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Staff Picks: December 3, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

What Had Happened Was podcast (2020)

https://starburns.audio/podcasts/what-had-happened-was/

Last Sunday my buddy Bobby from Vinyl Conflict came down to Raleigh, and we got to hang out for a few hours. The weather was pleasant so after he shopped at Sorry State we had lunch in the park and then went over to the cat cafe and hung out with SSR alumnus Seth. It was almost like a normal ass pre-pandemic day!

At some point we were all talking about podcasts we listen to and Bobby recommended this podcast, in which rapper Open Mike Eagle sits down with producer Prince Paul. I didn’t know Prince Paul’s name off hand, but he’s been a producer for a very long time, his credits including the first three De La Soul albums, Gravediggaz (a group he put together), Handsome Boy Modeling School, and many other projects along the way. His career has encompassed many eras of rap music, and it’s awesome to hear from an elder statesman who has seen so much change and has a big-picture perspective on the genre’s history.

The podcast is just one season, and in each episode Open Mike Eagle discusses some topic or aspect of Prince Paul’s career with the man himself. I’m sure Prince Paul’s career would be an interesting topic for any podcast, but where What Had Happened Was shines is in the depth and candor of these conversations. Rather than the normal press junket interview in which the interviewee has an agenda (usually promoting their latest project), Prince Paul gets into the dirt on this podcast. He seems like a jovial, level-headed person, so it’s not about assigning blame or settling scores, but explaining how the sausage gets made. And that is fascinating to me. I haven’t listened to all the episodes, but the conversations I’ve checked out so far have been fascinating. For instance, in the episode on Gravediggaz, Open Mike and Prince Paul discuss how Paul had the idea for Gravediggaz and how he put the group together, shopped it around to labels, got them a deal, shepherded the project through the first album and subsequent tour, and then relinquished some of that control after (all of which were complicated by various factors, including the runaway success of RZA’s other group Wu-Tang Clan).

The podcast has strong sound and music clips from whatever they’re discussing, so they’re able to set the scene better than podcasts that can’t include music because of licensing restrictions. If you’re a fan Prince Paul I can’t recommend this enough, but even if you aren’t interested in the actual music, this podcast is a fascinating window into how one segment of the music industry works.

Staff Picks: Eric

Kaleidoscope: Decolonization 7” (D4MT Labs)

What’s crackin’, friends? I haven’t had a staff pick in a couple weeks and I have no real excuse for that aside from laziness, anxiety and the existential pain of existence. But that’s not to say there hasn’t been tons of great stuff coming out! I know I’m about a month late and some of my associates have already spoken highly of this release, but I figure I might as well drive it home.

I love Kaleidoscope. I can’t think of another band in the modern landscape of punk pushing the envelope and creating truly original content like they do. What makes Kaleidoscope unique to me is that you can hear how much influence they take from psych, kraut, and classic rock n roll while still being undeniably punk. Two of the most stand out things to me are the drums and the vocal patterns. The drums are always grooving in rhythmic ways that (as a drummer myself) make my jaw drop. The vocals are delivered in a way that feels like an urgent declaration of truth and wisdom, like slam poetry but in the least lame way possible.

I’m not sure if many people know this, but these three dudes all live together in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which means they are constantly working and creating together. Keep your eye D4MT Labs (their label) because they are always churning out the most interesting and refreshing art and music.

Also my band Public Acid just released an EP this week check it out :3

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hello dear Sorry State readers. We are back after the holiday and in full swing here with cool stuff coming in at us from all angles. The Black Friday Record Store Day releases had some cool titles to round out the year of RSD releases and we have been buying a lot of cool and varied collections, big and small, which we are constantly processing. One such collection was a box of 45 rpm 7” singles which I have just finished going through and it has yielded some interesting titles.

The collection was predominantly pop from the sixties and early seventies and although some were without sleeves and damaged or just not good titles, there was a good handful that were promo copies and in company sleeves. These tunes all seemed to have been released between 1968 and 1972, with most coming from 1969. That was an interesting period in music and as someone who was newly born to the world then, I feel an affinity to that time period. That place in time was also when the 45 rpm single still ruled, and when record labels would take chances and release a single by obscure artists to test the waters for a potential album down the line. As I went over the records I recognized the labels and some artists but was surprised by how many I didn’t know and also very pleasantly surprised when some of these records turned out to be good. I loved seeing the company sleeves and either white or different colour labels of the promo copies and also I love getting a stereo and mono version of songs although you sometimes miss out on a cool B-side by having two versions of the same song. A lot of these records are not particularly valuable, but there are one or two rare ones in there, particularly the soul titles.

I picked out a few I liked for my picks this week and hope you find them as enjoyable as I do. I left out the big-ticket items and more obvious soul/funk and psych winners and went for the odd and more poppy end of things instead and stuff that meant something to me as I listened and that I connected to.

First off, Headstrong: Ode To A Heffalump. Amos Records Inc. 1969.

This is a bit of a mystery to me. I don’t know too much about who the artist is although I suspect there may be a recognizable name connected to the record. It’s on the Amos label which among other acts had Longbranch Pennywhistle, who were the pre Eagles band of Glenn Frey. There was a copy of one of their singles in the collection. This tune, as the title infers, is inspired by The World Of Pooh. I am a big Winnie-The-Pooh fan and have been since childhood when I got the book for a present one year. I still have it. It’s beautiful with the original illustrations, some in full colour. So discovering a song dedicated to a Heffalump spoke to me. I love how the song injects the loud guitar towards the end, turning a simple pop tune into something almost psychedelic. A great find and interesting comparing the two mixes. I like both, but the mono wins for how the guitar punches harder at the end.

Next up, Thomas & Richard Frost: Gotta Find a New Place To Stay. Imperial. 1969.

I was aware of these two brothers from a CD which collected their unreleased album Visualize from 1969 that would have come out on Imperial if the label hadn’t folded under the ownership of Liberty/UA. This track was one of two singles from that album that got released. It’s a great pop-psych track recorded in L.A. with a lot of the top session players of that time. The brothers had been active throughout the sixties and most notably were in the Anglophile Mod band Powder and also the Art Collection who released the great garage track Kick Me (I Think I’m Dreaming). As Thomas & Richard Frost they went for the orchestrated pop of the likes of early The Bee Gees and Scott Walker. Gotta Find A New Place To Stay is a perfect mini opera on 45, albeit a little dark with less than sunshiny lyrics and mood than earlier single She’s Got Love https://youtu.be/lBeGEF6w2hM

I like both ends of their oeuvre and also recommend checking out the Powder record.

Moving along now to an odd one by Dick Clark: The Day The Children Died. Liberty. 1969.

https://youtu.be/ark0x5TDAU

Yes, the same Dick Clark of American Bandstand and beloved DJ/Host of a generation. On this track, our Dick lays down a spoken word poem against war over a sparse backing that kinda gets psychy underneath. I dig it. Years ago in Miami, I met Dick Clark at a restaurant he was opening. He was as charming and humble as you would expect and signed an old Life magazine I was holding that had an old photo of him in it. Anyway, this track is right on and sadly still holds true today.

Keeping the anti-war vibe going was Tarantula: Love Is For Peace. A&M. 1969.

These guys were a jazz-rock group from California who released one album on A&M. I couldn’t find a clip of the single edit which cuts the track in half but here’s the full album version. The single clips a little of the intro and fades out during the freak-out section. I have only seen the album once before in the wild, and it goes for decent money. Worth picking up as there are some other good tracks on the record with a Zappa like and/or Soft Machine vibe to them.

To round things off, here’s a track I bought years ago which has had me keeping an eye out for their two LPs. It’s The Carolyn Hester Coalition: Magic Man. Metromedia. 1968.

The self-titled debut and follow up Magazine are great pop-psych records in an acid folk style which have still eluded me in my record digging. I have contented myself with the CD versions up to now. If you like groups like The Poppy Family, you will most likely dig these two records.

Okay then, that’s all for now. I hope some of you find these diversions into worlds other than punk enjoyable? Let me know if any of these hit the spot for you. Those local to our store should pop in and look over the rest of the great 45s from this collection. We’ll put up a social media post as a reminder and show the other singles in due course. Thank you for reading and never stop digging. See you next time.

Staff Picks: Usman

Vivisected Numbskulls are back with another instant classic! This contemporary band from the States has managed to execute an almost perfect authentic UK82 sound. I lost my mind with their debut cassette and have been anticipating this follow-up release since! The drums are a bit more crisp and clear on this tape compared to the previous tape, but it doesn’t take away from that “old cassette” feel. Down to the packaging and layout of the j-card, this tape looks like an 80’s release. The band (which is one person) knows what they are doing, and they are doing it fucking well. The previous cassette walked the line with a bit of a “tough” vibe, which to me is an obvious sign of a modern band. However, on this tape I think they stay a safe distance from that line, making it sound even more classic! The guitar solos sound less like the solos on the early Cimex recordings, pushing the songs even more into the realm of UK82. I don’t mean the way he plays the solos, but the literal sound of the guitar during the solos. I don’t know why I am such a sucker for bands that sound old. I don’t dislike a nice polished, modern recording, hence my other pick...

Fuck, I feel like I just heard the debut Lockheed EP just the other day, I wasn’t expecting to get my fuckin’ wig blown off so soon again!!! They deliver 3 songs seamlessly on their side of the split. And I mean it, these songs blend so well that if yer not intently listening, you may not even notice the change. Don’t misinterpret that “seamlessness” for boring riffs that all sound the same, though. The buzzsaw guitar riffs keep a’move on the fret board, complimenting the drummer’s perfect groove. Maybe I said that last time? Even when the band plays fast, the drummer stays in the cut which causes the listener to head bang. To play fast while maintaining a nice, tight but groovy bounce between the kick and snare drum is like gramma’s secret recipe for a perfect D-beat. Discharge-beat was all about that groove. I see ya’ll drummers out there tryna D-beat, but some of you play what I call “cheap beat” and the other some play so damn rigid the D has lost its groove. I’m not tryna talk too much shit though, I am not that great of a drummer myself haha, but you might find yerself caught up in the D-hole if yer fuckin’ with me and my bands. (Shout-out to Chubb for coining the term D-hole, during our band together where I drummed called Louse.) The Affect side is cool, they are from Sweden. I’m not gunna act like I didn’t grab this EP cos of Löckheed though.



Staff Picks: Rachel

GREAT GHOST STORIES

I think I’ve already said this, but I love the snapshot into media history you get from records. Kids now are growing up on r/creepypasta and I grew up on cassettes of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark;’ anything before that was a mystery to me until I started collecting records. I think seeing how scary stories were passed down through my friends’ kids has made me realize that my memories of sharing stories while holding a flashlight under my chin won’t be something that every generation has. What memories do the scary story records hold for the people that grew up with them?

I started collecting records when I lived in Savannah, and I was SO LUCKY to have Graveface Records two blocks from my house. I found many spoken word records, and I gravitated towards the spooky Halloween ones. I’ve been picking up story-based records ever since. The spoken word/oddball/comedy sections are some of my favorites in record stores! Even if I don’t pick something up, flipping through those bins tells me what entertainment was like when the records came out.

I picked this record to write about because it’s my most recent acquisition (I got it on my second shift at the store; I love/hate working at record stores) and because listening to it made me so fucking happy. I’d heard these stories before. This record from 1973 had stories that stood the test of time and were told around a campfire at my weird Jewish summer camp. Details had been changed of course; that’s the nature of oral history. I realized that I’d also heard snippets of these stories more recently; the kids I get to be around aren’t losing what I had; it’s just evolving.


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