Posts Tagged ‘Sire Records’

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After making his way through the first part of a world tour, he had no idea that his Brussels show would be his last for the unforeseeable future. Pre-coronavirus, everything was in place for the release of Cavetown’s first studio album, Sleepyhead, which is out now via Sire Records. Art gallery pop-ups featuring his own paintings, U.S. press visits, and fan events were all locked in.

Despite this sudden halt, the singer is making the most of his down time since Sleepyhead was released on March 27th. “I’ve been looking forward to having some time off,” says Skinner. “It just kind of came earlier than I expected. I’m looking at it as an early break, even though it’s obviously terrible for so many people. But you gotta look for the good things in it—so at the moment, I’m relaxing and just being a person for a second.”

Robbie Skinner, now twenty-one, has connected with more than a million devout YouTube subscribers by performing from his bedroom since forming the experimental musical project Cavetown at the age of fourteen. Learning to play guitar from his father, director of music at Cambridge University, at the age of eight, and having a mother who was a professional flautist, Skinner was born into music. After releasing his self-titled debut in 2015, its follow-up 16/04/16 in 2016, and his 2018 breakthrough Lemon Boy—along with covers, digital mixtapes, and other reworked material—Cavetown’s fourth album is a new chapter in Skinner’s DIY art.

Recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by Skinner in (where else) his bedroom, Sleepyhead was the result of constantly writing. There’s no structure to his lyrical madness—he just tends to write until there are enough tracks for another album. It’s another chapter in Skinner’s own book of life, something he’s already uncovered in Lemon Boys’ lo-fi tales of social anxieties, unrequited love, and other misanthrope adventures.

Sleepyhead is a continuation of Cavetown’s revelations in sexuality, awkwardness, and self-confidence drawn in by drifty vocals moving along a digi-melodic landscape only Skinner could manufacture, from its Weezer riff and swell on opener “Sweet Tooth” through the more delicate, acoustic-and-pop-steered reminiscences of “Things That Make It Warm” and “Wishing Well.” Sleepyhead reveals less naiveté and more self-assurance gained through life’s perplexities.

According to Skinner, he has no clear songwriting process. He first penned “Feb 14,” a tale of a special Valentine’s Day that he still thinks about, and the remainder of Sleepyhead unraveled from there. “I just write what’s in my head,” he says. “I don’t tend to write with an overarching theme, because I’ll lose interest too quickly. So the album’s kind of all over the place.”

He says that the songs that just fall out of him tend to be the better ones. “There’s an idea, and you just sit down, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 a.m., and I finished a song I’m really stoked about,” he shares. “Sometimes I have so many ideas that I will half start songs and just walk away from it. I get stuck with it and then come back to it later when I forgot how it goes, and then take a fresh stab at it again.”

An ode to his boyfriend, “Sweet Tooth” was written on a tour bus, and felt like an appropriate number to open Sleepyhead with. “Starting with a big song is a bold intro I thought worked,” he says. Sounds of a tape reel opens the more nostalgic closer “Empty Bed,” sending the record off on a more comforting, analog note with abstract beats around a childhood tale of parting ways with his stuffed animal at the age of eight, taking meds at thirteen, and a selfless love refrain of “take care of you for me” before the tape reel ends. “It just sounded like a closing track with some good comforting vibes,” says Skinner.

Sleepyhead is clearly set in place where Cavetown is now. Recently signed to Sire Records, he still retains control of his production and says the enhanced sound quality and added equipment gave Sleepyhead more depth. “I’ve definitely learned a lot,” he says. “I’ve tried to keep my process and my involvement with all of the songs pretty much the same. I’ve always produced and written everything myself and still do that.”

When choosing a label, Skinner wanted a company that would accept his music as is and not push him to do anything differently. “When I met with Sire, they basically just said ‘What you’re doing is working—it’s you,’” says Skinner. “‘You’re doing something right, so why should we change anything about your process?’” Over the years, Skinner has learned to stand up for himself more and has realized he’s lucky that he’s surrounded by people who care for him and continue to encourage him. “I know when to say, ‘This is the way I want to do it,’” he says. “‘You can tell me whatever you think is better, but I want to do it this way.’”

Collaborating with other artists is something he couldn’t tap into before, and when he does, he prefers working with friends. He mentions a friend who’s a filmmaker, who never watches films, and says he’s not much different when it comes to music. “He knows nothing about films,” says Skinner. “I feel like I’m like that with music. I’ll listen to my friends’ music, but I don’t really know anything about any other music, which I think surprises people sometimes.”

Skinner recently co-wrote and produced mxmtoon’s 2019 album The Masquerade, and has been working closely with Chloe Moriondo, who also duets with Skinner on Sleepyhead’s “Snail,” on her upcoming debut. Skinner recently held a recording session with Chicago-based video blogger and singer-songwriter Tessa Violet, who isn’t far behind Cavetown in the bedroom pop popularity realm with 1.5 million followers.

“I’m slowly opening up to working with more acquaintances, or people that I don’t know so well, just to see how that feels,” says Skinner. “As long as I like the music, I really don’t have any goals or specific people I want to work with.”

At the moment, he’s decompressing, self-isolating, and looking forward to finishing up his European dates when the time comes. Now that Sleepyhead is out, he wants to make more videos, have more listening parties and other virtual events on YouTube, and, perhaps most of all, perform the songs.

“I think because they are all such new tracks, I still love them all so much” he says. “I think after a bit of time, I will start to get sick of them. I’m actually starting to get sick of ‘Sweet Tooth,’ unfortunately, because I worked on that one the longest. But I’m going to try not to listen to it so I can forget how it sounds.”

Being confined has also given him time to think about his career and the oft-tumultuous trajectory of the music business. Right now, he’s living and creating in the moment, and not trying to visualize the next few years of Cavetown. “It’s not about an amount of time, because things have been changing so much for me in just a year recently,” says Skinner. “Either I’ll skyrocket, or I’ll just become a nobody again, which is fine. It seems like at this point those are the two paths. It’s good to not dwell on that too much and let it be, so I’m just going with the flow, and I’m fine with it.”

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On this day (March. 28th) in 1980: Northern Irish punk-pop band The Undertones released the single “My Perfect Cousin”, backed with “I Don’t Want To See You Again” & “Hard Luck (Again)”; the A-side would appear on the band’s forthcoming sophomore Sire Records album, ‘Hypnotized’ while the B-sides were exclusive to the single; it would reach UK number 9, the highest chart position for the group up to that point…One of the great pop singles of the early 80s with the kind of lines `he’s got a fur-lined sheepskin jacket, my ma said it cost a packet’, `he thinks that I’m a cabbage ‘cos I hate University challenge’ and the immortal `his mother bought him a synthesizer, got the Human League into advise her’ that today’s pop stars can only dream of writing. And the video is ace — look out for the famous subbuteo scene — what we all did for entertainment in those days.

Fantastic lyrics, Feargal’s superb voice and so unpretentious and real, especially the video which probably cost all of ten quid.  Brilliant and timeless. The music video to the song was largely filmed at the home of the O’Neill brothers, and was directed by Julien Temple.The song was performed on Top of the Pops on two occasions: 10 April and 24 April 1980.

Brain Drain is the eleventh studio album by the Ramones, released on March 23rd, 1989.
It is the last release to feature bassist/lyricist/vocalist Dee Dee Ramone, the first release to feature Marky Ramone since his firing after Subterranean Jungle, and the last studio album on Sire Records.

Though their glory days appeared to have concluded along with the ’70s, punk rock’s founding heroes the Ramones continued to churn out album after album with almost religious dependability throughout the ’80s. It culminated in their 11th LP, Brain Drain.

Brain Drain’s recording was not a happy time for the group, which by this time had become almost irreparably damaged by the wear and grindof touring, assorted personal demons and substance abuse, not to mention the sheer frustration of a life lived in the rock and roll trenches with little hope of improvement.

And yet, hope still sprung eternal in the Ramones’ almost child-like state of suspended animation — as evidenced by Brain Drain’s impossibly optimistic opener, “I Believe in Miracles,” its conciliatory closer “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and the notable return of beloved drummer Marky Ramone, after a five-year absence.

Sandwiched in between were a dozen stabs of typically unpretentious punk rock in the lauded Ramones tradition like “Zero Zero UFO,” “All Screwed Up” and the almost hardcore-intense “Ignorance is Bliss” — but to say they were any more distinctive than recent efforts would be a stretch (plus, there was a new, suspiciously metallic tone to Johnny’s guitar to match a foreign hardcore bite about some of Joey’s vocals).

To be fair, some tunes were indeed a cut above the rest, including the prickly “Don’t Bust My Chops,” the anthemic “Punishment Fits the Crime” and Joey’s innocently obsessed “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind.” But Brain Drain’s singular standout was the unusually melodic “Pet Sematary.”

A song inspired by, and composed-to-order, at the bequest of bestselling horror author Stephen King (a self-professed Ramones mega-fan) for the soundtrack to his movie by the same title, “Pet Sematary” greatly benefited from this mainstream association and went on to become one of the band’s most successful radio and video hits, but it still couldn’t push Brain Drain’s sales to unusual heights.

And of course the punk rock gods giveth and taketh away: Now that Marky was back in the “happy” family, it was bassist (and chief songwriter) Dee Dee’s turn to take his leave, in order to embark on an ill-fated, much-derided (and thankfully short-lived) rap career under the name of Dee Dee King.

Luckily, Dee Dee would carry on contributing songs (usually the best ones!) to “da brudders'” next few studio albums (while letting his mini-me replacement, C.J., tour in his place), but things would never really be the same for the Ramones and, by 1996, they were history – albeit rock and roll history.

End of the Century

The Ramones always had one foot in the future and one in the past. Even as the Queens quartet was rewriting the rock rulebook with its blitzkrieg bop, the band regularly revisited such golden oldies as “Let’s Dance” and “Needles And Pins.” For the album “End Of The Century” – released twenty years ahead of the new millennium – the Ramones tapped into the legendary Phil Spector to produce, and the collection includes a cover of the ’60s hitmaker’s “Baby I Love You,” as well as the propulsive “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?” and a version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School.”

End of the Century is the fifth studio album by the American punk rock band the Ramones, released on February 4th, 1980, through Sire Records.

In contrast to punk’s typically nihilistic viewpoint (so punk rock!), this 1980 effort proceeded to boldly go where no Ramones LP had gone before it: into galaxies of pop-oriented song craft never visited by the group’s famously aggressive and austere signature sound. The Ramones had hinted at this looming evolution on their previous LP, Road to Ruin, in 1978 but it was pushed to new heights on End of the Century – something underscored by the presence of infamous producer Phil Spector.

The highest-charting album of the band’s career, End Of The Century celebrates its 40th anniversary this week and captures Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky in top form.

Formed in 1984, Dinosaur Jr carved a singular path through the latter half of the 1980s and early 1990s, issuing a number of highly influential albums in the process before finding a home with Sire Records. Cherry Red Records has announced details of an epic Dinosaur Jr. album reissue campaign coming this September: The four Warner period ’90s albums ‘Green Mind’, ‘Where You Been’, ‘Without A Sound’ and ‘Hand It Over’ have been lovingly remastered, expanded and reissued on coloured double vinyl and double CD editions, with related singles, b-sides and previously unreleased material. The entire collection is available now

Dinosaur Jr. consisted of J Mascis on guitar and vocals, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph banging the drums. Their first album came out in 1985 and they had a huge underground hit with the 1988 single Freak Scene. Lou Barlow left shortly afterwards to form the highly regarded Sebadoh,

“Without A Sound”, was their sixth record, emerged in the summer of 1994, in the wake of personal bereavement and the departure of longtime drummer and founder member Murph.

Performed primarily by J Mascis, “Without A Sound” continued the band’s growth in popularity and commercial achievement, reaching #44 in the US (their highest ever album placing there) and featuring the hit singles ‘Feel The Pain’ and ‘I Don’t Think So’. Released to positive reviews, “Without A Sound” also took Dinosaur Jr around the world, including dates in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and into the mainstream as the group contributed ‘Blah’ to the hit US TV show Melrose Place.

Collected together with related B-sides, unreleased mixes and a complete live recording made in London in 1994, and accompanied by in-depth sleevenotes from Mojo’s Keith Cameron (based on recent and exclusive interviews with J Mascis), this edition provides a glimpse of a band at the height of their international appeal and accessibility.

“Hand It Over”, their seventh record, appeared in the spring of 1997 following a lengthy absence, and would prove to be the band’s final album-length offering for a decade.

Performed primarily by J Mascis, “Hand It Over” appeared at a time of declining international interest in American alternative rock, but nevertheless received widespread approval and appreciation amongst critics and reviewers. The album was accompanied, unusually, by an EP of non-album songs recorded for the Matt Dillon movie Grace Of My Heart and, later, a vinyl only ‘I’m Insane’ 7” single, all of which are collected here alongside a previously unreleased concert recording made in Stockholm and two tracks performed for ABC TV in Australia.

Dinosaur Jr carved a singular path through the latter half of the 1980s, issuing three highly influential albums in the process before finding a home with Sire Records, who issued “Green Mind” in 1991 as the alternative American rock scene the band had long been part of exploded globally.

Produced by a stripped down line-up of the group (in fact, J Mascis himself plays almost everything), the album and Sire’s international reach took Dinosaur Jr’s reputation to a new level, aided by the singles ‘The Wagon’ and ‘Whatever’s Cool With Me’, a non-album EP of new material and live recordings, all of which are included here alongside a previously unreleased live recording capturing the group at the Hollywood Palladium in June 1991.

Critically lauded on release, “Green Mind” remains one of the band’s strongest collections, and a firm fan favourite.

‘Where You Been’, their fifth record, emerged in 1993, at the height of enthusiasm for grunge and the alternative American rock scene the band had long been part of.

Produced by a new line-up of the group (longtime drummer Murph and new bassist Mike Johnson completing the three-piece), the album became the band’s most successful up to that point, reaching #50 in the US (where it sold over a quarter of a million copies) and #10 in the UK album charts, and spawning the hit single ‘Start Choppin’.

Released to unanimously positive reviews, and containing many tracks that would become staples and fan favourites, ‘Where You Been’ continued Dinosaur Jr’s global ascent, being issued simultaneously across the US, Europe, Australasia, Asia and South America.

Collected together here on vinyl for the first time with related singles, B-sides and John Peel session recordings,

To celebrate the deluxe reissue campaign of Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Warner Years albums ‘Green Mind’, ‘Where You Been’, ‘Without A Sound’ & ‘Hand It Over’ via Cherry Red Records, singer & guitarist J Mascis spoke to Keith Cameron from MOJO Magazine about recording these much loved albums.

Order the Warner Years albums reissued on deluxe gatefold 2LP & deluxe expanded 2CD editions

Tegan and Sara have returned with the lead single “I’ll Be Back Someday” from their forthcoming album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, The infectious track is a reinvented version of what the sisters found on their old cassettes when they were digging through inspiration for their first memoir, High School The cassettes were from the 1990s, recorded the two were between the ages of 15 and 17. That nostalgic, punk rock energy is definitely apparent on the catchy track.

“To the end my friend, oh what a lie/ If I could pretend, if I could lie,” they sing, emitting pure teenage angst on top of fiery electric guitars.

““We had been begging for an electric guitar, and on our 16th birthday, we got one,” Sara Quin said in a release of the time period “I’ll Be Back” dates to. “Of course, we had to share it, so it became a weapon that we stole from each other’s rooms, barricading ourselves behind locked doors with guitar in hand. Screaming over the small amplifier, we tested our voices by writing punk songs, shredding our thumbs on the strings.”

The rest of the album, which was recorded in Vancouver, BC earlier this year with an all-female team including producer Alex Hope, will consist of more reinventions of those ’90s tapes, showcasing the remarkable talent the “Closer” artists had even at such a young age.

Tegan and Sara also recently announced an acoustic, interactive North American tour that will pair with the album. For the first time in decades, the duo will play by themselves, and will hit more intimate venues, reading excerpts from High School.The Quins will play songs from the new album as well as catalog classics, and share video footage from their teenage years.

Hey, I’m Just Like You is set for release on September. 27th via Sire Records. Just a few days before that, High School will be published on September. 24th by MCD X FSG (USA) in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

I’ll Be Back Someday – the first single from our new album Hey, I’m Just Like You – out Sept 27.

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To mark the release of David Byrne’s eagerly awaited American Utopia album, here are the former Talking Heads front man’s variegated and all-too-sporadic canon of solo and collaborative albums.

America Utopia is David Byrne’s first solo album in 14 years, and only his ninth studio LP since the break-up of Talking Heads in the late 1980s. Of those nine, four have been co-headlined with other artists: Brian Eno, Fatboy Slim and St Vincent. The emphasis has been on quality rather than quantity.

But Byrne has not been sitting on his hands. Along with lecture tours, writing books and operating his own Luaka Bop and Todo Mundo labels, he has composed extensively for cinema and the stage. Byrne has, in fact, notched up more soundtracks than he has own-name projects, from big budget Hollywood productions such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor through to scores for experimentalist ballet choreographers Twyla Tharp and Wim Vandekeybus. Some of his best soundtracks have, happily, been released on vinyl.

Born in Scotland in 1952, but resident in the US from 1960, David Byrne has been based in New York since 1974, where he co-formed Talking Heads a few years later. He has been at the cutting edge of the avant-music scene for four decades, an achievement equalled by only a handful of musicians, one of whom is Brian Eno.

Brian Eno/David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
(Sire LP, 1981)

Byrne first worked with Brian Eno in 1978, on Talking Heads’s More Songs About Buildings And Food, which Eno produced. The collaboration continued on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Byrne’s first album outside Talking Heads. The music is an art-rock extension of Eno’s groundbreaking 1980 collaboration with the beyond-jazz trumpeter Jon Hassell, Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics, which wove together electronica, tape manipulation and found sounds with jazz, African, Asian and Middle Eastern roots musics. Ghosts is a high-water mark in both Byrne and Eno’s catalogues, with ‘The Jezebl Spirit’ becoming an unlikely Paradise Garage classic. Remarkably, the duo did not co-headline again until 2009’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

David Byrne  –  The Catherine Wheel
(Sire LP, 1981)

For a couple of years in the early 1980s, Byrne and the choreographer Twyla Tharp were an item. The Catherine Wheel, a patchwork of spacey electronica and earth-bound motor rhythms, is his score for Tharp’s Broadway-meets-ballet project of the same name, or to be precise, highlights from the score, which in theatrical performance runs for around 80 minutes. Like so much of Byrne’s stage and screen work, the music stands up well even when separated from the visuals. Alongside Byrne on vocals and guitars, contributing musicians include Brian Eno and Bernie Worrell on keyboards and synthesisers, drummer Yogi Horton and Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison.

David Byrne  –  Music For The Knee Plays
(ECM LP, 1985)

Another of Byrne’s notable theatrical partnerships during the 1980s was with the iconoclastic playwright and director Robert Wilson. Music For The Knee Plays is Byrne’s part of the score for Wilson’s epic opera The Civil Wars, which also included sections by Philip Glass and Gavin Bryars. Byrne’s 19-piece collective line-up of musicians is made up almost entirely of jazz and funk horn players and his arrangements, which reference revivalist New Orleans’s outfits such as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, effectively evoke the American Civil War-era which contextualises Wilson’s production.

David Byrne – Music For The Knee Plays Rei Momo
(Luaka Bop LP, 1989)

Byrne’s first solo outing after the break-up of Talking Heads is a heady cocktail of mambo, rumba, samba, cumbia, son and cha-cha-cha. The line-up is dominated by Cuban and Nuyorican musicians, including star stylists Celia Cruz, Willie Colón and Johnny Pacheco, augmented by Byrne and fellow vocalist Kirsty MacColl, whose husband, Steve Lillywhite, produced the album. Respectful of the traditions it celebrates without being in thrall to them, Rei Momo is a delight.

David Byrne  –  Uh-Oh
(Sire LP, 1992)

An engaging but often overlooked entry in Byrne’s canon, Uh-Oh is his post-Talking Heads flashback – poppy tunes, intricate but dance-friendly rhythms and splashes of Africana and Latin Americana. In 1992, after such daring experiments as My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, The Catherine Wheel and Music For The Knee Plays, the album was widely perceived as unadventurous and anachronistic. With hindsight and the passage of years, its straight-talking charm is more apparent.

David Byrne –  Lead Us Not Into Temptation (Music From The Film Young Adam)
(Thrill Jockey LP, 2003)

Bleak but important, this is Byrne’s noir-soaked soundtrack for the film version of Young Adam, a 1954 novel about a murder on a Scottish river barge written by the minor Scottish Beat poet and major heroin user (and recruiting sergeant) Alexander Trocchi. Byrne’s arrangements for the string section, drawn from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, add appropriately bleak textures, which are periodically lightened by Scottish folk musicians, hurdy-gurdy player Alasdair Roberts and accordionist John Somerville. Possibly Byrne’s best-realised film score to date.

David Byrne/Brian Eno  –  Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
(Todo Mundo LP, 2009)

Three decades after the historic collaboration that was My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Byrne and Eno reunite for another high-scoring shot from left-field. What kept them? Most of the composing and recording was done by email exchange between Byrne in New York and Eno in London, and the production sets in-the-tradition gospel vocals, written and sung by Byrne, against emotionally neutral, electronic backing tracks, mostly arranged and played by Eno. If that sounds a bit semi-detached, it all, as Byrne would probably not say, starts making sense as soon as you spin the record. Eno next crops up as co-producer of ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ on the upcoming American Utopia.

David Byrne & St Vincent  –  Love This Giant
(4AD LP, 2012)

And three decades after the brass-centric film score for Music For The Knee Plays, Byrne dips into that well again too, this time at the suggestion of singer-songwriter St. Vincent. Lyrically, the material is concerned with the idea of human transformation, as reflected in the prosthetically-enhanced cover photo. Love This Giant is an accomplished album, but one that is not quite greater than the sum of its parts. Byrne and Vincent’s respective takes on life and music, though delightfully quirky, are a little too similar to encourage each artist out of their comfort zones.

David Byrne  –  Live From Austin TX
(New West 2xLP, 2017)

Considering the many thousands of tour miles he has notched up over the years, there are relatively few live albums in Byrne’s catalogue – notable among them are Talking Heads’s Stop Making Sense from 1984 and a 2004 collaboration with Caetano Veloso, Live At Carnegie Hall (released in 2012 but not yet on vinyl). Live From Austin TX, recorded in 2001, goes some way towards plugging the gap, including as it does material from Talking Heads and Byrne’s solo catalogues. Made with an electric quartet augmented on most tracks by an acoustic string ensemble, it was well recorded by a local TV station.

American utopia

David Byrne’s new solo record, American Utopia, is released on Todomundo / Nonesuch Records. The album includes the track Everybody’s Coming To My House, co-written with Brian Eno, featuring contributions from TTY, Happa Isaiah Barr (Onyx Collective), Mercury Prize winner Sampha, and others. American Utopia fits hand-in-hand with Byrne’s vision for his series Reasons To Be Cheerful – an ongoing series curated by Byrne of hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures – named for the song by the late Ian Dury. Over the last year, Byrne has been collecting stories, news, ideas, and other items that all either embody or identify examples of things that inspire optimism, such as a tech breakthrough, a musical act, a new idea in urban planning or transportation – something seen, heard, or tasted. Just as the album questions the current state of society while offering solace through song, the content of the series recognizes the darkness and complexity of today while showcasing alternatives to the despair that threatens us.

While David Byrne has collaborated on joint releases with Eno, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), and most recently St. Vincent over the past decade, American Utopia is Byrne’s first solo album since, 2004’s Grown Backwards, also on Nonesuch. American Utopia morphed during the writing and recording process, beginning with longtime collaborator Eno, and eventually growing to include collaboration with producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, King Krule, Sampha, Savages) alongside a diverse cast of creative contributors including Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Jam City, Thomas Bartlett (St. Vincent producer, aka Doveman), Jack Peñate, and others. The album was recorded in New York City at David’s home studio, Reservoir Studios, Oscilloscope, XL Studios, and Crowdspacer Studio and in London at Livingston Studio 1

Record Store Day 2018 will sweep America’s record shops, bringing with it performances, parties, and plenty of drool-worthy new and exclusives releases.  Uncle Tupelo (the band that predated and eventually morphed into Wilco) will release No Depression – Demos on Record Store Day. Previously released as disc two of the 2014 deluxe reissue of the landmark 1990 album, this marks the first time these tracks will be available on vinyl. Legacy will press 3000 copies.

One release we’re particularly excited about is Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression (Demos). the site and publication No Depression originally got its name from that 1990 album from Uncle Tupelo, a history former ND editor Kim Ruehl outlined in a recent piece for the Columbia Journalism Review.

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Referencing ND founding editor Peter Blackstock, Ruehl writes, “Blackstock occasionally participated in an online message board called NoDepression.AltCountry, named for the 1993 debut album of Midwest alt-country group Uncle Tupelo (who had, in turn, named their inaugural recording, No Depression, for a song The Carter Family had recorded a half-century earlier, during the Great Depression).”

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Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Mike Heidorn formed the group Uncle Tupelo after the lead singer of their previous band, The Primitives, left to attend college. The trio recorded three albums for Rockville Records, before signing with Sire Records and expanding to a five-piece. Shortly after the release of the band’s major label debut album Anodyne, Farrar announced his decision to leave the band due to a soured relationship with his co-songwriter Tweedy. Uncle Tupelo split on May 1, 1994, after completing a farewell tour. Following the breakup, Farrar formed Son Volt with Heidorn, while the remaining members continued as Wilco. Although Uncle Tupelo broke up before it achieved commercial success, the band is renowned for its impact on the alternative country music scene. The group’s first album, No Depression, became a byword for the genre and was widely influential. Uncle Tupelo’s sound was unlike popular country music of the time, drawing inspiration from styles as diverse as the hardcore punk of The Minutemen and the country instrumentation and harmony of the Carter Family and Hank Williams. Farrar and Tweedy lyrics frequently referred to Middle America and the working class of Belleville.

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This Record Store Day release features a handful of exclusives, including a 1988 demo of the title track, which has never before been released on vinyl. Check out more details and a track list for No Depression (Demos) here.

Released in 1990, Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression was a genuine milestone in American rock and roll, a striking fusion of traditional folk and country with post-punk innovation and hardcore ferocity. For the first time on vinyl, fans can hear Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn’s legendary demo tape Not Forever, Just For Now, recorded in 1989, plus a demo of “No Depression” recorded a year earlier.

Side A 1. Outdone [1989 Demo] 2. That Year [1989 Demo] 3. Whiskey Bottle [1989 Demo] 4. Flatness [1989 Demo] 5. I Got Drunk [1989 Demo]
Side B 1. Before I Break [1989 Demo] 2. Life Worth Living [1989 Demo] 3. Train [1989 Demo] 4. Graveyard Shift [1989 Demo] 5. Screen Door [1989 Demo] 6. No Depression [1988 Demo]

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The Replacements were always going to be a risk for any label to sign in the mid eighties. The band’s reputation for sloppy live shows, drunken interviews and overall contempt for anything resembling self promotion was already legendary. Not that any of this ever worried the band, when Sire eventually signed the Mat’s in 1986 they seemed more concerned with keeping up with their local rivals Husker Du (who had just signed to Warners) than proving any doubters wrong.

Paul Westerberg always seemed to understand that for the kind of band he was going to run, danger was a part of deal. Indeed, the Replacements seemed to revel in it. One of their very first songs was a tribute to Westerberg’s great hero and soon-to-be inevitable heroin casualty Johnny Thunders. On “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” Westerberg sings with an offhand casualness: “Johnny always takes more then he needs / knows a couple chords / knows a couple leads / and Johnny’s gonna die.” The sentiment is decidedly not, “Hey, we should probably do something before Thunders finally kicks it!” It’s more like he’s noting the weather outside, an absolutely prosaic dispatch. Westerberg even ends the song with a sort of cheerful refrain of “bye, bye” — it was 10 years before Thunders would finally leave the building, but the Replacements had already skipped ahead to the eulogy.

For all of the tremendous hilarity surrounding the band’s legendary antics, the Replacements’ story is far more tragedy then comedy. The band wasn’t a suicide pact, but they were a sort of four-man Russian Roulette game. Excess bordered on mandatory. A much-repeated (and unconfirmed) story tells of Westerberg confronting the deeply troubled and dependent founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson before a show when Stinson had just finished 30 days in a detox clinic. Westerberg brings him a bottle of champagne and tells him: “Either take a drink, motherfucker, or get off my stage.” It doesn’t matter so much if this is true or not, simply because it is plausible. Being wasted was Bob Stinson’s brief in the Replacements — he really wasn’t good enough a technical player to keep around sober and levelheaded. The fact that he was eventually fired for being overly erratic is an unamusing irony.

All Shook Down [Explicit]

‘All Shook Down’ (1990)

The band’s final LP gets punished for what it’s not – a real Replacements record. Paul Westerberg began ‘All Shook Down’ as a solo effort and only shifted to include his bandmates during sessions. On its own merits, and stripped of ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’’s misguided bombast, the album is pleasant. It is fine. The steady “Merry-Go-Round” has a nice hook and Paul’s sleeve-hearted storytelling is solid – even if, as he looks back, Westerberg takes his band’s legacy more seriously than the boys did in the moment). But middling tempos and hushed shuffles make ‘All Shook Down’ the audio equivalent of beige. Stuck between being a Replacements record and a solo debut, the album doesn’t satisfy in either way. Westerberg’s pen is typically astute and nimble here, noting the soon-to-be-disastrous marriage depicted in “Nobody” and the fractious future of an unsettled newborn in “Sadly Beautiful.” It’s an album reckoning with the consequences of all that has come before. On the final track the band would ever release, “The Last,” Westerberg ruefully acknowledges: “It’s too late to run like hell.”

Star-Belly

With stints in Throwing Muses and The Breeders behind her, Tanya Donelly was more than ready to front her own alternative rock band, and Belly captured the spotlight even more firmly than those previous groups. Filled out by three musical cohorts from Donelly’s Rhode Island home base, Belly made an impressive debut with “STAR” the 1993 Sire set included a Modern Rock chart-topper in “Feed The Tree,” another MTV favorite in “Gepetto,” and brought the quartet two Grammy nominations. These 15 originals give indie dream pop plenty of appealing hooks – even if the album’s sweet-sounding vocals sometimes sing about rather strange stuff. Today we’ll wish upon a Star in honor of Tanya Donelly’s birthday.

Star was borne out of artistic restlessness, Donelly having blossomed as a songwriter in her first band, Throwing Muses, by the sessions for their fourth album The Real Ramona, becoming an equal to the band’s heretofore leader, and Donelly’s stepsister, Kristin Hersh.  Donelly came to the sessions with more than her requisite pair of songs, quickly realising elsewhere would be a better fit for the bulk of them rather than the latest Muses’ album.  Initially, that home was ostensibly The Breeders’ sophomore release:

“The songs I brought to The Real Ramona were the two that ended up on there (“Not Too Soon” and “Honeychain”), “Full Moon, Empty Heart,” “Slow Dog,” and “Gepetto” (all songs that would appear on Star).  This was around the time [the early quartet lineup of Throwing Muses] had started to dissolve so I thought, I’ll have the two on there and save the rest for The Breeders.  They had several home options for about six months there.”

In the time off between Throwing Muses albums at the turn of the 1990s, Donelly and Pixies guitarist Kim Deal collaborated on a new project, The Breeders, who released their debut Pod in 1990 largely consisting of Deal’s songs with the plan of the follow up featuring largely Donelly’s songs.  As luck would have it, that second Breeders album would become Belly’s first.

“Everything that is on Star was intended for the next Breeders album.  All the old reels I have in my basement of the demos are labeled The Breeders.  The Pixies had announced a year long, worldwide tour and Kim signed on for that.  I sort of got antsy, had already left the Muses and so I thought, I’m taking my songs and making my own band!”

In retrospect, with such a flurry of activity occurring in such a compact timeframe, the aesthetic groundwork for Star appears to have been laid in Donelly’s final pair of Muses tracks; the off-kilter, chipper pop of “Not To Soon” and the harrowing dreamlike beauty of “Honeychain” portending the two ends of Star’s spectrum.  Indeed, Donelly views the latter as forming “the bridge between my Muses and my Belly life.”

Star’s appeal is clear; its tone is impeccably balanced between oblique jangle-pop and moody dream-pop, tracks that individually would appear at odds with each other benefitting by this balance to achieve an unwitting congruity.

That said, with the exception of REM’s Automatic For The People, the upper echelon of the UK albums chart in and around February 1993 was continuously peppered with compilations of legacy pop acts with nary a blink at rising alternative acts until Suede’s debut would chart a couple months later, so how and why Star?  .

Indeed, few albums can as deftly move from the Eastern European flavours of “Angel” to “Gepetto”s jangly bounce, veering over to “White Belly”s gorgeous murk and back around to the countrified folk of “Untogether”.

While truthfully a rather sprawling album at 15 tracks over 51 minutes, Star plays small owing to its constant shift in tone reinvigorating the listener track to track.  “Dusted”s razor wire riff belongs chiseled on a Rushmore of indie rock hooks while there is nary a chorus as exuberant in the annals of indie rock as “Slow Dog”.

It’s Donelly’s unsuspecting vocal prowess that threads Star together as an album rather than a collection of songs.  Wafting vaporously into view on opener, “Someone To Die For”, she proceeds, throughout the album, to emit just enough grit and force to stay atop her band’s thunderous patches while reining back at precisely the opportune respite points.

Release date 25th January 1993