5.23.2009

Reissued: Wilco


Many thanks to my buddy Seth for bringing this to my attention, because I had totally missed the news on this one. So, apparently, back in February, it was announced that Wilco would be doing some vinyl reissues in time for Record Store Day. Of course, said holiday has come and gone and they didn't show up. While delayed, we shall be seeing Being There (yay), Summerteeth (super yay) and A.M. (eh) in 180-gram 2xLP editions on June 2nd. I (and many others) have said this a bunch, but goddamn, what a good year for vinyl this is.

[UPDATE: The release date has been changed to July 28th.]

5.19.2009

Reissued: Braid



I've been enjoying the Japandroids record a fair amount, but every time I listen to it, I can't help but think "Man, this totally reminds me of Braid." To clarify, that's meant to be complimentary. Much of my current taste in music can be traced back to the point, right as the 90's were drawing to a close, where I (having been introduced to much of it by my roommate at the time, Marc) was obsessing over stuff like Braid, Mineral, Jawbox, Knapsack, etc. Seems like forever ago -- back when you could pick up almost any random album that came out of Jade Tree and the odds were reasonably high that it'd be pretty cool.

I'm feeling old.

Last year, Polyvinyl reissued what is argueably Braid's best record, Frame and Canvas. That's not to put down the rest of their discography, nearly all of which Polyvinyl will be putting back in print fairly soon. Though they haven't set a date more specific than "summer" yet, we'll get new vinyl copies of Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5, The Age of Octeen, Movie Music Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, and the I'm Afraid of Everything 7-inch. Let's hope they go a similar route as they have with the Mates Of State and Ida reissues and offer a special package deal.

I just wish that DeSoto had the resources to do a big vinyl reissue campaign. Wouldn't it be great to see Dismemberment Plan, Burning Airlines and Shiner back on wax?

Where's the other foot?



Many people, when they begin learning to play guitar, spend a lot of time learning other people's songs. For the most part, I hated doing that. I was way more interested in just noodling around on my own. Every once in awhile, I'd attempt to learn a cover. Getting tabs and chord charts online was probably the first thing the internet actually proved useful for (well, okay, the second...), though back in the lowly days of, oh '96 or so, there were no guarantees that anyone had gotten around to figuring the song you wanted tabs for. Anyhow, one of the few songs I bothered to learn was "Asshole" from Beck's lo-fi folk record One Foot In The Grave.

To this day, One Foot In The Grave is still probably my favorite Beck album. Even back in high school, as much as I loved the genre-blending slacker-cool of Mellow Gold and Odelay, I remember being shocked and amazed when I finally heard One Foot -- "Wow, I didn't realize he made stuff like this!"

I was really excited when it was announced a couple months ago that not only was One Foot In The Grave getting reissued, but that there was going to be enough extra new material (not just alternate takes) to nearly double the track listing. Then I got sad, because it appeared it was going to be CD only. But today I am happy, because it will in fact be appearing as a double LP about a week from now -- and (thank god) it'll be a quarter of the price of the obnoxiously expensive (as a result of being perhaps over-packaged) Odelay reissue.

Maybe I'll have to dig out the acoustic tonight.


"Asshole" by Beck

5.18.2009

Disconnect



I've been listening to Metric's new album, Fantasies, fairly obsessively lately... wait, sorry... let me back up a bit.

So, in 2006 Emily Haines released her solo record, Knives Don't Have Your Back, which was one of my favorite records of the year, and [hands down] my favorite album title of the year. I can't remember exactly what prompted me to pick Knives up. (I think at that point I was only vaguely aware of Metric, and I was only just beginning to get into Broken Social Scene -- a band I had avoided listening to for so long simply because they seemed to get so much damn press. And yes, I'm aware that such a reaction is fairly petty, and in this particular case a disservice to myself.) No matter the catalyst, I'm thankful I found it, as it was a record that truly resonated right with me. So beautiful and sparse and melancholy. God, her voice. There's something about Emily Haines' voice that absolutely slays me.

Thus began my little crush on Emily Haines.*

I'm really not prone to developing celebrity crushes. It very rarely happens to me. Sure, most everyone has their list (hopefully only a mental one) of movie and/or rock stars they'd love to spend a night in bed with, but that's really just one aspect of attraction. Crushes are such a different beast -- there's this [psuedo-] emotional component in addition to the aesthetic (read: carnal) attraction. Sure, there's the desire for the night in bed, but first you want to do John Cusack-ian things together like falling in love while learning to ski the K-12 and rebuilding a '67 Camaro. I think it's often about a (clearly falsely) perceived emotional connection -- something about their tone, their style that resonates. It's not too difficult a thing to swat down, because it is so obviously a one-sided thing and not an actual connection, merely the observation and recognition of personally desirable qualities.

Fast-forwarding a bit: I've been listening to Metric's new album fairly obsessively lately -- it's such a wonderful piece of smart pop music. Being back on an Emily Haines kick, I decided to put Knives on the stereo while on my drive home last night. In the song "Crowd Surf Off a Cliff" she sings the lines "I'd rather give the world away / than wake up lonely," which, especially due to the tone she sings this with, always gets me -- in one of those "God, I know that feeling" sorts of ways. I had just enjoyed a very fun and awesome evening, but while listening to this song, I couldn't help but think about a conversation that was had, which basically revolved around myself and two of my friends being in fairly similar positions -- namely, that the three of us were dealing with feeling weirdly and deeply fucked up by relationships that were long over and that we had no desire to revisit. Speaking only for myself, it's a strange thing, feeling so over a person in every way, but unable to change the fact that I am a vastly different person as a result of my experiences; that I have built walls (as the old-as-dirt adage goes) and that there are ways in which I isolate myself long past what seems necessary. Despite the wonderful evening, I couldn't help but take that song in, and briefly reminisce about feelings of loneliness -- thinking about the frustration of waking up alone, and also just-as-bad/sometimes-worse feeling of waking up lonely despite company. With that on my mind, I sent out the following message via Twitter**:
Emily Haines, stop breaking my heart.

An hour or two later, I received an email:
Metric is now following you on Twitter!

I found myself feeling oddly embarrassed about what I had written -- despite the awareness that I had been added by a publicist through automated means, combing search terms, with the desire that I will, in return, add Metric to my own Twitter feed, thus allowing a direct pipeline to me (the likely fan) for promotional information. I'm more than aware (and actually quite glad) that no one in Metric is following my life on their cell phone. ("Ben's trying to decide if he should get out of bed to get the Lester Bangs biography from his car." "The Jim DeRogatis one? That was pretty decent." "Oh, shit.... he's totally got a thing for you, Emily!" "Jim DeRogatis does?" "No, that guy Ben we started following on Twitter tonight." "Ha ha.")

This is tangential (and perhaps should have just been a footnote), but: I've never quite understood why there are such heated discussions and strong opinions in regards to Twitter -- I feel that both the "It's the most amazingest thing that ever was or will be"-camp and the "It's destroying the very fabric of the universe with it's banality"-camp are equally insane and expending way more energy than necessary on something that is fairly harmless and innocuous. (Interestingly, this exact same debate seems to happen over Chuck Klosterman, and I retain basically the same stance.)

Alright, so... Irrationally embarrassed, I thought back to something I had written in a recent email exchange regarding the new Metric album with a friend, and I felt strangely (and sillily) glad that it wasn't something that I had said publicly (ah, irony) on Twitter:
One day Emily Haines will marry me, and life will be perfect.
I think for many music-obsessed people, there is a lot of casual hyperbole and hero worship. It's not intentional. It just happens. It's all part of that odd one-sided feeling of connection that some song or album evokes in us. Friends and fans connect to one another through having like-minded idolatry; a similar connection stirred even while listening on headphones and stereos separated by a thousand miles distance.

At this point in my life, so many of my friends are are flung fairly far and wide across this country and beyond. I find myself quite thankful for the explosive growth and widespread adoption of social networking tools and the variety of ways in which they can provide some semblance of connection to the day-to-day realities of far-away friends. I'm aware that things like Facebook and Myspace are, at their core, merely platforms for generating advertising revenue. (Which is fine, as the developers to code these new communication tools and the electricity needed to power the arrays of servers on which these tools run aren't, obviously, free.) With a quickly expanding user-base, in no small part due to the [absurd] amount of media coverage, of course a wide variety of commercial interests have begun to investigate ways to use Twitter. That's not inherently bad, per se (just as it certainly isn't inherently good either). I can't help but think about the language and terminology of social networking. On Facebook or Myspace, we might have plenty of people on our Friends List who are not, in reality, our friends. Twitter's use of the word "follower" is interesting as it is, in my mind at least, such a loaded term. It'd be foolish to take these terms too literally of course. I guess I just find it fascinating that with all our new communication tools, it can be so easy to break past the metaphors and feel a real sense of disconnect.

Of course, disconnecting from something that is illusory isn't such a bad thing. In the practical reality of my life, I'm not affected much by the awareness that Emily Haines is not actually following the mundane details of my life on Twitter (again, I'm relieved, in fact), just as there aren't any pangs of heartbreak with the knowledge that the odds of us marrying are effectively zero. I would, however, love to learn the ship date for the vinyl copies of Fantasies.

(Photo above by Wendy Lynch for Under The Radar.)

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*Interestingly, spell check suggests that Haines is not a word, and offers to replace it with Highness.
**I have a hard time bringing myself to use "tweet" as a verb.

5.14.2009

5.11.2009

Matador reissues



I've been really impressed with Matador's steady stream of vinyl reissues over the last few years (such as the beautiful Mission Of Burma editions released last year) and 2009 is looking to be really wonderful as well. I think it's somewhat strange though that they're being sort of low-key and quiet about it. It's like Matador is taking cues from my grandmother: "Oh, I don't want to make a big fuss about it..."

There was, interestingly, a big splash of news when they decided to release the deluxe CD version of Pavement's Brighten the Corners. However, the vinyl reissues of Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain that came out this year seemed (to me) to be pretty under the radar. Perhaps this is actually just a good sales tactic: you walk into a record store, flip through new arrivals bin, then exclaim "Holy shit! When in the fuck did they reissue this? I must buy it right because what if... yes, what if... this is in fact actually a hidden warehouse gem that only this very store that I happen to be standing in right now was lucky enough to get... I mean I'm sure it's not, but god, what if it is...?"*

[UPDATE: So, I've been under the impression that the Brighten the Corners reissue was CD-only, mainly because every other Pavement deluxe reissue has been CD-only, and because, you know, it was announced as being CD-only. However, while dicking around on Insound's site, I come across the listing to pre-order the 4xLP box set of said record -- which would be great, were it not for the $80 price tag... kind of like how it would have been kind of fun to pick up the deluxe vinyl version of Beck's Odelay that came out late last year, except that $100 isn't a fun price to pay. By the way, many thanks to Sonic Youth for getting their 4xLP boxsets down to $35-40, seeing as fucking Beck and Pavement can't get close to that price point...]

I suppose some of it has to do with Matador being pretty good about trying to keep (at least the hot sellers) in print on vinyl -- one barely notices when Cat Power records get repressed, because it happens so regularly that you don't have time to notice that they were ever even out of print. However, there are a number of things that haven't been on vinyl in quite some time that are getting reissued, much to my excitement.

The vinyl reissue of Guided By Voices' Alien Lanes has just hit stores, and Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One and Electr-o-pura on on their way very soon. These were titles I had thought were about due for it, but I hadn't heard the news at all. I suppose this is because I don't keep up with Matador's bulletin board -- primarily because, well, I had kind of forgotten that bulletin boards still existed.** Had I actually been following this forum, I would have also learned that the following things are also on their way: The New Pornographers' Twin Cinema, Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and Painful, Mogwai's Happy Songs for Happy People (Question one: do we really need this before you get around to Come On Die Young? Question two: Is there any way to convince Mogwai to change the artwork so it no longer looks like a reggae Christmas record?), and Pavement's Wowee Zowee.

Well, Matador's definitely getting a decent chunk of change from me this year (though, I do keep holding off on grabbing Dear Catastrophe Waitress because I want it to not be $27). At least reissues keep me from spending crazy money on eBay.

On only a vaguely related note, I have to admit that I think that the Matador record bag (manufactured by Dickies) is kind of cute, and exactly the sort of thing that someone else should decide to spend the $40 on, as a gift for me.


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* This is the kind of thing that seriously goes through my mind at times.
** So very gauche!