Showing posts with label records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label records. Show all posts

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Soccer Mom (self-titled)

I love the speed at which Soccer Mom attacks their music, as well as the tonality and grit they use to pronounce each note; danceably dissonant.  Their songs easily forgive the past two decades, and thankfully there are plenty of us still flying that flag (staring down at our shoes).

The packaging for Soccer Mom's self-titled album is pure and simple, and at home in its format.  The cover art is all typography, toying with the opacity of blue, yellow, and red to introduce themselves.  Song titles and 100m Record's logo are all that's necessary on the back; seemlessly continuing the starch white backdrop of the jacket.  It would not be hard to imagine the words "Thrill Jockey Records" (in spirit of all things Sam Prekop) replacing the 100m Records logo (no disrespect meant by that; an honest admirable compliment) for this modernly designed release.

Soccer Mom makes great use of the larger format on their latest vinyl record, featuring three wonderful photographs in full color from Tom Bellotti,  including one of the band themselves.  With great consideration for this accompanying art form, Soccer Mom keeps the photographs free and clear of all distractions, gently placing their credits to one side of the insert (black and white ink, of course, to pinch a penny where you can / when you can; why not?).

I like to put the photograph of the band in my peripheral vision while I go back and forth between the other two pictures, imagining I'm watching Soccer Mom play live outside the illuminated house past dusk, or carelessly on the city streets of Boston as the pigeons retreat overhead.

The layout for the center labels are really what tickle my fancy.  I'm simply always a fan of anything that bleeds over the edge of the stock; especially text; especially important text (such as a band's name). In this case, Soccer Mom refers to themselves as "SM," in which they allow the "S " to shyly tuck its head behind the black curtain of vinyl framing in the data.  With the sans serif font theme carried throughout, the center labels stand to be as attractive as their patrón.

It is all very classic.  It is all very 90s.  Who's with me?!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Electroscopes - Made a Mistake 7inch

I love this little record, I love everything about it.  I love the way it came to me.  I love the cover.  I love that it is on black wax.  I love the music that comes out of the speakers.  I love the bands being promoted on the promotional flyers that were included.  I love the handwriting used to label side-a. I love the 4-millimeter (not the less expensive 2-millimeter) polyethylene bag used to hold everything together.  (Wait, haven't I done that already, where I start the review with "I love..., I love... I love...?")

Okay, not that we got that over with, let's begin.

The Electroscopes "Made a Mistake" 7inch was released by German label, Firestation Records, limited to 200 copies.  It is the sole project of Paul Mansell, from Northampton, Britian; a fine young gentleman I may add.  When Paul himself heard our original copy of his record was lost somewhere in that great big pond that divides our countries, he without hesitation sent a second copy (again, limited to only 200 pressings) to ensure we were still able to get our groove on.  I have got to say, sending out promo copies of a limited release vinyl records is one thing.  Sending promos internationally is another.  But sending a replacement copy... hats off to you Paul, and superthanks for making sure this one landed safely.

I remember pulling this 7inch out for a first spin late one night.  I believe I had just returned from being out at the clubs (or you could say, "in da' clurb" if you like), and me and Mrs. Blogger were feeling pretty chill as is.  "Made a Mistake" was no mistake at all, rather cool and nostalgic; reminiscent of early Trembling Blue Stars.  I immediately dimmed the lighting to a faint glow, savored a nip of American Kentucky bourbon, and repositioned the black Ray-Ban Wayfarers I once wore only to shade the sun.  

"First Into Space, Last Down to Breakfast" on the flipside kept the party going.  It is the soundtrack for a contempo Asian bar, where conversations are comfortable, the beat keeps you feeling right, and everyone looks good.  If this song were released earlier than 2003, Sofia Coppola would have included it in Lost In Translation.  Another example of the b-side track potentially outshining it's (what's meant to be) better half.

I think Firestation Records could have gone with DJ-style white (no label) center labels for this one, perhaps lending further to the downbeat discotheque elements of the release.  However, the fact that someone literally hand wrote information on side-a only gave a cordial hit of twee / C86.  The black and white photocopied j-fold sleeve is simple, and gives all you need; done right.  The heavier polyethylene bag makes the record proud; I always appreciate it when that detailed is given attention.

The cover art is a photograph of a skyscraper; perhaps one with businesses below and a handful of condominiums on the upper floors.  There is a texture to the photograph that dates back to the 1970's, but the many television satellite dishes (or are they electroscopes) affixed to the porches greets the modern age.  Iconic, nonetheless, and well positioned, it's an appropriate image for a single.  

As for the promotional material included, I think someone knew how big of a Sarah Records fan I am.  It did not take too long for my eyes to detect the mentions of The Orchids and St. Christopher.  Thanks for the additional swag!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mike Adams At His Honest Weight - Oscillate Wisely

There is something about handmade silkscreened record artwork that gets me good every time. It often accompanies music released on a more local level and/or limited run basis, and it always demonstrates a level of passion and dedication hardly ever revealed through manufactured artwork.

I can't help but relate this admiration to a foody's obsession with locally grown organic ingredients. Corporate owned restaurant chains continue to fill the bellies of the masses in the same way larger record companies thoughtlessly use the same formulas over and over for what should be creative designs. When you can simply look at carrots and see their unique flavor profile, or open a carton of multicolored eggs and know the vibrant yokes inside are going to ooze richness... that's when I can wait to drop the needle on the record to hear what awaits. It's not going to be Radiohead or Justin Timberlake, and no its not going to be that McRib sandwich that stirs up memories of youthful trips to the beach, but I can promise you it's going to push some envelopes that were left on the table that should have been opened in the first place.

This is definitely the case with Mike Adams At His Honest Weight's album 'Oscillate Wisely.' But Mike Adams has a lot more going for him than thought provoking packaging; he's a brilliant song writer, and has a handsome Mike Love (Beach Boys) -like voice (maybe not quite as high but just as silky-sweet) - best presented on "I'm Not Worried."

The cover art appears to be a picture of Mr. Adams himself, although I've opted not to GTS to confirm. St. Ives and Flannelgraph Records (split release) had a standard white record jacket (spray?) painted with silver ink on the front, and then the artwork was silkscreened with blue ink on top, with the emblem-inspired imagery.

The back cover is much more raw; as if there was a little dirt left on the carrots. Mike Adams did the handwriting and additional illustration. The record is hand-numbered, limited to 500 copies, and does come with liner notes that further explain the teamwork and responsibilities involved with crafting this prize release.

"Don't You Blanket (When That Happens)" launches side-b like the best of any Starflyer 59 album, while "It's All Been Done (You Said)" highlights Adams' understanding of vocal melodies in a way that reminiscent of Alan Sparhawk (Low); pulling from the best-of-the-best of influences.

I can't get enough of this bona fide indie rock record and Mike Adams' graceful vocals, as well as his respect of ambience. Originally released January 25, 2011... Check out 'Oscillate Wisely' over at Flannelgraph's Bandcamp.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Friends of Cesar Romero - Red Headed Strangler 7inch

7inch records serve a purpose as a quick way for record labels and bands to get two songs out to their audience. In Jamaica, bands use this snappy (pun intended) method to get their music to DJs at the dancehalls and radio, while the wax is later recycled once the song has finished receiving airplay (so much for collecting). For these promptly produced petite platters, record labels often skip the step of custom artwork for the band and use standard issued sleeves that show off their company pride. Bands without this representation might choose to simply utilize a white paper sleeve, commonly used as the inner sleeve with a standard jacket.

I simply love it when record labels like Friends of Cesar Romero's label, Snappy Little Numbers, or Trouble In Mind, or the almighty Sub Pop Records use these company sleeves for their 7inch singles. It's almost as if they are saying, "Trust us, these songs are so freaking amazing, screw the artwork; all you need is the music!" What ends up happening is the label itself develops a style (a look), which becomes part of the visual charm for all of the bands they represent.

In the case of Snappy Little Numbers, there is an innocent throw back to their design that is reminiscent of Jukebox Diners, Greasers and Socs, and dance styles such as the stroll, the bunny hop, the boogie-woogie and the hully-gully. Somehow, this put me in the mood for some good ol' fashioned garage rock, which I was happy to hear when the needle hit the marbled grey wax. Friends of Cesar Romero could easily join the rosters of craggy combo craving cartels like Trouble In Mind, HoZac, or Burger Records. Snappy Little Numbers looks to be feeding the same frenzy of gritty adolescent pop, and Friends of Cesar Romero are welcomed to the party.

Both tracks, "Red Headed Strangler" and "Tammys of Tomorrow," are crammed with zing and zest; I can't tell the a-side from the b-side. The hooks keep you flipping the vinyl back and forth. Both tracks are exciting; they are electric. Records like this are what give b-side tracks their a-side reputation, and bands like Friends of Cesar Romero are what keep the party going all night long. Clearly focused without any compromise, Friends of Cesar Romero and Snappy Little Numbers deliver a solid, classic 7inch single worth seeking out.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Soccer Mom - You Are Not Going To Heaven

First off... I love this record! I love it for so many reasons (that we will get to in a moment), but let's start with the music and then dive into the fun stuff: the packaging. Side-a / track-1, "(A) Natural History," is simply the perfect start to what is a brilliantly constructed record. Immediately, I fantasize that this record was mislabeled and I'm actually listening to Swervedriver's long lost demo recordings (pre-Raise); Soccer Mom "never (lost) that feeling" and nailed it spot-on right out of the gate with this opening track. (I'm sure over time everyone reading this blog is going to quickly learn that I'm a hugeübersupersucker for shoegaze / wall-of-sound / driving guitars.)

"American Shirt (Eagle Flag 911)" and "Celebrity Unrest" continue to back this introductory resemblance, but adding in additional references of My Bloody Valentine (especially the open guitar tones of "American Shirt (Eagle Flag 911)") and Sonic Youth. Singer / Guitarist, Will Scales, has a 1990's / Thurston Moore style of delivering his words; direct, raw, and often with a coolness. Danielle Deveau's baselines are straightforward and infectious, doing what bass players are supposed to do.

As I eluded to in the beginning, not only has the music from this EP caught my attention, but the interactive packaging really stands out. There is a heavyweight paper with an image of lines floating above the record jacket, allowing the listener to slide it up and down, changing the view from the title of the EP, 'You Are Not Going To Heaven,' to the name of the band, Soccer Mom. On the flip side, this movement provides you with the song titles from side-a to side-b. All of the typography on the record jacket itself is embossed into a thick, white cardboard with black ink; stunning.

Moving inside the package, the first thing I find is a printed copy of my favorite Peanuts cartoon; the one where Linus is telling Lucy,"Buying records cheers me up... Whenever I feel low, I buy some new records.." (so true). I'm not sure if I was special to receive this, but either way it worked for me.

I love that Sweaters & Pearls and 100m Records (split release) thought to use a manilla record sleeve, rather than the traditional white sleeves; it's a welcomed unique touch that you don't see too often. The cut-to-bleed photo with liner notes insert makes what could appear to be a more low-fi project official. Add in the glossy download card for MP3s that matches the line-image of the cover art as well, and you now know this is not another Belle & Sebastian high school project for art class.

For me, two other factors wrap it up as a stellar release for Soccer Mom, Sweaters & Pearls, and 100m Records: white vinyl and a 10inch record. It's a nice solid piece of wax that feels so innocent, taking us back to that low-fi feeling, which is what I'm loving so much (ultimately) about this record. The artwork on the center labels appears to be hand stamped: white paper label with red ink; purposeful (a), hospitable (thanks), and all that is necessary.

Everything from the music to the design is eclectic and contrasting, yet sits so well together. You'd expect to only be able to buy this record from the bass player's car after their show in the parking lot behind the club, as well as see it on the well illuminated shelves of Newbury Comics. The fun nature of the packing might lead you to think that Soccer Mom is the next pop-infused affair from Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields), but yet as your needle clears the lead-in you quickly realize Soccer Mom's 10inch EP (musically as well as physically) pays great tribute to indie rock releases from when vinyl was all we knew (SEE: Magic Eye Singles, Decoder Ring, Emperor Jones, SharkAttack!, Pop Narcotic, SpinArt, Omnibus, Vulva, Fist Puppet, Our Own Records). RIYL: Why are so many people addicted to indie rock music?

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

The moment this album, 'A Thing Called Divine Fits,' first came into my line of sight, I knew Britt Daniel of the band Spoon had to have something to do with it. Somewhere between the simplistic, iconic cover image of a cherry backed by the chartreuse-like (its more yellow than chartreuse) wash of color with the words "Divine Fits" in an Arial Black font slapped on top, to the continuous use of that sans serif font on the back for the song titles (minus spacing) to be displayed in a joyous, proud manner (which I've personally grown to love and expect from Britt Daniel records), I was in the midst of placing my bet that 'A Thing Called Divine Fits' was indeed the next Spoon record. This recently-introduced-fan of Wolf Parade was pleasantly surprised to learn that Divine Fits is actually a new band made up of Daniel, Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, and Alex Fischel.

This record was a present for me from my friend Colin, who is cronies with Craig Cully, the painter of this famed cherry that is now part of the ever growing imagery that represents Britt Daniel's musical recordings: girl with camera - 'Nefarious (EP),' man with sunglasses - 'Telephone,' vinyl record - 'Girls Can Tell,' arms - 'Kill The Moonlight,' red hooded cape - 'Gimme Fiction,' text only - 'Got Nuffin,' etc.. Craig was kind enough to sign this copy for Colin to give to me; pretty stoked!

'A Thing Called Divine Fits' is loaded with those übercatchy pop hooks that Daniel often brings to his Spoon records. But it wasn't until track-3, "What Gets You Alone," when Boeckner delivered the opening line, "Jessica please, take out insurance on me," that I was truly hooked on this album. Is it just me, or did anyone else catch the (possibly intentional) homage to Fugazi's "Dear Justice Letter" with this lyric? My mind went wandering with wonder at first; I completely missed the song and had to reset the needle to get back on track with enjoying the music.

"The Salton Sea" led by Daniel is the most entrancing song on this debut album for Divine Fits. With its echoing synthesizers pulling you in through their bouncing beats, you begin to dream that the brilliance of this record could possibly be Divine Fits extending this song until, let's say 'infinity,' so you never have to wake from this dreamscape. However, like any good pop-song-composer, Daniel knows to cut it short and leave you wanting more; well played.

Side-b continues to deliver additional gems for fans of Divine Fits' origins: "Civilian Stripes, "Like Ice Cream," and the pulsating, dreamy (pun intended) "Neopolitans." For me, I continue to respect Daniel's accessible approach to his music / art / design. Six tracks for side-a, five for side-b, and only one vinyl record required for this fun LP; traditional in form, with lyrics and liner notes printed on the inside jacket (no additional inserts needed). I like it. Although, following a critique from another design-focused-fan, I can't help by wonder if Daniel had someone else design the center labels on the vinyl record itself.