Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 2nd 2011 playlist + On Record Store Day

Shipping News - The March Song (Very Soon, and in Pleasant Company)
Reflektionss - Violence Routine
Ken Seeno - Rare Moon on the Horizon (Open Window CS)
EMA - Marked (Past Life Martyred Saints)
Lab Coast - All Right (Picures on the Wall)
Kestrels - What Happens (The Solipsist EP)
The For Carnation - Preparing to Receive You (Marshmallows)
Unwound - Side Effects of Being Tired + What Went Wrong (Challenge for a Civilized Society)
Low - Dinosaur Act (Things We Lost in the Fire)

      I've begun to amass a bunch of writings that the publications I write for haven't published, so I figured that I might as well post these pieces myself. These will mostly be editorials and reviews. Here's one that I wrote about Record Store Day, as a record store clerk:

     As you sweaty-palmed vinyl fetishists likely know, Record Store Day happened on April 16th. Working as a clerk at an independent record store for the past several years, I’ve noticed a distinct shift in what RSD seems to be about and, fittingly, have had a shifting relationship towards it. Undeniably, the sales from RSD are an utter pleasure to see, with the store I work at breaking an all-time sales record within hours. However, the focus on so-called “exclusive” RSD releases has become quite disputable—if RSD was formed to celebrate the independent record store and the people who support them, I have one major question that, especially after this year’s smattering of exclusive vinyl, begs to be answered:
     What the hell is with all of the nonsensical major releases that are clogging up the racks? I’m not just talking expensive Pearl Jam reissues, Deftones covers LPs, and expensive split singles that have no right to be pressed in 2011 (i.e, Mastodon with ZZ Top), but also the throwaway nature of these tossed-off products—since people go bananas for limited edition records, we’ve seen such pointless and gratuitous releases such as a 78RPM Beach Boys single, an “alternate takes” collection of Flying Lotus tracks from last year and, let’s not forget, the indie-store-only release of a Lady Gaga picture disc! I’d like to say it’s just the store I work at, but as a regular patron of at least four record stores in Calgary for many years, I can assure you: record stores have not stayed afloat this past decade by stocking overpriced Pearl Jam reissues.
     Major label involvement in RSD has been steadily growing, hence the influx of new, low-substance releases. It’s to be expected, and it’s problematic—the worst example was last year’s “second record store day” in November—a.k.a, Black Friday—where Warner Bros. and Co. released a gluttony of “super limited & exclusive” releases that nobody really gave a shit about. I’m happy that customers were smart enough to not grab a forty dollar live Metallica 10”, but I’m also disappointed that such a neat idea is already being perverted by corporate eye—and, y’know, that we’ve got a forty dollar Metallica live record permanently in stock.
     This becomes problematic in that it perpetuates an age-old cycle—that is, interesting releases by indie labels being overshadowed by the almighty dollar, or: mall syndrome and the major music chain! Folks, there’s a reason the chain stores have gone under, and now it’s being repackaged for the public to lap up once again—this time, it’s “exclusive”. The intentions may be good, but the independent record store is a different beast than HMV. The people who have always supported indie shops are smart, selective record buyers—they’re not going to purchase garbage, even if it’s “limited” to a thousand copies.
The pessimist in me looks at the massively inflated prices these exclusives snatch up immediately on eBay, yet the oft-shrouded optimist thinks we may see another release like Thrill Jockey’s Record Storeism, an RSD exclusive that came out two years ago featuring a hand-made zine packed full of interviews with notable indie musicians/store clerks/etc—a release that was fun and truly celebrated the indie stores, as opposed to being a trivial commodity of corporate eBay-bait. But hey, maybe I just miss being able to say “go to the mall” when asked about Pearl Jam. Regardless, Calgary showed some love to its record stores this month and, for that, I thank you.

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