May 2, 2011

set me free but leave the key

Last night I was sprawled in the back booth at Denver’s Sputnik Bar, one of my favorite places in all the land, discussing life over Samurai beers and the soundtrack of great old singles from the ’50s and ’60s that was playing over the speakers. The DJ spun fantastic tracks like Percy Sledge, The Beach Boys, and The Righteous Brothers for hours, reminding all of us what greatness can lie complete in a three-minute pop song, and how well they hold up 50 years later.

On the too-early sunrise drive home this morning, as the sun cracked across the Colorado plains, I landed (and stayed) on this new track from Portland’s Blitzen Trapper, part of Sub Pop’s limited edition Record Store Day compilation release, Please To Enjoy: Terminal Sales Vol. 4. This is simply a terrific pop song, clocking in at not even two minutes, and hearkening back to a few of my other favorite bands to sing along to: um, the Partridge Family and The Monkees. Sorry guys, but really.

So satisfying; I had it on repeat for the last half hour of my drive. That’s like 15 times in a row.

Maybe Baby – Blitzen Trapper

This song was also released on 7″ for Record Store Day. The packaging of the Sub Pop CD compilation (and presumably the vinyl) is neato — a series of square cards, one for each artist with original artwork on the front and information about the song/band on the back. It reminds of the shiny pack of Opening Day baseball cards I bought recently, largely because Tim Lincecum was on the front (but not inside). Collector’s edition!

April 16, 2011

it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Wake up kids: today is the Christmas, birthday, and Valentine’s Day of the indie music world all rolled into one. Record Store Day is in its fourth year today, and you would be smart to head down to your local independent record store to celebrate the vibrant role they all play in keeping good music alive. There are also a slew of Record Store Day exclusives being offered today, so maybe break that piggy bank to take with you as well.

In the spirit of celebrating everything that’s right about Record Store Day today, Fuel/Friends has a special giveaway pack for one lucky reader.

To note all the excellent new releases that will be available today for the first time, the first item in the pack is the debut record from The Head and The Heart on vinyl. Sub Pop is releasing their album today, now remastered and with “Rivers and Roads” on it, with expanded liner notes / sweet art. You know by now why I like them; or you can read what I wrote for Sub Pop. Can’t wait to hear the record on warm, crackly vinyl.

The second item in the gift pack is to note all the re-releases coming out on vinyl today. For the first time, Matt Costa‘s 2006 debut record Songs We Sing is coming out on vinyl through the good folks at Brushfire Records. This is a sunny acoustic gem of an album that will serve you well all summer long, also one that will sound great on vinyl.

And finally, Fingerprints Records in Long Beach –a terrific independent record store– is contributing a signed poster from the in-store they are doing today with Brett Dennen. I bet your local record store is having musicians play amidst the stacks today as well.

Fingerprints is doing their part to keep music vibrant with excellent in-store performances (that sometimes spill out onto the street) and a top-notch selection of music.

To enter to win the Fuel/Friends RSD 2011 prize pack, leave me a comment telling me what you are doing today and why. I’ll pick one winner at the end of the weekend. I am in Chicago, so a whole new city beckons. I have my Reckless Records tshirt to guide me.

November 29, 2010

i saw sinners making music and i dreamt of that sound


This song instilled a deep and intangible longing and sadness in me the first time I listened to it on Friday afternoon. With this, our first listen to a studio version of a song from the new Iron & Wine album, Kiss Each Other Clean (love that title), I was stopped in my tracks and held there, spinning. Back in one of those rare moments when I was able to write exactly, precisely what I feel when I listen to a song, there was the long ramble I wrote about “The Trapeze Swinger” last year, about how Sam Beam makes us feel like we are walking into the middle of a song that has always existed, tapping a primal vein of rhythm and harmonies that have been pulsing for eons. That’s also how this song feels. Even with the flourishes of unexpected electronica, I would personally call this song a masterpiece, on par with The Trapeze Swinger. I am wrapped in to this world he is describing.

STREAM: Walking Far From Home – Iron & Wine (lyrics)

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The first two stanzas feel like holding your breath – keening, suspended. My favorite part of the song comes forty seconds in, one breath after the marvelous lyric, “I saw sinners making music, and I dreamt of that sound – dreamt of that sound…” — the aural fuzz clears out and the “ooooh woaaaaah” vocal harmonies start cascading and tumbling over one another.

With that apocryphal air of epic poems that Sam Beam does so well, there’s a push and give, back and forth on this song of the freedom of discovering new lands, but also a recognizance of the tethers that bind those inner parts of us back to the things we love. The opening line talks about walking somewhere “where the names were not burned along the wall,” which to me speaks of shaky, wet, nascent freedom. But even with everything freshly created, “I was walking far from home but I carried your letters all the while” and “I found your face mingled in the crowd.” We lose what we lose to keep what we can keep.

Also, how can you not see a marvelous parallel here with Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”? Like a sister song, fifty years later.

This is the first track on the EP/maxi-single of three new Iron & Wine songs that I picked up on Record Store Black Friday. It’s the first track on the new album, along with “Half Moon” and eight other songs. Kiss Each Other Clean is out January 25th on Warner Brothers/4AD, Sam Beam’s first album since leaving Sub Pop.

November 26, 2010

Record Store Black Friday


Well now, I am off to the record store.

In a special bonus day to tide us over until the actual Record Store Day in April, today is Black Friday Record Store Day. So much better than three dollar toasters and five dollar DVD stocking stuffers: limited edition vinyl and a special Black Friday advance release of the bonus version of High Violet from The National that I’ve got my eye on.

What did you all pick up?

April 21, 2010

My favorite purchase on Record Store Day



Come Talk To Me (Peter Gabriel) – Bon Iver

In the swirling curling storm of desire
unuttered words hold fast
with reptile tongue the lightning lashes
towers built to last
Darkness creeps in like a thief
and offers no relief
why are you shaking like a leaf?
come on, come talk to me

I got the split 7″ of Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver covering each other, and it’s been repeatedly blowing my mind ever since. For something so small with only 2 songs on it, it is astounding the amount of enjoyment I am getting from this pressing. Where Peter Gabriel’s original is sweeping and epic like a rippling African grassland and a thousand drums, Bon Iver’s version builds slow and haunting, and the plucking banjo sounds for all the world to me like rain on a roof. As the rain howls outside tonight and patters against my skylight, I’m reminded how that has always been one of my favorite sounds.

(n.b.: this song shouldn’t be confused with this, which is now stuck in my head)

I also picked up an armful of other vinyl treats that made me all giddy:

  • a John Lennon Singles Bag (limited edition, 1765 of 7000) pack of three 45s with original artwork (Mother b/w Yoko Ono – Why, Imagine b/w It’s So Hard, and Watching The Wheels b/w Yoko Ono – Yes, I’m Your Angel), a 24×36 poster, 3 postcards and a custom plastic adaptor hub. Yeah. Rad.
  • Fanfarlo Record Store Day exclusive 7″, You Are One b/w What Makes You Think You Are The One
  • Whiskeytown 7″ San Antone b/w The Great Divide

That and the Bon Iver/Peter Gabriel split, and I’m $45 lighter and 145% happier. Oh, and free Great Divide beer too? The mood in the store was jovial and festive; a music-lover’s Christmas, Halloween, birthday and Hanukkah all in one. Saturday was one of the best days of my year – and I’m not the only one who thought so. Record Store Day 2010 underscored an increasing and surprising revitalization of the independent record store and the niche it plays in our lives. Paul, the owner of Denver’s famed Twist & Shout Records on Colfax wrote the following musings about Record Store Day. They make me very, very happy.

“I stayed on the floor the entire day and I did not hear one cross word. I didn’t hear one complaint or demand. As the customers clustered around the bins I would hear people call out ‘Here’s the Black Keys 12” – who needs it?’ They were actually helping each other. I saw at least 20 ex-employees. Nothing makes me happier than that. I was also gratified by the number of customers just wishing the store well in a general sense; long time customers, first-timers, a surprising number of out-of-staters who traveled for the event, people of all types just happy to be there and happy to see a real record store still in existence.

What can I say? It was the biggest day we’ve have ever had. Last year in the depths of despair I remember saying to Jill, ‘We will never say those words – ‘best day ever’ ever again.’ I believed the business was on the big downhill slide that would never be reversed. I’m not sure it will be reversed, but we can still do some honkin’ big numbers when the conditions are right. As I mentioned before, it was that same old demographic that always bought records still showing up. This is the generation that was supposed to be lost for good. And yet, there they were buying with gusto. Not just the RSD stuff – they were staying and shopping for everything. We sold so much new and used vinyl it was shocking. I don’t know what the future holds, but I for one, am going to wait for the fat lady to sing before I say ‘never’ ever again.”


April 17, 2010

Record Store Day is here!

record store day

Get up! Wake up and go. Today is Record Store Day, the stuff music nerds dream about — when your favorite local independent retailers the world over will be offering a cornucopia of rare vinyl, re-releases, and special musical treats only available today.

Sub Pop Records has eversokindly posted streaming mp3s of a handful of vinyl-only songs, off the seven different limited edition RSD Sub Pop releases coming out in limited quantities. See? This is why you need to get up, and go.

(Streaming songs no longer available after April 19th, but you can investigate the release information here)

Find good stuff on the website for Record Store Day, or your local independent music store. I need a special endless cash money supply for all the delights I want.

April 19, 2009

Pause to rock on Record Store Day

Yesterday was Record Store Day and I got completely stymied in all my attempts to be anything but a snowed-in sister seeing my long-gone brother (he is back from France after eight months, and we just hung out at my parents’ house all day yesterday, eating cinnamon rolls). So instead, today I clickety-clicked through YouTube, vicariously living through all the wonderful performances popping up on there from independent record retailers across the country:

The excellent Salt Lake City band Devil Whale (courtesy of Dainon):

Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye” at Rasputin Records in Berkeley:

Avett Brothers at Grimey’s in Nashville – “Paranoia in Bb Major”

This crowd singalong from Mute Math (“Peculiar People”) is downright buoyant:

…and this Beatles cover from Record Store Day in Portugal may just be the effing coolest thing I’ve seen in a while (courtesy of musician Samuel Úria):

There are dozens more, like Graham Coxon or Patrick Wolf in London, Manchester Orchestra in Atlanta, or…Cheech and Chong in Australia?

God bless independent record retailers! How did you spend the day, dear reader?

April 18, 2008

Jackie Greene gives up the ghost for Record Store Day in Denver

Any reason is a good reason to comb the stacks and while away the hours in any independent record store. I’ve always managed to find a way to duck into the corner music store, from Florence to Vancouver, New York to San Diego — nothing beats the thrill of finding some small musical gem, or even the promise of that possibility.

Saturday is Record Store Day across the country, where your local independent retailers have joined forces to encourage you to stop by and say hello. They miss your smiling face. Really. Even if you’ve been seduced by the sleek and sexy mistress of iTunes (or its outlaw cousins at Pirate Bay), they’ll take you back and love you. Promise.

Locally here in Denver our excellent Twist & Shout is celebrating its 20th anniversary this very weekend, in addition to the Record Store Day festivities.

They’re bringing in California troubadour Jackie Greene for an intimate performance, in support of his new album Giving Up The Ghost. Greene plays Saturday night at the Bluebird; an excellent twentysomething blues-americana showman with some serious harmonica chops, his live performances have always impressed me.

Shaken – Jackie Greene (from Giving Up The Ghost)

So Denverites, stop by Twist & Shout this weekend –they have cake! and champagne! and have posted a list of just a few of the cool indie vinyls they’ll have in stock for the weekend:

Josh Ritter Live at the 9:30 club
Jason Isbell Live at Twist & Shout
Breeders We’re Gonna Rise 7″
Vampire Weekend A-Punk 7″
Stephen Malkmus Cold Son 10″
R.E.M. Supernatural Superserious 7″
Black Keys Strange Times 7″
Built to Spill Don’t Cry 7″
Death Cab for Cutie I WIll Possess Your Heart 7″

Plus many labels are giving away special comps and samplers just for Record Store Day: a Brushfire vinyl sampler, Merge 7″ vinyl, Sub Pop sampler CD, Matador comp, etc. Check with your local store for what they have lined up. It seems like everyone’s got something cool going on.

Let’s head out and support local independent music retailers. Each one that shutters and falls by the wayside is a blow to the unique, passionate, knowledgeable music-buying experience.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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