The Niteskool Project – “Double Major”

I won’t lie.  Part of the reason I bought this album is because I thought it was underpriced.  It was in the new arrivals bin at Easy Street for $7, and when I looked it up online (because the cover intrigued me) I found copies selling in the $25-75 range.  So why not, right?  Which is of course stupid, since it’s not like I’m buying stuff to flip for a profit.  But old collecting habits, unfortunately, die hard.

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As near as I can tell this is a private label, student release, though one with “Special thanks to the Miller Brewing Company for their support” and the Miller logo on the reverse.  I think it’s tied in some way to Northwestern University given the credits, though I can’t figure out exactly how.  My best description of this would be “contemporary soul,” if your contemporary period happened to be 1985 and you wanted songs with an “IBM PC Keyboard,” lots of synths, a bell tree, and a samba whistle.

It’s actually kind of cool in a very dated mid 1980s kind of way, though the track “Heroes Up Against the Wall” is almost more prog rockish than soul.  But just barely.  At six songs it’s just about the right length – anything more and I’d probably start to get annoyed.  But if you have fond memories of 1980s movies, Double Major certainly could have soundtracked one and will be just enough for a little trip down memory lane.

Egoslavia – “Egoslavia”

Washington DC punk-new wave band Egoslavia started off with a different name.  When they were working on their EP they found out that some band down in Georgia had the same name and was working on their own debut single.  A club owner thought it would be a good promotion to have both bands play together in a battle-of-the-bands, with the winner getting to not only keep the name they both shared, but also rename the loser.  Egoslavia went on first and played what was, by all accounts, a pretty solid set.  Then the Georgians hit the stage, and the rest is history.  Egoslavia had a new name, courtesy of some guys in a band you may have heard of, because they went on to a little bit of success.  That band got to keep the name R.E.M.

As if that wasn’t interesting enough, Egoslavia’s bassist was a kid named Christopher Anderson.  Um, should I know who that is, you ask?  Well, you should if you ever bought a copy of WIRED magazine… he was its editor-in-chief for over a decade.

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I found this in the new arrivals bin over at Easy Street Records this morning.  I’d had the vinyl itch – it had been a few weeks since I’d done any serious digging, and though a few CDs came my way they just could’t replace the feeling of picking up a record (or five).  Released in 1982, Egoslavia is a seven song EP with that early new wave sound – when the genre was still transitioning out of punk and not quite fully formed into the big hair, big shoulder pads music that would make it big on MTV.  It’s funky.  It’s weird.  It reminds me a lot of Þeyr.  Solid.

Stylistically Egoslavia mixes it up a bit.  It’s all new wave, but the band definitely explores some different sounds, with some of the songs being more radio friendly and polished, others more experimental.  I’m pretty sure my copy came from a radio station given the “45 rpm” written on the jacket and the sticker I managed to peel off the front.  Three songs are specifically marked in some way on the reverse – “Lost Songs”, “Do Your Face” (an instrumental), and “Girls Without Trying.”  “Lost Songs” is probably the most radio-friendly track on the album, with “Read Palms” a close second, both somewhat moody and morose songs, but still with a brisk pace – early new wave made more of an effort to cram those disparate song elements together than any other genre.  “City Up!” is the best song, bar none; it has a super funky bassline as its foundation and more aggressively paced and punctuated vocals.

Exploring old school punk has been an interesting experience for me.  After about two years of listening to some of the early stuff, I find my tastes changing more towards the early new wave stuff… the same way the music itself progressed back when it was new.  I’m pretty sure I won’t continue to progress into the more mainstream new wave of the mid 1980s if for no other reason than I actually listened to a lot of that as it was happening, so there’s not a lot there “new” waiting for me.  But this early stuff is pretty cool.  I think I’ll hang out here a while.

International Party Mix

It’s that time of year again.  Time for the 16th Annual Post-Holiday Holiday part at the Life in the Vinyl Lane house.  We put on this shindig every January and invite our friends over to eat and drink their fill.  And, as we’ve done for the last 10 or so years, we also made an official party CD as a give away for those who stop by.  This year we’re going with a sort of travel theme to the festivities, so the 16 artists on the CD are all from different countries.  Here’s what we put together:

1.  “Pale Green Ghost” – John Grant (USA)
2.  “Storm” – Django Django (Scotland)
3.  “Iso Pasi” – Lama (Finland)
4.  “Amidinine” – Bombino (Niger)
5.  “Don’t Mess” – Juvelen (Sweden)
6.  “Feel Like You Should” – Shiny Darkly (Denmark)
7.  “Hand of Law” – Radio Birdman (Australia)
8.  “Egu Szot Se Szoij” – Sarolta Zalatnay (Hungary)
9.  “Gleipnir” – Skálmöld (Iceland)
10.  “Dynamite” – Jamiroquai (England)
11.  “Manhattan Skyline” – A-ha (Norway)
12.  “Wenu Wenu” – Omar Souleyman (Syria)
13.  “Top of the World” – Shonen Knife (Japan)
14.  “Mission a Paris” – Gruppo Sportivo (Netherlands)
15.  “O mundo é já aqui” – OVO (Portugal)
16.  “Someone Says” – Casino Royale (Italy)

We think it’s a pretty cool mix, so we’re excited to hear what our guests think.

But for now, I have to get back to some serious party prep.

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“100 Bestu Plötur Íslandssögunnar” (“100 Best Icelandic Albums”)

I’ve written before about my borderline unhealthy love of lists.  I’m always a sucker for any kind of “Best Of,” “Worst Of,” or “Any Other Kind Of Of” lists, whether they be about music, movies, places to see, or ways to fold your laundry.  If you can make a list about it, I’ll probably look at it and think about it.  Which probably explains why I’m pretty good with spreadsheets.  Which happens to be a good thing, since I’m not good at a lot of other things (fixing things, building things, karate….) and our society values spreadsheet skills enough to allow me to pay my bills and go to Iceland at least once per year.

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When we were in Reykjavik for Airwaves in 2012 I picked up a nice hardback book called 100 Bestu Plötur Íslandssögunnar, roughly translated to 100 Best Icelandic Albums despite the fact that Google Translate tried to tell me it meant 100 Best Albums Island Story Acid, though that sounds like it would be a pretty cool read too.  The book was published in 2009, so it’s relatively current, and it’s well laid out and has tons of pictures.  Unfortunately for me, the text is all in Icelandic, and given some of the translations Google has provided over the years it doesn’t seem worth the trouble to try to read it using the translator.

Turns out I have 35 of the Top 100 albums on this list.  A few thoughts that put this into perspective for me:

1.  I did this same exercise with Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time back in August, and I only had or had heard 27 of its Top 100.
2.  I own exactly zero Sigur Rós albums, five of which are among the 100 Bestu Plötur, which is sort of ironic since there are certainly a number of Americans who if they looked at the book would only have those five albums.
3.  I found myself being somewhat critical of the book for some of the albums that I felt were deserving, but not included, like Icecross, Ghostigital‘s In Code We Trust, Gusgus‘ This Is Normal, and 
XXX Rottweiler Hundar (which, let’s be honest, should be included just for the name alone).  Criminal!  Sure, XXX Rottweiler Hundar came in at #102 in the abbreviated list of albums from 101-200 (of which I have 16!), but that’s no excuse!

This makes me think I may have crossed over from “fan” to “obsessive” when it comes to Icelandic music (except for Sigur Rós).  I mean, I can’t even read this book and I’m taking issue about bands I felt were slighted.  I may need help.  I may also need more shelving soon if I keep buying vinyl at this rate.

I don’t want to run afoul of any copyrights, and I certain don’t want to ruin it for you, but I will tell you that Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun took the top spot (don’t have it!), and that Björk made the Top 10 twice, with Debut (#6) and Gling-Gló (#7) (have ’em both).  And as I previously mentioned, somehow XXX Rottweiler Hundar failed to crack the Top 100 (travesty!).  

All kidding aside, 100 Bestu Plötur Íslandssögunnar is a well-put-together book, which devotes two full pages to each album – one with a large image of the front jacket, a smaller image of the back jacket, a song list and credits, and the other with text and photos of the performer(s).  The one exception is the Rokk í Reykjavík at #32 (only 32???), which justifiably gets a four page spread.  It’s a pretty cool reference for the music junkie who has a (perhaps troubling) interest in the Icelandic scene, at least through 2009.

DEB Music Players – “Umoja Dub”

umojadubI’ve been on a bit of a dub kick lately, and I found this nugget while digging the other day.  I think what we have here is a sort of collaboration of various artists signed to the DEB Music label, and once I saw Sly Dunbar and Robby Shakespeare were part of it I knew it would be at least decent.  And in fact it’s a lot better than that.  This is real low key dub – slow tempo, chill, and grooving.  No singing to distract you, and the funky dub post production isn’t so over the top that you lose track of the underlying music.

I don’t have much else to tell you, since dub is pretty nebulous and hard to explain.  Writing about dub is like trying to hold only a handful of dry sand – it just sort of slips trough any attempt to contain it with words.  Don’t over think it.  Instead just sit back and listen to the jam, mon.