In June 2019, I took the plunge back into music retail by volunteering at the Lifelong Thrift Store. This immediate access to the store’s CD stock has reshaped my listening habits. I bring back so many discs from my visits to the store, it’s rare that I’ll listen to something more than once. It makes finding new favorites a challenge.
Hans Abrahamsen, Schnee: Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I was so fascinated by it, I had to own a recording.
Ali Wong, Baby Cobra: I heard Baby Cobra was a really good comedy special, but I didn’t realize Wong had filmed the special in Seattle. And I’ve known about Wong back when Chelsea Lately was on the air. I could have seen this show live, dammit.
Easterhouse, Waiting for the Redbird: The classic rock station in Honolulu back in the late ’80s would play an occasional “modern rock” track. I may have caught Easterhouse’s “Come Out Fighting” once on that station, but it was enough to make me curious about the band — a curiosity I would not explore till more than 30 years later.
Kalapana, Kalapana: I didn’t realize how pervasive this album was on Hawaii pop radio when I was growing up. I was 3 years old when this album was released, but it would continue to dominate the airwaves as I grew more aware of my surroundings.
Infomatik, Technologies: Sometimes, the Internet does forget.
My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything: I missed out on the 2018 vinyl reissue of this album, so I settled for a bootleg pressing.
Robert Palmer, Secrets: This album was the pivot between the blue-eyed funk of Palmer’s early work and his embrace of a more new wave sound. It’s also one of his finest.
Rick Springfield, Tao: I’m a sucker for albums that forgo gaps and fades between tracks.
Boston, Boston: This album is against what punk music rebelled, but I like it anyway.
Roberta Flack, First Take: Stop underrating Roberta Flack!
This year was pretty slim on reissues. To be honest, I haven’t gotten through Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing: I can’t believe this album isn’t a towering classic of ’80s new wave. Cherry Pop thankfully gives it the deluxe treatment it deserves
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop: The Matt Wallace mix of Don’t Tell a Soul is ahead of its time. The drier sound would not become fashionable till after 1991, but heard today, Dead Man’s Pop feels contemporary.
Janet Jackson, Control: The Remixes: I didn’t realize how much I loved the mixes featured in Janet’s videos.
This album is one of those extremely rare, regional finds that will either be selling for $0.50 at a thrift store or $30 on Discogs.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
When this album was first released, my record store co-workers liked it enough to recommend it. Kanye had already gone headlong into celebrity insufferability by then, and I passed. It was that endorsement that prompted me to pick this album up at the thrift store. What I like best is the lack of raps, and thus, the lack of posturing. It’s also restrained, something refreshingly unbecoming of an artist with the size of Kanye’s ego.
The Bad Rackets, Full On Blown Apart
This album is the intersection of garage rock and punk that my Waterloo Records co-workers would play to death. It’s been about 15 years since, so I’m not so severe in my reaction to this kind of music. I’ve also met the band’s drummer, and he’s hotter than a straight guy has any business being.
Art of Noise, Re-works of Art of Noise
At the time of its release, I wasn’t interested in live tracks, which is half of this compilation EP. I was wrong to be so dismissive. Art of Noise had to adapt to a live setting, giving these tracks new facets the studio versions don’t capture. “Hammersmith to Tokyo and Back” is worth the price of the EP alone.
I skipped this album when it was released. All the pre-release press described Monster in terms that didn’t hold much appeal to me. I didn’t share everyone’s breathless acclaim for Automatic for the People, so I approached Monster with a level of skepticism that stopped me from listening to the album for 25 years. How foolish.
The Cult, Sonic Temple
I read about this album in a lot of magazines back in high school, but I never made the plunge. I like how it’s not quite heavy metal.
Sometimes, you have to judge an album by its cover.
In the case of Identities by Infomatik, it’s an intricate jewel case wired with electronics.
I ran across a copy of the EP during a volunteer shift at Lifelong Thrift Store. The case was falling apart because the electronics had been dislodged. At first, I thought someone was crazy enough to ditch a copy of Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit Symphony, but a closer examination of the album credits ruled that out.
Then I had to wonder — what kind of band would go this amount of effort to craft such complex packaging?
I reached a dead end when I attempted to visit the band’s web site, which had long been surrendered to domain squatters. The Wayback Machine gives some hint of who this band was. A Google search on the band’s requires the use of quotations, otherwise Google will assume you want to search “informatik” instead of “infomatik”. (The best terms to use: “infomatik” band.)
In the mid-2000s, the band got a lot of good press in Seattle, eventually releasing a full-length album, Technologies. Obviously, Infomatik is no longer, the band’s members scattered to the wind and any evidence of their existence relegated to difficult web searches and a scant entry in Discogs.
It’s a pity.
Infomatik threw its hat into the ring of ’80s revivalism so prevalent at the time. The synths are grimy, the live beats as danceable as anything found in a machine, and the vocals a satisfying balance of deadpan and angst. They may descend from Killing Joke and Wire, but they understood what made those bands good.
I was so thoroughly impressed with Identify that I tracked down Technologies. All the tracks from Identify found their way to Technologies, but it’s none the worse for it.
In the mid-’00s, the infrastructure to get music online was in its infancy, so none of these releases are available through any of the usual digital services. As of this writing, a single copy each of Identify and Technologies are for sale on Discogs in the $30 range.
With my volunteer discount, I took Identify home for $0.83. I snagged the last remaining copy of Technologies on Amazon Marketplace for less than $2. The shipping cost more than the disc.