The Return of Columbia House?

I haven’t done much research on the subject outside of seeing a few blurbs here and there on the internet about it… But Columbia House is returning by jumping on the vinyl resurgence of the last 7 or 8 years and might offer a subscription service model based on that format alone. Columbia House’s music services really took a hit in 2000 a year after Napster and the advent of the MP3. I have fond memories of being a Columbia House subscriber in the mid ’90s. Fond in the sense that at the time the selection was “ok” and being a teenager that didn’t drive and having a minimal allowance something about scouring the Columbia House CD booklet (I think CDs and Cassettes were their only formats then) for “something” and then writing out the selection codes out the provided order card or even at times using their stamps that were of the cover art signifying the albums you wanted to lick and stick on the card and waiting a few weeks to get a CD in the mail was how we did things back then. I also have fond memories of being a jerk teenager, when I joined before doing the ethical thing, and essentially stole from Columbia House. I am sure I wasn’t the only one! The joys of life before credit history.


The “Bowie” section was my record store refuge


I have mentioned in past post write-ups that I really dived into record collecting in 2003. It’s weird, I guess, to think of 13 years ago as the early days of record collecting in my life. In the 13 years since my tastes have changed, bands I liked years ago I find myself not really able to get into anymore, the emotional response has somewhat faded I guess. One thing I have thought about recently in the wake of Bowie’s passing is that when I started out buying records on a semi-as-a-paycheck-could-allow basis is that the Bowie section of the record store was always refuge. We take technology for granted, the ease of streaming, looking a band up on YouTube, etc, but in 2003 though the peer-to-peer file sharing services were common the simple act of downloading an mp3 was still a chore if one did not have a high speed internet connection. In 2016 it’s easy to hear a band’s catalogue and decide to purchase it in some physical form or the other. In 2003 it was hard to blind pick and album in a record store. Sure, record stores did allow for listening in store at listening stations. I was an odd shopper, maybe I still am. I’d sift through record bins, examine covers, examine the condition of the record. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine it now, I would often have trouble deciding on a record to buy. But I’d always find something in the “Bowie” section. The American pressing of Space Oddity for $6 dollars in 2003 really altered the course of my record collecting journey. Bowie purchases were easier then, much easier now considering he’s left this planet for another. I couldn’t go wrong. Even his ’80s material, that even he disliked himself, I’d love. Bowie was my record store refuge.


Thinking about David Bowie


I was thinking about Bowie; obviously due to his death. That in turn made me think of Brian Eno. I was reading someone’s take on Bowie’s Lodger album and how, in their opinion, it was a difficult listen. I can honestly say Bowie’s late 70s era is a bit lost on me as I skipped the famed Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger and focused on his early work and his 80s work (for some reason). When I first listened to Lodger I wasn’t taken aback, as I found it to be a great listen… Eno’s influence was all over it. And in that regard Eno’s fingerprints are all over a lot of music that I do enjoy. From Roxy Music to U2, Eno’s work has definitely made music interesting. I was 15 on the cusp of turning 16 years old in the grungified year of 1993 and U2 dropped Zooropa in June. What an interesting listen that album was. It really stands out as a good headphone album. He made guitars not sound like guitar and pushed U2 to not be U2. If that makes any sense. So this really isn’t a Bowie tribute on my part, and I apologize, but it’s more of a Eno worship piece. As I get back into updating more I will share some memories of record collection in regard to Bowie.



I was thinking about Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was a influence on many rock singers in the ’60s. It’s no big secret Jim Morrison (of the Doors) admired “Ol’ Blue Eyes”, and, as such, during the recording of the 1967 Doors album “Strange Days” Morrison used the same model of microphone Sinatra used on his earlier albums, to record his vocals. Sinatra didn’t care, really, for “rock music”. My fondness for Sinatra, like jazz, and a stiff “gentleman’s drink”, came to me much later in my adult life. Maybe, for me, it’s the allure of that era in which he was dominate. The allure of old Vegas, martinis, The Rat Pack, etc. Maybe because he was a rock star before there were rock stars. Maybe it was the self confidence, maybe because he could do anything, and he did anything he wanted to. He did it his way. It gets said often, but I will say it again, Sinatra recorded one of the first “popular” vocal concept albums (jazz albums of the era were largely concept albums however, as were folk albums of the ’40s), with his 1955 album “In the Wee Small Hours” a brilliant album of melancholy heartache and longing. He reordered well over 1,000 songs and as I was doing some research before writing this I had found out that he had one song on the charts every year between 1945 and 1995. That in itself is quite the feat. Going back to Sinatra not liking “rock music”, it is quite fascinating that in the ’60s, when he launched Reprise records, he more or less cashed in on that decade’s emergence of rock all the while really not caring for it. He was just savvy. I should mention Neil Young and Captain Beefheart moonlighted as Reprise recording artists.. Just to drive that previous point home. I think once a person does get Sinatra his catalog is easy to dive into. I have found, in the past, that he is best listened to on a Sunday coupled with a nice cocktail. My favorite Sinatra story is from U2’s Bono, when Frank told him in 1994 while recording their song for Frank’s “Duets” album: “I don’t usually hang out with guys who wear earrings.”


Lost in Transition (How much does vinyl weigh)

With age comes wisdom. Sadly, sometimes, that gained wisdom is “seldom” applied. Sometimes I think about traveling light. But I only think about when I transition in life. Moving from one residence to another. I also try to nest. I don’t mind settling. I am almost 40. With age, I guess, comes “things”. I realize I accumulate things. Books.. and most importantly.. Records. I amassed a somewhat sizable collection of LPs in my 12 years of being a collector. I came to terms with being a collector. When I was younger, and a bit more cynical, I shunned the notion of “collecting music”. I am pretty sure I said something along the lines of “I listen to music, I don’t collect it..” that seems like something I would have said in my early 20’s.

I wonder how much my record collection weighs. At over 1,100 it has to weigh a ton. I maybe possibly exaggerating that. It felt like it did as I moved it from my house into a moving van literally 3 days before I had to turn in my keys to the house I rented for 3 years. As I type this I realize that collection will be eventually removed from storage once I settle.. again. I’m in transition however. I had a bit of a career change. I had a bit of a life do-over. It was very much needed. Of course I miss my collection. Maybe the time away from it will rekindle a bit of that love. To be honest, I have found in the past that as I looked for something to listen to out of my own collection, I sometimes had that feeling of needing more.

I commute to work. It’s a lengthy commute. I force myself to listen to bad radio. Not sure why I torture myself that way. But I do. I drive freeways I’m overly familiar with, and I’ve sadly become acquainted with the notion of sitting in Southern California traffic being something someone who lives and works and maybe dies here – is part and parcel with the prior. Then, there’s a moment where I might listen to a song in my car as I drive these freeways that I am sure I heard as a child while sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car in the mid 80’s on the same freeways. That Eddie Money song (Take Me Home Tonight) now delegated to the current classic rock stations that have added ’80s and ’90s music to their playlists.


15 for ’14.. Looking back on my 15 favorite albums of 2014.

Well, it is the last day of the year 2014. I am compiled my list of favorite 15 releases of the year 2014.. Or as I have cleverly titled this post “15 for ’14”.

1. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

Timber Timbre’s “Hot Dreams” was an unexpected surprise this year. For me at least. I streamed it via NPR and would fall asleep listening to it. That is a good thing actually. This would actually be my first purchase of any Timber Timbre album and I am glad I did. Cinematic, haunting, are just a few words I’d use to describe it… and for that it tops my list. I did a write-up a few months ago so I will leave it at that.

2. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Not surprising, The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” ranked so highly on my list of purchases this year as it did others. It’s probably my most listened to album, but falls only slightly behind Timber Timbre as one of my favorite purchases this year. A lot has been written about this album ranging from Adam’s obvious influences that shown through on the album so I wont retread what we already know.

3. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

2014 needed a new Silver Mt. Zion album, and it got one. The album questioned what we value as we grow older and as children enter the picture (as Efrim Menuck had a child a few years since the last SMZ release). 2014 also marked the year I tried to see them live in Los Angeles but failed miserably. I will save that for another reflective music post.

4. Future Islands – Singles

My introduction to Future Islands came via a suggestion that I “check out this dude dancing on David Letterman” and I was hooked. I am also a sucker for some good synth-pop melodrama too.

5. Curtis Harding – Soul Power

I look to Burger Records for some great up and coming artists. Especially on the lo-fi garage/synth-pop spectrum. Curtis Harding is an exception to that rule. His debut album “Soul Power” perfectly captured the feel of early R&B and vintage soul… and it was nice to hear that this year, especially from a Burger artist.

6. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Yeah, jazz still exists. And it’s good. FlyLo managed to create a free flowing album that doesn’t veer too far off track and does it all within 38 minutes.

7. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems

Leonard Cohen released “Popular Problems” this year and then turned 80 years old. He’s still got it. I read that “love isn’t a reprieve so much as it’s a rabbit hole, a shared space in which to hide from the world when it can’t be escaped.” and I always get that from Cohen’s music.

8. Ty Segall – Manipulator

Ty Segall’s “Manipulator” is a nice hook laden rock album. Nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t need to be.

9. Ryan Adams – Self Titled

Ryan Adams dropped an album this year that was focused, polished, and all around good as a Ryan Adams album can be. He also played every instrument on the album from what I read… So that can also explain why this is so focused. Honorable mention goes to him using the same font style as Bryan Adams 1984 “Reckless” album on the cover of his album.

10. Jack White – Lazaretto

Album gimmicks aside (referring to the vinyl release) Jack White’s “Lazaretto” is really a good album. Why? Because it touches upon everything that Jack White is good at. And on this album that is all crammed onto it.

11. Foxygen – And Star Power

Foxygen’s “..And Star Power” is a sprawling lo-fi effort which kind of veers off course at times but comes back together to make it all worth it.

12. Swans – To Be Kind

Set aside two hours of your life to take in this album. It’s a demanding album, and that’s the kind of music I like.

13. Guided By Voices – Cool Planet

Guided By Voices did what they do best this year and that is releasing a lot of music..

14. Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit

…..But for many, I guess, we didn’t think they’d once again call it quits. In retrospect their two albums released this year seemed more like an attempt to get everything out there while Robert Pollard plans his next big thing than less of a swan song of sorts.

15. Lost In The Trees – Past Life

“Past Life” is an understated release from earlier this year. Lost In The Trees crafted a wonderfully atmospheric and somber album that deserves listen.


Five Questions I asked Ryan Adams In A Dream

It’s not every day that you get to meet one of your favorite musicians in a dream, but I had the opportunity to do just that this morning during the morning hours of 10 a.m.

The setting was surreal as expected. I was back, living at home at my father’s house, and Ryan Adams was staying with us for some reason. I don’t know where Mandy Moore was. Ryan and I, being the best buds that we are in dreams, were doing basic yard upkeep. Ryan didn’t seem to mind doing yard work, he actually seemed to enjoy it.

I asked Ryan a few questions about rock stardom, writing, royalties, rigors of the road and probably spaghetti just as the dream was coming to an end and the harsh reality of reality was causing my eyes to open as Ryan and my father’s yard dissolved and became delegated into dream memory.

Question 1:

Me: Ryan, how much do musicians earn off covers of their songs?
Dream Ryan’s answer was “25 cents a song… For every album song”

I wanted fact check this because I don’t want to simply take Dream Ryan’s word on it. All I could find is things about mechanical licenses and other legal fancy legal jargon.

Question 2:

Me: Ryan, how do you handle rock stardom?
Dream Ryan’s answer was “Let’s get back to yard work.”

Question 3:

Me: Ryan, what is your creative process like? I see that while we are doing yard work, for some reason you have a notepad with you and you are writing song lyrics right as I speak.”
Dream Ryan’s answer was “I write all the time, obviously.”

Question 4:

Me: Spaghetti…..
Dream Ryan: (at this point his mouth was moving and no words could be heard. A car pulled up in front of my father’s home and I started waking up. I just assume it was Mandy Moore… or someone delivering spaghetti.)

I can’t remember the fifth question..

We are nearing the end of the year that was 2014. I will be doing a typical list of releases that I purchased, on “vinyl” this year that stood out. I also did a bit of streaming this year as I have been using the Beats music service so I might include some honorable mentions of albums I didn’t get around buying. I need to get back to updating my Vinyl 100 list and also address some interesting things I experienced this year in the online “Vinyl Collecting Community”.

If you read this far this entry wasn’t really meant as a joke. I really did dream I was hanging out with Ryan Adams.


The Sophomore Slump – Looking back at MGMT’s “Congratulations”

It’s an often repeated statement that a band will spend their entire life writing their first album… and that a band has 14 months to write their second album. 2007/2008 were magical years in the sense that there were a lot of great debuts and new things happening in the mainstream music scene. Vampire Weekend happened, as did MGMT. MGMT had a great deal of “buzz” and hype surrounding them even before their debut album “Oracular Spectacular” was even released.

I firmly stand behind my own sentiment that their debut album is one of the greatest debut albums of all time. With that said, and that is all I will say, they had an unprecedented amount of pressure to follow it up with something as great or greater than Oracular Spectacular. I don’t think that is fair. Rather than rewrite that album and give us Kids part 2 or Electric Feel part 2 or Time to Pretend part 2 they followed up their debut in 2010 with an album that challenged listeners and was more guitar driven and unabashed in borrowing from influences.

Who else would include an epic 12 minute song (Siberian Breaks), include a tribute to Brian Eno (aptly titled “Brian Eno”). MGMT did it so effortlessly and brilliantly. Some bands suffer the sophomore slump, and produce an album very underwhelming following an impressive debut, but in my opinion, MGMT did the total opposite.

“Congratulations” has since been reissued on vinyl; sans the scratch off cover art that was an added bonus to it’s first vinyl pressing. So it is a bit easier to find these days.


Wayne, meet Bono.. Bono, meet Wayne.


Wayne Coyne, unabashed leader and lead singer of alt rock legends “The Flaming Lips”, and Bono, outspoken lead singer of rock legends “U2”.. Two singers who, for the better part of the last two years, (We’ll give Bono a little bit of slack since people have more-or-less grown tired of the guy since 1987) have come under fire for various reasons. Both share common traits, most notably “lead singer syndrome”. There’s nothing really wrong with that. No matter the scale and size of your band it always helps to have some charisma and bravado and megalomania. I can’t imagine both bands being able to operate for as long as they have been if their singers were just two normal passive dudes. Both singers are in their 50’s (Coyne, 53 – Bono, 54). Both singers have passionate personal and political beliefs. Bono’s being more widely known, as for the past 15 years people more associate him with political activism than his work with his own band… Wayne’s political and personable charity work is done on a much smaller scale.. He really cares about animals and other local Oklahoma charites.

Bono strives for the sake of his own band’s relevance in an era of fading spotlights and dwindling music sales for other longtime artists. Some would say U2 are well past their prime. That is debatable. The band managed to survive the ’90s purge. Put out their most challenging and very European influenced music to an American audience during the height of “Grunge” and maybe it is the fighting Irish in him. He just wont back down. They found renewed success in the early part of the 2000’s as well. Where as most bands of U2’s age and legend would simply not put out albums, or put out an album of forgettable songs and just tour the world on the strength of their own legend and past glories U2 under the leadership and salesmanship of Bono continue to release albums as if their lives depended on said albums. I give him credit for that. Even if it means getting an album delivered to my iTunes whether I want it.. or not* (and I will write about that later.) *I actually had to download the album to my iTunes.

Wayne continues to push musical boundaries as well as “other” boundaries. For the past two years Wayne has taken to “social media” and let people into the little details of his everyday life that he chooses to display for us. And he has shared  A LOT. I believe in the early days of Twitter his account was the most fascinating. He had no problem sharing a picture of his then wife’s breasts for all to see (and deleted) I think however that the blurring of the lines of separation on how much we want to, or not know, about a musician we admire in a way has soured many of the longtime fans (mostly online community of Flaming Lips fans) opinions of the once weird and fearless freak. In a few years, and you can read about it online through some google searches, Wayne went from lovable quirky singer to – Wayne, the guy who left his wife for a 25 year old, who disrespected Native American culture, and fired long time drummer over questionable reasons (which have been addressed again, just seek out through google searches). Despite this, he along with creative genius Steven Drozd continued to put out really great music, and I think this was lost on some people who couldn’t separate man from musician.

It’s not easy to do I suppose.. Separating artists from their art. Isn’t being personally invested in a musician the reason we’re attracted to their output? Is it because we find them easy to relate to on some scale? The Flaming Lip’s last full studio album, 2013’s “The Terror” was an incredibly cohesive, if not depressing look at the side of humanity that we fear and possibly fear in ourselves: personal loss, life’s pain, love’s crushing nature, and the idea of “god” and god’s relation to all of our pain. One could not help but think, or feel, that a lot of the content of “The Terror” was the result of what Wayne was going through publicly and personally, especially when he delivers lyrics like “Is love a God that we control to try to trust the pain”. Whereas a majority of late era lyrics written by Wayne were optimistic despite pain and loss, one couldn’t help but sense the hopelessness in The Terror.

Bono isn’t terribly transparent in his lyrics. For a guy who strived to break down the wall between audience and musicians live he seems to have retreated some in the last 15 years, only occasionally breaking out of the shell of an intellectual tortoise to share through his own songs some of the things he struggles with.. His children growing up in “Kite”, the loss of his father whom he had a rocky relationship “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” and more recently, revisiting the death of his mother in the song “Iris” a subject he sang about only two times before in the songs Tomorrow and Lemon. However for a majority of U2’s late era songs he wrote from a different person’s perspective. The idea of being able to start new when you have lost everything was the meaning of “Beautiful Day”. More recently he has tackled the subject of his own pain. With the new U2 release, which I will do a full write up later, he had to go back to where it all began, more or less, to find out why he even wanted to be in a band. Unlike Wayne, most now know Bono as a public political figure. In a way maybe it is a good thing that Bono hasn’t taken to social media. Maybe it is a good thing we don’t know too much about how this man thinks and what lies behind the sunglasses he is always wearing (due in part to glaucoma).

Both artists are still producing music in my opinion which still aims to challenge both commercial and critical appeal. Both are now, more or less, punching bags for their respective bands. And as Bono once sang, “let me take some of the punches for you tonight.” Maybe Wayne can lend Bono his bubble for a while. And maybe Bono can lend Wayne a few tips on avoiding social media.

In summary I feel maybe we as fans shouldn’t hold artists up on pedestals. We’re all flawed in our own way. Or at least don’t hold them up to standards we wouldn’t hold ourselves up to. If I could I’d find a way to offset my taxes. (U2’s offsetting their business taxes drew criticism from people) if I produced what I felt was an incredible piece of music I’d love for the world to hear it (U2’s forced released of Songs of Innocence) and if I could let my freak flag fly and commute to work via a bubble I probably would (Wayne just being Wayne).



In Rotation: Vicky and the Vengents – Sha Na/Not Your Little Girl

I love a good 7″ 45 rpm single… I also love a chance to “wax nostalgic”. In an era of instant gratification and convenience (I love convenience but with it comes sacrifice sometimes..) it is nice to have something tangible, something physical, oh – like a great single backed with an equally great b-side. I met Matt Beld, guitarist of Vicky and the Vengents on father’s day of this year, at Groovers Records in Riverside when I was killing time before actually visiting my father on said fathers day. With the friendly prodding of KUCR’s DJ Tina Bold, Matt gave me a copy of Vicky and the Vengets single Sha Na, backed with “Not Your Little Girl” as the b-side, with the promise I’d listen to it and give it a write-up here on the Vinyl Review. Months later I finally got to it!

Like I said, we live in an era of ultra convenience. Want to find a song from your favorite artist? Odds are you’ll look it up on YouTube. Some say the idea of downloading a song for .99 cents on iTunes ruined the concept of the album. But really, nothing can replace the 7″. You’re holding music in your hand when you hold a record! Vicky and the Vengents harkens back to that time with the subject matter of Sha Na and the two songs couldn’t be more perfect for the 7″.

This is a great single. Both songs do what they need to do in under 3 minutes (isn’t that the best rock and roll?). And on top of that this is a wonderfully pressed 7″ from Groovers Records (which is also operates as a record store in Riverside, CA).  I hope nothing but great things from this band and as I type this they’re already happening. Legendary LA music scene fixture Rodney Bingenheimer recent spun/played Sha Na on his long standing Rodney on the ROQ show on Los Angeles’ KROQ FM.

Check out the video for Sha Na:

For more information on Vicky and the Vengents follow them on Facebook. You can also visit their official website as well.