Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best of 2012

Best New Vinyl: Puscifer Conditions of My Parole
Honorable Mention: Jack White Blunderbuss

This was a tough call between two heavyweights:  Jack White vs. Maynard James Keenen (Puscifer; also you may have heard of his other bands: TOOL and A Perfect Circle).

Conditions of My Parole is our album of the year.  Without question.  It gets a lot of table time.  As a complete, cohesive album, it has a good variety of tones, tempo, and lyrical experimentation.  Each and every track is sonically pleasing.  In fact, there will be a full blog post about this one soon.  Only major drawback is the 2 LP format which may indeed provide great sound, but leads to many record flips. Just when it's really getting going you got to get up and flip it.  Thanks for the extra cardio Maynard!

Props to Jack White for keeping his amazing debut solo album Blunderbuss to one single record; for new vinyl that is more of a rarity these days, and the VVers appreciate it.  We even played his rendition of "I'm Shakin'" at our wedding this year.  Quite a hit on the dance floor.

Best Used Vinyl: Fleetwood Mac Vintage Years
Honorable Mentions: Sir Shina Adewale and the Super Stars International Verse 7, King Oliver and His Dixie Syncopators

Weird to be writing about Fleetwood Mac, as they are not really a band that has never done much for me.  Going into a quality record store will learn you something for sure.  We happened upon an interest in the Mac whilst browsing at the small but well stocked El Suprimo! in Baltimore.  The store owner was blaring some sick blues and blew our minds when he told us it was early Fleetwood.  The vinyl itself was not ours to have until a month or so later when we picked it up at Joe's Record Paradise in Silver Spring.  Every tune on this two LP set is from "the vintage years" which means what exactly?  The sleeve has no insight on this kind of important info; just a goofy essay from the music producer about the band first getting together.  Having spoken with people in-the-know, we find that the tunes are all late 60s; or in terms of musicians rotating in and out of this band - the years of Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Jeremy Spencer and recorded on the Blue Horizon label.  Apparently these fellows were deeply into Chicago blues and that was the focus of this era of Fleetwood Mac.  Unfortunately, lead man Peter Green got to be a bit mentally unstable and had to depart the band in 1970 which led to the pop dreck and double pop dreck eras.

Best 45/12": The Faint 2012 Tour 12"
Honorable Mentions: Feistodon, Gary Clark Jr. Presents HWUL Raw Cuts Vol. 1, Lenorable The Prince

VV1: What's our best 45 this year?
VV2: Definitely The Faint 12"
VV1: You just got it, how do you know it's that good?
VV2: Well I've listened to it 12 times, one for every inch!

...which is entirely possible because this EP is full of heavy bass, psychedelic guitar flourishes, computer blippity bloops, "bouch bouch bouch," and chanting lyrics that can put you in a trance and find a way to replay itself in your head after just the first listen.  Only tiny drawback is no artwork.  This one looks as raw as possible with only the crudely stamped info on the all white label.  C'mon The Faint!  Hook me up with a glam cover!

Our honorable mention in this category features a mash-up of Feist playing Mastodon and Mastodon covering Feist.  They've done a sharp job of swapping tunes for this little 45er.  An interesting combination of genres along with a eye-popping collage cover.

Best Concert: Puscifer at the Lyric Opera House, Baltimore; Neil Young at the Patriot Center, VA; The Faint at 9:30 Club, D.C.

Three way tie?  Is that a cop out?  Each one was so good in its own way.  Musicians well into their careers, playing with carefree abandon to a sea of appreciative fans.  Good show(s)!

Best Record That's So Good We Bought It Twice:  Fat Boys (click for full review)
Honorable Mention: Queen II (click for full review)

Yes, there are now two copies of Queen II on our shelf.  I bought the duplicate in hopes that it would sound a bit less distorted than the first copy.  While the sounds are quite similar and I may have wasted my money, I have quelled my curiosity.  The record must have been recorded and pressed that way, and it's not that my copy is grungy.  Fingers crossed for a someday fully remastered version!  Not only will it probably sound and look amazing, but it will also fit nicely into next year's "Best Record That's So Good We Bought It Thrice" category.  2013 is the 40th anniversary of the first Queen album release... c'mon guys, do not let the VVers down!

Our clear winner in this category has to be the 2012 re-issue of Record Store Day and while not seeking it out specifically, it was on our mind to buy since our original copy has seen better days.  While at Joe's Record Paradise, I picked up their last copy merely to ogle the utter silliness of it.  As I stood there wavering over buying it (my self-imposed limit to spend on it was $30, and here it was marked for $29.99) in walks a guy who asked the clerk if they still had the copy that he called about earlier in the day.  Both sets of eyes turn to me in tandem.  PANIC - now I definitely should buy it.  IT'S MINE!  I did feel bad for the other customer, but I got my grubby paws on it first.  And that is the story of how the pizza box came to live in our record collection.  Did I mention that it sounds a million times better than our original copy?  Happiness.
the Fat Boys self titled album.  This re-issue is not only beautifully remastered, but is on 180 gram vinyl (who cares how heavy the vinyl is?  what am I trying to do arm reps with it!?!).  It's also a stunning picture disc of a pizza (pepperoni on the A side and crust on the B, mind you), with bonus tracks and a plush book.  This would have sold us; no problem.  Did I mention that it's all packaged up in a pizza box.  Yes, it is quite deluxe and also takes up a deluxe space in our record collection.  This savory little gem came out for Black Friday

Best Record That Was Not Meant to Be: Neil Young Psychedelic Pill
Ok Neil, we love you, but what the heck is with the insanely expensive vinyl?  Your latest (a triple record) is priced at $75 and even priced at a whopping $80 at the concert.  Now I get that this is a heavy record and that you don't skimp on the sound quality, but this is plainly prohibitive to vinyl junkies who happen to not be wealthy.  Please Mr. Young: stop being mean to us.  I take no pride in having a ripped version of this.

Best Gift Vinyl: A Place to Bury Strangers Exploding Head
Honorable Mentions:  Nirvana Nevermind, Orion Rockabilly

Exploding Head wins this one thanks to my brother picking this up for a random holiday present.  It's totally loud and distorted, but all done with a driving musicality.  Pressed on clear vinyl, which obviously matters, it's the kind of record that is so interesting that we'll need some more time to soak it in before the full review comes.

Rockabilly gets an honorable mention only because we would probably never have the cojones to buy it ourselves.  It showed up as a wedding gift which is pretty stellar.  People must know us or something to be buying us vinyl for our wedding! Did I mention the golden translucent yellow vinyl? Ha.

How about Nevermind for crying out loud!?!  Great record that really sums up my musical leanings for most of the last two decades.  The pressing is on blue vinyl and sounds sharp as ever.

Most Painful Gift Vinyl aka "The Levitated Stylus Award": Isaac Hayes And Once Again,
Honorable Mention: Orion Reborn

To accompany the best vinyl gift of the year, my brother also purchased me Isaac Hayes And Once Again because he "liked the cover."  Haven't we learned anything about buying records just because you like the cover?  This also suffers from the extremely dangerous "Naked Man on the Cover" syndrome.  Is there anything to say about this album?  "TURN IT OFF NOW!!!"

Orion Reborn wins the consolation prize.  It's bad in a way that just defies so much.  Funny that this showed up along with one of our better vinyl gifts, Orion's Rockabilly (thanks Dustin!).  Unlike that fun and light hearted album, Reborn sounds like "Schmaltzy Elvis Shit" - you know that 70's barf inducing type.  I've got nothing to say about the party masks and the shiny jumpsuits.  It was the 70's; I'm willing to forgive.  Pressed on golden translucent vinyl; like putting make-up on a pig.  It does help somewhat to listen to it at 45 speed.  Not enough to salvage anything.  Do not lower that stylus!

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