Hysterical for Sleater-Kinney (and colored vinyl)

Okay, so, if you follow my blog and videos, then you know I’m a total geek for Sleater-Kinney. I’m always on the lookout for those harder-to-find S-K pressings, and I’m pretty much always over the moon when I manage to snag one. I’ve been to their shows, and I’ve gained a huge group of friends through this fandom — wonderful people I wouldn’t have met had it not been for our mutual love of this band.

So it seemed kind of ridiculous that I still hadn’t gotten my hands on a Start Together box set. Back when the band members started teasing photos of that gorgeous colored vinyl, I was drooling, and I hadn’t even fully immersed myself in their glory yet. It seemed like a big investment to make in a band I didn’t know all that well, so I let the opportunity slide on by. But soon after, I started listening in earnest, and then I was beating myself up for not having gotten the colored vinyl box set. Sure, I could have easily gotten a set with the black vinyl, but I’d already started buying up the single Sub Pop reissues, so it didn’t make much sense to go that route. Instead, I scoured online resources, considering cost and condition each time one of the colored vinyl sets popped up. I wanted it to be as close to mint as possible, and I so wanted the bonus 7″ to be a signed copy (500 were randomly inserted into the 3000 sets made). Nothing ever worked out just right, and then there was the cost. People wanted 2 or 3 times the original price, and that’s a big chunk of change to drop all at once. So I waited, and right when I got a bonus at work, two box sets showed up online for the same price. One was sealed, and one was opened, played once, and had the coveted signed 7″ record. I went back and forth, trying to decide what I wanted more. And in the end, I decided that I wanted to be sure I would get the signed 7″ and went with the already-opened NM set. Then I promptly told a good friend about the sealed one, and she snatched it up.

It’s a thing of beauty. It’s probably one of my most treasured pieces (behind that sealed Weeping Tile record and my signed Wild Flag). And because I already have all the albums on other pressings, I’ll probably keep this one as more of a collector’s piece instead of spinning it. Or maybe I’ll spin it once, just to see that gorgeous colored vinyl in action.

If you want to see the beautiful vinyl in this lovely box set, or you just want to watch me gush over it, check out the unboxing below.

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Introducing…me!

I have some goals for this blog.  I don’t want it to merely be a place for me to share my too-frequent haul videos; I’d like it to be a space where I can discuss and highlight women who collect vinyl.  I’d love to interview women from all over — ranging from those who are budding collectors to hardcore vinyl enthusiasts — and show the world that even though the majority of collectors seem to be men, we are here too.  We need some visibility in this community.  There are a few well-known vinyl collecting ladies, but the overwhelming focus has always been on men.  Just take a look at any book about vinyl collectors, and you’ll see that at minimum 90% of them are guys.  And that’s fine, since we are in a minority.  But it seems to me that there are lots of women out there collecting, and no  one’s taking the time to seek them out and highlight them.  I’m not sure if the lack of representation in books and such is due to the author not putting in the legwork to bring out some more diverse collectors, or if some women feel intimidated by the sometimes-aggressive and sometimes-dismissive dude majority and won’t insert themselves into the narrative.  And that’s understandable, since I’ve been there myself.  But it’s time to change that.

So, without further ado, here’s a little about me and my vinyl collection.  I’d really love to interview any ladies out there, so please pass the word and let me know if you’d allow me to ask you some questions and highlight your collection.

Name, age, location, social media handle.

Amy, 36, Massachusetts, @vinylhysteria

When did you get into vinyl?

I’ve always been into vinyl to some degree. I grew up in the 80s when cassettes were the big thing, but my parents bought me a small record player housed in a multi-colored cardboard case. I had a few 45s that I would play on it, including Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.” But I loved pulling the records out of my parents’ collection and studying the covers. As I grew older, I started buying records for the bands I liked, particularly the Carpenters. I loved Karen Carpenter’s voice, and when we went to antique stores or flea markets, or to that one local music store that still had a section of vinyl, I would grab whatever Carpenters records I could find. Mostly I picked up records that held some sort of nostalgia for me – Chicago, Helen Reddy, Rosemary Clooney. And then in my early 30s, my interest grew more serious, and I started collecting records in earnest. This time, however, it wasn’t just old easy listening records, but newer bands that I loved, and rarer vinyl.

What was your first vinyl record, and how was it acquired? Was it a gift or did you purchase it?

My first vinyl record was most likely one of those Golden Book records they made for kids, but the first record I remember owning was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Since I was quite young at the time, I probably received it as a gift.

What attracts you to vinyl as a medium?

I love the physicality of vinyl. I love the entire process of going to a record store, finding an album, studying the artwork and the track listing, interacting with the shop owner to purchase it. I love taking it home and opening it up, holding the vinyl in my hands and feeling its weight, reading the inserts and looking at the pictures and label information. I love the act of turning on the record player, adjusting the settings, and carefully dropping the needle onto the vinyl. The act of buying and listening takes time and consideration, and that’s something I find lacking in digital downloads. Yes, I love being able to access music with the click of a button, but for me, it’s a lesser experience. I connect so emotionally and viscerally to music that it feels more real to me to find, purchase and listen to that music through the vinyl experience.

How many records do you have in your collection?

I have approximately 200 LPs, a handful of 10″ records, and 50 7″ records.

What is your stereo setup like?

I have a 1984 Soundesign stereo system with a turntable, cassette player and 8-Track, all housed in an original cabinet with storage below. From what I can recall, it was my great-grandfather’s stereo system, and he gave it to my father. Once I started collecting vinyl more seriously, my parents passed it down to me.

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How do you store and/or display your records?

I store all my records in 3 mil polyethylene round-bottom inner sleeves and 3 mil polyethylene jacket sleeves from Bags Unlimited. I have part of my collection – mostly older records in less-than-stellar condition – in the storage beneath my stereo system. The remainder of my collection, including my most valuable records, is kept in a Kallax unit from Ikea. My 7″ records are kept in an Ikea box in the unit, and I put all my band and label stickers on it. I haven’t alphabetized my collection (yet), but I keep all my newest and rarest records stored together, organized by band.

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Where do you shop for your vinyl? Stores? Online? Yard sales?

I prefer to shop for vinyl in record stores. I love checking out new shops, and I like supporting small businesses. I also like to look through records at thrift stores to see what I can find, and I’ve found some gems sifting through dusty boxes. While I prefer to do my purchasing in person, sometimes I resort to online resources to get the hard-to-find items on my wantlist.

What is your favorite record store and why?

I have several favorites, but if I had to pick one, it would be Joe’s Albums in Worcester, MA. I love this shop for several reasons. My first excursion there was for Record Store Day a few years ago. I had scoured all the shops in New England that posted their RSD inventory online the night before, and Joe’s seemed to be the only place that had everything I wanted. The store is small, but incredibly neat and organized, and he places the album info and price on a sleeve sticker at the top of the album so you can flip through quickly without having to pull everything out. He has a great mix of new and used, and I’ve always found his prices incredibly fair. The store inventory is posted in a sort-friendly format online so you can determine right away if the shop has a record you’re looking for, and you can purchase directly online and have it shipped or pick it up in store. Best of all, Joe is a super nice guy. He started this store while working a full-time job because he loves music, and he felt his community didn’t have a shop where you could get fairly-priced records in good condition. I’ve always had nice conversations with him when I stop in to pick up some tunes. Bonus – in a recent article, he said that the majority of his clientele is female. Maybe the girls like going there because he treats all customers with respect and is genuinely interested in the music they’re buying.

Two other favorites – Redscroll Records in Wallingford, CT, and Brian’s Record Option in Kingston, Ontario. I never walk out of Redscroll without purchasing something, and I’ve bought from their online store too when I can’t make the two-hour trip to their shop. They have a killer selection, the only drawback being that it’s a pretty tight space and it’s usually crowded, so crouching to sift through those seven-inches or overflow boxes can be difficult. The bonus here is that there’s always a woman behind the counter, and I appreciate that. In fact, it’s the only woman I’ve encountered working at a record shop during all my travels.

Brian’s Record Option is a long-standing institution in the small city of Kingston in Ontario, Canada. Operating solely on word-of-mouth for nearly 30 years (a superfan just recently started a Twitter and FB page to promote them, though Brian has nothing to do with it), everyone in Kingston knows you go to Brian’s shop when you want something. The tiny store is floor-to-ceiling stacks of records, cassettes, CDs, posters, etc. It’s a literal maze that you need to navigate to get into the store. It seems like chaos, but if you ask him for something, he knows exactly where it is. That Sarah Harmer poster that hung in his window five years ago? Yeah, he can dig that up for you. And he’ll order you anything. Come for a record, but stay for the conversation, because he has a lot of stories to tell, especially about local musicians (and there are a lot in Kingston, the city having been home to a great number of Canadian artists).

What genres of music make up your vinyl collection?

My music tastes run from folk to punk to easy listening to hard rock. I have a little of everything, though a good bulk of my collection consists of bands from the Pacific Northwest and Canada (most of those are punk, post-punk, or indie).

What is your current favorite record on vinyl?

I would say it’s probably a tie between Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap” and Sleater-Kinney’s “Dig Me Out.”  DMO is one of my favorite albums, period, and I own an original Kill Rock Stars pressing (complete with KRS order form inside), a Sub Pop repress, and the Sub Pop colored vinyl that came in the box set.  And “Cold Snap” is the only album Weeping Tile ever released on vinyl, so I’m glad to have that.

What is your most prized record?

My most prized record is a sealed copy of Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap.” I have two other copies that are used (and are rare on their own), but I’ve never seen a sealed copy before.

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What white whales are you still looking for?

1)    I’m still looking for a copy of Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap” on blue vinyl. My copies are all pressed on black vinyl.

2)    The Mugworts’ “Barbies Wedding.” The Mugworts were a Kingston, Ontario band from Luther Wright and his brother Geordie. The album was pressed on red vinyl and I’ve never seen a copy for sale.

What is your favorite album cover art in your collection?

I really like the cover art for the Villa Villakula Records compilation, “Move Into the Villa Villakula.”  The copy I own has the standard black and white cover, which is a drawing of the famous Pippi Longstocking house.  The design on the reverse is excellent as well.  I’m still on the lookout for a copy with the pink-on-silver or green-on-silver silkscreened cover.

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Do you have a favorite record label? If so, what is it and why?

My favorite record label is K Records. I love the DIY movement behind the label, and the tenacity of its founder, Calvin Johnson. Some of my favorite bands have recorded on this label – Gossip, the Spells, Beat Happening, Lois Maffeo, and performance artist Miranda July. I love the variety and affordability of the records, the mark they made on the history of music in the Pacific Northwest, and the fact that they’ve remained small and independent, despite pulling in artists from across the world. Recently they’ve made news for not always paying their artists, which kind of breaks my heart, but it seems that Calvin is attempting to right this by selling off a lot of his studio equipment and overstock to get that money into their hands.

Coming in at an extremely close second is Kill Rock Stars. I have so many records from KRS (probably more from this label than any other), and love so many of their artists. Like K, they’ve remained a smaller, independent label, and I love all the work they do. Plus, they’ve got a great social media presence.

How do you connect with other vinyl enthusiasts?

I connect with others through social media, mostly. Twitter and Instagram, and, more recently, YouTube. I also like to poke around the forums on various music sites.

Do you know a lot of other women who collect vinyl?

I didn’t until recently. As I started to connect with more music fans through Twitter and Instagram, I found that there were women out there with similar musical tastes who were really into vinyl. A lot of us met through a shared interest in one particular band, and while attending some of their shows in NYC, I listened to these women’s stories about their vinyl collections. My hope is that I can meet other women who are serious (or even casual) collectors, and help bring more visibility to female record collectors through my blog.

Do you have any advice for women or girls who are interested in starting a vinyl collection?

Jump in head first. It may seem overwhelming to go into a record store when you don’t know a lot about what you’re looking for, and sometimes it can feel slightly intimidating to be the only female in the room. But start small by going in and looking for a record by a band you love. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, chat with the store employees and ask if they have the record, or if they can order it for you. Ask them for recommendations. Don’t be self-conscious about your music interests, or worry about your selections not being “cool” enough. Be confident, even though you’re stepping into new territory. Being honest and open will help you navigate the sometimes male-dominated world of record collecting, and you’ll find that collecting records is totally addicting and fun.

One other piece of advice: Even though those Crosley turntables are adorable and affordable, spend a little more cash and invest in a better starter turntable. You can find something much better than Crosley for anywhere between $100 and $200. Vinyl can be an expensive hobby, but if you invest in a decent turntable, you’ll be protecting your vinyl investment. Playing your records on a Crosley or another cheap turntable will likely ruin them over time.

K Records Unboxing

When you order a big box of goodies from K Records, it’s always fun to show everyone what you got. Enjoy!

By the way, friends, someone please tell me how to properly pronounce Lois Maffeo’s last name. I always assumed it was Mah-FAY-oh, but I’m thinking that’s probably wrong. Someone enlighten me! I love her work, and it seems absolutely crazy that I don’t know the proper way to pronounce her last name.

#RSD16

This morning, my alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. so I could be ready to leave the house at 4:30.  We got off to a tiny bit of a late start, but arrived at Joe’s Albums in Worcester, MA around 6:30 and secured our spot in line.  The doors opened at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and by 8:05, I’d already made my purchases and was headed out the door.  I got everything I wanted, plus some.  Couldn’t be happier with how RSD16 went down.  Check out my trip and my recap below.

 

Record Store Day 2016

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Record Store Day can be a touchy subject for vinyl enthusiasts.  Some love it, some hate it.  Many feel that the processing of all these special releases bogs down the already-limited pressing factories, and that is true.  Many hate the rules and regulations, the chaos of having to elbow your way through crowds just for the chance to find one of those limited releases.  Some feel it’s just a gimmick, and they hate spending large amounts of cash on a reissue that can be purchased in its original form and release for less.  Some record stores love it, and some report huge losses on RSD from purchasing an overabundance of expensive records that their clientele don’t seem to like or want.

I get that it’s become more about the releases and less about celebrating and patronizing the record stores, and it is a little sad that the day has taken that kind of turn.  But I still participate.  And the reason I do is because I’m a total sucker for something that’s cool-looking or limited.  That being said, I don’t buy records that I don’t care about.  There are tons that have been the talk of vinyl sites for months now, but I’m not really into the big sellers.  I’m out for some of the smaller releases, the ones flying completely under the radar.  Also, I really do like to support my favorite record stores, and RSD just gives me an excuse to go and spend more money at said shops.

I do have to say, though — Record Store Day is freaking stressful.  It requires a lot of research on my part.  I live in an area with only one record shop in a 30-mile radius, and they don’t participate.  All of my favorite record shops are at minimum 90 minutes away from me.  So first I go through the list of releases and decide what I want.  Then I start looking at the 30 or so shops within a three-hour drive and stalk their social media and websites until they start releasing details about their RSD plans.  Usually by the time Thursday rolls around, I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of stores, and then Friday I make my final decision.  But that’s only the beginning of the stress, because then I have to try and guess when people will start to line up at the shop, and plan my travels so I get there before or around that time.  I’ve been going to the same record shop for RSD for the last three years.  Yup, they came through again and that’s where I’m heading tomorrow.  But I still don’t know what time I should line up.  My first year, we ended up getting there about an hour AFTER opening, and I was still able to grab the release I wanted most (and found the other at another shop down the street).  Last year, we arrived about 45 minutes early, and there were 20-30 people in line already.  AND I only found two of the releases I wanted, and had to go to two other stores to get the remainder.  That has me worried for this year.  I’m almost planning on lining up two hours in advance so I can avoid the chase, though my record guy mixes all his RSD releases together so that it’s not in any kind of order, and that means the person ten people behind me could find the records I want before I do.

See what I mean about stress?

I’m mostly kidding.  If I don’t get the releases I want, it won’t be the end of the world.  But I have to say, I’m just dying to get my hands on that Weepies release.  “Say I Am You” is one of my favorite albums from them, and it’s being released on vinyl for the first time.  Plus it comes with a signed poster.  That’s on the top of my list.  The rest is just icing on the cake.

What about you guys?  What do you think of Record Store Day, and will you be participating?  Any releases you’re particularly excited to get?

Quasi Quasi Quasi (and a new haul video!)

I love Quasi.  Love them.  In fact, I’m listening to “The Poisoned Well” as I write this.  But for all my days of record collecting, and the many shops I’ve visited, I had never been able to find any Quasi vinyl in person.  Only online.  I was so flummoxed by the sheer absence of Quasi in stores that it became kind of a running joke, and then an obsession.  Sure, I could buy any Quasi album I wanted online, but I refused.  I wanted to find it “in the wild.”  With every record store I visited, I’d wonder, Is this it?  Will today be the day?  But we remained ships in the night, me and Quasi vinyl…

…until Friday, March 25, when I stepped foot inside Rough Trade for the first time.  And there, behind the Q divider, I pulled out a copy of Quasi’s “Mole City.”  It was a moment of pure joy.  Achievement.  I may have even done a fist pump.  I was sad that my partner in crime was not there to witness the moment, but my good friend Girl + Records was, and she documented the event for me.  I finally found Quasi IN THE WILD.  And now that I have, I’m free to spend unlimited amounts of money on Quasi from the interwebz!  Kidding.  But not really.

I talk about my Quasi find and many others in my new haul video below.  Check it out and watch me wrangle my cat who insisted upon doing his best to knock my camera over.

And after you’ve watched my video, go listen to some Quasi.  You won’t be sorry.

Vinyl Unboxing – Frankie Cosmos

Last week, I recorded my first vinyl unboxing video. I had just received my pre-ordered copy of Frankie Cosmos’ new album, “Next Thing,” and I was excited to open it up and check out all the cool things that came along with it: lip balm, a pin, and a zine. And, of course, I was excited to see the splatter vinyl and listen to the music.

I was supposed to go to the release show for the album on Friday, but I was too sick to make the trip to the city, so I decided to do my unboxing video and share the contents with everyone. It was definitely a learning experience. For one, I don’t have a good setup for unboxing. I suppose I managed to show everything as I unpackaged the contents of the box, but I probably should have had my camera mounted above so the viewer could experience it right with me. Two, I have cats, and cats love to insert themselves into videos. They might be fast asleep when I get everything set up to do a video, but they will without fail wake up the moment I hit record and want to monkey around somewhere in the frame. And three, it would have been wise to just black out my address on the box instead of having to use my extremely archaic video editing program to try and blur it out in post. Hey, if you have spare change and want to donate it to the “Vinyl Hysteria needs a Mac with Premiere” fund, let me know!

It was fun, though, making this video, and hopefully I’ll learn from my rookie mistakes and create something a little steadier next time around. Watch below to check out all the cool stuff that came with the Frankie Cosmos limited edition pre-order, and then go buy the album for yourself if you haven’t already. The band’s on tour all this month to promote “Next Thing,” and I definitely recommend taking in a show if they stop in your neck of the woods.

 

EPIC Vinyl Haul

It’s been a mere six weeks since my last haul video, but I’ve gathered quite a few gems in that time. Not only have I been finding some fantastic things on the interwebz, but I visited two new record shops a few weekends ago and scored some of my best finds so far this year.

I’m not too sure why it’s taken me so long to visit the record shops in Florence, MA, considering the town is only a little over an hour away from me, and I’m in nearby Northampton quite often. I’d been meaning to check out Wild Mutation Records, but they announced early this year that they were closing up shop and moving to Philadelphia. I was a little bummed I never made it there because I’d heard good things about their punk selection, but I still wanted to stop off in Florence to check out Feeding Tube Records.

A few weeks back, I discovered that Feeding Tube had a record I really wanted to get, so I started to plan my trip for the weekend. In browsing through their Facebook page, I noticed that they recommended a new record shop (Electric Eye Records) that opened in the space once occupied by Wild Mutation. I checked out their page and saw a photo with three Bikini Kill records, and that’s when I knew I had to go there. The photo had been posted ten days earlier, so I wasn’t expecting those records to still be hanging around. But the shop had opened only three weeks ago, and my hope was that not enough people knew about it yet to grab all the good stuff.

Saturday I headed off bright and early, stopping first at Electric Eye Records. The shop was small, but stocked well. My partner in crime (hereafter referred to as PIC) pulled out a Kill Rock Stars compilation for me, and then found the three Bikini Kill records I was hoping would still be in the bins. Bikini Kill only put out three seven inches, all on Kill Rock Stars. They also had a seven inch with Team Dresch, but these were the only three that were just them. The covers were perfect, and the records were mint. I was floored. Plus they were exactly the right price. The owner, Andy, was a really nice guy. He gave me the KRS comp for free, which was pretty sweet. I know I’ll definitely be stopping in there again the next time I’m around Northampton.

Next up was Feeding Tube. I went in knowing that I wanted to pick up the three-LP YoYo a GoGo compilation, and a Dub Narcotic Sound System record with a guest performance by Miranda July. They have a nicely curated selection of records out in bins, and then they have their online inventory stored in the back. I cruised around and looked through the seven-inches, which were categorized by geographical area. The Northwest section was made just for me. I found a K Recs International Pop Underground single for Girl Trouble in pretty good condition. The owner pulled out the records I’d seen online, and I was thankful that the YoYo a GoGo comp had really clean, NM records, and a decent cover, with the exception of a little creasing along the bottom from being improperly stored at one point. He gave me an excellent deal on the comp, and I was so thrilled to have that in my hands. Live 1994 recordings of bands and artists like Excuse 17, Heavens to Betsy, Unwound, Karp, Team Dresch, Lois Maffeo, Beck, Halo Benders, Fitz of Depression, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mecca Normal, and so on. Killer, right?

Between that and the Bikini Kill records, it was definitely my best in-store finds of the year. Vinyl karma was on my side Saturday. Watch my haul video to see what else I’ve picked up over the past six weeks.