50 Years, 50 Albums

I turned 50 today (OK, technically I will turn 50 just before midnight… but whatever). Somehow that seems like it should be in some way meaningful, but really it feels more like any other Thursday, other than that I took the day off and had drinks during lunch.

I have been alive for 18,263 days. Which, when you consider how fast the days (and weeks, and months) seem to fly by as you get older, is both a lot, and not a lot at all. It seems impossible to believe that 2021 is half over already. When you’re young, being a week away from something exciting like Christmas or a vacation feels like an eternity, every minute of the day a battle against the glacial pace of the clock’s second hand. By time you’re in your 40s, it just means you have one more week of work to put up with, a week that will be so full of responsibilities and deadlines that you barely have time to eat lunch, your battle against the clock one of fighting against how fast it moves instead of how slow.

The first time I bought a Led Zeppelin album, a cassette copy of Led Zeppelin I, was in 1986. At that point the mighty Zep had been disbanded for six years, and it had been seven since their last studio album. At the ripe old age of 15 they seemed like old hippies who were part of the ancient past. Rock ‘n’ roll as a genre was, at that point, 35 years old if you consider “Rocket 88” to be the first rock song. By way of comparison, as of today Kurt Cobain has been dead for 27 years and, well, rock ‘n’ roll is exactly twice as old, heading into its seventh decade. Someone who is in their mid-20s today was born after Nirvana put out their last studio album.

When you’re young you don’t understand why your parent’s friends, who you don’t remember ever meeting before, tell you, “I knew you when you were a baby.” You swear you will never say stupid shit like that. And inevitably you do. Because it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that, frankly, you don’t feel that different today than you think you felt back then, while the child grew from a baby to a teen (or older). It’s almost hard to fathom. You have a connection to them through their parents, and therefore feel like there’s a sort of relationship there. But to them you’re just another old person who doesn’t have a clue. It’s impossible to understand aging until you have aged yourself. This is the truism of aging.

Anyway… I thought a bit about what I might write today. Some of it was deeply personal, and ultimately I talked myself out of that because really it would have probably been self-indulgent crap. So instead I landed on 50 albums that are in some way “important” to me. I’m intentionally not defining important. It is what it is. The one concession I made is that I won’t have any artist listed more than once. Of course, this is arguably every bit as self-indulgent as my earlier ideas. But whatever. Maybe one of these will pique your interest and you’ll go check it out. Maybe you won’t. But putting together the list was kind of fun for me, and it’s my birthday, so if you don’t like it, too bad.

So here they are, in no particular order, 50 albums for 50 years.

  • Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II
  • Metallica – Master of Puppets
  • Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
  • John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
  • Gusgus – 24/7
  • Ratt – Out of the Cellar
  • Pink Floyd – The Wall
  • Van Halen – 1984
  • The 3 Tenors – The 3 Tenors in Concert
  • Agent Fresco – A Long Time Listening
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81
  • The Kills – Ash & Ice
  • Tad – Salt Lick/God’s Balls
  • Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
  • Sammy Davis, Jr. – I’ve Gotta Be Me: The Best Of Sammy Davis Jr. On Reprise
  • Bob Marley – Legend
  • FM Belfast – How to Make Friends
  • The Devil Makes Three – The Devil Makes Three
  • Legend – Fearless
  • Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu
  • Warsaw – Warsaw
  • Mötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil
  • Def Leppard – Hysteria
  • Sir Mix-A-Lot – Swass
  • Run-DMC – Raising Hell
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far
  • The Doors – The Best of the Doors
  • Kiasmos – Kiasmos
  • Ghostigital – Division of Culture and Tourism
  • Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
  • Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  • TZMP – Anthology: Simply the Best
  • Kuldaboli – Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016
  • Hatari – Neysluvara
  • Robert Plant – Now and Zen
  • Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System – Tackhead Tape Time
  • No Stayer – Rogue
  • AC/DC – Back in Black
  • Quiet Riot – Metal Health
  • Duran Duran – Seven and the Ragged Tiger
  • Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
  • MC 900 Ft Jesus with DJ Zero – Hell with the Lid Off
  • Bloodgroup – Dry Land
  • Spinal Tap – This Is Spinal Tap
  • Dream Wife – Dream Wife
  • Madonna – Madonna
  • Huey Lewis and The News – Sports
  • Masters of Metal Compilation (US version)

Hoodoo Fushimi – “ケンカおやじ” (“Kenka Oyaji”) (1987 / 2021)

I knew nothing about Hoodoo Fushimi when I grabbed this on an impulse the other day over at Seattle’s Selector Records, and despite repeated enjoyable listens, I still don’t know anything about the man. And I think I kind of like it that way.

Stylistically this reminds me a bit of the 1980s On-U sound, a blend of hip hop, electronica, disco, and funk, with some electric guitar thrown in for good measure. Honestly I have no idea what section I’m going to put this in, but I better remember where it is, because it’s going to be getting a lot more plays (though it does look to be on Spotify, along with Fushimi’s 1992 album Kusaya).

Originally put out in 1987, ケンカおやじ got the re-release treatment earlier this year, and we should all thank the vinyl gods for that because original pressings sell for hundreds of dollars. I paid about $30 for my copy, and it’s worth every cent.

Icelandic Release #1,000

It’s hard to believe that Life in the Vinyl Lane will have its ninth birthday in September. Despite a few close calls that almost caused it to shut down with a total loss of all content, content that I never bothered to back up because I figured there was no chance of me sticking with blogging for more than a few months, it’s still hanging in there.

Of course, one could argue that with only two posts in 2021, and a meagre eight posts over the last eight months, that LITVL is on life support. Which is fair. Honestly, with the COVID debacle I figured I’d increase my output, but for a variety of reasons that didn’t happen. In an odd way I feel both guilty and disappointed about this. The guilt part is, frankly, pretty stupid. One shouldn’t feel bad about not pursuing a hobby when you simply don’t feel like doing it. The disappointment is more due to the fact that now I don’t have an easy reference source to remind myself what I thought of a given release. For most of the LITVL run I’d guess 98% of all the records that came into our house made an appearance on the blog. So if I pull something from the shelf that I don’t remember, I can easily look it up and get my impressions from months or years prior, which is both handy and pretty cool. And trust me, the paucity of posts this year isn’t because I haven’t been buying and listening to music – a ton of stuff was added to the shelves this year, and since we’re both working from home we’re streaming constantly throughout the day. But whereas in the past I’d have a way to differentiate all the cassettes I picked up from the new Negativ Notion label, today I can’t. Which one was the ambient one? The more industrial one? The one the dog really, really hated? I can’t remember, and I don’t have the blog to help me out.

So what got me out of semi-retirement for this post? Well, I use Discogs to inventory most of my stuff and I have the releases by Icelandic artists and on Icelandic labels kept in separate folders. Why? Because I’m weird like that. In fact there are three separate Icelandic folders – one for vinyl, one for cassettes, and one for CDs. A few weeks ago as I was adding some new items I realized that I was really, really close to having 1,000 Icelandic releases. I have to admit, this surprised me. I only recently added the CDs, and while I figured I had a hundred or so, the number was in fact just north of 300. When I added up the three folders I discovered I had 993 Icelandic releases. What??? How was this even possible? A quick look at the list of items I had on order made it clear that #1,000 was likely already bought and paid for, just not yet delivered. So which one would it be? And just as importantly to my neurotic mind, what would I do if I was at say 999 and a package arrived with three items? Which one would be #1,000???

Two packages in quick succession from Negativ Notion quickly got me to 999. There were still a few items on my list of expected deliveries, but they were all pre-orders, so no telling when they might arrive. And I certainly wouldn’t expect to pick up something locally. Or…

I was planning a visit to Seattle’s best electronica store, Selector Seattle, last weekend, so I checked their Discogs store for anything I might want to grab. On a whim I searched for “Iceland”. And… there it was. A 12″ techno record from 1998 by Vector called B. Q. Wave. The rest of the week was delivery-free, so when we walked into Selector and I gave my man Sherman the list of Discogs items I wanted, I must confess I was a little anxious to see if he still had the Vector record. And he did. I even made a point of taking a pic with us and the record to celebrate #1,000.

So how the hell did it get to this point?

I feel I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that if in 2009 I was asked to name musical artists from Iceland I would have come up with no more than:

  • The Sugarcubes
  • Björk
  • and maybe (but probably not) Sigur Rós

Yet here I sit, not quite a dozen years later, with exactly 1,000 Icelandic releases. I’m not a math major, but that has required a pace of just over 83 releases purchased per year. PHYSICAL RELEASES! Of Icelandic artists and labels. How is this even remotely possible?? (As I look back over might right shoulder and see the six Ikea Kallax cubes and one Flipbin filled with 12″ vinyl, which does not include 7″ and 10″, it seems a bit more possible…)

I feel fairly confident in saying it started with the purchase of Retrön’ Swordplay & Guitarslay at the NASA merch table the opening night of Iceland Airwaves 2009.(1) We hung out at NASA all night and they were my favorite of the six bands, a card that included Me the Slumbering Napoleon (seriously, that was their name), Morðingjarnir, Reykjavík!, Juvelen, and Kimono (we didn’t stick around for Sudden Weather Change… sorry guys). That being said, I can’t 100% recall if I bought the disc at the venue or the next day. Truth be told, that might have been the only CD I bought on that trip – at that point Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane was buying most of the music.

I know for a fact we didn’t buy a record for the first time until 2011… which means I’m averaging about 55 Icelandic records per year. Wha…? Holly was doing a travel blog at the time, and amazingly enough we have a photo of the first batch of eight records I bought from Lucky Records, back when they were at their old location. I’ve told that story many times, but the important thing to know is that we’re still friends with Ingvar and Gestur (and Bob, and Jóhannes, and Þórir…) all these years later. Looking at those first records it’s clear the emphasis was on punk, and I know the top one on the below list was the first I put aside for purchase.

  • Purrkur Pillnikk – EhgjI En:
  • Grýlurnar – Mávastellið
  • Jonee Jonee – Svonatorrek
  • Big Nós Band – Tvöfalt Siðgæði
  • Egó – Egó
  • Utangarðsmenn – Í Upphafi Skyldi Endinn Skoða
  • Okkar Á Milli Í Hita Og Þunga Dagsins Compilation
  • SATT 3 Compilation

That’s a pretty good haul, if I do say so myself. How did I learn about these records, you ask? Well, there was almost nothing about early Icelandic punk and new wave on the internet back in 2011, so I looked at eBay listings. And it turned out that all those eBay listings were, unbeknownst to me at the time, by Lucky Records. Go figure.

If we simply round up and assume I’ve been at this Icelandic thing for 12 years now, I’ve been averaging better than one new purchase every five days. Which is absurd. I know I’ve come home from Airwaves with over 50 titles in my bag before, but that means I’d still be buying another 30 or so elsewhere over the course of the year! I could probably do some rough calculations on the cost of all this music, or the weight of these shelves, but I’d rather not.

There are, of course, some titles that I include in my Icelandic category that others may disagree with. Does Dream Wife qualify? Their lead singer is from Iceland but the other three members are not. Farmacia is from Argentina, but their Suero album was put out by Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records, so I count that one too. You could certainly slice and dice it differently if you chose, but I count it if either the artist or label is from Iceland.

Will the next 12 years bring another 1,000 Icelandic items? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised, not one bit. In case you’re curious about the breakdown:

  • Vinyl – 549
  • CD – 307
  • Cassettes – 144

The labels FALK (25), Lady Boy (22), and Vánagandr (16), make up an impressive chunk of the collection. And let’s not forget another 10 from Lucky Records, 11 each from BÓNUS PLÖTUR and Paradísarborgarplötur and 12 Tónar, and 15 from Reykjavik Record. But none of them compare to the 53 titles on the mighty Smekkleysa. It’s cray.

I could probably write another few thousand words about this, but at the end of the day it’s the music that is important, not the stuff. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour a cocktail and listen to the new one from Ægir. Takk vinir!

(1) I was going to link this to the review I wrote about the album. Except… I NEVER WROTE ABOUT THIS ALBUM! How is this possible???

“Healthy Experience” Compilation Cassette (2021)

It’s hard to believe this is only my second post on Life in the Vinyl Lane so far in 2021. You’d think with COVID continuing to keep us all in various states of lockdown that I’d have done way more writing here, but clearly that’s not what happened. I’m not entirely sure why – I’ve definitely continued picking up new stuff at a brisk pace, though mostly by mail given the lack of travel and limitations on in-person shopping. But such is life. Truth be told I just haven’t really felt like it.

That is, of course, until this little gem arrived in the mail yesterday from Reykjavik. I’m not sure who is behind this brand new Healthy Boy Records label (though I have my suspicions), but as soon as I found out about the debut release I ordered one of the super limited (individually numbered edition of 50) cassettes. With artists like Kuldaboli and ThizOne and Volruptus contributing, I knew it was going to be good, and in fact it’s better than that, it’s great. There’s a sort of creepy, dark edge the the eight tracks, an unsettling undercurrent of anxiety that stops just short of fear, leaving the listener on edge and agitated.

I for one will be keeping an eye on the Healthy Boy Bandcamp page for future releases. You can stream the release there, as well as purchase digitally. It looks like the cassettes are still in stock for now, but I wouldn’t wait if I were you. These suckers won’t last.

Mondernte – “RÅ” Cassette (2020)

Hard to believe it’s been almost a month since my last post. I have no excuses outside of simply feeling like I didn’t have much to say on the music front. Have I run out of blog posts and anecdotes? Maybe. Perhaps I’ll start doing my album reviews as short stories, or haiku or interpretive dance videos. Probably not though.

Fortunately this unexpected little gem brought me out of my COVID post-election-post-innauguration stupor. I’d almost forgotten I ordered it given how long stuff is taking to make it from Europe to the US these days. But the other day this plastic hunk of onyx-black metal arrived from Iceland and I thought, “cool, I have something new to listen to, assuming I can get the drawer on my tape deck to work again,” which I did.

I’ll admit my expectations were marginal. I’m by no means a big black metal fan, despite the fact that I seem to have a lot of it, mostly on tape. But Mondernte brings something different on. It’s not blast beats and growls, but something more… I don’t know, perhaps more gloomy, more personal? This isn’t the sound of the hounds of hell tearing at your flesh or wailing despair. It’s the sound of the cold, damp, foggy forrest, the one with a lot of dead trees, where you’re lost and can’t find your way, the chill sinking into your marrow as it slows your reactions and mental processes, nature patiently cooling your body down degree by degree. First your toes burn, then they go numb. Then it’s the tips of your fingers, the lobes of your ears. The mist from your exhalations creates a layer of not-quite-frost along your upper lip as the color drains from your extremities. Those female voices.. where are they? Everywhere… and nowhere… are they coming from shrinking core of you soul as the flame slowly dies to just a flicker, dangerously close to going out? And will you embrace the blackness when it does?

This thing is a must-have, and you better get it while you can because the cassette release is in a ultra limited edition of 50 copies. Get yours on Bandcamp HERE.