Tag Archive: Records

  1. Turntable Kitchen’s Vinyl Record Collector’s Gift Guide

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    Pictured: 1) Pro-Ject Speed Box; 2) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon in red; 3) Al Green’s Greatest Hits LP; 4) Grado SR80i headphones; 5) Acryl-it Platter; 6) Audio Technica AT-LP60; 7) Music Hall Cork Mat; 8) The xx – xx LP

    In the past few years, vinyl records have made a well-deserved comeback. They are collectible, they have weight, and they come packaged in beautiful 12×12 cover art — all of which make them the perfect counterpoint to our increasingly large and disposable digital music libraries. You probably know a few people who are already collecting records or at least a few people who are interested in starting a setup for their home. Whether you’re buying for a novice or an experienced audiophile, this list is intended to help you pick out some goodies for the vinyl record collector in your life.

    Record Players

    Playing vinyl LPs obviously starts with a good record player. There are countless options on the market — many of which aren’t worth their price tag. We previously prepared an in-depth guide to selecting your first turntable, so you should stop there for more information, but we’ve distilled the list to our top three for this guide.

    1. Audio Technica AT-LP60 ($129) — This is our pick for a good, no-fuss beginner’s turntable.

    2. Music Hall USB-1 ($249) — Music Hall makes good audio equipment and, at $250, this USB turntable is a steal.

    3) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($399) — This turntable offers a great entry point into the world of high-end audio (and happens to be the record player we own). It sounds unbelievably clear and warm. It’s also easy to upgrade (mine is more tricked out than the Millenium Falcon at this point). Highly recommended.

    Other Audio Equipment

    Once you buy a high-end turntable you can upgrade it piece by piece if you’d like. As I mentioned above, I’ve customized mine to provide the best possible sound. Here are a few of the pieces I’ve purchased to customize my Pro-Ject.

    1) Pro-Ject Speed Box ($129) — This was the first upgrade I bought for my Pro-Ject. It allows you to easily change between 45 rpm and 33 rpm at the push of a button. Just as importantly, it provides precision speed regulation and gives your turntable a little more bump on the low end. If you or your vinyl lover already has a Pro-Ject without automatic speed-adjustment, this is a huge upgrade.

    2) Pro-Ject Phono-In ($189) — If your pre-amp doesn’t include a phono-in, you’ll need to buy one to connect your turntable to it. This one, like all Pro-Ject products I’ve tried, provides an excellent option for high end performance.

    3) Music Hall Cork Mat ($50) — This “upgrade” was one of the more surprising purchases I made for my Pro-Ject (though it’ll work with any turntable). It came highly recommended by the folks at my local hi-fi shop. It provides better isolation, better grip, and better tracking. In short, it makes your records sound better.

    4) Pro-Ject Acryl-It Platter Upgrade ($125) — Every piece of your turntable affects the quality of sound reproduction. The platter is no different. This acrylic platter not only looks cool, but is designed to provide “a stable support for the vinyl” while eliminating unwanted resonance.

    5) Rega Elys 2 Cartridge ($295) — This cartridge upgrade is designed to provide better sound separation between various musical instruments. For the price alone it may be one of the last pieces you’ll upgrade but the right cartridge can make a huge difference in the sound you’ll get out of your turntable.

    A Few Classic LPs

    There are a few classic artists that are essential to any collection. While those records will vary slightly from person to person, there are a few that I think any music lover should have in their collection. You can find some of these in $1 bin at your local record store,  but I opted to shell out good money for pristine copies to listen to in our home; I appreciate the clarity. Here are a few of my top picks.

    1) Otis Redding – Otis Blue — Redding’s brand of deep Southern soul is warming and cozy — a perfect pairing for any cold night.

    2) Al Green – Greatest Hits — I’ve probably played my copy of this more than any other record in my collection. It’s sexy and fun.

    3) Jorge Ben – Forca Bruta — This record never fails to scratch that itch for something a little different.

    4) Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea — This one is a contemporary classic.

    5) David Bowie – Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust — I’m a David Bowie fanatic and this (along with Hunky Dory) are my two favorite Bowie records.

    6) The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street — Classic honky-tonk rock n’ roll for a good time any time.

    7) Miles Davis – Bitches Brew — This record will melt your mind. In fact, it’s so forward thinking, it will still melt your children’s children’s minds.

    8) The Beatles – Abbey Road — If you own one record by The Beatles, it must be this one. Or Revolver. Or Rubber Soul. Or The White Album…

    9) Joao Gilberto – Joao Gilberto — The perfect record for when you want some serious chill time.

    10) Radiohead – OK Computer — If you don’t know why you need this record in your collection, then what are you doing here anyways?

    11) Joni Mitchell – Blue — Let’s be honest, I could have easily listed Court And Spark here as well. The point is that I’d think any music lover would want Mitchell in their collection.

    A Few Contemporary Favorite LPs

    Your record collection shouldn’t look like it was transported from the 70s. If you’re a fan of contemporary indie music, then you’ll want to own these modern masterpieces as well.

    1) Beach House – Bloom — One of my favorite records from the past few years. “Lazuli” sounds so good spinning on your turntable.

    2) The National – High Violet — You could easily go with Boxer or Alligator, but you should own at least one record by The National. I own them all.

    3) Radiohead – In Rainbows — Listening to tracks like “Faust Arp” and “Reckoner” on my record player is guaranteed to send shivers down my spine.

    4) Spoon – Gimme Fiction — This was the first record that convinced me I needed a good turntable. Play it on a high end deck to remember why you spent your money on an audiophile turntable. The production provides for some great demonstrations of sonic separation.

    5) Jay-Z – The Blueprint — So many great hip hop albums aren’t available on vinyl (or were only briefly available). Thankfully, you can score this one quick and easy.

    6) Grizzy Bear – Veckatimest — This record set this band on the path to being considered one of indie music’s top bands.

    7) The xx – xx — Beautiful die-cut packaging and a beautiful record. This is definitely a modern classic in my book.

    8) Iron & Wine – Shepherd’s Dog — A beautifully textured album by Mr. Sam Beam and another “great anytime” record.

    9) Cat Power – You Are Free — It was this or The Greatest, but either way, I’m often glad to find some Chan Marshall in my collection.

    10) Ryan Adams – Gold — This record’s a classic.

    Limited-Edition Records

    Without question, record collecting is partially about building an awesome library — but it’s also about snagging those rare, hard-to-find collectibles before they are gone. Obviously, most limited edition records that I’d recommend won’t last very long before they are sold out (that’s the nature of limited edition records), but here are a few suggestions available at the time of writing. You can also follow our new Limited Edition Vinyl board on Pinterest for more ideas.

    1) Turntable Kitchen’s Pairings Box Subscription — Clearly, I’m biased but I think I’ve put together a pretty great collection of artists in our subscription 7″ service. These sell out pretty fast and the only way to guarantee your copy is to subscribe.

    2) Beck – Sea Change — Interestingly enough, Beck records have historically been hard to come by after their initial release. Sure, they are occasionally repressed, but you need to jump on them while you can. Sea Change is currently available in numbered, limited edition format. SOLD OUT

    3) Atoms For Peace – Default — This record is limited to 3,000 copies and features Thom Yorke and Flea. Those 3,000 copies will go relatively fast. SOLD OUT

    4) Yo La Tengo – Fade (plus bonus 7″) — A deluxe numbered edition on rainbow foil with a bonus 7″ of cover songs. This is a pretty rad pick up for any collection. SOLD OUT

    4) Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell — This 2LP repress of the otherwise out-of-print Love Is Hell EP is remastered by Mobile Fidelity Labs and is limited edition and numbered. SOLD OUT

    5) Small Plates Recs Crack Pack — Our friends at Small Plates Recs are up to some great things and this “Crack Pack” includes all of the music they’ve pressed to vinyl for a low, low price. In fact, their entire catalog will set you back less than that Ryan Adams 2LP above.

    6) Records from Father/Daughter Records — The folks at Father/Daughter believe in great limited edition records featuring great up-and-coming artists. As a result, we believe in buying their records. Get Pure Bathing Culture, Levek, and more before they are all gone.

    7) Records from Gold Robot Records — Our friend from across the Bay. Their records tend to sell out pretty quickly. Get what you can before it’s gone.

    8) Records from Analog Edition —  You’ll find ultra-limited records from Lands & People, Teen Mom, and more in this boutique label’s store.

    Headphones

    Headphones are not specifically required to enjoy your turntable. In fact, although I do listen to my records with headphones occasionally, I prefer to use my speakers. As a result, my headphones really get the most use when I’m on the go. With that in mind, the first three pairs of headphones I listed each fall in under $100 range. The Westone 3’s, which sound amazing, are less cost-effective.

    1) Thinksound ts02 — Made with eco-friendly materials, Thinksound’s ts02’s look good and sound good. These are my favorite earbuds at the $100 and under range. Read our review for more info.

    2) Sol Republic Tracks Headphones — I bring these sturdy over-the-ear headphones with me to cafes and on public transit. They offer good sound and exceptionally sturdy construction.

    3) Grado SR80i — Grado is one of the most well-respected companies in hi-fi. Their products can range from a few hundred bucks to a few thousands bucks. This pair of over-the-ear headphones are a great value for the price.

    4) Westone 3 Headphones — These are my favorite headphones/earbuds I’ve ever used. They sound amazing and I bring them with me everywhere. For more info, you can read our review here. Be warned: they also are not cheap (just under $400 on sale).

  2. TK010: Ghost Loft – Seconds / Morning 7″

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    Maybe it’s the summer weather, but we’ve been feeling slow, relaxed jams recently. So it’s no surprise that we’ve quickly fallen in love with the chilled out and sexy vibes of Los Angeles-based producer Danny Choi who records music under the name Ghost Loft. And let me tell you, these jams were lifesavers in Sicily. The sun was swelteringly hot and the air bone dry as we wandered small baroque towns and waded in the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, and Ionian Seas. In climates like that, this pair of grooves are like crisp and cooling sea breezes welcomingly wafting in to chill things out. I just wish my headphones and iPod were waterproof so I could have floated on my back in the sea, staring up at the sky, while listening to ‘em.

    The single’s a-side, “Seconds,” is a sensual and slow-burning r&b-influenced electro jam built upon a sparse hip-hop rhythm. Ambient synths blow like chilly cooling winds through the steamy atmosphere making this a perfect jam for warm weather kicks. Meanwhile, Choi softly exhales soothing love whispers like soft caresses to his distant lover: “No one will ever know. No one will have to know.” Its sultry ambiance shares the same spacious, echo-y DNA that gave life to the music of artists like The XX and Rhye. Nonetheless, there is no question that Choi’s hit upon his own spot in the music scene.

    The single’s b-side, “Morning,” was completed by Ghost Loft exclusively for debut on this Pairings Box single. Like the single’s a-side this jam is sexy and grooving. But while the a-side is 100% smooth seduction, the b-side is the contented but uncertain ode to the morning after. Swirling samples float up like bright effervescence refracted in light spilling across the bedroom floor. The rhythm is slower and steadier than “Second” and there is a hint of melancholy in the melody and accompanying lyrics: “In the morning I’m wasted lying next to you – wondering what to do.” It’s really, really good stuff.

    Ghost Loft – Seconds

    Copies are going lightening fast so sign up for the Pairings Box before the weekend to guarantee a copy. As always, you’ll receive three original recipes, an exclusive digital mixtape, the single and a premium ingredient used in making one of the recipes. This month we’ve partnered with Just Cook for this month’s premium ingredient.

  3. Musical Pairings: Tom Waits – Real Gone

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    Calamari (especially the tentacles) are one of those divisive food stuffs. Some people find the tentacles (and in some cases squid in general) gross and disconcerting. To be fair, I can’t imagine there are too many people who didn’t have at least a brief moment of hesitation the first time they tried tentacles. But those of us who are familiar with the whole squid, the tentacles can be one of the tastiest bites, and we know that calamari is simply delicious. For that reason, how you feel about the Braised Squid with Chickpeas recipe Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen today will have everything to do with how you feel about squid as an ingredient. The recipe is a fantastic, savory, intensely flavored stew of chorizo, chickpeas, and little calamari tentacles reaching out from the depths begging to be devoured. For that reason, I’ve decided to pair this recipe with a quirky album, one that some people find unsettling and maybe even down right weird at first, but which people in the “know” cherish: Tom Waits’ Real Gone.

    Tom Waits’ may have recorded albums that are better than Real Gone – but for me, he has never recorded an album that sounds more distinctly Tom Waits-esque. It’s a sonic orgy of Waits’ gravely vocal tics; his surreal, cinematic, noir-styled lyrics; and ominous mamba and tango inspired melodies ungallantly blended with every manner of static, clatter and percussion Waits could scrape together. It’s intentionally disconcerting from the start with a melody stitched together from the unorthodox use of roughly-hewn beat boxing, bruised record scratching and assorted abrasive squawks and toots on opener “Top of the Hill.” On the following cut, “Hoist That Rag,” Waits’ gritty, pirate-like bark is nearly upstaged by the warbled, Cubano guitar solo that burrows itself deep into the track’s core. Waits has never been the type of performer to shy away from unconventional choices in track arrangement, a fact demonstrated by the placement of the ten and a half minute long groove “Sins of the Father” in the album’s three spot. In typical Tom Waits’ fashion, when he isn’t instrumentally unconventional and lyrically cryptic, he’s darkly ominous in a way that is almost Disney-esque in it’s foreboding and melancholy, as he is on the brooding ballad “Dead and Lovely” or the lonely and weeping “Day After Tomorrow.” The latter is the album’s most straight-forward tune, which potentially explains why it feels tucked away at the album’s end, as if Waits’ was almost embarrassed to release a song so clear and clean. And like nearly any Tom Waits’ album it is flooded with moments of brilliance which are occasionally sullied by sour notes. With that said, if this album were more perfect, it wouldn’t do Waits’ genius justice which I tend to think is best demonstrated by his ability to turn rough imperfection into moments of irresistible sonic gold.

    Tom Waits – Hoist That Rag

    In the Kitchen you can read the recipe for that Braised Squid with Chickpeas recipe. On Insound you can buy Real Gone.

  4. Turntable Kitchen’s Top Ten Reasons To Buy a Turntable

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    You’ve probably noticed that we like vinyl records in our home.  For example, at the end of many of my posts, I gently nudge our readers towards Insound to buy our featured albums on vinyl instead of digitally from iTunes.  Beyond that, we did name our site Turntable Kitchen.  Friends who haven’t started collecting records yet, but who are interested, always ask me two questions: 1) Why should I buy a record player / start collecting records, and 2) Which record player should I buy?

    I’m going to do my best to address both of those questions.  First, here is TK’s Top 10 Reasons to Buy a Turntable:

    1. Vinyl Records Just Sound Better

    Let me start with a caveat: a bad turntable will only sound a little better than a bad CD player. Maybe even worse. But if you are serious about listening to music with high quality sound reproduction, in my opinion, vinyl is the way to go.  But let’s be fair, sound can be subjective.  What sounds great to you may not sound great to me.  But with a turntable, as opposed to a CD player, you can experiment with the factors that effect the sound quality.  You can upgrade your catridge, your platter, your tone arm, your power source, etc.  You can also tweak the components you do have until you find the sound you are looking for.  That is pretty much out of the question with a CD player.

    Further, most audiophiles believe that analog/vinyl sound reproduction just sounds warmer and fuller than digital reproduction.  The debate as to which is better, analog or digital, has been raging pretty much since the birth of the CD, but to this day, if you visit almost any audiophile forum on the Internet, you’ll discover that vinyl is the overwhelming choice.  If you want to read some of the pros and cons you can check out this thread on Google Answers.  For my part, there is no question as to which I prefer.

    I recall the first time I put vinyl and CD to the sonic taste test at a hi-fi store in San Francisco.  For the test, I listened to Spoon’s Gimme Fiction first on CD and then on vinyl using the exact same amplifier and speakers and standing in the exact same location. The CD was fine and sounded the same as it always had for me — but when we played the record on vinyl, it was as if I was hearing the album (one of my favorites) for the first time again. To explain, let me first provide a definition: a “soundstage” refers to the quality of music reproduction that allows the listeners to focus on specific instruments and elements of a song in relationship to where those elements are placed on an imaginary 3D/2D stage. With the vinyl copy of the album,  the sense of depth and sonic separation was amazing. I closed my eyes I felt like I could sense an actual physical space where Britt Daniel should be standing in the room leaning into his microphone, playing guitar and singing the lyrics to “The Beast & Dragon Adored” relative to where the other members of the band would be. Put another way, the richness of the music wasn’t just about the reproduction of the music – but the reproduction of the space between the sounds that allowed it to be perceived as three dimensional.

    Spoon – The Beast & Dragon Adored

    2. Most Vinyl Records Include Digital Downloads

    It’s quickly becoming industry standard to include  a digital download of an album with a vinyl record.  So when you buy Best Coast’s Crazy For You for slightly more than the cost of a digital download from iTunes, you get both the vinyl record and the MP3s.  In other words, I’m not suggesting you don’t maintain a library of digital music at all – but that you maintain both.  Usually the cost of a new record is only slightly more expensive than buying that same album on iTunes – and then you have the vinyl copy to listen to at home and the digital copy for when you are on the go.  Now if only they’d start doing that with books.

    Best Coast – Crazy For You

    3. Records And Record Players Look Sexy

    Sure you could have all of your books and music and media stored somewhere in the cloud or on your computer, but if I don’t have a physical copy I don’t feel like I really own the product.  Besides, decorating your home or apartment with shelves lined with records and bookcases neatly arranged with books is just sexier and warmer than an empty room with little more than a Macbook sitting on a table. Especially if you own a sexy turntable like the Pro-Ject Debut or the Bang and Olufsen Beogram 5500.

    4. Records Are Collectible

    I’m not suggesting that vinyl records are exactly a smart investment option, but many records actually increase in value after you purchase them.  Compare that to a CD where you’d be lucky to get back even half of what you paid – and I wouldn’t recommend trying to re-sell the MP3s you downloaded from iTunes.  Meanwhile, copies of Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News actually sells for as much as $150 on eBay.  I wonder how much the limited-edition, hand-numbered TK 7″ releases are going to be selling for a few years from now.

    Modest Mouse – The View

    5. Records Are Fun To Hold

    I love when I get a new record in the mail.  It’s fun to open it up and behold the actual record – black vinyl, white vinyl, etc.  As I mentioned above, actually holding a record gives me a greater sense of ownership than merely clicking play on my iTunes.

    6. Vinyl Album Art Is Cooler

    Album art is way cooler when it is in 12″ x 12″ format as opposed to the tiny little CD booklets or some sort of digital .zip file that I’ll never actually look at.  In fact, not only does the cover art for your favorite album look cooler, but so do the vinyl sized inserts and liner notes.  People frame and display vinyl record sleeves at home all the time.  When was the last time you saw someone frame and hang a CD booklet?

    7. Playing Records Is Immersive

    For me, the ritual involved in playing my records is delicious.  I’ll thumb through my record collection delightedly examining the spines of the records in my library before my fingers come to rest on the album I’m seeking.  I’ll carefully pull the record out and remove the LP from the jacket.  I examine the surface of the record in the light for dust and, if necessary, swiftly brush off any lint or dust that has collected.  Next, I carefully place the record on the platter and clamp it to the spindle.  I quickly blow on the stylus to remove any dust or fuzz that has collected there before lifting and subsequently lowering the needle to the record.  The soft thump I hear when the needle makes initial  contact with the vinyl is alone worth savoring. If music is a religion, then this is the sacrament.

    8. Crate Digging Is Fun

    Sure, some records can be pretty expensive – but most older records can be found quite cheap.  In fact, hunting for bargains can be endlessly entertaining for me.  I’ll blissfully spend a whole afternoon digging through crates of records at antique shops, record stores and Goodwill.  I’ve discovered everything from Portishead’s Dummy to The Supreme’s Anthology digging through crates of old cheap vinyl.  I have even dragged my wonderfully understanding wife with me to places where I could dig through crates of records in Moscow, Buenos Aires and Bogota.

    9. Some Albums Are Only Available On Vinyl

    Increasingly, as vinyl becomes cool again, some albums are only being released on vinyl.  Flaming Lips, for example, have released a number of records and collaborations recently in vinyl-only format, and Record Store Day (a.k.a. the biggest holiday of the year for music obsessives like myself) is pretty much dedicated to featuring vinyl-only exclusives.

    10. You Need A Record Player To Play Your Turntable Kitchen 7″

    Of course the main reason you’ll want a record player is to play those awesome Turntable Kitchen singles you’ll be receiving every month once you sign up for our Pairings Box!

    Convinced?  Stay tuned for our recommendations on which decks to buy.  If you don’t want to wait, you can’t go wrong with the Pro-Ject Debut III.