Record Purchase — December 21, 2008

Record Purchase, December 21 2008

Vinyl:

  • Neil Diamond — Greatest Hits
  • R.E.M. — Wendell Gee 12 inch (b/w “Crazy” and a live version of “Driver 8”)
  • R.E.M. — (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville 12-inch UK single (b/w “Wolves” and live versions of “9-9” and “Gardening at Night”)
  • My Morning Jacket — Chocolate and Ice

CD:

  • Elvis Costello — Brutal Youth (and with this, I believe I have the entire studio output complete)
  • Ethiopiques  — Volume 8: Swinging Addis 1969 – 1974
  • Michael Jackson — Dangerous (Special Edition) (yeah, taking it all the way back to the 5th grade)
  • Delta Spirit — Ode to Sunshine
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April: Cruelest Month? Hardly.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

– “The Wasteland”
T.S. Eliot

So, yeah, it’s been kind of stale here on the blog for a few days. Life trumps blogging, and life has been a little, well, larger than life the past few weeks.

First off, April started off cruel. Two weeks ago, after 5 solid days of rain, ye olde Briggs family home basement flooded for the first time in a few years. It’s a helpless feeling to walk into your house and find half of your carpet soaked with mud water, seeping up through a crack that conveniently runs through the middle of your foundation. While we took the step to proactively put indoor/outdoor carpet in the basement a few years ago, we had yet to test it’s effectiveness, so we spent essentially an entire weekend second guessing ourselves and deconstructing the sub-level of our house, spreading baking soda, renting a carpet cleaner, rolling wet carpet back, buying mops, and later buying stiff brushes and getting on our hands and knees to scrape up the aforementioned (now-crusted) baking soda. Honestly, the weekend was a bit spirit breaking — we found ourselves in a swampy house, more ready than ever to move, but still unsure of my career situation. And I ended the weekend angrier than ever about the 18 months I’ve seemingly wasted with an employer I have no interest in working for.

Things changed, though. If I were to make a top ten list, April 2008 is probably the second best month of my life–putting it just behind September 2006, and just ahead of June 1999 (wich is incidentally also the last time I vomited).

I must have banked some serious karma, because the week of my birthday was a complete 180 from the weeks before. On Monday, I was contacted for an interview. On Tuesday at 3:30, I want to that interview. And at 4:45, I walked out of that interview with a job offer. I checked on my other options, and on Wednesday I accepted, Thursday I turned in my notice, and Friday I left work at 2:30 to go drink Woodchuck and eat a weekend’s worth of junk food in celebration of my birthday.

My new job is almost exactly what I was hoping to find, and I can’t wait to start. First day is a week from Monday.

But that’s not the only reason that April 2008 is keeping it real.

  1. On Thursday of last week, after turning in my notice and putting our basement back together I get an e-mail that alerts me to the fact that ELVIS COSTELLO WILL BE AT GRIMEY’S ON APRIL 24 TO SIGN RECORDS. Which means that in a week from today, I’ll meet one of my favorite artists of all time.
  2. Grimey’s Record Store Day celebration is this Saturday, which I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. (Come buy records from us!)
  3. The aforementioned new R.E.M. album, which, after living with it for a few weeks, I can say with confidence is at least 90.9% good, and more like 45.4% great / 45.5% good.
  4. Going to see the New Pornographers and Okkervil River tomorrow, which means that I’ll be seeing Okkervil for the first time, and (hopefully) having the opportunity to pine over my Indie Rock Girlfriend once again.
  5. New Elvis record and the Elvis show next week.
  6. An end of month backpacking trip.
  7. Preparation for the big Left Coast Vacation next month, which I can’t wait for.

So yeah, full respect to the genius of T.S. Eliot, but the first line of “The Wasteland” definitely does not apply to me right now. Life is good. Great moments are moving through me, and I’m taking hold of some of them.

Two Things Collide: My Love for Elvis Costello and Vinyl

Stereogum.com just reported that Elvis Costello’s new record — awesomely titled Momofuko — is coming out April 22nd. And get this: it’s not even going to be available on CD, but rather as vinyl-only with a free digital download.

This puts gas in my go-cart for three reasons:

  1. I admittedly have a man-crush on Elvis Costello. Seriously, it’s a completely hetero-obsession with his amazing body of work, his unique and surprisingly versatile voice, his genius songwriting, and his penchant for big glasses and looking totally cool while holding a guitar. His last record, The Delivery Man, is one of the most solid albums I’m aware of from an artist in his fourth decade of output, so I can’t wait to hear this followup.
  2. As a vinyl collector, this move is almost like EC writing me a letter and telling me how cool I am. Vinyl has become my format of choice, especially now that most labels are making free downloads available with vinyl purchases. It’s the best of both worlds — I get the warm, analog sound and the killer physical artifact, and a hassle-free digital version for flexible listening.
  3. This now means that April, the month of my birth, contains three of my most majorly anticipated releases: the new Elvis Costello, the new R.E.M., and the long-awaited (as in ten years) third record from Portishead.

EC is playing the Ryman on April 23. We have great seats, thanks to my wife — one of the best birthday presents ever. It will be my first time to see EC live with a band. (We saw him last year with the Nashville Symphony. Amazing, but I’m looking forward to seeing EC hold a guitar like a badass and hopefully play “Hope You’re Happy Now” or “Man Out of Time” or “Welcome to the Working Week”.)

The New R.E.M. Record

First, a bit of history:

R.E.M. is, and has always been, my favorite band. It sounds completely ridiculous but it’s no exaggeration to say that R.E.M. changed my life. My teenage years were spent basically studying rock music with R.E.M. as the jumping-off point, and I still go through a reliable annual period of complete obsession with their back catalog. During college, I actively contributed and lurked at Murmurs.com, the finest R.E.M.-related messageboard on the internets. I once wrote a terrible, non-sensical short story on a bulletin during a church service by stringing together R.E.M. lyrics. Later, I wrote a 10-page essay applying deconstructionist critical theory to Murmur for a 300-level college english class. My wife and I have done the “R.E.M. Walking Tour” of Athens, GA (a small town wander session that passes you by unmarked landmarks such as Bill Berry’s former apartment, and a pile of rubble that used to be their rehearsal space) — and I thought it was farking awesome. I’ve seriously discussed the idea of starting an R.E.M. cover band.

All that said, I hated their last two records. Actually, I thought I hated their 2001 album Reveal. Then they put out Around the Sun in 2004, and Reveal suddenly had highlights. The live album they put out last year was mostly abysmal. I know it’s not the general concensus among all R.E.M. fans, and I know it makes me sound all “NoOrganicWebShooters.com“, but in my opinion, it’s been hard to be an R.E.M. fanboy in the last eight years.

Even with the positive pre-release buzz on the new record, I’ve been diluting my anticipation with a healthy dose of “meh”.

So, we received a promo copy of Accelerate last week at Grimey’s, and my crew had it queued it up for me as I walked in the door on Saturday morning.

And I loved it.

Sure, I’ll admit it’s probably the geek in me, but I haven’t felt that way listening to an album since I was in high school… maybe since the first time I heard ‘”E-Bow the Letter” sitting in the driveway, listening to the radio on my mother’s car. Accelerate is a propuslive record — one that crackles with life that this band hasn’t really had since Monster or even Document. It’s not exactly a settling back into the jangly IRS-records sound that most longtime fans secretly (or not-so secretly) clamor for… it’s more an ackowledgement of the past tempered with strong forward motion. On Accelerate, R.E.M. sounds both mature and eager, and it’s a sound that they sound very comfortable in, which suddenly seems to be the root element that was sorely missing from the last two records.

It’s not perfect — “Hollow Man” kind of blows, “Song for the Submarine” seems like it may be a grower — but I’ve always argued that R.E.M. haven’t ever really made a “perfect” singular album. All’s I know is that once the record was over, I immediately wanted to listen to it again, and I’ve been jonesing to hear it since.

You can stream the album for free on Facebook with all the cool kids on 3/24. I will.