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.

Vinyl Spotlight: The Format – Dog Problems

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Today we’re kicking off a new column in which our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, talks about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality.

When I heard that a vinyl release of The Format’s classic 2006 album Dog Problems was coming, I immediately knew it was a must have. I’ve enjoyed Nate Reuss’ work in Fun., but The Format will always hold a special place in my heart. In my opinion, Dog Problems was more than a simple swan song, it was one of the best indie rock releases in recent memory.

The vinyl release of Dog Problems comes courtesy of The Vanity Label with an initial pressing of 1,000 copies on white vinyl that sold out quickly. There has since been a re-release on black vinyl which is still available. The album recently arrived in my mailbox, so let’s take a look…

Packaging and Presentation

To put it simply, Dog Problems features some of the best packaging I’ve seen for a vinyl release. The cover and colors are obviously iconic, but they took great care in putting it all together for this vinyl release. The dogs on the front cover fold out into a few different panels, revealing production notes. Not only is this a fantastic way to display many of the liner notes, but it plays upon the artwork and adds an extra dimension to the dogs on the cover.

The vinyl discs themselves are inserted into an opening at the top and are placed inside colorful sleeves and include the song lyrics. The discs are white with multi-colored centers that include the colors from the cover of the album. It’s a really beautiful display and is wonderful to look at. Additionally, white vinyl was the perfect choice for this release and complements the the blue, red, green and yellow sleeves.

Side D is actually blank, but instead includes an etching of a dog bowl. It’s a pretty cool addition as I haven’t seen this on many vinyl releases in this scene. The only drawback is that the etching was apparently screwed up initially by the manufacturers, resulting in a delay of the shipping date while they repressed it. All in all, it was worth the wait. Dog Problems is truly one of the best presented releases I’ve seen in both color and aesthetic appeal.

Sound and Quality

As Dog Problems is probably best known for it’s rather charming raw sound, one would hope that this would shine through on the vinyl release. The good news is that it certainly does. Opener “Matches” starts out quietly before the song crescendos – the lead in sounds solid and the instrumentation doesn’t overpower Ruess’ voice. In my opinion, this album was almost made to be heard on vinyl, so there was little work that needed to be done for this re-release.

While the percussion feels a little muffled at points, it hardly distracts from the songs themselves. Ruess shines throughout this album and it’s great hearing his voice in this context. While Fun.’s Some Nights seemed peculiar as a vinyl release with its polished production, Dog Problems sounds right at home – there’s really not much to complain about here.

The vinyl itself is of decent quality. It required cleaning off some packaging particles before spinning, which is fairly normal, but there was no disturbances during the playback. All three sides played great. Since Dog Problems is such a raw album in and of itself, it felt great to spin it on vinyl for the first time and experience the album again.

All in all, the Dog Problems re-release is a pretty great one and well worth the wait. There are still copies of the black variant available, which I would highly recommend buying if you’re a fan of the band. The $25 price tag feels just about right for this release. You can pick up a copy over at Hello Merch.

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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.

VersaEmerge to release new single as VERSA

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According to a recent Facebook post, Florida rock act VersaEmerge will be releasing a new single under their new moniker, VERSA. You can read the full post here.

Additionally, the band has announced that they will be putting out a special vinyl release of their first EP, Perceptions. The band’s last proper release was 2010’s Fixed at Zero on Fueled by Ramen. Since 2011, the band has been composed of Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage.

You can preorder Perceptions on vinyl here. The release is limited to 300 copies.

-posted by Kiel Hauck