Saturday, April 16, 2011

Listening In: Happy Record Store Day

By Andre Salles/Montgomery Patch

Today is Record Store Day.

What, you may ask, is Record Store Day? To me, it’s a celebration of a way of life that’s slowly going away. When I was younger, the record store was like a sacred place. I spent countless hours as a teenager browsing the racks, looking for hidden treasures, and talking to fellow music fans.

Your local record store is a hub, a gathering place for those of us who live and breathe music. For me, there’s a special thrill that goes along with finding a CD I’ve been searching for, and sharing that excitement with others who feel the same way about music.

And it’s a dying breed—the Internet and the big boxes have taken a huge toll on the independent record store. Hence, Record Store Day, one day a year in which artists and labels release tons of exclusive new stuff, only to independent stores. It’s a way of saying thank you to the people who run these shops (like Steve Warrenfeltz of Kiss the Sky in Geneva), and of saying we appreciate the way of life they represent.

It’s also my last chance to tell you about Made in Aurora, the local artists compilation Warrenfeltz released today. It’s a nine-song vinyl record with a 16-song CD, and it represents the best local music you’ve never heard. Thirty local musicians (including yours truly) recorded it in three days at Backthird Audio in Aurora last month.

As a nod to both Record Store Day and Made in Aurora, our contestant for Listening In this week is Benjie Hughes, owner of Backthird. Benjie is one of the strongest and most consistent advocates for local music I’ve ever met.

So here is what the man who does music all day listens to when he goes home. Benjie’s comments are in plain type, mine are in italics, like this.

1. "On the Wing," by Owl City. I've been listening to this album for a year and I can't stop circling back. Adam Young's obsessed with dotted rhythms on most of his songs, but this is the most obvious example. Dumm-DUMM-dum, dumm-DUMM-dum... So incredibly hooky. I get a lot of stick for liking Owl City, but I do. Some say it’s just a Postal Service rip-off, but I think Adam Young takes many more risks (and is much more willing to look silly) than Ben Gibbard does.

2. "Don't Look Back," by She & Him. Almost Famous is my favorite movie. Both S&H records remind me of riding in the car with my dad and listening to oldies stations. Plus: allusions to Greek myth! (And Sandman!) Nice pick. I was initially wary of actress Zooey Deschanel’s foray into music, but I think She & Him has been a good project.

3. "Confidence,” by Derek Jenkins. This is cheating, since no one knows it but me - but Iuploaded it to our blog if you want to hear. Derek is one of my best friends in the world, and we recorded this with our pal Tim in the spare bedroom of my apartment in Aurora more than a decade ago. It's sloppy and simple, but I became obsessed with this song and basically learned to play acoustic guitar by copying this four-chord patter over and over. You can hear my primitive recording software mangle the organ track at 2:37, but somehow it mangled it in a perfect way and it sounds intentional.

4. "Seven Days," by Sting. I think I was 14 when I bought Ten Summoner's Tales, and it remains one of my favorite albums ever. A majority of the songs are in odd meters - including this one, in 5 - but the drummer's so fantastic that it grooves anyway. We made a Pandora station from it at work this week. For my money, the last Sting album worth listening to. Sting was my first concert, on his …Nothing Like the Sun tour in 1987, and I didn’t know then just how terrific the band he’d assembled was. Sting’s a great songwriter, but lately he’s been using his power for evil…

5. "Life in Technicolor ii," by Coldplay. Yes, I love mainstream arena rock. And this is the coolest use of hammered dulcimer in pop music since Rich Mullins died. Listening to this makes me really happy. Another band I get grief for liking. But I do. They’re in a position of not having to innovate or change up what they do, but they do it anyway, because they’re artistically restless. I like this song a great deal, actually. Plus, it has an absolutely amazing video, linked above.

And that’s Listening In this week. If you want to play, send me an email with your name and hometown. Once a week, I’ll pick a name, and fire off an email back. If it’s your week, send me the names of five songs you’re into, with your thoughts on them. You’ll get free Patch stuff just for playing.

Thanks, everyone, and happy Record Store Day!

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