Vinyl in the man cave

Confessions From My Man Cave

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Since today is June 15, 2011, known in Boston as Stanley Cup Game 7, I have a confession to make: watching hockey makes my eyes glaze over. I know this is ridiculous coming from a baseball fan who can spend four hours watching (and with intense interest) a meaningless Sox-Angels game in April. I try, but after a few minutes of watching bearded Canadian dudes skating back and forth and bumping each other into the walls while slapping around a little black speck (I thought HDTV was going to vastly improve this aspect of viewing), I am soon paying more attention to the music at the Garden or the Rogers Arena.

At the home ice, the Boston stereotypical classic rock comes out — a bit of the Cars, Boston (the band), and, of course, Aerosmith. For some updated flavor, they might throw in “Shipping Up to Boston” from the beloved modern classics, the Dropkick Murphys. All of this is an improvement over present-day Fenway. One would be forgiven for thinking that the “lyrical little bandbox”has been transported to suburban Nashville for all the lamestream modern country-pop music played there this season. And I guess we can be grateful that at least hockey players and the fans of the sport share a reputation for the sort of toughness that would not allow for the unfortunate tradition of “Sweet Caroline” (made worse as a post-Fever Pitch phenomenon) played between periods. (Or is it? I am never at live hockey games, but I can’t imagine that would fly.)

Either way, during the series, I’ve found myself turning down the volume (though I really enjoy the excellent play-by-play of Doc Emrick) and reaching for my records — yes, my old, dusty records. They reside in my basement man cave, which just was improved by the addition of a knock-off of the classic Eames Lounge. Mine is a Plycraft recliner variation and, damn, if it isn’t one of the most comfortable listening/viewing spots. Coupled with some recent turntable tweaks, I have been back to enjoying the vinyl experience again on a regular basis.

Now, I am not one of those old record-collecting SOBs who will bore you with tales of what has been lost with the age of digital music. For me, it has been less of a revolution (excuse the pun) and more of an evolution, embracing the new without forsaking the old. However, I actually had the old records in the attic for a while after we moved house. They were up there for a couple of years during which I did not play records at all. It wasn’t until trying to describe to my daughter the experience of acquiring Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour LPs that I decided to get all the records out again and actually show her.

Another confession: I did not miss the old things for a long time. For all that we’ve lost with the passing of the LP, we’ve gained even more in the digital era. I don’t just mean mere convenience. And don’t let some self-styled audiophile tell you as a rule that records sound better than digital files. It all depends on what you’re testing. I have some great sounding digital files and some horrible sounding records. Sure, if you have flawless 180 gram vinyl playing on a $40,000 turntable running through a Manley tube amplifier, it is going to sound better than an MP3 through cheesy ear-buds. But these are not the only choices.

If you had told me as a kid that I could buy an album or a song with the click of a button, I would have signed up immediately. Now, I can look up session details and interviews. Now, I can see old videos of artists I loved or was curious about, an experience I was only able to have by collecting VHS tapes and visits to the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.

Sure, I miss the hunt. I miss walking into independent record stores and book stores. I miss the independent proprietor as a curator. We used to have five record stores in the town I grew up in on Long Island. Each one had a bit of a niche. And we could stop at the bookstore, the guitar shop, and then grab a slice a pizza on the way home, dripping the grease on the old square brown paper bags that held our finds. I miss sitting on my bed and spinning the new wax. Most of all I miss the artwork, the seemingly perfect medium of the album cover (and if you’re also an album art junkie, check out the ICA’s new exhibit, The Record: Contemporary Art and the LP).

See how good they look? (And this is in a dim basement photo shot with an iPhone.)

Even though I miss the art and the hunt, I gained a new hunt. The eccentric record store owner has perhaps been supplanted by obsessive bloggers who unearth chestnuts as a labor of love. I have discovered more new and old music much faster online. The evangelic record store clerks and proprietors who shared their joy in turning folks on to new sounds, or the secret-handshake jazzbos, soul freaks, or garage-rock heads over at places like Stereo Jack’s, Skippy White’s, and Nuggets are more easily approached online. What might have once been intimidating presumptive orations on discographies of, say, Archie Shepp, are now launching points for musical self-education. It is all out there if you want to dig.

All of this is great for a kid living anywhere, never mind some place out in the boondocks who had no access to record stores or even decent radio. But it is also excellent for middle-aged dads with limited time. Part of my nostalgia for those many hours on Saturdays I used to spend combing record and bookstores is a yearning for the day of having “hours” of “free time” on a “Saturday.” Now, though, I can sit back with great headphones and listen to nicely mastered mixes of old vinyl soul 45s at Funky16Corners or at Red Kelly’s B-Side. Fanatics put these selections together with passionate essays about the artists. This is like a personal invitation, a guided tour through a record collector’s top choices. They are gifts to mankind which should make their founders considerations for the Nobel Prize.

And the artwork — well, yeah, the 12-inch cover has sort of come back as a niche product, but has mostly faded. But now we have rich and often deep websites with animation, photos, videos, and so on. But when I am watching the third period of the game, perhaps with a beer, I will put on the vinyl London Calling, the newly remastered Exile on Main St., and Miles Davis’‘Round About Midnight, and nothing sounds better. Call it nostalgia. My reply would be:  And … ? It’s impossible to separate the nostalgia from any music that has lasted for more than a few years. Music and nostalgia go hand in hand. Embrace it. Wallow in it. But I have never felt more open minded about searching for and discovering new music than I do now.

* * *

In addition to those blogs/sites mentioned above, here are a few I recommend. Let me know your favorites via the Comments section below.

Bradley’s Almanac: An excellent Boston-based blog from Brad Searles, focusing on new music, from established and up-and-coming indie rock bands. Brad retains a Boston bias and still hits the clubs on a very regular basis.

Ryan’s Smashing Life: Boston-based Ryan Spaulding covers similar ground to Brad with maybe less Boston-centricity. And clearly has his own views and choices.

Boston Band Crush: As you can probably tell from the name, this one is far more Boston-centered. Don’t confuse with bostonbandcruch.COM, though, as I did. In fact, the current post at the latter is a tribute to the Boston band named Boston, featuring a picture of the Boston band Boston’s first LP, Boston.

As for great national/international indie rock blogs, there are such tastemakers as Pitchfork,Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, and Largehearted Boy, all of which often feature premiers of advance tracks and videos. Few of them are limited to music, taking in literature, film, and pop culture in general. And, as with those funk, soul, and R&B blogs mentioned above, they each usually provide sets of links that will lead you down a wormhole of discovery. Pour yourself a drink, strap on the headphones, open your mind, ’cause it’s about to be blown. You can thank me later.


Pro-Ject RPM 10.1 turntable review


Pro-Ject RPM 10.1 turntable review

There are two types of turntable: suspended subchassis and high-mass; Pro-Ject has combined the two!

Our Score4

Last reviewed: 2011-06-1111 hours ago


A good combination of high mass and effective suspension


Pro-Ject’s founder Heinz Lichtenegger is no longer satisfied with just cornering the budget market, he’s now set his sites on the turntable high end and his latest weapon, the RPM10.1, is a substantial and shiny beast.

Heinz is a classical music lover and this turntable directly addresses one of the key issues with such music on vinyl: trackability. The RPM10.1 comes with not one, but four alternative counterweights, which are supplied so that the arm/cartridge resonance can be kept totally under control in order that the system can track anything you throw at it.

Pro-Ject has also produced a test disc and by combining the two you can establish which counterweight gives the best tracking and thus the least distortion.

0 to 90

The canon in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture requires the highest stylus acceleration on record at 90μm – a rate with which most moving coils struggle to cope, yet Pro-Ject’s engineers have managed to get an MC to track its test disc at 100μm.

Pro-Ject rpm 10.1

Lichtenegger is quick to point out, though, that there is more to a great turntable and arm combination than theoretical tracking ability. He appreciates that setting up turntables well requires more than a test disc, but is clearly aiming to bring a little bit of science into the process.

The RPM10.1 is a revision of the RPM10, but quite a significant one. There are two key differences: one in the base, or Ground It Deluxe 3 (which is the rectangular slab that supports everything) and the other in the tonearm.

The Ground It incorporates magnetic decoupling through its four adjustable feet and provides a literal physical ground on account of its 13.4 kilogram mass. The 10cc version of the Evolution arm has had a lot of attention applied to controlling resonance and Pro-Ject has used more carbon fibre in a tighter weave than the previous incarnation. It has also incorporated Sorbothane damping in the four counterweights, each of which covers a range of cartridge weights ie: 4-6g, 5-8g etc, but there is some overlap between them.

In other respects this 10-inch arm is made of a single piece of carbon fibre with a conical shape, in order to combat standing waves. The bearing is an inverted type that uses ABEC7 ball races in a substantial ring-shaped housing for maximum rigidity.

Pro-Ject rpm 10.1

You can adjust armbase height in order to vary VTA and the armtube can be rotated so that azimuth can be changed. As with most Pro-Ject tonearms, the arm wiring is terminated in a pair of RCA phono sockets, so that alternative cables can be used to connect with the amplifier.

The rest of the RPM10.1 is hardly less substantial than the Ground It, the plinth is made of 63mm-thick MDF, with the same dark-grey gloss finish as the base. It sits on three sorbothane-damped aluminium cones and incorporates the armbase and a magnetically supporting inverted bearing for the platter.

This part is 60mm-thick and made of acrylic, but is described as ‘a sandwich construction’ which seems odd as it’s clearly one-piece, albeit one five-kilo-plus piece that’s topped off by a brass record puck.

The motor is effectively freestanding and sits atop a piece of metal of the same diameter and finish. Pro-Ject supplies a spacer device so that it can be placed the correct distance from the platter and connected by a thin square-section rubber belt.

On/off switching is atop the motor and speed-change a case of switching pulleys.

Every picture…

The pictures do not lie: this is a superbly finished turntable with plenty of attention to detail and the tonearm is particularly inspiring, thanks to the chunky bearing housing, although the thread and weight anti-skate system seems a shade old-school these days.

Pro-Ject rpm 10.1

There’s no doubt that Pro-Ject offers excellent value for money in its turntables and this is just as apparent here, as it is with its budget models. Next to the Well Tempered Simplex, it looks twice the price, but as we know great record players are about more than scale and finish.

Our current favourite in this price range is the Michell Gyro SE, which is equally impressive for the level of sheer engineering it delivers. But high-mass designs are always more expensive than conventional ones.

This price sector is becoming one of the most hotly contested, with a number of established designs being available with and without a tonearm. From the Gyro SE (£1,450) including a TecnoArm to the Townshend Rock 7 sans arm and Well Tempered’s relative newcomer the £1,495 Simplex with its damped golf-ball arm bearing. The latter two have a technological advantage, while the Gyro SE is a well executed suspended design at a great price.

Read more:

The Vinyl Countdown


The Vinyl Countdown: an overview

Last updated 13:47 01/06/2011

Okay, there’s something I need to tell you lot. I have another blog. Don’t worry – or, depending on how you look at it and why you come here, do worry because Blog on the Tracks isn’t going away. So if you check in each day waiting for that particular rapture all I can say is keep checking in…

Over at Off the Tracks (see what I’ve done there?) I am working my way through my own record collection. I call it The Vinyl Countdown; I’m counting down from 2000 (I don’t actually know how many LPs I have but I figured 2000 was a good number to start from). So we’re counting down from there.

This new blog has just started – in fact I’ve counted down from 2000 to 1982 so far.

The idea is to look, randomly, at my own record collection, why I have these LPs; what they mean to me in the scheme of things.

Now, I sometimes do that here too – I sometimes just write about an album I like a lot, or didn’t like at all. I sometimes use a new album as a reason to focus on an artist’s career. Well the posts that make up The Vinyl Countdown are much shorter. They’re there to read quickly, a quirky snapshot of my life. As the countdown continues I imagine I’ll be admitting all sorts of things from my past – and remembering weird and wonderful moments I haven’t thought about in some time.

It’s like that scene in High Fidelity where he sits with records around him and says he’s re-sorting his vinyl – this time “autobiographically”.

I’m just pulling out records to listen to (that’s the bit I referred to before as random). I get the feeling the posts will mean more, as a whole, when we get to some really oddball, embarrassing choices. And of course part of the point of the exercise is that you, the reader, might already think we’ve got to some of the really oddball, embarrassing choices.

These might just be précis-reviews. But I see them as something outside of the review format because I’m trying to contextualise what they mean in my collection and how they came to me (why I bought them, where I first heard them) rather than giving a contextualisation of the artist’s career. These are standalone pieces – snapshots of why an album means what it means to me. Guilty pleasures, favourites, albums I’ve thrashed, things I’m listening to for the first time, all genres, second-hand, brand spanking new – that’s how The Vinyl Countdown works.

I thought I could take you through the posts so far. You’re music fans – so you might like this idea. Then again, you might not. I’m keen for your feedback. And I am hoping you’ll engage with me here and tell me a few things about your record collection (we’ll use the term record collection to cover vinyl, CD, tapes, Mp3, whatever format you use, listen to, collect).

So I started The Vinyl Countdown at number 2000, obviously…

James Blood Ulmer’s Are You Glad To Be in America? It seemed right to start with a record I had never heard before – but I have listened to a fair bit of James “Blood” Ulmer. So it wasn’t a totally new experience.

From there it was to The Neville Brothers’ Fiyo on the Bayou which references Yellow Moon as my introduction to the Nevilles – from there it’s to The Meters, the solo career of Aaron and all points between. I probably wrote this post because of Aaron Neville’s cameo appearance at the Mavis Staples/Blind Boys of Alabama gig. He needn’t have bothered. And I was obviously in search of some decent Neville music as an antidote.

Then it’s to Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac – and we start to get into the random memories that I associate with the albums. I bought Pontiac because I used to go to Motel and drink whiskeys and smoke cigars and wait for my dole money to come through to pay for the drinks and smoking material. Lame. But I got to hear some cool albums while I was there working out whoever it was I thought I was. And one of them was this record. And I was very happy to have found it. He might have just remained that funny-looking guy that briefly married Julia Roberts otherwise.

Listening to Ry Cooder’s second album, Boomer’s Story brought with it the memory of Silvio’s – a second-hand record store where I purchased an instant record collection (their closing-down sale). And here I am mentioning that just as Real Groovy has gone from Wellington’s musical landscape.

Flying in a Blue Dream by Joe Satriani dragged over the memories of lawn-mowing with a Walkman. And my first (and no doubt last) reference to Beverly Hills 90210. I also explored the fact that in many ways this is an album I shouldn’t like – but I can’t help but get caught up in the nostalgia (which as we know is a big part of what music listening is – or at least a big part of what it becomes). I can’t be embarrassed listening to Flying in a Blue Dream now; it’s like when you tidy an old box of miscellaneous tapes or books or, well, anything from your past. You get caught up in the memory of who you were.

I didn’t think much of Bert Jansch’s Nicola beyond it being a whole load of hey nonny nonsense. But I have other Jansch recordings I love – so the trip back to this LP did at least remind me of the albums to focus on.

Talking Heads’ Remain in Light is, for a lot of people, the band’s best album. Checking it out for the purposes of the Off the Tracks blog made me realise that Remain in Light is one of the very few time-capsule records that I should be preparing. It’s seminal; it’s fantastic. And it somehow manages to live up to everything David Byrne andBrian Eno did together and alone – and then goes on to be its own thing as well. Extraordinary.

The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-78 probably came into my possession because I love the work of drummer Gary Mallaber. I’m glad it did. So many great songs.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland is the second album by Elvis Perkins. I really like his songs. We even play a cover ofthis one in one of the bands I’m in. It was great fun to learn – love that line “black is the colour of a strangled rainbow”.

Next was Joan Armatrading’s Me Myself I, which is definitely one of those “childhood albums” people speak of. I like the fact that all of her hit singles feel as though they should be songs by completely different artists. That’s pretty cool.

Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic went back on the turntable because I have been reading an advance copy of Steven Tyler’s autobiography. More on that nearer the time of its NZ release. I don’t really like Aerosmith but it’s hard to deny their very best work. And this album has their two best rock songs as groove songs.

Medium Rare by Foo Fighters is the covers record the band released for Record Store Day. I made a point of listening to this after slagging them off here at Blog on the Tracks. I had bought the album (on Record Store Day) and hadn’t gotten around to listening to it. I really liked a lot of it – even though I was (apparently) mean to Dave Grohl and his cronies. So, there you go. For what it’s worth.

Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down has also made the countdown already. But that won’t surprise any regular readers.

Paul McCartney’s McCartney II was looked at here track-by-track. I hailed it Paul’s solo masterpiece. So when I played it again and decided to include it as part of The Vinyl Countdown I had to look at the fact that calling yourself a McCartney fan these days is basically to become a McCartney apologist. John Lennon’s death may have been very sad but it really was a sound career move, right? Funny how in my track-by-track I never even went there but fans – from opposing sides – found that particular argument anyway. And people try to say The Beatles aren’t important anymore. Pah. Of course they are.

Mick Jagger’s solo album, Primitive Cool has been one of my favourite rediscoveries since starting The Vinyl Countdown. It’s a bit like the Satriani album perhaps – in that even if I wanted to not like it, for production reasons or whatever, I just can’t not like this album – I loved this record as an 11-year-old just introduced to The Rolling Stones. And I’ll tell you this for free – it’s also one of Jeff Beck’s best albums. Fact.

Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ SINGS!, Like a Ship… (Without a Sail) is my favourite new record. It’s not new as such – recorded and released in the early 1970s – but it’s new to me. Check the title track here. And go and buy a copy of this album if you don’t have it already. It’s so good. And one listen to that track will tell you whether you need it or not. But I’m going to say right now that you probably do need it.

Prince’s Batman soundtrack provided some funny memories for me. I also think it’s one of Prince’s underrated albums from that golden period. It probably gets written off as being the start of when the rot set in. But it’s one of my favourite albums of his – it’s not too long, it showcases most sides of what he was capable of (at the time). And it’s the album that now – forever – makes me think of bungy-jumping at its classiest in lovely Hawke’s Bay.

Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is an album that still blows me away whenever I play it. I don’t play it all that often these days – but I carry those songs with me; I’ve listened to them a lot. There are other albums of hers that I maybe prefer but this was the door-opener (for me).

Randy Newman’s Sail Away was the album I played when I sat down to think about how it’s really rather ridiculous that he’s written off these days as being the subject of a Family Guy parody sequence and the guy that writes the Toy Story songs. Sail Away is a good introduction to the real Randy Newman.

That’s where The Vinyl Countdown is at, for now. It’s just started. If you click on any of the album titles in this post it will take you to the original blog-posts at Off the Tracks. And there’s always the chance that by the time you check it out there’ll be another post (and another – and another) added. So tell me what you think. Click on the links, visit the site.


And now I’d like you to share one random story about an album that you have rediscovered recently in your own collection. The story does not at all need to be about the music – or the context of the artist. The story is better if it is about you and your life and linked to the music through thoughts and actions from the time you discovered that particular music.

So what is it? What’s the album? And what’s your story linked to it?

A librarian’s many, many records


A librarian’s many, many records

Brian Schottlaender’s life of a million cuts

SUNDAY, MAY 29, 2011 AT 9:30 P.M.

Brian Schottlaedner


Brian Schottlaedner

In his own words

You can see and hear Brian Schottlaender discussing his “vinyl obsession” here.

Brian Schottlaender’s Lonely Arts Club Band: Six Tracks on A Fading Theme

1. Yesterday

At 58, Brian Schottlaender is the very model of a modern major league librarian. He has an impressive title, “Audrey Geisel University Librarian,” and a massive task, overseeing all libraries on the UCSD campus. Last year, he won the American Library Association’s most prestigious prize, the Melvil Dewey Medal.

But he suffers from an incurable fever, one that compels him to chase albums by obscure industrial rock bands like Current 93 (“Christ and the Pale Queens Mighty in Sorrow”). This is an illness, one that may have begun with his childhood exposure to one of the most popular groups in history.

“My mother is British,” he explained, “so the Beatles were a big deal in our family.”

Today, in the Mission Hills house the librarian shares with his wife, book editor Sherri Schottlaender, the Fab Four are still a big deal. But so is tropical kitsch-Meister Martin Denny; an Anglo-Dutch experimental band, the Legendary Pink Spots; and industrial rockers Nurse With Wound. Floor to ceiling metal shelves line one wall of the Schottlaenders’ living room, bursting with 3,000 LPs. The librarian has many interests — globes, the writings of William S. Burroughs, comic books — but he is hooked on vinyl.

“For a true collector,” he said, “the collection is never finished.”

2. Here, There and Everywhere

In most homes, CDs and digital music have displaced pressed vinyl. Schottlaender, though, argues that these discs are making a comeback.

“The ‘young people,’” he said, wrapping the phrase in air quotes, “like vinyl. It’s kind of a retro thing.”

He may have a point. Around the world, devotees make pilgrimages to shops that fuel their passion. (In San Diego, stores include Lou’s and M-Theory.) Billboard reports that vinyl record sales climbed 14 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Yet, vinyl accounts for only 1 percent of all recorded music sales.

“We are dinosaurs,” said Eric Cyrus, secretary of the Vinyl Record Collectors Association, which had scheduled its 14th annual convention in Jamaica over Memorial Day weekend. More than 300 graying fans were expected to share music and, sadly, memories.

“Quite a few of us have died,” Cyrus said. “So we make it a memorial.”

3. In My Life

At 15, Schottlaender bought his first album: “Are You Experienced.” The Jimi Hendrix LP was a mature, savvy pick, but Brian was not your average teen. Born in Munich, where his father was an American working for Washington, Brian didn’t live in the States until he was 12. After a few years in Atlanta, the family moved to Dallas.

The boy loved classic rock. Increasingly, though, his taste ran toward more esoteric stuff: Captain Beefheart; the early Pink Floyd; Throbbing Gristle, a British group with a Dadaist edge; the Irish Gothic rock of the Virgin Prunes; the roughneck folk of John Fahey (“Blind Joe Death”).

As Schottlaender pursued his university studies from Germany, to the University of Texas, and on to Indiana University, he bought records at a four-album-a-week clip.

Whenever he relocated for a degree or a job, box after box was filled with treasures.

“The last time we moved,” he said, “somebody asked if I was a DJ.”

4. Tell Me Why

Vinyl-collecting librarians are not uncommon — one of Schottlaender’s colleagues at UCLA has 90,000 albums. This vocation and avocation are in sync.

Consider that, as university librarian, Schottlaender is responsible for 4.6 million printed books, 2.5 million digital volumes and nearly 100,000 recorded works. That last number includes 32,000 vinyl LPs, which reflect their time and place as surely as does the printed word.

“Albums do represent a form of technology that was prevalent for more than 50 years,” Schottlaender said during a videotaped interview posted by the American Library Association in April, during Preservation Week. “I think it is important that collections of examples of this technology be maintained for the historical record, the cultural record.”

When Schottlaender talks about vinyl, his eyes spark. You can glimpse the giddy teen within the scholarly man.

5. Getting Better

Fans insist that vinyl sounds better, fuller, richer than digital music or CDs.

“Warmer,” Schottlaender said.

“With a CD,” said Bram Dijkstra, professor emeritus of English at UCSD, “the sonority, the sound qualities, are often flat. Everything seems to be on the same level. With a well-recorded LP, you can close your eyes and you can literally point out that the trumpet player is in front, say, the drummer in back, that sort of thing.”

Vinyl, though, is easily chipped and scratched. Even new LPs sometimes have a background hiss or the occasional popping sound. And that’s why Schottlaender’s classical collection, all 2,000 works, are on CD.

“If there’s a little surface noise on Jimi Hendrix ‘Are You Experienced’ that’s OK. If there’s a little surface noise on Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, that’s not OK.”

6. A Hard Day’s Night

After a day in the stacks, Schottlaender enters his living room and selects two albums — the other night, he went from A (psychedelic British guitarist Kevin Ayers) to Z (Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention). A methodical sort, he intends to spend a few years listening to the entire collection, checking their condition.

His wife listens, too. She loves music but is leery about handling the albums.

“There’s a bit of ritual,” she noted.

Schottlaender slowly extracts the album from its mylar cover, then plucks the LP from the album.

Using an antistatic carbon fiber brush. he sweeps dust particles from the disc’s grooves.

The LP cradled between his hands, he places it on the turntable.

He lowers the stylus’ diamond tip onto the dark vinyl.

There’s a hiss. Then, the soundtrack of his life.

Curmudgeon records closes

Curmudgeon records closes its doors for good

Published: Thursday, June 09, 2011, 9:36 AM     Updated: Thursday, June 09, 2011, 9:58 AM
1 sm0605records PERLMAN.JPGBill Plange, owner of Curmudgeon Records in Somerville, stands in the store during its final days of operation. Curmudgeon, an independent record store, closed up shop in May.

With vinyl record sales soaring in recent years, business should be booming for independent record shops, right?

Tell that to Curmudgeon Records.

The Somerville store shut its doors for good last month, weighed down by debt and disappointing sales.

Curmudgeon became the latest casualty in the era of digital music, a loss that leaves vinyl lovers with few places to shop in the midsection of the state. Even as vinyl becomes popular again and sales climb impressively, experts said record stores can only survive if they are willing to branch out.

“The stores are now becoming more like pop-culture hubs for the community,” said Joel Oberstein, president of the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, which tracks the music industry. “Stores are seeing this as the way to survive.”

Vinyl album sales have increased over the past three years, with the bulk of the purchases occurring in independent record stores, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks the music industry.

Nielsen SoundScan said 2.8 million vinyl albums were sold in 2010, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. And sales have been increasing for the past three years.

There’s a catch, though: The vinyl sales only accounted for about 1 percent of total album sales — a category that also includes CDs and digital music, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

That means stores that want to carry the vinyl have to get creative with their businesses to cover their costs.

“Record stores need to be more than a record store,” said Jon Meyers, senior editor of the blog Vinyl District. “Every city has its own vibe, and record stores are at the center of that music culture.”

There are now 16 independent music stores within 25 miles of Curmudgeon’s former location, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail. The stores, which stretch from Trenton to Westfield, don’t all sell vinyl records, but most of them provide a diverse range of goods, from stereo equipment to rock shows and designer apparel as well as music.

Meanwhile, Curmudgeon refused to be anything more than what it was intended to be — a record store. Bill Plenge, the store’s owner, said money to broaden the business wasn’t there. But the reasons also went deeper — Plenge was determined to run his shop on his terms: His dream was to sell vinyl records.

“This is what I like doing. This is what I enjoy,” he said. “The other stuff just doesn’t interest me.”

Plenge believes his store’s eventual downfall wasn’t necessarily caused by a refusal to change, but by ambitious expansion plans.

Curmudgeon was one of the few shops left standing between New Jersey’s two vinyl-record heavyweights — Vintage Vinyl in Fords and the Princeton Record Exchange. Plenge originally opened his store in Edison in 1994 and became profitable enough to add a second store in Hillsborough six years later.

The new store opened at a time when Curmudgeon was hitting its peak, but sales soon began to plummet, and by 2006, both locations had to be closed. Plenge reopened Curmudgeon almost immediately in Somerville, where rent was lower and Plenge thought business would be better.

“We overextended ourselves on that loan (for the additional store),” Plenge said. “But we saw what we were making (in Edison) and we just wanted a little bit more.”

Curmudgeon’s fate is a lesson that resonates with new store owners hoping to beat the odds.

Consider Holdfast, an independently owned shop that opened in Asbury Park two years ago.

Co-owner Joe Koukos said vinyl records make up more than half of his merchandise, but he sells designer clothing and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. His store also doubles as an art gallery, Koukos said.

To keep the cash registers ringing, he said he has to hustle to find fresh ways to draw people in.

That means digging for hard-to-find records or finding new bands and featuring up-and-coming artists.

“A lot of stores fall into the trap of just sitting behind a counter and waiting for things to come to them,” Koukos said.

Holdfast hopes to benefit from the growing number of vinyl fanatics — a group composed mainly of young adults with disposable incomes.

It’s not clear if the renewed interest is merely a fad, but Oberstein said those listeners — raised on compressed, digital music files — prefer the warm, full tones of vinyl. And nationwide events such as Record Store Day, an annual celebration since 2007, help by making more people aware of the vintage black discs.

“They’re souvenirs of an era,” said Meyers, the senior editor from Vinyl District. “Now whether they can sustain and revitalize stores remains to be seen.”

Radiohead to release 12″ remix vinyl

Radiohead to release King of Limbs remixes

Oxford band announce series of 12in singles, featuring album tracks revisited by Caribou and Flying Lotus


Royal treatment … Radiohead announce 12in singles featuring King of Limbs remixes. Photograph: Theo Wargo/WireImage

Radiohead have announced the first in a series of limited-edition 12in remixes. Using select indie record stores and their own website, the Oxford group will issue vinyl records revisiting tracks from The King of Limbs.


The first remix single is due on 4 July (5 July in the US). It will include new versions of the songs Little By Little and Lotus Flower, remixed by Canadian electronic acts Caribou and Jacques Greene, a relatively unknown Montrealer.


Radiohead are keeping mum on how many remixes they have planned, as well as how many copies of each 12in are going to be released. We don’t even know the names of future remixers. Except for, er, one. Flying Lotus, who already worked with Thom Yorke on a one-off single, recently said Radiohead “wanted me to remix [their] new record”. “I’ve been trying to mess with that a little bit,” he said. “It’s difficult to work with, because the pieces that they gave me, there’s no real a cappella. It’s like piano and voice at the same time.”


Just a few days after the first 12in release, Radiohead will make their debut live performance of The King of Limbs. On 1 July, BBC Worldwidewill broadcast a concert from Nigel Godrich’s studio, featuring renditions of every track on the album plus “some additional behind-the-scenes material”. Radiohead have yet to announce any 2011 concert dates.

Best Starter Turntables

Best Starter Turntables


Interested in vinyl? Thinking of buying your first or maybe a new basic turntable? Here are some of teh cheaper turntables that we would recommend. We here at believe you should stay away from the funky but non-hifi tables like USB ones from Numark or retro style like Crosley. The following turntables may seem basic but concentrate their money and effort on where it matters, the sound! Of course you will probably get a bargain 2nd hand but if you don’t want to take the chance on that all the following tables should be available new.



Classic British turntable with excellent sound. Comes with a great starter cartridge in the Ortofon OM5e and the homegrown RB100 tonearm.

The Rega P1

Ever proud of it’s reputation as a defender of high quality sounds at great prices, Rega is delighted to announce it’s new progeny, the P1 turntable.

The first new addition to the Planar range of turntables for some time, we hope you’ll agree it’s worth the wait.

Featuring a completely new tonearm the RB100, this entry-level model comes ready-fitted with a cartridge, proving once more that you don’t need loads of dosh to afford a cracking record player.

For over 30 years, Rega has been the first name on everyone’s lips when it comes to turntables. With the new P1, Rega quality is now available at the lowest price ever.

The completely British-made P1 features:

· brand new Rega RB100 tonearm; 

· high quality main bearing, sub-platter assembly and stabilised MDF platter for excellent speed stability;

· Ortofon OM5e moving magnet cartridge;

· Rega sound quality at an unrivalled price.

To find your local stockist please click here… please note that the P1 is not available in some markets.

Coloured turntable mats
It is now possible to customise the look of your Rega turntable using a variety of new coloured mats, click here… for information


Project Debut

Great value deck built in the Czech republic but designed in Britain.

Debut: click to enlarge
Debut: click to enlarge Debut: click to enlarge Debut: click to enlarge Debut: click to enlarge Debut: click to enlarge Debut: click to enlarge

open page Specifications PDF Productinfo [pdf, 73 KB] PDF User Manual [pdf, 172 KB]

No other analogue hi-fi product was more often honoured to be a real “Best Buy” than the Pro-Ject Debut III. A real bargain with outstanding sound quality!




Manual turntable with 8,6″ tone-arm



• Plinth out of MDF in matt black or with glossy black, glossy white, silver, red, blue and green surface

• 1,3 kg balanced steel platter with felt mat

• Bearing Block 3: Low-tolerance chrome-plated stainless-steel axle runs on a polished ball bearing in a brass bearing housing

• Motor decoupled to reduce vibration

• Special, resonance damping feets


Tonearm 8.6 D

• 8.6″ tone-arm with aluminum headshell made aout of one piece

• Inverted tonearm bearing comprises inverted hardened stainlesssteel points and sapphire thrust-pads

• Single-screw fi xing of armtube allows rotation for easy adjustment of needle azimuth despite fi xed headshell

• Silicon damped tone-armlift



• Ortofon OM5e


Technics 1200

This may seem like a strange choice. This deck has been around for donkeys’ years and has served as the mainstay of all fashionable DJs. Millions have been sold and its built like a tank. Many hi-fi enthusiasts swear by this deck but normally change the arm for a proper tonearm and cartridge first. You may get a bargain 2nd hand. Unlike the previous belt-driven decks this deck is driven directly from the motor like the classic Garrards. This offers better stability at the expense of possible rumble from the motor.

analog turntables
digital turntable
SL-1200MK2/SL-1200MK2PK introduction features specs

Vibration Resistant Construction
Ultra-Low-Speed Motor /Super-High Torque
Quartz Locked Pitch Adjustment
Total Direct-Drive Accuracy

Vibration Resistant Construction
A die-cast aluminum body, heavy rubber base, and a lack of unnecessary components or empty space allow the 1200MK2 to absorb unwanted vibrations that could otherwise interfere with the sound.

Ultra-Low-Speed Motor / Super-High Torque
The 1200MK2’s ultra-low-speed motor and high torque (1.5kg/cm) allow for super quick start-ups (0.7 sec) and stops.

Quartz Locked Pitch Adjustment
Allows for accurate quartz-locked pitch adjustments throughout its 16 percent (+/-8) range.

Total Direct-Drive Accuracy
Instead of just spinning the platter, the classic Technics Direct-Drive system actually incorporates it into the motor, reducing the number of parts that can malfunction and making consistent, accurate speeds possible. It’s a system that has been providing fast start-up times and unequalled responsiveness for over thirty years. Wow & flutter 0.01% WRMS,, rumble -78dB.




Denon DP300F

A decent basic turntable from a classic Hi-Fi Brand


Fully Automatic Analog Turntable

MSRP $329.00

The DP-300F has been designed with heavier base construction for reduced vibration and performance.  The all new tonearm has a removable headshell making cartridge replacement simple.  The standard mount headshell allows for any standard mount cartridge between 5 ~ 10 grams to be mounted and balanced.  The automatic startup feature allows the turntable to begin play with the touch of a button, and once play has been completed, the tonearm will be returned to the armrest gently so that the stylus and record are not damaged or scratched.  The turntable is made of rigid diecast aluminum to produce uniform rotation for smooth flutter free operation.  There is also a manual lifter mechanism that allows you to place the needle on the record wherever you want, so you can skip to a different song in the middle of a side.

The DP-300F includes a built-in phono equalizer to connect the player to an integrated amp or receiver that does not have its own phono input. This turntable is powered by a DC servo motor and belt drive system and has rotation speeds of 33 1/3 or 45 rpm.  It comes with a MM cartridge so that you can begin to enjoy your analog record collection as soon as you connect the DP-300F to your home hi-fi system.


Here are some links that might be worth exploring…


Nation In Love With Girl From Record Store


Nation In Love With Girl From Record Store

JUNE 13, 2001 | ISSUE 37•22

ATHENS, GA–Captivated by her adorability and off-the-charts hipness, the U.S. populace sheepishly admitted a deep infatuation with 22-year-old Danielle Metzler, that amazing girl with the multi-colored hair who works at Slipped Discs in Athens.

Enlarge ImageMetzler behind the Slipped Discs counter.

“God, she is so fucking unbelievably cute,” Sam Kiefer of Euclid, OH, said Monday. “The last time she was wearing these super-tight silver pants and this rhinestone-studded New York Dolls half-shirt, and I was just like, ‘Wow.'”

Metzler was first spotted at Slipped Discs, an independently owned store stocked with a wide selection of indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, and otherwise hard-to-find music, in September 1999. Ever since, the nation has had a major crush on the girl.

“[Metzler] works at the coolest record store in Athens, and she’s totally up on all the latest stuff,” said Ryan Griggs, 48, a television repairman from Salem, OR. “You have no idea how many people go in there every day and buy some obscure Go-Betweens B-sides collection or the latest Stephin Merritt side project just to try to impress her.”

Griggs recently purchased Toby Dammit’s vinyl-only Gopher Edits EP–a highly successful move which prompted Metzler to ask about the record.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Griggs said. “For 45 glorious seconds, it was just me and her talking about bands like Tipsy and Jazzanova.”

Residents of the Florida panhandle admitted that their own attempts to impress Metzler were less successful.

“I heard her talking to someone about these great new Boredoms remixes, so I bought the one by U.N.K.L.E.,” Pensacola’s Andy Nichols said. “I don’t even own a single original Boredoms album, but I now have an import remix I paid $30 for.”

Continued Nichols: “When she was ringing up the U.N.K.L.E. thing, I said, ‘These are supposed to be really good.’ So she says, ‘Yeah, but if you’re not going to get them all, the DJ Krush is really the one to go with.’ I was like, oh, great. But then she gave me this really big smile, and it was all worth it.”

Upon discovering they were not the only ones with a long-standing crush on Metzler, residents of the Midwest came forward with their own tales of longing for the girl, sharing everything from the time she wore that really tight Le Tigre T-shirt to the time she danced to Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls” as it played on the store’s stereo.

“Once, she was reaching up to grab a CD for a customer, and I noticed maybe half an inch of leopard-print underwear peeking out of the back of her hip-huggers,” said Carl Mills, a Beloit, WI, truck driver. “That was a year ago, and I still remember it.”

Josh Starkes of Boise, ID, is among the few Americans who know the girl’s name.

“I was hanging around the store one afternoon, and I heard one of her coworkers say, ‘Hey, Dani, could you grab me a few of the new Dirty Three/Low from the back?'” Starkes recalled. “Turns out, her name is Danielle, but she goes by ‘Dani,’ and sometimes even ‘Dan.’ On the employee-suggestion rack, it says, ‘Dan’s Pick Of The Week.’ I mean, how cool is that?”

According to millions of Americans, unlike many of the other clerks at Slipped Discs, Metzler never asks if you need help finding anything. Even if you make it obvious that you are struggling to find a particular record, she will remain by the front counter, talking and laughing with a select crowd of visitors.

“I was in there, and I recognized this one guy talking to her as the lead singer from [Athens band] Corky Thatcher,” said Dave Douglas of Riverside, CA. “I can never figure out if all these people hanging out are her actual friends or just people she’s deemed cool enough to talk to her. And, if the latter is the case, how do I become one of those people? Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t stand a chance.”

Despite such insecurities, the people of Southern California say the mixture of desire and insecurity associated with a trip to Slipped Discs is “exhilarating.”

“I wanted to get the first Modern Lovers album, but I didn’t want her to know I didn’t already own it,” said Jody Osbourne of San Diego. “To cover up, I told her some big, long story about how my friend is such a jerk because he borrowed it a long time ago and never gave it back. When I was done with this four-minute spiel, she just said, ‘I hate Jonathan Richman.’ I wanted to curl up in a ball and die.”

While it’s unknown whether Metzler has a boyfriend, the American people have always assumed she does.

“Whenever I see her out at a show, she’s always surrounded by this pack of slim-hipped, good-looking hipster guys,” said Jesse Avery of Roseville, MI. “She’s never hanging on any one in particular, but one of them has got to be her boyfriend.”

The nation has no plans to try to advance its relationship with Metzler beyond that of customer and clerk, saying it prefers to worship her from afar.

“She’s way out of my league, and even if I could get her to like me–which I couldn’t–it would only cause problems,” said Earl Shaw, 36, a Gulfport, MS, actuary. “When a girl has so many guys fawning over her, she’s bound to want her way with everything.”

Continued Shaw: “That is, unless she was sick of all the rock ‘n’ roll assholes she dates and was ready for someone who doesn’t fit into that mold. Maybe she is. Maybe she’s looking for someone a little smarter than those guys–someone like me.”

Shaw added that maybe he could even learn to play bass guitar.

Informed of the nation’s crush, Metzler shrugged her shoulders. “That’s cool,” she said, “but lately I’ve been more into British guys.” She then returned to sorting CDs.,309/