In the unpredictable wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many (with delicious irony) as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES seeks not only to review the output of L.A.'s healthy vinyl community (one populated by many indies and some well-intentioned majors), but to pay dap to those who continue to tend the flame, believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros.
Last week, INCHES focused on local labels releasing local music, spotlighting artist, imprint and product in one fell swoop. We continue this week with recent releases by five more L.A.-area artists on five more L.A.-area labels. Suggestions? Email us.
SPECIAL: LOCAL REVOLUTIONS (cont.)
Artist: Mayer Hawthorne And The County
Label: Stones Throw Records (Mt. Washington)
Title: Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
Format: 7-inch, clear red heart-shaped vinyl, 2000 pressed
You'd be hard-pressed to find a catchier soul single in, say, the last 30 years, than Mayer Hawthorne's “Just Ain't Gonna Work Out.” This bittersweet ode to love's coulda's and woulda's rings true not only in the universal simplicity of the message, but in the tribute paid to Hawthorne's greatest influences: Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, and Holland-Dozier-Holland. Never mind the fact that the L.A.-transplant, 29 and bespectacled, grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that he's quite noticeably Caucasian. What matters is Hawthorne is a gifted singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who breathes a just-perceptible hip-hop-ness into his vintage tunes.
Also of great import: the vinyl itself, a gorgeous heart-shaped platter that begs to be kept safe behind a layer of thick polymer. Stones Throw Records, dubbed “Best L.A. Record Label” last year, has been a bastion of good wax since its inception in 1996. Founder Peanut Butter Wolf, with considerable help from general manager Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, has pushed his company beyond its early rep as Madlib's home base (an honor, no doubt) into its current status as an L.A. institution. The signing of Hawthorne (as well as Leimert Park's Dâm-Funk), signifies a logical progression from soulful rap into beat-damaged soul.
Second pressing forthcoming. Info and MP3s at the Stones Throw store.
Label: Not Not Fun (Eagle Rock)
Format: 7-inch (33 RPM), 650 pressed
By day, Amanda Brown is one-half of the raw vegan catering crew Crops And Rawbers. By night, she does time in the freewheeling space-dub outfit Pocahaunted. In whatever hours remain, the singer and guitarist not only morphs into a righteously psychedelic funk-soul explosion called Vibes, but co-runs the Not Not Fun label with her husband (and oft-band-mate) Britt. The Psychic 7-inch advertises a skronky set “jacked deep in the red, with fuzz bass, wah shrapnel, vocal sloganeering, and drum racket all fighting for tape room,” and it delivers exactly that.
The titular track finds Mrs. Brown yelping and sassing over hypnotic wah-wah-fueled chug, while B-side leader “Night Court” rolls forth on a blown-out groove. The cover collage and lettering comes courtesy of NNF artist Cameron Stallones, a.k.a. Sun Araw, a similarly aligned garage-bound bluesman hailing from Long Beach. A mid-may first pressing of 400 sold out in a mere two weeks, but a second run (of 250) was recently made available. On Not Not Fun's near horizon are LPs by Robedoor, Portland-based Little Claw, and Oakland's Inca Ore.
Second pressing available at the Not Not Fun web store.
Label: Autumn Tone Records (Los Feliz)
Title: Anonymity Is The New Fame
Format: LP (+ download card), silk-screened jacket, 250 pressed
Silver Lake's Frankel, the one-man band populated by Michael Orendy, is a project based upon a contradiction. The Los Angeles native has been playing within the scene for more years than not, yet he's been about as visible as a ghost. You'd be excused for missing him – as a utility man in bands like Earlimart and Meow Meow, the multi-instrumentalist operated largely toward the back of the stage or behind the scenes. But since coming into his own music in 2005, Orendy's visibility hasn't changed much, physically speaking: he grants few interviews, plays fewer local shows, completely eschews touring, and records primarily in a home studio (he even hand-screened the LP jackets).
All of which makes the understated grace of Anonymity Is The New Fame, released by Los Feliz's Autumn Tone Records, both all the more exceptional and perfectly understood. Frankel's second album brings to mind two other reclusive Angelinos, transcribing Elliott Smith's enveloping lonesome over an intimate orchestra of meticulously arranged, psychedelia-infused pop a la Brian Wilson. Autumn Tone was also minted in 2005, by An Aquarium Drunkard blog publisher Justin Gage. The label is also home to The Henry Clay People and Le Switch.
Vinyl available at Amoeba Music, Origami, and Vacation Vinyl. CD via Autumn Tone.
Artist: The Polyamorous Affair
Label: Manimal Vinyl (Hancock Park)
Title: Bolshevik Disco
Format: LP, clear pink/blue swirl vinyl, gatefold, 500 pressed
In a former life, singer/producer Eddie Chacon was the exceedingly long-maned half of early '90s R&B sensation Charles And Eddie (remember “Would I Lie To You?”). He'd previously worked with 2 Live Crew, went on to write songs for other EMI artists, then dropped out entirely, evidently steeling himself for the next logical step: moving to Los Angeles and founding an experimental indie electronic duo with his wife, Sissy Sainte-Marie. The Polyamorous Affair creates danceable pop filtered through the acceptable sleaze of Italo-disco and tempered by a little Roxy Music grit.
Bolshevik Disco, the duo's second album, is right at home on Manimal Vinyl, the Hancock Park-based label owned and operated by fashion stylist Paul Beahan. Along with overseas experimentalists like Bat For Lashes and Aquaserge, Manimal features a ton of local talent – Hecuba, Rainbow Arabia, and The Chapin Sisters along with recent signees Warpaint (featuring Shannyn Sossamon) and We Are The World – much of which displays a considerable love for the groove. The second annual Manimal Festival takes place October 3 and 4 at Pappy And Harriets, in the high desert near Joshua Tree.
Purchase via Insound.
Artist: Bipolar Bear / Talbot Tagora
Label: olFactory Records (Downtown)
Title: Abstract Distractions
Format: 10-inch split (+ download card), 180-gram, 1000 pressed
Like Abe Vigoda before them, the boys of Bipolar Bear have done almost too well at naming their sound for the MySpace literate. At press time, the band's page on the social networking site reads “GrungeGaze,” and though that sloppy portmanteau may have been coined with a degree of irony, it goes a long way to quantifying BB's buoyant-yet-scuzzy punk. There's a haze-drenched endless summer emanating from the core of these arty songs, which check East Coast elders like Les Savvy Fav and Fugazi without ever shucking So-Cal youthfulness.
This, of course, makes Bipolar Bear (who shares this split with Seattle thrasher Talbot Tagora) a perfect fit for olFactory Records, the modest label run by Jim Smith, owner of The Smell. The venue's sister imprint – currently home to locals Ima Gymnist and Devon Williams, with a Widow Babies 12-inch due out later this month – has lofted high the torch of “all-ages,” largely releasing the work of those not yet old enough to drink (including Abe Vigoda's appropriately named 2006 LP, Kid City).
Purchase via olFactory's online store.