Kate NV – WOW (2023)

This album exists in what you might call the Windows XP virtual world. Where various worldbuilding programs allow you to create these 3-D environments complete with people and animals doing things like walking in circles and making little “meep” noises with their mouths. You can tweak the colors and textures until you’ve manifested your dream virtual lounge, but nothing really happens there. Their houses are full of appliances and gadgets but none of them actually work. The people inside have nothing to worry about. There’s nothing to their lives at all.

Continue reading

Huey Lewis and the News – Sports (1983)

Last weekend I rewatched the first two Back to the Future movies, which I had not seen since I was a kid. You have to rewatch these things at your own risk – when I last saw Revenge of the Nerds my reaction was only to say the word “Yikes” about four hundred times. Back to the Future holds up in the sense that it’s still an entertaining movie. But it also feels very much like something from the past. In fact I think they are sort of the ultimate 80’s movies, in that they follow some very 80’s-specific movie logic, which is to say no real logic at all. The characters are incredibly unsubtle, including a main villain who is not only a sexual predator but also mean to both small children and his own grandma (though in retrospect the most unrealistic thing about that is that he merely became a business tycoon and not President of the United States). He is also somehow aloof enough to not notice that a man is literally hiding out in the backseat of his car and poking his head out while he’s driving. When Marty McFly makes a mistake that would potentially result in a nightmarish future, his response is to throw his hands up and go “aw gee Doc, I blew it”. Almost every plot point relies on insane coincidences. It also has that thing where you can bonk someone on the head and put them out cold for the rest of the scene. That also happens when someone sees something that is very frightening or shocking. You can then drag them out to the porch where presumably they will wake up saying “that was a weird dream, also I guess I sleptwalked and wound up outside somehow”.

Continue reading

YMO – BGM (1981)

Some albums really do reveal something new every time you hear them. This isn’t necessarily a marker of quality; sometimes it just means you’re not paying attention. But BGM is an album I’ve listened to and puzzled over many times. To be honest when I was speedrunning YMO’s catalogue in college this was the one I couldn’t really get into. Fast forward to now and it’s one of my favorite albums ever made (on my RYM page I have it listed at #2, only behind Sing to God). It all started one day after work, playing it on the drive home and thinking “what’s going on with the beat here, that’s weird…” And then deciding that this clearly deserved more attention than I had given it.

Continue reading

The Books – The Lemon of Pink (2003)

This is the second album by The Books and it’s their most well-known one. It also turns 20 later this year, which means it’s been about 20 years since I’ve been following all those various year-end lists, since I recall this album popping up there all the time. I tend to remember the album titles that make no sense. I heard it a couple years later and thought “yeah, it’s pleasant, Tokyo is really good, but overall it’s kinda boring”. I guess you could say I wasn’t listening very critically back then. This is why I like vinyl, because having a physical product you pay money for is a reminder that people actually worked really hard on this thing so the least you can do is give it your partially-divided attention. Also I think this is the sort of album that hits you harder once you have a few years under your belt.

Continue reading

Sketch Show – Loophole (2003)

I was 15 when George Harrison died. I didn’t think much of it besides “oh, wow”, because I didn’t really care much about The Beatles. But my Dad was visibly upset by it, which was odd because he is about as stoic as they come. It was unusual to see him just staring at the wall like that. We talked about The Beatles for a while, or rather he did. Apparently George was his favorite. I found out he was pretty big into All Things Must Pass. But maybe it was less about the music and more the feeling of losing such a titan. You don’t know them personally but on some level it feels like losing a friend or a family member.

Continue reading

Refugee (1974)

Something I love about the great regional scenes of the 70’s and 80’s is that everyone seemed to know each other and would often play on each others’ records. So you had stuff like Conrad Schnitzler being a former member of both Tangerine Dream and Kluster, or Yukihiro Takahashi somehow appearing on every single Japanese technopop record released from 1977 to 1982. Progressive rock was full of things like that, in fact you could probably fill an entire closet with LPs that were tangentially related to King Crimson. In fact this is kind of how us prog guys talk to each other. You bring up a guy, I say “oh hey did you know he was in this other band for three weeks?” It’s all about how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. A lot of these albums are nothing special but occasionally you do find a gem. This is one of them.

Continue reading

Lo-Fidelity Allstars – Don’t Be Afraid of Love (2002)

Well, I don’t wanna end 2022 on a depressing note, so I’ll finish up by writing about an album I really am proud to own. See half the fun of vinyl collecting is finding those record that are by some random chance very important to you, particularly those that only got the one pressing. You know, the ones that can be had on CD for a penny, but still command $30-40 on wax, and are in such short supply that opportunistic sellers still try to get $100+ for them. I guess you could call it “the Scooter zone”. It’s not like they’re particularly in demand, there just aren’t a lot of them.

Continue reading

The Colourfield – Virgins and Philistines (1985)

This Monday marked the passing of Terry Hall at the age of 63. I know we’re in an era where the stars of the 70s and 80s are dropping like flies but still it’s a little shocking since Terry was still fairly young. Well, younger than my parents, at least. It’s easy to forget that The Specials formed while he was still a teenager – imagine making that sort of mark on the world fresh out of high school. To be honest I never got too into that band – not their fault, but they really did leave a big mark on the stuff I got really sick of in the 90’s. That first Specials album is classic but I never really want to listen to it. He does have one album that I really did like though and it’s this one right here.

Continue reading

Oh, No! It’s Devo (1982)

Devo’s Greatest Hits was a staple of my household growing up. In retrospect, this is almost certainly because my brothers and I really liked them. Somehow I don’t think my parents had any yellow jump suits or red energy domes hanging around in their closets. If not for the fact that they happened to go to the same high school as the band who knows if they’d even own that CD at all. But thank the great spud in the sky that they did, because I loved that disc so much. My Mom would put it on and I’d spend the next hour running around the house. Eventually I learned how to read so I could pore over the liner notes where you’d see which album each song came from. I thought all their names were so cool. And I wondered if one day I’d ever get to hear the full albums. Surely you couldn’t find them anymore, right?

Continue reading

The Tangent – The Music That Died Alone (2003)

There are moments where it feels like all pop culture has been reduced to fanservice. I’m as nostalgic as the next guy but I do find it a bit unsettling that we can’t just let things die. Perhaps this development was predictable, going from an era where pop culture was The Beatles and Gilligan’s Island to an era where it infiltrates almost every aspect of your childhood. I grew up with Marvel trading cards, Star Wars lunchboxes, and just enough TV shows and video games to keep myself entertained around the clock. And now those people – ahem – my people are in charge of marketing teams and creative departments, and lo and behold every single movie that comes out now digs pretty deep to uncover those precious childhood memories. You’ve got garbage like Ready Player One and Free Guy which are endless montages of cosplaying weirdos chucking Devo hats at each other. Even the good ones (like 21 Jump Street) have this underlying cynicism to them, all this wink-wink nudge-nudge “yeah we know it’s lame but what are you gonna do, you totally watched this show” kind of stuff. It’s all totally self-aware and theoretically clever but it’s hard to watch it without becoming a cynic yourself.

Continue reading