antennas (feat. Masta Ace)"

10. Messthetics - Messthetics

I mean, of course I hear the words "Fugazi's rhythm section" and I'm already on board with this thing, but Fugazi this ain't, and that's a good thing. The guitarist Brendan Canty and Joe Lally are hooked up with is a wild player, and it's real cool to hear these two dudes you're familiar with, locked in just right, while this other guy is in his own world, gushing all over it. Great instrumental jamz. Hope they come 'round here so I can see it live.


09. Dwarves - Take Back the Night

The Dwarves as old-man button pushers is something I really enjoy, and boy, do they take it all possibly too far on this one. It's the ridiculousness you sign up for, and you just hope it's all wrapped in some ripping two-minute songs. Thankfully, this LP is a return to form of sorts, or at the very least it's just flat-out better than their last one. Fun fact: the Dwarves are not big fans of "safe spaces."

"Devil's Level"

08. Sloppy Jane - Willow

What a strange, sleazy, surprisingly intricate modern rock-opera this record is. I still don't think I fully grasp the entire concept, but the videos are great and the songs are just so juiced with endless sounds, thanks to her huge band, which seems to always be fluctuating, usually growing. They're known for their confrontational live show, but this record is proof that the music is just as big of a deal.

"Kitchen Store"

07. Mudhoney - Digital Garbage

Additional shout-out to Mudhoney's LiE - Live in Europe LP that was also released in 2018 and is also really good. On Digital Garbage, Mark Arm is pissed, which isn't anything incredibly new, but now he's ultra-pissed and this set of songs is among the most flat-out angry they've ever done. It's great. I'm so glad these dudes are still making music.

"Kill Yourself Live"

06. Supersuckers - Suck It

This isn't the first time the Supersuckers have chosen an unfortunate album title, and it probably won't be the last. But what's important to take away from this record is that it's just as good as their last rock effort, if not a little better, and it's got a song on it called "(I’m Gonna Choke Myself and Masturbate) ‘Til I Die." I'm not sure I could ask for much more.

"The History of Rock 'n' Roll"

05. Boytoy - Night Leaf

I bought a Boytoy tape a year or two ago and it was pretty good so I decided to pick up their new one when I was ordering some other cassettes from the Burger Records store. Man: I ended up listening to this album a lot last year. Just a great batch of spacey guitar-and-sometimes-keyboards cuts that all work incredibly well together as a whole. Also hoping these gals journey to the NW because I'd love to see them live.


04. Open Mike Eagle - What Happens When I Try to Relax

Mike Eagle said he would put these six songs up against any other six rap songs that came out this year – a rare display of bravado from the dude who's usually humble to a fault. I thought that was a cool-ass move, and when I listened to this EP I heard what he was talking about. He's deep in the zone right now and his next full-length record is going to be incredible.


03. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

It took me a sec to warm up to this one, but after a solo drive to the beach on a dark, rainy night and letting this thing run for its full 79 minutes, I was mesmerized and blissed out, brother. I can see why my wife hates Kurt Vile's music - heck, even I wonder if "Bassackwards" really needs to be 10 minutes long, but he's just such a singular guy right now, and I'm digging all the grooves, whether they be stoney or not. Mostly they are.

"Loading Zones"

02. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

Speaking of records that grew on me, I slept on this one way too long. This is a front-to-back great collection of songs that are laced with both depression and an ever-necessary hopefulness that permeates. She's got such an effortlessly great way of singing, and it matches her guitar playing perfectly. Loved her record with Kurt Vile; love this one. Can't wait for the next one.

"Need a Little Time"

01. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard

Another winner in a long line of winners. Another album that shows that ol' Stevie's songwriting is getting better as he ages. Sure, it may not be as "vital" or whatever as it was when we were all tied to the waist in flannels, but it's still just as hard to decipher and just as easy to get into. Now we're all left wondering if the "solo" electronic/synth album he teases at the end of this thing will ever see the light of day. Could be good?

"Middle America"