Got the latest Roman Ruins LP in the mail a couple of weeks back and yesterday I finally got the chance to spin the vinyl on my turntable. Besides noticing how the sound is absolutely stellar on wax, I learned that Homebuilding is one of the best morning records I own.
The album contains ten relaxed tracks that are surprisingly not stale/boring like how most laid-back songs seem to be — there are some really captivating harmonies (“Cherry Picker,” “Outer”) and arrangements (“Mighty Love,” “Only Son”) found throughout. Clocking in at a little over 35 minutes, the record is sized long enough to soundtrack your get-up routine — the wake-up, the get-ready, and the first cup of coffee — with a repeat listen of “Mother’s Day” to pump you up as you walk out the door and into the real world.
A lot has been said about New Jersey natives Real Estate (and arguably the best was written by Lou over at Salad Fork), and if the quartet of Martin Courtney, Matthew Mondanile, Alex Bleeker, and Etienne Pierre Duguay keeps doing what they’ve been doing the past year-and-a-half, a lot more will be said. I have to say that I’ve never shelled out twenty-five bucks for a vinyl EP consisting of six crudely recorded tracks, but when I stumbled across a first pressing of their Mexican Summer release at my local record store, I was more giddy than apprehensive about the purchase. That’s how good this band is.
Before continuing, I must confess something: I hate the beach. I hate everything about it. I easily get sunburned, so I don’t particular enjoy sprawling out on the coarse sand and feeling three different types of UV radiation do a blitzkrieg on my skin. I also loathe swimming, so much so that it was the last required merit badge I got before getting my Eagle Scout (I was the lone 16 year-old in a class of early middle schoolers). For me, the entrance to the 7th circle of hell would be Satan handing me a beach towel and saying, with a smirk on his face, “enjoy.” So when people — mind you, most of which sit at the computer 16 hours of the day — talk about how Real Estate produces quintessential beach jams, I don’t particularly view it as a positive.
Somehow though, Real Estate’s music rises above my disdain for the shore so much that I can’t help but call them my favorite band of the moment. Although evidently clear that this was one of their first releases together (background hiss on the recording, a little bit of inconsistency on the tempo, etc…), there is something endearing about listening in at such an early stage. With a solid S/T LP to come later, Reality seems more like a bedroom practice session, giving the listener an intimate look at the inspiration and song writing process of the group. Take for instance the opener “Motorbikes”: a two-minute instrumental jam featuring enough guitar tinkerings that it seems more improv than polished piece. Bleaker gives the group a solid foundation on the bass while Mondanile and Courtney shimmer in and out with whatever rip they feel like playing. Musical discovery at its inception.
Much of the album continues in the same fashion, with half of the tracks on Reality never appearing on any of the groups later releases — and none making the cut for their critically acclaimed S/T LP. For newcomers to the group, Reality is probably not the best starting point, however, die hard fans should really get hold of a copy. Thankfully, Mexican Summer has made it easier by repressed the album, so you can cop one right now at the discounted price of $19.98. To whet your appetite, check out my two favorite tracks from the vinyl as well as a video of the group from one of their performances at SXSW ’09:
In the era where CD sales are plummeting faster than Tiger Wood’s reputation, the music industry seems to be reverting to the old school format of vinyl records to at least make up a part of their losses. Although wax sales are only a fraction of one percent of total revenue, it is the fastest growing format (90% growth in 2008, projected 60% growth in 2009) and it’s starting to catch the attention of every record label out there.
Although vinyl tends to be geared towards the “indie” crowd, the top ten selling albums of 2009 in that format are only halfway composed of such titles. Here’s the complete list [via]:
1: The Beatles // Abbey Road – 34,800
2: Michael Jackson // Thriller – 29,800
3: Animal Collective // Merriweather Post Pavilion – 14,000
4: Wilco // Wilco – 13,200
5: Fleet Foxes // Fleet Foxes – 12,700
6: Pearl Jam // Backspacer – 12,500
7: Grizzly Bear // Veckatimest – 11,600
8: Guns N’ Roses // Appetite for Destruction – 11,500
9: Dave Matthews Band // Big Whiskey… – 11,500
10: Radiohead // In Rainbows – 11,400
With all the hubbub surrounding whether or not Animal Collective was going to break into Billboard’s Top 100 albums of the week on vinyl sales alone back in January of ’09, I was surprised to find that they only pushed out 14K copies total. Other surprises is that the overlap between Dave Matthews Band listeners and vinyl lovers is not the expected 0% and Wilco sold only 13K in records even though every time I go to a record shop it seems that I’m surrounded by camels.