LITA Staff Selections: June 2024

LITA Staff Selections: June 2024
Welcome to another edition of Staff Selections! The LITA team has curated some of our favorites from our own release catalog and distribution, all available on our website.

The story of this album alone is enough to make me love it (the ‘70s tapes were thought to be lost until they were unearthed at a flea market in Southern California several decades later). But the music itself encapsulates a special moment in time for the legendary Leo Nocentelli (of The Meters). As a solo album, it highlights Leo’s immense singer-songwriter sensibilities through vulnerable and raw acoustic songs, but it of course still sprinkles in his unmistakable precision and funkiness. Another Side will be an album I revisit again and again with huge appreciation, especially considering it was almost never heard.

The infectious percussion will keep you moving all through the summer solstice. Turn up the volume and let the lively spirit of Ritmo Satánico embody you.

Greg: Such an interesting glimpse on Tokyo's 80s scene and especially on the YEN label, established by Yellow Magic Orchestra's Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. You can feel the experimentation, the freedom and the desire to explore new sonic and musical areas in this masterfully built compilation. For Haruomi Hosono, it was a long-awaited label driven by producers and artists, and for Yukihiro Takahashi, he enjoyed experimenting with his works at a private studio outside of the YMO work. On top of that, the vinyl cutting is something else on this 2xLP and provides a wonderful sound quality. Highly recommended!

Travis: The ultimate '80s Japanese synth-pop compilation, featuring 2 LPs worth of quirky, sensual, catchy and undeniably silly synth-pop/technopop songs from many albums I've been on the hunt for since before my first trip to Japan in 2015 (where I came up empty handed). I've tracked down a few titles since then, but now the cup runneth over! YMO? Of course! Takahashi's smooth, melancholic classic "Drip Dry Eyes" from Neuromantic? You bet. How about a Miharu Koshi cut from Parallelisme? Indeed, it's all here. And what a joy it is! It's the closest thing you'll get to a plane ticket and time machine to Tokyo in the '80s, when consumer-friendly synthesizer technology and innovation was just taking off.

Madeleine Sturma: Horace Martin - You've Changed

:star::star::star::star: :star: summer vibes

If you're a perimenopausal ADHD-er like me - stand up and be counted - you've probably had it up to your perpetually-damp hairline with decision fatigue. So when I want to drop some wax but the overwhelm is real, I go to these great comps from Two Piers records. I feel like these jewels from across the pond get overlooked by casual browsers of our catalog. Because they're imports the price can be spicy, but they're really stand-outs in my collection. The artwork is gorge, the vinyl colors are very appealing. And the track selections nod to my vintage faves like The Sonics, The Starlets, and ? & the Mysterians but I always get a cool surprise from an artist that's new-to-me. I'm highlighting Wig Out! Freak Out! (Freakbeat & Mod Psychedelia Floorfillers 1964-1969) (2LP Coke Bottle Green) this month because it's bringing summertime heat. I encourage you to check out the other offerings we have from Two Piers, and if something you want is out of stock, send Victoria a note and I'll see if we can get it in for ya!

It's my experience that, when I play a Betty Davis record for the first time, I need to sit with it and really hear it before the genius hits. Like a fine wine, her songs get better with age, slow burners that soon become keystones. At first listen, I was surprised by this record. It's the most disco you'll ever hear Betty, but it's still the Betty you know on the mic with her trademark verve and wit. It's fun, it's funky, it's dangerous, and, per yoozh, Betty manages to squeeze in plenty of stylistic surprises. There are moments of jazz amidst the disco beats, some truly heartfelt balladry, and "She's A Woman" is even giving ABBA vibes. And c'mon, I mean gimme-gimme-gimme a break: The Pointer Sisters are on backing vox? If that's not enough to pique your interest, then I give up!

Straight out the gate, "The Quintessence of Hip" is a psychotic trip with pop culture references that reveal just how self-aware Betty was in that moment. She rapid-fire references Aretha, Sly, ex-husband Miles, and even a line from "Send in the Clowns"—"Isn't it rich? Isn't it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career." Did Betty know she was done? Probably, and she was probably letting us in on the secret. I could easily imagine any of these songs in an 80s movie; there are several power tracks that'll put a pep in your step, or at least a little Do-the-hustle in your bustle. It's get up and go music, and Betty, being the ultimate go-getter, was out here smashing glass ceilings before it was a thing.

There's a reason Crashin' From Passion just took home the 2024 Best Soul/Funk Record at the Libera Awards, and it's thrilling to see a Betty Davis album finally get proper recognition albeit 45 years after the fact. Like most things Betty, this record is both out of time and right on time. While the new accolades for Betty are both welcome and long overdue, it still saddens me to know that Betty was kinda over it by the time she recorded this, as can be discerned by not-so-subtle lyrics like, "Now, you hate me!" But we love you, Betty, forever and always. So get ready for Betty's last ride, and you better blast it loud! It's a rollercoaster just like the OG Queen of Funk herself.

One of my favorite things is hearing an international cover of a famous song, or hearing the song performed by the same artist but in a different language. The feeling of slight unfamiliarity re-imbues the tried and true with a novel freshness, and can make you fall in love with a track all over again. Hearing a familiar or beloved track with a slight tweak can remind you why you loved it in the first place. 

Socialist Disco: Dancing Behind Yugoslavia's Velvet Curtain 1977-1987 opens with a cover of "I Will Survive", originally recorded by Gloria Gaynor, and covered here by Zdenka Vučković of Croatia. It's mostly true to the original, but as it swells and peaks, it reminds me why I love the original so much: that feeling of triumph and overcoming heartbreak, and the promise of a new start.

A few tracks later, "Do Posljednjeg Daha" by Arian has a fun vocal callback in the background that sounds like the repeated calls of "A-ha!" in ABBA's "Voulez-Vous". The next track "Be My Bear" by Slovenian-American Moni Kovačič rules. It has the funky swagger and shuffle of a Prince-inspired boogie track, combined with the synth or vocoder wild-outs of a Stevie Wonder jam. The fun grows in a slow, gradual way until you're subconsciously swaying and snapping by the end, singing along to the repeated lines of "Be My Bear". I could see this one popping off at NYC's The Loft or on the dancefloors of leftfield disco nights. In the YouTube video for the track, label Fox & His Friends states, "A true pioneer! This is going to be a crowd pleaser at bear parties." We love a hyper-specific anthem for any party and can just see a crowd chanting along.

"Stani, Stani" by Dubravka Jusic is a spacey, bassy journey that feels like it could be straight from Giorgio Moroder or Patrick Cowley. Sparse toms roll over a reverb-heavy synth buzz, reminiscent of crowd favorite "Spacer Woman" by Charlie, or the instrumentation on Dee D. Jackson's "Automatic Lover". The song never quite peaks in the dramatic way those do, but maintains a level-headed groove and fades out to an infectious group chant of the titular lyrics. 

The only downside of this stellar compilation is the frustration felt when you really want to sing along and can't. This incredible album includes such languages as Croatian, Estonian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Tsonga. Get your dancing shoes and Duolingo ready....

Jocelyn Romo: Steve Hiett - Down On The Road By The Beach

Warm, ethereal instrumental guitar textures full of sun-bleached, breezy mysticism. Feels like the glow of the post-sun buzz on your evening walk home from a day at the beach.

Laura Szarek + Rian Rochford: Donnie & Joe Emerson - Dreamin' Wild

Laura: I introduced some friends to this album and I’ve been binge-playing it ever since. I could listen to “Baby” 500 times and still be in love with it.

Rian: I can remember the exact moment I heard "Baby" for the first time. Standing in the middle of a Christmas party in Joshua Tree almost 10 years ago.. I went off to the side by myself to Shazam and dig. It stunned me then and that was even BEFORE learning about the story of the brothers and how this music came to be that sounds like some made up magic (and a story that is now movie magic most recently, such a trip). Not coincidentally, it was at that moment I decided I wanted to work with Light in the Attic.

The best album by the best Pacific Northwest trio (no, not Nirvana, not Beat Happening, and not Wipers) Dead Moon! The record begins with "Dead Moon Night". You'll be hooked by the end of the intro!
LITA Staff Selections: June 2024