Rejoice! Record Store Day is back tomorrow. Like Christmas in… April? Anyway, Talkhouse is partnering up with the Rough Trade NYC store for some amazing DJ sets in between in-store performances. Starts at 9am tomorrow with Record Store Day Ambassador St. Vincent. We also have a weekend playlist, RSD themed of course. Cassandra Jenkins is a country folk artist who released her debut record, Play Till You Win earlier this month. She created a sample of old and new tracks you might find in your local record store. Enjoy!
-Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Marketing Manager
To celebrate Record Store Day, here is a chronological playlist of songs you might find at your local shop- an array of low hanging essentials, rare gems, and one that has yet to emerge. So whether you’re scouring for deep cuts this weekend, or want to return to some great classics, I hope you’ll enjoy these stories and selections from my personal collection that influenced my new release, Play Till You Win, out this month on limited edition *white* vinyl. Happy hunting!
Lee Hazlewood – “Record Biz” (from his 1963 Trouble is a Lonesome Town)
I’ll let Lee take care of the introductions here.
Naomi and the Boys – “Tennessee Waltz” (It’s All Over 7”, 1965)
I wonder how many recordings of this song you can find in a record store at any given moment. I’ve heard countless versions, from the pristine original to drunken barroom sessions, but this particular recording, sent to me by my friend Max Clarke (of Cutworms), stands out for its wonderfully jaunty interpretation of an American classic. I love the song itself for being about itself (or else a phantom song of the same name), which is served with a twist when removed a step further in time and place when performed by Naomi and the boys, a Malay pop act who made it a hit in Sri Lanka in the 1960s.
Lee Hazlewood – “For One Moment” (The Very Special World Of Lee Hazlewood, 1966)
Spaghetti western orchestration sets the landscape for Lee Hazlewood’s wall-of-sound inspired country ballad, with full stops (for one moment) that give way for his melancholic croons. I love the unabashed drama of this song, pulled from one of his earlier records that holds a special place in my heart and on my record shelf. Maybe it was his later work with Nancy Sinatra that earned his style the title “saccharine underground” or my personal soft spot, “country psychedelia,” and while this track certainly reveals a darker side of Sugar Town, it leans heavily towards country-pop with the opening line “the hurt I hurt is nothing like the hurts I’ve hurt before.” The escalade of strings at the top of the track was the inspiration for the arrangements that open my song “Red Lips.”
The Beatles – “Long Long Long” (The White Album, 1968)
While the guitar playing on my record is a nod (or flailing laudation) to Harrison’s later solo work (most obviously All Things Must Pass), I’m including one of my favorite Beatles-era Harrison songs. Like all of their recordings, there are endless mines of information out there about the lore and origins of this song (and its different masters to boot), but I’d like to point to one very simple act of stoic recording ingenuity. Whether you’re listening to the mono or stereo mix, there’s a glaring choice that speaks to Harrison’s soft-spoken brilliance. It’s mixed so quietly, that when it follows heavy rock-styled “Helter Skelter,” it’ll likely draw you in close to your speakers, or turn up your stereo just before the drums come in. It’s an old trick– talk quietly when you want people to listen. The version now available on Spotify is pulled from the 2009 Stereo remaster, and you can find the mono version that was reissued in 2014. Or better yet– shell out $790,000 for Ringo Starr’s personal copy of its original pressing (as it was sold last year, making it the Guinness Book of World Records “most expensive vinyl record sold at auction”).
Kevin Ayers – “Girl on a Swing” (Joy of a Toy, 1969)
I remember the first time I heard this pastoral frolic with Ayers’ sonorous voice and (my ultimate soft spot) tremolo guitar chords on a friend’s East Village Radio show. It was the gateway song that led me down the rabbit hole of many great British psychedelic records. The simplicity of the lyrics (repeating the trope of a girl on a swing) mixed with the eccentric instrumentation has always entranced me like slow-moving circus dream. It’s at once calm and flamboyant, and I return to it often.
The Velvet Underground – “Pale Blue Eyes” (The Velvet Underground, 1969)
This was my first Velvet Underground record, and without the guiding hand of google or a cool older sibling, I remember walking into a record store at 14 and deciding that the record named after the band seemed like a good place to start. Nearly two decades later, I’m still putting this song on mixes (admittedly no longer tapes) and referencing it throughout the recording process from guitar tone to mastering. And in light of Record Store Day, I’m thinking about a Brian Eno quote about The Velvet Underground and Nico; “It sold 30,000 copies during its first five years but everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band,” which speaks of course to the discrepancy between record sales and the band’s influence. Eno has always been a visionary, and I wonder how those stats stack up now.
The Roches – “Hammond Song” (The Roches, 1977)
Speaking of Eno, here’s a song produced by Robert Fripp. I’ve been listening to this record a lot lately. You can’t beat the sister blend– and the harmonies in this song are arrestingly beautiful with a hint of goofiness (like a lot of the record). The unison trio vibrates at moments like a synthesizer laid over the plain acoustic guitar strumming and Fripp’s signature guitar stylings. Part of the song’s undeniable charm is its idiosyncratic performance and song structure. Growing up in a folk band with my siblings, and playing in rock bands with my friends, the record resonates on a deeper level for me because it feels like a perfect marriage of two musical worlds. The result is a quirky and enjoyable record performed and carried out by some of my favorite musicians.
Talk Talk – “After the Flood” (Laughing Stock, 1991)
This one’s for Austin Vaughn. He plays drums on my record (also on Luke Temple, Sam Evian, and Pavo Pavo’s latest releases), and referenced this track when we were writing “Red Lips.” I love the repetitive drum beat, and how it allows the rest of the instruments to dance around and on top of it. I’ve often found myself listening to this record on repeat– I think because it feels trance-like while retaining the living/breathing quality of a live performance. The momentary breaks from the rhythm peppered throughout are part of what makes it a great record to listen to at home. When I asked Austin why he likes this song so much, he said: “it just feels good.” Agreed.
The Top – “Mark Twain” (Time Tourist, 2014)
I’d like to make a playlist around this song alone. The Top is the brainchild of Clemens Knieper, a friend and recording engineer who was a gentle ear on a lot of my early demos. This track opens with the lyric “Sibylle, from the far land waving me goodbye.” Clemens grew up with family friend Sibylle Baier, the songwriter and actress whose hauntingly beautiful recordings from the early 70s had a resurgence with the 2006 vinyl reissue of Colour Green. When I asked him about this song, he wrote that it was a travel diary about moving across the country and “saying goodbye to Sibylle as she found a feather to keep me safe.” He’s since moved back to set up a recording studio in a barn upstate (complete with home-made reverb plate) where he recorded Eleanor Friedberger’s most recent release (New View, also out on vinyl). I love sharing this record with friends because they react similarly to its spirit, kindred with the great recordings we love and pulling tastefully from 60s/70s analog recording techniques and instrumentation. The first time I played it for John Dieterich (who has since recorded at the barn) he asked, “who is this? It feels like a classic I should know, but I don’t” which reminds me of wandering the aisles of a record store as a teenager and asking the same question the first time I heard Of Montreal. That sense of discovery can’t really be replaced, so I’m grateful when It happens, and when I can spark it in someone else.
Lola Kirke – “Brilliant Friend” (EP, 2016)
Lola sings the harmonies on my song “Tennessee Waltz.” We’ve been singing together for years now, and I love the way our voices blend because they are so different– hers is wonderfully rich and husky! Lola is always introducing me to great songs in the car or birthday mixes and has a keen ear for melodies that feel at once age-old and fresh. This song is a brilliant example. There’s depth behind the easygoing twang– the title references the first of Elena Ferrante’s series of novels, and the song explores similar themes of the beauty and trappings of close female friendship. I’m excited to be touring on the west coast next month, with a stop in LA for a few shows with Lola’s band.
Sam Evian – “Cactus” (Premium, 2016)
Here’s one of my favorite songs by a friend who contributed greatly to my record. He’s responsible for the Harrison guitar channeling, and we produced my record side by side while he was simultaneously writing and recording his own studio album. At the time, we shared a tiny studio apartment in upper Manhattan that was overflowing with instruments, records, and tape machines. At one point I counted 15 guitars, 2 DX7s (both salvaged from our parents’ basements), a reel to reel, drum kit, and a broken pedal steel. It was a tight fit, and to accommodate we naturally fell into a rhythm of working in shifts– I’d often wake up early at the same time he’d be wrapping up after working through the night. My interpretation of this song is that it was written during and about those hours spent finding his groove by moonlight. Nocturnal by nature, he describes himself as a cactus soaking up the night hours, like water, to survive the harsh summer sun. There’s a sleepy vibrancy to the song with its steady saunter and sparse guitar leads (especially compared to the rockers on the rest of the record). And that pedal steel guitar spreading across the song like aloe vera? Enter Dan Iead. You might know him from Cass McCombs’ records, or his occasional weeknight sessions at the 11th street bar. Watch out for that guy, and while you’re checking out Sam’s music, go out on a limb and smell the flowers with his botanical single, “Cherry Tree” (Digital release, 2016) while they’re in full bloom here in New York City this weekend (because who doesn’t love a secret track and a walk in the park?).
Relatives – “Name of Love” (Weighed Down Fortune, to be released Fall 2017)
And finally, a song by my friend Ian McLellan Davis– arranger, composer, songwriter, and loving friend, and his duo partner (fellow unrelated red-head) Katie Vogel. Ian arranged most of the strings and horns on my record and composed the last track, “Halley,” about its comet namesake. He is one of those mythical creatures who can churn out an album’s worth of material between rehearsals, each one better than the last. Here is a song from a yet-to-be-released album from Relatives. Their sparse arrangement choices and catchy hooks remind me how powerful restraint can be when handling a good song. While I often go to Ian for his orchestral prowess, I’m always inspired by what he can do when using those tools with mindful intention and a playful approach in the name of love and good tunes.
(Photo Credit: Josh Goleman)