2011 was the year of the record for me. Not a single collection of songs, but rather a physical entity and a format. When 2011 started, my record collection fit in a corner of a bookshelf. As 2011 ends my collection fills three full shelves, three empty boxes of cat food for 45s, organized by loose genres and alphabatized within collections: Pacific Northwest, Pre-War Blues & Jazz, Country and Folk, Post-Genre (New), Dance Party and my “Most Played” section so I didn’t have to debate what a “classic” was (and if a bad Ringo Starr record was a classic, because he’d been a Beatle). Last time I tried to count the records, I stopped near 400, having not even begun to touch my crammed 45s, and I realize this is just the beginning.
These are ten of my favorite finds over the last year of crate digging. What was your favorite find of 2011?
10. Dillard and Clark – Through The Morning, Through The Night Found: Sonic Boom – Ballard
Here’s why taking the time to comb through your local record stores is better than the instant satisfaction of buying your holy grail record online, beyond the whole supporting a local business. This out of print Dillard and Clark record goes for over $40 on sites like discogs and ebay, if you can find it, but if you patiently thumb through used bins, you might find an impeccable copy for $8. You also might yelp in excitement and frighten Sonic Boom browsers around you … but for this little known classic, it’s totally worth the embarrassment.
If it weren’t such an obscure record, I’d think it was seminal listening for anyone playing Ballard Avenue twang today. Featuring the duo of bluegrass banjo virtuoso Doug Dillard and original Byrd and country rock forefather, Gene Clark. At the forefront of what we now call “Americana”, Through The Morning, Through the Night is full of great original songs, traditionals like “I Bowed My Head and Cried Holy” and “Rocky Top” and perhaps my favorite Beatles cover ever, a down-tempo twang rendition of “Don’t Let Me Down.”
09. Numero Group #17: Eccentric Soul – The Deep City Label Found: Mississippi Records – Portland, Oregon
I’m kind of cheating on this inclusion, as I bought it brand new … but it is cover-to-cover all-killer, no-filler and if you ever see it at a record store forsake all other purchases and pick this one up. The price tag may seem a little steep, as most Numero Group releases do, but remember it is a double LP and it is worth every penny spent. Put this record on when you’re alone and its an instant, soul and booty shaking party. Put this record on when you’re not alone and its a make out soundtrack extraordinaire.
08. Arthur & Yu – Don’t Piss in the Fire Found: Everyday Music
With Grant Olsen’s latest project Gold Leaves being one of my most listened to albums of 2011, I was giddy to find this dreamy creamsicle colored Sub Pop single from his last project Arthur & Yu in the used bins. My find was confirmed as victorious by the nodding approval of the guy behind the counter, followed by a grumbling, “Damn, I wish I’d seen that first.”
07. Gene Clark – White Light Found: Twist and Shout Records – Denver, Colorado
After Greg Vandy recommended picking up this record on his excellent blog American Standard Time, I wasn’t the only vinyl lover who went looking for it in Seattle. Store after store, a perplexed clerk would tell me that I was the third or fourth person coming in to look for Gene Clark’s stellar second solo album and that no, they didn’t have it. So I was delighted when a gorgeous copy stared back at me in Denver’s cavernous Twist and Shout Records. White Light is a hidden classic and on it Clark helps invent what is known and loved now as “Americana” and cosmic country. It rambles at all the right places, like the cover of Dylan and The Bands “Tears of Rage” and the original songs that have inspired local bands like The Moondoggies and Sons of Warren Oates leave you wondering why Clark isn’t recognized as one of his generations finest songwriters. An album like White Light is ripe for a reissue and however you get your hands on it, even if it takes leaving the state, I recommend you do.
06. S – I’m Not As Good As You Found: Sonic Boom Records
Coming in at #7 on our 25 Favorite Northwest Records of 2010 and #4 on my personal list, finding a copy of the import only I’m Not As Good As You was a bit like discovering unicorns exist by stumbling on one in the wild. I had no idea this beautiful bummer was ever pressed to wax and while $18.99 was a bit steep for the reality of my bank account, there was no way this record wasn’t coming home with me. Because I’m Not As Good As You has only gotten better with time, more devastating in its honesty, more lovely in its loneliness. And were I writing that Best of 2010 list today, I would fight for it to be ranked much higher. Since her days with Carissa’s Wierd Jen Ghetto has been writing the best sad songs in all of Seattle, if not the country. She continues to do so solo as “S” and I’m Not As Good As You is equal parts heartbreak and stunner.
See my top five vinyl finds of 2011 (more…)