Monday, September 14, 2015

Felt Pilotes - "Moving Day" 7"

Felt Pilotes – “Moving Day” 7”
Spit and a Half, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2015
Price: $1
John Porcellino is one of my favorite graphic novelists. His memoir Perfect Example was one of the books that flipped a switch in my brain that made me not only obsessed with comics as a storytelling medium, but one that I could participate in. Porcellino’s spare drawings contain multitudes, and he has a gift for turning the quotidian into something utterly profound. Sometimes if I’m feeling like a real piece of shit, I’ll crack open the longbox where I keep all my single issue comics, pull out an issue of King Cat, and try to recenter myself with the universe. He’s come through Lawrence a couple of times to speak and I very nervously had him sign my copy of Perfect Example at the Autoptic comics expo in Minneapolis when were living there. I don’t know why I was so nervous, because by all accounts he is a very nice, sweet guy. I think I just respect his work so much, meeting him was like meeting Elvis or something.

In addition to being an outstanding artist, he also ran Spit and a Half records, which released some terrific low-key indie rock record in the mid 90s (I believe the label now functions as a indie comix distribution company). I found Felt Pilotes lone CD Wonderful Summer in the Half Price Books clearance section a few years ago and, despite my inclination to like anything John P crafts, I really loved that record. I barely buy any vinyl anymore as a cost cutting measure, but I do have a short list in my head of stuff I will definitely buy if I can find it for the right price. We stopped into Love Garden before John Darnielle’s solo show at the Lawrence Arts Center last week, and I beelined for the $1 7”s because those satisfy my built-in urge to buy records and I can peruse and even buy one or two without feeling guilty. I found this Felt Pilotes 7” in there and I consider that a monumental success. The songs are quiet and basic DIY indie rock with some slowcore leanings a la Low. It is very much of the sound that satisfies the deepest part of my indie rock heart.

Friday, September 11, 2015

St. Vincent - "Actor Out of Work" 7"

St. Vincent – “Actor Out of Work” 7”
4AD, 2009
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2009
Price: $5
“Actor Out of Work” is a perfect little weirdo indie rock track. It is well documented that I am a fan of short songs. If done right, the replay value is enormous. Thus, I ended up listening to “Actor Out of Work” more than just about any other song in 2009. It’s not your simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus track either. There’s a build, new elements come into the fold late in the game. It punches forward like a battle anthem all pierced by Annie Clark’s dynamic vocals. It’s lightning in a bottle, man. Lightning in a goddamn bottle.

The b-side “Bicycle” is a lovely, dreamy non-album track that sounds like it would play over the credits of a French film if the lyrics were only in French. It is also the reason I’ve continued to hold onto this 7” despite owning Actor. That, and I have great hopes that one day my daughter will take interest in my record collection and I want her to be able to find a badass lady amidst my overwhelmingly dude-ly record collection. Since I started liquidating my collection and weeding out unessential items, I’ve tried to at least make sure it’s a diverse ecosystem. That sounds overly precious to me, but it is what is keeping me from straight-up hawking everything but a crateful of vinyl.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas

The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
Merge, 2014 (Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2015
Price: $18
My all-time Top Ten records could easily be comprised entirely of Mountain Goats albums. This is no joke. No songwriter speaks to my soul quite like John Darnielle, and were he to forge some sort of tent-revival spiritual following cult-like group, I would follow him into the dark night. Putting nothing but Mountain Goats records in my Top Ten is easy, but deciding the order is hard. I know the top three would be Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, and All Hail West Texas, but the order is variable. Depends on the mood. Tonight, it’s All Hail West Texas, and it’s a no doubter. It’s simultaneously the last of JD’s boombox recordings and also the first album that feels like an actual Album rather than a collection of songs. It’s a great leap forward and the songwriting here is at another level, which is astounding considering the level Darnielle was already writing at.

The night I asked Jenny out on our first date, I played a solo show at the Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence. My band the Kite Tails were scheduled to open but my bandmates couldn’t make the gig and, for some insane reason, I decided to soldier on. I used it as an opportunity to cover some of my favorite songs. I’d just spent a year going through a rough breakup, and finally cut it off for good with my ex about a month before. I was still in an ugly place, and I put a lot of sad breakup songs on that setlist. “Source Decay” was right there in the middle, and despite practicing it fifty times in the lead-up to the show, I forgot one of the verses late in the song. Fortunately, someone in the crowd (I think it was this guy Cal, who. Ironically, I ended up playing in another band with a year or so down the line) knew the song and sang out the start of the verse and I finished with as much aplomb as I could. I was nervous, but I got lost in that song. I still get lost in that song every time I hear it. That night I was exorcising demons I’d been living with for too long, and I feel like yelling those lyrics into a microphone to 20 people in a basement in a college town finally got me to move along. I drank my free beer, saw Jenny for the first time in months, and was riding high enough on the emotional buoy of the show to break character and for once in my life act with confidence.

That was almost 7 years ago, we’ve been together ever since, and the Mountain Goats is one of our collective favorite bands. This is what we listen to when we listen to music. This is what I listen to when I listen to music, and I can’t talk about the Mountain Goats without getting evangelical and emotional. I can only surmise that this is what people who love the Bible feel like. They wanna share the good news, they want you to feel as amazing as they feel when they interface with something deeply spiritual. For me, listening to a Mountain Goats record is as close as I get to going to church. Especially this one, which was finally reissued on vinyl last year, thank god.

"The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton"

"Source Decay"

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mark Mulcahy - Fathering

Mark Mulcahy – Fathering
Mezzotint, 1997 (2014 Reissue)
Acquired: Discogs, New, 2015
Price: $5 + $3.50 shipping = $8.50
Mark Mulcahy’s latest album—2013’s Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You—was one of my absolute favorite albums of that year. It clocked in at #6 on my year-end list that year, but I’d like to retroactively bump it up to #2. I listen to that album a lot. It rarely leaves my iPhone, and it’s sort of a go to when I need to get some shit done and feel like a grown ass man. It’s a grown ass man sort of record.

After that transcendent discovery, I sought out his first solo LP Fathering. I could only find it on Spotify, so I listened to it out of order. Listening to it now is the first time I’ve listened to it in its properly sequenced form. It’s a goddamn great record. So spare and different and full of the sort of passion that curls up inside your chest. Unlike the rollicking swagger of Dear Mark J Mulcahy’s most ebullient moments, Fathering is mostly clean, reverbed guitar and voice. It’s a twist on your dude-with-a-guitar singer-songwriter album that tweaks the formula just enough to be both compelling and fresh. It doesn’t hurt that the songwriting is incredibly good. But that’s a given. I wouldn’t be here if the dude’s tunes didn’t destroy me (sometimes “The Rabbit” from DMJM,ILY will come on shuffle and I’ll be wrecked for the rest of the day that’s how good he is).

Selling off the unnecessary bits of my record collection has really helped me change my way of thinking about music. I was always a hoarder. My iTunes library has 82,000 songs and no one needs that much music. Every record in my collection has to tell me a story. There has to be something there that makes me put the record back on the shelf or I immediately list it on Discogs. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion? That was Jenny and I’s album when we were falling in love. The Pogues Rum Sodomy and the Lash? I tried to sell it but I put on “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” sat and listened, and put the album back on the shelf. I haven’t bought a new record in many months, and it’s a novel thing having an album I own on vinyl but can’t pop onto my iPhone. Fathering is very much an album I associate with, well, fathering. I play it when I’m hanging out with Rosie in the toy room, or when we’re driving to the post office, or when I’m cooking dinner before Jenny gets home. It’s been everywhere lately, and it is only appropriate that it take up residence on my turntable.

"Hey, Self Defeater"