April 30, 2012

Hey you.

It’s been a minute.

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started ze blog, and I’m not here to make excuses. I’m here to tell a story.

Two Fridays ago my life went from daily routine, work as usual, don’t mind me to what? I have to take a week off of work for medical testing? And surgery? What just happened here? The days prior to said surgery were busy, hustling from appointment to appointment within the same square block of medical buildings. In each waiting room, I was mentally constructing a post-op to-do list (because I am forever doing, and things like ‘surgery’ don’t register “serious” so much as inconvenient). By the time Thursday rolled around, I had a legal pad page full of to-dos once I got home from what was supposed to be an early morning day-surgery lasting a mere few hours.

But then we spent the entire day at the hospital, and I wasn’t released until almost midnight. And my father helped me to bed like a fragile two year old that completely lacked motor skills (a strange experience, indeed).

Before I go any further, let me just say that the surgery itself was not a serious one, so there’s no cause for panic or concern. It was outpatient (though I hadn’t bargained on spending the entire day there) and things are fine. Just sore and tired and uncomfortable and if you’ve ever been under the knife you know what I mean.

But enough about that.

Friday I woke up, my usual energy replaced with this painstakingly slow-motion version of myself who could barely make it downstairs to the couch, balancing a pile of pillows. My mammoth to-do list lying on the coffee table upstairs in my room, a vague memory.
For awhile, that was fine. I was awake most of the day, ate a little, napped a bit. Moving was painful, yes, but not required so I couldn’t complain. The doer in me nagged quietly in some dark corner of my brain that still hadn’t recovered from the anesthesia. I had my laptop, I lounged. I breathed. It was enough. Sort of. 

As my father helped me back up the stairs Friday night, I remembered my list and how I’d blatantly spent a day “doing” nothing. I’ll worry about it in the morning, I thought, unconcerned. I’m allowed a day off, I’m giving myself grace. My body is undergoing a major healing process. Grace, I thought. Yes, grace. Tomorrow I’ll get going. There’s plenty can be done from a reclined position on the couch. Plenty. Tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and things did get done. I hobbled around doing chores, baking, pushing myself further than I should have. Making sure things around the house were running smoothly in typical Saturday fashion. But the list went untouched, and the Slow Down banner on my wall unheeded.  I reassured myself that this was still grace, that I was giving myself some physically demanded time off…right? The doer nagged, louder now, from a less cobwebby place in my cranium. Grace, I retorted. There’s time enough tomorrow.

By day three the doer was agitated. Why are you not reading? Why are you not watching? Why are you not making? Writing? Planning ahead? The doer was much louder now, infiltrating my every thought, stress and negativity bearing down as the hours passed. And I realized...giving myself grace had become an excuse for laziness. There’s been a lot of “JESSICA YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE UP. LAY DOWN/STOP MOVING!”  but you have to understand, I’m one of those people that has trouble stomaching a “wasted” day (or realizing that there is no such thing as wasted time- it's all a matter of perspective), laying around, or feeling unproductive. Maybe this means I’ve yet to truly embrace the beauty of slowing down, being patient, giving myself grace, indulging in small moments of self-care. That was my mission statement when I started this blog, to learn and grow and cultivate those things. But I don’t come by those things easily, and my post-op List of Things To Do That Don’t Require Much Movement is just one example of that. In the face of monumental change, uncomfortable news, fear, doubt, insecurity…I create. The fact that it is day four since the operation (a
routine-breaking but overall minimal procedure) and I’ve yet to do something personally worthwhile? Well, that’s a problem.

One that I went to bed with last night, and woke up refreshed this morning to do something about. The healing process isn’t just a physical one delegated by time. In this case, sure, it may be a vital component, but for the doer in me with a desire to create, always create, making is part of that process. No, I cannot go around town taking photos or throw together a fancy DIY or work on a dress that needs to be sewn up (or go to the Say Anything show last Friday, which I was really upset about). I can’t even drive just yet. But I CAN write, I CAN brainstorm, I can sketch, I can plan, paint, crochet, work on my art journal, read, watch a movie, have a meaningful conversation, be inspired, and love with my whole heart, and enjoy this time of rest, propped up on my little corner of the couch.

I’m sharing this with you because when I can’t hold myself accountable, putting these words on public display does the trick. Yes, my body is recovering, but my mind and soul need more creative therapy and less excuses. I’m not attempting a marathon here. I’m not going to overly stress my body; I’m (acutely) aware of my current physical limitations. But today is for creating, and that’s my focus for the rest of this recovery process.  

What gets you through a difficult time? Do you create, find security in community with others, go back to a favorite book or photo album? What keeps you inspired in a dry spell? I'd love to hear your thoughts! I’ve missed you lovelies, and I hope you’re having a beautiful Monday!

PS tomorrow is May?! Slow your roll, 2012!

April 26, 2012


Problems with resolutions. Stress. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Fear. Pain. Tears. Knowledge. Diagnosis. The steady hands and expertise of medical professionals. The love and support of family and friends. 

These are the things I'm thankful for this week, and this week especially.

April 25, 2012

In Review.

I know, I know. You're tired of hearing about it. But lemme just say one thing...RECORD STORE DAY 2012 WAS AMAZING! Started the day off by jamming some vinyl while catching up on things around the house, and then after lunch, we headed to Cactus Records! 

It was overwhelming, to say the least. 

I'd never been to this particular store (a record store in my city I haven't been to? What?) but I completely fell in like. Not in love like I was with Sundance (it really lacked that 'authentic/vintagey' feel, don't know how else to describe it) BUT it was still comfy, nonetheless. Their selection of new vinyl was huge but fairly disappointing (either the stuff I listen to sold out before I got there or they just cater to a different crowd)...and I felt the same way about their used LPs :( Which made me really frustrated and sad (especially since prices were surprisingly decent for the most part, save, you know, anything by the Beatles...or any other iconic band whose albums I’d kill to own, but that's to be expected); so much so that at one point I was just about ready to call it quits (which indicates the severity of the situation…I don’t just leave record stores. I will spend no less than 3.5 hrs foraging through bin after bin after bin. Obsessed). I’m looking around at all these people with stacks of records in their hands, thinking, "WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?!" 

There was a bright spot in my momentary RSD crisis, though. A guy flipping through the bin next to me recognized my Showbread tattoo (on my left foot) and that was pretty cool. He is now officially one of two people who have ever recognized said tattoo on sight, versus asking if I hate music/am anti-eighth notes. It was nice to find a fellow fan of what could very well be one of my favorite bands of all time. So thank you, guy in the navy deep-v with Zeppelin album in hand. Thank you.

It was around that time that The Boyfriend came to snap me out of my defeated, mindless wandering. He grabbed my wrist and we raced across the store, each aisle congested with music lovers of all ages. And then, at the far end of the store, in a dark corner in a quiet aisle, were boxes and boxes of $1 vinyl lined up on the floor along the wall.

There it was, my golden Record Store Day mecca.

My excitement was renewed with every box I went through (there were at least twelve, realtalk)…cardboard boxes of Half Price Books-stock vinyl (my local one stocks a pretty good selection, but the prices are a bit steep), MY kind of vinyl, for cheap! My foraging produced the likes of Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Rod Steward, Dean Martin, Loggins & Messina, Smothers Brothers, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Styx; the list went on. There were even duplicates of albums I’d seen with the vintage LPs that didn’t make the cut because of a little sleeve wear and tear. Or they didn’t want to stock five copies of the same Jackson Browne album for $7, whatever. At one point an older gentleman happened down the aisle and, seeing the massive stack of LPs by my bag on the floor, asked us (with some amazement) if we had players to listen to all of this. He couldn’t believe that “kids our age” were this enthusiastic about an older music medium.

Um, kneeled over a box of records is where I want to live, sometimes.

Now I’m just being dramatic (but seriously). I DID end up shelling out some extra cash for one of the special limited-edition RSD-only releases: London Calling on 45 by the Clash…not my favorite song by them (all the Laura Marling, Ellie Goulding, and Mae albums were sold out) BUT I love the Clash like a no one else and have yet to own ANY of their stuff on vinyl, so I figured it was a great way to kick off my future collection (all of which I’ll have to buy online, apparently [sad day]).

Ok. I can ramble for ages about this stuff, but here’s how my RSD haul ultimately panned out (dollar bin guyz):
Streetlife Serenade- Billy Joel
Songs in the Attic- Billy Joel (I'm trying to complete my collection. Love him)
The Grand Illusion- Styx (this is my FAVORITE album by them, and I couldn’t remember if I already owned it or not)
For Everyman- Jackson Browne
Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (HAD to)
Love on the Wing- Jesse Colin Young (no idea who this is but I want to frame the album art for my room, and who knows? The album could be awesome)
UK Limited Edition London Calling 7”- the Clash

The Boyfriend scored a brand new copy of Plastic Beach on vinyl…SO LEGIT. We listened to it later and the quality was phenomenal. Pretty sure it’s better than any other form of the album I’ve heard.
We ended the day watching Empire Records, what else?! Overall, RSD 2012 was a great success. I’ve made a list of small record stores in the far reaches of Houston that I haven’t yet visited (I haven’t lived here in two years, people) and hope to check them out over the course of 2012. When you walk into a shop like that, you never know what you’re going to find. And that’s the beauty of the hunt, I think.

How was your weekend? Did you celebrate Record Store Day? Any of you lovely people score some RSD limited-release stuff? 

April 21, 2012

Happy Record Store Day + a very special guest post!

It's not official unless you're celebrating with cookie cake (I was "channeling" the White Album, can't you tell? Haha) 
Today's the day! I hope you're headed out to your favorite independent record store (or five, if you're that lucky) to enjoy some good music, limited-release RSD goodies, or just browse the crates and show your support! You'll find me in rock-n-roll heaven at Cactus Records in Houston, so if you're in the area, swing by and say hi! How will YOU be celebrating RSD today? If you take pictures please share! For a list of participating stores in your area, click here.

We're concluding this countdown series with a post by the most musically-passionate person I know: my uncle George.  A VERY special thanks to him for writing this on such short notice, but I'm very glad he did, because his story is a great one. Enjoy, and happy Record Store Day everyone!
"Damn the man! Save the Empire!" -Mark, Empire Records (Image via Etsy)
When asked by my eclectic niece if I was interested in guest posting on her blog, my first reaction was to inventory my upcoming schedule and see if I had the time. When she told me that it was for Record Store Day and it concerned music and the effects on my life, let’s just say my schedule opened up. I immediately started thinking back, trying to remember the first songs that I had listened to which started me on the amazing journey of my love of music.

My first recollection was 1971 at the ripe old age of 10 years old. My family had just moved to Houston from L.A. after an earthquake that had scared the crap out of our entire family caused us to go East to get out of the Old West. I met my first friend in the Lone Star State and his name was Reed. Reed had an older sister that was a "hippie" of sorts (just because she was older than us and listened to cool music—the music that our parents didn’t particularly like/like us listening to). I remember Reed and I listening to his sister’s 45's and two records in particular really got a hold on me; Around the Bend by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Indian Nation by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Reed and I would spend hours playing records and pretending to be the artists. Little did we know that we were pioneering the art of "air guitaring".
During the next few years, I recall getting an AM radio and repeatedly wearing out the batteries while falling in love with rock-n-roll music thanks to Rare Earth, Three Dog Night, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Grand Funk Railroad, and of course, The Beatles. By the time I started junior high school, I knew that music was going to be a part of my life so I asked my folks if I could take band as my elective. Being recent transplants and all, my family was a little short on money so the answer was "Sorry son, but we cannot afford an instrument for you so you will have to take Spanish instead". There has to be a way to get into band, I thought so on the first day of school I talked to the band director about my dilemma and, unbeknownst to my parents, switched my elective from Spanish (which I already knew how to speak) to band and the public school system was gracious enough to supply me with a tuba. The tuba was the only instrument that weighed as much as I did and although it wasn’t as cool as a trumpet or trombone, it took me from a person who loved to listen to music to one who loved to play music. It didn’t take my parents long to realize that me and music were not to be messed with.

Fast forward to my freshman year of high school. While I still played in the school band, there was this lingering "non-coolness" of playing the tuba so I decided to take it to the next level: the electric bass guitar. Thanks to my tuba-playing compadre Fred Simmank, who turned me on to The Who's Quadrophenia album and the amazing bass playing of John Entwistle, there was no turning back. My dad bought me my first bass; it was a copy of Paul McCartney's violin-shaped bass made by Hoffner except that mine was made by Apollo. The only time that I wasn’t playing it was if I was at school, eating, or sleeping. I would put on my quadrophonic head phones (because we humans have four ears?) and practiced and jammed to Bad Company, Pink Floyd, Ted Nugent, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and of course Peter Frampton. When the Frampton Comes Alive album came out, that was IT for me. I was going to be a musician. People magazine did a cover story on him and when I found out he and I were the exact same height and weight, that was a sign that it was going to happen for me. Ah, the unadulterated dreams of youth.
Red & my uncle George
My sophomore year was the year that all of the practicing started to pay off for me. I bought a Fender Music Master bass from my friend Laura's older brother (Laura would play another important role in my formative years, ironically enough) and I owned my very own Peavy 100-watt head with an Allen (local Houstonian cabinet builder) 2x15" cabinet but more importantly, that is when I met Kevin "Red" McKinney in drafting class. Red turned out to be one of my greatest friends and we still hang out to this day; he is a well-known drummer of the Houston music scene. Although Red and I would be in our first real band together my senior year, my first taste of performing live was at the Skate Ranch with another one of my great friends, Charlie Sharpless, on guitar. The name of our band was Ocean Head and we didn’t have a singer but we rocked out nonetheless and even got paid $20 a person.

Red and I hit it off right off the bat. We would design and draw our stage setup in drafting class, complete with theatrics and lighting that would rival Kiss' stage show. He also would end up being part of two important events that fueled the flames for me even more: my first rock concert and my first jam with people instead of headphones.

As far as first concerts are concerned, my first one was of epic proportions: Thin Lizzy opening up for Queen at the Sam Houston Coliseum in 1976. Red and I had to buy an extra ticket for a friend named Laura (remember her?) because she had a car (Ford Pinto-notorious for catching fire if rear ended) and we needed a ride to the show. I will never forget the experience; incredible lighting and sound that you could feel in your bones. Phil Lynott blew me away with his singing and playing at the same time. Then Freddie Mercury, with his one-of-a-kind voice and showmanship. It was the most amazing thing that I had ever experienced in my life. I remember Red and I going to my house after the show and cracking up to Monty Python’s Flying Circus while quenching our "munchies", all the while trying not to wake my parents.
Olias (that's my uncle on the left)
Not long after my first concert came my first jam with real people. Again it was Red that presented the opportunity. We went to his friend Kerry's house to jam. Kerry was some years older than us and had a good job as a draftsman with an engineering firm so he had a ton of musical gear in his jam room. Red had borrowed a set of drums from our friend Mark Ballard and we played Led Zeppelin's famous Dazed and Confused and Communication Breakdown for hours on end. Music has the power of connecting us spiritually and there is nothing like that connection you share when playing music with other musicians.
The aforementioned first real band was named Olias, which was a cover band (we got the name from a Jon Andersen solo album). The reason that I refer to it as "the first real band " is because we had singers and four 45-minute sets. The band consisted of me on bass, Red on drums, Duffy and Keith on guitar, and Mario our lead singer. Mario was a great front man although he didn’t have the greatest voice, and he had a mechanical arm as he had lost his left arm right above the elbow in a car wreck. Olias played every weekend for about 6 months at Patty Lynn’s Lounge which was a local hang out for rockers at the time. We played a cool mix of tunes that included Tom Petty, ZZ Top, The Cars, Allman Brothers, Jerry Jeff Walker, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bob Seger. Patty Lynn’s also exposed me to sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.

Sex: me making out with my girlfriend Chris and occasionally getting to second base. Drugs: me sneaking a few swigs of beer from my bandmates because even though the drinking age was 18 at the time, I was only 17 and still in high school. Rock-n-roll: see Olias above.
Eqquis live
By this time I had decided that I wanted to be a musician and playing in a cover band was cool and all but a true artist must express himself in a unique way. At the same time I noticed a change in the music that I was getting into—progressive rock. Donning my headphones again I was mesmerized by songs that took up a whole album side (15 to 18 minutes) by artists like Yes, Genesis, Brand X, and Bill Buford's solo stuff. Charlie and I got together again with friends George, Stewart, and Jeff to form the all-original band Eqquis. We got the name from a disturbing British film of the same name starring Richard Burton (I thought that the letters looked cool together).In this band I learned how to apply the things that I had learned in all those years of school band- dynamics, arrangements, emotion, and color. Eqquis eventually morphed into Peristyle and slimmed down to George on guitar, Stewart on keys, Jeff on drums, and me on bass. Peristyle was the band that finally "made it", complete with a record deal and everything.

While leaving the Almeda South movie theatre one Friday night after viewing Cruising with Al Pacino, my '72 Toyota Corolla was rear ended by someone that carried insurance. A few weeks and $500 dollar check later, Peristyle was in the studio recording our first demo tape. That demo tape made it possible for the band to do a live 4-hour radio interview on the show "Houston Musicians in Concert" hosted by the very exotic Peta (I think she was from Trinidad and she was very keen on our drummer Jeff) on our local Pacifica station KPFT. Somehow that radio show caught the attention of a producer named Jimmy Hotz (I know, Hotz—really). He had worked with Fleetwood Mac on their live shows. The next thing I knew we were recording at Rivendale Studios on a 24-track recorder with 2-inch tape, a real spring reverb, and I was in heaven. Two weeks and $50,000 later we had the masters for the two songs that would become our first 45 demo. On the "A" side was "Childsplay" and on the "B" side was the epic song that no one other than our direct friends and family experienced, "I’m out of Lies".
With our hopes set high, Jimmy proceeded to shop our singles for several months and unfortunately the only people that showed any interest was an independent label in Spain and by this time the people that had financed us were not willing to pay for a tour in Europe as their investments had not panned out as they had expected. There went my dreams of using my Spanish skills on real Spanish girls and being part of a rock band.

Most people would be devastated and although I was disappointed, my love for music was not shaken. Music is still an important part of not only my life, but most of my old bandmates are still playing as well. I have since played in several bands and am currently playing bass at my church (music connects people at a spiritual level, after all) and still jam several times a year with old and new musicians.

Looking back, I was truly blessed to have lived in the era that I did. Not only did I experience some of the best rock music that was ever created, but I have lived through the gambit of how this music is recorded and delivered to the enjoyer. From pressing vinyl to digitizing, from LP to MP3, I would not trade places with anyone. So on this Record Store Day, go out and enjoy your favorite oldies and enjoy the connection that takes you back to that fond memory.

Thank you Jessica for the opportunity, and God bless.

Thank you so much Tio for sharing your musical evolution with us! (I still can't believe you saw Queen live...at your VERY FIRST CONCERT! So jealous, haha).  

“I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, Guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people That look up to them To a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to Leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties. And to the record stores, artists, labels, dj’s, and journalists; we’re all in this together. Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help It from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data.” - Jack White

April 20, 2012

RSD Countdown: It's Like I Wrote Every Note With My Own Fingers.

Photo by Christine Cote
We're so close I can practically FEEL the shuffle of vinyl sleeves under my fingers! Today's post comes from yet another classy ladyfriend of mine, with the smile of a babe and a heart of gold. Say hi to Jenn Cote everyone! 

Like many times before today, I sat down to write and went for the play button before even opening up the blank page with its blinking curser. Music first, writing second. (Although writing is a close second I have to confess, I love it almost as much. And I seriously cannot imagine one without the other.) This time the playlist was not created yet though. So I dug deep, thought, added, deleted, and added some more. As I created, I started to remember different stages in my life and the part music played.

I cannot remember a time in my life where music did not exist to me in some way. My parents will say if asked, that I was moving and rocking back and forth to music before I could walk.  As a kid, I was a product of my parents’ taste in music. When I think of my childhood, I remember Keith Green and my parents’ old record player (my sister smashed her head on the huge speaker at one point… we called her waffle head for weeks it felt like). I especially remember them crying over a few of Keith’s songs and sharing with me, even at the age, how God took that man home to heaven and what a huge impact he had on their lives. This music coupled with Cat Stevens and the Judds stand out on the playlist of my early years.

As I got older, I remember listening to Ace of Base and early Mariah Carey with a few of my friends. I had no idea what the lyrics meant but those songs always take me straight back to age 7, 8 and 9 years old and jumping on my friend’s bed while singing at the top of our lungs, “I saw the sign! It opened up my eyes and I saw the sign!” (At that point I think I was singing I saw the sun…not the sign though. You know…details.) 

This is what I grew on, a weird mixture of 70s, 80s, and early 90s music and the Christian music my parents listened to. There was a radio or record player in every main room of our tiny apartment and the year my mom got a 6 CD boom box, I had died and gone to heaven! 6 CDS on shuffle?? Get out of town! I was one pleased 9 year old!

I got a CD player to share with my sister when I was probably around 10 or 11. I remember that for awhile the only CDs we had were a Bryan White CD and Rebecca St. James’ God. The Rebecca St. James CD was like water to me. I loved that CD and knew every lyric. I thought her message was amazing and that she was such a cool rocker chick. I also went through the whole boy band phase at this point like many teen girls during the late 90s. I couldn’t get enough of NSYNC and my walls were proof that I was financially keeping TeenBop in business. I don’t remember much after that, except to say that I loved any Christian pop punk or rock you could throw at me. I ate it up and I’m pretty sure I thought I was pretty cool because of it. (Don’t tell my 15 year old self that I wasn’t…)
Photo by Christine Cote
The next stage in my life was moving 3,000 miles away from the only place I had ever called home and getting plopped down in the middle of Texas. For a girl raised on Boston clam chowder and icy cold winters, this was a shock to say the least but I loved the adventure of it. I remember so clearly the first time I walked into our local Target after moving. I made a bee line to the music section and bought my copy of The Everglow by Mae. I don’t remember how or why that CD was the one I chose or if I had gone there with the specific purpose of purchasing it, but I can say to this day- that album is one of my favorites. It reminds me of being a wide eyed 18 year-old with nothing but possibilities in front of her. This was also around the same time I experienced my first small venue concert and when I found the wonderful world of music encapsulated within the streets of Austin, TX. The Parish Room, Austin, TX, February, 2006- I saw Carey Brothers, Mat Kearney and the Fray. My world would never be the same. I drove to Austin around 6 times that year, going to as many concerts as possible and finding places in San Antonio to see random bands as well. For the next two or so years, every concert that even had a band I vaguely knew, I’d be there. No matter where it was. If I could afford it- I was in line waiting for the doors to open.  This part of my life has flowed into more adult activities – life gets in the way of dropping everything at a minutes’ notice apparently. My music tastes have changed, but my love for the music has not. I love the times when a friend picks up a guitar and plays, or at bonfires in backyards with just voices, in the quiet of my room when I’m studying or when I’m taking the four hour drive home. Music is a part of me always; a way to cope, love, understand, say what I need to and be the memories I can’t store. Sometimes I forget about being 19 and carefree with the car windows down and nothing but city lights ahead, but I hear a Cake song or Motorcycle Drive By and it all comes flooding back, just like it happened yesterday.

When I think about music, I think about memories. I think about life and living and where I came from and where I’m going. I’m pretty sure it’ll be like this forever, creating new memories with every note and every lyric. This stuff might not mean anything to anyone but me however, when asked about music, this is where my thoughts settled; this is my heart. I read somewhere once that music is what feelings sound like, and I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenn! 

"There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store. When I recently played Amoeba in LA, I realized what fantastic memories such a collection of music brings back when you see it all in one place." -Paul McCartney 

A quick PS to all of my Invisible Children brothers and sisters Covering the Night tonight: I love you all, be safe, and thank you for supporting such a worthy cause. Our efforts are not in vain! (:

April 19, 2012

This, that, & the other: Record Store Day edition!

What better way to gear up for Saturday's festivities than some fun record-related inspiration?! I'm so excited. (Can you tell I'm so excited? Because I am. SO. EXCITED!!!)
1. THIS lovely two-tiered cupcake stand made from recycled turntables. Perfect for your next 50s-themed dance party!
2. This makes me smile!
3. These crafty coasters from Recycled Album Art. Everyone's seen the round ones made from the record label, but I absolutely love the idea of an entire album cover cut into square ones. Some sets even come in this cute vinyl bowl!
5. The re-released Fisher Price record player! These are definitely much flashier than the originals, but still really cute. As in, I see myself owning one again just BECAUSE. And by "just because" I mean I am sometimes 5 years old.  

6. You didn't think I'd post all of this without including some CRAFTS, did you? Thankfully, the folks at Threadbanger did all the work for me with their DIY Roundup of Vinyl crafts! Sometimes the thought of using vinyl for purposes other than auditory enlightenment makes me full-body cringe, but if you have some 33s or 45s that're scratched/warped beyond belief, you can't enjoy 'em anyway, right? So there you go. Have you ever made any crafts from old LPs? I'd love to hear about them!
1/Vinylclockwork 2/Vinylclockwork
7. Speaking of crafty, czech out THESE vintage beauties, repurposed to keep time in a totally new way. I have a mildtoserious crush on the person who concieved this idea. Totally including this clock in my room makeover.
8. We can always swoon over Ms. Hepburn, can't we?
9. Incorporate some vinyl pride into your daily wardrobe. So cute! Does this remind anyone else of those tiny Barbie records that fit on the Barbie-sized 'turntable'? Err...I've said too much already.
10. These photos from an Elle shoot styled to channel Empire Records back in 2009. I'm not sure they do the movie justice (I'm supremely biased), but they're still fun to look at!

11. Here's one of my favorite clips from Empire Records (though there are so many to choose from! Aaah!) This movie will forever be in my top 10. I'm serious. My roommates and I could sit around our living room and quote the entire thing, just cracking up laughing. Those are some of my favorite memories from the 8201 (:
12. Um, USB vinyl player what? This kind of negates the whole nostalgia of vinyl, but in many ways it's a happy medium. I think. Marrying the music medium of the past with the technology of the present...kinda cool? I'll stick with my trusty turntable, thanks, but this idea is pretty genius nonetheless. (Does the album just float or what? I'm way to defensive of my LP babies to risk anything, haha). 
13. This cute record-shaped cutting board/serving tray from Modcloth. Pair it with your tiered cupcake stand, and all you need are some kitten heels and a checkered floor my friends.  

Not the greatest quality photo, but one of my favorites! Image
14. Ok, ok. I just REALLY love the Clash, and have yet to find any of their albums on vinyl in the States (my part of Texas fails MISERABLY when it comes to imported vinyl [maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places?]...and buying said albums online has proven a bit too pricey/it's just not as cool, haha!). My Record Store Day dream is to find one of their many greatgreatgreat albums. On vinyl. Wishful thinking, I know, but I basically say a little prayer to the rock-n-roll gods every time I walk into a record store. Maybe Saturday is my day? (: 

Have you decided your attack plan for Saturday? What stores will YOU be going to?

April 18, 2012

RSD Countdown: Take These Broken Wings & Learn to Fly

Photo by Heather Sterling
Today's Record Store countdown post comes from a guy I met in geology class last semester. Please welcome my thrifting partner in crime, Mr. Trey Miller! 

Music never really hit me when I was young. I think it's because I was born in the 90's, independent thought came to me post-Nirvana, nestled nicely between the N'Sync phenomenon and the group sing alongs of "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?" I guess that's how music ebbs and flows, a pendulum swinging between real, raw emotion and glam, over-produced commercialism. We were all being sold a product (a very catchy product, mind you) and we were all humming along, but it never resonated with me. But still to this day I remember the moment I figured out what I wanted to do.

I was twelve and had a best friend who lived a house over. We had grown up together since age 3 and we were inseparable. In a lot of ways he was the leader of the duo and I always followed along, buying into whatever shows he watched or jamming whatever music he liked. Well, that year he went on a cruise and came back really excited about what he had discovered. Apparently this group of old fuddy-duddies had a cover band and entertained their guests playing classics, paying tribute to just one band's song catalog. My buddy had fallen in love and immediately started sharing this treasure with me as we swam through the enormous discography. One band, four members, thirteen albums, seven years of recording, and a song catalog of two hundred and seventy-five. Every song just made sense, every chord change blended so well, every lyric just made you say "They get exactly how I feel..." That band was The Beatles.

That was a game changer for me. For the first time I felt very passionate about something besides video games and Chicken McNuggets. We decided then and there that we would start a "band."

 Mind you, we were a band with no musicians. So I went about changing that.

I had been in choir for a couple years following in my sister’s footsteps, but I hadn't taken it seriously until then. Within the next year I started picking up a guitar and clumsily picking away at it. It didn't come quickly to me, but I started learning Beatles song after Beatles song, honing in on the concept of swinging my wrist up and down, changing my hand position to a new chord shape, remembering the words, and singing on pitch. The band with my friend never came to life, but I wasn't getting off this train then! By 15 I decided I wanted to make up my own songs, stumbling through bad lyrics and simple chords. But I got better every bad song I wrote. I found more words to say. I found new ways to say them. I was doing the same thing that John, Paul, George, and Ringo did. Vocalizing words that made someone think "He knows exactly how I feel..." That became my truest passion beyond the music, giving the message on my heart and seeing it mean something to someone. To me it wasn't about someone feeling how I was feeling, I wanted people to walk away with something personal to them.

Aside from that, music gave me an emotional outlet. I realized life can be so eager to beat you to the ground so I permanently altered my body as a reminder of how to handle it. A single blackbird is now perched on my shoulder blade, the words 'Take these broken wings and learn to fly' flowing behind him. Paul McCartney wrote these words to remind us that no matter how ground to the bone we become we can always get up and we can always soar higher than before. A moment of zen encompasses me when I see it. It shows me how to handle life and how I became who I am today.

My story isn't very interesting, my story isn't very unique, but the journey has meant a hell of a lot to me. And when I get that soul shaking satisfaction of seeing people from a stage sing my words back at me, just knowing they’re listening and not just hearing, I feel pretty damn good about where I've ended up. But the adventure isn't over, and if you want to continue it with me then feel free to contact me or check out our band Handsome Ransom. I'd love to meet each and every one of you.

With love from me to you,
Trey Miller

Thanks for sharing your musical journey with us Trey! You can keep up with Handsome Ransom or stream their latest EP right here

"Independent record stores are like a casino where you put down your money and you always win. How amazing to discover gems you didn't know about, to meet someone more passionate than you are, and to feel at home in a place you may never have been to before. I'm convinced they will never lose their place; long may they rule." - kt Tunstall

April 17, 2012

RSD Countdown: Three Albums That Changed My Life

Today's Record Store Day countdown guest post comes from my dear friend, ex-roomie and basically-sister Christine Cote! If anyone knows anything about music across a variety of genres, it's this girl. Enjoy!

Growing up, the majority of the music I listened to fell in the Christian Rock, Country or Top 40 genres. When I was really little I would spend afternoons on my Mem’s front porch listening to the local country station, playing cards and eating Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. Over time my older sister and her friends began listening to Top 40 and my afternoons were filled with Mariah Carey and Teen Bop magazines. I went through the NSYNC phase, swearing to my grave that I’d always love them more than The Backstreet Boys. I loved everything from Hanson to Matchbox Twenty to Ace of Base. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I began to see beyond radio hits and the latest Christian Punk band (however, Relient K will always be great). At the end of 2004 Relient K released the album Mmhmm and every Tuesday leading up to the release date they would post a new song to their Purevolume.com page. Up until this point I had no idea Purevolume even existed. Because of Relient K (as I’m typing this I’m realizing how much I owe those guys) I discovered Eisley. I listened to three songs on repeat for months, “Telescope Eyes”, “I Wasn’t Prepared”, and “Lost At Sea” which were available for stream on their Purevolume site.
Their album Room Noises released in February of 2005 and it was all I could talk about for months. Room Noises was the first album I heard that made me stop and consider every aspect of each song. For the first time that I can remember music was no longer just a good song, a happy melody or a fun beat; I was appreciating music as art. I began to not just hear music, but experience music as something emotional and meaningful; something deeper than just noise filling my ears. I read and re-read lyrics, considering their meaning, the imagery and how I could possibly relate or understand them. Of course this is all looking back; I don’t think I realized what was happening at the time. I just knew that I found something that struck me hard and stopped me in my tracks; this album made me want more. I wore that album out! I wish that I knew the number of times I listened to it. I can listen to it now and feel 15 again, with all the awe and excitement of discovering a brand new world. Eisley sparked a love affair with music that led to bands like Mae. I remember hearing The Everglow and being blown away by the structure of the album; to me it was not just a list of recorded tracks, but a piece of art. My Uncle introduced me to Nickel Creek and that was the first time I heard a mandolin speak! To this day Chris Thile’s mandolin makes me weak in the knees.

When I was 16 my Dad gave me Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens. This album was the first album not from my generation that I can honestly say I fell in love with. I was the kid that knew about bands from the 60s and 70s, but couldn’t tell you much about them. If a person asked me, “Do you like Pink Floyd?” my answer usually was, “Oh man, Pink Floyd is great!” I knew Pink Floyd was great because I’d been told they were great. I knew they were iconic and influential, but I hadn’t been influenced personally or experienced the greatness. This was my lame attempt at trying to be “cool”. I had a hard time relating to music if it was from before my time. I never knew why that was, but I never seemed to take the time to discover for myself what made these iconic musicians so great; that is until ‘Tillerman’. I heard it through once, then flipped back to side A and reset the needle; over and over and over. It was amazing to me that I could have such a deep connection with an album that had released so many years previously. It was wonderful that most likely there was a 16 year old girl in 1970 that put this record on and had felt the very same things I was feeling. It was that sense of community in music that grew my hunger to follow the trail of musical influences back through time. I experienced the same kind of thing again just about 2 years ago with Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumours. I listened to it from start to finish for the first time and it instantly became one of my favorite albums ever. This of course is claimed by many, but this only made the experience better. It struck me all over again that since 1977 people have been listening to this album; experiencing this album in their own unique way right along with me. This is the biggest reason why I love attaching myself to music that was before my time. It’s inspiring to me that a person or a group of people can create melodies and pen words that will carry on for years and years. This is also one of the reasons why I love vinyl records.

My first introduction to vinyl was when I was pretty young. My Mem loved Elvis and she had a few of his records in her house. I don’t really remember her ever playing them, but I can remember knowing they existed and thinking how odd it was that they were so big. [:

When I turned 16 I got my first record player and could finally play all the dusty records I had inherited from my parents. When I realized that many of the current bands I adored were releasing their albums on vinyl I was ecstatic and my collection has only grown since. My favorite place in the world is a well-stocked record store. I’ve been swept up into the digital age because of how easy it is to gain access to music you wouldn’t otherwise know existed. However my favorite way to truly experience an album is on a turntable. There is something to be said about taking the time to place the album and set the needle; the initial pops and cracks before the music starts is like a drum roll before the big reveal.
I recently heard an interview with a guy that worked at my favorite record store. He was talking about records and how they have made a comeback and he also said that records are great because they encourage community among music listeners. I have some seriously fun memories of dance parties with my roommates to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album or discussing the latest Manchester Orchestra album while cooking dinner. People hear music, but they don’t experience music.

Some would argue that I could plug my MacBook or iPod into a pair of speakers and have the very same memories. Which is true, but I think the digital age has damaged the experience of an entire album. I’ve come across so many people who buy singles, or two or three songs here and there and rarely buy complete albums. Records allow for the entire picture. Most artists put together an album track by track for a reason. It’s a cohesive story that should be heard that way. I’ve been brought to tears by everyone from John Mayer to The Civil Wars to Adele to Right Away Great Captain. I live for that stirring in my heart and the chills that run down my spine when I hear an album that moves beyond just pretty noise.

I have this dream that one day I will be able to share Room Noises, Tea for the Tillerman, Rumours, and so many more with my children or my grandchildren. I hope that the crackle and pops will mean as much to them as they do to me. I could go on forever about all the albums that have permanently stamped themselves on my heart, but this would turn into a novel. Those three albums are just a few of the ones that sang the loudest throughout my life. Maybe not for exceptional songwriting or production quality, but for the way they fell on my heart, brought me to tears and inspired me.

Thanks for sharing the history of your musical evolution Christine! I've probably said this a thousand times, but you can find more of her lovely photography and musical musings right here. (All photos in this post taken by Christine)

"The indie record shop is a global institution. It's a place that reflects history, the current state, and at times, can predict the future. Identities are formed and molded at record shops when one discovers an artist, an album, a genre, that moves them to no end. It's a venue for human contact; a social HQ for all music fans and fans of all music. Music fans, record collectors, DJs, and recording artist, now have a responsibility to keep this institution alive - more than just a mere 'shop' is at risk of extinction." - Sam Fogarino (Interpol, Magnetic Morning)

April 16, 2012

RSD Countdown: For Every Kiss You Give Me, I'll Give You Three

We're kickin' off our countdown to Record Store Day with a dreamy post by my knit+crochet confidante and all-around lovely lady Leslie Tolbert! Doo-wap down to the malt shop and enjoy!

I've been really stuck on 50' and 60's doo-wop bubblegum rockabilly country pop music lately.  My infatuation began at an underground soiree in Manhattan when The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" came swimming out the speakers.  In seconds I went from a 21st century19 year-old girl in a powdered, smokey, neon-lit, bass-powered basement to a cherry in a boat-neck pleated polka dot dress swaying and shimmying with the hunk from across the diner I shared a milkshake with earlier; his maraschino cherry kiss still on my lips.

The nostalgia of it takes me on such a great escape. There's a purity to it that no other era of music seems to evoke. Nothing can touch The Ronettes-- The Four Tops, Skeeter Davis, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton, The Cleftones, The Murmaids, Dion and the Belmonts, Roy Orbison, The Shirelles, Patsy Cline... I love where they all take me to. I'm slouching on a young boy’s shoulders as we scuff around the floor in front of the jukebox with my kitten heels, beehive hair and a-line dress.  You know what else is fabulous about this age of music? It gave birth to THE TWIST. Variations of the twist have always been one of my favorite things to dance; my go-to move. The twist can go with anything. You can even twist with P Diddy. Try it. You'll love it.
I think I feel drawn to the time period because it always seemed, to me, to be a time of rapid transition that was kept alive by a hodpodge of trends and happenings, yet still had such a strong voice-- regardless of the fact that there were so many powerful ones belting out.  I feel very much like that right now in my life.  A collaged young woman in her twenties belting out every beautiful song she can sing until one hits the Top 40 list and strikes platinum. Gosh, reading up on some quick timeline tidbits from the 60's... Hitchcock, Elvis, Tylenol, Hemmingway commits suicide, SOUL (thank the lord for James Brown and Sam Cooke some days...), Breakfast at Tiffany's, them damn Soviets, the Ford Mustang, hippies...it goes on and on!

One of my favorite music quotes is from the brilliant psychologist, Oliver Sacks: “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears - it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more - it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”  Music is my time machine, my cardiotocograph, the hidden kiss in the corner of my lips, the sway and dip in my slender hips, my megaphone of memories, my diaphragmatic diary; without music, my world would be at half mute.
I leave you with this YouTube playlist.  Hop in your '56 Mint Cadillac Convertible, top down, chrome dash sparkling in your newly polished wayfarers, sunlight bouncing off your skin as you take a weekend va-ca to the beach with your handome hubby/darling doll.

Thanks for sharing your nostalgic music lovelist Leslie!  

“Moonlit strolls?? Fancy pants dinners?? No thanks, I would prefer to fall in love in the aisle of an independent record shop. See you there... - Bryan Garza (Scissors For Lefty) 


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