Sunday, December 6, 2009
Hand-Made with Love
With music already being such a personal endeavor, it feels extra-special when a band/artist puts that "personal touch" to their record. After all... it's not just a slab of vinyl, or a flimsy piece of plastic encased in more plastic, wrapped in cellophane. No! You're holding the physical manifestation of their talent, their creativity; months to years of hard work, shitty day jobs, busking on corners, break-ups, lament, latent hostility, angst... in essence, you're holding a piece of them. Right there, between your grubby digits, with eager ears awaiting. Long after disbanding, even after fading into obscurity, or tragic happenstance, that record will remain. A document... NO! A precious artifact to be treasured.
So, when a band takes the time to handcraft a part of that experience, it means A LOT. It's almost like meeting them and having them be like, "Hey, thanks for buying our record." then giving you a high-five. They might as well have anyway, since there's a good chance that the record you're holding was once in their own 'high-fiving' hands when cutting the sleeves, during the silk-screening, or while stuffing the insert.
Here's some albums from (roughly) this year that had that "little something extra".
Point Juncture, WA
Heart To Elk
Despite the misleading name, Point Juncture, WA hail from Portland, Oregon. The songs on Heart To Elk run the gamut, from up-tempo pop with lush soundscapes (reminiscent of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One-era Yo La Tengo) to somber minimalist-pop (ala Young Marble Giants). The CD comes with a beautiful embossed insert, for a total of three (count them! 3!) raccoons.
The Low Anthem
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
No time is wasted in garnering your attention and affection, as Jocie Adams' voice sweeps in the pastoral passage of "Charlie Darwin," sending a chill down to your very soul. "Horizon Is A Beltway," and "Home I'll Never Be," have more of a hillbilly swagger, while "To The Ghosts Who Write History Books," stands like a dirge to shake off the doldrums. The album covers for were hand-painted in their home town of Providence, Rhode Island. Crafted just as beautifully as their prior album, What The Crow Brings, which had been 'silk-screened on collected cereal boxes by the band'.
Vosotros Presents: the Years
How can something become classic at its very conception? Somehow the Years manage to do so, seamlessly might I add. They know hot to strip an R&B song to just the groove, then reconstruct it in a manner that is simple and smooth. Never flashy, but always funky. The majority of the tunes are instrumental, with only four of the thirteen tracks featuring guest vocalists: Jesse Palter, Sy Bar-Sheshet, Honey Larochelle, John Robinson & Tiffany Paige. Not one to shy away from their influences, the Years wear their hearts clearly on their sleeves. "Let's Stay In Love," plays like an ode to Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," with just as much undergarment melting power. The tone of 'Theme From "Best Buds"' is a throwback to 80's television, with it's twinkling Rhodes melody, but still carries a very Stevie-esque sway to it. The CD, released by Los Angeles based Vosotros, is hand number in a limited run of 173 copies.