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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The Best of 2012

I figured I’d wrap up 2012 with a series of Top 5 lists to share the different ways I enjoyed music over the course of the last year, probably in part because I just finished re-reading Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity which, like the movie, has lots of Top 5 lists created by Rob, Dick, and Barry.  All of this is, of course, purely subjective… I don’t pretend to have been exposed to a broad array of music, so I’m sure there’s some amazing stuff out there that not only does not appear on my lists, but that I’ve never even heard of.  But such is life.  So with that…. on to the lists!

Top 5 New Releases in 2012

1.  Fearless – Legend
2.  Live at Gamla Bíó – Agent Fresco
3.  Division of Culture & Tourism – Ghostigital
4.  K2R – Halleluwah
5.  Börn Loka – Skálmöld

I feel like this list might seem a bit pretentious, since all these bands are from Iceland… and I am not.  However, with Iceland Airwaves being the biggest week each year on my calendar, and considering how many bands I saw there this year (36), it kind of makes sense.  Ironically the only one of these I have on vinyl is K2R, though I do have the limited edition vinyl release of Ghostigital on order.  And unintentionally this is a pretty good mix of genres – goth/electronic (Legend), alt (Agent Fresco), industrial (Ghostigital), hip hop (Halleluwah), and hard core metal (Skálmöld).

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands

1.  Legend (Iceland)
2.  Lama (Finland)
3.  Ghostland Observatory (Texas)
4.  Skálmöld (Iceland)
5.  Shabazz Palaces (Seattle)

Most of these bands, other than maybe Legend, are not new.  But they were new to me in 2012 – I’d never heard of them before.  I also had the opportunity to see all of them except Lama live over the course of the year, which certainly increased my interest and appreciation in them.  Check them out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

1.  Miranda – Tappi Tikarrass
2.  Rokk Í Reykjavík
3.  The Fourth Reich
– Þeyr
4.  Seattle Syndrome, Vols. 1-2
5.  Mistakes 7″ – Gruppo Sportivo

The top two on this list came from an unexpected source – the flea market in downtown Reykjavik.  I figured I was already done with all my vinyl buying when we walked in, but there was a seller with tons of vinyl including these hard to find gems.  They weren’t cheap, but both were on my short list of things I wanted to find while I was in Iceland, so I was happy to pay the price.  The Fourth Reich was a surprise find at Trash Palace in Stockholm.  The Seattle Syndrome records came to me a day apart, and from different sources, and are a great snapshot of the early 1980s Seattle music scene.  The Gruppo Sportivo 7″ I ran across in someone’s garage, and it sort of opened my mind to taking a chance on stuff that I wasn’t familiar with.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.  Agent Fresco (acoustic) – Nordic House, Reykjavik
2.  Legend – Gamli Gaukurinn, Reykjavik
3.  Ghostigital – KEX Hostel, Reykjavik
4.  Devil Makes Three – Showbox Market, Seattle
5.  Ghostland Observatory – Showbox SODO, Seattle

I could have easily gone strictly with shows we saw at Airwaves, but the two Seattle entries were both strong and featured bands I really like a lot.  The Agent Fresco show was the best, hands down, as the intimacy of the tiny Nordic House venue and the emotional power of the show was almost overwhelming.

Top 5 Favorite Places to Buy Records

1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Easy Street Records, Seattle
3.  Trash Palace, Stockholm
4.  Jive Time, Seattle
5.  Amoeba Records, Los Angeles

I found great stuff in all these places in 2012, and hope to shop at four of them again in 2013 (unfortunately I have no plans to go back to Sweden…).  They all have great selections and are well organized, and I could spend hours flipping through their inventories.

Top 5 Websites

1.  Dust & Grooves – Record collector profiles and photos
2.  Vinyl Noize – Blurbs on rare punk and metal vinyl for sale on eBay
3.  Discogs – THE place to research artists and records
4.  I Love Icelandic Music Blog – No longer getting new posts, but still great
5.  Wikipedia – It has it’s limitations, but a good place to get basic info on bands

Top 5 Music Books

1.  Stuð vors lands by Dr. Gunni
2.  Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
3.  Everybody Loves Our Town by Mark Yarm
4.  Iggy Pop – Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka
5.  How Music Works by David Byrne

All in all it was a great year, musically speaking (and in lots of other ways as well, to be sure).  My vinyl library grew considerably (see photo) – I’m not sure how many new discs I added, but in all honesty it has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so.  I suspect that will slow down a bit in 2013… but then again, we’re hoping to go to Iceland twice next year (fingers crossed), and we’re planning to hit up Tokyo as well… so time will tell.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!

Lama – “Lama”

Holly and I were lucky enough to travel to Scandinavia this year, and prior to the trip I did some research on Finnish and Swedish punk bands.  I also tracked down some record stores in Helsinki and Stockholm.  Both Finland and Sweden are known for their vinyl culture, so I had high hopes in returning home weighed down with rare Scandinavian vinyl.

I did well in Stockholm (more on that in another post…), though not so much in Helsinki, where I was limited to CDs.  They really take their jazz seriously there, and most of the used stores we checked out were full of jazz, funk, and classic rock.  Fortunately Fallout Records had a nice selection of punk titles, at least on CD, including the first album (1982) by the classic Finnish punk group Lama (I also picked up Ratsia and Sehr Schnell).  Later that same day I ran across a vinyl copy, but at 100 Euros my 10 Euro used CD seemed like a much better option.

(BTW – every record store we went to in Helsinki and Stockholm had lots of copies of albums by the Swedish band Europe, famous for their song “The Final Countdown”.  Not very punk rock, but it became a running joke on the trip.  It’s the final countdown!).

Lama is arguably the first Finnish punk band, and many consider them the best.  The style is really early hardcore – it’s faster than stuff like the Ramones and Sex Pistols.  It’s also better.  The CD version of Lama we found includes 15 tracks.  While I didn’t know what to expect from it, I can sum it up simply in three words.  Lama kicks ass.  End of discussion.

This is some great punk.  In classic punk fashion, seven of the songs clock in at two minutes or less, with only one over three minutes.  The fact I don’t understand the lyrics doesn’t matter one bit. One of the nice things about experiencing a band like this for the first time is that you have no expectations, because you’ve never heard it before and you can’t understand the words.  They could be singing about cupcakes or kumquats for all I know.  I really don’t care.  It’s all about the music, and the vocals become almost like another instrument.  And I have to say, I LOVE the song “Iso Pasi”.  While I like the entire album, this is the song that when it comes on, I stop what I’m doing, and if I’m in private I rock out.  Iso pasi!  (Which, according to Google Translate, means “Big Capacity”.  Capacity for what, I’m not sure…)

If you like early punk and/or hardcore, do yourself a favor and check out Lama.    You’ll be glad you did.