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Friday, June 14, 2024
Record Store Day lets local bands shine once the vinyl starts to spin

Kyle Sparks

Record Store Day lets local bands shine once the vinyl starts to spin

These days confessing I don't pay much for music is tantamount to saying I sneak candy into a movie theater or a flask onto a putt-putt course. Y'all don't just accept that kind of thing—you expect it from me. Because I'm broke, y'know? My minimum-wage income gets stretched thin enough just covering my social drinking habit, not to mention any time the GF drags me out to dinner.

But most of us are poor, and (mostly) all of us get our music for free. Not only is it cheaper this way, but it's easier, too—it's faster, pre-formatted for my computer and requires me to socialize with 100 percent fewer people. And just imagine anyone's wallet trying to support the amount of music people consume now. These days pop gems run a dime a dozen, and you can torrent them for even cheaper.

And the truth is, I don't feel all that guilty about it. And why should I feel indebted to some bus driver in Florida who arranged warm, trudging melodies to accompany clips from Disney movies on his YouTube page?

Because that's exactly what I encountered when my friend Will told me about Levek last summer. And since those few Disney soundtracks he's recorded a plethora of covers, added more members, gotten mentioned on Pitchfork and paved out a promising platform for himself.

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His warm, summery melodies and Otto Mann-come-to-life backstory reel me in real close to his interests, but that doesn't mean I'm about to start dropping cashflow each time I want to listen to his songs. He lives in Florida, after all, and no matter how intimate his songs or videos might seem, there's something extremely impersonal about hearing music through the medium of the Internet.

Besides, it's not like I have to go to Florida just to find a songwriter worth investing in. If anything, there are more local bands playing more shows and recording more albums now than ever before, thanks in large part to how easy the Internet makes these things.

But the fact that bands everywhere are getting the same advantages has supersaturated the medium, and in many ways erased all geographic significance from music. Even around these parts it's a lot easier to find the new record from Seattle's Fleet Foxes than the newly released debut from Madison's Corcovado. That's a pretty stilted comparison for a buffet of reasons, but the truth is that a lot of the places where Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues sounds uninspired or flat are a lot of the same places where Corcovado's Heliotrope really shines and sounds great. And the underwhelming amount of attention directed toward Corcovado is no isolated incident—a lot more people in Madison are sleeping on hot new releases by All Tiny Creatures, Peaking Lights, Man Mantis and Julian Lynch than people who don't live in the same area code as the groups.

That's how it's been ever since I got here four years ago, too. There's something to be said when Zola Jesus can play shows with Fever Ray and the xx overseas but can't sell out a dive bar in her hometown. It's also telling that I first heard of ZJ's The Spoils from a Twitter feed piped in from Cardiff, Wales.

This doesn't mean local music is dying, though. In fact, it's anything but. However, it does mean local music is on life support from two sources.

The first is the very source of music distribution itself—record stores. And what better time to recognize this invaluable resource than national Record Store Day, which is happening this Saturday. Strictly Discs on Monroe Street will host a who's-who of local disc jockeys spinning all day long, while any purchase will land you some ill swag provided by the store itself. But do yourself a favor and check out B-Sides on State Street, Mad City Music Exchange on Williamson Street and the sorta-kinda record store Good Style Shop on East Washington Avenue, too. Madison has plenty of goods, you just have to know where to find them.

The second thing Madison depends on is performance, and if you've ever seen the Hussy, the Midwest Beat, Houses in Motion or Screamin' Cyn-Cyn & the Pons (just to name a few), you know Madison has no shortage of awesome live acts. Perhaps chief among them is the lost-but-not-forgotten Sleeping in the Aviary (they relocated to Minneapolis a few years ago). Theirs has grown into one of the Midwest's most unimpeachably awesome live sets, and to this day I'm amazed that so many people have managed to go on living their lives without having seen them perform. And it didn't even bother me when I couldn't pay for groceries later that week—I sure as shit paid for all of their records.

Did Kyle not mention your local band? Well, that's probably because you suck. If you want to send Kyle an MP3 to prove otherwise, e-mail him at ktsparks@wisc.edu.

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