Sonic Geography Ep. 2 (Tennesseein’ is Tennebelievin’)

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Well, I missed Sonic Sunday this weekend, but I’ll make up for it with some quaran-tunes for your enjoyment. This week, I’m taking a voyage across the mercilessly wide state (almost as if it was added to the Union in some type of land-grab) of Tennessee. When I moved there in 2013, I made the argument that the Volunteer State has contributed more to popular music history than any other, and I still tend to agree with that idea.

This DJ mix, though, gave me the opportunity to share some wax tracks released by various friends I made in my six years of living in Knoxville as well as a few stone-cold classics.

  1. Dead Man’s Lifestyle (Morristown) – “Common Lush” (split lathe 7″ with Cop Funeral)
  2. Reigning Sound (Memphis) – “Time Bomb High School” (stone cold classic LP)
  3. Psychic Baos (Knoxville) – “Fluicide” (Two words: Will Fist)
  4. Faux Killas (Memphis) – “Anxious Love” (I saw this band set Shangri-La Records aflame last year when I went to a conference at University of Memphis)
  5. Daddy Don’t (Knoxville) – “Octopussy”  (The only band, to my knowledge, with a full-time bubble blower)
  6. Bark (Knoxville) – “Everything He Built” (7″ with beautiful artwork by Striped Light)
  7. Daddy Issues (Nashville) – “Locked Out” (Possibly my favorite cut from my third favorite LP of the 2010’s)
  8. Lavish Boars (Knoxville) – “They Accepted Me as One of their Own”
  9. Koro (Knoxville) – “The 700 Club” (Off the EP repress, because I’m not a millionaire)
  10. Big Star (Memphis) – “What’s Going Ahn”  (here’s a little heartbreak for you)
  11. Gamenight (Knoxville) – “Take My Time”
  12. Headface and the Congenitals (Knoxville) – “Beast is Better”  (The McBrides are America’s greatest rock n’ roll family)
  13. The Lost Sounds (Memphis) – “Better Than Something”
  14. Booker T. and the MG’s (Memphis) – “A Woman, a Lover, and Friend”
  15. Saint Thomas LeDoux (Nashville by way of Knoxville by way of Memphis) – “Me Time”
  16. Ex-Gold (Knoxville) – “I’m a Man”
  17. Johnny Cash (omnipresent) – “Goodbye, Little Darlin'”
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Knoxville, March 25, 2018. Never forget.

Sonic Geography Episode 1 (Free for All)

I did my first Instagram Live DJ set last night, and shockingly, the feed didn’t go down once. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, and if you missed it, here is the audio mixdown and the playlist. It was clearly a directionless free-for-all while I was working out the technical aspects of the “show,” but I’ll still include places of origin and any ancillary notes in the playlist.

Sonic Geography Ep. 1 [03.25.20]

  1. The Housemartins (Hull) – “Anxious” (from NME giveaway 7″)
  2. Ernie K-Doe (New Orleans) – “Mother-in-Law” (Allen Touissant song from a 1986 Minit Records comp)
  3. The Bartlebees (Munich) – “Holidays at the Zoo”
  4. Booker T. and the MG’s (Memphis) – “Hip-Hug-Her”
  5. The Wildweeds – “No Good to Cry” (original, dusty 7″ I found at the Porte du Montreuil flea market)
  6. Gin Blossoms (Tempe) – “Hey Jealousy” (jukebox 7″, dedicated to all the 90’s kids)
  7. The Go-Betweens (Brisbane) – “Right Here” (12″ single)
  8. The Clash (London) – “Bankrobber” (7″ version)
  9. Lord Antics (Montego Bay) – “Split Me in Two”
  10. Ron Holden (Seattle) – “My Babe”
  11. The Jesus & Mary Chain (East Kilbride) – “Everything’s Alright When You’re Down”
  12. The Ambulars (DC) – “Marielle and Ferdinand”
  13. White Murder (Long Beach) – “The Tell-All”
  14. Unrest (DC) – “Make Out Club”
  15. Radon (Gainesville) – “Facial Disobedience”
  16. Pohgoh (Tampa) – “Tired Ear”  (clear reissue LP by New Granada)
  17. Suede (London) – “Hit Me” (from 2x 7″)
  18. Black Kids – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” (original 10″ demo version, aka the good one)
  19. The Strokes (NYC) – “12:51”
  20. The Vitreous Humor (Topeka) – “Why Are You So Mean To Me?”
  21. They Might Be Giants (Lincoln, MA via NYC) – “Why Does the Sun Shine?” (7″ version)
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The Vitreous Humor (via Danny Pound’s bandcamp)

Recommended Reading: ‘The Revenge of Analog’ by David Sax

512bolgqtoilWhen I was visiting DC in November, my friend and I were preemptively reminiscing about how we’ll remember the 2010’s. I said, from where I sit, it seems like where the 2000’s were the decade of us spelunking into the technical possibilities of the digital century, and the 2010’s were the decade of humans reckoning with affiliated dangers (some more evident than others) and escaping the vortex when they could. Resistance, when it boiled down, was so much more than just a buzz word related to people upset at the actions of an administration or particular politicians. To me, it’s about resilience and breaking punching through the wall of a near-Orwellian dynamic of cultural conformity – the kind of society where I got ridiculed for (get this) paying for music in 2005, or daring to use an iPhone 4 in 2016.

Of course, it’s hard to see these trends in action. They’re only observable in terms of, for example, physical book and turntable/vinyl sales, which are still both arguably niche markets. But their meaning and importance transcend those niches, and then some. The process of digital detox is an intensely individual, private phenomenon. One cannot easily observe people cancelling their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and (let’s be honest) the ones who post publicly about plans to do so are usually back around in a week or two.

I just finished David Sax’s 2016 book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only is Sax a very (very, very) good writer and journalist, but at least once every few pages, he made a point that hit me like a ton of bricks. This paragraph did, in particular, considering the wastelands of digital detritus I’ve spent much of the past month sifting through to find some old photos across at least 4 different hard drives:

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Writing this out now, I think one of the greatest victories of Sax’ book is how it helps me realize how easy it is to just take stock of all the great analog businesses in my life and realize that I’m not alone.

By the way, to paraphrase Sideshow Bob, I’m aware of the irony of taking a digital picture of a block of text in an analog book to post on the internet in order to prove a point, so don’t bother pointing that out.

Another Sonic Sunday (Clips)

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Very Be Careful live in Los Angeles (12/28/19)

Welcome to my new weekly column experiment, Sonic Sunday, where I’ll be posting some items of relevance over the previous week. I thought about posting these on Monday mornings, but Sonic Sunday just sounded better, and I imagine people have more time to browse the web today.

Anyway…

  • BiG MiSTAKE
    Big Mistake (stylized as ‘BiG MiSTAKE’) were a ska/punk/pop/hardcore band from New Britain, CT, active between the mid-80’s and mid-90’s. I was too young to see them play during their heyday, but I recently discovered a website one of their members set up to archive their history as a band. If you’re interested in what may be the single most insane story I’ve read about indie band life before the internet, check out the story behind their single full-length album, i.
  • Very Be Careful
    I spent the holidays in Los Angeles this year, and a close Angeleno friend brought me over to Silverlake to see the local cumbia group Very Be Careful. I could think of fewer experiences more quintessentially “LA.” It gave me hope to see such a party happening in Silverlake, which, on the surface, appears to have completely fallen to the hipsters years ago. VBC have been performing locally since 1997 and touring internationally as often as they could pull it together. You can read more about their history at their website here.
  • IASPM
    Of all the academic organizations I fell into in 2019, IASPM is the greatest. They circulated some new CFPs, one of which was for a conference on Music in the Spanish Civil War. Neat.
  • Brain/Salad Comic
    Popula has emerged as one of my favorite newer opinion sites on the web. Politics aside, they provide cogent analyses that are meant to be read and finished and thought about and discussed. Jef Harmatz wrote a great comic, inspired by Derf’s Trashed (which I include as required reading in my Intro to Environmental Studies course), that breaks down the dilemma every environmentally conscious person goes through when they think about the footprint of their eating habits. Subscription may be required.
  • Vinyl Rants
    If anybody here is interested in such things, I posted some thoughts over on Instagram about recent reissues by The Wedding Present and Paul Westerberg.

Have a great week, and Happy New Year!

Vinyl Excursions: Scarce Sounds in Canberra

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Australia National University, June 2019

Happy Saturday! I’m sorry to never have completed my entries on my trip down under, especially considering how fantastic Hobart and IAG were in general. I still hope to post about some highlights. In the meantime, I’m finally enjoying an hour or so of downtime out of my box-filled house, so I thought I would finish this post on one of the highlights of my first week in Australia – a meeting with author and archivist Ross Laird, known to the internet community as Scarce Sounds.

I’d been in touch with Ross off and on since I first began the Ben Irving project in earnest roughly five years ago. He came up in internet searches as an expert on the Okeh records catalog, so I emailed him to ask if he had any record of the Ben Irving Orchestra (or any proof that Ben recorded and released any music). He got back to me quickly and thoroughly, running through expansive evidence that there was no record of anyone by that name in Okeh’s catalog.

I got back in touch with him earlier this summer in the weeks leading up to my trip down under. It turned out that as a longtime employee of the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, he was based in Canberra and would be in town when I was there for the IASPM meeting. We met up in his old haunt on the Australia National Uni campus to chat a bit more about where our respective projects had brought us.

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Ross Laird and a bottle of Mount Majura 2009. Canberra, 6/28/19.

In an unanticipated bit of hospitality, he and his wife invited me to their home in the suburbs, where I’d be able to see one of the most unique and expansive record collections in the world. At least, I saw part of it. He mentioned that he had a shed full of shellac records (not so nimble and as prone to weathering as vinyl) and an additional office/storage room other than the one I saw. Here are some photos.

Thousands of records from his archive (including very rare ones) are for sale on his Discogs page, Scarce Sounds. As he explained to me, Ross doesn’t view himself as a collector as much an a curator. Pursuant to the name, most of his records are rare and don’t really exist within the public archive. He aims to change that for many great overlooked artists from the Global South, then sending the recordings afield to other music lovers. It’s a worthwhile pursuit and a point I hope I can reach one day.

 

He sampled a bunch of 78s and 45s for me, most of which were still shrouded in mystery (most, if any information that exists about them on the internet, he put there), but my single favorite song I heard all night was a bubblegum pop song by Rita Chao and Sakura, entitled “Bala Bala.” The song has a driving baritone sax lead, fantastic female duo vocals, about 4 different words in the whole song, and I loved it to death. Some good Samaritan put a piece of “Bala Bala” on a supercut they uploaded to YouTube about ten years ago.

New Article Published in ‘Arts and the Market’ Journal

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aamcoverJust a quick announcement that I have a new article out this week! I wrote a piece about the idea of the vinyl record as a souvenir for the Emerald Publishing journal Arts and the Market. Thanks to the editorial staff for helping me sculpt this one, which originated as a research paper for a seminar on tourism. I drew equally on some older MA thesis research on the marketplace around vinyl as well as some PhD research on the seismic legend around harDCore.

Sonnichsen, T. (2017). Vinyl tourism: records as souvenirs of underground musical landscapes. Arts and the Market 7 (2), 235-248.

You can check out this issue as well as prior issues of Arts and the Market on the Emerald Insight page here. Depending on your institutional access, you may be able to find the HTML or PDF version of the article directly from there. If not, then don’t hesitate to contact me and I can help get you a copy.