Vinyl love: The Beths “Jump rope gazers”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Beths
Album Title: Jump rope gazers
Year released: 2020
Details: tangerine vinyl, included foldout “takahe” poster

The skinny: Ever since I saw Auckland New Zealand’s The Beths blow the proverbial doors off the stage at 2019’s Bluesfest, I’ve been spinning their debut constantly, to the point where I’m sure even my turntable was looking forward to new material from the band. The announcement of the impending followup came last spring and I immediately jumped on their American label, Carpark Record’s website to get the pre-order done. I must’ve been one of the quicker draws because when it was finally delivered a few months later, it arrived with a limited edition foldout poster tucked in with it. Just one more bonus to add to the bright tangerine colour of the vinyl pressing and the fun and energetic music within. “Jump rope gazers” wasn’t the immediate doe-eyed crush that “Future me hates me” was but it grew on me to the point where it landed at the number seven spot on my top ten albums of the year list. Good, good fun.

Standout track: “I’m not getting excited”


Best albums of 2020: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Good morning everyone! And happy Thursday!

We’re finally nearing the end of this trash can fire of a year we call 2020. And not a moment too soon.

But this also means that it is that time of year. You know which I mean. The time of the year that music writers and hack bloggers, like myself, try to come up with their lists ranking the best that the year had to offer. Many end of the year lists have already started popping up, some even as early as the end of October. I don’t blame these eager beavers for trying to rush the end of this year but I wasn’t one of those. I wanted to keep my list open, in case something brilliant was released in November* or I found an album released earlier in the year that I had missed. And it’s a good thing I did too because one album in particular came out of nowhere and snuck itself into the number nine spot just before I started writing this post.

This will mark my fourth year running doing end of year lists for this blog so I’ve pretty much got this process down to an art. Like last year, I decided to wrap things up with a final post on my favourite album on the final day of the year, and so to do that, Thursdays became the day of the week of choice for this series. As always, I am starting things off with an ‘honourable mentions’ post, this post, listing out albums 10 through 6, and will countdown my favourite five albums, one each week, for the next five.

Of course, I’ve cheated a bit with my photo at the top of this post. You may note that it shows three additional albums from 2020. These are albums in my vinyl collection that won’t appear in the list but bear mention nonetheless. I also featured two of these – Gateways Drugs “PSA” and The Exbats’ “Kicks, hits and fits” – in my Vinyl Love series over the last two weekends so go check those out too.

Despite (or perhaps because of) all the craziness going on this year, 2020 was another great one for new music. I had fears early on that the COVID-19 pandemic would have an impact on the ability of all our favourite musicians to continue to produce and release new music and that at some point during this year, the new releases would dry up. But this never happened. Indeed, the reverse seemed to be true and musicians everywhere seemed to become more productive and creative in the various states of lockdown we endured.

With all these excellent releases, I am sure I missed out on one or two so as we go through my own 10 favourite albums over the next month or so, I welcome your comments and thoughts and perhaps even your own top ten favourites in the comments space provided.

Let’s do this.

#10 The Strokes “The new abnormal”

Back almost twenty years ago, way back in 2001, New York City’s The Strokes released “Is this it”, an album often credited with reinvigorating indie rock and kickstarting a garage rock wave that would eventually morph into a post-punk revival. I’ve never thought they’ve been able to come close to the same energy that made that debut album so great and breathtaking but in my opinion, on “The new abnormal”, their sixth LP and first in seven years, they’ve come very, very close. The garage rock from the debut has given way to a new wave glam vibe but their knack for breathing new life into retro sounds is still very much alive. “The new abnormal” is indeed a temporary respite from these crazy times.

Gateway tune: The adults are talking

#9 Venus Furs “Venus Furs”

This self-titled release by Montreal-based Paul Kasner’s project, Venus Furs, is the album I mentioned above that just squeaked into this list at the last moment. Its relatively quiet launch back in July meant that I missed it until it received a positive review in one of my favourite magazines, Under the Radar, and the words there piqued my interest. Kasner’s perfectionist approach to this debut album has drawn favourable comparisons to Kevin Shields, Anton Newcombe, and Thurston Moore and yeah, listening to the eight songs on this neat package, you might catch whiffs of each. But you might also catch on to something else going on here: perhaps it’s a psych rock explosion that transcends space and time. A glass of wine, a rose, a special pipe, a lava lamp, and a jet pack to the next galaxy.

Gateway tune: Chaos and confusion

#8 Bright Eyes “Down in the weeds, where the world once was”

It feels to me like this indie rock/folk trio led by Conor Oberst has been around forever but I’ve never found myself able connect with their music. I’ve checked in on the albums they’ve released over the last couple of decades and even seen them live once (and maybe twice). I know Oberst has always been a strong songwriter and he has a legion of fans that swear by him but I actually think it took his collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers last year on their project, Better Oblivion Community Center, for me to truly appreciate his worth. Maybe it was leftover shiny and fuzzy feelings from that album that had me falling for this one on first listen but given the reactions to this being a smooth next step despite the nine year separation between albums, I went back and rediscovered that maybe I’ve been wrong about Bright Eyes all these years. I definitely think “Down in the weeds, where the world once was” is either an accidental stroke of genius or a planned mess of perfection. Maybe both.

Gateway tune: Mariana trench

#7 The Beths “Jump rope gazers”

I admit that I was a bit disappointed when I first heard this sophomore release from Auckland, New Zealand’s The Beths. It was another of those cases of expectations raised beyond reconciliation by the band’s previous release, in this case their fantastic debut, “Future me hates me“. Their blistering set  that I had witnessed last year at Ottawa’s Bluesfest obviously didn’t help matters. However, I didn’t give up after the first listen and  my persistence has paid dividends, allowing the album to grow on me exponentially with time. Yes. “Jump rope gazers” has a lot of the same energetic power pop that made the debut so buzz-worthy but also has Elizabeth Stokes and friends slowing things down and getting personal with equally rewarding results.

Gateway tune: I’m not getting excited

#6 The Rentals “Q36”

I discovered this year that I’m a Rentals fan! Sure I remember liking “Friends of P.” back in the day but never bothered to check out the rest of the debut album, 1995’s “Return of The Rentals”. Then, I heard their 2014 album, “Lost in Alphaville”, in passing and thought it enjoyable as well. But it wasn’t until I listened to the new album (too late to the party to get a copy of the self-released, super limited vinyl) that I finally woke up. I immediately went back to acquaint myself with the complete back catalogue of the project by ex-Weezer bassist, Matt Sharp, and it’s all excellent. If you’re not in know (as I wasn’t until recently), I highly recommend starting out with this retro futuristic concept album that smacks of Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie called “Q36”.

Gateway tune: Shake your diamonds

*As it is, I feel like there might be at least one noteworthy album released in December will not get its due from all the list makers (myself included) because of its late release.

Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.


Best tunes of 1992: #14 Buffalo Tom “Velvet roof”

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“Scraggly hair and messed up shoes
I’m looking all around for you
Find you in the corner bar
But you can’t find the keys to your car”

This one here’s a real rocker! Driving rhythm and flailing guitars and frontman Bill Janovitz singing about blowing chances with love and life. I first came across this track and thus discovered Buffalo Tom when I recorded the music video off City Limits, a story you might recognize by now if you’ve perused other posts in my Best tunes of 1990, 1991, and 1992 lists. I definitely remember rewinding and replaying this video many times over in my basement bedroom, while frantically slapping the tops of my thighs, flat-handed, as if I were drumming right alongside Tom Maginnis. It’s absolutely one of those songs that gets me riled up every time, even now, especially at around the halfway mark of the song where the mouth organ gets whipped out and then, the real craze begins.

Buffalo Tom was formed in Boston in 1986 and apparently, their name was an amalgam of 60s rock band Buffalo Springfield and the first name of their drummer. Their friendship with J. Mascis and the fact that he produced their first two records was likely the main reason they obtained the questionable tag of Dinosaur Jr. junior. I never saw this comparison myself but I always enjoyed Buffalo Tom’s music more than that of Mascis’s group, perhaps not a popular opinion. Nonetheless, it’s true, and of course, it was on their third album, “Let me come over”, on which this song appears, where they sought different collaborators and started to blaze their own trail, that things really started happening for them.

I loved the drive and energy of “Velvet roof” so much that the first time I saw “Let me come over” on a CD rack, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. Unfortunately, as you might know if you’ve read a certain post on New Model Army’s “Purity”, this particular story doesn’t have such a happy ending. I had travelled to Toronto in the summer of 1993 with my friend Tim to see New Model Army live, my first ever concert. We had driven to the Scarborough Town Centre in the afternoon, parked, and took the TTC LRT and subway downtown from there. Before the show, we hit a few of Tim’s favourite used record and CD shops, including the now defunct Penguin Music, which for quite a while afterwards became my own favourite. I picked up copies of Primus’s “Sailing the seas of cheese” and this Buffalo Tom album.

The New Model Army show was so incredible that we stayed almost right to the end, despite Tim’s wary eye on his watch, knowing full well that we had to catch the last subway eastward, which on a week night in those days wasn’t very late. It was a race from Lee’s Palace to Bathurst station and I remember struggling mightily at the entry gate with hands full of CDs and a concert tee and trying to find the token I had purchased earlier. Then, mere moments later, while waiting downstairs for the subway train to arrive, I realized I no longer had the CDs in my hands. I ran back upstairs but they were nowhere to be found and the ticket taker only shrugged.

At some point, I purchased another copy of “Sailing the seas of cheese” but never did replace “Let me come over”. It was reissued on vinyl a few years ago for its 25th anniversary. If I ever see a copy of that out in the wild, I’m thinking the album will finally see my shelves. One can hope.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.