Features

The Problem With Record Store Day

Print When Record Store Day first started I lauded it as a welcome way to get people away from iTunes and back into the record store. But every year since its inception I’ve grown more and more sour over the event. In 2011 when I posted some tracks from my RSD haul on my other blog Lost Turntable and got called out for it by one of the events founders, I used that chance to comment on what I thought were growing problems with the event. In 2012, I dedicated a whole blog post to the bullshit surrounding RSD (and other ways bands screw over fans) My problem with RSD is the same now that it was then: it’s no longer about music. More importantly, it’s no longer about record stores! It’s about making a quick buck, and it’s not even about making a quick buck by selling overpriced records to fans. It’s about making a quick buck to sell records to speculators, eBayers who will turn around and sell their finds at an even higher inflated price to turn a profit at the cost of some poor fan who loves a band so much that they have to own everything they put out no matter what the cost. Continue reading

PonoMusic Is Bullshit

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As I write this, the Kickstarter for the Neil Young backed Pono music player is nearing completion, with the campaign raising close to 6 million dollars, well over their original goal of $800.000.

And that’s too bad. Because the Pono music player is a bunch of bullshit, a rip-off of mammoth proportions that is taking advantage of pretentious “audiophiles” with more dollars than sense, and naive tech geeks who believe everything the Internet tells them.  Continue reading

Tokyo Toy Stores: Godzilla-Ya and 2000 Toys

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Alf. Alf knows where’s all the rad shit in Tokyo is.

As a six-and-a-half foot tall giant white man living in Tokyo, Godzilla isn’t just a hero of mine, he’s a role model.

So when I found out about Godzilla-Ya, a toy store in the neighborhood of Koenji that specializes in retro Godzilla goods, I knew I had to make the trip – and it was totally worth it. Continue reading

Collection Recollection: Movie Soundtracks

I’ll be heading off to Japan in a few months, and unfortunately my records won’t be coming with me. It’s probably for the best though, I don’t know where I’d store 3,000+ records in a tiny Tokyo apartment. But before I shovel them away to a storage locker, I want to take some time to write about the records that mean the most to me. Today I’ll be taking a look at my collection of movie soundtracks.

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I think I started collecting movie soundtracks even before I considered myself a “record collector.”

Makes sense, I was definitely a film geek well before I was anything close to a music geek. That probably has something to do with the fact that I literally grew up in a video store. My dad opened an independent video store in 1984 when I was just three years old. I spent a good chunk of my life there until he sold it to Blockbuster in the late-90s, which, when you look back on it, was a pretty amazing bit of timing on his part since the whole video store business collapsed not soon after.

There were some weeks where I literally watched a movie everyday. When I was little, it was often the same movie five times in a row (I can still recite most of Ghostbusters by memory), but as I grew older I would often use my limitless access to a seemingly endless supply of VHS tapes to catch up on as many genres, series and directors as humanly possible. I remember falling in love with 50s monster flicks after seeing Them; watching as many Ridley Scott films as possible after catching Alien for the first time in junior high; and mainlining as many anime series I could get my hands on after my dad started carrying it in the mid-90s.

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My Trip To The Musee Mechanique

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When I took my trip to San Francisco last month to guest on Retronauts (and see some friends), I knew I had to make a stop at Musee Mechanique, an arcade located down at the Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Musee Mechanique is not your typical arcade, instead of focusing on what’s new and hot (fighting games and crane machines, sadly), it’s more of a museum where vintage, hard-to-find and historically important arcade games are put on display for visitors to view and play, some of which are probably over 100 years old. It’s a one-of-a-kind place, with plenty of items that you’ll probably never see elsewhere.

With over 300 machines and games in the massive warehouse space, I couldn’t interact and document them all, but I thought I’d share with you some of the more memorable and interesting items I ran across. I apologize for the mediocre picture quality on some of these pics, I only had my iPhone camera with me the day I went.

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Undeveloped Disposable Camera Photos From Super Bowl XXXVII

In 2003, my brother, my father and I went to San Diego to watch our favorite team, the Oakland Raiders, take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

If you know anything about football, you know that we didn’t have a very good trip. The Raiders were pummeled 21-48, in what is widely considered to be one of the most lopsided and boring Super Bowls of all time. It was a disaster. A complete and total disaster. It was such a disaster that I never even bothered to develop the disposable camera I took to the game, instead throwing in a closet next a stack of comic books and my old Star Wars action figures.

And I completely forgot about that camera, until I discovered it this past week when I was cleaning out my closet, as I am moving to Japan next year. I noticed the expiration date for the camera was sometime in 2003 or 2004, but I figured I’d take it to Rite-Aid anyways and see what developed (literally).

The results are…well, they’re interesting. Far more interesting than the game itself, that’s for sure. Film sure goes funky if you don’t develop it before it expires.

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Collection Recollections: Pet Shop Boys Singles

I’ll be heading off to Japan in a few months, and unfortunately my records won’t be coming with me. It’s probably for the best though, I don’t know where I’d store 3,000+ records in a tiny Tokyo apartment. But before I shovel them away to a storage locker, I want to take some time to write about the records that mean the most to me. Up first, my Pet Shop Boys singles collection.

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When I tell people that I own over 40 Pet Shop Boys singles on vinyl, I always know they’re thinking something, but are too nervous to just come out and say it.

But the answer is yes, I really do love synthpop that much! (What did you think I was talking about?)

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Behind “Behind The Mask”

Last month I made a trip to San Francisco to see some friends and take in the sights. Whenever I’m in the bay area I always make sure to stop by Amoeba, one of the world’s largest and greatest record stores, and buy as much as my suitcase allows (spoiler: I had to buy another suitcase). During this past visit, I scored some CDs and LPs by Ryuichi Sakamoto, the keyboardist of the legendary Japanese synth-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and an accomplished solo artist whose work runs the gamut from silly pop music to Oscar-winning film scores.

One of his CDs that I picked up was Media Bahn Live, a concert album that chronicles his 1986 tour. One of the main reasons I bought it was because it features a live version of “Behind The Mask,” one of my favorite YMO tracks, and a song I first discovered on the American YMO compilation album X∞Multiplies. Here’s a live version by the group from 1983

In my opinion it’s a synthpop classic. It has everything I look for in the genre; a catchy melody, a dance-friendly beat, and deep, if somewhat obtuse, lyrics that convey a cold and robotic feeling.

So imagine my surprise when I popped Media Bahn Live into my computer and heard this version:

The melody remained (kind of) but nearly every other aspect of the song had been radically altered. This was no longer a synthpop track, this was a pop song, a funky, rock-influenced pop song at that.

And those new lyrics!? What the hell are they and where the hell did they come from?

Curious, I checked the CD linear notes to see if any other songwriters got a hold of the song or contributed to it.

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Wait, what?

As it turns out,  “Behind The Mask” has a pretty crazy history.

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Hesitation Marks: A Tale of Two Masters – Part 1

Last week, word came via Nine Inch Nails’ official Tumblr that they would be offering two different masters of their latest album Hesitation Marks: a “loud” master and an “audiophile” master. The “loud” master would be the one found on iTunes, Amazon and on the CD itself, while the “audiophile” master would only be made available as a download to those who bought the album via the official Nine Inch Nails website.

Why? Well, as the album’s engineer Tom Baker explained via the official announcement, “The standard version is “loud” and more aggressive and has more of a bite or edge to the sound with a tighter low end. The Audiophile Mastered Version highlights the mixes as they are without compromising the dynamics and low end, and not being concerned about how “loud” the album would be. The goal was to simply allow the mixes to retain the spatial relationship between instruments and the robust, grandiose sound.”

So what it sounded like was that this idea was basically Trent’s way to try and have is over-compressed album and eat his dynamic range cake too; offer a “competitive” loud mix for mass consumption while delivering a properly mastered mix with full dynamic range to those who care.

Sounds great, right?

Well, it would have been, if it wasn’t a damned lie.

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Out Of Print Soundtracks We Need Back In Print

As a music geek with a film studies degree, I really like soundtracks.

But collecting soundtracks can be an incredibly expensive, and frustrating hobby, because they often go out of print just as soon as they’re released.

That’s because most soundtracks and scores are usually seen by movie studios as little more than promotional tie-ins to the films they’re associated with, not proper albums worthy of their own promotion or self life. Sure, there are some very notable exceptions to this, soundtracks to movies like The Crow, Saturday Night Fever and Flashdance will always stay in print, but that’s widely because the success of those albums and others like them often eclipsed (or, in some cases, caused) whatever the success the movies themselves had.

But for the most part, once a movie makes it to home video, the soundtrack or score is pulled from shelves and is almost never heard from again. The only chance collector’s like me have of snagging them then is on eBay or via a chance encounter at a used records store.

Of course, sometimes a re-issue label like Intrada, La La Land Records or Death Waltz Recordings get their hands on it and make it available once more. But even with those labels doing their best, a lot of amazing soundtracks continue to be unavailable, or they do get re-released, but only in super-limited runs that go out of print just as fast as the original versions. It’s a shame, and it shouldn’t be this way, especially in the age of digital distribution.

As much as I abhor “list” type articles, I really wanted to showcase how bad this problem is, and I couldn’t think of any other way to do it. So here, in no certain order at all, are my most wanted out-of-print soundtracks. Prepare to be shocked, both at what soundtracks continue to be out of print, and in my taste in bad 80s flicks.

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