Monthly Archives: May 2017

Catching up: The Books, Thought for Food

[The Books - Thought for Food]

I worked at Waterloo Records from 2002 to 2005, and while it wasn’t the most lucrative job, it was one of the most influential.

It also taught me the quickest way to kill enthusiasm about music is to work at a record store.

For the most part, everyone on staff got along. We all shared different aspects of the same sense of humor, fueled by skepticism of the world in general and customers’ tastes in particular.

None of us could fathom why Bob Schneider or Norah Jones sold tons of discs, but we rang up those purchases anyway because, hey, paycheck!

The one point of contention that threatened this egalitarian ideal was the in-store player. We could play six tracks of anything we sold in the store. Some staffers were more aggressive about queueing items up, and a large portion of the staff preferred those items to be garage rock.

I would make some controversial picks myself — Duran Duran being a natural choice. Enya was one that caused a miniature staff meeting.

Thought For Food by the Books was one of those rare instances where I would stop what I was doing and see what was playing. It was a fleeting experience, though — something else would come on the player that would erase my desire to see what was queued up next.

I didn’t actually listen to the album all the way through till I found it at a book sale for the Seattle Public Library. I picked it up knowing I vaguely liked what I heard.

I can now say I concretely liked what I heard. It’s equal parts Slint and Scott Johnson, the sampled voices contributing musically to the laid back post-rock.

As much as I like the album now, I’m not sure I would have liked it as much then. I was still deep into Japanese indie rock, and it would be another five years before I dove deeper into the Temporary Residence catalog.

I may not have meshed with my coworkers taste-wise, but they did help strengthen my opinion on what I liked while also showing me how to expand those tastes.

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The ones that nearly got away: Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs

[Shawn Colvin - A Few Small Repairs]

The success of Shawn Colvin’s A Few Small Repairs was a huge deal in Austin.

Despite its billing as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, the Austin music scene didn’t have much of a national profile beyond music industry insiders. Seattle had its moment with grunge, and Prince was synonymous with Minneapolis.

Austin had a statue to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I had heard about Shawn Colvin before I moved to Austin in May 1997 — 20 years ago this month! — but I hadn’t heard any of her music. My parents still didn’t have cable television when I moved away, so tuning into MTV in the St. Edwards University apartments where the Austin American-Statesman housed its interns was pretty novel.

That’s where I encountered the video for “Sunny Came Home.” The chorus of the song grabbed me, and of course, it was all over local radio. Before there was Kanye vs. Taylor Swift, P. Diddy infamously grabbed the mic from Colvin as she was accepting her Grammy award.

The late ’90s were kind to the Austin music scene. Flush from the dot-com boom, transplants such as myself were eager to spend our cash, and the entertainment districts in Austin gladly took it. Beside the usual country acts, Austin supported singer-songwriters and indie rock bands. Colvin was the first to emerge nationally, followed a year later by Fastball.

I hadn’t been to many concerts before moving to Austin, and it was the live music experience that made me realize gay bars weren’t really that much fun.

A Few Small Repairs and my first summer in Austin are pretty much entwined.

Then the economy tanked four years later, and A Few Small Repairs got traded for cash. My motivation for selling the album was based on the reason I bought it: peer pressure.

I really hadn’t chosen to live in Austin — it was just the place that allowed me to leave Honolulu. By embracing the local music scene, I could embrace the city that was to become my home.

The dot-com bust landed me a job at Waterloo Records, where I was subjected to music I just didn’t like. Up until then, I tried to be a cheerleader for everything new I encountered, but that experience made me realize I didn’t have to like everything.

As money got tight, I couldn’t justify devoting shelf space to an album if I liked only one song on it, so A Few Small Repairs got purged.

I was wrong, of course. A Few Small Repairs had more than one great song on it, as evidenced by “Get Out of This House”, the track following “Sunny Came Home”. “Wichita Skyline” and “Nothin’ On Me” provide further evidence.

I did have the presence of mind to rip the album before I sold it, suspecting I was making a foolish decision, which I confirmed years later when I found that rip and listened to it.

I wouldn’t welcome the album back into my collection till I found it at a book sale for the Friends of the Seattle Public Library.

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Looking ahead: May-June 2017

[U2 - The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Edition)]

It seems all the bands in which I’m interested all decided to release their albums in May and June. To date, I have a total of four 2017 releases since the start of the year. Putting together the Favorite Edition Half Year is going to be tricky.

At the Drive-In, in*ter al*li*a, May 5

I can’t figure out why I’m looking forward this late-coming follow-up to Relationship of Command, an album I like but can’t listen to very often. And I wasn’t enough of a fan to follow either Mars Volta or Sparta.

Café Tacvba, Jei Beibi, May 5

I find it interesting that Café Tacvba is releasing this album through CD Baby. That means they’ve gone completely independent.

Midnight Oil, Full Tank, May 7
Midnight Oil, Overflow Tank, May 7

Tempting as these complete boxed sets may be, my current Midnight Oil collection occupies quite a bit of shelf space. Also, the import markup makes these sets fiscally untenable. Hey Sony, fans outside of Australia might be interested in some of these releases.

Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte, May 12

It’s a visual album about a man going into outer space to find the woman of his dreams. I would be interested to see how Café Tacvba would tackle the same plot.

PWR BTTM, Pageant, May 12

Anyone who has Grindr or Scruff installed on his phone would probably check out a band called PWR BTTM.

Art of Noise, In Visible Silence (Deluxe Edition), May 19

The weirdest album I acquired in 1986. The b-sides are terrific.

Kishida Shigeru, Symphony No. 1, May 24

If the orchestral work Kishida released last year as a digital single is any indication, don’t expect a musical metamorphosis on the level of C. Kip Winger.

Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain, May 26

His first album of original music.

Cody Chesnutt, My Love Divine Degree, June 2

It’s been a while. I had wondered if another 10 years would pass before another Cody Chesnutt album would arrive.

U2, The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), June 2

I already have the 20th Anniversary edition, so really, I just want the white cover with the color photo.

Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs, June 9

For a while there, I thought Kronos had moved on from Nonesuch, given the number of albums the ensemble has released on other labels. This collaborative album with Sam Amidon, Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens and Olivia Chaney is the first Kronos has released on Nonesuch since 2012, not counting various anthologies.

Dan Messe, Amelie: A New Musical, June 9

I’m not sure what draws me to this cast recording — the fact it’s based on Amelie or the fact it was written by a member of Hem.

Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister, Planetarium, June 9

Well, somebody had to update Gustav Mahler’s The Planets

The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts, June 16

Jonny Pierce goes full Roland Orzabal ca. 1993, becoming the sole member of his band The Drums.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, June 16

I would be OK with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson releasing albums on alternating years.

Vinyl

Midnight Oil, The Vinyl Collection, May 7

I would like to get Redneck Wonderland, Breathe and Head Injuries on vinyl. I could do without Capricornia, Earth and Sun and Moon and Place Without a Postcard. Maybe separate releases down the line? Outside Australia, even??

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, May 12

Harris’ shows at the Ryman gave the venue new life, and she returns for the venue’s 125th anniversary. So of course a reissue (on vinyl!) is in order.

En Vogue, Funky Divas, June 9

I’m disappointed rock bands haven’t turned “Free Your Mind” into a crossover classic.

Enya, A Day Without Rain, June 16
Enya, Amaratine, July 14

A Day Without Rain is Enya’s weakest album, and Amaratine went a long way to rectify it. That won’t stop me from getting both of them.

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