Vinyl Spotlight: Copeland – Beneath Medicine Tree

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

In the recent flurry of Copeland re-presses, perhaps the most anticipated was the band’s debut – Beneath Medicine Tree. Shop Radio Cast handled pressings of In Motion and You Are My Sunshine last year, along with Eat, Sleep, Repeat in 2013. While all of these were highly anticipated and handled with care, SRC vinyl’s pressing of Beneath Medicine Tree takes the cake.

The Florida indie rock act made their return with last year’s Ixora and are currently out on the road with Paramore. For a band that appeared to be gone for good, this sudden resurgence has been fun to watch. Nevertheless, Copeland’s 2003 debut still holds a special place in my heart, making this re-pressing a chance to grab one of my all time favorite records. Let’s take a look.

Packaging and Presentation

The artwork for Beneath Medicine Tree has always been unique and beautiful. This pressing captures everything that made it so special. The sleeve opens to a gatefold, featuring hand drawn medical images over green-tinted hospital photography. A booklet inside the record has a thin overlay of the drawings that sits atop the glossy photos. Inside the booklet are song lyrics and liner notes.

The album is pressed on two 180-gram coke bottle clear records that look sharp and reflect the overall color scheme of the artwork. This particular variant was limited to 500 copies, but another pressing of 1,500 copies on clear vinyl with black smoke was also made. The records themselves feature the hand drawn images in the center. The only drawback here is that the records aren’t clearly marked – I had to look for a few minutes before finding side A. Regardless, the overall presentation here is stellar.

Sound and Quality.

As I mentioned earlier, I love this album. Thus, I was pleased at how spectacular it sounds on this pressing. The record captures the raw, indie rock feel of the original recordings, but the songs sound even bolder than I expected. From the opening pianos of “Brighter” to the crunchy guitars of “Walking Downtown”, each track sounds distinct, with each instrument shining through at different moments.

The bassline on “When Paula Sparks” sounds rich, and Aaron Marsh’s vocals sound beautiful. Part of what makes Beneath Medicine Tree so special to me is Marsh’s vocal work – not yet over-produced, but sounding honest and authentic. It sounds fantastic here, especially over the upbeat keyboard line on “She Changes Your Mind” and on the delicate moments during “California”.

Shop Radio Cast has come through again with this beautiful and wonderful sounding pressing of Beneath Medicine Tree. Now that Copeland’s catalogue has been completely re-pressed, fans have to feel great about having access to each record, especially when they were each handled so uniquely. Each album seems to have its own personality, which comes through in the packaging and presentation of these records. If you haven’t picked one up – there’s still time. You can get your copy here.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Vinyl Spotlight: Yellowcard – A Perfect Sky

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

As we continue our discussion of Record Store Day 2015, we turn our attention toward another highly sought after release: Yellowcard – A Perfect Sky. This 10-inch record features three unreleased/acoustic mixes from their 2014 album Lift a Sail. The pressing by Razor & Tie is limited to 1,000 copies.

It’s no secret that we were huge fans of Lift a Sail, making this pressing quite an exciting release. Adding to the intrigue was the lack of background information on the unreleased songs. Yellowcard very rarely fails to deliver, so it stood to reason that A Perfect Sky would meet our expectations. How did it measure up? Let’s take a look.

Packaging and Presentation

Judging from the pre-released image of the cover, A Perfect Sky looked quite pleasing to the eye. Sure enough, the artwork is striking, featuring deep purple, blue and green colors that echo the pastels featured on Lift a Sail’s artwork. The cover is simple and beautiful, featuring the band’s logo in the center, in front of what appears to be a cloudy, night sky.

The packaging here is quite simple, featuring an inner sleeve with lyrics on one side and a concert photo of singer Ryan Key with an acoustic guitar on the other. There’s really not much here, which is understandable considering that the release features only three songs. The record itself is pressed on 10-inch black vinyl, which feels odd with only one track on the B-side. More on that in a moment. All in all, the packaging is minimal, but the colors make it attractive.

Sound and Quality

This is where things get interesting. Featured on the release are two Neal Avron mixes of “MSK” and “California” from Lift a Sail and an acoustic Daytrotter session of “One Bedroom”. Put simply, the two Avron mixes are fantastic, but “One Bedroom” leaves a lot to be desired. “MSK” is given new life with a beautiful string arrangement backed by deep bass and gorgeous keys. The song was already outstanding in its original form, but this remix takes the song to a whole new level.

Likewise, “California” places delicate strings on top of the original keys, adding depth to the track. It could be argued that both of these songs sound better than the originals. The fact that both tracks are emotional, tug-at-your-heartstring numbers is only amplified by these new mixes. Many props are due to Avron, who never ceases to amaze when it comes to his Yellowcard production duties.

On the other side of the coin, this new version of “One Bedroom” is pretty bland. Part of the song’s original charm was its production value and swirling guitar solo, which are both stripped away in this version. It also begs the question of why an acoustic version of “Lift a Sail” or “Make Me So” wasn’t included on the B-side to fill out the record. In truth, it may have been better to leave “One Bedroom” off the release completely in favor of a simple 7-inch with “MSK” and “California”.

Nevertheless, A Perfect Sky is still a charming release that brings new life to a couple of the best tracks on Lift a Sail. There’s a chance that a few copies of the record may still be available, so drop by your local record store and have a look.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vinyl Spotlight: Copeland – Ixora

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

Copeland fans have had a lot to crow about since last April’s announcement that the band was reuniting to release their fifth full-length album. On the day of the news, thousands of Copeland fans rushed to preorder vinyl copies of Ixora with the promise that the record would be ready by the fall. While the album was released on time, the vinyl copies were held up due to a manufacturing error that required a complete repressing.

At the end of January, good news finally came – the vinyl copies were ready and would begin shipping immediately. Now that we have them in hand, the question is, was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look.

Packaging and Presentation

As with most Copeland releases, the album artwork is gorgeous. The simple shots of ocean were taken by Anberlin’s Nate Young, and they’re quite peaceful – much like the album itself. This release is a gatefold with an insert, which serves as the inner sleeve. The record opens into a view of more ocean with some liner notes and a superimposed ixora flower. Overall, the package is lightweight and easy to handle. The inner record sleeve features song lyrics in the album title font.

A few options of color were given for this pressing: 3,000 white, 3,000 black and 300 blue with white splatter. I received a blue copy, and the vinyl itself is quite pretty. While this particular color isn’t 180 gram, it does have a wonderful white starburst effect on the soft blue record. In short, it’s fun to look at and matches up with the album artwork quite nicely. There’s no download card – a digital download of the album was sent upon Ixora’s release.

Sound and Quality 

The manufacturing defect reportedly had to due with the pressing’s sound quality and left the band unwilling to ship it to their fans. There have been a few reports of minor scratches or even high-pitched background noise on certain variants of this pressing, but I’m pleased to report that I was unable to detect a defect on my copy. In fact, the album plays extremely smooth – I found the sound to be more full and rich on this pressing than I had experienced via the mp3 files.

The bass surprised me the most. While I hadn’t noticed it as much when streaming the album, it sounds deep here and melts into the overall mix. I first noticed this on the quiet and gentle “I Can Make You Feel Young Again” – a song that takes full advantage of Aaron Marsh’s otherworldy vocals and blends them against a backdrop of keys, soft guitar tones and a rich bassline. Because each track on this album is so unique, it’s exciting to hear how each presents itself on this vinyl release.

I was already a huge fan of Ixora, but hearing it on vinyl has captured me even more. This band can do no wrong, and even with a lengthy delay, Ixora is a must-own vinyl release for Copeland fans. I own each Copeland record released thus far, and I have to say that this is my favorite pressing in terms of sound, with 2013’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat pressing coming in a close second.

Last year saw re-presses of You Are My Sunshine and In Motion and this spring will bring the re-pressing of Beneath Medicine Tree (of which there are still a few preorder copies available). Ixora is sold out for now, but if you run across a copy, don’t hesitate to snatch it up.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vinyl Spotlight: fun. – Point and Light

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

Believe it or not, we’re not quite finished writing about Record Store Day releases. This week, we’re taking a look at a very special release from fun. titled Point and Light. This 10-inch vinyl release features five demo tracks that didn’t make the final cut of the band’s debut album, Aim and Ignite. While this release doesn’t feature any brand new music (although many of the demos were previously unreleased), it was highly sought after on Record Store Day and we were fortunate enough to snag a copy. Let’s take a closer look…

Packaging and Presentation

There’s really no way around it – this release is extremely fun. While this is obviously a cheesy analysis, it’s certainly the truth. The cover artwork was done especially for this release, capturing the three members of the band in a wonderful display of color. The release opens in a gatefold with a large photograph of the band displayed on the inside. Included in the release is a poster, featuring all three members of the band in black-and-white photo form.

The record itself is a joy to look at. Pressed on clear vinyl with a splatter of rainbow color, this 10-inch record fits right in with the packaging and creates a uniform look of bright colors and popping images. If $20 seems like a high price to pay for a 10-inch record of five b-sides, you immediately understand the price tag once the record is opened. In truth, this is probably the best presentation and packaging of any record released for Record Store Day 2014, and is certainly one of my new favorite records from a visual standpoint.

Sound and Quality

It was made clear from the beginning that this was a collection of demos from the band’s first album, so we’re clearly not expecting top-notch production quality from Point and Light. These songs truly sound like leftovers from Aim and Ignite – stripped down, quirky, and a far cry from what the band has produced in the time since. That being said, if you’re a fan of Aim and Ignite or even old material from The Format, the five songs on this record will be quite a delight.

The best two songs on the release come in the form of “Light a Roman Candle With Me” and “The Gambler”. Both are slower, piano driven tracks, the first of which makes wonderful use of harmonies, while the latter features raw, but inspired vocals from Nate Ruess. These tracks feel warm and inviting in vinyl form, making the format of this release very appropriate. While this won’t be a record I spin regularly, it’s a great 20-minute investment when you need a quick indie-pop fix.

This release isn’t for everyone, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, Point and Light is a wonderful treat for hardcore fans of the band and vinyl enthusiasts who are passionate about time and effort spent to create an excellent visual presentation. I’ve already enjoyed showing this record off to several of my friends who all appreciate the care spent in creating the packaging of this release. If you’re a fan of fun. and are lucky enough to find a leftover copy of this in your local record store – pick it up immediately. You won’t regret it.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vinyl Spotlight: Sunny Day Real Estate and Circa Survive split

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

So, Record Store Day 2014 has come and gone. Now it’s time to enjoy all of our purchases! The first release I’m focusing in on is the Circa Survive/Sunny Day Real Estate split 7-inch. This was likely my most sought after release for the day – Why? Well, to put it simply, this is a beautiful pairing of a legendary band (Sunny Day Real Estate) and a band heavily influenced and inspired by the former band (Circa Survive).

Incredibly, the song provided by Sunny Day Real Estate, titled “Lipton Witch”, is their first release since the band put out The Rising Tide in 2000. The band had been rumored to be working on new music back in 2009, but things fell through, much to their fans’ dismay. Meanwhile, Circa Survive’s contribution, titled “Bad Heart” is their first release since 2012’s Violent Waves.

Packaging and Presentation

The packaging is both striking to the eye and appropriately in line with both bands’ previous releases. The artwork was done by Chris Thompson, who handled the art for Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary and How It Feels to Be Something On. It’s a bit weird and a bit ambiguous, which means that it’s perfectly suited as a package for both bands.

This pressing was numbered to 2,500 with 2,400 being pressed on burgundy vinyl and the other 100 being pressed on clear vinyl. While I wasn’t fortunate enough to pick out one of the clear copies, the burgundy pressing looks pretty splendid. Not only does it mesh well with the cover art, but the classic-feeling label gives the disc a retro feel. No matter which variant you get, it’s hard to complain.

Sound and Quality

Even more than critiquing the actual sound of the record itself, people are likely most interested in the sound of the individual songs. Truly, it’s a pretty fantastic experience all the way around. “Lipton Witch” is one of the most enjoyable rock songs I’ve heard this year. Could it be because of the 14 year wait between new music from Sunny Day Real Estate?

Maybe, but this song is pretty fantastic in its own right – truly a Sunny Day track, but with a fresh kick that makes it feel relevant. I think this will have most fans itching to hear what else the band has been up to during their absence. We may never get another full length from the band, but “Lipton Witch” proves that the band still has “it.”

Likewise, “Bad Heart” is a fantastic new song from Circa Survive. The track is much more mellow than the majority of the band’s catalogue, but caries that eerie vibe that makes the band so special. Truthfully, “Bad Heart” wouldn’t have felt too out of place on the back half of Violent Waves, but it’s a great stand alone song in its own right. Here’s hoping that this song isn’t the end of the band’s new music in 2014.

What’s even more wonderful than the new tracks themselves is how well both sound on the vinyl format. Both of these songs deserve to be heard on record – don’t settle for YouTube versions. If you can get your hands on a copy of this release, definitely do it. The release also comes with a free MP3 download of both songs, should you choose to use it. Personally, I plan to spin these songs on vinyl on the regular.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vinyl Spotlight: Record Store Day 2014

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If you’re a vinyl nerd, you’ve likely had April 19 marked on your calendar for a while now. Saturday marks the seventh annual celebration of Record Store Day.

The event is all about showing love to your local record store and sharing the music you love in a communal setting with those around you. The day is marked by special vinyl and CD releases, performances, giveaways, parades and general festivities that take place at local record shops around the globe.

According to the official Record Store Day website:

“This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.”

Here at It’s All Dead, we couldn’t agree with this sentiment more and we encourage you to get out and support your local record store this Saturday by picking up some new music by your favorite artists.

Personally, this will be my fourth year participating in Record Store Day. I began collecting vinyl in late 2010 as a way to cope with some difficult life events. The hobby soon become a source of joy and one that has benefited greatly from Record Store Day events over the past several years.

Not only does the day offer the opportunity to snag awesome special vinyl releases, but it promotes the idea of community – an essential part of the music experience that has been dreadfully affected by the digital age.

While standing in line, browsing through records and listening to music, you’re bound to meet someone with a common interest. The shared experience of music is something that bonds us together helps us relate to those around us. Record Store Day is the opportunity to embrace that idea and have a real connection with not only the music, but those around us who love the music as much as we do.

So this Saturday – get out and enjoy! To find a record store near you that participates in Record Store Day, go here. For a list of all of the day’s exclusive releases, go here.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate Record Store Day and what records you’re excited to pick up on Saturday in the replies!

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vinyl Spotlight: Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak was originally released on vinyl in 2008 in conjunction with the album release. That pressing quickly sold out, leading to an escalated value. If you wanted to purchase a copy, you were looking at paying at least $150 to $200. Now, as part of Def Jam’s Respect the Classics reissue series, the album has been repressed on two 180-gram vinyl discs.

I originally wasn’t a fan of the album upon its release, but over the past few years, 808s has grown on me significantly, making this purchase appealing, despite the nearly $40 price tag. Nevertheless, I picked up this deluxe reissue and pretty pleased with the results. Let’s take a look…

Packaging and Presentation

There’s no denying that the packaging for this release is pretty awesome – they definitely didn’t skimp on the details. Def Jam/Universal did a great job with capturing the look and feel of the original release. To my knowledge, it’s nearly identical. The album features a triple gatefold that opens up to a beautiful, colorful display.

The signature rainbow color scheme from the original release spreads out, reaching towards a posed West on the left flap. There’s a CD inserted into the middle that, if placed right, nearly matches the colorful design stretching across. All in all, it’s a pretty stunning view when you open the flaps.

Included with the packaging is a colorful folded sheet with lyrics and production notes. The colors can distract from a pleasant reading experience, but the presence of the sheet itself is more to match the color scheme than anything else. There’s also a double-sided poster featuring a standing Kanye West wrapped in color with a cartoon heart while the other side features West kissing his late mother on the cheek.

There’s really no complaints to be had about the packaging – the colors are beautiful and appropriately contrast the heavy, heart-wrenching subject matter of the album itself, written in the wake of West’s mother passing away.

Sound and Quality

808s & Heartbreak is one of those albums that almost doesn’t make sense on vinyl. The album’s production is over-the-top pop with lots of auto tune on top of an often bare-bones electronic background. Nevertheless, the quality of the 180 gram vinyl makes for a pure listen and surprisingly pulls out a richness that you may not normally experience.

I first noticed this on the second track, “Welcome to Heartbreak”. Like many songs on the album, the song’s beat is fairly minimalist, but the drums and bass tones come through extremely smooth and clear. The sound of the beat behind Kid Cudi’s chorus sounds phenomenal – the vinyl almost adds an extra, and perhaps necessary, layer of richness to the songs.

What’s nice about this release is that you can listen to the vinyl and then throw on the CD for an higher quality listen, if you wish. I’m probably overstating the matter, or at least being a bit too geeky, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the sound of this album on vinyl. For that experience alone, the release was worth grabbing. It seems that sometimes bootleg releases of this nature are higher quality than their major label-released counterparts, but the sound here is fantastic.

All in all, the presentation and sound are great – it’s fun to look at and intriguing to listen to. The real question is whether you’re willing to fork over $35 to $40 bucks for it. It’s really all a matter of preference – collectors and fans of hip hop vinyl will surely want to snag a copy. More casual fans may want to take a pass.

At any rate, there’s still copies available with no official pressing number released. Right now, you can cop your own over at ShopRadioCast for $38.99.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.