Saturday, May 29, 2010

Notes From a Bus Terminal

The plan was to leave work early, go home, get my luggage, and take a train, a train and a bus to Laguardia. The plan was to board AirTran flight 208to Akron. The plan was to spend a night in Cleveland and drive to Cincinnati the following day for a Memorial Day weekend that was a housewarming and reunion all rolled into one.

As they say, "The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry and leave us naught but grief and pain."

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Brooklyn Tattoo From Brooklyn Tattoo

I was perusing Facebook last Friday and noticed that a friend of mine was attending an event at Brooklyn Tattoo on Smith Street and Atlantic in Brooklyn. Curious, I clicked through and arrived at one of the more impulsive decisions I've recently made.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How an Early Evening Turns Into a Late Night

For the better part of four years for my friends and I Wednesday has been a bar night. Not a wild, get dressed up, go out late bar night. A blow off steam after work and leave after happy hour night. Occasionally these outings have spilled into Thursday A.M. but generally we'd belly up at 5:30 and be out in time for Lost. Though we've dabbled in other bars our bar of choice has been largely consistent as has our bartender (the wonderful Ms. Heather.) Our times have not always been unpredictable but they have always been fun so when I texted the usual suspects yesterday as afternoon stretched to evening I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into.

Little did I know that I'd be left fighting a hangover for most of Thursday that even an early-morning bacon/egg/cheese croissant couldn't ward off. How did I get from light after-work drinking to trudging through a work day dehydrated, muddled and craving huge bowls of fries covered in cheese and hot sauce? The story isn't funny. It's not strange. It's not surprising. It's probably a little anti-climactic But it says a lot about that bar, this city and the people that choose to populate both.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Vinyl Exams: The National and Broken Social Scene

The National's High Violet and Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record will likely be remembered as two of the better albums of 2010. Aside from the two dropping in the same month, these releases share several common traits. Both are lush, rich and deep. Both come from bands that have a several album history of excellent music. And both boast fantastically packaged vinyl versions to the tune of 180-gram double-LPs.

High Violet comes shrink-wrapped with a sticker annoyingly attached to the flimsy plastic. I personally can't stand keeping shrink-wrap on a record, usually opting to buy heavier plastic sleeves. Luckily it does seem that the sticker - which is mostly ad copy, but cool looking ad copy - is easily removable and transferable.

The front cover carries a grey background and is adorned with a multicolored, cursive, shadowed rendering of Pope Pious IX's quote defending the dogma of the immaculate conception:
If, therefore, any persons shall dare to think - which God forbid - otherwise than has been defined by us, let them clearly know that they stand condemned by their own judgement, that they have made shipwreck of their faith and fallen from the unity of the Church.
The band's name stands on its side as does the name of the album, inset with foil.
The back cover is a bright purple with white text. The album name once again appears in foil inset.
As this is a double-disc the packaging is actually a gate-fold with the inside spread including the liner notes and a black and white picture of the Dressler brothers, Aaron and Brian.
The sleeve of the first disc (sides 1 and 2) is bright purple on the front with the word "HIGH" written in large white letters. The back features a black and white picture of Bryan Devendorf. A small, easy to miss slip with a digital download code is inserted along with the first disc. The sleeve of disc two (sides 3 and 4) is colored bright purple like the first with the word "VIOLET" in large white lettering. On the back appears a picture of Matt Berninger and Scott Devendorf.

Those lucky enough to have struck early enough to get a numbered, limited edition copy of this album will find that their records are a deep violet and are slightly translucent (hard to see in the picture.)

The High Violet package is exact, concrete and remarkably attentive to detail. The violet/white trim color scheme permeates the entire release with the exceptions of the stylized black and white band photos.

Forgiveness Rock Records comes pre-packaged in the kind of heftier plastic liner that I prefer, which is good since the band and album names are imprinted on the plastic and not on the actual record cover. The front cover art consists of a splice of several different pictures including a crowd scene, a city-scape, a field of flowers, a boat and various kinds of sky. Bisecting the images is a wide cone of light shining upward.

The back cover features a picture of a large, paint-brushed color splotch.

The inside spread sees the album's lyrics hand-scrawled in the background with a mountain range superimposed over the top. This is more art than functional lyric sheet since each half is once again bisected by a white column with a track list and producer's credits.

The front of the disc 1 sleeve is simply the album title drawn in smudged pen and enlarged. This spare presentation could seem anti-climactic but actually conveys a very personal touch. The back of the sleeve reproduces doodles of the various band-members. The disc 2 sleeve has more doodles on the front though the back is the star. As BSS has so many members performing so many different functions within each song, the back of the second sleeve features liner notes and itemized musician credits for each individual song.

The final impression the album leaves is one of incredible creativity but also of deep intimacy. It's just as careful and purposeful as High Violet but evokes a more riotous, frenetic feeling, much like BSS' music compared to The National.

The packaging in both cases is meticulous, reflecting the ethos of each band and each group's musical style. Clearly a lot of thought and love went into these, which is fitting considering the quality of the songs contained within.