Iceland Airwaves 2019 – Reflections

It was great to be back in Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves after a one year absence, with the added benefit of this being a milestone for us – our 10th Airwaves.  It’s bizarre to think that as someone closer to 50 than 40 I’ve attended an Airwaves during over 20% of my years…

Because we missed 2018 this was our first time experiencing the festival under the new leadership and with the shorter four-day format.  There were considerably few bands in 2019 than in 2017, and perhaps even more noticeable way fewer off-venues.  My understanding is that the fee for being an official off-venue increased significantly, and based on the numbers I heard from folks in town the cost was prohibitive for many of the small businesses that hosted shows in past years.  This was also the first time I remember hearing people referring to Airwaves as a “showcase festival”.  With all that in mind, there wasn’t as much music happening as in years past, and bands played significantly fewer shows.  Despite that, there was plenty going on and we got into the groove of the slower pace, taking advantage of the extra time to connect with friends.

And friends were the theme of Iceland Airwaves 2019 for us.  While I missed the music last year as I sat in the basement of my workplace and desperately worked with the team to try to get a software release done in time, at the end of the day what I missed most was seeing all of our friends.  So this year we made a point of connecting with everyone possible, while also making some new friends along the way.  Some folks weren’t sure if they’d be coming back in 2020, but by the end of the week most of them were already talking about early bird passes being available.  The smaller, more intimate feel of Airwaves, and Reykjavik in general, creates these opportunities to build relationships, and that’s a big part of what makes it special.  If you’d have told me in 2009 how many people we’d know and stay and touch with due to Airwaves I wouldn’t have believed you.

Best Venue:  It was a strange year without Harpa, and while KEX Hostel was elevated to on-venue status we somehow never made it there.  In fact we spent most of our on-venue time at the Reykjavik Art Museum, which while adequate is never going to be anyone’s favorite spot.  Ultimately I come away with feeling that once again Gamla Bíó is the best place in Reykjavik to see a show, despite the fact that we only saw one band perform there (Glass Museum).  The strangest place we saw a show was definitely Waldorfskólinn Sólstafir, a local school where we were surrounded by kids.  You’d never see that in the US, my friends.  Here if a bunch of foreigners show up at a grade school, someone is calling a SWAT team.

Best Show:  For the second Airwaves in a row I’m going with Hatari (below).  To say that their set is a performance would be an understatement, and since I also love their music it was more or less a no-brainer.  A super close second was a bit of a surprise – the off-venue Lucky Records show by Hermigerville.  Not only did he have half the crowd actually dancing, but he also dropped in a couple of The Magnetics covers since he’d performed as part of their retro set the night before.  We ended up missing that show because it conflicted with Hatari, so it was awesome to catch a few of those old 80s-style synth bangers.  Honorable mentions to Mammút, who I hadn’t seen in forever and who sounded fantastic, and the up-and-comers Blóðmör with their straight-ahead style of classic metal.

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Best New-To-Me Band:  The winner here is definitely Lydmor.  We’d never heard of her before seeing her at Hressó and her performance was one of those experiences where even if you’re not 100% into whatever is happening at the moment, you’re still captivated by it and don’t want to leave because you know something completely different and unexpected is right around the corner.  I’m not sure how this will translate to listening to Lydmor’s music without the live component, but I’ll definitely be checking out some of her stuff.

Coolest Music Purchase:  I bought a TON of stuff this trip.  So much, in fact, that I couldn’t fit all the vinyl in my DJ carry-on bag which left me with a hard choice – try to pack some in my suitcase or spend a bunch of money to have it shipped.  I opted for the former and the guys a Lucky provided me with a solid box and some extra 12″ cardboard pieces, and after strategically deciding what I’d put in my suitcase (i.e. less expensive stuff) and what I’d carry on (more expensive stuff) we got the box into the suitcase surrounded by clothes and… it worked <phew>!  The finally tally was something absurd like 45 records of various sizes, probably 25 CDs, and a fistful of cassettes.  Restraint is not my strong suit. Plus I had a lot of catching up to do after having missed a year.

As for the coolest purchase, well, it’s actually something we picked up in London at Sister Ray prior to heading to Reykjavik – Sensational‘s debut album Loaded With Power.  I pretty much never find Sensational vinyl in the US and this was released by a German label, so I was stoked to find it.  Honorable mention for the super limited (edition of 20) Blóðmör demo tape Á Hljómleikum that a friend snagged and held onto for me.  Those guys are definitely going places and this stuff will be even more impossible to get in the future.

Biggest Regret:  There were a few bands we missed who I’d like to have seen, especially Agent Fresco and the Biggi DJ set.  However, the biggest miss was not seeing Berndsen perform at a clothing story, because everyone who went said it was off the charts.  And having seen some photos, it clearly was.  So I’ll make a point of catching up with the big redhead next year.

 

We didn’t see nearly as many bands in 2019 as we have in the past, even when you account for the Airwaves being one day shorter.  Typically we’d see somewhere from 35-40 performances in five days, but this time around that number was probably in the low 20s.  And I’m fine with that.  In fact I liked not feeling like I just had to be on the run all day every day, tracking down show after show like I was just filling out a checklist.

I’d say there’s probably a 90% chance we’ll be back in Reykjavik in 360 or so days for the next installment of Airwaves.  Hopefully we’ll see you there.

Record Shopping, London UK Style (2019)

Ok, first thing first.  Clearly London’s vinyl scene is right up there with anyones – it’s probably one of the Top 3 Vinyl Shopping Cities In The World©®™∞, so it would be quite easy for me to act like a nouveau riche (♠) guy (♣) at a bachelor party, make it rain, and fill my entire DJ bag full of vinyl during our four days here.  But we’re headed to Reykjavik later not his trip for our 10th Iceland Airwaves, and after missing the festival in 2018 for the first time in a decade I have some unfinished business in the city’s record stores, so I need to save some room.  That being said, we made it a point of at least hitting up a bunch of London’s record stores, and I wanted to share a bit of that with you in case you find yourself here.

Stores are listed in the order in which we visited them, at least to the best of my memory, so no ranking is implied.

Music and Video Exchange
38 Notting Hill Gate, Kensignton

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Our first stop, so it would have taken something pretty epic to get me to buy anything.  Plus it was raining a bit.  That being said, I was quite tempted.  The inventory leaned heavily towards used and there were some very interesting titles in the punk/new wave/industrial sections.  I was tempted to roll the vinyl dice on a couple of unknowns, but showed some restrain.  The prices looked quite reasonable.  Had they just opened with that inventory in Seattle, I would have probably walked out of there having spent $300 or more.  If I still have space on our last day, I’ll be heading back out here for sure.

Rough Trade West
130 Talbot Road, Notting Hill

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Rough Trade is, of course, well, Rough Trade.  It’s an institution.  The Rough Trade East store (see below) seems to get most of the attention due to its size and live space, but make no mistake – if you’re looking for used vinyl, get your ass over to Rough Trade West. We barely spent any time at all on the main floor, which is given over to new releases, and instead went straight to the basement used vinyl nirvana.  Is there a ton in the basement?  No.  is it sleeved and labeled and awesome?  Yes.

This is where I got my first true taste of the UK experience, because even their row or two of reggae was lightyears better than anything I’ve ever seen at home, and there were a few early 1980s dub records that I mentally marked for possible purchase.  At least, that is, until I got to the industrial section and ran across what appeared to be about half the Chris & Cosey catalog, all first pressings and all in great shape.  I told Holly before we left that Chris & Cosey and 4AD stuff was top of my list, so the reggae records had to stay and I brought copies of Trance (1982) and Songs of Love & Lust (1984) (both originally released on Rough Trade…) to the counter, which elicited a raised eyebrow from the guy working there who had just been dealing with an American who had just bought a turntable and who was complaining about the cost of early Ramones albums (to which the Rough Trade guy rightly observed, “Look, if you really just want the music buy a re-release”).  So I paid with my credit card and got my first interesting UK experience – they absolutely want to match your signature to the back of your card.  And instead of a signature, the back of mine says “See ID” because I want people to make sure my card isn’t stolen.  So he asked if I had ID and I was pulling out my passport he said, “No, I don’t need to really see your ID.  There aren’t a lot of American blokes who have been holding onto their stolen credit cards so they can buy Chris & Cosey records.”  Which frankly is more astute than any VISA fraud algorithm yet designed.

Honest Jon’s Records
278 Portobello Road

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If you want reggae or dub, drop what you’re doing right now, head to the airport, and take a cab straight to Honest Jon’s.  The selection was deep, with strong helpings of Northern Soul, soundtracks, and various kinds of electronica.  It was simply my pure ignorance regarding these genres that kept me from walking out of the store with anything and I’m still kicking myself for, at the very least, not picking up a bunch of dub CDs since I don’t have any dub on my iPod.

Like Rough Trade, Honest Jon’s is also a label, and I probably actually first heard of them because they put out Ghostigital’s “Not Clean” 7″, which is ridiculous because they’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.  Definitely a worthwhile stop.

Blue Groove Soundz
8 Portobello Green Designers, 281 Portobello Road

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We ran across this joint by accident, part of one of those weird little shopping “malls” that have a wide range of stores.  The small space felt extremely DJ-centric, a blend of electronica, funk, soundtracks, library music and the like.  You’re not going to find Revolver or Never Mind the Bollocks here, but you’ll probably find some stuff you’ve never heard of and maybe an Ice-T record or two in the hip hop section, so if you’re in the area you should check them out.

Vintage Vinyl
Vintage Market, 85 Brick Lane

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Our first stop on Day 2 of our London adventure (excluding coffee and pastry, of course) was the Brick Lane Vintage Market, which would be well worth the stop even if Vintage Vinyl didn’t have a booth in the basement.  But fortunately it does.  Vintage Vinyl has a good assortment of genres given the limited space, and prices seemed pretty good.  The whole market was packed and the stall was nearly full of punters, some of who were searching for treasures while others made the obligatory comments like, “oh look, vinyl records”, “I used to have a record player”, and, of course, “I can’t believe this record is twenty quid”.  I didn’t buy anything during our visit, but I could have easily walked out with a dozen or so titles and felt good about doing so.

Rough Trade East
Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane

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A short walk from Vintage Vinyl is one of London’s most famous record stores, Rough Trade East.  In addition to coffee the location hosts live performances and even appears to have a small recording area.  If there’s a down side, it’s that this location only traffics in new (sealed) releases – so if you’re a used junkie you’ll want to hit up the Rough Trade West location instead.  Regardless, we did quite well here, as the shop carries a wide range of genres and is surprisingly deep in some areas.  We continued with the Chris & Cosey theme we’d established on Day 1, picking up a vinyl re-release of their 1987 album Exotika, as well as two of Chris Carter’s solo efforts, re-releases of Mondo Beat (1985) and Small Moon (1999).  And just to prove I’m not a (total) vinyl snob, we also snagged a handful of CDs, most notably Japanese import versions of the first two This Mortal Coil albums, the new one from Test Dept, and yes, more Chris Carter in the form of CCCL Volume One.  While I’d have loved for them to carry used stuff, there was plenty here to keep me busy in just about every musical format plus a large selection of books.

Love Vinyl
5 Pearson Street

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This store is aptly named, because I loved our brief visit.  A small but well curated shop specializing in DJ vinyl, it offered up four listening stations and an inventory that was about half new and half used with emphasis on various electronic genres, hip hop, and reggae.  As often I the case when I go into electronica-focused stores I felt totally lost because my knowledge of the various genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres is so anemic. That didn’t stop me, though, from picking up the new one from Paranoid London, PL, and as an added bonus it’s the clear version.  If you’re into electronic music, add Love Vinyl to your short list of shops to visit.

Sister Ray
75 Berwick Street

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Day 3 in London started at one of the city’s most famous shops, Sister Ray.  And it lived up to the hype.  The vinyl is housed down in the basement, and while not massive in surface area there was plenty of room to move around and lots of great records.  For whatever reason our Chris & Cosey direction took a hard left into the world of On-U, and we walked out of there with three titles that I’m excited about.  We kind of bookended Adrian Sherwood and On-U with Singles & Players’ Revenge of the Underdog (1982) and Sherwood & Pinch’s more recent Late Night Endless (2015), but the pièce de résistance was Sensational’s debut LP Loaded with Power (1997).  I love the Brooklyn rapper, and we’ve had way more success finding his stuff in Europe than we have in the US.

Reckless Records
30 Berwick Street

 

Because I’d just picked up a bunch of stuff at Sister Ray, I didn’t spend too much time in nearby Reckless Records.  Don’t take that as a snub, though – I only have so much space to bring stuff home.  Reckless had a decent selection of used CDs, but also a healthy stock of used vinyl across a range of genres – they even had a section devoted specifically to black metal, if that says anything.  Certainly some good potential here, and it’s basically across the street from Sister Ray, offering a good two-for if your digging time is limited.

Phonica Records
51 Poland Street

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We almost didn’t go to Phonica, since we’d already done pretty well on the trip and had just wrapped up at Sister Ray.  But Phonica wasn’t too far away and Holly is a big fan of dance music, so off we went.  And I’m glad we did, because this still KILLS.  Once again I was left felling like I was tossed into the deep end wearing concrete boots, but we rallied hard and turned our focus to the relatively small but very intriguing selection of CDs, including yet another Chris & Cosey title (technically Carter Tutti Void…) Triumvirate and also a label comp (Phonica is also a label) from 2014 called Ten Years of Phonica.  We picked a few more for good measure and came away very satisfied.  The team there was very cool, and there are multiple listening stations set up for DJs.

 

London is awash in record stores.  In addition to those above, we tried to stop by two others but they were closed despite being scheduled to be open.  We also walked by at least a half a dozen more that I didn’t wander into, both due to space constraints and, frankly, because this trip isn’t all about record shopping.  I’ll be brining nine records and about a dozen CDs to Iceland with me tomorrow for the start of Iceland Airwaves 2019, and I expect both my DJ back and suitcase will be bursting at the seams on the flight home to Seattle.  And then begins the long process of cleaning and mentally preparing myself to go back to work.  Fifty two weeks until Iceland Airwaves 2020…

(♠)  Of course, as the character of Jim Williams says in Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil, “It’s the riche that counts”…

(♣)  Or the ass clown who was tearing up and down the residential streets up where we’re staying in his yellow Lamborghini, never managing to get it out of second great, running it up and down the same street, and backfiring on the shift like a toolshed (♥).  You know.  “That guy”.  

(♥)  This guy was more like a SnapOn Tool Truck than a toolshed.

 

The Best of 2017

Unlike many Life in the Vinyl Lane blogs, I’m writing this one on the same day I’m posting it.  It’s Christmas morning, and out my living room window I can see the rare Seattle white Christmas in effect as we got about three inches of snow last night, which is a nice touch (it’ll be even nicer if it’s all melted off the roads by time I have to leave for work on Wednesday morning…).  But since we don’t have kids and both of us have very small immediate families, this morning is much like any other winter-time weekend, only with different holiday-themed coffee cups.

Going into 2017 I decided to start keeping a log to help me with my year-end lists, and while I wasn’t as diligent as I’d have liked it still was a big help, especially in the area of new releases.  There was a lot of great new music this year!  In fact, there was so much that the choices weren’t all that easy to make.  Since Holly and I both have project management backgrounds, though, we were able to come up with a solution – we created a scrum board of our favorite 16 releases of 2017 and then used a random number generator to select which one we would play every night as we worked our way through them.  And I’m glad we did, because there were some albums from earlier in the year that had fallen off our radars a bit, and man they sounded great when we came back around to them.

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In preparation I also spent a few hours combing through the top albums lists of various major (and minor) publications and blogs.  Perhaps even more so in years past I was struck by two things.  The first is how few of the albums on other lists I’ve heard.  In fact, when it came to the major pubs (think Rolling Stone, SPIN, NME…) I literally had only heard ONE album on any of these lists – Songhoy Blues’ Résistance, which appeared at #31 on the Rolling Stone list, though nowhere else.  The only other one I found was in The Quietus‘ top metal albums list, having heard and reviewed Sólstafir’s Berdreyminn.    So at least there’s that.  Only Dr. Rok’s list of Top 20 Icelandic releases yielded any common ground – I’ve heard 14 of these, which probably is indicative of the real issue here, which is that I listen to a lot of Icelandic music, and that stuff doesn’t generally make the year-end lists with a few exceptions.  And that brings me to my second observation.  I’m surprised how many of the bands on these lists I have never even heard of.  In fact, on most lists I’m lucky to have heard of maybe a quarter of the artists, sometimes less.  For a guy who writes a music blog, I sure don’t seem to know much about what’s happening in music.

All that being said, the scrum board has been taken down and the votes tallied.  So without further ado…

Top 5 New Releases In 2017

  1. Neysluvara – Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Midnight Champion – Legend (Iceland)
  3. Suero – Farmacia (Argentina)
  4. Space Cadaver – Space Cadaver (US – New Orleans)
  5. Sports – Fufanu (Iceland)

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There were two albums I knew were going to be in my Top 5 even before the scrum board experiment – Neysluvara and Midnight Champion.  They were clearly head-and-shoulders above all comers in 2017.  While Legend held an edge over Hatari by virtue of the fact that they put out a full album while their island-mates only gave us a four-song EP (and one that was only on CD to boot!), we were both simply blown away by Hatari.  Neysluvara‘s brand of IDM has been pumping out of my iPod almost non-stop over the last two months and it doesn’t get old.  If I’m being honest Hatari probably gets a little extra lift by the fact that we saw them live this year and they blew us away.  I get that that shouldn’t impact a top album kind of thing, but as Holly pointed out, this is a blog and music is a personal experience, and it’s hard to separate out those personal experiences from the music itself.  So as much as I love Midnight Champion, both musically and lyrically, I’m giving the top spot by Hatari.

Suero had fallen off the radar for a while and revisiting it reminded me of just how good it is.  If there’s one thing that separates it from Space Cadaver and Sports, it’s the sonic experimentation the Argentinian’s do.  Sure, it’s all electronic music; but it’s all over the board, from pure dance numbers to crazy experiments.  And I’d be lying if the personal connection we made with the Sima brothers earlier this year on our visit to Buenos Aires didn’t have an impact on my feelings about this album.  Space Cadaver is unquestionably my favorite metal album of 2017, and while I think it’s only available on cassette you owe it to yourself to get a copy and go buy a cheap boom box at the pawn shop so you can listen to it (or, of course, simply buy a download, you know, if you’re lazy like that), and Fufanu hit it out of the post-punk park with Sports.  From a genre standpoint I’m very happy with this Top 5 list as there’s great stuff here for people of almost any musical taste.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

  1. Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Farmacia (Argentina)
  3. Kuldaboli (Iceland)
  4. Revenge of Calculon (UK)
  5. Egyptian Lover (US)

I’ve already touched on the top two bands on this list, so let me move on to the next three.  Kuldaboli’s Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016 came out at the very end of 2016, and if I’d heard it then instead of early this year it probably would have made my top five new releases list last year – it’s that good.  I got to see him perform live at Lucky Records during Airwaves this years as well as chat with him for a few minutes – good dude.  We caught Revenge of Calculon live in the cramped, damp confines of Dillon on the last day of Airwaves and they killed it with their brand of electro-movie-horror-funk and since then I’ve picked up all four of their 7″ records.  As for Egyptian Lover… how had I gone this long without ever having heard the Lover before??  I can thank our friend Ingvar for this one.  We were chatting about music over dinner when he visited Seattle and was dumbfounded by my lack of Egyptian experience.  The next day at Silver Platters he walked up to me with a box set, pressed it in my hands, and said “you need to buy this”.  And he was right. Takk, Ingvar!

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

  1. “Tug of War” b/w “Give Me the Knife” – Connections
  2. Driving the Bats Thru Jerusalem – Bonemen of Barumba
  3. 20 Jazz Funk Greats – Throbbing Gristle
  4. Special Offer – Sensational
  5. Suero – Farmacia

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Four of the five items on this list have some kind of personal connection, actually resulting in me becoming connected with the artists.  The totally random pick-up of the Connections 7″ led me to former member Nolan Anderson and his lovely wife Catherine, who today perform as the Mad Andersons.  I was able to provide a ripped copy of the songs to Nolan, which he hadn’t heard in decades, and that made me feel really good.

My post on Bonemen of Barumba somehow found its way to former founding member Mark Panick, who stunned me when he posted on Facebook that he liked the fact that I obviously “got it” in terms of what the band was doing.  We later connected online, only to come to find out that we have a friend in common – the one and only Ingvar of Reykjavik’s Lucky Records.  Mark even sports a Lucky t-shirt in a video he was in earlier this year.  Ingvar struck again with Sensational, who I turned him onto during his trip to Seattle and who he then, against all logical odds, ran into randomly on the streets of NYC just days later.  That led to me Facebook messaging with Sensational a bit and buying some mail order from him.

Oddly enough Iceland also played a part in us connecting with Ariel and Diego Sima of Farmacia in Buenos Aires – their album Suero was put out on cassette by Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the brothers while in Argentina and picked up a bunch of their back catalog from them.  As for Throbbing Gristle… this one was purely about acquisition.  My local record haunt Vortex posted on FB that they’d just acquired a bunch of experimental stuff from a local DJ and I immediately wend down to the store where I scored a couple of great condition TG titles, a great opportunity to explore some of the early works of the pioneers of industrial music.

Top 5 Live Shows

  1. Hatari – Gamla Bíó, Reykjavik
  2. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Nectar Lounge, Seattle
  3. Metallica – CenturyLink Field, Seattle
  4. Revenge of Calculon – Dillon, Reykjavik
  5. GusGus – Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik

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I thought I had this list wrapped up about a week ago.  And I did.  At least until we headed out to Nectar Lounge on Dec. 23 and caught Sir Mix-A-Lot live, which forced me into a last-minute revision.

I covered the Hatari, Revenge of Calculon, and Gusgus shows in my various posts from Iceland Airwaves this year, and actually did the same about Metallica when I wrote about the live CD of this actual show.  Each of these shows gave me something different.  Hatari was a brilliant performance, an integration of stage presence and music; Metallica was a chance to revisit my youth, the first time I’d seen the masters of thrash live since the late 1980s; Revenge of Calculon was one of those great unexpected surprises you sometimes get at live shows; and Gusgus… what more can I say about Gusgus?  They gave us a 90 minute set that had the crowd swaying and dancing the entire time and were musically brilliant as always.

As for Mix-A-Lot, he’s Seattle hip hop royalty and his 1986 debut LP Swass spent a lot of time in the cassette player of my ’84 Mustang when I was in high school.  He did shows on back-to-back nights at the intimate Nectar Lounge (max capacity 400) in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood last weekend and we had a blast at the Saturday night gig.  In addition to some new stuff, Mix gave us a ton of classics like “Testarossa”, “Beepers”, “My Hooptie”, “Swass”, and even a little “Buttermilk Biscuits”.  Of course he also played his mega-hit “Baby Got Back”, but as a Seattleite and long-time Sir Mix-A-Lot fan there was one song I HAD to hear, and he gave it to us – “Posse on Broadway”.  Rest assured Mix fans, he’s still got it.  Posse up!

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

North America
1.  Easy Street Records, Seattle
2.  Daybreak Records, Seattle
3.  Disko Obscura, New Orleans
4.  Skully’z Recordz, New Orleans
5.  Extremem Noise Records, Minneapolis

The Rest of the World
1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Reykjavik Record Shop, Reykjavik
3.  Smekkleysa, Reykjavik
4.  Tempo Musica, Buenos Aires
5.  Reykjavik Flea Market

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I swear, much of these lists don’t change don’t change from year to year.  It would be a weird for Easy Street not to be #1 for me in North America given how often we go there, though the relatively new Daybreak Records definitely gives Easy Street a run for its money in the area of used vinyl.  Our trip to New Orleans didn’t yield a ton of music, but Disko Obscura’s collection of great synth albums was well worth the visit and the guy over at Skully’z turned us on to Space Cadaver and some good punk and metal stuff, which was cool.  I’ve been to Minneapolis a bunch of times, but somehow never made it to Extreme Noise, an oversight I was glad to correct this year – tons of great punk and metal there.  We have a trips to Portland (OR) and Denver already on the books for the first half of 2018, so I definitely have some more good record shopping in my future.

We didn’t do as much international travel this year has we have in the recent past, only visiting two countries – Iceland and Argentina (hard to say we “only” got to take two international trips this year… we’re super-fortunate to be able to travel as much as we do). Unfortunately the one thing we found to be expensive in Argentina was vinyl, which was seemingly completely out of whack with reality.  I found some exciting early punk stuff, but at $150+ per record US I just couldn’t do it.  I broke down and picked up a couple of titles, but our best success was in the tiny Tempo Musica where we loaded up on local CDs thanks to a lot of help from the owner (and some recommendations from a couple of guys working at a food truck earlier in the day!).  The rest of the shops are all in Reykjavik and you’ve likely heard me prattle on about them endlessly in the past, but all are great places to check out should you find yourself in Iceland.

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti
  2. Lou Reed:  A Life by Anthony DeCurtis
  3. Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 by Cyn Collins
  4. Disco’s Out…Murder’s In!: The True Story of Frank the Shank and L.A.’s Deadliest Punk Rock Gang by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone
  5. I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell

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I didn’t do as much music reading this year as I have in years past – probably only 7-8 books total.  That being said, I’m comfortable in recommending all of these to you.  Art Sex Music is head and shoulders above the rest, giving us as it does a glimpse into the 1970s experimental scene in the UK by Throbbing Gristle member and artist Cosey Fanni Tutti.  Tutti isn’t afraid to let us know anything about her life and art, and her seemingly near-complete transparency makes for a powerful, if at times sad, read.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her work.  DeCurtis’ book on Lou Reed was deeply researched and I was primarily drawn to the more pure biographical aspects of the narrative, not so much the minutiae of Reed’s individual releases.  Complicated Fun is an entertaining and informative oral history of the Minneapolis scene, one that in many ways is reminiscent of Seattle’s, while the last two are entertaining first person tellings of hard punk rock lives.  It also features our very own Kevin Cole from Seattle’s KEXP radio, as Kevin was a noted DJ and record store owner in Minneapolis during the era.  it’s a small, small world.

 

Well, there you have it, my faithful readers.  Thank you, as always, for your support and comments.  While at times the pure need to write overwhelms me to the point where I feel like it’s something I have to do in order to not spontaneously combust, Life in the Vinyl Lane doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it’s put me in touch with some amazing people over the years, perhaps no year more so than 2017.  And it’s these connections that make it a truly special experience.  So no matter where you’re reading this, I say “thank you”, and I’ll see you in 2018!

Madteo feat. Sensational – “Special Offer” (2016)

I shared my recent bizarre Sensation story on Facebook back in October, but now that I’ve got some new (to me) Sensational to blog about, I figured I’d recap it here since not all of you follow Life in the Vinyl Lane there.

Last month our friend Ingvar, who owns Reykjavik’s Lucky Records, decided to make his first ever trip to Seattle, so he stayed with me and Holly while he was in town.  On the Saturday he was here we of course went record shopping, and while driving back home that afternoon we were playing some Run DMC in the car.  I decided to follow that up with Sensational since he has a tie to Iceland via his work with Ghostigital, and I was surprised to find that Ingvar had never heard Sensational’s solo stuff.  While driving and listening I told him about the Sensational documentary and that last I heard the rapper was still selling some of his home-made CDs on the streets of New York City.

Fast forward a few days.  I’m at work and my phone is practically vibrating off my desk as I receive a flurry of Facebook messages.  Come to find out that Ingvar, who went to NYC from Seattle, had been hanging out at a cafe with his record bag full of vinyl when a guy strolled up and asked if he wanted to buy a CD.  Ingvar politely declined, but the guy was persistent.  “My name’s Sensational,” he said.  “I do hip hop.”

If that isn’t a mind blower I don’t know what is.

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Long story short I ended up in contact with the rapper on Facebook and bought both his latest CD and this 2016 record Special Offer (signed!).  And they’re both a blast.  Special Offer includes beats by Madteo, rapping by Sensational, and all of it blended together by DJ Sotofett.  It’s unorthodox, as you’d expect from anything involving the master of flow.  There are dub influences (“$0.99 Intro”), church bells (“Anastrophy”), and psychedelic instrumentals (“Mortones (Mix)”), so a little something for everyone.  But every time Sensational has the mic, there’s the flow… the flow that only he can produce.

You can find Special Offer on Discogs.  Hell, message Sensational through his Facebook page and I’ll be he’ll sell you a copy too.

Sensational – “Heavyweighter” (2000)

I’ve been infatuated with Sensational since I first heard him bust some rhymes on Ghostigital’s In Cod We Trust about five or six years ago.  His flow is like nothing I’ve heard before or since, a sort of stream of consciousness wrapped in a haze of weed smoke, with some trippy beats that are more trip hop than hip hop.

We pick up his CDs whenever we find them, which frankly isn’t all that often.  To be fair, I rarely find myself in a hip hop speciality store… but Sensational wasn’t getting a lot of gold records either.  I hear you may even be able to still buy CD-Rs from him on the streets of New York City.  He’s faced homelessness and addiction, but he’s still pursuing his personal, singular musical vision.  You should check out the documentary on him – The Rise and Fall of Sensational.  It’s an amazing look at the man, his life, and his art.

sensationalheavyweighterI finally found a copy of one of his albums on vinyl about a month ago over at Amoeba Music – 2000s Heavyweigther.  All the classic Sensational topics are covered in his rhymes – blunts, money, the awesomeness of Sensational, and more blunts.  The songs feel a bit short to me – with 15 tracks on the album, almost all of them come in at around three minutes apiece.  Just when I’m getting into Sensational’s flow the song comes to an end.  I probably got spoiled in that the first of his “albums” I heard was actually a mix, DJ KLos Presents:  The Best of Sensational, which basically takes 30 songs and makes them into one long, amazing track.  DJ KLos does a fantastic job of capturing Sensational’s flow style and keeping with it as the rapper transitions from piece to piece.

“Paper Chase” is the big winner here, with it’s catchy “chorus” (This is dedicated to the paper chase… This is dedicated to the paper chase…) and quick rhymes.  On “For the Playa Haterz” Sensational takes his voice up to a high pitch on the “playa haterz” part of the rhyme that is both a dig a the haters and pretty damn funny at the same time, showing that he’s got a sense of humor.  “Every Freak Desire” rounds out my Heavyweighter Top 3, with a more techno musical approach and a catchy refrain.

You can find Heavyweighter on iTunes, with some pretty healthy 90 second clips of most of the songs, so you can check it out there to get the flavor of Sensational.