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Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

No Hiding Place


Photo by Zach Cordner

The resurgence in vinyl sales in the digital age is a popular talking point these days, so when an artist the stature of Elvis Costello announced that he’d be releasing his new album Momofuku on vinyl and vinyl only, tongues were a-wagging. After all, it was one thing to ensure your work was available to those who preferred the analog realm, but entirely another to cater to them exclusively. Eventually it was revealed that the LPs would come with a coupon for a digital download version and that a CD version would then follow – almost certainly the game plan from the beginning – but the analog uber alles-ness of the release would be the main story surrounding the record.

Which is rather unfortunate, because relative to his last few albums which were pushed as “returns to form”, Momofuku comes across a lot more naturally than EC has sounded in a long time. Both When I Was Cruel and The Delivery Man had much to recommend them, but both felt like they were trying a bit too hard – the former to prove that Costello could still rock and the latter with its concept album narrative. Like those two, Momofuku was recorded with The Imposters, who are essentially The Attractions less curmudgeonly bass god Bruce Thomas and plus more amiable bass slinger Davey Farraghar.

Momofuku feels much like a blend of those two records – the sonics recall The Delivery Man‘s rootsiness while the songwriting aspires to the ranginess of Cruel – and yet it’s decidedly more likable than either. There’s no sense that Costello had any agenda beyond making a rock record – nothing to prove, nothing to reclaim – and he puts that freedom to good use. There’s no immediate standouts, but Costello’s days as a singles artist are long behind him. Instead, it maintains a high standard throughout and is welcome both as an excellent record and as proof that Costello can still make excellent records.

But back to the initial debate – analog v digital. Courtesy of Filter, I’ve got three copies of Momofuku on vinyl (double LP!) and three on CD (single digipack!) to give away. If you’d like to win either, leave me a comment with your email spamproofed as necessary explaining why analog is superior to digital or vice-versa. The side you choose is the prize you’re seeking, though I fully expect there’ll be far more analog-heads than digi-freaks and after the vinyls are all given away, I may have to consolation prize out the CDs. Sorry. Anyway, the contest will run a week and close at midnight, June 9 and is open to any resident of North America. For my part, I love much about vinyl – the tangibility, the size, the interactivity, but there’re so many variables in playback – the turntable, the cartridge, the stylus, the setup, the preamp, the weight of the vinyl – that for someone as techie obsessive compulsive as I am, I’d spend more time tweaking than listening. That and the fact that any time I try to play vinyl, my cat attacks my turntable. So I, in fact, prefer a good digital setup (good player, good amp, good speakers). Your turn.

The Arizona Republic makes their choices for the best songs of Elvis Costello’s oeuvre while Zoilus offers some thoughts on top of his review of the record in today’s Globe & Mail.

Stream: Elvis Costello & The Imposters / Momofuku

PopMatters poses 20 questions to Aimee Mann, is relieved to receive 20 answers. Her @#%&! Smilers is out today, you can stream it below, and she’s at the Kool Haus on August 28.

Stream: Aimee Mann / @#%&! Smilers

One to file under “oh man” – I already mentioned that Okkervil River were coming back for a show at the Phoenix on October 12… well I’ve just learned that support for the show (and presumably the tour) will be Crooked Fingers. This is doubly exciting because it implies that there will be a new Crooked Fingers release between now and then. I had been thinking about going out of town Thanksgiving weekend, but I’ll now happily put that off a week or two in order to be around for this show. Tickets will be $15.50 in advance.

Four-part harmony monsters Bodies Of Water have a date at the El Mocambo on August 9, tickets $10.50. Their new album is A Certain Feeling, due out on July 22.

MP3: Bodies Of Water – “Under The Pines”

Fleet Foxes release their self-titled debut album today and are streaming the whole thing on their MySpace. They’re in town on July 16 and judging from the “THE PHOENIX w/ MALKMUS !!!! !!!! !!!!” note on their tour calendar, they’re a wee bit chuffed to be playing with Stephen Malkmus.

Stream: Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes

God forbid the boys in Wolf Parade should actually devote their full energies to, well, Wolf Parade with the release of At Mount Zoomer on June 17. Immediately after wrapping up their tour in support of the new record (which hits the Kool Haus on August 9), Dan Boeckner will climb back in the van as the Handsome Furs for another tour and be at Lee’s Palace on August 22.

PopMatters interviews Death Cab For Cutie, who will be at Olympic Island this Saturday.

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James hops in a black cab and plays a song from Evil Urges, out next week.

Reveille talks to Nick Torburn of Islands. And congrats to Jon, Rodney, Steph, Dimitri and Matt who all won copies of their new album Arm’s Way.

By : Frank Yang at 8:32 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this postNo Responses.
  1. Adam D. Miller says:

    It’s worth noting that Aimee Mann is supporting Squeeze at the Kool Haus on August 28, so those who may have been hoping for a headlining gig will have to wait.

  2. Frank says:

    ahh, that makes sense. I hadn’t compared the dates against each other… the Kool Haus did seem big for her to play on her own.

  3. Ned says:

    as much as i love holding vinyl and think the digital download thing is nice, until they start including LOSSLESS versions of the album for download i’m going to continue to prefer the cd/digital version. or maybe it’s just because 95% of my collection is cds…

    anyway, i’ve held off buying the new elvis costello because he’ll undoubtedly release a ‘limited edition bonus track’ version in a couple months (cough*deliveryman*cough) so a free copy would be awesome.

  4. ES says:

    Crooked Fingers has some new songs up on their myspace profile.) Great blog BTW.)

  5. ryan says:

    As someone who’s cd-to-vinyl ratio is heavily stacked in favour of the cd, I still have to say that (technical/fidelity aspects aside) the one thing that attracts me to vinyl is the ritualistic/purposefulness aspect of listening to it… It’s all too easy to pop a cd in the cd player (or the computer) and not hear a single note of the music that comes out of the speakers, but anytime I put on a record, it’s because I really, really do mean to give it my full attention! Maybe it’s just novelty, but I suspect not. For that reason, I’ll say that vinyl is superior. Having said that, in this day and age of poor radio options, I still can’t imagine a 6+ hour drive with out an arsenal of cds at my disposal – and you can’t do that with a record. All the same, put me down as a supporter of vinyl. My soon to be delivered Double Green ltd. edition of Songs In A & E should seal that deal!

  6. Scott says:

    Eric revealed the impending arrival of a new Crooked Fingers disc in his Interface/Spinner performance a month or so back… been waiting for that, so news of a show is FANTASTIC indeed. So many shows right before I’m supposed to head out for MY UK adventure.

    As for the Elvis CD/Digital debate… I’ll still go digital. As much as I love vinyl (still have tons) – I tend to listen to music while I draw… and having to interrupt flow every 30 minutes is a problem for me, so I prefer loading 5-disc changer and getting into a groove for a far longer period. If for no other reason than time, I prefer the CD… though I gotta agree on the "feel of vinyl" debate… love the sleeves.

  7. len says:

    digital.

    vinyl is awesome and all, but I can’t take a record to work and rock out while I’m stuck in the advertising mines all day.

    and what’s the point if i can’t hear the music i want when i need it?

    lendamico@gmail.com

  8. ryan says:

    woops, didn’t include my email above. ryan@warmgunmedia.net

  9. Tug says:

    I think I’m going to have to agree with Ryan. The appeal of vinyl besides an aesthetic value is the fact that when I’m listening to a record on my turntable, that is all I’m doing. I’m laying on the floor, looking at the ceiling, and just listening to the music. If I put on a CD or plug my iPod into my stereo, I’m likely to wander around the house, read a book, get a snack, etc. Not so with vinyl. And I definitely have more CDs and digital stuff than vinyl because yeah, you need something to listen to at work, jogging, car trips, or for letting a friend borrow. I’m still coming down on the vinyl side for just plain listening to music, though.

  10. c mailman says:

    I prefer vinyl, simply because I buy a lot of cd’s and some maybe even most I won’t listen to after few months/weeks, If I really love a cd I usually will buy it again on vinyl if the price is right, I’m pretty sure all of my favorite albums I own both on CD and vinyl but will listen to vinyl in my own house. I love the bigger artwork and the sound, I love the sound of an acoustic guitar on vinyl, and I have my record setup perfectly. It’s easy to go to any shop and buy a cd but hunting for vinyl is kicks, I’ve been searching for small faces Ichycoo Park for years, it will be a glorious but sad day when I do come across it randomly and purchase it. Vinyl I solute you!!

    I own most Elvis Costello on vinyl but have the 2-cd best of for car trips.

  11. JAB says:

    I definitely prefer vinyl.

    It sounds better(for records recorded on analogue equipment, anyways)than digital, it’s warmer, and listening to vinyl is more of a personal experience than its more-detached digital counterpart. Furthermore, you get the bigger record sleeve.

    As a vinyl collector, I could spend hours at record stores sifting through piles of records in hopes of finding a gem… And the thing is, once you find the one that you think you’ve been looking for, something else always comes up. You’re never done searching for vinyl. Personally, I don’t think I could ever get that excited over digital music… maybe because it’s so readily available… Finding vinyl almost seems like you discovered something.

  12. Jason M says:

    I like digital for one reason: space. I used to have 5000 records in an 800 square foot house. There was no room for anything else. I love the artwork and the other doodads that used to get stuffed into records, but the warmer sound people say they hear on vinyl has rarely been apparent to me. Anybody want the remaining 1500?

  13. Greg says:

    Nice one Ryan my double slab of goodness (Songs in A&E) arrived today in perfect shape..

    Go vinyl go…

    Anyone out there like reel to reel?

  14. dB says:

    some bands simply just sound better on vinyl…like Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine because the compression rates on cds reek havoc with certain band’s recording styles.

    As for Costello, if you don’t want to buy the new cd just wait a year or so when Columbia or Rhino re-master/re-package/re-release his entire catalog for the 15th time in the last decade.

  15. JAB says:

    Well, Jason, if you’re just giving them away….

  16. Sasha Furlani says:

    Frank,
    I just recently returned to vinyl after a long absence, and here’s the thing I’ve found since I’ve been picking up some of my favorite albums…reverb. I too love the nostalgia and ritual of the album, but I’m a bigger fan of sound, and there is a true difference, especially where it comes to reverb. I’ve read that the one thing sound reproducers haven’t been able to master yet is reverb due to it’s unique decay of frequency. I never thought much about it, but once I started listening to some old favorites, I soon realizd the difference. I threw on "Tonight’s The Night" last weekend, and the reverb draining off Neil’s voice as he warbles off key through "Mellow My Mind" was a revelation. So warm, and just dripping away soft and slow. I listened to my cd of the album to figure out if it was all in my head, and sure enough, it seemed different. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but does it mater? I think I now understand why Neil has been such a critic of cd technology. Vinyl is warm, immediate, airy, and the thought of the needle vibrating in the ruts just feels better. Sure enough, listening to other old faves, like "Fables of The Reconstruction" and "Drums & Wires" by XTC just keeps reaffirming this for me. I’ve been hitting the record store every couple of days looking for other old faves (and some new ones too…hello Yankee Hotel Foxtrot!!)

    I’ll keep my feet in all media available, but I don’t think I’ll betray vinyl again like I did 18 years ago. I need the records. I may be fooling my self, but ignorance is bliss! So if I win this, know that you’ll be helping rebuild a long lost collection of a born again audiophile!

  17. thomaus says:

    At this point in my life I prefer MP3s. For a bunch of reasons: global warming; shelf space; and/or portability. (And the format can be done pretty well. Take NiN’s "the Slip" — a different little graphic for each track, and the lyrics were attached to the songs too. What more do you need?)

    As far as Elvis goes, I’d go with the CD this time. I don’t play my vinyl discs nearly as much as my little silver ones (but the MP3s get played even more). Someday I’ll finish rebuying the rest of the E.C. albums that I grew up on in CD format. But the format switch has caused me to listen to Elvis much less than I would have desired over the past decade. Music deserved to be heard, so going with the more accessible format is what it deserves.

  18. alan says:

    i prefer digital most of the time, when using music largely for "background noise" – it’s easy to put itunes on shuffle while making dinner or whatever. but when i really want to listen to something from start to finish and get into the music, vinyl is pretty good. not just because of the crackling and pops and having to turn it over and pay attention to the tracking of the two sides, but the album artwork is big enough that you can actually see the images and read the text. that’s my take on it.

  19. Tualla says:

    Cd’s Baby!

    I really love the days of vinyl and the scratches, piled high milk crates used as furniture, component stereos as big as a house and those cute little danish velvet record cleaners with their own fluid.

    Screw that.

    Tualla at Gmail.com

  20. Bruce says:

    Vinyl. Always my first choice when buying something new, if it’s available. I love the feel, the sound, and as a graphic designer, the large-format packaging will always hold a place near and dear to my heart. Lyric sheet inserts you can actually read, posters, die cuts (Blue Monday!), gatefold sleeves and embossing and texture, oh my! Besides, my vinyl collection is too substantial to turn back now. (I’ll always curse the late eighties, before I got a CD player, when vinyl became a dirty word to the majors and my only option was… cassettes!)

    And as the modern age cannot be denied, all hail the vinyl LP with digital download included. Everybody wins!

  21. Thierry says:

    If it’s available, I’ll always pick something up on vinyl – part of it is the look of the large sleeve, part of it is the fact that a couple of 20-22-minute side is just about perfect for my attention span nowadays, and part of it is that the set of speakers I have for my turntable is better than the pair of tiny speakers on my computer (which is my main cd player these days). There’s just something about listening to the Beach Boys on vinyl and having Carol Kaye’s bassline rumble throughout my apartment…