Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Review of Rediscover Records in Elgin

NOTE: Freelance writer Jason Duarte books shows in Elgin and Chicago, is part of a band and blogs about the local music scene Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines.

I wasn't aware downtown Elgin had a vinyl-exclusive record store until Between the Bylines editor Emily McFarlan added a link to Rediscover Records' Facebook page at the end of one of my previous posts. Intrigued, I looked up its whereabouts and decided to check it out.

I walked past it a couple of times until I realized the shop shared space with an antique store at 207 E. Chicago St. On the right side are records, and the rest of the store is chandeliers, mirrors, glassware and other antiques. The nostalgia of the records blends right.

I approached the vinyl corner of the store, and the first thing that caught my eye was the $1 LP crates. I am a big fan of these, so I scoured through them. Most of what they had was classic rock and pop, but they also carried punk and metal albums by bands like The Clash, The Cult, Talking Heads, Ministry and Black Sabbath.

Find out what else Jason discovered, his review of the shop, after the jump.

On the left side of all the wax, Rediscover Records has a "new" section. I say new in quotation marks because some of the albums are old, but sealed, or have been re-issued. Some of the new records they carried were by artists like Radiohead, Black Flag, She & Him, The Gaslight Anthem and Broken Social Scene.

Rediscover Records' prices were reasonable for an independent record store. Digital music purchasing and sharing over the last decade has proven to be a big competitor to independent record shops, and it's noticeable, as many have unfortunately fizzled away.

If you enjoy new and used vinyl, I'd recommend browsing through Rediscover Records' LPs and collection of hundreds of 7''s. The other day, I spotted two copies of "Glass Houses" by Billy Joel, both marked $1, and picked up the one with newer-looking grooves. I, for one, am going to pop in from time to time and see what's going through there.

-- Jason Duarte, Freelance Writer

Link to the story:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elgin band movin' up? Signed on indie label

NOTE: Freelance writer Jason Duarte books shows in Elgin and Chicago, is part of a band and blogs about the local music scene Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines.

Gruff and throaty, yet melodic punk rock band The Brokedowns made a name for themselves around Elgin and Chicago late last century and have maintained a loyal fan base throughout.

In 1998, the Elgin four-piece released a demo tape followed by a few demo CD-Rs before the band saw its debut full-length release, "Let the Disappointment Begin," on Big Action Records in 2002. Since then, the band's released two more full-lengths and a handful of split 7-inches with other punk rock bands, like The Copyrights, The Arrivals, Turkish Techno and Sass Dragons.

The Brokedowns haven't had a full-length release since 2007's "New Brain For Everyone," but in June, an indie label with a successful catalog based out of Chicago called Red Scare Records decided it would put out the new Brokedowns album and added them to its roster of Teenage Bottlerocket, The Menzingers, The Lillingtons and others.

"There's so much going on right now with the label, and as we all know, these are bleak times for small indies like Red Scare," said label owner Tobias Jeg in a article.

"But when I heard these songs, I just knew I had to make this happen. It reminds me of
Dillinger Four meets Black Flag meets (Naked) Raygun meets F***ed Up. It's thunderous punk rock but with great, stinging melodies and a little bit of fruitiness to make things fun."

Jeg will release the band's fourth full-length, "Species Bender," on Sept. 14.

A sneak peek at the album, upcoming shows, after the jump

On Tuesday, The Brokedowns posted two new songs to its MySpace page from the upcoming album. The songs, "Celebrity Death Panel" and "I'm a Ritual" accumulated over 200 plays in 12 hours. The new Brokedowns tunes are some of the most melodically infectious ones the band's churned out to date.

I am personally very excited for them. Signing to Red Scare is sure to bring them more fans in more places and only open more doors for the group, and after 12 years, I think they're deserving of it.

The "Species Bender" release show is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Ronny's (2101 N. California Ave., Chicago) with fellow Elgin-ers, Bust! and The House That Gloria Vanderbilt and Minneapolis' Double Bird. The show is 21+.

-- Jason Duarte, Freelance Writer

Link to story:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Local vinyl enthusiasts can enjoy "music on the go," too

Link to blog:

NOTE: Freelance writer Jason Duarte books shows in Elgin and Chicago, is part of Rex Catapult and blogs about the local music scene Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines.

Today, MP3 players and car CD players make it easy for us to listen to music on the go, as opposed to just a few decades ago, when we'd have to sit at home within earshot of analog audio. But did you know that although digital formats have replaced vinyl records, many record labels are still pressing albums to vinyl for those of us who do like to sit at home and listen to music?

And, being there is a small, but present demand for vinyl records, labels are making it easy for vinyl enthusiasts to take part in the luxury that is "music on the go" without having to buy the album on two different audio formats.

In the past couple of years, purchasing vinyl came with a nice added perk. Depending on if the label chooses to or not, many records now come with a slip of paper containing a URL and a one-time use download code.

The coolest part about this is, you have the music in its raw analog format on the record, which some would argue sounds better and more full because what you're hearing is the raw, recorded sound that needed no condensing or converting. (Digital audio is condensed from its original analog format.)

In other words, digital audio doesn't capture the complete analog sound wave, but takes "snapshots" of it (digital takes 44,100 "snapshots" per second). So, if there is a very quick transition in say, a trumpet, the digital version may sound distorted because the instrument's fast change doesn't carry over to digital as fluid as it would sound recorded as it was played. Converting it is approximating the original sound, at best. Get it?

More about getting records, free digital versions, after the jump.

Anyway, audiophiles get to have the analog recording to listen to at home, but can take the digital copy to their car, MP3 player, etc.

All the record label has to do, should they choose to include a download code with their album, is let the pressing company know. (It costs a little bit extra for the label, but it markets their LPs to more people.) The pressing company will then set up a digital copy of the album on its server, and all customers have to do to get it the digital version is redeem the code.

It downloads as a nice, neat ZIP file, with the album artwork usually included as a JPEG.

I personally enjoy having the best of both worlds with one purchase. And, if I burn the MP3s to a CD, I don't feel like a jerk having a burned CD of the album because, hey, it's totally legit.

Where to buy records in Elgin? Check out Rediscover Records, 207 E. Chicago St., previously written up in The Courier-News.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Dopamines, The House That Gloria Vanderbilt, Bi-Furious, Das Kapital at Mad Maggie's:

So here is the first installment of my weekly music blog for the Elgin Courier. It was Monday night's Dopamines show at Mad Maggie's in Elgin, IL. Rock!

NOTE: Freelance writer Jason Duarte books shows in Elgin and Chicago, sings backup in Rex Catapult and blogs about the local music scene Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines.

After devouring a delicious sub sandwich for dinner, I headed over to Mad Maggie's (51 S. Grove Ave., Elgin) Monday night to catch a good ol' weeknight punk show. Headlining were The Dopamines, touring from Ohio in support of their new album, "Expect the Worst," out on Paper and Plastick Records. And supporting were some great Elgin/Chicago bands that have a tightly-knit following, but always have flown under the radar.

Elgin's The House That Gloria Vanderbilt and Bi-Furious and Chicago's Das Kapital opened the show. The House That Gloria Vanderbilt features Todd Pot, better-known as the vocalist from his former band, Apocalypse Hoboken. Bi-Furious features members of Elgin's Vacation Bible School and Sass Dragons, and Das Kapital features Marc Ruvalo, owner of Johann's Face Records. Vacation Bible School and Rex Catapult were supposed to play but couldn't.

More on the Elgin bands, links, after the jump.

Bi-Furious are a skate/thrash/hardcore band. The four-piece's songs were short, fast and aggressive, like a 21st Century Minor Threat or JFA.

The House That Gloria Vanderbilt strays from the standard punk rock formula, as they were more experimental punk/rock and sounded heavily influenced by the Butthole Surfers.

Das Kapital was a little more melodic, drawing influence from earlier punk bands like Naked Raygun and The Replacements.

The Dopamines are notorious for their rowdy (in a camaraderie sort of way) shows, where it's not uncommon to see beer cans flying at them or being dumped on any of the four members at any given time, or people crowd surfing and most definitely singing along.

They share a similar sound to The Copyrights and aren't out of arm's reach of The Ramones, at least as far as influence goes. They know their power chords and use them tactfully. The dudes played songs mostly off "Expect the Worst," but threw a few old ones in there, like "Molly," another song with a memorable and viral chorus. Most of the new stuff follows suit in that infectious vein. Songs like "You'd Make a Good Horse Cop" and "Cincinnati Harmony" echoed around in my head long after hearing them for the first time, and hearing them live (and with another guitar to fill out the sound) was great. I left Mad Maggie's with a copy of "Expect the Worst" on both CD and LP Monday night.

I almost forgot: Not playing on the recordings, but touring with The Dopamines on second guitar is Mike Yannich, best known as the singer/drummer for The Ergs! (NOTE: The exclamation point is an essential part of their name). After a few more Midwest shows, The Dopamines will play Canada and then continue touring the U.S. until the end of August.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Check out my weekly music blog for the Elgin Courier!

Here's my fancy "about me."

NOTE: When I (Emily McFarlan) took over as your Readers' Reporter, lo those many years ago, and asked you, readers, what you were interested in reading, one of the very first responses I got was, "Did you know Elgin has an AWESOME music scene?" That launched a short-lived, semi-weekly Readers' Reporter column about local artists in The Courier-News' "Our" pages I had to drop after we made some changes to those pages. But this blog is supposed to be a place for those things we can't fit into the newspaper. And a place for conversation between readers and reporters.

Staff writer Katie Anderson has found a reader excited to write about the local music scene: Jason Duarte will be blogging Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines. Here's a little bit more about Jason...

Courier-News reporter (and close friend, former co-worker and classmate) Katie Anderson asked me to write a music blog for the Courier the other day. Immediately, I said OK. Actually, I think it was more along the lines of, "Yes! I've been longing for a writing outlet! Rad! Thank you!"

I had a weekly music blog at Eastern Illinois University's Daily Eastern News when I was the associate editor for The Verge, the DEN's weekly entertainment paper, from 2007 to 2008. I'd write about USB-equipped turntables, review albums and shows, interview musicians and write about not just music, but all things entertainment. After class and newspaper obligations, starting at 10 p.m., I worked with Katie at EIU's printing press throughout the week, developing the next day's newspaper. Around 2 a.m., I'd walk home with "news from the future," as I liked to convince my drunken college neighbors.

During my last semester at EIU, my Verge editor (now current Daily Herald reporter), Marco Santana and I, won third place in Illinois at the Illinois College Press Association for "Best Entertainment Supplement." We dug it, to say the least.

More on Jason's music cred, after the jump.

Two months after graduating in December 2008, I began freelancing for the Sun-Times News Group and began getting regularly published in the Naperville Sun. This was mostly hard news, something that was new for me, but I loved it. I jumped on every story I could but couldn't land a solid staff position, so I decided to follow another passion of mine in my free time and joined a pop/punk band in Bartlett, playing bass.

With them, I shared the stage with a lot of my favorite bands and played a lot of my favorite venues. I recorded with them, playing bass and doing few backup vocals on their second full-length album. We were signed to two record labels from Japan (both out of Hiroshima, which co-released both albums). In September, the labels booked us a six-show tour in Japan, so we flew out and played three districts in Tokyo (Shinjuku, Musashisakai and Akihabura), Hiroshima, Nagoya and Okayama with a lot of great Japanese bands. I learned a lot about Japan and the pop/punk subculture out there, which had a lot of differences and similarities to ours. I learned a lot about what they learned from the U.S., musically and how they are influenced by our culture and society. During that time, I also played bass in an instrumental surf/punk/rock band. I quit both bands in November.

By November, I decided I should get more serious about looking for a career.

In December, I decided to join another band called Rex Catapult. After a couple months of submitting applications and being fueled by resentment for my minimum-wage job, Country Sampler Group in St. Charles appointed me its catalog copy editor in February 2010 for both Country Sampler and Country Business Magazines. So I may be a working stiff most of the time, but in my free time, I book shows in Elgin and Chicago and play bass and sing backups Rex in Catapult.

So without meaning to sound real pretentious and long-winded, I accept the Courier's offer to blog weekly because music is what I am most passionate about and would love to incorporate it in my number two passion: writing.

I want to introduce you to new music, different music or even just peak your interest toward something new or foreign or something you may already even know, and ideally, I hope you teach me a thing or two. I want to incite discussion and conversation. Each week, I'll write about something different: shows in the Elgin area, reviews from shows that happened, shows that haven't happened yet, bands coming through, venues around town, album reviews, and I'll write about music-related topics, like how independent record labels are staying afloat, vinyl in the 21st century and topics of that nature.

-- Jason Duarte, Reader Reporter