Tag Archives: newbury comics

Take Five

Second Thoughts

I always rue my hasty decisions.

Back in the day (“the day” being college), I loved Josh Rouse. I drank up the singer-songwriter-y glory of his first two albums, “Dressed Up Like Nebraska” and “Home.” I still remember seeing him live at the Middle East Upstairs — was that my first solo rock show? — and him complimenting my old R.E.M. Tourfilm shirt. Then, he relocated to Barcelona, and the heavy Spanish influences slipping into his music didn’t appeal as much to me. So I slipped off the Josh Rouse radar, and actually ended up selling a few of his more recent albums.

Then yesterday, while driving back from Connecticut, I heard a recent song of his on WERS, “I Will Live on Islands.” And I really, really enjoyed it. I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has some interesting thoughts on Rouse (plus some more MP3s), obviously exhibiting more patience and worldiness than myself on the matter.

Spinner has a free MP3 of the song, so check it out. And watch this La Blogotheque video of Rouse in his adopted environs:

Around the Web

This weekend, I lost my Foursquare mayorship of Newbury Comics. On the other hand, I earned Foursquare mayorship of Planet Records.

I know what you’re thinking. “Groan. Foursquare. Stop talking about Foursquare! Who cares that you’re at the grocery store and you got a badge for it? Not me!”

I won’t go on about web-ly things (that’s for my other blog), but I will say that everyone freaking out about the uselessness of Foursquare needs to calm down. All it is, for me, is a casual gaming overlay for my everyday life. It’s not going to make or break anything, but for an average person, it can be a bit of fun. And for businesses, there is definitely a potential — if well executed — to use it to take advantage of consumer loyalty.

So, whither record stores, the notoriously dying breed? When I got the notification that I lost my mayorship of Newbury Comics, I was genuinely disappointed. In fact, I made a point of visiting Newbury Comics just to check in and begin the process of reclaiming my mayorship. (And I ended up buying the Waterboys’ “This is the Sea,” since in my weird brain, that would justify the check-in. Plus, I wanted the album anyways.)

When I earned my mayorship of Planet Records, one of the last vanguard of standalone used CD/record shops, I was excited. Why? Because I felt more invested. Earning that meaningless, imaginary title upon stopping by to purchase Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy” tethered me more closely to the store, and will probably make me more likely to stop by and browse when I’m next in Harvard Square. Sure, you can say that mayorships and check-ins and what not aren’t real. But maybe they are.

CD stores, particularly used CD stores, face hefty competition from the likes of Amazon.com and iTunes, let alone regional chains like Newbury Comics. Is there a way stores like Planet Records could use something like Foursquare to stand out? After all, loyalty and community are often what is keeping places like Planet going, and services like Foursquare are built around those very principles. (This analysis by one consulting firm highlights using social media to capitalize on a sense of community as one tactic for used CD stores to regain lost ground.)

Foursquare, for all of its virtual goofiness, is grounded in real-life, brick-and-mortar transactions and events. And brick-and-mortar institutions like Planet Records are ones I would like to see stick around for a long time. Let’s see what happens when two worlds collide.

Second Thoughts, Part Two

I have to admit: I bristled a bit upon reading Frank Yang’s recent post about the New Pornographers, wherein he lauds their most recent album “Together” as a “rebound” following the “staid” and “disappointing” “Challengers.” For the record, I absolutely adored “Challengers,” in part because of its indulgence in thoughtfulness and reflection. I couldn’t help it. Those types of songs appeal to me deeply. It’s what makes songs like “The Bleeding Heart Show” and “These are the Fables” among my all-time favorite NP songs. But even Carl Newman admits that “Challengers” faced a backlash because it went so sharply in that direction.

But “Together,” as Yang explains, hearkens back to the jubilant, frenetic pop of “Electric Version.” It is arguably the fullest realization of the NPs to date, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that “Challengers,” which I adore, was likely a transitional aberration. And after some initial resistance, I am remembering that even “Challengers” was a grower on me, and I am embracing “Together” for what it is.

Relatedly, the New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder is coming out with a solo album this summer. Stereogum has the details and a free track.

Live Music

I can’t go due to a previous commitment, but I urge you (if you’re around Boston) to go to the debut show in the Mixtape: Boston’s Year in Rock series this Saturday at the Rosebud in Davis. The series kicks off with a fine year, 1993, and features The Luxury, The Rationales, St Helena and Exile in Somerville (members of Apple Betty, Kingsley Flood, Dark Martini & the Dirty Olives, The So-So’s) covering songs from that era. Go go go go go.

Finds of the Week

Take Five

Finds of the Week

  • Last night, I spent some quality time with iTunes. I seem to have a lot of difficulty keeping my iPod synced to my iTunes, and I am always having to take stuff of the iPod to make room for new music. Well, I’d neglected this task for a while, so I decided to make an evening of it, popping open a Woodchuck pear cider, turning on the Sox and getting to work. The fun part about this task, however, is newly discovering stuff I downloaded or bought weeks ago and either never listened to properly or never listened to at all. Such as…
    • The latest gem churned up by the blog surf is Galapaghost, a uke-wielding, upstate New York-dwelling one man band named Casey Chandler. Find him on MySpace or read what Music for Kids Who Can’t Read Good had to say about him.
    • The Swedesplease blog has long been a favorite of mine, as befitting my fixation on Swedish pop. I also have a fixation on bears. So imagine my delight when a track by a band called Bear Pilot pops up on that blog, and it’s labeled “the best pop song of the year.” We’ll see if that holds up or not, but either way, “The Bravest Year” is definitely a keeper. Here is an older post with Bear Pilot tracks that I had missed, as well.
    • I would say that this song is possibly the best pop song of the year, but apparently I am a year too late. I just discovered Hey Marseilles, by virtue of the fact that their album “To Trunks and Travels” is being re-released on June 29. But a quick spin of my Google Reader reveals that people like debcha were onto their lush pop way before me (probably because they’re from Seattle and she was there, but hey). Anyways, you can download “Rio” for free from their website, and I strongly urge you to do so. Right now. It’s OK, I know you’ll come back here when you’re done.

Live Music

I know I said last week that I was going to be hitting Record Store Day, seeing the New Collisions/Morning Benders and having a grand ol’ time. Well, Saturday turned out to be an epic fail kind of a day, and I didn’t step foot inside a Newbury Comics until 3:30PM, by which time most if not all of the limited edition 7″s and CDs were gone and the New Collisions/Morning Benders had long since broken down their gear. I still grabbed some fun promo discs and, accidentally, saw Mary Gauthier‘s live set at the Harvard Sq. Newbury Comics.

I don’t generally gravitate toward her brand of haunting folk, but I did appreciate seeing her live. She has a gift for narrative in song, performing with her heart on her sleeve and grit in her teeth. There wasn’t as huge a crowd assembled for her set as I’m sure there was for the Morning Benders, but I took great pleasure in seeing these two older couples — late 50s, Cambridge, ex-hippie types — who you could tell were probably on her mailing list and made the trek to Newbury just to see her play a free half-hour set. It was an unexpectedly fun time.

So, while I didn’t have the Record Store Day experience I’d intended to have, I did make it to the Independent on Tuesday night for the New Pornographers listening party, co-hosted by Brad Searles. Since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t stay long, but I did hang out long enough to hear the new album, pick up a limited edition mix CD crafted by Carl Newman himself (as well as a fun new poster) and make a new friend. There were other giveaways, included posters, 7″s and tickets to the June concert (plus, for the Twitter-inclined, a hashtag-driven contest to win the entire New Pornographers catalog on vinyl). So I would consider that an hour well spent. And even though I had to filter it through the din of a chatty, busy bar, I could tell that “Together” is a special album. May 4 can’t come soon enough. (Also coming out May 4: the new Hold Steady album, which you can stream in its entirety via NPR.org.)

RIYL…

I am absolutely in love with Auto-Tune the News. The Gregory Brothers take unintentionally hilarious political clips from network/broadcast news, C-SPAN and elsewhere, applying a healthy dose of Auto-Tune and their own songwriting to create warped, wonderful musical medleys on current events. This one is my favorite:

And the good news? You can download the Auto-Tune the News songs from Amie Street. Sure, it’s not the same as watching the videos, but if you’ve watched them as often as I have, they’ll be playing in your head as you listen. So, if you like politics, pop culture and parody, you’ll love this.

Bonus? The Gregory Brothers are really talented, both vocally and musically. When they’re not auto-tuning the news, they are in a band they describe as “Country & Soul, Folk & Roll.” Have a listen on MySpace. They’re quite good.

New Releases

I follow Amie Street on Twitter, and the other day I saw that they had a deal for 50% off music credit. They were also plugging the new releases by Local Natives and Surfer Blood. So I put two and two together, grabbed some discounted credits and applied them toward those albums. I also, since it was still pretty darned cheap, snagged the new Kissaway Trail album.

At Record Store Day, the only thing I bought was Nada Surf‘s new covers album, “If I Had a Hifi,” but I am still colossally backed up on my music listening. So I don’t have a whole lot to report on these albums. But I will.

Second Thoughts

The other night, I found myself downloading another Animal Collective song. “Summertime Clothes.” Goddamnit.

Take Five

Finds of the Week

  • All week, I’ve been enamored with the David Byrne/Fatboy Slim project “Here Lies Love.” Enamored may not be a strong enough word. Maybe a bit obsessed. The story is compelling, the songs are well crafted and the sheer quality of the talent involved in the project is staggering. Byrne does a great job of capturing the flavor of the 1970s-80s club anthems that Marcos reveled in, especially in the title track sung by Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), and he never sacrifices narrative. In fact, the whole thing hinges on narrative, which may be which I am so captivated by the project. Usually, I’m not a big liner notes person unless the lyrics are involved, but in this case, they are a must-read. You can appreciate the album without the historical baclground, but that’s like listening to it in mono.My favorite song (of the moment) may be Steve Earle’s contribution, “A Perfect Hand,” which is kind of cheesy but I think that’s why I love it so much. It’s also just a great pop song. “It’s a winning combination / if a lady understands / that the king and the queen of hearts / could be a perfect hand.”
  • I admit it. I hadn’t paid much attention to Jakob Dylan since the 1990s heyday of the Wallflowers, despite my abiding appreciation for “Bringing Down the Horse.” When I saw that his new album, “Women and Country,” featured the vocal talents of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, I was mildly intrigued. But it took Dave pointing out their NPR Tiny Desk concert for me to understand what I was missing. Now, “Women and Country” is very much on my list.
  • I snagged Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” for $7 used at Newbury Comics, and it did not disappoint. I think I’ve sated my DS urges for the time being, but it’s probably just a matter of time before I start digging into Mark Knopfler’s solo catalog. So it goes.

Live Music

Last Friday, as promised, I caught Freelance Whales’ live in-store at Newbury Comics. I got there a hair before 5PM and was able to snag a spot right up front. It turned out that Newbury was having some problems with their PA, so the band ended up playing acoustic. They were unfazed by the technical difficulties and proceeded to deliver a fun half-hour set. “Weathervanes” is a great album, full of friendly pop and delightful instrumentation. Sure, they are cute and guileless, but also quite talented. A fun way to kick off the weekend early.

Being the nerd that I am, I shot some grainy video of “Generator^First Floor” with my Blackberry. Check out the lead singer Judah Dadone’s remarkable resemblance to Mark Ruffalo in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

New Releases

I learned from KEXP that Cloud Cult is releasing a new EP, “Running With Wolves,” on (fittingly) Earth Day. Lucky for me, it’s available for download right now. Four songs for $2.99 is not a bad deal at all, especially when the EP includes their awesome cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” long only available via one of KEXP’s live in studio compilations.

In the News

I’ve spoken a lot about the amazing music I’ve discovered through WERS. Well, this week is one of their biannual pledge weeks. If you support awesome music, pledge some cash to WERS by Apr. 18. You can also tune in and hear some great live performances, to boot.

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, I’ll be heading back to Newbury Comics for Record Store Day. In addition to hopefully snagging some fun promos, I am also looking forward to seeing the New Collisions and the Morning Benders perform live. (Find out if there is a Record Store Day event near you!) Also, at the Independent in Somerville next Tuesday, Brad from Bradley’s Almanac will be hosting a listening party for the upcoming New Pornographers release, “Together.”

Speaking of Cloud Cult, theyapparently have a new full-length, “Light Chasers,” coming out Aug. 17. On top of the new Futureheads album I just found out about (“The Chaos,” coming out June 1, download the track “Struck Dumb” here), this music year keeps getting better and better.

Take Five

Another installation (the second, really) of me offering five random thoughts about music in my life:

  • So, as I promised in my first Take Five post, I bought the A Camp album. I have to admit, it was a slow grower. But it quickly fell into frequent rotation. The songs are a bit more orchestral, slower and less poppy than the Cardigans, but no less outstanding, and the sparser arrangements really highlight Nina Persson’s beautiful voice. I think the album’s slight whiff of melancholy also deterred me at first, but once I learned to appreciate Nina for Nina outside of the poppy context of the Cardigans, I was really able to embrace it. I highly recommend.
  • A new Brendan Benson album is coming out Aug. 24! Thanks to my good friend Joey for the tip. I wrote a little bit before  about how I exploited Brendan Benson’s early failures for my monetary gain, but my fandom persevered long after my profits dried up.  (Check out this column I wrote for the now-defunct Splendid E-Zine about “One Mississippi,” declaring it an essential album.) I never really got into the Raconteurs, Mood Elevator or any of his other side-projects, so I’m excited for a new solo BrenBen release. I heard the early demos when they came out, and those sounded promising. Four years is too long to wait!
  • I picked up the new Eels album the other day, and while I have yet to listen to it, I had a downright delightful purchasing experience at the Harvard Square Newbury Comics. There’s this really sweet kid who works the register, and I am always excited when he rings me up because he is so genuinely friendly, and you can tell he *loves* music. We were chatting about the Eels, and he mentioned he was putting the album on the in-store stereo shortly. I told him how I saw them live at the Somerville Theatre a couple of years back, and he expressed the hope that they’d be back soon. I love interactions like that at stores. (I wonder if anyone remembers that I once threw up right outside that Newbury Comics. Hmm.)
  • Other albums I bought but have yet to listen to: beside most of my TWIT haul from last week, the new John Vanderslice, the new White Rabbits, the Big Star tribute album, and Q-Tip’s “The Renaissance.” Hmm, I seem to have fallen critically behind in my listening, as the piles of CDs on my desk indicate. Embarrassing. I confess this to you so I will feel compelled to catch up, listen and share my thoughts here at a later date.
  • One of the most perfect pop songs ever composed, hands down, is Sugar’s “Believe What You’re Saying.” Want proof? Listen for yourself. Ah, the mid-90s. A golden age…

A Sale Made for Twits Like Me

noname (1)Yesterday, I spent the day with my mom. She wanted to go to Newbury Comics (because she’s cool), and who am I to argue? As we pulled up to the Norwood location, I remembered that for today only, all used CDs were 30% off. How did I learn about this awesome sale? Twitter, of course. Yay, attempts to wrangle social media, because I will take ruthless advantage of them.

Back in the day, it was no big deal for me to drop $50, $60, $75 on CDs in a sitting at Newbury Comics every couple of weeks. I had a large appetite for music and little discretion — one good song or even just a positive review was enough for me to drop some cash on a disc. Not say I wasn’t a bargain hunter — that is always part of the fun — but when you have a talent for finding a lot of used CDs for $5.99, well, you can get a lot of them.

As I’ve matured and become more budget-minded, I’ve incorporated a lot more discretion into my CD buying habits. I no longer hit places like Nuggets (sorry) with $60 burning a hole in my pocket (heck, my friend Jeff and I used to go on semi-annual sprees where we would go CD shop-hopping and spend $100, easy). It’s not because I’ve gone digital-only (in fact, I only recently started purchasing select releases digitally, and usually only if the deals are undeniable). I love buying CDs. I just have a lot of other stuff to worry about.

That said, when a sale like this comes up — especially when I’m at a location like the Norwood Newbury Comics, which is not nearly as picked over as the Harvard Square and Newbury Street locations — I’ve got to take advantage.

A budget-conscious outlook combined with an already finally honed skill at bargain hunting makes CD shopping a creative exercise nowadays, and I’m always up to a good challenge. Yesterday’s exercise was very successful, and I brought home eight albums and two EPs for about $46. The haul included:

Paul Simon – Rhythm of the Saints ($5.99) – Since I fell in love with “Graceland,” I decided to go for this. Everyone I’ve spoken to says I won’t be disappointed.
Passion Pit – Chunks of Change EP ($3.99) – Yes, they’re the new hot band, and I am pleased to have snagged the precursor to “Manners” before such a great price.
Cloud Cult – They Live on the Sun ($3.99) 
Cloud Cult – Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus ($5.99) – Ever since hearing “The Ghost Inside Our House,” I have been enamored with Cloud Cult — they’re unabashedly earnest, inventive and compelling. I’m psyched to pick up some of their earlier albums for a good price.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours ($9.99)
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk ($7.99) – I’ve been on a Fleetwood Mac kick and am happy to round out my collection with these classics.
Kate Bush – The Sensual World ($5.99) – Amanda got me into Kate Bush. I am not sure where this album is supposed to fall on the spectrum of her oeuvre, but I listened to it in the car on the way back to Boston yesterday and enjoyed it, so I suppose that’s all that matters.
Mobius Band – City vs. Country EP ($1.99) – What a great band. I couldn’t say no to a five-song EP for less than $2.
St. Thomas – Hey Harmony ($5.99) – I’ve owned “I’m Coming Home” for a while and love it. I had forgotten that he had other albums, and was psyched to make this discovery. It came bundled with an Australian Spunk sampler that includes tracks from Hidden Cameras, Pernice Brothers, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward and the Minus 5. This Norwegian artist sadly passed away in September 2007.  RIP. He lived a troubled life, but he was a gifted artist. 
Husker Du – Candy Apple Grey ($9.99) – I’m a huge Sugar and Bob Mould fan, but I’ve spent literally years wringing my hands over which Husker Du album to start off with. Boo me. Spying this one for $7 made the decision easy.

Knock 30% off of all that, and you have a pretty good day at the races. It was a nice throwback to my earlier days of careless spending and insatiable music consumption. Thanks, Internet, for the tip!

The World Is Not Your Fault

A former college friend of mine had a habit of getting paralyzed by self-pity. We could just be eating dinner, figuring out where to go for the evening or picking classes for the next semester, and the self-doubt would come and disrupt the entire affair, like a short circuit. I remember one evening, we were wandering around Boston and about to go to Newbury Comics. Something happened, or some realization came crashing down, and suddenly we were milling about on the streetcorner, waiting for the storm to pass.

Rather than idle around or try to coddle or assuage her, which were my usual two tactics, I instead simply turned to her and said, “Repeat after me: ‘The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.’”

She looked at me somewhat perplexed. She protested, “I know the world isn’t my fault, but this thing…etc.” But after a time, she did, in fact, repeat after me. A few times, like a mantra. “The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.” And then we did. 

We’re not friends anymore, as it turns out. After several years of idling, coddling and assuaging, I got tired and giving and never getting anything back. But one thing I took away was that mantra. Because at times, we’re all paralyzed by self-pity. We’re all held back by our own self-doubt, our beliefs — however erroneous — that we are not valued, that we can’t do anything right. But if you stay there, if you let the needle catch on that groove (like, arguably, my ex-friend did), you’ll never get anywhere. 

So, try it. When you’re caught in that loop, just say it: “The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.” Or maybe it’s “let’s go get ice cream” or “let’s go for a run.” Either way, move forward, plow ahead. The goal or the destination needn’t be huge. Just a record shop, or a chocolate cone. Sometimes, it’s all you need.

Today, I am going off the grid. I am rebooting. I am going to adventure around a part of Boston I am entirely unfamiliar with, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am going to take circuitous bus routes and walk for miles and take tons of pictures. I am going to eat lunch at a new cafe. And I am, in fact, going to go to Newbury Comics.