vinyl

Vinyl Friday #2: Roxy Music “Avalon”

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There are few pop albums that contain as much dreamy pleasure for me as Roxy Music’s Avalon. Although not particularly rare or unique, it still feels like a jewel in the crown of my collection. It’s a soft, romantic album that makes me fall in love with it over and over again with each and every listen.

Most people seem to be fans of the more ‘funky’ albums like their self-titled or For Your Pleasure. Actually, I think a lot of fans probably prefer Country Life, but I’m sure that’s probably preferring the cover art more than the actual content. Cheeky gits.

Speaking of cover art, this is possibly my favourite of the lot. It evokes so much mystery and atmosphere – much like the music itself. The cover model is Lucy Helmore, who would later a bride of Bryan Ferry’s. The two had four children together, including a son name Merlin which I find unbelievably fitting. The falcon, medieval helmet and mist imagery refer to the legendary island of Avalon – of which the album takes its name. Following its inspiration, the album is full of almost bard-like songs of love and loss.

The copy in my collection isn’t a first pressing, but I like to treat it as one. When the day comes that I have more money than sense, I will buy every copy of this album I come across because it’s just so good. This particular copy was nipped from a re-sale store. I had own the CD for a number of years before I dived into buying it on black. It instantly caught my eye because of that gorgeous cover. I had held the album dearly already, but seeing and hearing it in its full glory was some other experience entirely.

I’ve written about this album a number of times, but it really ranks as one of my favourites ever. Every summer I visited my parents, I kept this album in my car. It was on constant repeat. Especially before my poor car had a working air con, I would keep the windows down and drive down the long country roads, weaving in and out of the pine trees.

It’s such an evocative album, especially the two instrumentals India and Tara – the last being the name of one of Ferry’s future sons. But the singles (More Than This, Avalon and Take a Chance With Me) is a really strong set of songs. Not every Roxy Music album was great, but this last shot managed to get everything right. It’s a much more mature sound than many of their previous outings, but it pays off. Being the last album they ever released together, it feels like the perfect sending off.

Like Arthur’s trip to home. To Avalon.

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Is there really anything more heart-shatteringly beautiful in music than Yanick Etienne’s voice on Avalon? I really don’t think so. Brings me to tears every time.

Record Store Day 2014 releases announced

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It is almost that time of the year again: the magical and mystical celebration of Record Store Day. It has been eight years now since independent record stores began celebrating their magic. The UK will be celebrating its 6th year in the tradition. Today the lists have been revealed for the RSD releases.

I’ve personally  found that RSD has gotten a little big for its britches and pretty far from its purpose. There’s a One Direction release this year. I suppose records are for everyone…? Eight years ago the day was about buying great records and eating pizza in your favourite shop (free pizza – in a record store!). It was a really great way to support local businesses as well as giving back to your music community. The Record Store Day releases are what have made it problematic (that and the trendiness of the turn tables on Instagram).

No longer is it about supporting your record stores, but it is about buying rare and over-priced records. My local shop at home barely run any sales anymore. The people who flip records can go to hell, and so can the record companies who dish out the ridiculously over-priced records. People will pay the prices, though, and for anyone who just wants to go out and have a good day day are likely to have a struggle.

But RSD should be every day of the year, really. Not just when there are rare records released on one day. The point of this all is to celebrate indie shops. They’re the ones that care about the customers. All that bitching aside, I really like unusual records so I still get really excited when the lists are revealed. It’s just a shame that limited releases have people pulling each other’s hair out instead of feeling a sense of comradery.

So what’s it like at your shop on RSD? Is it peace and love or hell? Any releases you’re looking forward to this year? I personally can’t wait to celebrate my first in the UK. There are lots I can’t wait for like Adam & the Ants’ ‘Dirk Wears White Socks’ (which I have NEVER found before), Joy Division’s EP ‘An Ideal for Living’ (which I’ll never get my hands on), Roddy Frame’s releases and Jake Bugg’s live album. Should be a fun year.

As much as whine, I love it. And I will continue to go every year they’ll let me.

* Just a note, these are the releases for the UK RSD, which is also on the 19th. The US releases can be found here.

“Before we post the #RSD14 list and everyone gets excited (or not) about the titles on it, we wanted to say: We do this because we love record stores, and they are behind everything we do. There may be aspects of Record Store Day you don’t like, don’t understand, think could be done differently or better. You may hate every title on the list, or refuse to visit on 4/19 just on principle. We get it. We understand. And we hope you understand that at the base of everything Record Store Day is or ever will be is the record store and the folks who love it as much as we do.”

The more the merrier

I’ve been buying vinyl since I was 13. My parents dumped their old records on me. I was 13 when my mom took me to buy my first album (Beck remixes. No idea why – the idea of grabbing something strange on the shelf is still appealing to me). Earlier this month a report from Nielsen Soundscan said that record sales have gone up 30% (see a lovely graph here at Digital Music News). In a world where music purchases are going down and more people are turning to music streaming, it seems quite unusual.

More and more people are buying vinyl, and maybe you’re thinking about taking a dive. But there really is a strange art to shopping for records. Seasoned buyers have their own art, but there is

1. Don’t be intimidated. It sounds stupid, but it’s true. I’ve had issues before with this. Some big guy things because it’s 43, single and overweight he has better taste in must than you (because there’s such thing as “good” and “bad” taste). He can tell you’re eying the Jazz Fusion records he’s standing in front of, but he won’t fucking move. Intimidation means grabbing things you probably don’t want.

This might be because I’m a young, American girl in a big British city, but I find it easy to be intimidated. If you LOVE Prince, then don’t be afraid to purchase that copy of “Controversy.” Sure that fat man might be judging you, but you get to go home and you dance to “Sexuality.”

2. Buy used. Use you like Mumford & Sons, but your bank account won’t enjoy the £25 price tag. New records are unbelievably pricey. Take a chance on a used record shop instead. There are long-lost treasures hiding in basement shops. There is a shop in the States called Half-Price Books. Even though I came from a small town, there were always surprises tucked away. Big, shiny shops are easy to be lured into but they won’t offer good prices.

3. Do your research. Different shops will carry different types of record. There are your metal shops, indie shops, 60’s girl groups, dub. Make sure you find shops in your area that suit your taste. Chances are if a shop specialises in reggae and you like folk, maybe don’t take the time to visit. The shop owners will be more useful to you if they carry what you want. My best example is when I went to Exotica records in Notting Hill (it’s no longer there, but it was so nice). I had found a Beat Happening record that made me burst out of my skin with excitement. I told the man behind the counter how difficult it was to find records by them back in the States. He seemed genuinely pleased and went behind the counter to show me another Beat Happening album. I was in heaven.

4. Music is a shared experience. When you get home, be sure to spin records with your friends. Buying a record is only one step in the journey of music. There are some people buy records for the mere ability to brag or to own something “rare” or “expensive.” Oh you have an original pressing of “Blonde on Blonde” still in it’s plastic? Great. Take the record and fucking spin it. Don’t let your albums collect dust. We buy vinyl to have a connection with our music. What’s the point if we hide it from the world?

Spin It Sunday Pt. 2

Welcome to the intergalactic world of Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army. It’s Spin it Sunday and I’m indulging in 1978’s Tubeway Army.

Side A

This album is what I would consider a rather fast moving album. Free of clutter and un-needed brush: it moves through each track without hesitation. The first two opening tracks “Listen to the Sirens” and “My Shadow in Vain” create one of the best openings of any post-punk album (or should we call it synth-pop?).

At this point in Numan’s career, there’s a lot less originality. Fairly standard funk bass-lines, but Numan’s astounding voice stands between him and everyone else. If you’re familiar with Numan’s career, there are subtle hints of his signature synth sound that comes through distinctly on certain tracks like “Something’s in the House.”  Sometimes looking backwards on a musician’s career is the best way to look at them.

When the album finally creaks onto “Every Day I Die” side A is slowing to stop. It’s not great. But the good news is, a Sci Fi feature will be on Side B.

Side B

“Steel and You” is a gem on the album. Particularly for it’s lyrics: “Just my steel friend and me. I stand brave by his side. This machine is all I live for.” My boyfriend is off on about Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. I’m assuming this is what this track is supposed to make us think about. You know, “Look I’m in a space ship with only aliens and robots as friends!”

I say it’s more atmospheric. Boyfriend says menacing. Side B is getting samey. Not in a great way. “Are You Real?” is making everyone (all two of us) cringe slightly. Not saying that there are plenty of amazing stand alone tracks. Maybe we’re too busy thinking about chocolate souffles.

Unfortunately, the space exploration of the album only picks up at the last two tracks. “Zero Bars (Mr. Smith)” has us searching through asteroid belts once more before turning out for the night.

On a final note, Tubeway Army isn’t that solid of an album, but it’s certainly a promising debut that lead way to the classic Replicas. Definitely worth a listen for a trippy space ride, but maybe it’s best just to stick to Earth.

Gary Numan’s new album “Splinter” is out October 15.