After my rather successful predictions last year, I decided to do the obligatory English Premier League (EPL) predictions for the 2017/18 season. I will start out by saying this year will be more difficult to predict, as with all of the top teams playing in Europe, they will all have a somewhat equally rigorous schedule. The relegation fodder is also tougher this year, as the newly promoted clubs are better than last year’s and some of the clubs that have been in the top tier of English football for a handful of seasons now have gotten worse instead of better. Just like last like last year, every club’s first mention and where the meat of the prediction begins will be in bold to make it easier to find a particular area of interest.

I will start with the clubs I am tabbing for relegation. They are (in no particular order) Watford, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town. I am also throwing Brighton & Hove Albion, Swansea City and Burnley into the relegation mix too. I’m fairly confident both Watford and Palace will go down, but the final team I’m not completely sold on. I lean more towards Huddersfield because their squad is not as deep as Brighton’s, and they haven’t done much in the transfer window to secure their place. But on the other hand, Brighton’s manager is Chris Hughton, who was at the helm of Norwich City for the bulk of the season when they were relegated back in 2014. While I don’t completely trust him to steer a club out of relegation zone, he has proven himself by leading a team to automatic promotion to the top flight.

Palace has been in turmoil for some time now. After a strong showing in 2014/15 they’ve been on the downturn for the past few seasons. Sacking Alan Pardew last season was a decision made easier by his poorer and poorer performances heading into Christmas. Sam Allardyce took over, and he saved the sinking ship, at least for the time being, as Big Sam once again pulled off the impossible by guiding yet another team out of relegation. But it wasn’t all good news for Palace as Big Sam opted for quasi retirement rather than continue on as manager.

Palace hasn’t brought in anyone of note during the summer transfer window. Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek was taken on loan, but they will still struggle to score goals while at the same time being picked apart at the back. New manager Frank de Boer, who had been looking for a job at a top club in one of the big four leagues in Europe, and had been linked with several desirable openings, eventually took the job at Inter Milan for the 2016/17 season, but wound up getting sacked only a few months into the season. He then found his way to Palace, and while he seemed to learn from some of his mistakes during his short tenure at Inter, like bringing in high price signings, he seems to be falling into another trapping; bringing in your players. The first time Premier League manager signed the versatile former Ajax man Jairo Riedewald, who de Boer had during his spell as Ajax manager (which also ended unceremoniously).  Unless Palace brings in another goal scorer and a better first choice keeper (they lost Steve Mandanda who was brought in last year to shore up the position) Palace is in for a rough go of it.

Watford has been in downward spiral for while now. They were the darlings of the Premier League in 2015/16, but the annual managerial changes have done nothing to stabilize the club. Last year was as close to disaster as possible, and it was rumored long time captain Troy Deeney wanted to leave the club. If playing for a new manager every season wasn’t enough, the Watford board decided to bring in Marco Silvo, who, while doing an admirable job at Hull City last year, couldn’t keep them up. So a club that narrowly avoided relegation last year, thought bringing in a new manager who managed a club that was relegated last year was a good idea. Watford has been active in the transfer window, but that is not always a good thing. Watford’s major problem seems to be change; too much of it. They tend to bring in loads of new players in the summer, which can upset even the best of teams. But to a team like Watford it can spell disaster.

If you remember I had Swansea City in the relegation mix last year, but I didn’t pick them as one of the three clubs going down. While I feel Swansea is in for another bottom half of the table finish, manager Paul Clement had them heading in the right direction last year after taking over from Bob Bradley. But if the Swans wind up selling Gylfi Sigurdsson, which is a strong possibility, they’re in real trouble. Swansea is not exactly an ideal spot for many players, and they’ve had a hard time luring players to join the club in recent years. Their precarious position in the Premier League only further hinders that task.

Along with Swansea, the bottom half of the table will be rounded out by (in no particular order) Burnley, Leicester City, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Stoke City. I already touched on Brighton, but I see them narrowly avoiding relegation and finishing in 17th. After a good run of form in the first half, Burnley fell on tough times in the second half, slowly falling down the table to finish in 16th, level on points with Watford in 17th. Burnley sold their best attacking threat, to fellow relegation fodder Watford no-less, and they didn’t bring in the right players to help them climb the table, instead opting for aging Stoke castoffs. Given that I also have Stoke in the bottom half doesn’t bode well for Burnley.

Stoke was another team that started out well but slid down the table in the second half. With the departure of Marko Arnautovic, one of their better players, the ship is not heading in the right direction. The Potters did get rid of a lot of aging players, and those who were surplus to requirements, freeing up wage money. But they haven’t really spent any of it. At least not on anyone who can be a difference maker, or at the very least someone who can compliment Xherdan Shaqiri, who I can see asking for a transfer just like Arnautovic.

Without Champions League commitments Leicester can focus solely on the league. It will benefit them, but not enough. They should be safe for another season, but they will finish towards the bottom of the table. They brought in the right type of players, in the right positions, but it won’t be enough to be anywhere near mid table let alone the top half.

West Ham made a splash in the transfer market with the signing of Javier Hernandez, but even Chicharito can’t solve West Ham’s problems. Bringing in Joe Hart was an odd move, as I think Darren Randolph was a much better option as a backup keeper. Hart won’t provide any competition for Adrian, so don’t expect a rise in his performance, and he won’t push Adrian out of the starting spot either, so it’s pretty much a waste of wages. I don’t see West Ham finishing terribly low, but they won’t crack the top half.

Newly promoted Newcastle should have enough to stay up and avoid going straight back down to the Championship. Rafa Benitez stayed on as manager despite the Magpies being relegated, which spoke volumes to his team. They all bought in for the 2016/17 season, and they impressively won the Championship to earn automatic promotion. I don’t see Newcastle being a yoyo club. Yes, they won’t have some important pieces like Florian Thauvin, Yoan Gouffran and Matz Sels, but they brought in enough to make due. Newcastle supporters are a fickle and demanding bunch, but after being relegated in embarrassing fashion in the 2015/16 season, managing to stay up this year should be viewed as an accomplishment worth celebrating. My only concern with Newcastle is if they will have enough goals in them.

So through process of elimination you should already have an idea of who I think will finish in the top half. Southampton, Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea (in no particular order) fill out the table in the top half.  I will cut things down further by saying Southampton, Bournemouth and West Brom will finish outside the European places.

To be honest, the team that finishes in 10th was tough to pick. It was a tossup between Bournemouth and Southampton. Every year I don’t know what to make of Southampton. And this year is no different. The club that is known for being a feeder program for the big boys of European football, has surprisingly not sold many of their players heading into the 2017/18 campaign. But they also haven’t brought in anyone of note. A new manager for the second consecutive season will also hamper them. But Southampton always finds a way to finish closer to the top half than the bottom half. So with that I have them in the top half, but only barely.

While Bournemouth made a lot of good signings in the summer, I can’t see them improving on the success of last year where they finished in 9th. Not that last year was a fluke, it’s more to do with teams around them getting better. Bournemouth shouldn’t have snuck up on anyone last year, but they did. I can’t see that happening again this season.

Just like I can’t see Tony Pulis letting his West Brom side becoming complacent again like they were last year after hitting that magic 37 point number to assure themselves safety in top flight. West Brom was surprisingly active during the transfer windows last year, bringing in somewhat high profile players like Nacer Chadli. And Pulis had another Ace up his sleeve this year, bringing in England International Jay Rodriguez from Southampton. New signings aside, West Brom did not lose too many key players. Darren Fletcher’s absences will be sorely missed from a leadership perspective, but Jay Rodriguez should fill those shoes nicely. If Salomon Rondon can improve upon last year’s performance, and Euro 2016 hero Hal Robson-Kanu can provide any of the spark he did for Wales in the Euros, West Brom could surprise many by finishing convincingly in the top half.

That is my out on a limb pick. It seems every year there is one surprise club. One team that overachieves to open everyone’s eyes. A few years ago it was Leicester City, last year it was Bournemouth. This year I think it will be West Brom.

I don’t see West Brom challenging for a European place, but Everton surely will. Everton was the busiest club in the transfer market, signing 12 players. And it wasn’t just depth signings, they were marquee ones. Jordan Pickford should shore up the goalkeeping position, Davy Klaasen has been a fixture in Ajax’s starting XI so long it would surprise most that he’s only 24 years old, and while bringing back home grown legend Wayne Rooney won’t fill Romelu Lukaku’s boots, it will go a long way to providing leadership to a team that seemed to lack confidence and direction the last couple years.

Expectations will be high for Everton, and that may negatively affect them. But Ronald Koeman is back for another year, and he had them playing much better. So it stands to reason that another year under Koeman, combined with the spending spree at Goodison Park, will at the very least see a repeat performance of last year where they earned a spot in Europe.

Now comes what most people are interested in; the big boys of the EPL. So where exactly do I see Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur finishing? It may surprise you.

Liverpool are in serious trouble heading into the 2017/18 season. They’re still in need of a quality center back, and Jurgen Klopp did not address that area in the transfer window (as of posting this before the close of the window), and better options at outside back would also be beneficial. Signing yet another attacking option show where Klopp’s priorities lie. Considering that Liverpool’s schedule may become tougher with the added Champions League commitments should they qualify for the group stage; their league play may suffer further. I predict a 6th place finish for Liverpool, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp gets the sack at the end of the year if not sooner.

For yet another season there will be turmoil at the Emirates. Manager Arsene Wenger was brought back on another contract extension, this time a two year salvage job to get the Gunners back into the top four. And that task will be harder than ever given the fact that Arsenal has to contend with the rigors of the playing in the dreaded Europa League. Wenger has already started his typical excuses by saying he doesn’t like the format of the Europa League and will likely rotate his squad for those games to rest his regular starting XI. Their domestic schedule is also very tough to start the year.

Star man Alexis Sanchez wants out, but Wenger has put his foot down saying he won’t sell him. Mesut Ozil (along with many other key pieces who haven’t renewed) is also out of contract at the end of the year like Sanchez, and how much those contracts running out with be a distraction is anyone’s guess.

Arsenal did finally break open the check book to sign Alexandre Lacazette, something that was two years in the making. And they brought in outside back Sead Kolasinac on free transfer from Schalke, where he was either brilliant or pitiful. In other words; the typical Wenger signing. But that won’t be enough to contend for the title let alone a spot in the top four, especially since Wenger didn’t clear the books of dead weight like Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson, Lucas Perez, Francis Coquelin or Chuba Akpom. He also didn’t make the more debatable moves of getting rid of players like Theo Walcott, Mohammed Elneny, David Ospina, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Laurent Koscielny or Olivier Giroud.

I see a 5th place finish for Arsenal, and the return of Wenger, or should I say Kroenke’s Kroney, for the 2018/19 season. Though I could easily see Liverpool and Arsenal swapping places.

Manchester United will be better in Jose Mourinho’s second year at the helm. His system is in place, he’s brought in more players to his liking, and most importantly; he didn’t sell David de Gea. The addition of Romelu Lukaku will get all the attention, and rightfully so. But don’t overlook the signing of Nemaja Matic. He was great at Chelsea, and more importantly, he was great at Chelsea under Mourinho. I envision a 4th place finish for United. I don’t see them having enough to surpass Tottenham, Manchester City or Chelesea.

Everyone seems to be high on Tottenham. But I find it worrisome that they didn’t sign anyone in the summer. The bigger problem though is not just the loss of Kyle Walker, but losing him to a serious rival. As it stands now Kieran Trippier will likely be Walker’s replacement, and while Trippier is a decent player, he won’t be able to fill the void left by Walker. And that is before the injury he suffered in Spurs final tune up game. As it stands it appears Michael Dier will be played out of position at right back to start the season.

Another area of concern for Tottenham is playing their home games at Wembley Stadium while their new ground is being completed next door to where White Hart Lane once stood. We all saw how playing in a new stadium negatively effected West Ham last year, and that is before even mentioning Spurs’ poor record at Wembley. Spurs will be good, but not good enough to get over that final hurdle and win the league. I see a 3rd place finish.

Last year I successfully predicted that Chelsea would win the league, and despite the sharp criticism I stood by that choice. This year I don’t see Chelsea having the same success. They already had a replacement for Nemanja Matic before they sold him, and they improved their back line with the signing of Antonio Rudiger. New signing Alvaro Morata, a possible replacement for Diego Costa should he leave in January, has not set the world on fire right out of the gate like so many people demand these days of high profile signings. He may still pan out, but right now he is not meshing within the team and his work rate leaves a lot to be desired.

The biggest reason I picked Chelsea to win the league last year was because that did not have any European commitments to contend with, so they could focus solely on the league. This year they will be in the Champions League, and you know they want to win it. That added schedule will have a negative impact on them, which will have Chelsea finish in 2nd place.

With all that said, I predict Manchester City will win the league. They brought in the typical City signings; high priced and talented. They dipped their bucket into the eager to sell Monaco well and came out with two outstanding players in Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy. Not only do those additions add depth at position where they already have one of the best in the world, it also adds strength to a position they were in desperate need of. And that is before mentioning the signings of right backs Danilo and Kyle Walker, another position City were in desperate need to improve.

Since City improved their one area of weakness, and cleared a ton of dead weight off their books (not that City needs extra funds) there should be nothing stopping them. If that wasn’t scary enough for the rest of the league, City’s schedule is fairly easy; especially at both the beginning and end, with ridiculously easy months sprinkled in the middle.

 

 

 


This is the definition of an album that grows on you. At first I thought Makes Me Sick was the worst album New Found Glory ever released. It didn’t sound like them at all, and there is even a song that sounds like it should be on a Jimmy Buffet album more than a New Found Glory album. But after several listens, I like the album more and more. The production quality is top notch, which worried some people as Aaron Sprinkle produced the album. So don’t worry, he didn’t dull down NFG, if anything he makes this album better. With that said it’s not their worst album (that distinction remains with Resurrection), but it’s far from their best. But at least they seemed to figure out how to go forward with a single guitar player.

Makes Me Sick was pressed on six variants, with all of them being exclusive to some place. There are two Hopeless Records exclusives that were only available online via Merchnow; yellow limited to 500 copies and white limited to 1,000 copies. Yellow was a bundle exclusive that came with a t-shirt and enamel pin. Every so often a new merch trend appears, and the latest one is enamel pins. There is an Urban Outfitters exclusive, which is “paint splatter” limited to 1500 copies. “Paint splatter” is half white/half yellow with purple splatter. There is a picture disc limited to 500 copies, which is a tour exclusive. There is also a black variant and a tri-color HMV (UK entertainment retailer, think F.Y.E.) exclusive variant. The HMV variant is yellow, black and white, split into diagonal sections like a sliced pizza. Pressing info for the black and tri-color variants have not been released, it appears my contact at Hopeless is flat out ignoring me know when I ask about pressing info. Black is available at all retailers aside from HMV. Urban Outfitters does carry black copies in physical stores, as I saw some copies there along with their exclusive splatter variant..

Regarding Urban Outfitters (UO), they seem to be picking up their game with exclusive variants, filling the void left by $hit Topic, who are scaling back their vinyl section, which is a shame because UO also overprices their exclusives. This NFG exclusive is $22 (plus tax) in UO, while you can easily find it elsewhere for $18 or less. I bought this for $13 shipped from an online distro.

All variants, except for the picture disc, come in a single pocket jacket with printed dust sleeve made from card stock. A download card/code is included with all copies though. There is a hype sticker on all the traditional variants, which indicates color.  Most of them are small white circles affixed to the top right corner. The UO variant has its own, unique hype sticker however. A giant yellow rectangle affixed to the right side that advertises the UO exclusivity along with the color of the record. The HMV variant has an additional hype sticker along with the white circle, which is a simply a white square saying “COLOURED VINYL.” No, that is not a misspelling; it’s the British way, or what they would say, proper way, of spelling color.

If you’re familiar with NFG vinyl, the picture disc for Makes Me Sick is practically identical to their self-titled album. It comes in a picture disc sleeve with a flap, and has a backing insert. This insert has the lyrics on one side (the front) with the track listing and artwork on the back side. The lyric side of the insert has a similar design to the printed dust sleeve with the traditional variants. If you look at the photos below of the dust sleeve, where it has the lyrics divided between the A and b-sides split between each side, the picture disc insert simply has the same design, just combined onto one side.

 


After a 17 year hiatus, At The Drive-In came back to release their fourth studio album; in•ter a•li•a. The band has breifly toured hear and there over that span, but this is the first time they have officially gotten back together for any significant amount of time. Rise Records signed the band and have really milked this album for all its worth. Lots of variants for it, lots of exclusives for it and a ton of copies pressed. And that is just for the first pressing. Yes, a second pressing is all but confirmed based on Merchnow’s shipping calendar, despite the first pressing still being readily available. With all the trends with releasing vinyl these days, it seems the latest one is doing a second pressing as quickly as possible not to keep the record in print (because it already is) but simply to get more variants on the market.

The pressing info for in•ter a•li•a is nuts. There are a whopping 23,137 total copies pressed for this record. Sure, some records may have that many, if not more copies pressed if it’s a massive, mainstream release like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Metallica, etc. But for an indie label and for a band like At The Drive-In? Unheard of. Then there are the amount of variants; nine, and exclusive variants; six. And there are variants within variants too. On top of all that, the color schemes and names for the variants see to be purposely complicated and as long as possible. With that much info to keep straight, I will try to lay it all out best I can.

All the variants are on 180 gram vinyl and have unique, color coded center labels that match the specific variant. They al also come in a gatefold jacket with a matte finish and a full color, printed dust sleeve. The dust sleeve has the lyrics printed on one side and a photo of the band on the reverse side. A download card/code is included (though for awful 160 kbps MP3s – inexcusable) and each copy also has a blue rectangle hype sticker that somewhat indicates color. The color of the sticker does not matter or indicate color, all the hype stickers are the same color; a light blue. But for everything other than the solid black and picture disc variants, it will simply say “180 gram colored vinyl.” It won’t list out exactly what the color is. Here is the breakdown of the pressing info, starting with the rarest variant working up to the one with the most copies

150 copies on half sea blue/half cyan blue with cyan blue splatter

500 copes on half bone & half beer with bone splatter

537 copies as a picture disc

600 copies on half “classic” black & half oxblood with “classic” black splatter

600 copies on half “classic” black & half cyan blue with “classic” black splatter

2,250 copies on half grimace purple & half deep purple with grimace purple splatter

2,500 copies on “classic” black (1,000 copies set aside for Urban Outfitters exclusive)

6,000 copies on half bone & half “classic” black with bone splatter

10,000 copies on ultra clear with grimace splatter

 

I will start out by saying the above descriptions are directly from Rise Record’s release page, and they differ from what Merchnow (Rise’s web store host) says. The /150 half sea blue/half cyan blue with cyan blue splatter is a “mega” bundle exclusive via Merchnow. This bundle cost a whopping $290 (before shipping) and come with frivolous and unnecessary things like a guitar pedal, not one but two t-shirts, custom socks, key ring, 45 RPM adaptor, pewter necklace, enamel badge, promo poster and classic (wider than normal) skate deck, along with a CD and cassette copy of the album too.

The /2,500 “classic” black variant is likely a mass retail exclusive, but it is the one with the variant within a variant, as there is an Urban Outfitters exclusive for it. The Urban Outfitters exclusive is limited to 1,000 copies and is simply has an alternate slip cover and comes on black vinyl. This slip cover is printed on thick, glossy card stock and is not screen printed. It is also folded correctly, and it’s a half fold back. Sometimes these exclusive slip covers are screen printed, come on non-glossy card stock, and sometimes are quarter fold sleeves. The Urban Outfitters exclusive comes semi-sealed. The standard LP in the gatefold jacket is sealed, but the slip cover is not sealed inside the factory shrink wrap. Instead it’s placed over top of the shrink wrapped standard LP and then placed inside a re-sealable poly sleeve, which has a distinctive Urban Outfitters barcode sticker affixed to back on the bottom left. I’ve included a photo of this barcode sticker.

Here are the Merchnow exclusives. The /6,000 half bone & half “classic” black with bone splatter, which Merchnow has the colors listed in reverse. The half bone & half beer with bone splatter (which Merchnow has listed as “half bone/half beer with splatter), and the picture disc. The picture disc is exclusive to a bundle that cost $63 (before shipping) that includes a poster, key chain, 45 RPM adaptor and pewter necklace.

The /2,250 half grimace purple & half deep purple with grimace purple splatter is an indie store exclusive. I’m not sure if the /10,000 ultra clear with grimace splatter is exclusive to anywhere. It wouldn’t surprise me if that turns out to be the retail exclusive. But after most of the variants via Merchnow sold out, they put up this ultra clear with grimace splatter online. It wasn’t available for pre-order. Merchnow has the ultra clear with grimace splatter listed as clear with purple splatter.

There are not one but two Australian exclusives. This is the first I’ve ever seen two Australian exclusive variants. The first is the half “classic” black & half oxblood with “classic” black splatter. One Aussie retailer lists this variant as black/oxblood black splatter. The other is the half “classic” black & half cyan blue with “classic” black splatter, which the web store lists as black/cyan with black splatter.

Many times bands will put random words or phrases, or even lyrics in the run out space. This record has different phrases on each side of the record, which when combined together create one longer, but unintelligible, sentence. The etching on the a-side reads “IN DEFENSE OF THE HEARD THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT WILL BE” and the etching on the b-side reads “ADMINISTERED INTRAVENOUSLY BY A STATE APPOINTED THERAPIST” If you combine those separate etchings you will see the complete sentence/message the band wanted to get across.

Retail price on this record is around $20. Merchnow charges $18 (before shipping) for standalone variants. So you could factor that price into the price of the bundles. Urban Outfitters charges $22 (plus applicable tax and/or shipping bought online).

I typically wait for price drops these days and/or a good sale so I can save money on records. But I do collect cover variants (one of the few variants I collect) so I opted for the Urban Outfitters exclusive despite the higher price tag. Once I saw their website having copies in stock, then abruptly out of stock, and with frequently changing ship dates from late May to early June (album was released in April) and no ship to store option to any of their locations in the country, I feared that not only might it be selling out sooner rather than later, but that no stores got any copies and it was an online exclusive. So I decided to buy it rather than wait any longer. They did do a 20% off promotion online, but even with that discount it would still be cheaper to buy it in a physical store. I bit the bullet and drove to my nearest store, delighted to grab the only copy they had left, and it was quite possibly the only copy they got in. Ironically, a few days after my purchase they sent me a $5 off coupon to use on any purchase in store or online, so I will wind up getting this even cheaper.

 

Mae – (m)(a)(e) (“1st” Press)

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Vinyl
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Where do I begin with this fiasco? Guess I’ll start at the beginning. Mae’s trilogy of EPs, entitled Morning, Afternoon and Evening, was confirmed to the public on August 31, 2016, with pre-orders starting on October 5, 2016. The EPs were going to be pressed as a triple LP set, with each EP getting its own 12”, having all three records housed in a tri-fold jacket. Initially advertised as being limited to “only 300 copies,” that insanely low number was very short lived. And when I say very short lived, I mean a matter of minutes.

The band boasted on Twitter about how fast the pressing sold, 12 minutes give or take, and announced they would “make 200 more.” And it didn’t stop there. The band was very greedy with this release, offering up more and more copies as it sold out. Initially advertised as being “limited” to 300 copies, the band announced they would press 200 additional copies to bring the total up to 500 copies. Then after those 200 additional copies sold out, they added even more copies, 250 more copies, to bring the total up to 750, which is where they thankfully stopped. At least for a little while.

The band announced a “second pressing” a few months later in February 2017. But since the first pressing wasn’t even released yet, it’s not actually a second pressing. It’s just one gigantic pressing. This record is the epitome of a dog and pony show. The band lured people in with the extreme rarity (300 copies), then decided to cash in and add more copies to the pressing than what it was originally advertised as being limited to. To illustrate the cash grab motives, the second pressing is still available. It hasn’t sold out more than a month after it started shipping. And it didn’t see a sales surge after people saw how quickly the “first” pressing sold out, nor the post the release date/orders shipping surge either.

I say greedy because it’s one thing to re-press something to meet demand. I’m perfectly fine with that, so long as the second pressing is not announced right on the heels of the first pressing selling out during the pre-order phase. It’s an entirely different thing to blatantly false advertise something as being limited to a certain, small amount, and then decide to increase the amount of copies the release is limited to that same day. And not only more than doubling the total amount for the pressing, but adding more copies to it than it was initially advertised as being limited to? Not ok. Would I have bought this record had it been limited to 750 copies initially and never had more copies added to the pressing? Yes. This is all a matter of principle.

Mae seemed to copy a page out of Anberlin’s book. Anberlin did a practically identical thing with their box set. They (Anberlin) actually fell in between both ships; advertising it as a onetime pressing then decide to re-press it months later under the guise of “meeting demand” when the box set sat around for months and months without selling out. It only sold out a few days before it finally started shipping, not even before its scheduled “release date.” What is it with former Tooth & Nail bands being greedy and unscrupulous? Also no surprise Spartan Records is aboard that ship too.

There was a range of emotions regarding how Mae handled this release. Lots of people were angry and/or upset, myself included. Some people felt ripped off. Some were annoyed. Some didn’t care at all. But the majority was not thrilled about one or more aspects. Many people only bought this record because they felt it would be limited to 300 copies, and felt the hefty $50 before shipping price tag was worth it because only 300 copies were being pressed. Those were the most outspoken individuals, those who felt they were ripped off. With this blog I can appear outspoken, and many times I am. But part of why I write this blog is to highlight all aspects of any given record, any and all pertinent information about it and all the good points along with the bad points regarding it. So it can be a one stop for almost anything you’d want to know about a record. I’m not going to sugar coat anything and I don’t have too many vendettas against certain people, bands or labels. Save for Mightier Than Sword/Academy Fight Song Records and RJ. Who thankfully have seemed to fall off the face of the Earth.

If those issues weren’t enough, the band pulled the dreaded rookie move of launching pre-orders before test pressings were made let alone approved. This became public knowledge once the band posted a picture of the test pressings on their twitter on December 30, 2016. Not that tests were approved, but that they finally received the tests and the project was moving further forward. Again, pre-orders went live October 6, 2016, with an anticipated release date of March 2017.

I fully anticipated this Mae EP triple record set being delayed given all the BS that came about. So I contacted the band in late March, mainly to find out if they were still on target to ship orders in March because the month was quickly ending. So even when I was told they were “expecting the records today” I held my breath. My qualms were realized when someone posted an email he was sent on a message board.

The band apparently sent out emails to customers (not sure how many, if any actually truly got it) saying they oversold the first pressing. Inexcusable considering what they did with this release; consistently adding more and more copies to make as much money as possible. The supposed email (I say supposed and apparent because only one person claimed to receive such an email) asked the customer, who ordered two copies of the first pressing, to switch out one copy of the first pressing for a copy from the second pressing because of the overselling. By coincidence I emailed the band the same day this email was posted on the message board; I emailed hours before it was posted

A few days after I contacted the band and the email was posted on the message board, the band posted on Instagram a picture of Dave Elkins witting out hand written lyric sheets, which would be given to the first 300 orders as a thank you for being patient and being so quick to buy the record. This hand written lyric sheet posed an unseen problem for me, which turned into an ordeal within an ordeal.

Despite the band assuring me orders would start shipping the same week I emailed them (3rd full week of March), they inevitably didn’t. I waited two weeks to contact them again, asking what was going on with my order because people started posting on message boards saying they received their orders in early April. I was told they were waiting for the lyric sheets, as Dave was still finishing them up. I already knew I was in the first 300 orders because I ordered as soon as the pre-order went live and got an order in before the first “sell out.” But it was nice to get confirmation from the band I would be getting the hand written lyric sheet.

Two more weeks go by so I contact the band again to see what is taking so long, and was told they haven’t received any more of the lyric sheets. Implying Dave was sending them in small batches from Tennessee (he lives in Nashville) to Seattle (where orders shipped from). They went on to say they expected to have all of them by now (end of April) but Dave is incredibly busy. I follow Dave on Instagram, and “busy” meant painting a painting, lounging on his couch with his cat and watching the NBA playoffs on tv. That is what Dave was doing when he was working on the lyric sheets. I didn’t expect him to finish in a day or two, or even a week, but a month to write a mere nine lines 300 times? Absurd. I worked in a minor league baseball clubhouse for two years and those guys can sign 1,000 baseballs in about an hour, all before a game. And about the lyric sheets, they’re for a song that is not even on any of the EPs in this vinyl set; they’re for a brand new song that appears on a 7” Mae is charging $10 for, before shipping. And they’re written on cheap notebook paper.

You might think I’m one of those crazy people who email bands/labels/distros in an unreasonable time frame asking why my order hasn’t shipped after one day, but I’m not. I’m incredibly patient. But I felt I had to stay on top of the band about shipping my order because it was well past the point I could file a Paypal claim to get my money back, even with Paypal’s new extended 180 day window. Given everything that transpired with this release I was a little concerned about losing my money.

I finally received my record the second week of May 2017, over a month after they were supposed to ship, after having already waited since October 2016.

So now that all that nonsense is out of the way, here are the finer points of this record. As aforementioned the three EPs were pressed as a triple 12” set, with each EP getting its own 12” and unique color of vinyl. There are two variants for the set, one for the “first” pressing and another for the “second pressing.” I don’t consider there to be two separate pressings, it’s just one bulk pressing because they shipped at the same exact time and were very likely pressed at the same time too. There were first 300 copies, then 500 copies, then finally settling on 750 copies on transparent yellow, transparent orange, and aqua blue. Morning is on yellow, Afternoon is on orange and Evening is on aqua blue. The other variant, which some call the “second pressing” is limited to 500 copies on yellow smoke, orange smoke, and aqua blue smoke. Morning is on yellow smoke, Afternoon is on orange smoke and Evening is on aqua blue smoke. The base color for the smokes is clear. The first mock ups released had the records appearing more of a opaque base color (yellow, orange, or blue) with darker base color smoke. Later, the mock ups were adjusted to reflect what the records actually turned out to be.

The fine details of this release are great. For the most part, each record comes in a color corresponding dust sleeve, all of them except the yellow one. Why or how the band couldn’t find a yellow dust sleeve is beyond me. I know they exist and can be easily bought online in bulk. They found an orange one and a blue one (which the yellow record stupidly comes in) but not a yellow one. Even on of those manila envelope colored dust sleeve would’ve worked better than a black dust sleeve.

While on the cheap, flimsy side, each panel of the tri-fold jacket has the lyrics for each respective EP printed on it. So the pocket that holds the Morning EP has the Morning EP lyrics printed on it. The inner panel (the one that faces the back when the open the jacket all the way) has liner notes from the band printed on it along with a picture of the band after one of their shows, facing the crowd taking a bow of sorts. The cover is also embossed, but it’s poorly done as it’s a bit off center. Each of the letters; m, a and e are done in the respective colors that match the color of the record, and each of those letters are embossed. Only the embossing is off as it’s slightly to the right of the actual letter. I took photos of the cover at an angle to illustrate how it’s off.

Download cards/codes are not physically included with any of the records, but after you ordered the record the band sent you a download via email. The download was sent upon purchase, and was made available long before the records shipped. The audio on the vinyl version, and what is on the download from the vinyl version, is a re-mixed and re-mastered version than what was originally released from the EP’s original releases back in 2009-2010. There is not a drastic difference in the re-mix/master; it has a more whimsical feel.

 

 

 

Minus The Bear – VOIDS

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Vinyl
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Minus The Bear’s new album, VOIDS, was not a variant fest or have insanely limited ones either. It’s great to see a label like Suicide Squeeze make a record widely available while offering choices for people if they want a more limited variant or colored vinyl. VOIDS was pressed on three variants; 180 gram black, “electric” blue and splatter.

The splatter is clear with blue, black and peach splatter. It was an indie store and tour exclusive, limited to 5,000 copies. “Electric” blue was exclusive to the band’s official pre-order and is limited to 1,000 copies. The mock up released for the blue had it looking like a straight forward translucent blue, but what actually turned out was more of a opaque navy/royal blue with black and white marble. The 180 gram black is widely available, even some indie stores got copies of it, and it’s also limited to 5,000 copies.

All copies come in a die-cut jacket, and full color printed dust sleeve and a download card/code. The artwork and layout was designed by Nick Steinhardt. The die-cut portion is on the cover, with the album title spelled out in big letters. This die-cutting creates some issues, since the album title is spelled out in such large letters that take up the bulk of the cover, it doesn’t lend much structural support for it. So once you slide the record out of the jacket, the cover collapses in against the back of the jacket. This should go without saying, but be careful sliding the record back in the jacket because it can catch on each thin strip left behind from the die-cut.

With the die-cutting, the printed dust sleeve shows through to add another element to the artwork. The sleeve shows through the die-cut, adding depth to the artwork. Instead of the typical white backing, or even black, inside the jacket is a peach color. The lyrics are printed on the reverse side of the dust sleeve.

There is a circle hype sticker on copies which indicate color along with saying “limited edition.” The splatter is simply called “splatter” on the hype sticker though. It doesn’t list out what colors make up the record. Retail price on this is around $20. Suicide Squeeze and the band are actually charging more for the blue and black variants online than many records stores are. I bought this from Amoeba on black vinyl (they actually had the splatter and black vinyl) for $19. They were selling the splatter for $21 though. I took advantage of their monthly 15% off sales and picked this record up for less. If there is one thing I learned about Minus The Bear is that it’s better to buy their albums sooner rather than later, as they typically sell records very well. And once they sell out they can fetch a pretty penny on the secondary market.

Acceptance – Colliding By Design

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Vinyl
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Acceptance reunited to release what is only their second full length album in 2017, entitled Colliding By Design. The band signed with Rise Records, who opted to do four variants for the record, some exclusive to their traditional bundles. Thankfully there was only one bundle exclusive variant, but no shortage of useless bundle options though.

The bundle exclusive is half clear/half “doublemint with black splatter limited to 400 copies. “Doublemint” is simply mint green. At least that was the color that was advertised when pre-orders went live. What actually wound up shipping to people was that color scheme, but with red splatter instead of black. Needless to say lots of people were surprised when they opened up their “black” splatter copies.

The bundles ranged in price from $33 up to $61. There were five bundles in total, all with different names. Two of them were the $33 bundle, with different t-shirts in each one along with a poster and digital download. The next tier bundle, costing $52, had your choice of the two shirts from the $33 bundles along with the same poster and digital download, but added a CD and cassette copy of the album. The top tier bundle, costing $61, had all the aforementioned items, including both t-shirt designs instead of your choice of one.

The other variants are “classic” black limited to 100 copies, oxblood in coke bottle green limited to 600 copies and oxblood limited to 3,000 copies. The oxblood in coke bottle green is a Rise Record exclusive, which is still available as of posting this. I have no idea where the black was available from (it was never for sale on Merchnow), or where you can buy it at this point. The oxblood was a Pledgemusic (which I will explain about a bit later) exclusive variant, at least at first. I ordered this record from an online distro and received a copy on oxblood.

Initially the band went through Pledgemusic to fund the release of this album, way back in May 2016. They offered up the typical crowd funding goodies, like autographed items, test pressings, exclusive clothing, handwritten lyric sheets, studio hang outs and private shows at your house. You could pre-order the yet unnamed album at this time too, and with this preliminary pre-order the band released cover art that differs drastically from the final product. I’m including a photo of this early version of the cover art below, it should be obvious which it is. The record, on either black or colored vinyl, cost $30 through Pledgemusic, or $40 for it to be autographed.

In December 2016 it was announced that the band signed with Rise Records, and that their new album was slated for a release date of February 24, 2017. And that is where some issues started arising with the Pledgemusic exclusive variant. There were some delays with Pledgemusic items shipping, not just the exclusive vinyl variant. When people starting asking what was going on with their Pledgemusic stuff, the band sent out a statement saying that when they signed with Rise, they wanted everything to ship through their merch company (Merchnow). The band sent everything to them in a timely manner, but the merch company was slow in shipping.

So I’m assuming that is how Rise Records obtained the Pledgemusic exclusive variant, as the band pressed a certain amount, sent Merchnow or Rise most if not all of the copies, and Rise sent out the leftover copies after Pledgemusic orders were fulfilled, to distros. This is where I bought a copy from, and received it on oxblood.

Retail price on this is around $18; $16.50 if you buy directly from the label (via Merchnow) or around $18 if you buy from most any indie record store. Some online distros may be cheaper though, especially seeing as it’s been a few months since this album came out. With that price in mind, it’s a bit of a rip-off.

Seeing as another Rise release from around the same time; At The Drive-In’s in•ter a•li•a was on 180 gram vinyl housed in a very nice gatefold jacket with a printed dust sleeve, and only cost $1.50 more, it’s shameful that the label decided to release this Acceptance record on what is maybe standard weight vinyl (it’s very thin) in a cheap, thin single pocket jacket without an insert or printed dust sleeve.

There was a lot of both hype and high expectations for this album, but for me it’s a huge let down. Phantoms was such a good, high energy album, while Colliding By Design is anything but. It’s just not a good album by any stretch. But I felt the compulsion to buy it anyway to keep my Acceptance collection going. Though I waited for the price to come down significantly, where I snagged it for $11 shipped. For that price I felt comfortable buying a mediocre at best album.


After much hype Taking Back Sunday finally released their self-titled album in mid 2017. First it was rumors a few years ago that never panned out, then it suddenly became confirmed and was talked about for a few months without a pre-order or release date, and finally in late March 2017 the record was finally released. Lastly, there is the even longer talked about band exclusive colors that have yet to be released as of posting this.

You see, when the pre-orders first went live in early February, people asked the band on social media where their pre-order was or if an official pre-order would be happening. The band responded by saying they will have exclusive colors of Taking Back Sunday along with the Louder Now re-press available “soon.” That infamous “soon” phrasing turned into a release date of summer 2017. Several months after the March release date. So with that in mind, I am considering the colored variant a second pressing, since there is no way they were pressed at the same time as the initial copies on black vinyl. For those curious, the color for s/t is supposed to be on green vinyl based on the mock up the band released.

Pressing info has not been released for the first pressing on black vinyl, and it likely never will be because s/t was a major label release. All copies come with an insert, which has the lyrics printed on one side with the liner notes on the reverse side. No download card/code is included, which is inexcusable these days. This wasn’t a licensed release; it was the original rights holders putting it out, but the major label was too cheap and greedy to include a digital download for it. It’s even more inexcusable when you consider the retail price: around $17. But at least they did press it, so there is some silver lining.

In late July 2017 the highly anticipated second pressing on colored vinyl was released. Copies were sold on tour and online only at the band’s official web store hosted by Shop Bench Mark, for the ridiculous price of $25 for a single LP. Tack on shipping and the total came out to around $32. The color is green limited to 500 copies. The band is also selling copies on tour with them, a limited amount per show.