Category: Amoeba Music

Record Store Day booty: Flaming Lips, Lee Hazlewood, Dinosaur Jr.

On Record Store Day 2012, Times pop music critic Randall Roberts waited in the line at Vacation Vinyl to score music by Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr., Lee Hazlewood, Circle and others
The lines were long, the heat was rough, the music-geek quotient off the charts, but one thing made it all worthwhile in the end: the booty. That is, the limited-edition vinyl that has become the hallmark of Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent record retailers and the music they sell that occurred on Saturday in the U.S. and Britain.

In my case, said loot was made up of the new Flaming Lips double LP, "Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends," which features, among others, Erykah Badu, Bon Iver, Kesha, Chris Martin and Lightning Bolt; the double-LP teaser of Lee Hazlewood's 1968-71 work, "The LH1 Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides"; "The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr.," which is exactly what it purports to be; a 7-inch single of the Carolina Chocolate Drops doing Run DMC's "You Be Illin'"; and an album by surreal Finnish metal band Circle, called "Manner." (Alas, I missed out on essential releases from Feist/Mastodon, Lee Perry and Peter Tosh, among others.)

In Los Angeles, the frenzy was focused on three different stores along Sunset Boulevard: Amoeba Music in Hollywood, Vacation Vinyl in Silver Lake, and Origami in Echo Park. I opted for Vacation, the little store across from Sunset Junction that is owned by the dudes who run Hydra Head Records. At 10 a.m., when the doors opened, the queue extended down Sunset and around a corner.

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Amoeba officially designated tourist spot by Metro

Metro's Amoeba placard

Amoeba Music hasn't been around long enough to be granted landmark status, but in terms of Hollywood's rock 'n' roll destinations it's a must-see stop on par with the Capitol Records Tower. So it doesn't carry the architectural interest of the latter, but it's what on the inside that counts, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has taken notice.

In a new placard rolled out by Metro this week, subway riders are urged to visit the world's largest independent record store. That's the colorfully photogenic cabaret rock band Gabby Young & Other Animals in the photo, but don't expect to be able to take the Red Line to see the act; they're from the U.K.


Ryan Adams is out of the fire

Annie Clark maps St. Vincent’s next musical step

Amoeba co-founder uses teen literature to wax on the past, look to the digital future

-- Todd Martens

Image courtesy of Amoeba Music/Metro.

Personal Playlist: Lance Rock of ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!'

The man in orange on Nickelodeon's kids show says he's been blown away by Brian Eno.


Lance Rock is best known for his work as the proverbial ringleader of the “Yo Gabba Gabba!” world. As the orange-suited human among the fanciful characters on the Nickelodeon kids show, it's his job to wrangle Muno, Foofa, Brobee and the rest and guide them through a vivid world that features among its regulars musical luminaries Biz Markie and Mark Mothersbaugh.

Wrangling is a job that's not necessarily new to Rock, born Lance Robertson. Before he became a celebrity for the preschool set, he was a regular DJ whose dance sets mixed old school and new school, a member of the band the Ray Makers, and a longtime Amoeba Music employee with a voracious appetite for new sounds. Robertson took time out of the highly successful Yo Gabba Gabba! tour, which arrives for a stint at Club Nokia on Friday and Saturday, to talk about his favorite music right now.

Pop & Hiss: What are you listening to on this tour?

I'm listening to a lot of new music right now, and the thing I'm listening to the most is the new Brian Eno record. I'm blown away. It's like elements of “Here Come the Warm Jets” — elements from all of his vocal records mixed into an ambient record.

That's the record that I use right now to block out all the noise at work. It's the perfect combination of ambient and active music.

That's what I like about it. But I'm an old indie kid and usually like a lot of distortion and the other elements. I was like, “Eh, it will be all right.” But I was shocked at how much I like it. I like it more than the Eno/Byrne album that came out a few years ago.

What else?

I used to be a huge Stereolab fan, and their new album, “Not Music,” is not great, but there are some really catchy things on there. It is what it is. I think a lot of people are in two camps about Stereolab. Their early stuff was definitely very much like Velvet Underground and Neu!, and then they dabbled in other elements. They've got a sliding scale as far as the bag of tricks they have — and I like all the tricks. Sometimes it gets a little old, but I like those things, so I can't really fault them too much for that.

And then there's the new Squarepusher record [“Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator”]. It's pretty good. I still like electronic music, but when it got ushered into popularity and everyone was doing it, it became filled with all these subgenres and I was like, “What are you talking about?” I just got real bored with that, and it was very limiting. But Squarepusher is really melodic, and has weird time signatures. I'm not impressed, necessarily, with “math rock.” It's cool, but I still want to have some sort of visceral response, as well.

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Los Lobos: Live at Amoeba Music in Hollywood* (Update)

Los Lobos gave a hometown crowd its first live taste of new songs from the group’s latest album, “Tin Can Trust,” at a packed in-store appearance Tuesday night at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.

The band had promised a five- or six-song set, but ended up running through 10 tunes in a free performance that ran just about an hour. They covered a half-dozen tracks from “Tin Can,” including the David Hidalgo and Louie Perez title track and the haunting “Jupiter or the Moon,”  Cesar Rosas’ spirited cumbia “Yo Canto,” and their heavily funkified cover of the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway.” 

As always, Hidalgo’s keening tenor vocals alternated beautifully with Rosas’ grittier singing, while songs were further enlivened by empathetic soloing, mostly between Rosas and Hidalgo, but with a few tasty contributions from guitarist Perez and saxophonist-keyboardist Steve Berlin.

The new songs were supplemented by a few Lobos standards: “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Will the Wolf Survive?” and “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes.” Several family members looked on, including two of Hidalgo's young grandchildren. Drummer Cougar Estrada, who has supplemented the original lineup for most of the last decade, showcased his skills in the extended Latin jam on "Cumbia Raza" that concluded the set.

The new album has gotten generally favorable reviews, tallying a 76 on the aggregate review site’s 100-point scale. It entered Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart at No. 47 after its first week in release.


The five core band members hung around after the set for an autograph and chat session with dozens of fans who waited in a line that snaked through the store.

Just last month, when Los Lobos played the Greek Theatre, opening for the Steve Miller Band, they didn’t include any of the new songs. Berlin explained at the time that having recently completed recording the songs amid the group’s always heavy tour schedule, “Now we have to learn to play them live.”

After Tuesday’s show, bassist Conrad Lozano said of those songs, “They’re getting a little better, a little tighter each time.”

Update Aug. 27 at 1:47 p.m.: Los Lobos is booked to perform Sept. 28 at Gibson Amphitheatre, sharing the stage with Los Tigres del Norte on a show billed as "Maldef Presents: The Concert for Truth in Immigration."

-- Randy Lewis

Top photo, from left: Los Lobos members Louie Perez, drummer Cougar Estrada and guitarist David Hidalgo during in-store performance Tuesday night at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Credit: Courtney Frystak

Bottom photo, from left: Los Lobos members Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano, Louie Perez, Steve Berlin and David Hidalgo sign autographs at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Credit: Courtney Frystak

Incoming: Members of Grandaddy, Earlimart spread the Cali love with Admiral Radley -- sort of

Admiral_Radley__ When Modesto native and former Grandaddy leader Jason Lytle opens new project Admiral Radley with the tongue-in-cheek "I Heart California," one could easily be mistaken for believing that the artist -- who long ago relocated to Montana --   is looking back at his home state with just a hint of scorn. 

Think of the cut, which also serves as the title track of the project, as a sobering summer-song antidote to Katy Perry's garden of playful decadence that is "California Gurls." Its balmy, fuzzy guitars are dotted with sparkling effects, and Lytle's vocals settle into a reassuring sway. But rather than reference the beach, Lytle croons about I-5, and there are no signs of glamor, but there are plenty of disappointed tourists.

Yet the song, said Lytle, is written with nothing but love toward the Golden State, comparing its lighthearted but well-intentioned nature to that of a comedian who mocks his or her family. 

"I don’t think it’s sarcasm," Lytle said of the song, below. "You can’t expect people to know your sense of humor. You can’t expect people to know where you’re from. I was worried this would turn into an inside joke, but there’s a lot of fondness in there. That’s just the way I’m comfortable expressing myself about the things that I am fond of, with a hint of black humor." 

Such a tone and sound will be familiar to those versed with the Grandaddy and Lytle catalog, where an upbeat title such as "Summer Here Kids" gave way to an anthem for a disastrous vacation. Working here with Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of locals Earlimart, as well as Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch, Admiral Radley likewise delivers humor with honesty.

"Sunburn Kids," for instance, is call-and-response silliness, boasting keyboard notes that sound as if they have been lifted from an old-school video game. "Ghost of Syllables," meanwhile, is all grown-up heartache, striking what Espinoza described as Fleetwood Mac-inspired harmonies, and later, the Murray-fronted "The Thread," with its playful static, is nostalgic for days that may never come. Then, ensuring no one gets too comfortable, there's a spastic, electronic-laced rager about having a few too many beers on a sun-drenched day, complete with a title unfit for a family blog.

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Amoeba co-founder uses teen literature to wax on the past, look to the digital future

A few days before Christmas, Harper Teen released the young-adult novel "The Vinyl Princess." While Pop & Hiss doesn't cover the intersection of literature and music nearly as much as we should, "The Vinyl Princess" instantly caught our attention -- and not just because of the striking cover. Yvonne Prinz, the book's author, was one of the founders of Amoeba Music, and her retail experience is reflected heavily in the book. Issues facing indie retailers even crop up in the novel, although they're filtered through a teenage lens. Here is an extended version of a story that will run in Friday's Calendar section. Prinz discussed the book, and shared some of Amoeba's plans for 2010.


Young-adult novel “The Vinyl Princess” doesn’t sugarcoat its description of the independent record store. Many of the regulars? “A ragtag group of desperadoes.” The staff? “Underpaid, overworked” and a “lion’s share of the craziest people in the universe.”

And when the book’s main character, the 16-year-old, vinyl-obsessed Allie, notes that she sometimes comes home from her gig at the fictional Bob and Bob Records smelling “like an octogenarian’s closet,” the appeal of buying music online seems apparent.

The_vinyl_princess_cover Yet Harper Teen’s “The Vinyl Princess” was written by one of the most ardent supporters of indie retail, who also happens to be one of the industry’s biggest success stories. Twenty years ago, Yvonne Prinz and her husband, Dave, helped found Amoeba Music in Berkeley, the real-life store that still stands on the same real-life street, Telegraph Avenue, and that inspired the fictional Bob and Bob Records.

Prinz, who also has penned three books in the Raincoast Books’ Clare tween novel series — “Still There, Clare,” “Not Fair, Clare” and “Double Dare Clare” — drew on her first-hand experiences for the novel, a teen take on “High Fidelity” that offers a loving portrait of the indie outlet, described early in the book as a “house of worship.” The remaining customers are split between the weirdos and the diehards, but all are looking for a place to “find community.”

“It’s a church,” said Prinz, speaking by phone from her home outside Berkeley. “You meet people who never have been in a record store, and you meet people who have never left a record store.”

Sales at Bob and Bob Records aren’t on the level of those at Amoeba, one of the country’s most successful independent outlets, and Allie lives in constant fear that the store’s curmudgeon of an owner will call it quits. It’s a storyline that will sound hauntingly familiar to music fans.

Over the last several years, the physical retail market for music has been vastly diminished, as evidenced by the closing of Tower Records, the Virgin Megastore and key local shops such as Rhino Westwood and Aron’s Records.

In Allie, Prinz has a character facing many of the same issues as the retail store owner. A vinyl-obsessed junkie with a love with music history, she views Wal-Mart with skepticism, and iPods are tools for “tinny-sounding crap.” Yet it’s not spoiling the book to reveal that Allie must learn that she “can’t hide from the world in a record store,” and starts a blog with the hopes of seeking out other vinyl geeks.

Likewise, Amoeba Music will this year take its boldest stride yet into the online world, launching a digital download store this spring or summer. Amoeba will join the likes of Other Music in New York and, a digital outlet that represents a consortium of the nation’s top indie stores, including Fingerprints in Long Beach, as one of the few independent retail outlets trying to claim a slice of the digital marketplace.

“I think the indie music scene missed the boat on the whole MP3 scene, and for an obvious reason — no one wanted to embrace it,” Prinz said. “We were purists. We thought the brick-and-mortar record store would last forever. We were almost arrogant about it. Now, after spending years ignoring the whole thing, we thought we could approach it like we approach our stores. We can be purists, and collect everything an artist has done.”

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