I’m 36 years old, and just a few months ago I finally listened to the best-selling album of all time. I was six when it came out, but I associate Thriller with second grade, because that’s when Michael Jackson mania trickled down to the likes of little girls. I remember Bryn Taylor, the most stylish girl in my class, wearing a sequined glove to school one day. I remember my friend Julie Dillon holding her photo button up to my face so Michael Jackson, in his buttercream-yellow sweater vest, could give me a kiss, even though I thought it was weird. I remember going to Pastime Pizza Parlor with my parents and asking them for dimes to put in the jukebox so I could play “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” (alas, we left before my songs played, a fate I still suffer with jukeboxes to this day). It was the apex of Michael Jackson as a pop culture phenomenon, and to be a kid alive in America at that time negated the need to listen to Thriller to know what it was all about. If you watched T.V. or listened to the radio (both of which I did in spades), waves of Michael Jackson crashed upon you.
Check another one off the list! Robert Earl Keen’s Gravitational Forces is finally on vinyl, thanks to Lost Highway’s 10th Anniversary vinyl reissue campaign. This sucker is packed with classics—covers by Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, Terry Allen, and Joe Dolce’s “My Home Ain’t in the Hall of Fame” are fine pairings with Keen’s own originals, including the definitive recording of his brilliant storytelling epic, “The Road Goes on Forever.” (Other highlights on Lost Highway’s campaign include Ryan Adams’ Gold, O Brother Where Art Thou? and the surprisingly good Hank Williams tribute record, Timeless.)
Let the OFWGKTA signings begin: Fat Possum Records has signed MellowHype, the duo of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. This news comes on the heels of Tyler the Creator’s signing to XL, and no doubt preceding other signings in the OFWGKTA crew as well.
Fat Possum will re-release MellowHype’s mixtape BlackenedWhite for remastered CD and LP release this summer, the label reports today. BlackenedWhite was originally one of seven free downloads on OFWGKTA’s Tumblr, but coincidentally, the link for the download is no longer working.
Still, any OFWGKTA on vinyl is good news, and good move on Fat Possum for taking a stylistic chance outside their comfort zone. The question now: Who’s gonna put out the legit vinyl versions of Earl, Bastard and Radical? ‘Cause those LPs would sell like crazy. (Maybe this guy will.)
– Ceremony’s new record is called Rohnert Park. The cover photo is awesome. I talked to vocalist Ross Farrar about it before the band left for Korea; it’ll be in the Bohemian next week. “I have mixed feelings on Rohnert Park,” he told me. “I do have a little bit of tension. A lot of things happened when I was growing up here, but I realize now that I’m very appreciative of it. So calling the record Rohnert Park is a balance between homage and hatred.”
– The Christina Aguilera record has leaked. Don’t laugh. She’s got an amazing voice that’s always wasted on poor material, and I’ve been waiting for the material to catch up. This could be the one. “Bobblehead” is straight-up Manaj / M.I.A. Stylez.
– The wedding of the year took place over the weekend, and on the decks was the erstwhile DJ Broken Record. While Ben and Desiree walked down the aisle to a throng of cheering friends, this remix of “Rebel Girl” played triumphantly. Specially curated for the Star Wars obsessive and/or Bikini Kill fan. Way to go, Edgar.
– The Arcade Fire is putting out a new record. Despite attempts to be blasé toward it, the first couple teasers sound really good.
– Eric Lindell recently left Alligator Records, started his own record company Sparco Records, recorded an album at Grizzly Studios and put it out on vinyl. It’s the best record he’s ever made. Includes a stunning version of the Impressions’ “It’s Hard to Believe,” and even a song dedicated to Bodega. He plays the Forestville Club this Saturday, May 29.
– I saw Jeff Ott at the wedding, which reminded me that Fifteen has a new 7″ coming out. You read that right: it’s an old recording of the band’s cover of “Caroline,” the Jawbreaker classic. I’m pretty sure it previously appeared on Eggplant’s tape, Later That Same Year, which I still have. I do know that Hanalei contributes the B-Side; a cover of “Petroleum Distillation.” Order it here.
– Hanalei has an amazing new record coming out this weekend called One Big Night. See him play on Friday, May 28 at Thee Parkside and Saturday, May 29 at the North Bay Film and Art Collective. Also playing the Collective show are the New Trust, now (again) with a fourth member, Chris Brum, and also Paper Hands, the new band of Michael Richardson, Kevin Buchholz and Dio McLeod. Pants will be shat.
– I was pleased to see the New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones give a tip o’ the hat to Type Records and the noise scene in general this last week. As previously mentioned, the Yellow Swans LP is magnificent, as is Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. I stopped in at Amoeba after the Giants game on Sunday and bought Jóhann Jóhannsson’s And In The Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees LP, which is rather beautiful classical-ish music written as the score to a film. To counter, I also picked up RRR-1000, which may be the most ridiculous record of all time. (Since RRR-500, at least.) Quite an incredible essay on the subject of locked grooves, and RRR-1000, is here.
– David Byrne is suing Florida governor Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign ad without permission.
– What’s that about Mike Richardson? The Benton Falls album Fighting Starlight is reissued on vinyl? No way. Also: Converge’s Jane Doe and available as a pre-order from Plain Recordings, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.
– Do take pleasure in this video for E-40’s “Lightweight Jammin’.”
– Lauryn Hill is headlining this year’s Harmony Festival, and it will either be so bad that people will flee to the gates and demand their money back or it will be the greatest comeback in ages. Assisting the chances of the latter: she’s rumored to be doing her entire album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in its entirety at select Rock the Bells shows this summer. Or maybe not. Or maybe so. At any rate, if she hits the stage in Santa Rosa to the album’s first track “Lost Ones,” shit could go off.
Sasha Grey, the 21-year-old porn star with avant-garde tastes—she reportedly digs Throbbing Gristle, Werner Herzog, Faust and Jean-Luc Godard—is set to release her first full-length album.
Grey’s experimental noise project aTelecine released their aVigillant Carpark 7″ last year on Pendu Sound (I wrote about it here), which was limited to 300, sold out quickly in preorders and then started selling for way too much on eBay.
In April, Pendu Sound will release the debut full-length LP by aTelecine called A Cassette Tape Culture, limited to 500 copies. Based on the mp3 sample, it’s actually pretty rad, believe it or not. Pre-orders are being taken now. (No word yet on the cassette version, which is limited to 23.)
The best part about this is all the horny old men who’ll be listening to abrasive clatter just because it’s made by Sasha Grey. How the hell can the most famous porn star in the world also be putting out noise cassettes? Ah, what a world we live in.
In other news, the Yellow Swans‘ new and final album Going Places is totally amazing. It might not be for everybody, but it matches my brain waves right now. You can stream it for free, on the Type Records site, here.
My scale says it weighs 8 1/2 lbs.
Seven LPs, 180-gram each, separate jackets. Huge 32-page booklet. Bonus disc with six extra songs not on the CD version, including the OG “Diamond In Your Mind,” Fats Waller’s “Crazy ‘Bout My Baby” and Kurt Weill’s “Cannon Song.” Canvas-wrapped box, Anthology of American Folk Music-style, with embossed spine. The thing is beautiful.
I was plenty excited when the CD version of Tom Waits’ Orphans came out, but this is on some other shit entirely. ANTI- is being vague about exactly how limited it is, but I’d pick one up while you have the chance. It officially comes out Tuesday, Dec. 8. IMPORTANT: there’s been a couple early reports about some sets missing an LP, or with two copies of the same LP, so check it out thoroughly after you buy it. As if you wouldn’t anyway.
Well, it only took them ten years, but we take such news when we can get it!
The Magnetic Fields’ brilliant song cycle 69 Love Songs is finally seeing a vinyl release. Spread across six 10″ records, each in a separate gatefold sleeve, the set will be bound with a cardboard slipcover and a large version of the CD version booklet. It should be out
sometime in August April 20, 2010, it’s apparently limited to 3,000 copies, and it’ll cost about $100.
I’ve had a running list of albums that should be on vinyl going for quite some time, and 69 Love Songs has been right up near the top since its release ten years ago. Most record companies in 1999 didn’t see any benefit to releasing vinyl, although Merge Records has always been great about LPs—they even pioneered the LP+mp3 download coupon idea, which I covered pretty extensively here last year. Now if they could just release Crooked Fingers’ Red Devil Dawn on vinyl, we’d be set!
There’s a whole lotta other dream albums out there that would be released on vinyl if there were any sense of justice in the world. Here’s a few from the ongoing wish list. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Please, Record Industry: Put These Albums Out on Vinyl!
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
The Boredoms – Seadrum / House of Sun
Los Lobos – Colossal Head
K’naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher
John Prine – In Spite of Ourselves
James Carter – Chasin’ the Gypsy
Gillian Welch – Time (the Revelator)
The Velvet Teen – Out of the Fierce Parade
Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne
Smoking Popes – Born to Quit
Arvo Pärt – Alina
Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues
Camille – Le Fil
Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me
The Rentals – Seven More Minutes
Don Byron – Ivey Divey
Greg Brown – Over and Under
Bebo & Cigala – Lagrimas Negras
Old 97’s – Too Far to Care
Wynton Marsalis – Live at the House of Tribes
Robert Earl Keen – Gravitational Forces
Knife in the Water – Soundtrack
Are you just as surprised as most people that you turned out to be a winemaker?
It doesn’t surprise me too much, ‘cause anything can happen. I went from being a cross-country runner, to being recruited to West Point, and then all of a sudden being in art school, and all of a sudden being in an international touring rock band, and then a second one, and now a third one. I tend to just kind of latch onto something and go for it.
Tool came along and really revolutionized popular rock music in a lot of ways. In what ways, if any, do you hope to revolutionize winemaking?
Ooh, gee. I don’t know about ‘revolutionizing.’ I think if I can apply what I’ve applied to everything else I’ve dove into, I think it’d be more about being true and honest with my perceptions and what I’m experiencing. Much the same way a good grape-grower or winemaker pays attention to the terroir, rather than trying to make wines that are for mass consumption. Kind of what we did with the music, where we remained true to what was happening in the room when we write. There’s only two things that myself and a musician, and my partners, there’s only two things we really have to do. All we have to do is remain true to what’s happening in that room between the four people. How we record it, what format it comes out on, what we wear, who sells it—that has no bearing as long as we remain true in that room, and focus on what’s happening in that space. And the second thing we have to do is make sure that when we go to present it live, it’s the same thing. I think with winemaking it’s a similar approach. We have to remain true to what’s happening in the vineyard, and what’s happening in the winery once we start to process those grapes. If I can have a hand in helping someone else come along with 20 times the talent that I’ll ever have in winemaking, if something that I did inspired somebody to pay attention, great. I’d love to have a hand in that.
Recording music these days can be very malleable – you have a chance to manipulate the finished product afterwards through digital software. With wine, you get what goes in the bottle, and you can’t tinker with it when it’s done. Do you appreciate that immediate, must-get-it-right-the-first-time process with wine?
Yeah, absolutely. For sure. But I also appreciate the getting it wrong the first, the second and third time. You learn along the way. But I definitely do like that, that you have to get it right.
How’s your learning curve been in Arizona? What’s your major obstacle to vineyards in Arizona?
Cold weather. We’re up in the high desert, so we planted on a lot of developed, agriculturally-zoned areas that we thought would be okay, thinking that we would have more problem with heat than cold. As it turns out, we’re a similar terrain and climate as Paso Robles, but cooler. So we had a lot of winter kills. We pretty much learned the hard way the first few years, not even realizing that we had winter kills the first year. It was like, why aren’t these things budding?
Is there a water usage issue in Arizona?
Absolutely, you have to have land that has prior ditch rights, and grandfathered-in irrigation, or a well that predates any of the salt river project claims, or any of that stuff. It really is a mess, like anywhere else. The good news is that the more the United States develops its understanding of vineyards and winemaking, I think the more they’re going to come around to encouraging people to put in vineyards rather than tract homes.
Tell me a little about Eric Glomski, and the yin he brings to your yang.
He has a memory. I’m pretty bad when it comes to hearing something and having it stay with me—my short term memory’s not so good. He’s that guy who can hear something once and remember it, so he’s able to really build upon his experiences over the years making wine. He’s a great chemist, he understands geography, geology, and his senses are all firing at the same time. His perception of what’s happening in the moment is accurate. And he can remember those exact experiences, or altered experiences over the years. He’s great in that way; he’s definitely a great guide. What I bring to him is that shotgun, bull-in-a-china-shop approach, that he wouldn’t have normally tried. I come up with crazy combinations and silly ideas that actually tend to work, because I don’t know the rules.
What are some of those crazy ideas? Obviously you’re limited by your musical projects, but how involved are you in the actual growing-to-picking-to-fermentation-to-bottling process?
Pretty involved; I spend most of my time out there. I try to work touring schedules around getting home at the end of August, so I can be there for crush. We have a little bit of downtime when it comes to late December, January, February, everything’s kind of put to bed and we’re starting to prune at that point. So I can sneak off and do musical stuff, or we can do promotions, or I can run around like I’ve been doing with these Whole Foods events. I’m pretty involved. I have a wine under my Caduceus label called Premier Paso, which is predominantly Shiraz, but it has 6 or 7 percent Malvasia in it, somewhat like a Côte-Rôtie. Eric probably wouldn’t have tried that. I was the one going, ‘Hey! I wonder what this would taste like in here!’ He was like, ‘You can’t. . . well, fuck it, let’s try it.’ And it’s great! It’s fantastic! It definitely has that Côte-Rôtie style, but I think it has more floral character on the bouquet, so it draws you in. That wine was my idea to get some of the non-wine drinkers, the more music fans, to get them in the door, because it’s such an enticing smell coming out of the glass. It’s not intimidating, and they can have it with almost anything.
When one thinks of rock ‘n’ roll guys making wine, one thinks more of the baby-boomer generation—guys from the Doobie Brothers or Journey that are starting to make wine. Do you think it’s important for more daring, risk-taking bands to start making wine?
Just in general, I think it’s a shame, our whole marketing concept of a band. There’s this artist that’s expressed themselves in some way, and because it’s so much easier for magazines, and press, and record companies and PR firms, for them to present this artist—this is what his head looks like, this is how he walks, here’s what he wears, and he only sings these songs in this way. It’s undermined the ability to move around. Peter Gabriel and David Bowie have somehow been able to say, ‘Nah, nah, I’m gonna be a painter now. I’m gonna do some acting.’ You would think that as an artist, and as a person who understands how to express, and understands their role in their environment, you’d think people would want to see them express themselves more in those areas. It’s not necessarily that musicians can’t go off into vines, or become painters. I think it’s that they don’t know they’re allowed to.
Do you appreciate the anonymity you have when talking with other winemakers, people from the wine world who may not know who you are?
It’s perfect, it’s great. I’m just some snot-nosed kid, asking questions.
What’s your reaction to wine snobs who may look down on Arizona as an inferior winemaking region?
I mean, that’s a natural reaction. If you don’t understand the area, of course you’re going to say that. The first thing people think of is cactuses and scorpions. So of course they’re going to pooh-pooh it, but they haven’t been presented with the correct information. Can’t really fault ‘em.
Is there an extra challenge with being organic and environmentally-friendly in Arizona?
No, not necessarily. We get to go ahead and break new ground where there hasn’t been stuff, and we get to start from scratch. Our southern Arizona vineyard has been farmed chemically from day one, back in the early ’80s, so it’s going to be a chore for us to slowly wean that off the chemicals and into a more organic approach. But it’s possible. I don’t think there’s anybody looking at it to trip us up on technicalities or anything. We’re doing it the best way we can.
At these Whole Foods appearances you’ve been doing, you must understand that a lot of people are there because of your musical projects. But are Tool fans receptive to wine at these things?
There’s a couple places we’ve gone back to a second time, and it’s actually been pretty encouraging. The first time around, of course, the kid with the star tattoo on his neck is freaking out a little bit, and trying the wine. But then the next time around, people actually have tried it, and they actually have genuine questions about pairings; they’re curious about how long they should lay this one or that one down. So they’ve actually come back, and you can tell when they’re speaking that they have in fact tried the wine, and they have in fact had an experience. So that’s good, We’ve basically just cultivated a whole ‘nother set of wine drinkers. We’re just expanding their perceptions of the world in general.
You’re a big wine collector. Is there a particular bottle that you’re most proud of in your cellar?
I have a 1934 Romaneé-Conti from the Doris Duke collection. That’s the only thing I have that’s of any note, other than I collect all the Grange through the years.
And since you’ve been making wine, has your collecting mentality fallen off at all?
Yeah, actually. I haven’t been first in line going to get some of the first growths pre-ordered. I haven’t done any of that. I’ve been spending so much time making my own wine. It’s put a skip in my step for collecting. It’s so expensive to get this industry off the ground in an uncharted area. You don’t have the barrel shop down the street, or the guy who understands how to fix a German grape press in the area. It really is expensive, and you have to have guys around who know what they’re doing. Everything you do ends up coming n a truck from another state. I kind of stopped collecting, focusing all my energy into making sure the nuts and bolts are in place.
I’m here in Santa Rosa, California, where there’s sort of a friendly debate between Sonoma County and Napa County over who makes better wine. Do you care to weigh in on it?
I honestly couldn’t tell you. I like a lot of stuff coming out of all over California. If you’re looking for a consistency and something that’s the same every time you drink it, there’s a bunch of wineries that do that. I prefer wines that reflect whatever year that was, and that specific region. So in that, I think there’s great wines that come from both of those places. As long as the winemaker and the farmer express that region naturally, then I can’t really separate them.
Okay, a couple non-wine questions. Being a big wine collector, you must understand the mentality of the record collector as well, and all my friends down at the local record store want to know: Will we ever see the day that Ænima is repressed on vinyl?
Yeah, I don’t know. That’s one of those who-knows stories.
The record company probably owns the rights to it. . .
What record company? It’s the Titanic going down heavy. They pretty much blew it. That’s what I’m trying to do with Puscifer, is trying to figure out what the next step is, where’s the outlet, where’s the audience, where are people looking, and of course just having fun making music without somebody breathing down your neck wondering about the numbers.
Do you ever wish that people didn’t have to pay $250 for your records on eBay?
Well, they don’t really have to pay for them. That’s a shame, but yeah, it’s just a matter of repressing them, I guess, and we haven’t gotten around to it.
One last question, since it’s just days before the inauguration. What are your feelings here on the cusp of Barack Obama being put in the White House?
I think things are a mess. I think that he’s got a lot on his plate, and you can see it in his eyes. He knows that there’s so much to do. I don’t envy his position. He’s definitely got a big problem on his hands, and everyone who would not want him in that office is going to milk every, every, every, every drop of juice out of any shortcomings that he has. And of course, he’s gonna have ‘em, because there’s no way in four years that he can fix this. We just have to set aside whatever we want out of it and hope that somehow he can put out the fires.
I wrote a few weeks ago about Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, a record that a surprising number of critics have no reservations about already hailing as the album of the year. I didn’t like the album at first. Then I reconsidered the unique achievement Animal Collective had made by constructing pop songs out of unconventional ingredients, and wrote my review.
Another reason I may have been inclined toward speaking favorably of the album is that the band released it on vinyl two weeks before the CD, which is always a way to win my heart. Not that anyone could find the damn thing. Websites sold out of it immediately. Stores couldn’t even order copies. It swiftly went out of print. Fools were bummed.
Here’s the amazing thing. As reported by MTV, of all places, Merriweather Post Pavilion has a chance at actually hitting the Billboard charts next week for selling out the initial run of 4,500 copies. That’d be vinyl on the Billboard 200. Could you believe it?
This falls in line with reports of vinyl sales being up 89-percent from last year, and of record pressing plants being swamped with orders nationwide. It’s getting crazy in lacquerland.
Anyway, if you missed out on the 180-gram gatefold 2LP version of Merriweather Post Pavilion, don’t stress. It looks like they’re already rush-releasing a vinyl repress to be out “in the next three to five weeks.”
As for me, I’ve been swinging back toward my gut instinct. It turns out that those hooks all over the record are in fact obnoxious to me, after all. What can I say? I like Feels. Renaissance Faire singing about quaint domesticity, not so much.
1. Pygmy Unit – Signals From Earth (Private, 1974)
An amazing free-jazz recording on par with Sun Ra’s Strange Strings; just totally otherwordly. Features Darrell DeVore. Recorded in San Francisco and self-released.
2. Mary Lou Williams – Zoning (Mary, 1974)
Takes the piano and reimagines it as a power tool. Like nothing else Mary Lou Williams ever recorded. A pure product of the times, and also self-released.
3. Bill Barron – Modern Windows (Savoy, 1962)
Such an original voice on the tenor saxophone; also, Kenny Barron’s brother. I heard this and I was transfixed immediately. Nothing else on Savoy sounds like this.
4. Terumasa Hino – Taro’s Mood (Enja, 1973)
Whether sparse or pummeling, this record is in the moment from beginning to end. The total highlight of a batch of Japanese jazz LPs I came across earlier this year.
5. Leon’s Creation – This is the Beginning (Studio 10, 1970)
San Francisco group that could have given Sly Stone a run for his money. Absolutely kills from beginning to end. Unbelievable grooves. Found in a 25-cent bin!
6. Boogaloo Joe Jones – No Way! (Prestige, 1971)
Funky jazz guitar that never goes out of style. For some reason I never liked Grant Green all that much, but this is incredible. Like a wild pet escaped from its cage.
7. Donna Brooks – I’ll Take Romance (Dawn, 1956)
Basically a totally unknown singer who only made this one album. She captivates me.
8. Peter Brötzmann & Walter Perkins – The Ink is Gone (BRO, 2002)
Horns and drums skipping over the fires of hell. Wild sounds and intrinsic interplay. A more focused continuation of Machine Gun and Nipples.
9. Krczysztof Komeda – Cul-de-Sac (Harkit, 1966)
While digging around for Knife in the Water, I found this. It has its own sound. It grew on me, and it’s completely unique. He died young.
10. Takehiro Honda – Jõdo (Trio, 1970)
Piano player from Japan who weirdly appears nude on the back cover. The title track alone is as suspenseful as a Hitchcock classic.
11. Lucy Ann Polk – With the Dave Pell Octet (Trend, 1954)
My favorite obscure female singer of the last two years. Wore out her LP on Mode, and finally got a copy of this session; it’s breathtaking.
12. Mel Graves – Three Worlds (Arch, 1980)
Two days after he died, I came across this in the dollar bin. Had no idea it existed. Pretty out-there spiritual stuff, with George Marsh and Andy Narell.
13. Bennie Green – Soul Stirrin’ (Blue Note, 1958)
There once was a time when people partied in the studio and called it an album.
14. Don Pullen – Solo Piano Album (Sackville, 1975)
“Unique” doesn’t begin to describe this solo outing. Sadly overlooked. His playing always takes me on a mental journey.
15. Cecil Taylor – Love For Sale (United Artists, 1959)
Just an lesser-known LP from his late-’50s period that I hadn’t heard of until this year. Half Cole Porter songs; half originals. Straddles reality and non-reality, respectively.
16. Jaki Byard – There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Muse, 1972)
When I die I want Jaki Byard to come back to life and play at my funeral.
17. June Christy – The Cool School (Capitol, 1960)
I avoided this for years, thinking it was a soulless children’s record. Instead, it swings like nothing else and fast became one of my favorites. The kids are alright.
18. Billy Butler – Guitar Soul! (Prestige, 1969)
More guitar jazz that actually creeps under the skin. “Blow for the Crossing” is a backbeat nightmare that belongs on every mixtape.
19. Paul Bley – Ballads (ECM, 1967)
I have a Paul Bley record on ESP which is blessed by heaven. Most everything else is okay, but I found this last week and it’s in the clouds. Piano brilliance.
20. Melvin Jackson – Funky Skull (Limelight, 1969)
Standup bass, run through a fuzz box. Eddie Harris’ right-hand man. A fun one.