State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Brandon Heurich

Sunday Spin: Be

trippy vinyl

 

Welcome back vinyl peeps, The Sunday Spin has taken a brief hiatus but we’re back, spinning our favorite albums and sharing our favorite record experiences. And for our triumphant return, we’re bringing you a dose of soulful hip-hop gold. This week’s vinyl is Common’s 2005 critically acclaimed hip-hop masterpiece: Be.

 

 

 

On the count of three, everybody run back you your fantasy

 

Be is more than just the high point of Common’s creative poetry, but it also highlights the musical magic that can occur when some of the genre’s greatest minds work together. Along with the incredible follow up Finding Forever,  Be was produced by Kanye west who is featured on a number of tracks, and released on Yeezy’s G.O.O.D Music label (also the geniuses behind Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon series). With Common’s lyrical and poetic chops and Kanye’s incredible production talents, I knew going into it that this record would be more than delicious food for my ears.

 

 

 

But before I delve into all the soulful musical virtue that is Be, I first need to tell you how I discovered Common in the first place. Unlike most hip-hop aficionados, I got into Common slightly after Be was released upon the world, having missed some previous classic Common records like Resurrection (another album I now own on vinyl), surprisingly through his role in a film. Common was a co-star in the 2006 heist movie “Smokin’ Aces,” which I highly recommend that you see if you haven’t already, and his character “Ivy” was my absolute favorite in the film. He was cool and bad-ass, and probably received the best ending of any other character, but something else about him stuck out, something that seemed familiar. I realized it was his unique voice, and that I had heard it before.

 

 

As the credits rolled, and a song performed by Ivy himself was bumping through the theater, I realized that not only had I heard this artist before, but I really really liked his music. After some frantic internet research and several hours of YouTube viewing I unearthed some of the highest quality hip-hop that I had been missing for over a decade. My mind exploded as I consumed song after song of passionate poetry mixed with God tier beats. How had I missed out on this guy, what the hell was I doing with my life?

 

Fast forward a few years, I’m trying to build a respectable vinyl collection and I come to the realization that aside from an Outkast greatest hits record, I have not nearly enough hip hop in my stacks. So, naturally, I spent more money than I had scooping up my favorite rap albums, and Be was at the top of my list.

 

 

 

I wish I could give you this feeling…

 

From the opening bassline of the intro track (which stands as quite possibly one of the best intros to any record), Be emerges as a groovy, emotional journey of the soul, of love, and of society’s ills as seen through the humble and honest Chicago MC’s eyes, and reflected through his experiences. Lyrically, Common delivers some of the most meaningful and passionate poetic verses, keeping true to the 1990’s hip hop scene from which he came up. Songs like “Real People,” “The Food,” and “The Corner,” are tracks where Common verbally riffs on the struggles and hard truths of growing up in his Southside Chicago neighborhood and reveals his personal and occasionally controversial thoughts on violence and race relations. These are the cuts that have harder beats, exploding with power and spirit, and these elements drive the lyrical poetry into something beyond just entertainment. Combined, they generate a swell of empowerment and unity for people of all races and cultures.

 

 

 

 

I’d like to be her very best friend…

 

But part of what makes Be stand out over tons of other hip-hop records, is that every hood up, fist in the air, real as hell beat, is matched equally with a soulful reflection of Common’s softer side. Tracks like “Go,” “Faithful,” and “Love Is” (produced by the legendary J Dilla), are examples of Common’s smoothness and tenderness and sense of love. Common is so real that on Be, as well as his other albums, he honestly expresses an entire range of emotions from anger to affection, in a rap game that is now mostly dominated by macho pomposity and misogyny. On “Faithful”, (a collab with fellow G.O.O.D. Music label member John Legend), Common explores the possibility that God is a female, and examines how he and fellow members of the hip hop community treat women. “Faithful” is an extremely important song for the genre, it shows that rap is capable not only of respecting women, but also of deep self examination. Common truly transcends the label of “rapper” and proves he can be a truly insightful and reflective poet.

 

These tracks are as real as they come, and are an extremely welcome entry for the genre in a time where the genre was largely devoid of the soul that is the essence of true hip-hop. And on vinyl they are auditory magic. Half of the beats on this record have a groovy 70s-esque quality to them, that compliment the poetry beautifully. On the softer songs, the music is like honey for your brain, so smooth and inviting that they are a perfect fit for vinyl listening. And the attention to detail that comes from West’s production is unmatched. Each and every bar is meticulously crafted to sound absolutely perfect. So much so that Common and Kanye even bring in major artists such as John Mayer to croon as little as a single syllable (see “Go’s” hook.)  From the brilliantly growing intro track to “Pop’s” last few lines of poetry on the final track Be truly is a masterpiece of hip-hop for your vinyl-loving ears to behold.

 

 

Common has had an incredible last year. My dude released a fantastic album called Nobody’s Smiling, which was nominated for a Grammy, performed a collaboration with John Legend for the movie “Selma,” which won an Oscar, and performed one of the best shows I have ever experienced in my life (including cameos from Raekwon, Q-Tip, and Brand Nubian), and this is all a decade after the release of Be. With a career spanning over 20 years and an incredibly consistent discography, Common is a living hip-hop legend, and after having one of his strongest years it looks like Common is going to continue to Be, for a long time.

(Re)Discovering the Waterfront: A Retrospective

Silverstein DTWF

These memories will never leave me…

It’s been ten long years since the original release Discovering the Waterfront from Canadian post-hardcore quintet Silverstein, and the fans, as well as the band themselves are all celebrating the anniversary of a masterpiece. As Silverstein wraps up their anniversary tour, bringing the brilliance of DtW, in its entirety, to longtime fans in cities all over North America, a tour that this writer regrettably had to miss (“blame it on the weather”), we here at SITR are also celebrating the band and their flagship record.

Ten years ago, I, like many of you reading this, was in middle school. Encountering every painful adolescent endeavor with the same amount of angst and rebellion that most recent teenagers experience at that age. Luckily for me, and for everyone of my not quite Gen-Y/not quite millennial generation, we were growing up at the apex of music that reflected our feelings and emotions. In 2005 Van’s Warped Tour was more intriguing that Bonnaroo, My Chemical Romance and the All American Rejects were all over the radio, kids were still skateboarding and creating innocent mischief in small towns all over America. Times were tough for anybody growing up at that time, but that was the culture, we were tough. We were fighters. Our attitudes, our clothes, and most importantly, our music reflected that. That’s why Discovering the Waterfront is one of the most important albums of our generation.

silverstein

I wasn’t asking for the world…

Musically, DtW is a stunning, stand-out example of how raw emotion and superb musical expertise can so brilliantly come together to make an album that both aptly represents the culture and created an atmosphere of energy and introspection that to this day still holds strong meaning. Masterful guitar work from former Silverstein member and co-songwriter on the album Neil Boshart give the aggressive and memorable musical edge to the record, combining aspects of metal, punk, and other worthy genres. I remember (and my guitar teacher can confirm this, as I made him a Silverstein fan after a few lessons with Discovering the Waterfront) bringing this CD to my teacher week after week trying to get him to teach me the guitar riffs from jams such as “Your Sword Vs. My Dagger” or “Already Dead.” Such memorable and diverse guitar work is one of the core facets of the record, making it stand above other entries from this genre at the time. And the combination of Boshart’s creative guitar riffs and lead singer Shane Told’s songwriting and vocal skills make DtW absolutely unforgettable.

I can never go back to the way I used to be before this started…

Lyrically the record is a masterfully written, reflective and introspective journey that matures through each track as one listens. The aggressive and almost spiteful opening tracks such as “Your Sword” and “Smile in Your Sleep” lyrically reflect the emotions of a scorned person immediately following a harsh breakup of a flawed relationship. Then the album breaks into a more regretful and reflective tone, as portrayed through songs like “The Ides of March,” “Discovering the Waterfront,” and “My Heroine.” This section of the album so accurately illustrates the feelings of emptiness and hopelessness that the end of love creates. The anguish and hurt bleeds through these tracks and into our ears and brains digging up our own melancholic feelings of heartbreak. That is one of the greatest signs of good music. If the songs can make you feel real emotion at its deepest level, the artists have truly created something lasting and meaningful.

 

I wanted to dedicate an entire paragraph to the end of the record, particularly the deep cut “Call It Karma,” which I think is the album’s best song. The final tracks on the album represent the “moving on” stage of the break up. The song “Already Dead” evokes the almost ready to evolve but still bitter feelings of your ex, as you imagine them, hurting as much as you might be. And the final song, the aforementioned “Call it Karma” closes out the record. This, to me, is the most meaningful cut on the album, both musically and emotionally. Our hero has finally realized what must be done for him to move on. The character is no longer angry or depressed, but optimistic, and strengthened and for the first time on the record, hopeful. An absolutely perfectly crafted and beautiful closing to an extremely emotional album.

I’ll look back with honor and no regrets…

After ten years, we are all wiser to the world, hopefully stronger, and certainly more experienced.  And after living through one of the hardest decades that every young person must inevitably endure, Discovering the Waterfront is every bit as relevant and important as the day it was released. And maybe that is why I’m so attached to “Call it Karma.” I’ve experienced hard times, and while I may be more cynical for it, I am also stronger. But my cynicism is suspended, even now while listening to the outro of DtW remembering a time when I was more hopeful, and creating that feeling again as the final chords of the song come to a close. It reminds us that life can destroy you, and only introspective growth, inner strength, and deep soul searching can bring you back to life.  This album is an absolute staple of my life and of my generation. Cheers to the guys at Silverstein for creating such an incredible and lasting record and helping shape so many of our lives.

Stay tuned for our interview with the band on the road for the Discovering the Waterfront tenth anniversary tour, and if you missed them this time around, hopefully you (and I as well) can catch them on the 20th.

Sunday Spin: The Doors

 

 

 

you know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I was to say to you, girl we couldn’t get much higher…

 

 

Welcome back vinyl lovers to another edition of The Sunday Spin. This week we are throwing it back to a classic album from arguably the most transcendent band of all time. This group managed to revolutionize rock music, creating a unique brand of psychedelia and blues and rock and roll to create melodic magic. This, combined with the brilliant poetry of the quartet’s legendary frontman, was the beginning of a cultural icon and an exploration into the psyche of music and how we experience it. I am of course talking about the Doors.

 

 

 

The Doors were a staple of late 1960s music, embodying the true spirit of the most creative and introspective era of American culture. They were a band that was truly ahead of their time. They had both number one hits and what we would understand as “hipster cred.” They were offensive and innovative and psychological, while still being groovy as Hell. Their music transcends the spectrum of sound and turns the listening experience into a trip beyond sensory comprehension. This was especially achieved with their 1967 debut, the self-titled The Doors.

 

This record is a perfect vinyl to own. It is diverse and energetic, while being extremely trippy and introspective. This is an album that not only makes you think, but it makes you feel. Arguably the most popular of the Doors albums, due to its immaculate tracklist and musicianship, spinning this record is an experience like nothing else.

 

When I was a broke teenager, with a new record player and 2 or 3 LPs to my name, I began hunting everywhere I could to find good, cheap records. I was talking to relatives and friends trying to find whatever they had and were willing to part with. I found some interesting things here or there but I never did get quality albums this way. Then I went to my dad.

 

 

Can you picture what will be so limitless and free?…

 

My father, has probably the best collection of pre-1990s vinyl that you’ll find anywhere. He had everything from the Beatles and the Stones to Elton John and Billy Joel. Every classic record between 1965 and 1989 was collected from his brothers and sisters, and filled an entire basement of neatly alphabetized shelves. These records had not been used in years but I was always under the impression that my dad did not want anybody touching them. But my music starved teenage mind couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to ask him if I could take some of his records (eyeballing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd specifically), and much to my surprise, he said I could. The only condition was that he had to have a digital or CD copy of the album before he could part with it. I had no idea he would be so willing to part with them, but without hesitation I agreed.

 

Now I had two options, I could to to the local Sam Goody (cheers to those of you who remember CD stores) and spend about $12 dollars apiece, slowly rebuilding a digital music library to replace my father’s physical one, or I could simply download them all. And this whole endeavor began because I had no money, and at this point LimeWire was still around so my choice was pretty clear.

 

I raided my father’s basement, collecting classic album after classic album. I was able to acquire almost entire discographies from bands like The Who, The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and more, including a band I was not entirely familiar with, The Doors.

 

 

I took the records home and listened to them one by one, spending day after day eating up the music of the late 60s and 70s, discovering that this was clearly the generation I should have grown up with. I was so shocked at how this music could be so relevant and inspired and ahead of its time. Music will never be quite the same as it was back then. So artistic and free, but still at the top of the charts and big in the mainstream. Never again will those two aspects of music align in the same way.

 

Then I made it to the eponymous Doors album. At first I knew some of the bigger tracks on the record like: “Break on Through,” and “Light My Fire,” which on their own are great songs, but played through on the vinyl are part of a much deeper experience. One that would change my musical life forever.

 

Tried to run, tried to hide. Break on through to the other side…

 

 

 

Before I delve into the record itself, let me just applaud the vinyl format and its engineers for developing a technology that almost 50 years later still sounds amazing. Sure there are little pops and scratches and imperfections here and there, but that does not take away from the experience in any way. In fact, it enhances the uniqueness of each and every vinyl. On top of that, it is an amazing feeling to sit and listen to incredible music, from the best era for music ever, in the same way that kids like me growing up then were listening. I’m sitting here in my room spinning this record with some colorful lights going and some incense burning to more perfectly recreate the vibes that the original hippie kids and rebels were feeling when this music was released.

 

Even as I sit here and type this with the album playing in the background I’m getting chills because the stereo effects on this record make it feel like my head is right between Ray Manzarek’s hands, with the characteristic organ melodies on one side, and the bass line on the other. I’m wondering how a band from almost 50 years ago could be so ahead of its time. The Doors are truly on another level artistically.

 

The album opens with the explosive “Break on Through.” Possibly the Doors most famous song other than “Light My Fire,” this song is a marvel to experience on vinyl. The jazzy entrance of John Densmore’s drumming and Robby Krieger’s bluesy guitar riff dance on either end of your stereo combined with Jim’s passionate screams and that chugging chorus make the song truly unforgettable. On vinyl you can feel every build-up and break-down, to the point where you can almost visualize the band positioned around your room. I’m geeking out right now because I forgot how much this album moves me.

 

speak in secret alphabets…

 

Next is “Soul Kitchen.” Within the first 5 notes of the song, you instantly know that this is Doors bread and butter right here. More brilliant poetry combined with music that is somehow both classic and futuristic. This song is a groovy follow up to “Break on Through” and fits perfectly on the album. It also works to lead into the organ driven introspective deep cut “The Crystal Ship.”

 

 show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Ohh don’t ask why….

 

Following another bluesy classic “Twentieth Century Fox,” is one of my favorite Doors songs, and possibly one of their most bizarre. “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” is a creepy carnival ride of alcoholism and drunken stupor. The verses are a foreboding oom-pah-pah of desperation during a night out, followed by an abrupt descent into childish yet haunting circus music. As I listened to this song for the first time on vinyl, I understood the progression and was able to draw my own interpretations of the characters in the story of the song. The song’s mood reflects that of a night out of heavy drinking. The oom-pahs of the verse represents the time before drinking, desperately searching for the best place for the night, and having the initial drinks that are a little harder to take down. While the chorus represents the point of inebriation where one is in a childish state and looks at the world as a playground, but every once in a while, an eerie chord is heard, reflective of the uneasy feeling of drinking too much, and the foreboding worry of tomorrow’s hangover.

 

Next up is the Doors number 1 hit “Light My Fire.” You hear that first click of the snare and know that that legendary and instantly recognizable organ solo is about to blow your mind again. In case it wasn’t clear earlier, it should be noted that the Doors have no bass player. Keyboard player Ray Manzarek would play at one time both the organ riffs on one hand, while maintaining a separate bassline on the other. This makes the experience so much more incredible because the musicianship of just these four men is powerful and creative enough to sound like a small army. Especially in the 6 and a half minutes or so of “Light My Fire.”

 

 

 

Coming back to the ground a little after the trip of “Light My Fire,” is slow blues jam “Back Door Man.” This song is great to throw on, when you’re vibing out to this song you feel like a cool guy as the guitar riffs and bass line pumps you through a song that you should be listening to while wearing a leather jacket and lighting up a smoke. And the instrumentals and vocals grow and become more intense and passionate as the track progresses making it one of the Doors best blues songs of all time.

 

Take a journey to the bright midnight…

 

Following the classic, So-Cal vibes of ” I Looked At You” is one of the deepest and best songs that the Doors have ever created. The haunting ebb and flow of “End of the Night” has the ability to send the creepy yet soothing darkness into the deepest recesses of your brain. It is a truly transcendent psychological song that must be heard to be believed. If you do anything tonight after reading this article, let it be this: before bed, throw on some headphones and play “End of the Night” as you drift off to sleep. I can promise you’ll have dreams and thoughts like you never had before. The song brings a cosmic darkness that chugs along, eerie and peaceful, haunting and enlightening all at the same time. I have never experienced anything like I have listening to “End of the Night” for the first time on vinyl.

 

 

 

Ride the snake…

 

One last high energy track “Take it as it Comes” follows “End of the Night,” before the final song on the record, the aptly titled “The End.” This is another song that words can not begin to explain. It has a very Eastern vibe to it, while being very minimalist. Only small organ variations and simple basslines accompany sitar-like guitar interludes, as this song, while completely brilliant musically, clearly defines itself as an outlet for the poetry and vocal art of Jim Morrison. “The End” is a free-form musical experiment that blends Eastern atmospheres, modern (at the time) rock and roll, and bold poetic expression into a nearly 12 minute endeavor that will leave you lost inside the waves of the legendary track. The centerpiece of this song is Jim Morrison’s dark Oedipal narrative that was so offensive at the time, part of it was edited out, and was not included until a 1990s reissue of the album. The lyrics were meant to be controversial, because that is what good art is. To Jim Morrison and the Doors, good art is supposed to make you uncomfortable at times, that means it is reaching you on some deep primal level. And I believe that with this album the Doors have achieved truly great art.

 

 

For a time, I listened to this record almost on a daily basis, I could not stop listening. It truly changed my life. Even now, I played it through three times just so I could pick up on every little detail and subtlety of the magic that the Doors created with this record. I will never grow tired of these songs and I think that it is the perfect vinyl experience for anybody like me who is desperately trying to achieve the synesthesic effect of feeling music. The Doors is a record that transcends thought and senses and takes your mind on a trip that is both unique and familiar at once. And my words can not do it justice, so vinyl fans, go find a copy of this record and spin it until you see the world in a new way. Use these songs as a spirit guide to help explore your psyche and learn new things about yourself. Spin this record and harness its psychic energy, and try to set the night on fire.

Sunday Spin: Wincing the Night Away

 

so give me your hand and let’s jump out the window…

 

It’s Sunday. The week is about to start but you have one last day to chill and do whatever the hell it is you want to do. No work, nobody to bother you, just a lazy Sunday, a day of rest and leisure, a day for you to be you in your most natural form.

 

For me, and some of my friends at State in the Real, that means spending the day with the stereo up and the records spinning. And that’s why we created The Sunday Spin. A weekly column where vinyl fans can share some of their favorite records and why they’re so important to us, how we got ’em and why every spin is better than the last. So long time vinyl fans and newcomers who are only vi-curious get ready to sit back and spin to some of our favorite records.

 

Before I get into my record of the week, I just want to say how excited I am to be a part of this column and help spread the word of vinyl to eager ears and open minds like you guys, because few things in this life bring me a higher sense of elation then throwing on a good record and jamming to my favorite songs, in the order the artists’ intended, and in the most intimate sounding format short of having the band play live right in your house.

 

There’s a certain auditory magic that happens when you start spinning a record that means a lot to you. You can do more than just hear it, but you can feel it. The sounds are clearer than you’ll find on any mp3 player or CD, and yet it is imperfect, creating a unique experience in which no two records are the same. Each album has it’s own bumps and scratches and pops that bring an intimate personality to your favorite albums. They’re completely yours and completely unique based on the experiences you’ve had with them. That’s why we choose vinyl.

 

 

 

I decided to kick off The Sunday Spin with the first vinyl I ever bought, and the album that to this day remains my favorite album of all time. Those of you who have read me before could have probably guessed that it would be Wincing the Night Away by The Shins released by Sub Pop. I had this album on a CD since it first came out and was instantly blown away. And it still impresses me with every listen. I can not express enough how incredible this record is from beginning to end. That’s why it had to be my first vinyl ever.

 

you’re not obliged to swallow anything you despise…

 

I love music so very much. It’s not just entertainment for me, it’s my whole world. I know some of you reading this feel the same. When I was about 17, my musical tastes started to mature and come into what they are now. I was just getting into Hip-Hop through Kid Cudi and Common, and I was leaving behind my ska and punk rock adolescence (not that I still don’t get down from time to time). My teenage mind was becoming a sponge for all types of new music . It was great. I was so overloaded with new sounds that music consumed me, and it was the best time in my life.

 

I began talking to every single person I knew trying to find some new band or artist to listen to, while in the meantime going to every possible live show that I could to find new stuff to listen to. My brain was a musical sponge, and I was expanding my knowledge and tastes beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I was listening to so much and so many different types of music, my ipod on shuffle usually threw out some crazy combinations. One minute you’d be listening to some chill techno from Royksopp, the next you’e be jamming to a 15 minute Decemberists pirate shanty. And I loved every minute of it.

I needed to get closer to the music.

 

 

too far along in our climb, stepping over what now towers to the sky…

 

It was in my great quest for musical worldliness that I began talking to my friends’ parents, as well as my own. They would tell me about bands like the Doors and Pink Floyd and other classics that would go on to change my life. And they all said the same thing: “you know? nothing sounds quite as good as it did on vinyl.” And I usually just dismissed it as older people “golden years” type stuff. I was a rebellious teenager after all.

 

But then I got curious, and for my birthday, I asked my dad for a cheap turntable to try it out. He got me a SONY PS-LX250H turntable, and he threw in a bunch of his old records. He had some good stuff too. And I had to admit, despite a scratch here and there, they sounded amazing. I would throw on an old Zeppelin album and it sounded like Robert Plant was yelling right behind me. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before, and I couldn’t get enough.

 

But I needed my own collection. I needed some of my favorite albums. And I knew where I’d find the best stuff. So one day I coaxed my stepdad into taking us into New York City’s East Village to go look for records. If you’re a fan of music or art or cool people then you need to go for a visit. Wandering through the village I came upon my first record shop, a little place called Bleeker St. Records.

 

It was a pretty cool little shop, the upstairs has more modern methods of listening to music (and by modern I mean 80’s and 90’s technology), but the basement had huge selection of all kinds of vinyls. They are well guarded of course by the fierce Bleeker St. Records cats of course.

 

 

So I spent the entire afternoon digging through stack after stack, knowing I needed the prefect record to start my collection. It had to be one of my favorites, and it had to be a great album that I knew I could listen to over and over again all the way through. Then I saw it. Flipping through the stack labeled “S,” I saw the familiar yet bizarre cell like shapes of one of my all time favorites Wincing the Night Away. That was the one. That was my first album.

 

I brought it home and immediately ripped off the plastic shrink wrap, turned on my stereo, and dropped the needle for the first time. It was an experience unlike anything I had ever heard. Wincing the Night Away is perfect because not only are the songs all brilliant and diverse, but the album feels like its a living, breathing entity. And this was only enhanced by the effects of the vinyl. You can hear and feel the emotions of each song as they passed under the needle and out through the speakers and ride every high and low as the tracks come and pass, like so many phases of a creature’s life.

 

not a mind will retain even a trace, of the thoughts that I struggled to tell…

 

The first song “Sleeping Lessons” starts slow and muffled and quiet and slowly builds into a lively and explosive intro. I didn’t even really like that song when I had it on a CD, mostly because I skipped it before it got to the auditory orgasm that is the last act of the song. After spinning it on vinyl, I understood it. I had a deep and intimate connection with the song, and now it’s one of my favorites of all time. (I actually had to stop writing this article for a few minutes to play it on guitar as it was playing). I instantly knew that this album was the right choice.

 

 

 

 

Next up was “Australia,” which in my opinion is The Shins’ best written song. Another song with such deep emotion line of James Mercer’s outlandish, yet somehow grounded poetry. As the record spun and the song’s guitar solo began, it sounded like the band was in the room with me, performing from some unknown corner of my room in a private show just for me. I was loving it.

 

 

Then came a song called “Pam Berry,” another song I used to skip. But by listening to it on vinyl, I realized that the artists intended for it to be a short lead in song to “Phantom Limb,” my favorite song of all time. I would not have known this just by listening to the CD or my ipod with the option to skip songs. Vinyl connects you to artists because you can hear and feel their intentions when the wrote those songs and ordered them on the album that way. This was something my new-found love of records was beginning to teach me, and it was a most valuable lesson.

 

Then “Phantom Limb” came on. And every glimmering chorus of “woah-ahoh-ahoh” sounded brighter and brighter as I began to notice little details of the song that I never had before. At the end, as the song begins to fade out, you can softly hear a beautiful female voice harmonizing with a “la-la-la” to the guitar riffs and chorus. It is such a subtle little addition but it makes a world of difference in the song. Turing an already incredible listen, into a life changing one.

 

 

The record continues with lesser known songs such as “Sealegs” and “Red Rabbits.” “Sealegs is a groovy almost hip-hop track that I believe to be a chill wind down from the mind-blowing first half of the record. Then begins the curious sounds of “Red Rabbits.” This song starts the phases of life over again as the beginning sounds like creatures emerging after a cold and dark winter to see that spring is just starting to bloom.

 

It was at this point that I realized Wincing the Night Away could be thought of as seasons, changing with each song. Songs like “Sleeping Lessons,” “Red Rabbits,” and a later track “Girl Sailor,” all represent new cycles of life and are presented as the “Spring.” Curious and sunny but cool and emergent, these songs all embody the characteristics of the Spring season and lead into the Summer follow up songs. These songs are “Australia,” “Turn on Me,” and “A Comet Appears.” Represent one day of summer when played front to back. “Australia” has the bustling jauntiness of a busy Summer morning, while “Turn on Me” is more like a hot July afternoon, and closing with the nostalgic sunset of a warm summer night as “A Comet Appears,” closes out the album. “Pam Berry” and “Black Wave” are the Autumn tracks, as they are chilling and inviting at the same time, and appear before the Winter tracks “Phantom Limb” and “Split Needles” both of which exhibit wintery characteristics.

 

 

These are the kinds of thoughts you can have when you experience music that you love this intimately. You can hear and feel and imagine all sorts of new things making the record more than just a collection of songs, but an experience, unique to each and every listener. And while this has been achieved through CD and ipod playthroughs of albums, there is nothing like the intimacy of a vinyl.

 

As the record drew to a close playing through the uplifting deep cut “Girl Sailor,” and closing with the haunting guitar slides and eerie lyrics of “A Comet Appears,” I heard the familiar “click” of the needle retracting and lifting back into its nest. I thought briefly about how such a simple process of a needle picking up bumps on a vinyl disc could lead to what I had just experienced. It was nothing short of mind blowing. I was sold for life on vinyl, and I’ll never stop expanding my collection. Wincing the Night Away was my guide into the musical revelation that was the vinyl experience, and I think it was the best choice I could have made for my first record.

 

it’s like I’m pushed on the handlebars, of a blind man’s bike…

 

 

Since then, I have been scooping up vinyls at an alarming and wallet depleting rate, but each one that I pick up is absolutely worth the money ten times over. There truly is nothing like the experience of your favorite albums spun on vinyl. Picking up every last little echo and subtle instrumentation that paints this complete picture of the music, the way the artist intended you to experience it.

 

I can’t defend enough collecting vinyl and having your own unique experiences with your favorite songs and bands and records. There is nothing like it. I am honored that we could do this series and share some of those experiences with true music lovers. And I hope that this will inspire people to try vinyl for themselves and get to know just how eye-, or rather ear-opening, listening to records truly is.

 

Thank you guys so much for reading, and be sure to check in to the next Sunday Spin for another great record.

 

11 Best Things We Saw At GovBall 2014

(Photo credit: Rukkus.com)

If you haven’t already heard about it yet, this past weekend was the annual Governor’s Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island in New York City. And in the festival’s fourth year, it has achieved something truly incredible. This year had the most epic lineup GovBall has ever seen, bringing out the very best artists from across a multitude of musical genres. Every single artist brought their best to the big apple, and there was so many acts to see that you might not have caught everything. Here are the 11 best things we saw this year at GovBall!

 

 

 

Best Sing-A-Long: La Roux: Bulletproof

(Photo credit: IB Times)

Synthpop hit machine La Roux took the stage Friday evening for an electrifying dance party under the Gotham Tent. La Roux delivered jam after jam giving delivering her A-game with every song. La Roux closed out her set with perhaps her most popular song “Bulletproof,” and the audience’s response was legendary. The entire island could hear the collective chorus of fans belting out every last lyric.

Best Dance Party With People Who Know What’s Good: Glitch Mob

(Photo credit: Billboard)

Sure Skrillex and Axwell and Disclosure are all great electronic artists and they all had killer sets. But the best dance party of the weekend took place under the Gotham Tent Saturday afternoon as the Glitch Mob pumped up the crowd using their futuristic instrument panels and massive bass drum devices. Hundreds of true dance music fans partied face as the Glitch Mob played one of the best and most original EDM performances of the weekend.

Best Tame Impala Impression: Foster the People

(Photo Credit: Billboard)

While Foster the People played their share of songs from the band’s debut album Torches, their GovBall set Sunday afternoon was packed full of satisfying new material. Trippy and trance-y jams from their new album Supermodel combined with Mark Foster’s charismatic enthusiasm created a engulfing psychedelic atmosphere. It was especially triptastic during Foster’s performance of “Psuedologia Fantastica,” the band channeled Tame Impala as they layed down angelic atmospheric choruses and chugging chord progressions to blow the minds of the masses.

Best Song for a Sunny Afternoon: Jenny Lewis “Silver Lining”

(Photo credit: Billboard)

The weather was beautiful all weekend at Gov Ball and the music and energy seemed to blend together in a way that brought out the best in everyone. While you could see this all weekend, there was one place where the sunny vibes and good feelings were at there highest, and that was at former Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis’ set on Friday afternoon. As the sun was starting to fall lower into the sky, Lewis broke into Rilo Kiley’s soulful ballad “Silver Lining.” For a few minutes, everything was just right and beautiful with the world.

Best Overall Everything: OutKast

(Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Did anybody expect anything less? The Atlanta hip-hop duo is traveling all over the country playing festivals this summer, but they had to have played one of their best shows ever as they wrapped up the festival on Friday night. Providing fans with a whopping 25 songs spanning their entire 20 year career, Big Boi and Andre 3000 easily had the best performance of the festival. Outkast are true artists and true professionals and their live show proves it with tons of hits and fan favorites, outlandish effects, and special guests.

Best Unintentional Episode of Loiter Squad: Tyler the Creator

(Photo credit: NY Times)

After Earl Sweatshirt’s set on Sunday (which I’ll get to later), OddFuture’s irreverant leader, Tyler the Creator, took the stage opposite Earl as hundreds of OF fans ran across the festival grounds. In between Tyler’s bass busting beats and audience chants of “Wolf Gang,” the nearly full Loiter Squad, composed of Tyler, Earl, Jasper and Taco (where was you Loinel?), cracked fart jokes, played with women’s underwear, and insulted the VIP section (for which much respect goes to Tyler). Jasper performed his verse from “Oldie” and Tyler showed love to a guy with a Thurnis Hayley sign: “…guy all the way in the back with the Thurnas sign, I see you, and I appreciate you.” It was hardcore and funny and bumpin’ all at the same time. Sadly, Catchphrase Jones was not present.

 

 

Best Deep Cut: The Strokes: Razorblade

 

(Photo credit: NME)

Definitely the highlight of Saturday was the legendary performance from New York’s own: The Strokes. The Strokes have only played one U.S. show since 2011 and they came back with a friggin bang. Playing all the hits to their fullest was a large portion of their performance and the island was alive as songs like “Reptilia,” “Someday,” and “Last Nite,” echoed throughout the festival. But what really made The Strokes’ set truly legendary, was their transformation of deep cuts and fan favorite non-hits into the mega-huge songs that the main stage at a festival like that calls for. Songs like “One Way Trigger” and “You Only Live Once” became larger and louder and better than their biggest hits on the GovBall stage. My personal favorite was their flawless performance of “Razorblade,” arguably one of their best songs. The Strokes killed it.


 

Realest Duo: Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt (Earl’s Set)

(Photo credit: rachonarampage)

I already mentioned the camaraderie of OddFuture at Tyler the Creator’s set on Sunday, but the realest hip hop came from the earlier show with Earl Sweatshirt. Earl kept it real as he ran through verses from his hits from Doris such as “Hive” and “Chum.” But the truly raw talent of the two poster boys for OddFuture was when Earl brought out Tyler to perform “Woah,” and other collabs. These two guys have some of the best back and fourth since Outkast or Wu-Tang and delivered the realest 2 man performance of the festival.

 

Best Indie Rock Dance Party: Vampire Weekend

(Photo credit: The Guardian)

New York’s own Vampire Weekend were the grand finale of the festival on Sunday night, closing out the show by performing the greatest songs in their catalog spanning all of their albums. While Axwell Ingrosso was playing on the other side of the island, Vampire Weekend was bringing their own dance party to the main stage with hits like “A-Punk,” “Giving Up the Gun,” “Holiday,” and “Diane Young.” Each song was perfect indie rock dance party material as every person in the crowd bopped and bounced along with every “Ya-Hey” and “OOaaahhhooo” that drove VW through their setlist.


 

Best Cameo: Chance the Rapper (Childish Gambino’s Set)

(Photo credit: Vibe)

Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover played a crazy show on Saturday afternoon. Gambino is becoming one of hip-hop’s best acts to see as he constantly plays shows and gets better with each one. GovBall was no exception. During an epic show complete with a full band and a pyrotechnics display, Gambino brought out Chance the Rapper and they performed their collaboration “The Worst Guys,” and announced that the two rappers will be doing a joint EP/album sometime in the near future. Two extremely talented dudes like that teaming up means good news for hip-hop.


 

Most Cigarettes Smoked During a Performance: the 1975

 

(Photo credit: the 1975)

These guys are rock and roll as hell. They completely exceeded expectations at their set on Friday afternoon. This band does it right. All throughout their killer set, these guys were sucking down bogeys, sometimes mid verse or solo, and described that almost all of their songs are about girls and drugs and rock and roll. These guys embody the spirit of true rockstars and have the talent to back it up.