Tag Archives: Records

RECORD STORE DAY 2012: A Vinyl extravaganza at Bristol’s best independent record store RISE

Record store day 2012 finally arrived in the early hours of yesterday 21st April.  I chose Rise Records, one of the finest record stores in the UK and the best independent record store in Bristol as my vinyl heaven location.

I nipped into RISE on Friday afternoon to see how preparations were going, the staff seemed a little rushed off their feet! With over 400 titles to put out onto the floor and prepare for what they hoped would be hoards of eager shoppers, they had their work cut out.

Each year the event has been going, it has become more popular with more releases and more interest.  Vinyl sales went up by over 40% last year and a welcome niche market has opened up for the musical connoisseur and a lifeline for “real” independent record shops.  Times are hard, and Record Store Day is a welcome silver lining to the dark clouds of economic gloom for record dealers around the world.

Last year I began queuing at 6:10am for the 8am lift off. By the time the shop opened there was a queue several hundred meters long. This time I was told that people were intending to start queuing at 4am!  So with heavy eyelids I set my alarm for 4am and got to the queue for around 4:30am.

It is essential to be in the first 20 in the queue as people are let in 20 at a time.  I was number 8!  This year I managed to even persuade my partner to join the fun!  Ironically I was standing next to the same people as last year as the geek music chat began!

Time passed quickly as the excitement built and the darkness fell away.  Automatic lights came on in the shop to reveal the hundreds of limited edition titles on display, and then by 7am the staff arrived to prepare for the rush.

It was incredibly well organised as they passed out lists to the first 20 people to pick their items strictly to Record Store Day rules – first come first serve.  This prevents any initial over exuberance and “elbowing” tactics for the ultra rare items.  Last year there was nearly a fight over a Dr Who single!

8 o’clock came and we were allowed in, our piles of records waiting for us.  We browsed in ore at the wealth of vinyl on offer to be tempted with yet more purchases.  It is hard to resist!

Some ask, “what is the point of vinyl?”, usually asked with their mp3 in their pocket full of pirated music that they have neither paid for or on the most part ever listened to.

I love music, all kinds and on all formats.  Everything has its place.  Mp3 players are amazing and very convenient; CD’s are excellent quality these days and are also convenient (the original CD’s in the 80’s and early 90’s were simply awful quality); and Vinyl are a different listening experience, superb quality and playing albums the way there were intended to be listened to, with artwork and an emotional experience.

The Vinyl experience is different and more attentive and more emotional.  When record companies began trying to force the death of vinyl in a re-issuing frenzy on CD of back catalogue items in a “bring them in and pile them high” attitude as a cash cow, the emotional aspect of buying records began to be broken.  The start of the death nail for recorded music.

This year many of the items available for record store day are of high quality and much sought after, along with some titles that are the inevitable cash in.  Record store day is more than just getting your hands on some lovely limited vinyl though, it is an event.  RISE had bands on all day and DJ sets, Record store day beer (very good!) as well as special offers and a few give away’s.  With   physical sales of music declining and difficult economic times generally this day has become very important in the record store retail calender.

The highlight for me was seeing Duke Spirit play live at 3pm.  They were superb and I can’t wait to listen to their live album I bought.

My vinyl highlights were The Kinks re-issues; Lee Scratch Perry 3 x 10″ box set; David Bowie Starman pic disc; Refused “The shape of punk to come”; Blood Music 7″; Keith Howard 12″;  Gorillaz 10″, Edwyn Collins tape box and Velvet Underground Loaded on pink Vinyl!

I’m still counting the cost however, as inevitably over enthusiasm got the better of me! Not to worry, it’s only once a year!

A great day for independent music shops – great music, great live music, great beer and a great day.  Thanks RISE for an excellent day!

Roll on next year . . . . .

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

Another good year for music, and with all the Best Of lists around i thought I would do mine again.  So here goes.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

#1        BATTLES – GLOSS DROP

This was a much looked forward to album and it did not disappoint. If you are a fan of percussion, this is a great album.  I saw them live at Glastonbury this year, and they were one of my highlights.  It was a close run thing but I think this just pips Bjork to the #1 spot!

#2    BJORK – BIOPHILIA

Weird and wonderful, Bjork is at least interesting, even when she miss fires.  A genuine genius and someone always looking for the off the wall idea.  This album takes her music a step forward in linear production.  This one will keep me interested for the months ahead.

#3    ZUN ZUN EGUI – KATANG

This band is a Bristol favourite and much championed new band who have been steadily releasing EP’s over the past couple of years.  I first saw them live when supporting Tinaweren at the Academy.  They were superb.  An eclectic mix of African Rythms, screeching vocals and Hendrix like guitar licks.  Simply unbeatable and unique!

#4    BAXTER DURY – HAPPY SOUP

Alternative Pop at it’s best, this album was a wonderful surprise and with the catchiest tunes.

#5    LYKKE LI – WOUNDED RHYMES

With a moodier persona, Lykke Li has still proven her ability to write a catchy song and to wow her audience.  A more rounded album than her debut, this is again unmissable.

#6    ANNA CALVI – ANNA CALVI

The new kid on the block, much was expected and much delivered.  A unique voice, so powerful, with a unique sound.  Superb. Live review here

#7    JAMES BLAKE – JAMES BLAKE

Innovation is the name of the game with James Blake, pushing the boundaries while still acquiring the fans.  A superb live performer and an excellent album.

#8   YUCK

This is the Indie fans dream album, with wonderful songs to go with the shoe gazing. Full album review

#9    KURT VILE – SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO

Wonderful album finally getting the recognition he deserves.

#10 METRONOMY – THE ENGLISH RIVIERA

I was amazed at how much attention Metronomy got this year, but it is all well deserved, along with the Mercury nomination.  A step on from their last offering, this band is excellent on so many levels.

#11    RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – I’M WITH YOU

This album was received with a lot less fanfare.  With the loss of John Frusciante many have written the Chili peppers off.  Not me.  This album is a grower, and the more subtle sound of Josh Klinghoffer adds to the enjoyment. They are also a live act to reckon with. 

# 12    BON IVER – BON IVER

Another masterpiece from Bon Iver.  A lot more polished than the last album, and perhaps less surprising, but a superb listen for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

#13    THE HORRORS – SKYING

Carrying on from where they left off, while taking on some more 80’s sounds.  An excellent album

#14    THE KILLS – BLOOD PRESSURES

Their sound has been changing over time from their raw first 2 efforts.  With the distractions of side projects this album is a welcome return.

#15    GANG OF FOUR – CONTENT

My my, this album could have been a disaster, however, with this offering, they have finally laid to rest the idea that they could never compete with their first 2 albums.  Having been so influential on so many bands, it is nice to see them come up with the goods again.  A superb album.

#16    WIRE – RED BARKED TREE

Another new wave classic artist coming up with the goods.

#17    PETE AND THE PIRATES – ONE THOUSAND PICTURES

This album passed without so much a whimper in the music press, yet it is remarkably good.  This is one that needs a good listen and you will be going back to it for months ahead.  Live review here

#18    PJ HARVEY – LET ENGLAND SHAKE

The indie darling came up trumps again this year and took the Mercury prize to boot.

#19 RADIOHEAD – KING OF LIMBS

They keep doing it – probably the most innovative popular music band on the planet came up with an offering that was a lot less accessible than “In Rainbows”  – this album needs a bit of love to appreciate it.

#20 – Frankie and the Heartstrings – Hunger

Another great live band with the energy most can only hope to have.

21 – Duke Spirit – Bruiser
22 – Pains at being pure at heart – Belong
23 – Scum – Again into Eyes
24 – Cold war Kids – Mine is Yours
25 – Nicholas Jaar – Space is only Noise
26 – Woods – Sun and Shade
27 – Kate Bush – 50 words for snow
28 – Smith Westerns –  Dye it Blonde
29 – Black Keys – El Camino
30 – J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

Independent Record Store Day 16th April 2011

Today’s the day all record collectors and vinyl junkies, and general music lovers having been waiting for, record store day. 189 independent record stores around the UK along with many in the US and around the world open their doors to crowds of people hoping to pick up the odd limited edition item specially released for the day.

I got up at 5:45am for the occasion, originally intending to get to Rise Records in Bristol by 7am, but ended up going a bit earlier at 6:20am.  To my surprise there were already 13 people ahead of me!  By 7am there were nearly a hundred, and by 8am, when the shop was opening the queue stretched almost to the end of the street, over 150 people.

Luckily for me, they let in about the first 15 people and stopped the queue to avoid the “scrum” that would inevitably ensue if everyone was let in at the same time.

The excitement had been building for some time as people were drooling at the window seeing what copies they were stocking.  Bar a few frantic moments it all went very smoothly and other than one item  managed to pretty well lay my hands on the copies I wanted.

The staff were incredibly well organised and helpful and were helping people find that special copy they were after.

After queueing for an hour and 40 minutes, I was pretty much done, and spent out within 15 minutes!  It was like being a boy in a sweety shop and I could have easily spent double the amount of money that I did.

I managed a big haul which my partner I’m sure will appreciate!!:)   –   Big Star 3 Test Pressing; Doors Mono re-issue; Radiohead 12″; Esben and the Witch 12″; Black Mountain 7″; Badly Drawn Boy 7″;  Clash 7″; Toots and the Maytals 7″;Vaccines album; Grinderman 12″ and the Gorillaz album.  All in all a pretty good day, or 15 minutes!  Sadly I was unable to enjoy a leisurely day hanging around due to work commitments but, maybe next year I will have more time. . . . . . . just waiting for the credit card bill!

Looking at the response from the good humoured crowd of people queueing I am sure the record store day this year will have gone down a storm.  Can’t wait to get around to playing some of my finds.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2010

2010 was an excellent year for music, the death of the album has been much muted, but with the evidence of current releases I don’t see the evidence of the format dying.

With great pieces of work from the old and young, it has been a pleasure to listen to such great music. This is my pick of the bunch for 2010 which no doubt many will disagree with, but that’s the beauty of lists!  I am bit late posting this but better late than never!

#1 – Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation

Many of the reviews for this album were excellent, however an often used phrase when it comes to Paul Weller is the obligatory “return to form”.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is the third studio album in a row that has been superb for Weller.   Starting in 2005 with As Is Now, which was the real return to form and he has since gone from strength to strength.

22 Dreams was an amazing double album of immense diversity from Latin influences to pure poetry.  Wake up the nation is an extension of this incredible creative high point in Weller’s back catalogue.

There is everything on this album,  with a return to “Jam Like” utterances with the title track Wake up the nation, and Fast Cars/Slow Traffic (with Bruce Foxton), along with sweet songs and psychedelia.  His songwriting is superb on this outing and his collaborations inspiring.

A well deserved Mercury nomination for the album, I would urge anyone to give this a listen.  A complete album in the old fashioned sense, listen to it from start to finish.  My album of the year.

#2 Caribou – Swim

A critics favourite this year, near the top of most lists I’ve seen.  I caught onto these a little late, but I got there in the end.

This album is an organic journey that takes you through a wholesome kaleidoscope of sounds and feelings.  It starts with Odessa which is a fantastic track,  one of the tracks of the year.

This album is appealing because it grows with every listen rather than one you quickly want to leave behind.  A complete entity which is what an album should be and I’m confident I’ll still want more a year from now.

#3 Everything Everything – Man Alive

I saw Everything Everything back in 2009 supporting the Rumble Strips.  I’d heard about them and thought I’d check them out.  It was obvious even then that they had something special, and its great that they have managed to transfer this to the studio.

The album is full of surprises, twists and turns.  There is nothing formulaic in anything they do which is a God send when so much music is generic and lacklustre.

I have heard critics criticise them for releasing songs that are “too complex”! If it were unlistenable I would agree but there is a beauty in these songs and the complexities keep life in the recordings.  There is always something more to discover.

#4 Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

This album I would class as the most beautiful of the year.  Smooth, crisp and evocative,  simply wonderful to listen to in almost any mood.

The francophile electro- folk- pop never fails to impress, enhanced by the attention of Beck’s production.

The lyrics flirt with the darker side as this record apparently was inspired by her near death experience following a water skiing accident in 2007.  With this record something truly wonderful was inspired.

#5 Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep

I listened to this album with a speculative ear. This is probably the most surprising album of the year.  You don’t necessarily expect that someone who has been around so long and has had such misfortune could emulate the great songs he has previously written.

This selection of songs is some of the best he has ever written.  Not a bad track on the album.  It is full of collaborations with those that were no doubt inspired by his earlier work.  This could have ended up being a horrible patchwork quilt of guest spots,  but this is far from what has been created.

This is a superb album.

#6 Foals – Total Life Forever

Total Life Forever took me by surprise with the leap forward they have taken from their debut album.  I thought they might do a Pigeon Detectives and make the same album again having such a distinguished sound.

This record is an enormous progression, keeping the edginess of their sound but molding it into something much more refined.   Excellent album with some haunting tracks and a great live band.

#7  LCD Soundsystem – This is happening

If this is the last studio effort from James Murphy et al in this format they will be sorely missed.

Always original, catchy and with a longevity that defines a great album.

#8  Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut

A much underrated outfit, I loved this album.  They have a unique take on the indie format and a sound that is un-mistakenly theirs.  This is an achievement in itself but with the songs that go with it.

Play this album LOUD.

#9 Grinderman – Grinderman 2

We pretty much know what were getting with Nick Cave, but when he does it well it is just superb.   He is on fire at the moment,  his last 2 albums with the Bad Seeds have been classics and now this album is another high watermark.

I love the twisted nature of the lyrics and the grinding gladetorial music.  This is one of his best,  another “old hand” that still keeps coming up trumps.

#10 Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Now,  I have to admit to not being the biggest Blur fan, but since David Albarn has branched out I have become a real fan of his creations.  All the Gorillaz albums have been excellent and this is no exception.  A great piece of work from extremely talented musicians.

The best of the rest :-

#11   Manic Street Preachers – Postcards from a young man
#12   These New Puritans – Hidden
#13   Steve Mason – Boys Outside
#14   Elvis Costello – National Ransom
#15   Sleigh Bells – Treats
#16   Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
#17   Jim Jones Revue – Burning your house down
#18   Skream – Outside the box
#19   Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
#20  Best Coast – Crazy for you
#21  The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
#22  We Have Band – WHB
#23  The Vaselines – Sex with an X
#24  dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip – The logic of chance
#25  MGMT – Congratulations