As promised, here’s a note recognizing the reissue of 2010: EMI’s Deluxe vinyl/DVD/CD set of David Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station. Of course, I spent a lot of this year blogging in anticipation of this release (Bowie’s Station to Station and ’76 Nassau concert streaming online now!,Advance copies for Bowie’s Station to Station features DVD-A,U.S. release date announced for Bowie’s Station to Station reissue,David Bowie’s Station to Station to be reissued in fancy 9-disc package), so I shan’t repeat myself here.

Still, despite a whopping array of nine different mixes of the same album across vinyl, CD and DVD, there remained something missing. Many have argued: why no video footage from the era, but I would say, where was the record store promo only ashtray?:

We got buttons and reproduced promo 8x10s and a fan club pack from the time, among other bonus goodies, after all.

Still, in all seriousness, when it came to the music, there was one thing that flashed “oversight.” On the CD EP version of the album, featuring the single edits of every song on the six-track album, one edit was glaringly omitted: The “Wild is the Wind” video edit. Well, my friend Ray Garcia has re-created that mix using the remastered track off this set. Download it here. Sure, some might say that video was produced during 1980, anyhow, resulting in that edit that came long after the actual album. But some of the “edits” on the EP are a stretch anyhow (the title track reduced to only its second up-beat half?).

Beyond that, this set also includes one of Bowie’s most famous concert performances from the time, at New York’s Nassau Colosseum: on CD and vinyl. The vinyl actually does sound better than the CD, I found, as the CD sounded quite over-modulated, and the vinyl indeed sounded better on headphones. Though I never received the set as a promo from the label to review the vinyl here, I did get a cool consolation prize:

There were more cool reissues in 2010. There was high praise thrown about for Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, featuring a whole second album’s worth of outtakes as good as the original album (studio outtakes were also sorely missing from the Station to Station reissue), including several DVDs. However, no vinyl.

If ever there was a runner-up to the Station to Station reissue in my book, it would be King Crimson’s 6-disc set of their debut 1969 album, In the Court of the Crimson King. It not only did it feature an array of studio takes of the music, but also a DVD audio with live video footage from the time and even a very rare mono mix for radio stations only taken off a vinyl record from Robert Fripp’s own library. Later on in the year, they even followed up on this release with a vinyl release on 200 g vinyl that sounded amazing. The box also even had buttons and a reproduction of the gatefold LP, as it was a 12-inch size anyhow. Here’s a look inside the box at how the discs were presented:

Very cool. Get it while you can, as it is a limited edition that seems to be selling out fast.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Best records heard in 2010

December 30, 2010

I finally return just before 2010 ends, with a recap of the 10 best new records I heard this year (I probably spent too much time over-editing this post, but I also spent a lot of time catching up on tons of other albums that did not make the final cut below). I guess I should have finished this up before Christmas, as all the titles of the albums listed below link to, should you feel compelled to invest in these great albums. But, I’m not in this blogging thing for the money. Still, if you want any of these on vinyl, I would suggest you do it sooner than later anyway, as some LP records, unlike their CD or mp3 cousins, only get limited runs.

Without further ado…1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
Not just the best album I heard the year, but one of the best I have heard in many years. LCD Soundsystem seemed to have merged an array of my favorite musical ingredients, including Krautrock, post punk, David Bowie and prog. The sometimes lengthy songs on This is Happening never relent, riding infectious, poly-rhythmic beats to some transcendent place in music well-rooted in the best of the rock ‘n’ roll canon.

2. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
There is just something so other-worldly about this album. It harks back to the past of pop music while reaching to the future beyond. Deerhunter has brought its dream-like lusciousness to a smart, subtle  level. Halcyon Digest seems to echo from some alternate, ghostly dimension in music.

3. MGMT – Congratulations (Columbia)
Congratulations was a bold step forward by MGMT, while staying true to its psychedelic art rock roots. The group moves beyond disco catchiness to something much more complex, earning comparisons to Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Brian Eno.

4. Mogwai – Special Moves (Rock Action)
Though I have been a dedicated fan of this post rock outfit, following their every release since 1998’s Kicking a Dead Pig, this live double album tracing their decade-plus career made me fall in love with the band all over again. Mogwai have always been generous with their releases, throwing in behind-the-scenes footage on  DVD alongside their recent albums. This live package happens to contain a long-form film of the live show recorded in Brooklyn on DVD, capturing the group in their typical focused and intense form. I was able to find a rare triple vinyl edition package that also included a patch and signed poster, as seen in the image. Only 550 copies featured the signed poster and sold out rather fast on their website.

5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
I like Arcade Fire because, as modern as they are, they seem very nostalgic and very anti-tech, even while offering a very baroque musical style that is brash, full of energy and in the now. Beyond their lyrics spelling this theme out, their vinyl records have always been produced with great care, and the Suburbs was no exception. They even posted images of every track on individual vinyl acetates, ahead of the album’s release (the image above is the first track, as featured on their website).

6. Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
A consistently dreamy album built on delicate melodies instead of the wash of noise that is so easy for dream-pop bands to hide behind. I picked up the vinyl album after I saw them live for the first time. It came with a DVD with amateurish videos for each song. None of these videos come near to equating the splendor of the music that defies visual representation. It’s best left unwatched.

7. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)
My love for Broken Social Scene stemmed from their sonic kinship with bands like the Sea and Cake and Tortoise. When they got together with those band’s drummer and key sonic engineer, John McEntire, for this new album, it felt like a perfect match. The results were indeed a magic melding of McEntire’s projects with BSS. A limited run of this album came out as a set of colored 10-inch 180 gram vinyl records with one song one each side. It was limited to only 500 copies, but it seems you can still get it on-line.

8. The Vaselines – Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
A brilliant comeback more than 20 years in the making. It’s like Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee had never separated at the end of the 80s. Their sly sense of humor remains intact, not to mention the brash song-writing that still echoes their garage-rock origins, albeit with a more polished and glossier production.9. Of Montreal – False Priest (Polyvinyl)
Speaking of a more polished sound, Of Montreal followed up the most insane record of their career, Skeletal Lamping, with the better focused False Priest. It did not take many listens to fall under the glammy, soulful spell of this neo glam rock outfit’s landmark 10th album. More than ever, mastermind and singer Kevin Barnes shows off his leanings toward Prince-inspired stylings with not only his howls and moans but also his songcraft.

10. Stereolab – Not Music (Drag City)
Stereolab made a low-key return to the indie music scene at the end of the year with their new “non-album” composed of outtakes from the sessions that produced 2008’s Chemical Chords. Appropriately titled Not Music, the album reveals the “groop” at its most unrestrained in years. “Silver Sands” was just a low-key three-minute ditty on Chemical Chords, but on Not Music, it’s extended to take on a whole side of one of the slabs of vinyl to jam out in all it’s Krautrock-inspired glory. This was a glorious return to the old Stereolab I fell in love with in the early nineties. The collector-friendly (or frustrating, depending on how you see it) band has released only 500 copies of the vinyl version of the album on clear wax via the UK’s Rough Trade store. Yep, I got a copy.

Finally, though I know I have been on “hiatus” for a while (man, the indie world is quiet this time of year), I do plan a prompt follow-up to present readers with the most impressive re-issue I came across this year, and I did come across several cool things.

For now, do share your top own 10 albums in the comment section below (it doesn’t have to be vinyl).

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I could not recall if I had seen the 1974 BBC-produced David Bowie documentary Cracked Actor. I think I have a copy of this near hour-long doc on VHS in some cabinet somewhere. Then, the other day, I stumbled across a blog that is streaming the entire documentary on-line. It’s being hosted by the blog A Piece of Monologue. You can watch the entire thing here.

It’s notoriously referred to as a document of Bowie at his oddest, most drug-addled, but, despite the interview by a perplexed local newsman that kicks off the piece, I think Bowie comes off quite honest and straight-forward.  There’s already a Bowie-centric website that has highlighted most of the important bits on a page featuring an array of quotes and images from the documentary here.

Bowie was an easy target in these days. He had just retired his glam-rock superstar persona Ziggy Stardust and had moved to LA to record a soul record. His eyebrows still shaved and appearing quite pale and gaunt, Bowie was at the height of his cocaine addiction. In one scene while riding in a limo, he shows great concern at the sounds of sirens, as he violently sniffs.

This image has constantly over-shadowed the creative genius depicted in Cracked Actor. He had just unofficially adapted George Orwell’s 1984 as a concept album and presented it as giant stage production. He provides unobtrusive insight to his William Burroughs-inspired style of writing lyrics with cut-up sentences. He also philosophizes on the psychological impact of doing an alter ego as a performer. It’s a worthwhile documentary that leaves you wondering where are all the smart pop stars nowadays.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The other day I received an email from the Vinyl Factory, one of the fanciest producers of vinyl records working today, announcing its upcoming release of none other than surrealist movie director David Lynch’s new electro-based single. The director of Blue Velvet recently signed a record deal with the UK-based indie label Sunday Best Recordings to release the record. The idea might sound strange, but the results are indeed Lynchian. The lead track, “Good Day Today” is dizzying in its warped, affected quality– from the repetitive lowering and rising volume of the backing synth to Lynch’s vocoder affected vocals (not to mention the beat recalls the “motorik” rhythms of many a Neu! track). Then, on “I Know,” Lynch sounds like some old blues lady backed by nasty, echoing bluesy guitar bursts that sound very familiar to the blues guitars that pop up on many of his films’ soundtracks. Click the titles of the songs to stream them on Soundcloud.

As far as the packaging, considering the triple gatefold 12-inch also includes a signed art print by famed album designer Vaughan Oliver, and a second slab of wax (its all on 180 gram vinyl) featuring remixes by “the finest electronic music producers of the past 20 years” (the site does not mention who), 30 quid ain’t that bad a price to pay. Some of the Vinyl Factory’s releases have been much more expensive and not as fancy.

Singing is something not all that new for Lynch. I first heard him sing a couple of years ago. in 2008, he did a song for his daughter, Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s second movie, Surveillance (2008). The song appeared briefly in the film and in its entirety during the film’s end credits. At first, I thought it was a new Neil Young song. Unfortunately, no soundtrack for the film exists, but you can hear “Speed Roadster” by clicking on the song’s title, right here.

Then Lynch sang probably the most moving song on the Danger Mouse / Sparklehorse collaboration Dark Night of the Soul (a soundtrack accompanying a book of Lynch-produced images). Long before the physical release of the album you could hear the songs in an interactive “pop-up” Flash-based website. As the album hung in legal limbo that website was the only place to hear some of the songs. The website is still live, and, with a little hunting, you can hear Lynch’s track … OK, I’ll reveal where to find it: Drag the screen over to your left where some cops are hosing down a man in his underwear and laughing. Iggy Pop’s pummeling “Pain” should be snarling among the image-scape. Once you endure that noisy assault, the much more melancholic sparkles of “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” filled with chirps of twinkling electronic burbles should begin. That’s Lynch singing, sounding not too different from a mellowed out Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips fame (Coyne also has a song on Dark Night of the Soul, btw).

Of course, Lynch has been messing with experimental music for many years. He often painstakingly works on the sonic atmosphere of his films, which clearly add another level of creepiness to his scenes. But, as far as I can recall, this singing career is a new thing for Lynch. Let me know of any other songs he may have sung. All that I have heard so far have been very interesting.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)