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Make your dreams come true

A friend of ours was recently in Milwaukee and posted this to his Facebook page.

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For people of a certain age (my age), that picture brings to mind only one thing – the madcap adventures of Laverne & Shirley. For you young ones out there, Laverne & Shirley followed the adventures of two single girls living in Milwaukee working at Shotz Brewery as bottle-cappers (until they relocated to Burbank after 4 seasons.)  When I was growing up, it was on right after Happy Days and right before Three’s Company on ABC on Tuesday nights. It was must-see TV before NBC thought to use it for their Thursday night line up in the 90s. I think my dad tolerated us watching Laverne & Shirley, but he really hated that we watched Three’s Company.

And when I think of Laverne & Shirley, I also immediately think of a drug store in my hometown where we got our prescriptions filled. It was never very busy, but we knew the owner from church and his daughter was in my class in high school.  We also ended up going to pharmacy school together and were roommates for 3 years. Anyway, the drug store had a front end that always seemed to be dark – although I could be misremembering. One thing that I do remember the front end having is this little gem.

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What was it with the 70s/80s and making a board game to go along with every bit of pop culture? I suppose it’s analogous to how video games are made for just about anything nowadays.

I got to wondering – what would the object of a Laverne & Shirley board game be? I did a little bit of searching and the object was (duh) to make all your dreams come true. The way you do this? By collecting the most hours spent out on dates in 1 week.  There’s apparently a diary that you fill up with your dates and what not, but mostly, it seems a bit incomprehensible to me. Clearly, I was NOT the target audience for this game.

The drug store is now closed, but I wonder whatever happened to the Laverne & Shirley board game that was on the shelf.  Did someone buy it before it closed? Did it get thrown away? I hope not, but it doesn’t appear to be worth a whole lot as evidenced by eBay listings.  Some joker is trying to sell one for $99.95 on Amazon – good luck with that.

The last thing I’ll say about Laverne & Shirley is that it did have one of those amazing TV theme songs that we just don’t get anymore. I kind of miss that. I remember this song being on the radio, but I’ll be damned if I can find a full length version of it anywhere.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Random thoughts, tv

 

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A nearly FROOT-less endeavor

It’s been raining records around here lately, which is not a bad thing except for my wallet. I managed to score a vinyl copy of Dolly Parton’s 1999 album The Grass Is Blue, due in no small part to Borderline Music in Chicago. Once we get around to working out the logistics, I’ll be getting a vinyl copy of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven on Earth on a gorgeous picture disc. And after what seems like forever, a friend of mine who lives on the east coast found a copy of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation: 1814 in the $1 bin and snatched it up for me. For the record, that album is really her best, IMHO.

But the latest vinyl record that I got took three tries to get, so it almost didn’t happen. Marina & the Diamonds FROOT is on track to be one of my favorite albums of the year – if the Brandon Flowers record is as good as it seems like it’s going to be, Madonna’s going to have to be content with the bronze medal when it comes to my album rankings this year. And that’s assuming nothing else better comes out between now and the end of the year.

Marina’s last record, Electra Heart, wasn’t released on vinyl at all so I wasn’t sure that FROOT would either. There was a FROOT vinyl box set that was available for about 2.5 seconds on her web site before it sold out, with 6 vinyl 45s of the 12 songs on the album, each in a different color of vinyl.

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It would have been cool to have, but ultimately, it was too pricey on the secondary market and I’d rather have the whole album vs. 45s. Probably would have just sat on a shelf unplayed and records are meant to be played, damn it!

Fortunately, FROOT did get a full-on LP vinyl release, including a limited edition “diamond-white vinyl edition” that was not (initially) available in the U.S.  I was going to order one from Marina’s web site, but the shipping cost more than the record, so I ended up ordering it from Amazon UK. That turned out to be a big mistake.

My initial order of the album shipped on March 18, but didn’t arrive until probably the second week of April. Even for shipping from the UK, that was a long time. As it turned out, it took an unintended trip to India prior to being rerouted back to the U.S. and eventually to my doorstep. When it arrived, it looked like every little bit like it had taken a trip around the world. The box, which was surprisingly slim and flimsy for shipping vinyl overseas, was bent and dog-eared. More importantly, the album cover was bent and the record warped so badly as to be unplayable.

So as much as I didn’t want to go through the hassle, I decided to return it to Amazon UK for a replacement.  I had to pay the shipping back, which they said they would refund me up to $12. It cost me $16.75 to send it back, so I took a little bit of a hit. When I got my shipping refund, they refunded me $2.29. At this point, I should have just ordered it straight from Marina’s web site. But I didn’t want to fuss with it any more so I just put up and shut up and waited for my replacement.

The replacement arrived mid-week last week, arguably in worse shape than the one before it. It was bent very badly and the record was warped again. It was playable-ish, but warped badly enough that the needle dragged across the surface of the record on it’s way back to the cradle. Yeah, that wasn’t going to cut it either. My wife, who is an expert at getting results by calling out shitty customer service on Twitter, tweeted photos of it and it didn’t take long for Amazon to get in touch with me. I explained the situation to them. They did not make me return the damaged goods this time – not that it’s really any good to me because it’s not playable and I certainly can’t resell it – and refunded me approximately $18 on my shipping from the previous return. In addition, they shipped me yet another copy of FROOT with expedited shipping.  The third copy arrived Monday in pristine condition, packaged in a much sturdier box and lined with bubble wrap.

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Was it all worth it? In the end, yes. The “diamond white” vinyl is seeing a U.S. release exclusively via Urban Outfitters, but seeing as it’s on back order on their web site and the closest Urban Outfitters store is 3 hours away, I’m glad I don’t have to mess around with that. It’s as visually appealing as it is pleasing to the ear, but really, all the visuals associated with this album have been great – colorful in a way that’s reminiscent of the Sticky & Sweet Tour. I can’t wait to see her live again, because you know it’s gonna happen.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Amazon, Marina & The Diamonds, Music, vinyl

 

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Five? Make that EIGHT.

The last time I wrote about the concert lineup I had for 2015, I was at a record-breaking (for me) five shows in one year. For those just arriving, here’s a quick recap.

2/11/15 – Fleetwood Mac, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
6/13/15 – Belinda Carlisle, Capital City Pride, Des Moines
8/6/15 – Shania Twain, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
9/12/15 – Madonna, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
10/8/15 – Taylor Swift, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines

I joked in the post if we’d like to try to make it six. Little did I know that I would make it eight.

carpenter300-94667a293c6aa1bf9c20ef91bc951959c1a6bc00-s6-c30Not long after I posted about the anxiety attack that was buying Madonna tickets, I was surfing the web and found out, quite by accident, that Mary Chapin Carpenter was going to be in Minneapolis on May 2 at the State Theater. I’ve been wanting to go to one of her shows forever, and she frequently hits Minneapolis, but it’s never worked out with my schedule. One time, she played Iowa City and I found out the day before the concert, when the only seats left were in the very back row of the Englert Theater. It wouldn’t have been awful, but it seemed like a lot of money to spend for back-row seats and it would have required some very creative last-minute scheduling to make it work with my work schedule.

So when I saw that she’d be just a few hours drive from here, I had to go. The show I’ll be seeing is an acoustic show, but she’ll be playing some of her best known songs, as well as digging deeper into her catalog. Tickets were relatively inexpensive, but I’ve learned that years of buying Madonna tickets has numbed me to ticket prices in general. As of this moment, I’m unsure who will be going with me – it’ll be either Anna or Heidi – but seeing Chapin live is really a bucket list item for me. Her music was instrumental in my “new adult” years, seeing me through so many rough patches and, well, I’ve written all about it all throughout the blog so I’ll let you investigate it if you are so inclined.  I’m super excited to finally be seeing her live, and the fact that it’s in a small theater makes it so much better. Having added a 6th show to this year’s lineup, I said “no more.”

betteI shouldn’t have spoken so soon because, hot on the heels of my “Oh Industry” post, I got this bee in my bonnet to go see Bette Midler when her Divine Intervention Tour stops in Omaha on June 5. Like I detailed in my post, I’m not a huge diehard Bette Midler fan by any stretch of the imagination, but a Spotify marathon of listening to Midler’s music really put me in the mood to just look and see what kind of seats were available.  Surprisingly, there were some pretty decent seats left, but I kind of talked myself out of it because it seemed silly to add YET ANOTHER concert to a year already jam packed with them.  I told Heidi about it and how I kind of wanted to go and, ever the enabler, she encouraged me to ask a friend of ours if he was interested. So I did. And he was. And then there were seven, just like that.

The thing that is interesting about the Bette Midler show is that it’s in an arena – Century Link Center. We saw Lady Gaga there in 2011, and when Bette announced her tour last year, I was surprised that she was playing arenas. It just seemed like she probably wouldn’t have the draw that other arena fillers do. A friend of mine said that she probably needs to tour bathhouses – agreed, because it would really bring her career full circle. But arenas it is.  A look at the seating chart shows that the entire upper level was not even opened up for sale. It kind of seems like a waste of a venue, but then I wondered if perhaps her stage show needs an arena sized stage.  Still, it should be a good show and it has caused me to listen to more Bette Midler in the last few weeks than I have in the entire 42 years that preceded it.  And since Bette’s pushing 70, this could easily be her last tour, except for that tour of bathhouses which she and Barry Manilow totally need to do.

11090872_10153257358302300_7400006135346613106_oSeven shows. I could do this. No more. That was the limit. Until the other morning and I found out that Brandon Flowers (not Wayland Flowers, which is always who I think of when I talk about Brandon Flowers) will be playing First Avenue in Minneapolis. I’m not a big fan of The Killers, although I like enough of their songs, but I really really love Flowers’ 2010 solo album Flamingo and can’t stop playing his new single “Can’t Deny My Love.”  So who could blame me when I felt like I had to click on the link?  I was crushed to find out that it was on September 10th – a mere one day before I board a plane to go to D.C. for Madonna. Well, that was that, I couldn’t do it. Out of the question. I resigned myself to either missing it of hoping for another show that was remotely close.  I saw the list of tour dates later that day and sadly, Minneapolis was it. The next closest show was in Chicago on 9/11, the day I was to be flying out of Des Moines. The thought of missing the show bummed me out more than I thought it might. Seeing Flowers in a small venue like First Avenue would be really fun.

But the more I thought about it, who says I can’t do it? I toyed with the idea of flying out of Minneapolis, but all the airline tickets were more expensive than flying out of Des Moines. There was one cheap flight for $177, but it flew into Baltimore and the idea of having to navigate my way into D.C. either via a rental car or train didn’t really appeal to me. I went back and looked at what time my flight on Friday left and that’s when I remembered it didn’t leave until almost 5pm on Friday – plenty of time to get back from Minneapolis, pack another bag and head south to Des Moines to get on a plane for my audience with her Madgesty.

Yesterday I preordered Flowers’ new solo album, The Desired Effect, on vinyl so that I could get a crack at presale tickets today. Honestly, I don’t know what good presale tickets are going to do me at a general admission show, but whatever.  Tickets are only $30 and Heidi said she might even come with me, even though she doesn’t usually do general admission shows and if she can’t, I’m sure I can talk someone into going.  His set list from a recent show looks pretty damn good, so I’m excited to be going.

All I can say is that 2015 is really turning out to be the year of the live concert.  What’s even more amazing is that usually in a year of a Madonna tour, she sucks up my entire concert budget like a vampire.  I’d say that I’m not doing any more live shows this year, but the last time I said that, I ended up adding three more.  You should never say never – and as I always say, life is way too short to not see your favorite acts live.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in concerts, Music

 

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Oh industry…whatever will become of me?

I was thinking earlier today that while my musical taste is without a doubt extremely gay, the gayest part of my musical taste is my sincere and completely unironic appreciation for the soundtrack to the movie Beaches. I really couldn’t care less about the movie – I think I’ve seen it exactly once around the time that it was first in theaters. But I really like the soundtrack for some reason.

Beaches_albumNow let me just say that I really could do without “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Even if it hadn’t been played to death back during my senior year of high school, I’m usually not a fan of something quite so maudlin. I like things that deal with emotions, but please be a little bit subtle about it.  They played it over the slide show presentation at my high school graduation FFS!  And while it’s the best known song from the soundtrack and one of Bette Midler’s most famous and successful songs, there are so many other superior songs on the soundtrack. Her fun take on “Under The Boardwalk” and the jazzy “I’ve Still Got My Health” (my face is my fortune – that’s why I’m totally broke!) are standouts. And of course there’s the infamous “Otto Titsling” that purports to tell the story of how the bra was invented. A novelty song, to be sure, but still a lot more fun than it should be, and much more in line with what Bette would have been singing in the New York bath houses than “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

That said, I usually don’t skip “Wind Beneath My Wings” when I listen to the album, which I hadn’t done for quite a while.  But last week when I was working overnights, I had this huge hankering to listen to “Oh Industry” which equal parts inexcusable and inexplicable.  It’s a super deep cut, and not one that anyone ever really thinks about when they think about Bette Midler. It’s also a really bizarre song – what the fuck does “oh industry…whatever will become of me?” even mean?  If the movie explained it, I’ve long since forgotten.

Back in the early 90s, my sister Wendy and I would always listen to “Oh Industry” and when we started playing Sim City, we would always sing “oh industry…whatever will become of me?” whenever we placed industrial zones. So now, whenever I think of that song, I think of my sister. And Sim City.

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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Bette Midler, Music

 

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The power – of Cher and Amy

House_of_Love_album_coverartRather inexplicably, I found myself listening to Amy Grant today. Specifically, it was her 1994 album House of Love, which I never liked as much as I did 1991’s Heart In Motion.  I suppose that it was probably appropriate, since it was Easter Sunday, that I be listening to Amy Grant, even it was one of her secular albums.

Believe_(Cher_album_-_cover_art)Anyway, I had completely forgotten about the song “The Power” which Cher went on to cover on her Believe album in 1998. So strong is my Cher association, that I had actually started believing that she did it first and that Amy Grant covered it. The arrangements are not all that different – both versions are pretty straightforward pop songs, even though Cher’s has a bit more of a dance beat to it, likely to make it fit in with the songs that surrounded it on her album.

I was sitting there thinking about “The Power” and trying to decide who did it better – Cher or Amy? My default answer would probably be Cher – mostly because she’s mother-fucking Cher – but I don’t think you can discount Amy Grant’s version either.

Here they both are for comparison’s sake.



As you can see, not terribly dissimilar.

So who did it better?  I still give the edge to Cher, but again, mostly because she’s CHER.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in 90s, Amy Grant, Cher, covers, dance, Music, pop

 

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Madonna & Shania: A tale of two ticket purchases

rht-fbYesterday was the day that I dread most every time Madonna decides to tour – the day of the presale. It’s not that I won’t get tickets – that’s pretty much a guarantee since for your $20 to ICON, you get to order so much earlier than everyone else. Mostly, it’s a matter of how much money you want to spend, are you going to get the seats that you want and just how much are you going to have to sell your body in order to pay for the experience.

As I’m so fond of saying, being in Madonna’s Golden Snatch Triangle for the MDNA Tour was a once in a lifetime experience, but it has really ruined me on arena shows forever. Now, wherever I sit, it’s too far away. Jeff (my long-suffering Madonna partner-in-crime) and I had decided that we were going to try for floor seats this time because it’d be like being in the pit, but with chairs, not that we’d be sitting. His girlfriend Caryle was even going to take one for the team and agreed to floor seats even though she is shorter than Jeff and me so it might be harder for her to see.  As she put it, she “deferred to the true Madonna fans.” My friend Steve was trying to subtly steer me away from floor seats as it is a madhouse down there with crazy fans in costumes and pushing and shoving. I was not so easily dissuaded.

The added wrinkle this year was I was working the night shift on March 9th into the 10th, so I would have to stay awake until the tickets went on sale at 10AM on the 10th. This didn’t seem like it would be that hard but I seriously underestimated the tired. It got to be 9:30AM and I really didn’t think I was going to make it. But once 10AM rolled around, I put in my presale code and we were off to the races. The first weird thing I noticed is that everything was a VIP package. It wasn’t like that the last time, but whatever. The VIP fan package was the lowest level I could get, and sadly, it didn’t have the option for floor seats, only lower bowl and above. I tried the second level up – the VIP Tour Package – and sure enough, it had floor seats, but holy wow, they were prohibitively expensive, like $503 each expensive. We’d discussed floor seats but we never agreed to that price, so after toying with it briefly, I decided no, we’ll just stick to the lower bowl. I got almost all the way through the purchase process and then bailed, trying to get better seats.  For a heart-stopping moment, when I went back in to try again, my presale code didn’t work and I thought I was going to be stuck getting $503 tickets as the VIP fan package was locked to me. Eventually, it unlocked itself and all was fine. I bought the tickets – which at $278 were cheaper than our non-Golden Triangle MDNA tickets by about $100 each and the seats were about as good. It was no Drowned World tour “nothing above us but ceiling” that’s for damn sure.

Later that day, I went back in just to see how things were going and, lo and behold, there was the Icon Live Pass sale, which DID include floor seats. They were still prohibitively expensive at $393, but that was something we’d been prepared to pay. As it turns out, the VIP packages come with a bunch of complimentary stuff, commemorative tickets, a free piece of merchandise exclusive to VIP members, a Madonna gift bag, the whole nine yards. So our tickets are a little more expensive but we’re getting the VIP treatment – or at least the lowest level of it. No, we do not get to meet Madonna. Jeff and I are a little afraid to meet Madonna because we’re afraid she’ll be bitchy to us. Yet, a part of us secretly hopes she would be. It was definitely the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing purchase of Madonna concert tickets that I have ever had. Being addled by lack of sleep did not help in the slightest.

But wait…there’s more!

11026185_10152856752552655_8095660770752374568_nAbout a week back, I posted on Facebook that if I were not going to Madonna’s show, I would totally love to go see Shania Twain when her Rock This  Country Tour makes a stop in Des Moines on August 6th. I am not a massive Shania Twain fan by any stretch of the imagination, but my friend Jared tipped me off to her live CD recording of her Las Vegas show and I have to say, I was pretty impressed. Those who know me well know that I have a soft spot for 90s country – probably because it was about as close to pop as country has ever come – and Shania is practically the definition of late 90s country-pop. At the time, I admit to being kind of Twain-weary, but when I was listening to the songs of hers that I have in my iTunes library, I was surprised at how well they have aged – especially “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” from 2002’s Up! which is currently in heavy rotation on my iPod. Heidi was encouraging me to go anyway, but I kind of poo-poo’d it, saying I’d rather go to Belinda Carlisle at Des Moines Pride in June (YES STOP THE PRESSES BELINDA WILL BE IN DES MOINES.)

I slept fitfully after buying those Madonna tickets, mostly because I was nervous that I had screwed up and we could have gotten floor seats if I had just been more patient, but seriously, the option for the ICON Live Pass presale did not show up, even at 10:30AM so I thought the VIP packages were my only options. Heidi woke me up at about 4:30PM with the words “I just did something really stupid” delivered into her hands which were covering her face. Uh-oh. This is gonna be good, I thought.

As it turns out, she was bound and determined to send me to Shania Twain come hell or high water. When she said that, I said “yeah, tickets go on sale Friday.” She did not know this. I need to preface the rest of this with the information that Heidi is not a live music type of person and doesn’t have nearly the experience ordering concert tickets that I do. So when she went online looking for them, she ended up at a secondary market seller. She got two tickets, but sadly, ended up paying about twice the face value, all before tickets officially go on sale tomorrow. They were fan pre-sale tickets, so they are legit, but she ended up spending a lot more than she really needed to.  They are not horrible seats but they aren’t rock star either. But remember, this is Shania Twain and not Madonna. I sat in the nosebleeds for Fleetwood Mac and had a perfectly wonderful time. Anna and I will be in the nosebleeds for Taylor Swift and guarantee we will have a good time. Fortunately, it’s not like she spent multiple hundreds of dollars, so as expensive errors go, this one is not going to tip us into financial insolvency.  Her heart was in the right place, she just needs to learn the difference between the primary and secondary markets for concert tickets.

But wait…there’s even more.

After she told me this, I picked up my phone and there was a text from my Mom saying that she saw my post on Facebook about wanting to go to Shania Twain and that they were in for up to 5 tickets. I told Heidi this and it just made her feel worse (not my intention.)  So now we had an offer on the table from my mom and dad to pay for us to go to the Shania Twain, plus we had two tickets that were purchased for over their face value. What were we to do?

I called my folks tonight and we decided that I would keep the tickets Heidi got and that Anna and I would go. Like I said, Heidi’s not really an arena show type of girl, although she did make an exception for Cher because she’s MF-ing CHER. Anna doesn’t know any Shania Twain songs but I figure if I start with “Any Man of Mine” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” she’ll be hooked. Plus we like going to concerts together. My mom and dad will buy tickets of their own, take us out to dinner before the show and we’ll just not sit together at the show. No big whoop.

I will admit that a part of me is nervous that I’ll get to the show and it’ll be like our friend Abby when she got tickets to Glee! Live in New York off of Craigslist and when they got to Radio City Music Hall, she was informed that the tickets were fake. I think the chances of that happening are remote at best, but you know me and worst case scenarios.

So there you have it. Two concert ticket purchases in a single day. I’m up to 5 live shows this year -Fleetwood Mac, Belinda Carlisle, Shania, Madonna, and Taylor Swift. Would you like to go for 6? We’ll just keep Heidi away from purchasing the tickets. (Love you honey!!)

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in concerts, Madonna, Music, Shania Twain

 

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March Music, Part 1

While most of the world is gearing up for March Madness (you know, the college basketball thing), I’m bracing myself for an expensive month on the new music front.  There is so much new music coming out in March that I’m hoping it all staggers out enough that not too much comes out of any one paycheck.

First up is Tuxedo, a duo comprised of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One.  Readers of the blog know how fond I am of the multi-talented Hawthorne. I am so jealous of that man’s ability to sing in falsetto! It’s been a couple years since Mayer Hawthorne released a new album, but it hardly seems like it because he’s showing up everywhere these days.  But Tuxedo’s debut album appears to be the next big thing for Hawthorne and I’ve been on board since I heard the debut single “Do It” in late 2014.


This stuff is classy as shit. Influenced by the disco and funk of the late 70s and early 80s, this album is on track to be one of my favorites of the year and it hasn’t even been released yet.  All that changes on March 3rd when Tuxedo’s album drops although you can listen to it on NPR’s First Listen which I did this morning even though I was up at an ungodly hour. I didn’t get a chance to really digest it all that well, but it sounds fantastic. It fills the gap that was occupied very briefly for me by “Uptown Funk” which I can barely listen to any longer thanks to overplay on the the tuxedoradio at work. I swear if I hear “Don’t believe me just watch!” one more time I will not be responsible for my actions.

Mayer Hawthorne really is in his imperial phase right now. Everything he does turns to gold (at least for me.)  I think it’s because he is so clearly inspired by music and loves it so much. This creates a palpable energy in his music.  While this is not a new solo album and probably not as ambitious as Where Did This Door Go?, it’s always good to get new material from him, especially a whole album’s worth.

The 2LP vinyl version of Tuxedo’s album is on its way to me as we speak! I’m starting to think it might get here before next Tuesday, which would be pretty damn awesome. I preordered it back in January thinking it wouldn’t charge my credit card till it shipped. I was wrong about that but I’m still glad I bought it when I did.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Mayer Hawthorne, Music

 

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