#RSDsomale

no S-K

When I first saw the list of Record Store Day 2017 releases, I had two immediate thoughts:

1. Thank God there are only two items I want, because I’m in the middle of a move and can’t afford to splurge.

2. Where the hell are all the women?

I had hoped to see some gender diversity in this year’s Record Store Day offerings … and I was disappointed.  Now, I never expected a 50/50 split — women struggle for recognition and representation in every aspect of music, from producing to reviewing to collecting — but the absence of female artists or female-fronted bands in RSD this year is staggering.  I took the list and calculated the percentage of women present, removing items like soundtracks and compilations.  What I discovered is that only 12% of the RSD items are by female artists or female-fronted bands.  TWELVE PERCENT.

Why aren’t more people talking about this?

I have so many issues with this list.  Not only is it lacking in women (did I mention that whole TWELVE PERCENT thing?), but most of the selections are white dude bands.  Overwhelmingly white dude bands.  The lack of racial diversity also needs to be addressed, but for the purpose of this post, I’m simply looking at the absence of women.  Where the hell are they?

I honestly don’t know how the selections are chosen, whether it’s something decided by the event coordinators themselves, or by labels, or by artists.  I’ve tried researching this topic, but it’s hard to find details.  Still, whatever the process, it’s obviously broken.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though, given that only 10% of the RSD ambassadors have been women.  I think it’s fantastic that they’ve chosen a woman for their 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, but what took them so long to have female representation?

This makes me wonder if it goes right back to the target audience for vinyl: men.  Did they worry that having a woman as ambassador would turn guys off?  Are they heavily pushing the dude bands because men don’t want music by female artists?  I’m in the YouTube vinyl community, and a lot of the guys there seem to like ALL kinds of artists and music, but are they the exception to the rule?  Is it too much to expect that men who collect vinyl will be okay with an even gender split? Where the hell are all the women?

It’s a question I ask a lot as a member of the vinyl community.  Women are underrepresented here, though a recent article has sought to highlight women-owned record shops.  Yes, we are out there.  Yes, there are a lot of us.  But we’re outnumbered by our male counterparts, and even when we do seek to carve out a space for ourselves, we’re often ignored, neglected, relegated to dabbler status, as if we’re unable to hold vast knowledge of music and records in our fragile female brains.  Many men on the vinyl community forums believe that women only show up to record stores to stand around and nag at their boyfriends as they browse vinyl.  They believe we aren’t serious collectors, serious students of sounds, as if this entire format exists solely for consumption by men.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Female music critics are skewered for their informed opinions and judgments far more than male critics.  And why are there so many white men writing about and talking about music?  I find it difficult to see photos from SXSW panels where the stage is filled with white dudes and believe that truly radical discussions took place around any artist’s work.  Or that any conversation about music could have possibly included experiences outside the single demographic represented on stage.

I seethed recently listening to a well-respected vinyl site’s podcast wherein two dudes dissected the debut record of an African-American woman.  They loved the record, by the way, but their assumptions about her past, about her background, about her identity within this world really rubbed me the wrong way.  The way they said the music is rudimentary at best, but her voice is really what makes it a good record.  How she needs to be careful not to repeat this in the next album, or it won’t be held in as high regard (in their minds).  Do what the men say you should do, or else.  Be a better musician, even though your record is getting wide acclaim (and rightly so).

Why is it okay for men to do this?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we continue to allow it.  We elevate mediocre music made by men while refusing to recognize the work of so many female artists/producers/label execs/etc.  I’m not suggesting that we reward or congratulate women who aren’t making great music, but we do seem to allow for that when it comes to men.  If I see one more article passing off the creepy/odd things Father John Misty does/says as “quirky,” I might scream.  And yes, I lump him in with the mediocre lot, with apologies to the FJM fans out there.  Don’t even get me started on Ed Sheeran.

There have been numerous discussions around the lack of female representation when award nominations are announced, particularly during the 2016 Juno Awards.  Amy Millan (of Stars) sparked the #JunosSoMale movement on Twitter, and the conversation was continued again this season.  Even if the reason behind the lack of representation comes down to women not submitting their work, we need to look at why they don’t feel that they’re able to throw their names in the hat.  Many say that they’re held back, or not taken seriously, or have been told from the beginning that they won’t be taken seriously so why bother?  And this doesn’t just happen with awards submissions — it happens to women at all stages of music-making, from booking gigs to buying instruments.  Why is that okay?

I have so many questions.  And I’m looking for answers.  What do you think about the Record Store Day list this year?  Why are there so few women?  If you’re a woman who collects vinyl, what have your RSD experiences been like in the past?  I know for me, I’m usually one of the only women there buying vinyl for herself.  Reach out to me and we’ll talk.  Let’s figure out why #RSDsomale.

#WhyIMarch

It’s nearly impossible for me to write this.  Why?  Because as I sit here at my computer, Donald Trump is being sworn into office.  How can I concentrate on writing a thoughtful piece on tomorrow’s Women’s March and how it ties into this blog — and the intentions behind this venture — when someone who wants to strip women of their equal rights is becoming President of the United States at this very moment?  It’s a challenge, but if I’m not up to the challenge of writing a simple blog post, then how will I continue to fight for the representation of women — in the arts, in music, in general — over the next four years?  So here I am.

Tomorrow, millions of women and allies will be marching in Washington DC, in NYC, in Los Angeles, and at more than 600 sister marches across the United States and abroad. The mission is this: We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.  And there’s good reasoning behind this stand of solidarity:

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

Now, before you say that this is an overreaction, it should be noted that as soon as Trump became President today, the White House website was stripped of its pages devoted to LGBT and civil rights protections.  This small act says so much about what the coming years will be like for women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and LGBT folks. The daily micro-aggressions were already happening before, but after the election, they increased. And they’ll continue to increase. If we’re going to survive it, we have to stand together.

And I guess that’s why I created this site/project a year ago.  Trust me, collecting records is the very LEAST of my concerns right now — and is such a tiny, tiny issue compared with the larger issues at hand — but when you’re a woman in a world that is dominated by men (the record-collecting world), you experience and witness sexism all the time.  You get pushed aside, you aren’t considered as knowledgeable about music or vinyl.  I started to realize that I wasn’t taken seriously, and that I didn’t have a lot of female allies to combat these misconceptions and dismissals.  I wanted to promote the visibility of women in this world, band together with them, change the conversation and the dynamic.  I can’t say I’ve really accomplished that yet, but I’m working on it.  It was a microscopic version of what this march tomorrow is all about.  Reaching out, standing together, changing the landscape.  Making our voices heard.

I’m hoping to strengthen my resolve tomorrow.  I’m hoping to come back revived and ready to fight — for all women, for all those who are marginalized or scared or wanting.  And with that resolve, I’ll be creating more content here, seeking out other women who want their voices heard.  Get ready to meet some awesome vinyl-collecting ladies.

Vinyl Hysteria’s Top 25 Albums of 2016

2016 might have been a really horrible, wacky year in most respects, but damn, it was an amazing year for music.  I could have created a top 50 list, but I decided to narrow it down to 25.

Most lists I’ve seen for 2016 include a few of the obvious choices, like Rihanna and Beyonce and Kanye West.  And those artists always end up near or at the top.  But while those albums might have artistic merit, I always find myself drawn to music that isn’t top 40.  The only album with across-the-board acclaim that I also loved was Mitski’s Puberty 2.  That one almost made my #1 spot.

I made a video highlighting my top 25 (and showing off the vinyl for each, though I am missing the vinyl for a few on the list), so check it out.  Or, if you’re short on time, you can find my list of 2016’s best below the vid.

Best Albums of 2016:

25. Florist – The Birds Outside Sang

24. Yohuna – Patientness

23. Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes

22. The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset

21. Little Scream – Cult Following

20. Luther Wright & the Wrongs – Hearts & Lonely Hunters

19. Savages – Adore Life

18. Case / Lang / Veirs – self-titled

17. Stranger Things Soundtrack

16. Bellows – Fist & Palm

15. Veda Hille – Love Waves

14. July Talk – Touch

13. Fear of Men – Fall Forever

12. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

11. Hannah Georgas – For Evelyn

10. Tacocat – Lost Time

9. Gord Downie – Secret Path

8. DIANA – Familiar Touch

7. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

6. Venus and the Moon – Brother Son

5. Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit

4. Jennifer O’Connor – Surface Noise

3. Christine & The Queens – Chaleur Humaine

2. Mitski – Puberty 2

1. Told Slant – Going By

Holiday Sampler, December 30

holidaysampler

I could write PAGES about the brilliant musical, Rent, but for the purpose of this entry, all you need to know is that the story largely takes place between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.  And because of that, it’s the perfect musical to listen to (or watch, since the final Broadway show was filmed and released, and they made a film version of the musical in 2005) in that span of time between Christmas and New Year’s where you still want to celebrate but are tired of the Bing Crosby.  If you don’t know the musical, please check it out, along with the story of its creator and creation.  Trust me.

December 30: Cast of Rent, “Happy New Year A / B”

Holiday Sampler, December 28

holidaysampler

If you haven’t seen the show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” you’re missing out.  It’s hilarious, it’s filled with Broadway-esque tunes, and it’s insanely addictive.  I can often be found singing or humming the songs from the show as I go about my day.

But did you know that the show’s creator and star, Rachel Bloom, also produced an album of Hanukkah comedy songs?  They’re a bit racy and explicit, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, you might want to skip it, but if you don’t mind a humorous take on Jewish culture, give it a whirl.  Trust me — you’ll be humming these tunes for weeks.

December 28: Rachel Bloom, Jack Dolgen, Dan Gregor, “Chanukah Honey”

Holiday Sampler, December 26

holidaysampler

I can’t believe it’s been six years since The Maccabeats released their Hanukkah song, “Candlelight.”  I loved this group the instant I heard them.  I’m a sucker for a cappella to begin with, but these guys take it to another level with their humor and talent.  And so, on this third night of Hanukkah, let’s celebrate with a little throwback to their 2010 classic.

December 26: The Maccabeats, “Candlelight”

Holiday Sampler, December 25

holidaysampler

Even though neither have ever put out a Christmas album, I always associate the holidays with Sarah Harmer and Luther Wright because I love to attend the annual Holiday Rock Show they put on in Kingston, Ontario to benefit a variety of local charities. It’s always a festive good time and a great way to kick off the holidays.

And to kick off this Christmas day, I’m sharing Sarah and Luther’s lovely cover of “White Christmas.”  Best wishes to all my readers who celebrate; may the day bring you warmth and joy.

December 25: Sarah Harmer and Luther Wright, “White Christmas”