I love vinyl.
I love vinyl so much that I rarely listen to anything but vinyl at home. I listen to CDs as I ride the bus around town and in places like the Blue Dog cafe while reading and writing. But when I want to sit and drink a cold glass of something soothing and chill out, I flick the dust off the needle and slap that vinyl on the turntable.
Here is a round-up of vinyl I have acquired lately. Some was sent to Three Imaginary Girls, and some bought by myself personally. All apologies for it taking awhile to get these reviewed; I need to live with my vinyl for awhile, yum)
Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Lie Down In The Light (Drag City)
Twelve great beautifully sung songs about love and the spirit and decay and fear and everything under the sun, encased in another marvelous sleeve designed by singer-songwriter Will Oldham's wife Joanne. This is a much gentler record than say The Bold And The Beautiful (his collaboration with Tortoise, which many people did not like, but I cannot stop playing, due to gorgeous treatments of Richard & Linda Thompson's "The Calvary Cross" and Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road") and last year's Ask Forgiveness (possibly my favorite LP of 2007, in the category of course of very delicious vinyl). The mastering by Scott Colburn is scrumptuous and while these songs are not full of the fitful dark madness that often draws me to Oldham, it is a real sleeper-creeper of hypnotic elegance.
Society of Rockets, Our Paths Related (Underpop)
I was really into this huggable head-rock band's previous release Where the Grass Grows Black, and am so happy that they were able to put out another full-length so quickly, as I didn't have a chance to write about that one last year. Like with much of the music I am writing about in this column, it sounds so much better on vinyl. These are stately songs, epic freak rants that sprawl into spidery guitar army maneuvers. Fierce large flanks of garage funk gristle are roasted over a spit of mojo-flame, and use of raga textures and rhythms on anthems like "Walk With Lions" turn magnificently next to the sweet chill of headphone symphonies like "California is Burning." Ten musicians make sure that every groove is packed with, well, dark inner city groove, opening out into the utopia of soundscapes beyond the internal City. This record could teach certain neo-psych Seattle bands a little about influence, as the New Wave Science Fiction closer "Barefoot In the Head" brings back the best memories I have of head shops and Hawkwind. Literate but not literary, stoned but not senseless, this is the Big Rock Candy Mountain the mystic hobos harmonize about.
The Monkey Power Trio, House of the Mechanical Sun (Pocahontas Swamp Machine Records)
Does this sound like something that might work for you? The Monkey Power Trio are friends who travel and get together once a year and record songs "without practice or rehearsal." This is a compilation of a few years' worth of the results. I think I would have really liked this back in the days of indie cassette madness, because cheap is tape. But it seems sort of tragic to release music this temporal on luscious black vinyl. It's not that there aren't good things about it; the title track is pretty catchy, but I think it would have been even cooler to put this out on 8-track because the eight is the sign of infinity and this should be eternal. Because friendship is eternal and this is about friends, right?
Young Dudes, Young Dudes LP (Afternoon Records)
This is what I've always wanted the Hold Steady to sound more like. Chest-punching Stonesy, utterly confident garage power-rock, not afraid to sound Cleveland punk circa 1975 or NYC 1977 without ever having heard "Born to Run." The vocals are amazing, I love them, full of grit and guts as the band lets the bass drive each of the eight tracks, including the manic "Sons of Seven" and the snarling "Don't Be So Nasty" straight into your spine. One of my favorite pieces of vinyl lately, and Matt Torbinson's got a big career ahead of him as a singer, but I can't imagine guitarist Dustin Miller and drummer Katelyn Farstad and bass player Zach Wilson not coming along for the ride. "They're dudes — even though one of them is female," the bio says. Excellent.
Next time: Seven inches!