Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Picks for the Top Twenty Albums of 2017.

I'm not putting Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. on here because its praises have been sung far and wide, and I honestly didn't listen to it enough in 2017 to add anything interesting to the mix. It's a terrific rap record: There you go. Also: shout out to Royce Da 5'9"'s The Bar Exam 4, which houses some serious lyrical flexing. Not really an "album," though. Shady Records signee Conway's Reject on Steroids and More Steroids were also solid mixtapes. Eminem's cronies are looking good! Can't say the same for him after listening to Revival. The new Vince Staples record was of course also dope, but he didn't put it out on vinyl so I didn't buy it and didn't end up listening to it that much.

Here's what I did listen to this year, ranked.

20. Raekwon - The Wild

I caught up with this album late in the year and was surprised I hadn't heard a little more about it - this is a worthy addition to the Chef's catalog. As usual I could do without things like "(feat. G-Eazy)" and minute-long "skits," but I understand the realities of the music industry in 2017 and Rae is apparently never gonna stop padding out his tracklists with innocuous segues. Regardless, the full-on tracks here hit hard, particularly this one:

"This Is What It Comes Too"

19. Everlast - War Porn

Or maybe it's called The Warporn Industries Mixtape? I dunno. But it's Everlast, Divine Styler, and Sick Jakken, and while it's ostensibly House of Pain for the 2010's, it's much meaner than that. Didn't think Everlast would come back hard? Dude's grey and old and still getting it done. Wild stuff.

"World's End"

18. Kool G Rap - Return of the Don

G Rap is the only dude who could call his album Return of the Don and have it mean something. The fur coat on the cover is perfect, and though there are more features on this album than you might expect, they're aware of who they're repping here and they step it up. Kool G Rap still has it, and though he's not breaking any new ground here, these 11 tracks are gold to an old-guy rap-fan like me.

"Wise Guys (feat. Lil Fame and Freeway)"

17. Prince Paul - The Redux

Leave it to Prince Paul to go back and "fix" one of his records. Personally, I never felt Politics of the Business was an inherently flawed record - maybe not one of Paul's best. but whatever. However, when you hear the new version, you can see what he was talking about. I still don't think this replaces Politics, but it sure is a crazy, standalone supplement to it. You can download this album here for free.

"People and Places"/"No I Didn't (feat. Chubb Rock, Wordsworth, and MF Doom)"

16. Beck - Colors

Straight up: This is Beck's worst record, but of course it's not without its merits. I've never minded Beck going pop, but this one took it too far, burying itself in thick globs of sugar on duds like "Seventh Heaven" and "Up All Night." Meanwhile, "Dear Life" finds him channeling Elliott Smith and coming up with one of his best songs ever. You can see why I had a hard time with this one.


15. The Upper Crust - Delusions of Grandeur

Pinkies up! I had no idea 2017 would bring a new Upper Crust full-length album, but the lords hath not disappointed. They busted out a live split with The Grannies last year and followed it up in 2017 with 12 new songs and a re-do of a previous number ("I Stand Corrected (Corrected Version"). They even came to Portland for the first time in about 20 years. Long live The Crust!

"Little Castrato"

14. The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

The most reliable band in rock does it again, cranking out 11 tracks that all deserve to be here. I got the white vinyl version of this one and spun the shit out of it on the weekends. Adult rock? Sure! But A.C. and Neko and the gang still don't sound soft. Lots of crunch and angles throughout this one.

"High Ticket Attractions"

13. Jason Loewenstein - Spooky Action

Sebadoh's Loewenstein released his solo debut At Sixes and Sevens in 2002. "Casserole" remains a criminally undiscovered song. Anyway, this is the follow-up. Can't wait for 2032's release! Thankfully this batch of self-produced-and-recorded gems will tide me over. Tight indie rock that sounds like the dankest, smoke-stained basement.


12. Dead Cross - Dead Cross

Didn't see this one coming, but when it showed up? Blammo. Mike Patton doing hardcore is something that makes total sense but seemed past its prime time. Challenge accepted! This album is blistering, with double-bass-drum Dave Lombardo just pummeling the shit out of his kit while Patton distends his vocals cords until he's fit to explode. It's great stuff.

"Church of the Motherfuckers"

11. Grandaddy - Last Place

Feels like slipping right back into that ultra-comfortable shirt you used to wear all the time but lost, and that's what I was hoping for with this LP. Just a solid Grandaddy record without any need for new-fangled trickery. Lytle and Co. delivered. This is such a great song:

"Way We Won't"

10. Big Boi - Boomiverse

Daddy Fat Sax is still out here making great music, and this time around he ditched the alt-pop crossover goofiness (ignore that Adam Levine feature) in favor of more straight-up rapping, and I think it worked. Killer Mike showing up and rapping his ass off on three tracks doesn't hurt a bit.

"Kill Jill (feat. Killer Mike and Jeezy)"

09. Royal Trux - Platinum Tips + Ice Cream

A live recording capturing their 2016 mini-reunion, this record is as raw as you'd expect but maybe even a little nicer than you might think, too. Sounding crisper (relatively) and less heroin-y, these songs span their career, giving a little bit of something to the noise and melody-heads alike. Accessible? Of course not. Great recording? Not especially. But man: this one is crazy for existing.


08. Dope KNife - NineteenEightyFour

Don't even remember how I came up on the KNife, but I bought this CD and it stayed in my car stereo for weeks at a time earlier this year. Love this dude's voice and he's got gritty beats and guest spots that don't muddy up his vision. Been trying to see him live for a while and I think he might be coming out here in early 2018. I'm keeping my eyes open. He's ready to go nuts.

"Inner Party"

07. Action Bronson - Blue Chips 7000

I was a little worried when I realized that - besides the fact that Bronson seems to be a part-time rapper at this point - Party Supplies wasn't going to be at the helm of this thing. But my fears were assuaged when I listened to it a few times through. Another great addition to the Blue Chips lineup, with Bronson still brimming over with lyrics about food, boats, and other luxurious shit.


06. Stallion - From the Dead

This is about the only current power metal I listen to, so, you know, I'm not lending my expert opinion here, but I've latched onto this band and have yet to be disappointed. These dudes are straight outta Germany, hate fascism, and they're ready to rock. For a second I thought they were parodying glam-metal, but it's clear the love is real. This will knock your dick in the dirt.

"Hold the Line"

05. Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

The most divisive QOTSA album? I guess, but that ain't saying much. Rock dorks turned their noses up at the first mention of Mark Ronson, and then when the guitar tone on "The Way You Used to Do" didn't sound right to them, they checked out. Fuck 'em: this record is thick as a brick and contains songs as good as any they've put out in the last decade. Let Josh Homme do what he wants. We need him happy. This is the best song on the record and one of their best songs ever:


04. Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett - Lotta Sea Lice

Sometimes I just wanna have a mad jangly Sunday morning, and this has been my go-to soundtrack for days like that this year. I'd never purchased a Courtney Barnett record before, but I may be picking some up in the future. This one won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for my money there weren't many songs I heard this year better than "Over Everything" and this one:

"Let it Go"

03. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3

This thing came out a year ago and its momentum may have slowed, but not by much even 12 months later. At this point it's looking like these dudes are incapable of putting out a shitty record. As someone who's been down since Day One I feel lucky I got to see Mike and El in smaller venues while I had the chance. Now the shit's gone major. But RTJ deserves the shit out of it.

"Call Ticketron"

02. Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

An ode to a housing project long torn down, this record is Mike's most personal, most complex, and most impressive. The guest spots work, the narrative never loses track, and his mini-melodies carry the whole thing throughout. It's a bit difficult to fully explain this album, and I think that's part of its charm. You have to front-to-back it to truly take it all in. You should. Plus, Mike's a wrestling fan. So you know I'm down.

"No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don't Hurt)"

01. Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

In 2017, no other record spent more time on my turntable or in my car stereo than this one. I was looking forward to this release but had no idea it would take me over. Those are the good ones. From the best lyric of the year ("Our love was like a fire/Yeah I pissed on it so I could sleep") to the best song of the year ("Runnin' Out of Luck"), this one has it all. Jerks won't grasp the irony and sense of humor here, and they can hit the bricks. I'm going to see Alex Cameron in two months and can't wait. If you haven't heard this one, I can't recommend it enough.

"Candy May"

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Event Attendance: Portland's Night Owl Record Show - October 14, 2017

Man, this is the biggest vinyl-shopping expedition I've been on in the last six months (since the previous Night Owl show), and it felt good to get back in the game. The Night Owl was - god bless it - crazy tolerable this time around: the air was dry and the attendance was not overwhelming. Didn't have to wait in line to get in; didn't have to jockey for position at every table.

Did I have to deal with tactless dudes looking over my shoulder and crowding the shit out of me? That's par for the course. But let it be known that I hate dudes looking through the records that I'm flipping through. And I say "dudes" because it's literally never been a woman. They have more sense than that. Anyway, even that wasn't so bad this time around.

I was struggling to find any big gems, but I did happen across an old guy's table where he had a full section of fairly priced private-press stuff, a lot of which was from the NW. Ended up dumping the majority of my budget there, and ended up with some rare-ass DIY local records, which is becoming a hot part of my collection. Got some other stuff, too. Let's get into it.

Kurt Vile - God is Saying This to You (2009)

Grabbed this LP/cassette combo package from one of the first dealers I happened upon and glad I did: It's a limited-to-300-copies pressing of one of Vile's earlier albums, hand-numbered on the back. Didn't even have this record, let alone the most rare version of it. Feeling good. Though do I keep the cassette with the record in my collection? That seems tough to pull off without some collateral denting. We'll see.

Kevin Johns - Desert Sands (1978)

Private-press folk LP out of Grand Canyon. Arizona. My copy is autographed by the artist and producer (?) to a woman named Sue, who is a "fellow Oregonian." Producer mentions he is "late of Silverton." Vinyl's in hot shape. Here's a sample.

The Jim Hearn Band - The Telephone (1981)

Couldn't pass this one up. The back cover is equally great. Private-press new-wave rock out of Pebble Beach, CA.

Rancid - Rancid (1993)

This was the last record I bought at the show. Original pressing, still in the shrink, insert inside. I've been known to get down with early Rancid.

Sonic Youth - "Flower"/"Halloween" 12" (1986)

One of those many Sonic Youth records that I've seen here and there over the years but never pulled the trigger on. This is a really nice copy - "clean," as they say.

The Wreckin' Cru - "Surgery" 12" (1984)

You'll see a decent amount of World Class Wreckin' Cru records out in the wild, but not usually this one, at least not around these parts. My old pals from Boom Wow! Records (RIP, miss you every day) hooked me up with this one and this next one. They didn't have a ton of rap records with them this time around, but I was happy to find these. Early Dre that he used to be embarrassed about but now it all seems pretty sweet.

The World Class Wreckin' Cru - "Juice" 12" (1985)

Another Wreckin' Cru disc, another entry into the unlikely history of N.W.A. Dr. Dre doesn't rap on this one, but he does do the drum programming. Yella's on the scratch. These are, somehow, the first Wreckin' Cru records I've ever purchased. Plenty more to go. I need to get back to Amoeba in LA, where they give these things out like candy.

Jeanne & Joanne - Look Around You (1969)

Twin girls from Portland singing for Jesus. Notable: every song on here is an original, written and performed by the twins. No "Amazing Grace" bullshit.

Ron & Cathy - More Than a Man (197?)

Another NW couple singing about the ol' lord. These folks are from Vancouver, WA. Also all originals. This one's sealed.

The Clark Family Gospel Singers - I Wouldn't Miss It Would You (196?)

Private-press gospel out of Cottage Grove. Can't find a lick of info about this one. All covers, for what that's worth.

We Three - Work in Progress (197?)

Rare private-press female worship "xian" folk from the Oregon Coast (Gardiner, to be exact). Record is in amazing shape. Handwritten lyrics on the back. I love records like this. Wish there was a date, though!

Johnny and The Distractions - Johnny and The Distractions (1980)

Self-released first effort from this Portland band that would eventually go on to sign to A&M and then back to the indies again. I have another Johnny and The Distractions record in my collection, called Totally Distracted. This one will look real sweet next to it. Here's "Shoulder of the Road" from this self-titled LP. Real solid early-80's rock.

Dennis Doyle - Chanticleer (1978)

Private-press Portland/Tualatin folk/blues LP. Dude actually had two of these, but one had writing on the front that was not the signature of ol' Dennis there, so I went with the cleaner one. Record is in damn fine shape.

Gary Parks - Toneweave (1983)

Private-press folk out of Eugene. Seems to be Gary's sole release. He sprung for the color cover!

Henry Kinsley - Never Gonna Stop Dreamin' (197?)

Country music out of Vancouver, WA on the private-press tip. This one is sealed. I especially enjoy the NW self-released records that let you know on the cover that it is indeed the NW.

Various - Lane County's Greatest Hits (1978)

This is a crazy little LP compilation of some really disparate artists from Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, ranging from a 16-year-old hippie kid doing an instrumental guitar number about mushrooms to a 53-year-old lady tickling the ivories as she sings a heartfelt tribute to the Eugene area. This is exactly the kind of record I hope to find.

Cathy Lunsford - You Men At The Bar (1975)

Singer/songwriter private-press LP out of mid-70s Portland. She's got another one, too, that seems a bit harder to find. Keeping my eyes peeled. This one: also sealed.

Kidskin - Murder in a Tight White Dress (1985)

This was one of my bigger-ticket items for the day and I have no regrets. Private-press hair-metal EP out of Seattle with the title track, "One Nite Stand," "Twist of the Blade," and "The Edge of Wetness." Amazing. This music video for "Murder in a Tight White Dress" seals the deal. Oh, and speaking of sealed, this one is.

Providence - Ever Sense the Dawn (1972)

Not private press, but these dudes were based out of Portland at the time this was released. Sensitive, intricate folk. Full album here.

Cymantha - Cymantha (1977)

Seattle private-press folk from the late 70s. Photo of her on the back playing a fat stack of keyboards. This one looks fun. Oh and my copy's signed, too.

Barney Armstrong's Machine - Live at Jordan's Alpine (1978)

"Recorded live at Jordan's Alpine in Everett, Wash. December 28, 1977 thru January 1. 1978." Between the cover, that statement, and a written endorsement on the back cover from hydroplane racing legend Bill Muncey, I was fully in for this one. They're a cover band, and from the looks of some of the cuts, a party band at that. It was 1978. You better believe "Disco Inferno" is on here. But they also kick the whole thing off with a six-song Stevie Wonder medley. Decent recording and these dudes go for it. Feeling real good about this one.

Sand - Head in the Sand (1976)

If you fancy record album covers, you might recognize this one. I see it every once in a while, but never put together that the band was from Portland. Anyway, the one with the sandwich cover was Sand's first LP, put out by MGM. This one is their follow-up, and they put it out themselves. It includes a lyric sheet, an 8x10 promo photo, and a bumper sticker. All accounted for; all in great shape.

And that was it! Wish I would have found more rap records, but that's usually the case. Next up: Am I going to RSD Black Friday? Maybe! But honestly probably not.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Event Attendance: Portland's Night Owl Record Show - April 8, 2017

When the former owner of the recently shuttered vintage shop you religiously haunted texts you two weeks in advance to tell you she'll be at the Night Owl Record Show with multiple topless Samantha Fox picture discs, boy, you mark your calendar and you make plans to attend.

Not a bad day for it, either: it was raining sporadically but overall not wet and humid, ensuring that the b.o./cigarette reek trapped in ironic ponchos wasn't in danger of fully breaking free and engulfing the cramped Eagles Lodge in screaming ghosts of marinating vinyl-freak stink.

It was crowded as always, though, and I was a little taken aback to hear a dealer say he thought it was a little crazier than usual. Nah, dude: every time I go it's packed to the gills and I'm infinitely hip-to-hip with rows of dudes asking loudly about African Jazz. It's fine: it's part of it. But overall it ain't a relaxing experience. I was there for maybe an hour this time around, and that was solid: I blew through most of my budget early and then got pickier after that.

Ended up with a good mix of stuff. Here's what made its way home with me:

Samantha Fox - Interview Picture Disc (1986/7)

Baktabak issued hundreds of interview picture discs (and eventually CDs) in the 80's/90's, and none of them were ever "official," though they contained no music, so they really weren't bootlegs, either...I think that's how they got by. These Samantha Fox discs I got were not in the original die-cut Baktabak sleeves and they seem to have additional text on them, which makes me think these are boots of the original releases.

Samantha Fox - Interview Picture Disc II (1986/7)

Makes sense: this is a record that begs to be booted. Either way I don't think I care too much; I got these for a good price and they look damn fine to me. Additional photos on the B-sides are equally cheeky. Apparently there is a Part III to this series, so I'll have to keep my eyes open and complete the trilogy here at some point.

Kevin Wet - WET (1980)

This is an incredible record. Private-press out of Mercer Island, WA, in 1980; unlabeled clear vinyl with steamy, showering gals in the background. Kevin Wet himself on the back with Ziggy makeup and an earnest dedication of all songs to John Lennon. This was also reissued as a picture disc by a Canadian label, as was his second release, Hard Attack, which he originally released himself on Wet World Records while living in Portland in 1981, which means I'll be tracking that one down as well. Here is "The Dreamer."

Deee-Lite - "Good Beat" 12" (Promo, 1990)

Unabashed Deee-Lite fan over here. Listened to World Clique twice last week while doing dishes. When I ran across this it just made sense. Album version, extended version, instrumental versions. You know how it go.

Vanity 6 - "Drive Me Wild" 12" (1982)

12" single with a very Prince-y seven-minute extendo-jam version of "Drive Me Wild" and an album cut on the flip.

Vanity - Wild Animal (1984)

Vanity's first solo album, where she thanks Price on the inside but he's nowhere to be seen otherwise. Never heard this one. It's never been released on CD, which is odd. Also odd: I thought she left Prince's camp because his vibe was too filthy but this album has a song dedicated to a strap-on that found its way to the PMRC's Filthy Fifteen. Well I never!

Nightwynd - Nightwynd (1980)

Private-press funky jazz jams out of Texas that I could not pass up. Great cover and the liner notes further the intrigue: "This album marks the very beginning of Nightwynd as it is being released in the band's second official month of existence." Seems to be their only recording, but they are notably tight for a band that'd only been together that long. I love records like this. Also: I would wear the shit out of a Nightwynd T-shirt.

No Doubt About It - "Young Boys"/"Tellin' All the Girls" 12" (1984)

Private-press mid-80's pop-rock out of Colorado. My version is signed in red ballpoint by all members of the band, dedicated to a fan named Denise. Very strong Nu Shooz vibe here, and there's nothing wrong with that. Here's the video for "Young Boys" and here they are covering Missing Persons.

Mudhoney - "You're Gone" 12" (1990)

12" German Glitterhouse pressing of this bad boy, which was sealed until I just cracked it open to rip it, because apparently I don't have a few of these songs in the ol' library. Smelled really good when I opened it. This single is a good example of how not all Mudhoney b-side tracks ended up on March To Fuzz: The title track here, the alternate version of "Thorn," and the Billy Childish cover, "You Make Me Die," are all exclusive to this single.

Mudhoney - "This Gift" 12" (1989)

Also sealed. Also the 12" German Glitterhouse version. This one's a good example of ALL tracks appearing on March to Fuzz.

Larry Coryell - Offering (1972)

When it comes to records I put on when I'm dicking around in my house, Larry Coryell has been in the top 5 for the past year. I picked up two more of his records at Night Owl, this being the first. It's a crazy, jamtastic free-ride of grooves from Larry and his gang of ruffians, and man: it is intense. I'm into it. Dude can play that guitar.

Larry Coryell - Lady Coryell (1968)

The copy of this one I picked up is in sweeeeet shape - still in the shrink and the vinyl looks like it hasn't seen much action. Haven't had a chance to listen to this one yet. No idea what it'll sound like, though dipping a toe tells me intricate as ever.

The Puget Sound - Untitled (1986)

This may have been my purchase of the day. Private-press new-wave synth out of Kirkland, WA, recorded during '83-'86 and released shortly thereafter. VERY Flock of Seagulls with maybe a little bit of Gary Numan in there. too. Longest song on this thing is 2:46. Really couldn't be happier with this one. Though I am pissed that I can't find any clips online.

Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell" 12" (1984)

This is the UK pressing and oh boy was the guy who sold it to me excited to tell me about the extended (full) mix of "White Wedding" that appears on the B-side of this single. I humored him, then paid way too much for this. But it is in really sweet shape and I love a good 12" 45.

Wendy and Lisa - Wendy and Lisa (1987)

Wendy and Lisa, directly post-Prince. I've really been buying a lot of Prince-adjacent music lately. Never heard this one. They thank Prince on the inside.

Ultravox - Vienna (1980)

I've had Ultravox on the brain lately. After watching the entirety of Live Aid and enjoying their performance immensely, I realized I didn't know much about them. Been talking with an older dude at work about them. Then I came across this LP as I was getting ready to leave Night Owl and brother: that's a sign. I snatched it up and bolted because I was beginning to sweat fairly heavily by that point.