Friday, June 14, 2013

The Argument For Vinyl

I am not a hipster. I don't have facial hair from the 1890's, I won't tell you how I discovered "that" years before you did, and I don't insist on artisanal mayonnaise. I do however, listen to records .....

Like most of you I ditched the pops and crackles of vinyl for the siren song of digital convenience long ago. I embraced CD's, then MP3's, and then streaming channels. I was content with this choice for quite some time. I never really loved MP3's, but having every piece of music I owned at my fingertips was hard to say no to, and Spotify..... Christ !! There was always something missing though, and I realized that my musical soul may have been sold in a Faustian bargain. I had lost the connection to my music.

There was no grand design in finding my way back to this ancient technology. My turntable had always been around and I still had a few select LP's from my youth. They never garnered much attention but they were here waiting for me to see the light. For a few years now I had been picking up some Record Store Day releases but that was it, just a once a year event to support a small business and hang with music geeks. Then last year it kinda stuck, the light bulb went on, I really missed this ....

No you can't drag your records to the gym or spin 'em in the car, but you can sit your ass down, pour your favorite adult beverage, and listen to some music. I mean REALLY listen. Now I'm not suggesting you torch that hard drive like Hendrix at Monterey. You wanna download that infectious Ke$ha tune or Spotify some one hit wonder, go right ahead. What I do suggest, is for those albums that you have a real connection to, the ones that helped you though that break-up, or demand your best "air guitar", or the ones you just plain love, deserve more. They deserve a place on the shelf and your undivided attention. Control your ADD tendencies, hide the smartphone, and experience a collective musical work in it's intended order instead of the random shuffle we have become all too comfortable with. Ogle that artwork, read those liner notes, let yourself drift into the bliss of a great album. Sure those records will require some care and upkeep, but you will have something you can hold, collect, and admire.

Article after article will tell you vinyl sounds better, the bass is tighter, it's analog man ..... I'm not going there. What I will tell you, is when the stylus rides that groove, it feels like I'm in the same room with the music .... It's alive, as if Jack and Meg White set up in my living room to entertain me and I'm a part of it. So if you have a turntable and can remember where you stashed it, dust it off and give it a spin. You may well be surprised by what you hear and feel.

Once you drag out those old records you may realize your collection isn't in the best shape and you want to pick some stuff up. As far as recommendations go, all that classic rock, funk, and jazz will be a great listening experience. In the event you would like some more recent titles that really sound great on vinyl, here are a few of my favorites from the last few years.

  1. Blunderbuss ~ Jack White 
  2. Brothers ~ The Black Keys
  3. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga ~ Spoon 
  4. Bad as Me ~ Tom Waits 
  5. Lungs ~ Florence and the Machine
  6. ... Like Clockwork ~ Queens of the Stone Age 
  7. Trouble Will Find Me ~ The National

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Kids Are Alright !!!

What were you up to when you were in your teens ???  Whatever it was it's not as impressive as what you are about to hear. The Skins are a Brooklyn band on actor Adrian Grenier's label Wreckroom Records, (he's gotta do something with that Entourage money). The members range in age from 13 to 19 years old and sound as if they were the love child of your favorite classic rock station and a singer from Stax records circa 1963. It's a great combination of gritty Rock and Roll with an injection of soulful vocals. The whole group is quite impressive but singer Bayli Mckeithan really sings her ass off.

They released this single and a 3 song EP early 2012, but I'm pretty sure it slipped under your radar. If you like what you hear, pony up some dollars and get an MP3 copy for yourself. You can also check them out this Wednesday June 12th at Webster Hall opening up for The Heavy.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


It takes a great deal of vision to re-imagine a song in a completely new way. Often it ends up feeling more like a joke than an truthful interpretation of the song's meaning. I've been guilty of this many times. The graveyard of my college creations include Hip Hop versions of Bon Jovi tunes and a mashup of sorts between the theme from Rawhide and Stravinsky's Petrushka. I kid you not.

In contrast, here is a serious rendition of Portishead's Sour Times by The Civil Wars. This is a complete and honest take on a haunting song. One could argue it's merely an "unplugged" rendition of a Trip Hop tune, but they have done so much more with it. Unlike the cimbalom laced, Bond-esque original, they do not emulate the wonderfully disinterested vocal performance. This is a deliberate and impassioned plea by Joy Williams and John Paul White, whose voices intertwine into a single entity with some beautiful phrasing. It transports you to a very different place. If you are unfamiliar with them, I would suggest taking the time to get to know their work. They have a knack for taking the essential elements from a song and running with them to a very impactful place. Their cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is life changing.

This certainly doesn't replace the original in the way that Aretha Franklin replaces Otis Redding's Respect but they have created something that truly is their own. The Civil Wars have a new album on the horizon which I am very much looking forward to.


Welcome and thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet. If you're hoping for a place to find out where I went on vacation or how much I dislike Taylor Swift, you're going to be very disappointed. This blog is a vehicle to explore all that is great about making and listening to music. You won't see any scathing reviews or bitter ramblings ... (well, you probably won't). What you will see are the tricks and techniques I've learned over my career, plus a myriad of music that I find inspiring. I extend an invite to professionals, the aspiring and the folks that just love music.