It’s the Best of 2020 New Vinyl Thursday at The Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Check out this week’s list of new vinyl arrivals:
The 1975 – Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationship [180 gram Vinyl]
The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form
2Pac – All Eyez on Me
The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You (Limited Edition, Colored Vinyl, Coke Bottle Green, 180 Gram Vinyl)
Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies [180 gram Vinyl]
Alice in Chains – MTV Unplugged [180 gram Vinyl]
Alicia Keys – Alicia [150 gram Vinyl]
Bright Eyes – Down in The Weeds, Where The World Once Was
Beck Studio Acetate – Beck Studio Acetate
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds [180 gram Vinyl]
Beyonce – Lemonade [180 gram Vinyl, Gatefold LP Jacket]
Charlie Parker – The Savoy [10 in Vinyl]
Charles Lloyd – 8: Kindred Spirits (Live From The Lobero) (With DVD)
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Chris Stapleton is without a doubt one of the most talented artists in music right now. With a prolific catalogue of hits for other artists and plenty of his own hits, Stapleton has had a meteoric rise over the last five years since the release of his debut album ‘Traveller’.
Highlights on the album include the hard rocking ‘Arkansas’, which features gritty vocals and crunchy electric guitars, the 70s almost-Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘Hillbilly Blood’ and the hard-hitting truth-telling of ‘Watch You Burn’, which takes aim at the people responsible for the various atrocities that have taken place in America over the past few years. My absolute favourite moment on the record comes on ‘Maggie’s Song’, an ode to Stapleton’s late dog. It’s surprisingly emotional, heartwarming and just… well, lovely. As a dog lover, it hit me in all the right places.
In the album’s final stretch Stapleton injects a bit of loose Blues into ‘You Should Probably Leave’, a surprisingly funky moment, and he closes the album with the beautiful ‘Nashville, TN’, a song that sees him breaking up with Music City.
Quite frankly ‘Starting Over’ is good. There’s nothing here to pick fault with; there’s no filler and every song deserves its place here. Stapleton is simply a talent and while some of his critics may moan about his stage presence, I’d happily sit anywhere and listen to him perform. A master of his craft, Stapleton is the best there is in Country music. ‘Starting Over’ rivals and at times surpasses ‘Traveler’, and will increase his ever-growing fan base even further. Albert Schmurr
Def Leppard – Hits Vegas – Live at Planet Hollywood [Limited Edition, Blue Colored, Gatefold LP Jacket]
Def Leppard – Hysteria [180 gram Vinyl]
Drive-By Truckers – The New Ok
The Damned – The Rockfield Files
Doja Cat – Hot Pink [150 gram Vinyl, Pink Colored]
Elmo Hope – Volume 2
Gorillaz – Demon Days
Gorillaz – Gorillaz
Guided by Voices – Mirrored Aztecs
Prolific indie rockers Guided by Voices are known for dropping albums about as often as the Rolling
Stones release their earnings reports.
For Mirrored Aztec, the group’s second release of 2020, the band has jettisoned the experimental,
progressive rock tendencies they explored earlier this year for straightforward, melodic rock. Several
songs – including “Easier, Not Charming” and “A Whale is Top Notch” – have a Pearl Jam feel.
Just because the performances are straightforward, doesn’t mean there aren’t some surprises tucked in
the arrangements. An acoustic 12-string guitar and string section blossom on the chorus of “Please
Don’t Be Honest” and a children’s choir pops up on “Math Rock.”
Some of the 18 songs on Mirrored Aztec are more like fragments of ideas than full-fledged songs, but
what’s here is straightforward enough that even Guided by Voices dabblers should appreciate it. -Joel Francis
Gun Club – Miami
Harry Styles – Fine Line [180 gram Vinyl, Gatefold Lp Jacket]
Harry Styles – Harry Styles [180 gram Vinyl. Gatefold LP jacket]
Joe Hisaishi – Spirited Away – Original Soundtrack
Khruangbin – Universe Smiles Upon You [180 gram Vinyl].
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Live in San Francisco ‘16
The Australian psychedelic rock collective King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are one of the few groups
who can keep pace with Guided by Voices’ productivity. Live in San Francisco ’16 is the Wizard’s second
live LP of 2020 and was released on the same day as their 16 th studio release.
Live in San Francisco captures the band at a 500-person venue on the cusp of international fame. The
13-song, set starts at a hot tempo and never lets up. Many of the songs bleed into each other and
halfway through the set you can feel the sweat dripping from the walls.
A microphone placed in the crowd that captures bits of offstage banter adds to the immediacy of the
set. Hearing fans comment on the band and react to the music puts the listener in the room – but not at
the expense of hearing any of the action onstage.
Dedicated fans of King Gizzard likely already have a shelf bulging with the band’s material. They should
make room for Live in San Francisco and play it for friends – it might convert them as well. -Joel Francis
Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Pt. 1
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream [140 gram Vinyl]
Laura Veirs – My Echo
Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder [180 gram Vinyl]
Lee Fields & Expressions – Big Crown Vaults Vol. 1 (Lavender Swirl Opaque Vinyl)
Lee Fields is the type of old school soul singer who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as
Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and Andre Williams. Unlike those legends, however, Fields is still alive.
This makes Big Crown Vaults, Vol. 1 a bit of a conundrum.
Fields’ latest album is a collection of outtakes recorded during sessions in 2017 and 2019. Six vocal
tracks on the first side are paired with a half-dozen instrumentals. The instrumentals are fine, but pale in
comparison to the songs with Fields. He would have been better served if the vocal numbers were
released on an EP or paired with other vocal performances from the vault.
The 20 minutes of material that showcases Fields is fantastic. “Thinking About You” is guaranteed to get
your feet moving. A cover of Little Carl Carlton’s “Two Timer” is a more fun than any song about
heartache deserves to be. Fields uses the fuzzy, funky “Do You Know” to get political in the vein of the
Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.”
Big Crown Vaults is half an album. If Fields were deceased, padding the album with instrumental tracks
would make more sense. If this truly is Vol. 1, hopefully future volumes will be more complete. -Joel Francis
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
Margo Price – Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman
Metallica – Garage Days Re-revisited
Metallica – Justice For All
Miles Davis – Bags Groove
Miles Davis – Birth Of The Cool
Miles Davis – Vol 3
McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy (1967 | Blue Note)
The Real McCoy opens with a drum roll from Elvin Jones and some heavy low-end jabs on
the piano by McCoy Tyner, and it feels like the band plays like it has something to prove.
Because Tyner (and Jones) were part of John Coltrane’s quartet that brought us A Love
Supreme and Crescent (and many other classic albums)., the stakes were high for Tyner’s
Blue Note debut in 1967.
This wasn’t Tyner’s first solo album, though. He had already recorded six solo albums for
Impulse (the same label as Coltrane), but those albums were noticeably short on original
compositions and probably didn’t add much to his legacy. To mark this new chapter in
Tyner’s career, he brought five, strong original compositions to the studio. The bombastic
opening track, “Passion Dance,” and later the meter-shifting, “Four by Five,” grab the
listener’s ear. The sensitivity in the ballads still charms audiences, as “Contemplation” and
“Search for Peace” continue to be performed by other artists. To close out the record,
“Blues on the Corner” feels a bit like a Thelonious Monk tune at first before shifting into a
blues, but with Tyner’s characteristic chord voicings.
In order to distinguish his work in the Coltrane’s quartet, Tyner’s albums for Impulse were
primarily piano trio recordings. For The Real McCoy, though, he added Joe Henderson on
tenor saxophone. With the same instrumentation, comparisons to Coltrane’s quartet
recordings were/are certainly inevitable, but Henderson’s playing is unique and soulful.
Henderson doesn’t try to imitate Coltrane. Instead, he serves the melodies that Tyner lays
down and brings his sensitivity to the album.
Reissues are an invitation to revisit, and there’s a lot here to explore again. Fortunately, The
Real McCoy is not merely an academic dive into meter, intervals, and phrasing. Tyner and
his quartet recorded five immediately catchy and hummable tunes that stick with the
listener even after the record is over. – Jonathon Smith
Paul McCartney – McCartney III (White Colored Vinyl, Poster, Indie Exclusive)
Pink Floyd – The Wall [180 gram Vinyl]
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
The Replacements – Let It Be
Shy Boys – Talk Loud
Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1
Cuttin’ Grass is an unapologetically sprawling bluegrass double-album from the country-rocker Sturgill Simpson. A “reimagining” of various songs from his own catalogue, apparently conceived while the ace musician/actor was recovering from Coronavirus, and cut with a crack cohort of Nashville brass well-versed in the Bill Monroe Playbook.
“I had it in my mind for a long time that someday I want to cut as many of these songs as possible in this fashion, just organic and stripped down to the raw bones of the composition,” Simpson is quoted as saying in a press release for the album. “If you can’t sit down and play a song like that, it’s probably a s@#! song.”
Indeed. Without a whisker of doubt or a moment of pause, Simpson charges with earth-shattering abandon into these Kentucky-blue waters, swimming in fiddles and banjos, creating what scans essentially as a honky-tonk come to life in your living room. Which seems about right given the times.
As might be expected, heartache, happiness, and humour vie for thematic dominance, and each are well represented. Cases in point: “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean” (originally from 2013’s High Top Mountain) cheekily chronicles what most of us spend our 20s painfully discovering.
The aching “I Don’t Mind” speaks for a love gone south. And “Turtles All the Way Down” is recut as an existential rumination on god, the devil, drugs and…uh… one’s own perspective? Let’s go with that.
Throughout, Simpson and crew avoid the same-y-ness that can plague such albums, especially one boasting 20 songs. This crew leaves the fatigue for lesser hands. Judging by the title, this is envisioned as an ongoing project for the prolific and highly acclaimed artist. Count us in! Albert Schmurr
Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain
Sandalwood – Changeling
Townes Van Zandt – Somebody Had To Write It
There’s not much information behind this “reimagined” collection of live, acoustic performances of
Texas singer/songwriter’s beloved material. The first four songs also appear on Townes Van Zandt’s
must-have release Live at the Old Quarter. Van Zandt’s voice is wearier and more worn in these new
performances, however, suggesting they were recorded later in his life.
Cast aside the pointless spoken-word introduction and Somebody Had to Write It is a solid round-up of
songs. The problem with this collection is that nothing that differentiates it from other Van Zandt
compilations that have flooded the market since his death 23 years ago.
The solo voice-and-guitar performances tend to get monotonous without any between-song banter to
change the mood. Fat Possum’s double-album best-of offers more varied arrangements of much of the
same material, while Live at the Old Quarter is a better showcase of Van Zandt’s personality. While you
can’t really go wrong with any set that includes “If I Needed You,” “Pancho and Lefty,” “Marie” and
other classic songs, there are better entry points. -Joel Francis
The Temper Trap – Conditions
Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Monk Quartet at Carnegie Hall
Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (180 Gram Vinyl, Bonus Track)
Tadd Dameron – Magic Touch
Tom Petty – Greatest Hits
Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface
Various – Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (150 Gram Vinyl, Gatefold LP Jacket, Poster)
Various Artists – Soul Slabs 1 (Colemine Records)
Various – Singles (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)(Bonus CD, Bonus Tracks, 150 Gram Vinyl, Deluxe Edition, Download Insert)
The War on Drugs – Live Drugs
It hasn’t been easy to endure the better part of a year without major live music events. Live Drugs, the
new 10-song collection of concert highlights, helps numb some of that pain.
In the studio, the War on Drugs are meticulous arrangers, with nary a note out of place. In concert,
however, the songs expand and take on a life of their own. The introduction to “Under the Pressure”
slowly unfolds over three minutes, building in atmosphere and anticipation until the melody finally kicks
in, flooding the brain with a blissful dose of dopamine. In moments like these, it is not hard to close your
eyes and imagine standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers in a poorly ventilated space, feeling the
music wash over the crowd.
Live Drugs is a valentine to fans who discovered the band on their two most recent, breakthrough
albums. Half of the 10 tracks on Live Drugs are pulled from 2014’s Lost in the Dream and only one
predates that album. What we get, spread across 75 blissful minutes, is as close to an authentic live
music experience that one can have from a record.
Play Live Drugs loud and play it often. It might be all we have for a while longer. -Joel Francis
Woody Quintet Shaw – At Onkel Po’s Carnegie Hall Hamburg 1979 Vol. 1
Woody Shaw – Live In Basel 1980 (180 Gram Vinyl)
Woody Shaw – Tokyo 81 (Gatefold LP Jacket)
The White Stripes – Greatest Hits
The idea of releasing a greatest hits album in the era of streaming and personalized playlists seems a tad
anachronistic. Then again, the concept of two Caucasians bringing the blues and garage rock to the
masses in an age of nu metal and Orlando, Fla.-based boy bands seems a bit out-of-time as well.
Clocking in at a generous 80 minutes and encompassing 26 tracks, the White Stripes greatest hits draws
from all of the band’s albums with a couple non-album singles thrown in for good measure. The set is
sequenced like a live show, climaxing with the now-ubiquitous sports anthem “Seven Nation Army.”
The beauty in the collection is how it arrives at “Army” and manages to make it sound fresh in doing so.
The set opens with “Let’s Shake Hands,” the Stripes’ first single, but winds through the catalog. Hearing
the marimba-driven “The Nurse” sequenced before the straight-ahead rocker “Screwdriver” shows that
there isn’t as much distance between the duo’s experimental side and their raw guitar jags. Later, the
song “Astro,” which no one would consider a hit or essential, acts as a buffer between a Burt Bachrach
cover and a Patti Page song. Thoughtful moments like this make Greatest Hits feel like more than a
shuffled playlist and an essential starting point for the uninitiated. -Joel Francis
Weekly Review #2
The 26-song time capsule opens with the band’s 1998 debut recording, the crusty bottle rocket “Let’s Shake Hands.” From there, the album spans from “Screwdriver,” the first song Jack and Meg White wrote together, to their sixth and final album, 2007’s Icky Thump. The compilation rounds up the band’s best known songs: clanging single “Fell in Love with A Girl” captured global audiences’ hearts with its iconic LEGO video, and sports fans still chant the melody of “Seven Nation Army” throughout stadiums around the world.
The White Stripes Greatest Hits reflects the band’s most recurrent themes. The narrator on “The Hardest Button To Button” recalls growing up in economic hardship. “Icky Thump” ties together the band’s preoccupation with entitlement, role reversals, and power-switches. Here, Jack plays a rich white American who gets assaulted and robbed while on vacation in Mexico. “Icky Thump” criticizes America’s exploitation of migrant labourers, making it one of the White Stripes’ rare political songs. “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” and “The Nurse” also speak to becoming someone else and power dynamics. The titular nurse seems to conspire to feed her helpless patient poison from a spoon.
The White Stripes operated according to the philosophy that limitations force creativity. Throughout their existence, they forced themselves into a box with three sets of three essential elements: guitar, drums, and vocals; rhythm, melody, and songwriting.
As “Conquest” shows, the White Stripes had a magical knack for covers. The breadth of artists the band covered deserves its own anthology. But some of their best covers were live exclusives, and often only played as part of a medley. So while you won’t find their take on Beck‘s “Devil’s Haircut” or Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Man” on Greatest Hits, you will hear Dolly Parton’s burning heart classic “Jolene,” Son House’s ashen “Death Letter,” and an impassioned, aching rendition of Burt Bacharach & Hal David’s “I Just Don’t Know What To Do with Myself.”
With a band as consistent and productive as the White Stripes, one can argue all day about what songs a greatest hits collection is missing. But if you focus on how well the collection reflects the band’s evolution, career markers, and overall dynamism, the way most fans heard them – on record rather than in concert – then The White Stripes Greatest Hits is simply hard to beat. Albert Schmurr
Yung Lean – Starz
50% OFF – Any 1 RSD title – Thursday, December 17th ONLY!
OUR TOP 10 PICKS OF 2020
Brad Simmons Picks:
While overall it’s been a strange year, I have to say it’s been a good year for music.
10. Jason Isbell – Reunions: Thoughtful and real, Reunions checks all the right boxes for an Isbell album. In a year ripe with political strife, introspective Americana was just what we needed.
9. Dua Lupa – Future Nostalgia: Disco ain’t dead, not if Dua has anything to do with it. 2020 saw a disco comeback, and no one did it better than Dua.
8. Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me?: This indie pop-rock duo stepped it up on their sophomore album. Lead singer Alex Luciano’s vocals glide effortlessly over the grinding guitars and sharp drums.
7. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers: The Beths are the shot of espresso that you need to get your day going. Uptempo pop-rock with a 90’s sing-a-long simplicity and feel.
6. Soccer Mommy – Color Theory: The song circle the drain was my covid quarantine theme song. This is a beautifully written theme album that is divided into three sections with a color representing each section. Blue for sadness, yellow for illness, grey for loss. The uptempo songs mixed with the emotional lyrics make for a beautiful contrast, like the colors each song represents.
5.Taylor Swift – Folklore: This album took me a minute to warm up to. Not until I watched the Disney+ docu-concert did I really put all the pieces together. Never one to be nailed down to one genre, rediscovering folksy, country roots proves Swift can still do it all. Minus a few points for not selling her vinyl album in indie record stores…
4. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage: Every time I listen, I find myself getting lost in this album. It’s the Killers with their synths and Springsteen’s storytelling. It’s in my opinion the most perfect Killers album to date.
3. Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was: Connor Oberst’s style of songwriting confounds and excites. He is a master of texture, rich sounds that shift and shimmer, crash and crescendo. I can’t think of an album I have listened to more this year than this one.
2. HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III: Very few artists excite me like the sisters of HAIM do. Hypertalented, funny, and brilliant, Women in Music Pt. III is a beautiful mix of songs that feels like a perfectly curated mixtape. It’s a brave step forward from the first two albums, and like everything these sisters do, they make it sound great and look easy.
1. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud: If comfort food was music, then Saint Cloud is the finest home cooking. Kansas City transplant Katie Crutchfield’s shift to folk-rock from indie rock was well executed and certainly worth the wait. Super excited to hopefully see her play some local shows when covid dies down, until then, we sit and spin (records).
In no particular order, just the 10 albums I listened to the most this year.
Kathleen Edwards- Total Freedom
Soccer Mommy- Color Theory
Phoebe Bridger- Punisher
Fiona Apple- Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Chris Stapleton- Starting Over
Ambrose Akinmusire- On The Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment
Elizabeth Cook- Aftermath
Lucinda Williams- Good Souls Better Angels
Lilly Hiatt- Walking Proof
Brent Cobb- Keep ‘Em On They Toes
Major Matt’s Picks:
In no particular order
Phoebe Bridgers- Punisher
The Flaming Lips – American Head
Idles – Ultra Mono
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Kathleen Edwards – Total Freedom
Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels
Budos Band – Long In the Tooth
Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History
Molchat Doma – Monument
Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open
“Honorable Mention” Run the Jewels – 4
Joel Francis’ Picks:
1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
2. Avalanches – We Will Always Love You
3. Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here by History
4. Kathleen Edwards – Total Freedom
5. Common – A Beautiful Revolution (Part One)
6. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
7. Ambrose Akinmusire – On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment
8. The Flaming Lips – American Head
9. Lucinda Williams – Good Souls, Better Angels
10. Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?
Jonathon Smith’s Picks:
Here’s a list of my ten favorite records from 2020, in alphabetical order:
Angular Blues by Wolfgang Muthspiel, Scott Colley, Brian Blade
Heal_Thyself by Ebony Tusks
Ideal Corners by Candace
Mirrored Aztec by Guided By Voices
Rainbow Sign by Ron Miles
Richard by Joe Pernice
See You Tomorrow by The Innocence Mission
Songs of Yearning by The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus
Two Ghosts by Wayne Everett
Who Are You? By Joel Ross
Turntables! We got ’em. From starter tables to audiophile, and everything in between, we have you covered. We are honored to once again be carrying a full line up of the award winning, top of their class, made in America, U-turn Orbits! We have all the colors- including the high performance walnut and maple. Get here fast for best selection. Get yours today!
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Here’s where we talk about the virus. We are all freaked out. We are all nervous and anxious. We are OPEN. If you want to come shop in person put on your mask and we will say hello, give you a virtual high five- a virtual hug if we know you that well- and we will keep our distance. We love all of our customers and are glad to keep this little bit of normalcy in these crazy times. With that being said, we will also offer various other ways to get your vinyl fix. We have always shipped music and we will continue to do so. We also offer curbside pick up. Call us, pay, call us when you are outside and we will deliver your freshly sanitized purchase to your car.
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Enjoy the music and we will see you soon. Your loving Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven staff:
Sherman, Gordon, Cat, Matt, Dylan, Doyle, Heather, Dave and Max
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