Top New Vinyl Releases 2014 – Honourable Mention

Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters

Roswell Records

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http://shop.foofighters.com/collections/sonic-highways/products/sonic-highways-vinyl

The most frickin’ expensive record I paid for last year and I’m not happy about it. The shipping cost was almost the price of the record, than I got nabbed for duty, than UPS thought I didn’t pay and tried to make me pay a second time… arrrrrrr!

Why did I go through the trouble?

Well, there was this cardboard 7” cover of Roky Erickson’s “Two-Headed Dog” that came with the pre-order. You could only get it through the advance order and I’m a sucker for cool collectibles, so a small fortune was paid out. Funny thing is people on e-bay are trying to sell that same 7” now for between $60 and $90.

 

Sukierae by Tweedy

dBpm Records

sukierae

http://wilco.kungfustore.com/music-and-books/projects/sukierae-vinyl-lp.html

Another problem record but this time there was an easy and awesome resolution. My initial copy was warped and played like crap. I wrote the distributor and was expecting to jump through a bunch of hoops. Nope. They fired a message right back that a new copy was on the way. So, I only had to wait an extra few days. With the ‘yellow swirl’ vinyl was a copy of the CD (standard with the vinyl purchase) and I was a very happy camper.

 

Commonwealth by Sloan

Yep Roc Records

http://www.amazon.ca/Commonwealth-Vinyl-Sloan/dp/B00M14EPSQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421286086&sr=8-1&keywords=sloan+vinyl

Great record! This double album came in two 180 gram vinyl records with download card and a 12” poster of the band as playing cards.

 

They Want My Soul by Spoon

Republic Records

http://www.amazon.ca/They-Want-My-Soul-Vinyl/dp/B00KTZALGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421286183&sr=8-1&keywords=spoon+vinyl

Outstanding record musically and came as a copy of 180 gram white vinyl. Beautiful piece of work.

 

Oh yeah I almost forgot to mention this folks…

Real fans BUY their music!

(and great fans buy the music from the band directly because they know the artist will actually see some money from their work.)

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Top Three New Vinyl Releases 2014 #1 – The Both by The Both

The Both

The Both

Superego

The_Both_album_front_cover

http://aimeemann.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=379&pc=AILP04

Back in the day and over time I’ve picked bands that have gone on to massive success and then others I’ve scratched my head at and wondered why they haven’t found “rock star status”.  Sometimes I’m just at a loss. Why aren’t people hearing what I hear?

This has always seemed the case for Aimee Mann and Ted Leo who I have been fans of for a number of years now. Mann has put out a consistent string of records that are perhaps too smart to be considered pop, and to soft to be considered rock, but have always stood out as great pieces of perfection. If you go back to her Oscar nominated work on the Magnolia soundtrack, she inspires emotions through song that come off as these awesome award winning short stories. She can twist a phrase to play irony, despair, or revenge in quick order… in fact, she can do that often in one line. She is just that damn good.

Ted Leo for his part is a former punk purveyor who turned his politicized lyrics toward a more power-pop sound. As a bonus, he is just as comfortable singing politics as he is singing 80’s pop hits while blasting it all from a nicely distorted electric guitar. Even his melancholy stuff can be emphasized with waves of amplified sound.

There was literally a point in the early 2000’s that I was listening to both of them in heavy rotation on the carousel of my CD player. So imagine my surprise when the two played a show together a couple years back – then to my absolute delight when I heard they were recording together.

Later, of course, came the worry. How would they sound together? Would this be chocolate and peanut-butter or chocolate and potatoes… I mean, I like both, but that doesn’t sound like a good combo at all. (see Minor Alps for a combo that didn’t work last year.)

Would Aimee surpress a bit of that Jon Brion sound in favor of Leo’s guitar, or would Leo turn down the volume enough for Mann sense of tongue-in-cheek wit to shine?

Well damn folks, it was like Belgian chocolate covering June picked strawberries. The best of both artists brought together. The songs are instantly catchy, driven by melodies, harmonies and powerful guitar. Leo has shortened his solos to emphasize emotion rather than guitar prowess. Mann has stepped back to let Leo’s political ramblings filter in without drawing attention away from the overall sound of the record. What we have is the best elements from their solo careers shining in. Mann is edgier and Leo is more ‘poppy.’

The result is that this record is perfection.

Then you have the vinyl in blue and an inner sleeve with animated cardboard cut outs of both artists with instruments and a change of clothing (AND YES, a download card). The record is fun and best of all, my kids sing along with it as it plays in the car, at the cottage, at home, at friends, at families, at…etc.

Top Three New Vinyl Releases of 2014 #2 – Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers

The New Pornographers

Last Gang Records

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http://lastgang.myshopify.com/collections/music-vinyl/products/brill-bruisers

 

I’ve been a fan for a number of years, but I will admit to not having as much faith in the New Pornographers for a couple records now. So believe me, when Brill Bruisers first started spinning on my turntable, I was ecstatic. There is nothing hit or miss about this album in both the music and presentation. It all out RAWKS!

For lack of better explanation and categorization, I’d call this the best power-pop record I’ve heard by the band yet. The promise of their first three records comes to total fruition with a glorious record that doesn’t lean on any one sound for very long.

In the past it often seemed like some songs would come off as weighing a little too heavily on the sound of one instrument to drive their song while others stayed in the background. It would only be certain songs where the mix encouraged everyone to put it all out at once (think “Mass Romantic”).  Brill Bruisers doesn’t do this. It is playful and gives everyone their due.

Think of this record like the 1970’s Montreal Canadians during their cup wins. The band is loaded with talent and now they’ve learned how to work beyond one or two people carrying the team at a time. Instead they are just one cohesive unit firing on all cylinders.  It is just that frickin’ brilliant

Now don’t ask me why that is, perhaps being apart on other projects has given them a new found joy when they get together. Or maybe they’re letting some ‘nerdier’ 70’s influence seep into their music (think ELO who they have recently been covering, or the obvious reference to the Brill building itself). Whatever the case, it is working for them.

So by itself the music is outstanding on this record… but it didn’t stop there. Having ordered it in advance direct from their website (actually, the same edition is out in your local record stores, you just don’t get your choice of colour), it arrived at my home in a glorious 12” inch cover depicting multi coloured neon fun. Then I rip into it, and find cool 70’s style 3D glasses, a large poster of the album cover. Put on the glasses and the poster shimmers in glorious “ChromaDepth 3D”. Pull the record out of the sleeve and the vinyl is a translucent light blue and just looks damn fine spinning on my stereo. Add to that the down load card and you get one awesome package.

Brill Bruisers is the very definition of why I like my music on vinyl. It isn’t just the songs that stand out, but the entire experience is expanded to be a visual and tactile art as well. Now if only they could have packed a club sandwich in with this and I would really be jumping up and down with joy.

Top Three New Vinyl Releases of 2014 – #3 Lazaretto by Jack White

First off, of course I’m doing a best of the year. Every frickin’ critic in existence wants to tell you how much they love something and have you agree with it. I’m no different from anyone else in that regard. I’ll check out the rankings and see if I own the stuff they talk about and if I feel the same way.

Only problem for me is that I only started this blog a couple weeks ago, and haven’t reviewed enough records to give a big list. Then there is the fact that I’m focusing on vinyl and not just music, so I’m judging presentation as well as quality of work. So, for 2014, I’m only going to list three records in this category.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for… dum dum DUUUUUUUM.

Number Three

Lazaretto

Jack White

Third Man Records

http://www.amazon.ca/Lazaretto-Vinyl-LP-Jack-White/dp/B00JXB9T3Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1421096525&sr=1-2&keywords=jack+white

 

Jack White does vinyl right.

Yeah that sounds like a horrible headline and a cliché to boot, but it’s true. For several years now he has not only been championing vinyl, but also making it special for those who buy it. This ‘record’ contains alternate cuts from the CD and downloads and also plays from the inside out on side one. In addition the centre of one side plays a song at 45 rpm and the other side plays a tune at 78 rpm. (Only problem with the 78 is finding a turntable to play at that speed and a turntable that allows the arm to play in the centre.) Which the jaded would call nothing more than a cool gimmick if the music didn’t hold up – but it does, and quite well I might add.

White doesn’t just play the blues, but explores it and turns it into something he owns. Sure Clapton could get you to weep, and Page could make you shake, but White flips it on its head and actually has fun.  By mining different forms of southern American roots music and then throwing out any semblance of a rule book, he puts out a record that is merely rooted in the blues but refuses to pray at the altar. He jumps styles, employs more than the standard guitar, bass, keys and drums rock method and writes songs that defy the cookie cutter approach of today’s top selling artists.

Sure, in terms of his ‘I’m better than anyone’ public image, I get annoyed with him, but damn, he puts out good records. Even his critics, those that are giving him mediocre reviews are not holding White up against his peers in music, but rather against his own body of work in the White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and solo material.

While White has kinda made a career out of being one of the “last guitar heroes standing” he has also evolved into an outstanding overall artist who earns the best compliment I can give… I’ll buy a Jack White record before I even hear a song from it. Believe me, the list of artists who have earned that right is very short.