Friday, July 30, 2010

New Perfect Sound Forever is online...with my Ruler Why interview!

The latest edition of Perfect Sound Forever is now online with my 76th Vinyl Anachronist column. As promised, I interview Ruler Why, the 22-year-old producer of the hip-hop collective The Vultures. He's young but is very outspoken when it comes to the future of vinyl. The Vultures also set down some amazing tracks that are influenced by such hip-hop groups as Wu Tang and others, so be sure to click on the MySpace link at the end of the article..

You can check it out here:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Arcade Fire Coming!

The new Arcade Fire album is coming out on August 3, and the reviews are very favorable. So far on Metacritic the album, which is titled The Suburbs, has a score of 92. That's higher than both Funeral (one of my two or three favorite albums of the 20th century) and its follow-up Neon Bible. I've been hearing one of the singles on the alternative station here in Austin, and it definitely sounds like this band from Montreal is going in a different direction.

I'll be hitting Waterloo Records the day it comes out--it'll be an early birthday present!

Monday, July 26, 2010

At last...a great Texas burger.

Those of you who know me also know about my obsession with the perfect burger. In my many years in LA, I found great burgers from the likes of The Apple Pan, Father's Office, Cassell's, Pie N Burger, Tyler's, The Sunset Grill, Tommy's and a few others. When I moved to Texas, I thought there would be great burgers on every corner. You know, because this is where the cows are. But my search for a great Texas burger has been long and frustrating.

It seems that Texans are so in love with their meat that they just tear off a big hunk of it and throw it on a bun. That is, of course, after they cook the everlovin' crap out of it. That's right...Texans love their burgers well done it seems, and every true burger aficionado knows that the greatest burgers are medium to medium rare.

When I arrived here last year, it coincided with an article in Texas Monthly about the 50 greatest burgers in Texas. I immediately set out to taste as many as I could, and each time I was disappointed. Number 2 (The Counter Cafe in Austin) was a little piece of burnt meat in a gigantic bun. Number 5 (The Cove in San Antonio) was mediocre at best. The only decent burgers I've had in Texas were either carpetbaggers like Five Guys that were ineligible for inclusion on The List or ones like La Tuna Grill that didn't even make it at all (probably because the owners forgot to grease the palms of the head muckety-mucks at TM).

Well, The List finally delivered. Number 3, the burger at the Alamo Springs Cafe near Fredericksburg, was probably the finest burger I've had in Texas so far. (That's it in the picture above. Actually, that's Margaret's burger since I ate my so fast that I forgot to get a pic of it. That explains the mountain of ketchup next to it as well, since Margaret's kinda fond of the red stuff. Ech.) The Alamo Springs Cafe is literally in the middle of nowhere, at least a dozen miles from Fredericksburg proper (even though its address is in Fredericksburg). It took us a while to find it off Old San Antonio Road--there weren't even any signs. But we finally made it, ordered our burgers and were instantly treated to a TEXAS-sized meal.

The patty itself was well over a half-pound, and it was juicy and flavorful and well-seasoned. This burger could easily compete with the best of LA, except for maybe the preternaturally amazing Hickory Burger from the Apple Pan. The wait was a bit long (a sign on the wall said "If you want fast food, turn right and go 12 miles and you'll find a McDonald's"), and the place was packed. But that's always a good sign.

So a big thumbs up for the Alamo Springs Cafe burger...the Number 1 burger on the Vinyl Anachronist's List of the 50 Greatest Burgers in Texas.

Whistling past graveyards...

I know it's bad luck to photograph graveyards, but this one in Fredericksburg, Texas was quite amazing. Fredericksburg was founded in 1846, a year after Texas became a state, and the vast majority of these gravesites were of the German settlers who populated the area at that time.
The wrought iron gated graves you see here were primarily from the Old West era. I also noticed that quite a few of the people in this graveyard died from 1891 to 1893. I wonder if there was an influenza or cholera outbreak at the time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My New Buddy!

You gotta love kangaroos. Well, I guess you don't have to since I've seen that YouTube video of that TV reporter who got his butt kicked by one, but this sweet little girl kangaroo was in a playpen at an antique store in Fredericksburg, Texas. She was really docile and very, very soft. I thought she would be startled when I started to pet the top of her head (yes, her owner said I could), but she just sat there and enjoyed it.

So now I can cross "pet a kangaroo in Fredericksburg, Texas" off my bucket list.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Andy Hummel RIP

Just four months and two days after passing of fellow Big Star member Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel has died at the age of 59. Andy was the bass player (he's pictured above, flanked by drummer Jody Stephens on the left and Alex Chilton on the right), and while he had left the band in 1974, his work on such classics as "The Ballad of El Goodo," "September Gurls" and others will be forever forged in my mind.

Andy had been battling cancer for the last couple of years, but he still managed to play with Big Star at SXSW this year a few days after Alex died. Jason Gross, editor of Perfect Sound Forever, posted this clip on Facebook of Andy, Jody Stephens and others associated with the band speaking on a panel at SXSW:

That leaves Jody Stephens as the only remaining original member of Big Star still alive. He and Alex had reformed Big Star with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies (they were present at the SXSW panel as well), and they released the album In Space in 2005. But I think it's safe to say that without Alex, Chris Bell and Andy, Big Star will cease to exist. Thankfully we have all of their recordings (including the stellar box set Keep Your Eye on the Sky, which was released last year) to listen to and to cherish.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Big Boi -- Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

The other day I was talking to a 16-year-old about the wonderfulness that is OutKast, and he said something alarming. "Speakerboxxx and The Love Below came out when I was just a little kid," he told me.  No, I was thinking, maybe you were a little kid when Stankonia came out. Then I checked it out and he was right. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below came out in 2003, seven years ago, and indeed my friend was just nine years old. Stankonia, much to my dismay, was released a decade ago, when he was six and was still probably listening to Raffi. My, how time flies.

Of course this begs the question...what has OutKast, arguably one of the most creative forces in hip hop, been up to in the last few years? Sure there's 2006's Idlewild, a film and soundtrack album that came and went without much fanfare in the mainstream media. But there's a good reason why the break-up rumors keep flying around: despite denials from Big Boi and Andre 3000, OutKast seems to be on an indefinite break. The latest evidence can be found on Big Boi's new album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. After a few listens, this sounds and feels like an OutKast album, minus Mr. 3000. Considering that Big Boi has always been the more straightforward and serious partner, the humor and playfulness throughout this album seems to indicate that he's filling in the void, or at least showing the world that he has plenty of imagination too.

SLLF:TSOCD is a loose, funny and musically rich hip hop album. While Big Boi keeps the proceedings at a more even keel than in the typical OutKast album, there are still plenty of sidebars (spoken word pieces, etc.) in the mix to preserve that classic OutKast "all over the damn place" feel. Best of all, Big Boi puts his money where his mouth is and shows why he's considered one of the best--and most underrated--of all of today's hip hop stars. Even repeated listens can't quite unearth the fast, excited, endlessly inventive phrasing that weaves throughout these beats, and you'll find yourself searching one of those pop music lyric sites just to keep up.

Then again, it wouldn't be Big Boi if we didn't venture away from rap and into funk, R&B and whatever else catches his interest. For instance, his intro combines a man's whistle, a Dishonest John piano riff and porn guitar. "Follow Us" has an instantly memorable pop chorus (sung with Vonnegutt) that barely obscures a true reggae backbeat, and "Tangerine" has a funky, nasty nightclub vibe, one that my be rated unsuitable for my aforementioned fellow OutKast fan. For once that parental guidance sticker on the cover is well-earned, but not in a crass 2 Live Crew sort of way. In fact, Big Boi reveals his maturity in unexpected ways, such as his statement that "Snow? That's for toboggans" when asked about the influence of crack on today's city streets.

After all, Big Boi is 35 now. And OutKast has been around for a very long time. (Their debut was in 1994, back when I wouldn't be caught dead listening to hip loss.) While I hope we don't have to wait forever (forever? forever ever? forever ever?) for more from either Andre or Antwan, this album will certainly keep me entertained for the next seven or ten years, which is probably when we'll see the next OutKast album.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Janelle Monae -- The ArchAndroid

After going absolutely bonkers over the video for "Tightrope," probably the catchiest pop tune since "Hey Ya," I had to order Janelle Monae's critically acclaimed new album The ArchAndroid immediately. First, the bad news..."Tightrope" is by far the best song on the album. The good news is that the rest of it is still pretty darned great. Ms. Monae prides herself on being a genre-bender, and nearly every song on The ArchAndroid tackles a particular musical genre in a novel and exciting way, from rock to pop to R&B to tango to classical. This is a hefty, ambitious hunk o' music that may take a few listens to truly sink in.

The ArchAndroid is a concept album, which seems to be a growing trend in R&B today (check out Erykah Badu's latest, New Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh, for another great example), with Ms. Monae adopting an alter ego named Cindy Mayweather who is actually a android from 2179 who finds herself in an mental hospital called The Palace of the Dogs in 2010. Most of the album pays homage to Fritz Lang's silent sci-fi classic Metropolis (another fairly ambitious conceit for a 24-year-old from Kansas City), right down to the art direction of the album itself.

First of all, Ms. Monae has a GREAT voice, a pure and powerful instrument that still preserves the enthusiasm and innocence of a little girl. Second, this album is one of the rare R&B/rap hybrids to showcase spectacular sound quality.While I bought this on CD, it will be available as a double LP by the end of the month. And yes, I'll probably get that as well!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Turntable porn from Palmer Audio

I just made Facebook friends with a gentleman named Jon Palmer who makes his own turntables under the Palmer Audio moniker. This 'table, the 2.5, is just a prototype, but I have to say that this is one of the most gorgeous 'tables I've seen in a long time. He does have an older model, the 3, that has a separate housing for the motor, but I think I prefer the look of this one-piece plinth.

Here's a pic of the 3:

I'm going to contact Jon Palmer soon and ask him about the particulars (like price). I think I might ask him for an interview to see what it's like starting a new TT company in this day and age. I wish him the best!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DJ DUS - De La Muerte

DJ DUS also has a new release, ready for download. If you love CUMBIA, you'll love these tracks!

Ruler Why and the Vultures pics

I just finished up my interview with Ruler Why, the 22-year-old producer of the hip-hop collective The Vultures, for my latest Vinyl Ananchronist column for Perfect Sound Forever. He sent me these photos to include in the article, and as you can see he's a pretty young guy. The way he rhapsodizes about vinyl and disses digital, however, is decidedly old school. Ruler isn't afraid to voice his opinions about the current state of hip-hop--he chose the name The Vultures because he is "feasting on the dead carcass of today's music."

If you listen to The Vultures beats (at, you'll hear the Wu-Tang influences, but you'll also hear something dense and sophisticated and original in these mixes.

Jungle Rockers, Royal Butchers, Modern Don Juans at the Continental Club...Saturday July 3

Sorry for the dark, blurry pic, but a) the Continental Club is always really dark, and b) the Jungle Rockers were such a fun, manic band that my cell phone camera had a tough time capturing a calm moment during their performance. The JRs are originally from Cleveland, but they relocated to Austin because their '50s party aesthetic fits in perfectly with the Live Music Capital of the World. While these guys had a fairly conventional, albeit tight sound, the atonal solos from the lead guitarist gave them a more edgy, original vibe. And yes, the guy to the right of the drummer is the band's full-time tambourine player/backing vocalist, the first one I've seen since Davy Jones or the little red-headed girl from the Partridge Family.

Opening for the Jungle Rockers were the Modern Don Juans, a GREAT rockabilly band that featured a cool, portly singer who was every bit as soulful as David Hidalgo or Cesar Rosas. The Royal Butchers, carrying on the Continental's rep for so-so middle acts, were merely competent in their straightforward rock 'n' roll. Not bad, just not that memorable, despite a swaggering British lead singer.

Margaret and I are quickly becoming regulars at the Continental Club. We've seen some great acts there over the last few weeks (Hell's Belles, Churchwood, Honky, Buttercup), and the sound system there isn't quite as overwhelming as in many clubs in Austin (IOW, no earplugs needed). I may even venture down there today...they had some cool t-shirts for sale up front.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

See? It really is lime green.

This pic is more to settle a bet than anything, but after reading my most recent Vinyl Anachronist column at Perfect Sound Forever (available at, someone emailed me and challenged me on the fact that I had a lime green Rega P3-24 at home.

Well, here it is. It has the TT-PSU electronic power supply upgrade, the GrooveTracer machined aluminum subplatter and sapphire bearing and the Zu Audio DL-103 cartridge, so it's not exactly a garden-variety P3 (although it would look great in a garden!).

So there, pal. Pay up.

Support the Texas Music Movement

I've been networking with a couple of Texas music organizations over the last few weeks, trying to get a foothold into the local music critic scene. The best so far has been the Support the Texas Music Movement. Located at, it's basically a Facebook page that acts as a meeting place for Texas musicians, radio stations, clubs and promoters.

I was contacted by Wendy Lemke, one of the admins, and she was open and friendly and funny, just like most Texans. She invited me to participate and post there often, which I think I'll do.  Considering I've seen quite a few great--and relatively unknown--Texas musicians in recent weeks (Buttercup, Churchwood, Honky, etc.), I think this will be great opportunity for me to start talking more about Texas music.

Unfortunately I missed Russ Garvey's performance last week, which was right here in Kyle! There aren't a lot of venues in my new hometown, but he managed to book a free appearance at a local cafe. If I'd known about the Support the Texas Music Movement a few days earlier, I would have gone. From now on, I'm going to be checking their website regularly for great Texas music.