September 30, 2010

September 30th, 2010 : Cause & Effect : The Vaselines

Like so many other people in the early '90s, my introduction to the Scottish boy/girl duo The Vaselines came from another band; Nirvana. The American grunge band went on to cover three of their songs during their career; often playing them live (no less on MTV Unplugged) and recording their own versions as well. Nirvana were practically apostles to the group and like so many fans of them at the time, whatever band Nirvana pitched (Os Mutantes, Daniel Johnston,  Beat Happening, The Melvins, Raincoats, and The Wipers to name a few), I chased down.

The Vaselines catalog was not very extensive at the time so felt lucky to have come across a import collection of their EPs in the early '90s. For those not as fortunate, Sub Pop Records released the first of two Vaselines collections in 1992 offering Americans the first real opportunity to explore their catalog in full. (The second , even larger Vaselines' collection was also released last year)

The Vaselines style of music was something of a revelation to me at the time with perhaps Beat Happening being my only point of reference to their music style (male / female push and pull dynamic too). They were adults who played their music with what appeared no fear of sounding / being imperfect which in turn gave their songs a very youthful air. Many would call it unprofessional sounding but I loved the intimacy of listening to a band's music in what sounded like a nearly raw state with missed notes and occasional clumsy time changes. It was childlike however the lyrical content was often very adult, carrying sexual charged overtones... a highly unusual usually thing for the time since since most of their indie rock peers prided themselves on a more asexual approach to pop. The very notion of innocence flirting with sexuality in a bare bones musical setting hit  me in a way I can only compare to something as simple and marvelous as a first sloppy teenage make out session in a poorly furnished basement of a parent's house.

The Vaselines broke up (as a couple and a band) in 1990 and as Nirvana's popularity grew to beyond cult status (no less Kurt naming his daughter Frances after Frances in the Vaselines), fans have continued to discover the music of The Vaselines which has allowed a following of their own to grow. While there was been a brief reunion in 2006, besides several solo projects and collaborations, The Vaselines have remained a mythical group most of us never thought we would hear from again in the original form no less touring.

Enter 2010. We have a new record by The Vaselines (original line uo) and they are touring America starting in just a few days. Rejoice! Like many others who have followed the band for two decades now, it seems like a minor miracle has occurred and I am elated to have a chance to finally see this band live. The fact that I get to dedicate two hours to their music tonight on air is just gravy.

Tonight from 7PM to 9PM only on WRIR you will hear such artists as the Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, The Pastels, The Clean, The Lemondheads, BMX Bandits, Teenage Fanclub, The Pooh Sticks,
Orange Juice, The Shop Assistants, and more. For Richmond, VA locals it is 97.3 on your dial and for everyone else you can listen live at

I am such a nerd for The Vaselines that I even named my cats after them : Eugene (left) and Frances (right)

September 23, 2010

September 23rd, 2010 : Cause & Effect : Eels

When you spend a decade plus facing your own demons and wrestling them into a recording, the last thing you might want to do is explore the music of another artist whose has shared a laundry list of tragedy/ loss and who shares a similar path to healing that also involved recording music. Several people when they read the story behind my solo record recommended Eels to me and rather than be drawn towards his songs, I recoiled. The weight of my own past was a heavy burden already and I just wasn't ready to take on another's. We are both sole survivors and until you face the "and then there was none" status of going from family to none (and the bonus of mental illness within the family tree, toss in a divorce, and terminal illness), it is nearly impossible to fathom the feelings attached to it. As a sensitive person my relationship with music is already deeply personal and emotional so as silly as it may sound, I approached Eels like a country I never intended to visit because I had been there in theory.

Until now.

A fellow WRIR friend suggested the Eels as a potential show because they were coming to town to play and having laid to rest the last of my family members this year, I thought it was time to approach Mark Everett's AKA Eels catalog. It may seem like just another radio show but the truth is, it isn't. I won't be talking about any of this on air but since this is my personal blog I wanted to share the back story to this show. I've spent the few weeks cramming for this test (AKA a two hour radio show highlighting the trajectory of his musical career), visiting with his records around the clock, and listening to Mark's life story through his art. I am ready to spotlight his art tonight with the help of a guest, a mega fan who knows E's catalog inside out. (Thanks JJ!)

TONIGHT - 7pm to 9pm, only on WRIR.ORG - 97.3 on the dial for RVA locals and for live streaming everyone else.

The best surprise that came with my investigation of Eels is the story of Mark's father, a rock story to the math and sci-fi community. There is a BBC documentary that is must see for music fans and those interested in the sciences.

September 16, 2010

Sept 16th, 2010 : Cause & Effect : MATADOR 21

Tonight on WRIR from 7pm to 9pm I will taking us all for a nice stroll down memory lane. Looking over the collection of ridiculously good music, dare I say classics, it still blows my mind that we have just one label to thank for it.

There are two more reasons for me to celebrate with this show - both selfish ones:

1) My fella and I are among the lucky few who got tickets to the Las Vegas extravaganza. Check out the lineup! (See left). And they just added The Clean to this event too - HOLY CRAP. Besides being an all round swell band I am not sure how exactly they fit into the bill but if being brilliant song writers is reason enough for me. We plan on posting a recap of the event here so stay tuned for pictures, reviews, and who knows what other Vegas madness. We have some friends playing this fest so not only do I look forward to seeing them play but all the bands who helped raise me in good old fashioned indie rock in the first place. I am especially giddy about seeing Come as I think out of all the old bands playing, they are the only ones I don't think I ever saw play live. I've worshiped their records for years and I get weak in the knees knowing I finally get a chance to see them do their thing live.

2) I just saw the images for the Matador charity box set - good lord. I should probably start saving my pennies for this now. Or wait...maybe I will get strike it big in Vegas and win enough money there to splurge on such a worthy purchase. I guess this means I need to play blackjack (21!) or place my money on 21 red at the roulette table. I sorta feel like I got lucky just by getting tickets to these Vegas but who knows, anything is possible. Just ask The Clean.

September 15, 2010

Just more proof that fame has nothing to do with talent.

As someone who is obsessed with the idea of cause and effect as it applies to the music world, this artist is the answer to one of the hardest questions out there.

Who influenced the most influential band in the world IE The Beatles? Harry, that's who.

"A collection of 7-inch records from America"

A book featuring labor intensive American 45s. Hello holiday season gift item.

September 14, 2010

Oh to have endless amounts of money...

I would probably want to do stupid (but really really cool) stuff like this too....

September 9, 2010

Alex Steinweiss: Album Sleeve Forefather

Entry below orginally posted

The other day Kate posted about the "Worlds First Album Cover" from Alex Steinweiss in 1939. I took one look at it and found it to be so appealing and incredibly well done that I immediately doubted that it was the first album cover. I mean, loads of vinyl was produced before 1939 so it stood to reason that there had to be album covers prior to that, no? And, indeed, there were "covers" but not in the style or sensibility that Steinweiss brought forth. My assumption of the cover being too good to be true was flat out wrong - my apologies to Kate for this mistake and my thanks to her for the heads up on him.. he is well worth diving a bit deeper into.

Despite just being a 23 years old he managed to convince his superiors at Columbia Records to take an album and give it a unique look; not just a prepackaged sleeve with the labels logo on it. Sales increased by 800% and it's safe to say that no one looked back as we still embrace his legacy today; even with mp3 albums. I highly suggest taking some time to read through his Wikipedia page , browse his phenomenal work and maybe even earmarking a new coffee table book of his works for future inspiration.

Whoa!!! That is some classy album art. If the world only knew that an onslaught of miserable album artwork would slowly but surely creep into the market.

September 3, 2010

Hey Broadcast Fans

Check out Principal Edwards Magic Theater.

I am listening to their 1969 Soundtrack and thinking Broadcast has to be into this band. John Peel's label Dandelion released it originally and it looks like Cherry Red reissued it.

September 2, 2010

September 2nd, 2010: Cause & Effect: : Silkworm / Bottomless Pit

In regards to the black and white photo below: Andy and Joel at Linnaea's Cafe in San Lius Obispo, CA 7/ 94. Photo by Sumaya Agha and was a relic from my days of working at C/Z Records. A prize possession to say the least.

The honor is all mine.

Tim Midgett of Silkworm and Bottomless Pit has provided me with one hell of a set comprised of his musical influences as well as crib notes about many of the tracks I will be playing. Tonight from 7PM to 9PM on WRIR I will be sharing two hours of music hand picked by Tim that in turn tells the story of how he as an artist developed his signature playing and writing style. The members of Silkworm have mastered a meticulously crafted next generation post-punk that never wastes a second of time. There is dissonance fist fighting melody. They precisely hammered out songs using a combination of wit, humor, and darkness. They didn't have just one talented member of the band. It was all four of them. I mean how often does that happen to a band? Shit!

Oh, and what happens when a band does it right and for all the right reason? (IE artists in every sense of the word verse pandering to a dumbed down pop audience) They go widely ignored and unrecognized for their talents. What can I say, people are stupid and don't understand the greatness of group this articulate and this able to fire it off into song form.

Often with  the recording partnership of Steve Albini (more Montana goodness) their catalog ended at full length number 9 due to the unfortunate death of their drummer Michael Dahlquist. It still angers and saddens me to think about this loss and how a remarkably great band's place in history now carries a permanent scar of this tragic event when their music is what really deserves the music community's attention and recollection. The one light at the end of this tunnel is Bottomless Pit. With Silkworm laid to rest, Tim and guitarist Andy Cohen formed a band with 2 fellow Chicagoians (is that even a word?) including the drummer from Seam. Part outlet for grief, I am thankful that Tim and Andy decided to continue making music, something that according to my ears is something they were born to do.

You can listen to the show this evening on the dial in RVA at 97.3 FM or stream the show live at This will be my first attempt to record the show for a podcast so keep your fingers crossed that all goes well  and hopefully for those of you who missed the show, I will have a podcast to share as well.
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At the age of 22 going on 23 I picked up and left NJ without much of a plan other than my final resting stop was to be Seattle, WA. I had a small van of possessions and with two friends helping divide the long drive across the county, we arrived there in late winter / early Spring. Thinking back, I am horrified at my lack of planning. While I did have a job waiting for me at C/Z Records as a sales rep, I didn't have an apartment lined up and the only people I really knew were some of the folks at the label, Sub Pop, and a handful of band people who were pen pals but not on any deeply personal level.

Terry, a -co-worker from C/Z was kind enough to let me crash with him until I found a permanent place and even more amazingly he allowed me to store all my crap in his cozy one room loft. While this move across country could have been utterly disastrous, in reality I couldn't have been much luckier. The people at C/Z were all so friendly and incredibly welcoming. I felt like I had an instant family and in just a matter of days, I had been introduced to many of the bands on the label and their friends. This tight kit group of people became not only my world almost overnight but many of them were a bit older than me and introduced to me to mountains (culturally speaking). Sure they knew about art, music, food, and places I had never been to... but they also proved to me that adults didn't have to be boring. They were a true network of friends who supported each other, inspired one another, and seemed to be some of the most passionate artists I had ever met in my life. My concept of adults up until this point in time was based on my parents and their friends, their homes, their grey lives, none of which included much of a creative edge that included sharing a bill at a local rock club. Within this group of people were members of Silkworm, Engine Kid, Jessamine, and my eventual roomie, Bill who went on to join the Downer Trio among many other groups. As a young woman still very much not a real adult in many ways, this group of people showed me the best possible scenario for combing talented bands and a communal like support system.  It wasn't always perfect, but when you have a base of incredibly talented people fine tuning their craft around the clock, bouncing ideas off of one another, and actively recording / a green music fanatic, this was the best accidental education a girl could ask for.

It took me some time to raise enough money to afford an apartment so my first 3 months if not longer included a great deal of couch surfing (often in cycles that matched Michael the drummer of Silkworm who was also a couch jockey at the time) and house sitting. When Silkworm toured for their release In the West, I stayed in Tim Midgett's (bass player) and his fantastic lady's house which gave me one of my first looks at a home that was nothing like my parents. It sounds absurd now but in hindsight but it never occurred to me that adults could decorate any way they wanted and that I too one day would have the freedom and maybe the good fortune to be in a loving relationship that would afford me the opportunity to build a home of my own that didn't have to look like my parent's, or theirs, or anyone's for that matter. Besides their impeccable taste, there was one heck of a record collection. Much like my stint house sitting for Yo La Tengo I was blessed with the exposure to a a host of artists and genres I wasn't familiar with and so began my first hefty exposures to Jazz, NZ guitar bands, and oh so many others.

It is easy to romanticize my brief time in Seattle (just under two years) but when I think of the people I was fortunate to work along side, the music I had a chance to help sell / spread the word on, and then this incredible group of friends I made, I have every right to boast and glow. These were amazing people and by dumb luck, at a time when Grunge was finally dying and indie rock bands like Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, Sunny Day were all actively playing and on the rise. I saw probably two or three shows a week back then and most of them were bills that would make any indie rock nerd's jaw drop.

                                             Tim and I in 1994 at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, Wa.

So tonight's show is certainly about the music first and foremost (Thanks again Tim!) however it would be remiss of me not to admit to the importance of this band's accidental role in the shaping of who I am and a landmark of where I came from.