The TVD Storefront

Donald Fagen and The Nightflyers, The TVD Interview

“I wish I had a heart like ice,” Donald Fagen—or rather his character, uber-hip yet lovelorn jazz DJ Lester—yearns in “The Nightfly.” The track is a high point on an autobiography-infused nostalgiAlbum of high points. The Nightfly, Fagen’s debut solo recording—which also featured classics “I.G.Y.” and “New Frontier”—was nominated for seven Grammy awards and released in 1982.

Fagen’s latest solo venture comes in the form of a touring band appropriately dubbed The Nightflyers. From July through September, the bunch will play in a myriad of venues across the US, as well as the Yokohama Blue Note Jazz Fest for a tour closer. The Nightflyers are new for Donald, more or less; he first ran into the twenty-somethings bunch—Connor Kennedy (guitar, vocals), Lee Falco (drums, vocals), Brandon Morrison (bass, vocals), and Will Bryant (keyboards, vocals)—on the Woodstock-area music circuit. Stepdaughter and musician Amy Helm, also based in the Woodstock area, had worked with them in the past. Donald Fagen and the Nightflyers’ current setlist mainly borrows from Donald’s four stellar solo albums—The Nightfly (1982), Kamakiriad (1993), Morph the Cat (2006), and Sunken Condos (2012)—with some innovative covers and Steely Dan classics, too.

Fagen first formed a reputation as vocalist-pianist and songwriter, along with his musical partner Walter Becker, creating the Steely Dan nucleus. Influenced by literature and jazz, science fiction and noir, and all things Beatnik, Fagen and Becker created one of the most cerebrally complex yet often-mass-marketable song catalogues in the American popular music of the 1970s. Consider for a moment the miraculous and sometimes twisted perfection of the band’s lyrics—no topic seemed off-limits for songs, and many dealt in the murky nether regions of human relationships—which can sometimes get creepy. Steely Dan’s characters, however dastardly or morally questionable their intentions were, always possessed a layer of relatable loneliness.

As a solo artist, Donald Fagen is perhaps under-recognized for the romantic view of life expressed in his music. Frequently and rightfully lauded for his impressive cerebral prowess, he is sometimes snubbed for the more emotional side of his unique aural persona—one that is ridden, however coolly, with noble feeling, steadfast mensch-ness, and a lushly detectable yet fittingly understated sex appeal. A persona that’s the sonic equivalent of Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca, decked out in a white dinner jacket—solitary, strong, sarcastic, and unavoidably ardent when it came to the gal he loved. Like Lester the Nightfly, Rick insisted he’d “stick his neck out for nobody.” He yearned for “a heart like ice”—but couldn’t swing it.

In conversation with Donald Fagen, and Connor Kennedy of the Nightflyers, we learn more about the current Nightflyers tour, their musical and lifestyle influences and inspirations, and Connor’s recently released solo album, Somewhere.

Donald, a great deal of your solo material features seemingly cynical characters who also possess an undertone of a romantic worldview, a worldview that I’ve found to be pretty popular in the great noir protagonists of literature and cinema—like Philip Marlowe.

That’s fair, that’s fair.

Do you envision yourself in this way too, as the protagonist of your own life experience, having a soft spot for what you love, despite your intellect’s best intentions?

I think that’s a very fair way to describe the music. It’s hard to say. I think it’s sort of egotistical to put myself in a position of having the same kind of bigger-than-life personality as, you know, some of the people in noir literature, like say, Philip Marlowe, something like that. But I am attracted to that sort of thing, and I always think that the best of noir literature—you know, “noir” is actually a word that is fairly recent. They didn’t call it that when it was written. But there’s something about that vision of life to me that seems true to real life, I think. I think you’re right—there’s a romance to it. There’s a cynicism to it, skepticism, and humor, also. So I think that’s become part of my style.

Yes. I was watching the film version of Chandler’s The Big Sleep again recently and Philip Marlowe seems like this knight in shining armor that’s trying to work his way through this muck of all these crazy and corrupt characters, even though he seems that he’s a bit cynical.

Right.

He does stand out as being the one guy who’s doing the right thing.

Yeah, it’s like Al Franken, you know.

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The TVD Storefront

Richard X Heyman,
The TVD First Date

“There was always a lot of vinyl lying around the Heyman household. My father was into big band jazz as well as some classic comedy albums; my mother liked Broadway soundtracks and classical. My three older sisters were into this new fad called ‘rock’n’roll.'”

“There were stacks of 45s by many of the burgeoning artists of the day. We even had some old 78s. I remember a few times where for some reason I couldn’t find the little plastic center piece (what the hell are those things called?) you’d put in the big hole on a 45. I’d try to eyeball it as centrally as possible, but I could never get it just right. The music would sound slightly wobbly and I’d get a little seasick. Like the time I listened to “Uptown” by The Crystals over and over again because I just wanted to keep experiencing it. And all the while, I had to put a nickel on top of the tone arm to keep it from skipping. This of course was on one of those tiny box record players.

I’d have to say I cut my teeth on Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Count Basie, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The King and I, Camelot, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley, Del Shannon, Ricky Nelson, Fats Domino, Dion & The Belmonts, James Brown, The Drifters, a ton of doo-wop and soul, etc. I spent a good portion of my youth deep inside the grooves of those vinyl albums.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Saccades, (S/T)

Saccades is the new side project of Nicholas Wood, a Berlin-based musician some will recognize as one half of The KVB, an outfit who’ve been pegged as a synth-pop post-punk merger, more tersely as darkwave, and on their own website as blending “reverb-soaked shoegaze with minimalist electronic production.” Saccades is none of those things, instead offering an appealing slice of psychedelic indie guitar pop, but aspects of his main gig do shine through. It’s out now on vinyl and compact disc via Fuzz Club Records.

The above descriptors of The KVB, which finds Wood in partnership with Kat Day, are all fair, though breezing through portions of their discography revealed less overt synth-pop than expected. What arose in its place was a combo of darkwave, with an emphasis on moves familiar from late Joy Division, and a more electro-friendly Jesus & Mary Chain/ shoegaze approach, which reinforces The KVB as being as focused on guitars as synths.

Ultimately, this solo turn is distinct but not entirely surprising. Recorded and produced by Wood last summer during a break in The KVB’s touring schedule, Saccades was captured using an old Tascam tape machine, the device delivering a stripped-down “classic” feel that nicely complements these motions beyond the garage.

Fuzz Club’s promo text describes Saccades as lo-fi, but opener “Distant Sea” is quite vivid as it leisurely unwinds, though it does benefit from a lack of sheen. Much of the song’s appeal derives from its guitars, mingling structural strum with clean, bright guitar leads, but the breathy vocals and interjections of hovering keyboard add value, and the bass and drums are effectively unfussy.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 8/17/17

The attraction of analog … in our digital world: Though we live in a digital world, we’re flocking to analog things, says David Sax, author of “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.” “Surrounded by digital, we now crave experiences that are more tactile and human-centric,” he explains in the introduction…When a record store opened up a block and a half away from Mr. Sax’s home in Toronto five years ago, he started buying albums. As he noticed more and more record stores opening, he discovered the number of new vinyl records pressed and sold had increased more than tenfold over the past decade, resulting in a similar boom in turntable sales, and more new record stores.

Over 50,000 rare records have been archived online for your listening pleasure: Vinyl – just that little bit more natural and refined than a compressed Spotify playlist, don’t you think? And, thanks to a collaboration between New York’s ARChive of Contemporary Music and the Internet Archive, you can now listen to over 50,000 rare records online. As part of the Great 78 Project, a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records, this batch represents just a small part of the 200,000 record collection that’s in the process of being digitised.

Derby tech firm comes up with new mobile phone app to digitise vinyl records, Convert Technologies claims world first with app that can convert songs on vinyl into digital files with no need for editing: The firm said that the technology is quick, easy and convenient to use, allowing people to transfer their vinyl record collection on to their phones. The app is backed by Gracenote’s database, which automatically identifies the track, album and artist information as the record is playing. The app automatically separates an album into individual tracks. The end result is a fully formed set of music files which accurately reflect the original vinyl copy.

Britney Spears’ ‘…Baby One More Time’ Is Coming Out on Pink Vinyl, The Urban Outfitters exclusive release is limited to 2,500 units: Fans of late-’90s pop and vinyl records rejoice: Britney Spears’ debut album, …Baby One More Time, is getting a limited release on wax. Just 2,500 pink and white swirled copies of the album will be sold exclusively through Urban Outfitters with pre-order running now and delivery planned for November. The record includes tracks that launched Spears’ career such as the chart-topping “…Baby One More Time,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and “Sometimes.”

My View: Deep bonds develop while sharing music: We live in a digital age and the way we listen to music has been one of the most widely utilized vehicles for this movement. Being born in the early 1960s, I’ve lived through the transition from analog to digital platforms. The first LP I owned was the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. As I grew older, my musical taste evolved to include such diverse acts as the Canadian power trio Rush, the legendary reggae group Black Uhuru and alternative radio favorites the Pixies. In my college years, my musical taste was influenced by my friends. I was also a DJ at the Buffalo State radio station, WBNY, and Rude Boys Roots Rock Cafe…

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD Live Shots: Dreamcar and Superet at the Fonda Theatre, 8/12

Los Angeles’ supergroup Dreamcar played two nights to a packed house at the Fonda Theatre last weekend.

Dreamcar features No Doubt members Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, and Tom Dumont, as well as frontman Davey Havok from AFI, Blaqk Audio, and XTRMST. They recently played Coachella, and have sold out nearly every other show since then.

Superet opened on both nights. They are a newly formed rock band also from Los Angeles. Members include Matt Blitzer, Alex Fischel, Patrick Kelly, Sam KS, and Isaac Tamburino. Superet debuted their first single, “Pay It Later” earlier this spring.

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The TVD Storefront

Kenneth Whalum,
The TVD First Date

“My first experience with vinyl records came when I was about 8 years old. It was Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions. I think along with the fact that it was my first vinyl experience, it was my first experience with Stevie Wonder.”

“I was immediately interested and curious about how this huge machine at the time worked. After asking my dad how he placed the needle on the record, he showed me and the music began to play. This is obviously one of the great albums of all time so the sounds were amazing as the record went around and around.

Another thing I remember was the fact that the artwork was amazing. I was probably more intrigued with the art than I was with the music at the time. My parents played this record and many others all the time and I loved how the speakers stood taller than I did. There is a certain sonic texture that even now is just much more rich than any other type of way to listen to music. It almost seems fatter. The presence of the sound waves seems thicker to me. My uncle Kirk Whalum would also make sure we had all of his vinyl records in the house.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Cradle of Filth,
Nymphetamine

Life is really rather dark and well, gloomy and bleak and, to put it starkly as it were, abominable and doom-laden, isn’t it? I mean, golly, in this burial shroud of a world where every night is Samhain night and Lovecraftian horrors lurk around every corner, wouldn’t it be nice if somebody made music about how utterly blasted and totally hopeless things really are? Well, you can shout “la! la! Cthulhu fhtagn!” my absinthe drinking, underworld pale, smelling slightly of the grave friends—Cradle of Filth to the rescue!

If you’re familiar with the UK sitcom The IT Crowd you’ll know that it was Cradle of Filth that transformed up and coming young executive Richmond Avenal into a Dracula-like Goth banished to working at no job in particular behind a blood red door in the dank basement of Reynholm Industries. In one particularly hilarious episode, he offers a Cradle of Filth CD to a grieving widow at her husband’s funeral, kindly suggesting she listen to track four, “Coffin Fodder,” telling her, “It sounds horrible, but it’s actually quite beautiful.” Well, I tracked down the cut on the extreme metal band’s extremely entertaining sixth studio LP, 2004’s Nymphetamine, and it’s anything but beautiful. But boy does it shred!

Is Nymphetamine a rewarding listen? Do vampires enjoy the taste of human blood? Of course it’s bloody rewarding! The group that Richmond Avenal mildly calls “one of the best contemporary dark wave bands in the world” combines Goth imagery with unadulterated thrash and din to produce the aural equivalent of the damned French poet and dandy Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal. Dani Filth provides the requisite death wraith vocals; guitarists Paul Allender and “Germs Warfare” (aka James McIlroy) slash away like werewolves making mincemeat of your dear old granny. And “Martin Foul” (aka Martin Powell) adds gloomy atmospherics on keyboards. Add some high-falutin’ choirs of damned souls and what you have is lots of old-fashioned evil fun—I find them hilarious, myself, but on such songs as “Filthy Little Secret,” “Gilded Cunt” (!!), “Coffin Fodder,” “Medusa and Hemlock,” and “Mother of Abominations,” I’ll be damned if Cradle of Filth don’t deliver the extreme metal goods.

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TVD Washington, DC

The Best of TVD’s Play Something Good with John Foster

TVD’s Play Something Good returns in September with all new—and all good—episodes. —Ed.

The Vinyl District’s Play Something Good is a weekly radio show broadcast from Washington, DC. Featuring a mix of songs from today to the 00s/90s/80s/70s/60s and giving you liberal doses of indie, psych, dub, post punk, americana, shoegaze, and a few genres we haven’t even thought up clever names for just yet. The only rule is that the music has to be good. Pretty simple.

Hosted by John Foster, world-renowned designer and author (and occasional record label A+R man), don’t be surprised to hear quick excursions and interviews on album packaging, food, books, and general nonsense about the music industry, as he gets you from Jamie xx to Liquid Liquid and from Courtney Barnett to The Replacements. The only thing you can be sure of is that he will never ever play Mac DeMarco. Never. Ever.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Delphine Dora & Mocke,
Les Corps Defendant

French vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Delphine Dora has accumulated an ample body of work since the middle of last decade. Dominique Dépret aka Mocke Depret is a French-born Brussels-based guitarist with credits including membership in Holden and Midget!, collaborations with Flanger and Laetitia Sadier, plus solo work. Together they are Delphine Dora & Mocke, and their Le Corps defendant lands betwixt experimentalism and avant-pop. It’s the eleventh release from the Belgian label Okraïna, like all the imprint’s output issued on 10-inch vinyl, in this case a double set, and like the rest featuring attractive sleeve artwork by Gwénola Carrère.

On Le Corps defendant, Delphine Dora is credited with voice, piano, prepared piano, keyboards, celesta, glockenspiel, piano and guitar strings, violin, shruti box, field recordings, and objects. Mocke just plays the guitar, and yet there is a creative equality in the results that registers as quite natural, perhaps because the contents evolved over the course of three years.

Much of the music’s strength comes from the richness of Dora’s voice, which is layered numerous times in opener “Les Miroirs conversent avec les etoiles en silence,” spanning from a whisper to conversation to distant singing. Instrumentally, Mocke’s guitar lends the piece much of its structure, while Dora provides abstract counterpoint on piano.

Not knowing French lends an aura of mystery to Le Corps defendant, but a measure of clarity arises through learning that the first track’s title translates to English as “Mirrors converse with silent stars.” Overall, this collab can be aptly described as possessing an avant sensibility, but the atmosphere is never harsh, and the second selection “L’Illusion s’etrangle” brings the rich history of French pop song to mind.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 8/16/17

Rebirth of vinyl in Japan propelled by diversification of music platforms: Japan’s electronics and entertainment giant Sony is making a move to ride this latest wave in the music industry, with Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. recently announcing it will resume pressing vinyl at Sony DADC Japan Inc., its disc-manufacturing subsidiary in Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, after a 30-year hiatus. Whether because of their grainy, warmer sound or simply because vinyl makes a fashion statement, LPs and EPs are being snapped up by people but not like the old days, surely. It’s not just older fans who grew up with records that are returning to the format, but younger customers who never had the experience of putting an album on a turntable.

Party Like a Rock Star in Music Record Shop’s New Green Room and Event Space: Music Record Shop at .Zack has expanded to the space next door to provide a luxury suite, used as a spot for touring bands to host their meet-and-greets, as well as a green room. The space is also available to rent out, so now — for a price! — you and your friends can party like rock stars too. The new suite, going simply by the name “303,” is 1,500 square feet and can accommodate up to 50 people. It can host acoustic musical performances and DJ spins as well. “Luxury” is an appropriate way to describe it. The suite is furnished with lavish couches and decor and has multiple TVs and a high fidelity audio system.

1987 Week: Walking into Tower Records at age 10 kickstarted a lifelong obsession: So there I am, rendered powerless at the base of Tower Records’ proverbial mountain, a spiritual retreat promising copious genre, sub-genre, and pseudo-genre — a place where Top 40 commingles with eyebrow-raising oddities. I am standing for the first time in a music megastore, shook with the realization that my small-town obsession has worldly potential. In late 1987, Tower’s Boston location was brand-spanking new: 39,000 square-feet of retail space spread over three floors of a seven-story building designed by Frank Gehry. It was the largest physical location in the company’s evolving chain of stores, and served as anchor for the Newbury Street retail district, then a glorious mash-up of high end and bohemian.

Reconstruction of iconic Sam the Record Man signs underway: The famous Sam the Record Man signs, which were part of the landmark downtown Toronto record store for decades, are being refurbished and reconstructed. The signs will soon have a new home overlooking Yonge and Dundas Square. The original sign, which was located on the northern side of the Yonge Street store was built in 1969 and a second sign was added to the storefront in 1987. Restoration began in June and construction of the signs will begin at the new home, 277 Victoria St. The project is expected to take approximately three months to complete, explains a release.

Can hi-res music hit the right note? Some kinds of music are really not well served by the MP3 system of encoding, which is designed to preserve the elements that the human ear can hear and discard the rest. Classical music aficionados, for instance, have never been keen on that kind of sonic compression. But Qobuz, along with rivals Tidal and Deezer Elite, offers streaming of “lossless audio” that throws nothing away. The highest quality MP3 has a bit-rate of 320kbps, while a hi-res file can go as high as 9,216kbps. Music CDs are transferred at 1,411kbps. “The artists want to have their music played as it was recorded. More and more albums are in hi-resolution,” says Mr Ouzeri.

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