In the strange wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES reviews the output of L.A.'s healthy vinyl community (artists and labels, indie or other), believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros.
Last week, we took a trip northward to cover releases by Lazer Sword, Themselves and more. This week, we return to L.A. to cover some impressive hometown hero ish. Submissions or suggestions? Email INCHES here.
Artist: Slang Chickens
Title: Slang Chickens
Label: Psychedelic Judaism (Echo Park)
Format: LP (+ download), translucent blue vinyl, burlap jacket, 550 pressed
Local quartet Slang Chickens may have just celebrated its first anniversary as a band, but its debut album showcases a group that's honed a disparate set of influences into a cohesive, extremely promising whole. The Chickens' eponymous LP opens with “Tropics” (download it below), where southern-tinged harmonies and downright purty acoustic strumming merge seamlessly with garage rock grind and punk pacing. “Blues (Dripping Down My Leg)” combines lapsteel guitar, grungy vocals and a country amble (plus a trumpet solo), while “Parasited Out” sounds like The Strokes sped up — until, that is, it morphs into a halftime crawl through jangle and feedback. New band, new ideas, new label. Slang Chickens play at Unknown Theater this Saturday. Show your support by dressing in burlap.
Download: Slang Chickens – “Tropics” (MP3)
Artist: Nite Jewel
Title: “Weak For Me” / “Suburbia”
Label: 1984 Records (Mt. Washington)
Format: 7-inch, 500 pressed
When the news came last week that Nite Jewel was releasing a 7-inch through Stones Thr–err, “1984 Records,” it seemed surprising that a historically hip-hop (+ funk/soul) label would drop a waxy gem from one of this city's leading ladies of lo-fi. But upon further inspection, it makes perfect sense: Ramona Gonzales' synth-heavy tracks are stoney, catchy, rhythmic and full of funk — thrift store funk, at least. Both of these tracks appeared on her excellent and out-of-print Good Evening LP, but they're given new warbly, warmth on this release. “Weak For Me” sports a strange brand of '80s pop refracted through a dingy lens and colored with the beat-oriented eccentricities of Gary Wilson. Gonzales' high keen lords over reverberating drum rolls here, while “Suburbia” finds her spacing out over a subdued but driving soundscape. Neither was meant for the crispness of digital audio. Download the MP3 below, but do your turntable a favor and pick up the 45.
Download: Nite Jewel – “Weak For Me” (MP3)
CONTINUE ON TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE INCHES…
Title: My Estrogeneration
Label: Not Not Fun (Eagle Rock)
Format: LP, 500 pressed
An exceptional compilation of lo-fi, lady-made aural exploits and expeditions, Not Not Fun's My Estrogeneration is a vital cross-section of a contemporary scene which heretofore had not been properly mapped. Label owners and Pocahaunted members Britt and Amanda Brown do a bang-up job of connecting the dots from L.A. to S.F. to PDX, over to Philly Virginia and N.Y.C., and into Wisconsin on the way back to Eagle Rock. They've wrangled 11 exclusive tracks from the likes of Zola Jesus, Talk Normal, Valet, and Blevin Blectum (Islaja) — to name a few — and, of course, NNF staples like U.S. Girls, Pocahaunted, Inca Ore and Topaz Rags. Songs range from heavy thumps and barely there murmurs to wasteland epics worthy of a Jodorowsky film to cracked New Jack Swing accompanied by surf guitar. There's nary a dull moment in this set, just supreme gorgeousness and loving experimentation.
Artist: Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Label: Rodriguez Lopez Productions (Echo Park)
Format: LP (+ download), pink vinyl, 2000 pressed
You may think you know what an Omar Rodriguez Lopez record is all about — that you've got it down to a science. Perhaps you've backed the Mars Volta ax-man's genre odysseys into a tight corner that's overshadowed by virtuosic guitar-play and odd time signatures. Perhaps you've written him off. This is, of course, the part where we tell you how terribly wrong you are. With due respect to Rodriguez Lopez's righteous back catalog, Xenophanes is a “real album.” Instrumental prowess still abounds, but the man sings here for the first time — in Spanish — and he does it quite well. His main squeeze, Mexican pop star Ximena Sariñana, backs his atmospheric crooning, helping him unravel a complex story about a heartbroken women who discovers divine love over the course of 11 lifetimes. The bombast and heavy psychedelia is still there of course, but there are quite moments too, and an overarching melodic awareness that keeps even the most ambitious flights within reach of those of us still here on Earth.
Stream: the entire album.
Vacation Vinyl's Top Ten Best-Sellers: November 7 – 20
01. Red Sparowes – Aphorisms 12-inch EP (Sargent House)
02. Doomriders – Darkness Come Alive (Deathwish)
03. Cold Cave – Love Comes Close (Matador)
04. Imaad Wasif – The Voidist (Tee Pee)
05. Boris / At Last – Feedbacker(Conspiracy)
06. Atlas Sound – Logos (Kranky)
07. Frank Alpine – “Night Tripper” 7-inch (Dais)
08. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure (Mexican Summer)
09. Baroness – Blue Record (Relapse)
10. Saviours – Accelerated Living (Kemado)
Vacation Vinyl is located at 4679 Hollywood Blvd., 90027 (323.666.2111).