The Drinker's Guide to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks

Categories: Nostalgia, Vinyl

Into the slipstream...

Van Morrison's 1968 solo debut, Astral Weeks, is an unconquerable achievement. Conceived when the then-23-year-old was in the pitch of heavy drinking, the album stands as a wandering, mystical cycle of energy.

True to the stereotypes, Morrison drank heavily in his early life, once claiming that the link between his nationality and dependency was symbiotic. "You're Irish, number one," he said, "and you're a drinker, number two."

As St. Patrick's Day arrives in a tide of green beer and regurgitated corned beef, Astral Weeks calls to be revisited but with some reverence -- to both Celticism and the drink.

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FindFurnish and Let It Be Records Start New Vinyl Store

Categories: Vinyl

Photo courtesy of FindFurnish
Now there's better stuff in the bins, which they are particularly proud of.

Already a destination for vintage furniture, housewares, clothing, and a few bins of records, northeast Minneapolis's FindFurnish is going all in as a vinyl retailer. Starting on Friday, March 13, a whole room of the store will become It Records.

FindFurnish co-owner Erik Wivinus -- a prolific musician and DJ who organizes the Heliotrope Festival -- will curate the It Records stacks with new psych-rock, international rarities, and local releases, and the used section will span post-punk, jazz, soul, and '80s reissues.

The store's name is a nod to the legacy of Let It Be Records, who are providing "considerable inventory and inspiration" to the new music outpost.

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Which Twin Cities Record Stores Have Taylor Swift?

Categories: Vinyl
Big Machine Label Group
How hard is it to find this record in the Twin Cities?

Taylor Swift has been known to do a little record shopping, but can she expect to find copies of her own records -- all of which have been pressed on vinyl -- at independent shops?

Swift's 1989 was the only album released in 2014 to go platinum, but she didn't crack the top 20 in vinyl sales. Does that mean record collectors aren't interested in analog T. Swift? Potentially. When I realized I couldn't live without a copy of 1989, an album serendipitously named for the year vinyl died, I decided to visit several Twin Cities record stores to check inventory.

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Remembering Leonard Nimoy and His Odd Musical Debut, Music From Outer Space

Categories: Vinyl
Photo by Jerard Fagerberg
Leonard Nimoy's memorial is set in vinyl

Leonard Nimoy was a space oddity.

On Friday, the Boston-born character actor most famous for portraying Mr. Spock on Star Trek passed away at the age of 83, leaving a broad and diverse fanbase to grieve him.

Nimoy and Spock are so closely related that they're often conflated into a singular individual -- the striaghtforward-yet-lethal Vulcan who hails logic above all -- but Nimoy was in fact a heartfelt and accomplished man of emotion. He was an active poet, and he released six albums over the course of his life, one of which was aptly titled The Way I Feel.

The first of his recorded ventures was Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space, a 1967 venture from Dot Records that finds Nimoy evoking his pointy-eared alter ego in a goofy and absurdist jaunt from the stars.

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Why CDs May Actually Sound Better Than Vinyl

Categories: Vinyl

James Russell's mother told him that his first invention was the "automated battleship" he built when he was 6. By the time he was 13, he was fixing toasters, irons and fans at a local appliance store in his hometown outside Seattle. The summer before he left for college, he was hired to set up a radio station -- transmitter and all -- something he'd never done before. He'd never even seen an antenna that big.

"That's why I am an inventor," says Russell, now 83. "I can envision how it should be."

At Portland's Reed College, Russell studied physics and built his first turntable. Unsatisfied with the standard needles of the day, he used cactus needles, which he sharpened with sandpaper, to play the first LP he purchased: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Even so, with his sharp ears, he could hear the quality of his LPs disintegrate after the 10th or 12th spin.

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Why Vinyl Subscription Services Are the Laziest Thing Ever

Categories: Vinyl
flickr/Alexandre Normand
Don't make listening to music any harder than it already is.
Love listening to music, but hate all the time and effort it takes to pick out something you like? Good news! There's a burgeoning industry of vinyl subscription services, what they like to call "Netflix for record lovers," making the rounds.

The formerly arduous process of developing personal music taste -- going to record stores, skimming Pitchfork reviews, consulting with friends, attending shows, etc. -- now has been simplified in a way even Pandora can't compete with. And it's analog, baby.

See also:
10 reasons Urban Outfitters is bad for music

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George Jones's debut album reissued by Secret Stash Records' new imprint, Reserve Records

Categories: Vinyl

Secret Stash Records has emerged as a leading crate-digging boutique label during the past few years, and now the Minneapolis-based group of music lovers is expanding. While many of their releases have grasped a funky side of underrepresented sounds, the team's musical interests go far beyond just the stuff found on City Pages' Best Local Music Compilation of 2013, Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979.

Hence, welcome to Reserve Records, Secret Stash's new imprint. And the announcement comes with Reserve's first release, departed country legend George Jones's 1957 debut album, Grand Ole Opry's New Star. He may sing "You can't keep a finger in two different pies" on the foot-tapping "You Gotta Be My Baby," but this new avenue makes right sense for Secret Stash.

See Also: RIP George Jones, country legend (1931-2013)

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Electric Fetus unveils 2013 Garage Sale & Fall Festival lineup

Photo by Erik Hess

The State Fair's over, school's back in session, and the Electric Fetus is doing one last clear-out before we fully settle into fall. The weekend of September 14-15 marks the record store's sixth annual Garage Sale and the second time they've added a Fall Festival component.

In addition to a load of discounts on all merchandise in the retailer's Minneapolis location, five acts -- including the Cloak Ox's Andrew Broder and Jeremy Ylvisaker -- will entertain.

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Whole Foods now selling vinyl at select stores

Categories: Vinyl

Courtesy of Whole Foods
As Minneapolis prepares for a downtown Whole Foods opening in September, we look to its stores on the West Coast, which are in the midst of a strange transition to vinyl retailers. This story originally appeared on LA Weekly's music blog, West Coast Sound.

"Pile on that kale salad," sings Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes from the Whole Foods parking lot. The ad-libbed riff on his song "It's a Little Bit of Everything" draws a mannered whoop from the weekend afternoon crowd, who have come to politely welcome Whole Foods into the music curation business.

Indeed, over the weekend the grocery store chain debuted vinyl-heavy music dispensaries in five of its 340 stores, including one in West Hollywood. The event is swarmed. Valets scurry to park cars while those in attendance slurp oysters and crunch gluten-free pita chips. Two Mercedes get into a honking match and the sound-guy shouts: "Shit just got real in the Whole Foods parking lot." Soon, many in attendance go inside and dutifully buy Arcade Fire records. Such is the state of the industry in 2013, where folks are increasingly less likely to buy music at an actual music store.

See Also:
I buy more music than Emily White, and you should too
In defense of the container: A response to Emily White

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Urban Lights celebrates 20 years of record store madness in St. Paul

Photo by Lars Larson
If these walls could talk. Urban Lights is one of the longest-running -- and underrated -- music shops in the Twin Cities, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this Saturday at Nomad World Pub. That's a pretty big deal; anything lasting 20 years in these ADHD days is nothing short of a miracle, especially in the record-selling business. 

So how did a small record shop in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul last 20 years in one of the most fickle and shady of industries? Good stories and good people.

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