The year was an interesting one, to say the least. It saw me relocating to a more permanent place of dwelling — my futon surfing days are over. It also saw me finding new interests in the music field, including a re-ignition for my passion for vinyl.
The big news of the year for me was transitioning back into buying vinyl records after about a decade of not buying any vinyl at all. For a long while in the late 1990’s, there were a few musicians whose music I only bought on vinyl — groups such as Atari Teenage Riot and the Wu Tang Clan. Fast forward to the last few years, when I have been moving about between Seattle, New York, and other places near and far. It was extremely impractical to travel with CDs, let alone 12″ vinyl records that weighed anywhere from one to two pounds each depending on liner notes and how many pieces of vinyl there were. I therefore left all the records and most of my CDs at my mother’s home in Princeton and stuck to digital music storage.
The turning point came not too long after I moved to my co-op apartment in Kew Gardens. Since I knew this was where I was going to be staying for a good long time — I own shares in the apartment, not rent it — I started transferring my things from my mother’s home. This was when I discovered that some of my old vinyl had been inadvertently sold for considerably less than what it was worth. There was no point in getting angry, even when I found out that just one of the records was out of print and now worth ten times what I paid for it. Interestingly enough, in my workplace something interesting was happening at the same time. One of my colleagues started ordering vinyl records again. Somehow this got a lot of us in the office ordering records.
The most frequently asked question that I get is whether or not I own a turntable and the truth is that right now I do not own one. I’m not even sure that I ever will own one unless it is one of those models that plays records with a laser instead of a needle and therefore does not have any impact on the long term playability of the record. What is the point of owning a record if I’m never going to play it? Simply put, most music that I have purchased on CD is handled exactly once before being put away and never touched again. I import the music into iTunes and never look at the physical CD again. This is because it is so small and unimpressive. Where will you find a single of Debbie Harry’s “Call Me” that looks as magnificent as some of these vinyl releases?
As for what music really hit me this year, I have three significant offerings out of many. I am going to long remember this year as the year that I got into The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice. The music of both artists was introduced to me by one of my coworkers — indeed, the very same coworker that got us all ordering vinyl again. With the Mountain Goats, it started off as a challenge to myself — could I listen to the entire discography? Considering that the entire discography that was loaned to me consisted of nearly eight hundred songs with an average of three to four minutes each, it was not going to be easy. I dove right into it, listening to nothing but The Mountain Goats every single day on my way to work and on my way back. I started with the recordings that John Darnielle made on his inexpensive recording device and finished with a live recording from this year. At one point I was even hearing the music when I wasn’t listening to it. It all ended up turning me into a fan, and this fan had a tremendous time seeing them live here in New York two weeks ago.
John Vanderslice has a smaller discography but excellent music as well — along with a good relationship with John Darnielle. The two musicians have even played together and collaborated, releasing an album about organ harvesting on the moon called Moon Colony Bloodbath. Here are a few things I admire about John Vanderslice. I love the fact that he has some very down to earth lyrics that, truthfully, can be just a little depressing sometimes. I loaned an album to a friend of mine who texted me the following morning to say that John Vanderslice was music by which a person could kill themselves. I also really admire the fact that John has his own recording studio in San Francisco whereby he not only has a space to professionally record music but he has a source of income the rest of the time leaving him the luxury of focusing on writing and performing music instead of having to eek out a living through some 9-5 sort of job. Finally, of course, I respect that John puts out his music on vinyl as well as CD as the format is just beautiful.
I was really impressed by the new album by The Flaming Lips titled Embryonic. The last couple of albums have had a very polished studio sound to them and this one completely turned that idea on its head by having a raw, garage feel to it. Track after track, nothing but the superb power of the instruments and the passion in Wayne Coyne’s vocals. The band promised a super deluxe release for the vinyl treatment in the “winter” but as of this writing there is nothing mentioned on their web site. Should it turn up, of course, I will aim to get it.
This was an interesting year for films in that I didn’t venture out to the theater as often, trying to cut down on how much I spent at the cinema. There were two films that particularly stood out in my head and they were the new Harry Potter film and New York, I love You. I’m not sure what I can say about the Harry Potter film that hasn’t been said before. It’s true that they cut out a lot of material from the book in making the film. When I go to see a film that is based on a book, I try to completely put the book out of my mind and think of it in terms of it being its own piece of art, so to speak. Therefore, I am rarely disappointed and never bellyache for hours about which particular detail was cut out of the film.
New York, I Love You was inspired by the film Paris, Je T’aime and followed the same notion — short stories that all took place in the same city. They were all beautifully wonderful stories, ranging from an old couple walking in Coney Island to what is basically an age old joke with a slight twist at the end. In the end, interestingly enough, I would have to admit that I actually liked the original film better. Nevertheless, it was still one of the better films of the year.
There were very few television shows that I actually watched regularly this year until I moved into my apartment, so this could be the most brief entry yet in the Favorites article series. I really enjoyed Heroes, though it did tend to drag on in certain places. I immensely enjoyed the new comedy Better off Ted in ways that went beyond it having an amusing play on words title. I missed the majority of Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, and the new version of 90210 but thusfar since the new season began I have been able to watch all of them. Thanks, Time Warner DVR. Well, thanks except for when you choose not to record shows that I have specifically programmed it to do.
Though 2009 was a strong year for music for me, it was rather weak as far as film and television went. That’s okay, though. Now that I have a solid base of operation, so to speak, 2010 is going to be spectacular. I may even read a few books from the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list.