After a lengthy break, the longest break in-between albums of their career, The Killers released their latest album, Wonderful Wonderful, in late September 2017. If you’re expecting another Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town or even Day & Age you’ll be disappointed with this new album. And I think you’ll be disappointed with all future Killers albums as well because this is most likely the direction the band will take from here on out. Wonderful Wonderful continues in the vein of Battle Born, but I think it’s a better album than Battle Born.

Pulling a dirty trick out of the past, Island Records released two different versions for   Wonderful Wonderful; first the standard edition followed a few months later by the deluxe edition. There are many differences between the two versions, and enough of them that will get people like me to buy both of them. Islands Records intentionally delayed the release of the deluxe edition to sucker people into buying the standard edition. It’s an old school marketing strategy that I hoped would stay in the past. But that is not the only dirty trick Island Records (along with a handful of other major labels) are pulling these days.

Aside from any visual and format differences between the standard and deluxe editions, unarguably the biggest, and worst difference is that the standard version does not come with a download card, while the deluxe edition does, at least in some form. You see, Island Records, along with a handful of other major labels, are starting to not put download cards in physical releases anymore. Instead, they are opting to only issue them to those who order the record from either the label’s or band’s official online store. The digital downloads are either delivered via e-mail or are redeemable after placing your order through a link on your order form/receipt. It’s yet another shady marketing strategy aimed to get people to buy records for a higher price in the form of full retail price, if not for a mark up on it, and directly from the label/band so they make even more money by not having to pay middle man like a distributor to get copies out to say Amazon, Best Buy, indie record stores or other online distros. I know Island Records and Interscope Records, which are owned Universal Music Group, and Reprise Records, which is owned by Warner Music Group, employ this no download card strategy, so it wouldn’t surprise me if every label under those respective umbrellas do the same.

Now that my rant is out of the way, here are the differences between the standard and deluxe editions of Wonderful Wonderful, which is what most of you are likely interested in. The standard edition, released on September 22, 2017, is pressed as a single LP (with variants) in gatefold jacket. It has the standard 10 song track listing, actually split evenly with five tracks per side. The deluxe edition, released on November 22, 2017, is pressed as a double LP (with no variants) housed in a gatefold jacket. It has three exclusive bonus tracks; “Money On Straight,” “The Man (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)” and “The Man (Duke Dumont Remix”, which are placed at the end of the standard studio album, placing these tracks all by themselves on the d-side. And because the deluxe edition is a double LP, it allows for better spacing of the tracks, so the track listing/order is a bit different, with only three track on the a-side, three tracks on the b-side and four tracks on the c-side. Not sure of any sound quality differences, but I would assume the deluxe edition sounds better simply because of this better spacing due to it being double LP instead of cramming the same album onto single LP.

Which brings me to why I bought a copy of the standard edition and plan on buying a copy of the deluxe edition as well; the cover art. Each edition has its own, unique and exclusive cover art. While they’re similar and share similar inspiration, they are different. The standard edition has a person holding up a conch shell on the cover, while the deluxe edition has a conch shell resting on the ground (what appears to be a dried up lake bed). I’m not sure if the gatefold artwork is the same between the standard and deluxe editions though, as I’ve never seen photos of the deluxe edition.

It appears as if not all copies of the standard edition come with a hype sticker, as the copy I bought from Target (yes Target sells records now) did not have a hype sticker on it. The hype stickers are all basically the same (you can see a photo of the U.S. pressing of the standard edition below); a vertical black rectangle with white and pink text. This text is basically shared between all the stickers as well, advertising all the singles and the fact it’s the Killers’ new album. The sticker on the UK exclusive pink copies are slightly different, as they say “Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl” and the deluxe edition sticker is slightly different as well with it saying “Deluxe Edition… + 3 Exclusive Bonus Tracks.”

I mentioned above variants for the standard edition, and there are only two. Unfortunately the U.S. did not get the colored vinyl variant, which made it even more expensive to obtain. The UK got Wonderful Wonderful on exclusive pink vinyl, which cost around 25 GBP before shipping. And with the exchange rate Americans’ wallets were hit a bit harder. The UK exclusive variant was flipper gold, with lots of copies selling for double retail price on the secondary market, despite pressing info never being released. It did sell out though, but there could still be 5,000 copies of it. Pressing info has not been released for any variant or edition. Aside from the pink UK exclusive, all copies for both editions are on standard weight black vinyl.

Price was just discussed a bit, but even retail price within the U.S. for this album was on the high side. The standard version cost around $25. Prices on it have started to come down though. The deluxe edition, which is exclusively available from the Killers’ official web store, costs $35 before shipping. Copies of the deluxe edition  have not started showing up on places like ebay, but the only reason for that is because they’re not flippable at $35 straight from the band, aside from them still being readily available.

 

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Weezer – Pacific Daydream

Posted: February 22, 2018 in Vinyl
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If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Raditude or Hurley, I’m sorry to tell you you’re wrong. Pacific Daydream is the worst Weezer album to date. It’s a real head scratcher. What was Rivers Cuomo thinking? Sure, Weezer has had their fair share of uncharacteristic, cheesy songs like “Beverley Hills” and “Can’t Stop Partying”, but at least those songs have some semblance of substance. The heavy use of samples in Pacific Daydream is another puzzler. Most of the songs on this album are as creative as their made up words turned into song titles and choruses. Mexican Fender and La Mancha Screwjob? What the hell is that?

To make matters worse, there are variants for Pacific Daydream. Four in total, and some of them are sold out now so collectors who didn’t pre-order them will have to pay between $35-45 in order to get it. Albums like this make me glad I’m not an avid variant collector, at least not in the sense that I need to buy/collect every color a record is pressed on. At least if the album is good I wouldn’t feel as bad about spending the money on variants, but in the case of Pacific Daydream, it’s pretty much a slap in the face to spend upwards of $80 in order to complete a Weezer collection. I heard lots of Weezer collectors complain about the fact that there were variants and that there were so many of them. And in an unusual twist, I actually felt bad for them in this case.

But at least the band/label did not charge more for certain variants for whatever reason; the retail price for all them is $20 straight from the band/label. Obviously that price may vary slightly if you buy the record from an indie record store or online distro, but it will still be around $20. Here are the variants and pressing info for most of them; transparent/clear and pink / transparent with pink/clear blob limited to 1,000 copies, white with black splatter limited to 2,000 copies, red with black splatter limited to 3,000 copies, and an unknown amount on black vinyl. The transparent/clear and pink / transparent with pink/clear blob and white with black splatter were band exclusives available via Weezer’ web store, the red with black splatter is an indie record store exclusive and the black is widely available from all other retailers. All copies except the black variant come with a hype sticker that says what color the variant is.

All copies come in a single pocket jacket with both a full color printed dust sleeve and insert. A download card is included as well for high quality 320 kbps MP3s. The dust sleeve has the liner notes printed on one side with a promo photo of the band on the other side. The insert has the lyrics printed on both sides of it; one side of the insert per each side of the record. And if this album wasn’t already bad enough from a music perspective, loads of the artwork imagery utilizes some kind of Asian language text. I would venture to assume it’s Japanese, but only because Weezer has spent a lot of time touring in Japan. It would be nice to be able to read everything associated with an English language album and not miss out on what could be important context into the album.

I mentioned the retail price of Pacific Daydream above, but if you don’t care about what variant you get you can find this record for less than $15. I bought it for $11 shipped. And yes, I’m aware it’s a bit hypocritical to say this album is horrible, and say I feel bad for Weezer collectors, but still buy it.

 

 


2017 finally saw the release of Santi by The Academy Is… on vinyl. It was released by Enjoy The Ride Records (ETR) on two variants, each limited to 500 copies. ETR was touting this as a “10th Anniversary” pressing, but other than a brief mention in the item description in his web store, there is no mention of it anywhere else.

I was a bit disappointed with the color choices, as the obvious choice would have been black as a base for any splatter, swirls, etc. But no, ETR went with clear for the base color for the splatter they released, and chose to do a half and half split for the other variant. And again, no black was used for the split; clear and magenta were used. The splatter is clear with red/orange and neon red splatter (ETR’s pre-order announcement image says red, but the web store description says orange). The artwork is red neon lights set against a black background; how much simpler does picking colors get?

As this is an ETR release, it received the typical ridiculous ETR pricing; $25 for a single LP before shipping. ETR also jacked up their shipping prices, as I was charged over $6 for shipping. I bought both the Yo Gabba Gabba records he released (under his Enjoy The Toons moniker) not too long before buying Santi, and was only charged $5 and change for shipping two records (bear in mind I bought these records back in the summer, closer to their original release dates. I’m just very late posting about them). You can say I’m a sucker for still buying this record after complaining about the price. Believe me, I’d would have preferred to wait and hope there was a sale (something he rarely does), but the pressing sold out pretty quick and it was either pay the asking price or not get a copy and be forced to pay flipper prices, which are even more ridiculous.

Santi comes in a single pocket jacket that ETR claims is “upgraded” to a 400 GSM card stock jacket. I don’t notice anything superior about this “upgraded” jacket. If it is thicker, it’s only thicker ever so slightly. And it’s definitely not card stock; it’s the same standard cardboard material used for most jackets. The jacket does have a spot gloss finish on the neon light lettering, which is a nice touch. But even that could have been done better, as it’s not as noticeable as it should be when compared to other records I have with spot gloss finishing on the jacket. You have to look at the jacket for Santi closely, and at an angle to see the spot glossing is actually there. When you should be able to easily see it no matter how you look at it. The only thing that pops on the spot glossing is one spot on each letter, which makes it appear that the finish is not done on the entire letter.

No insert is included with this release, and the center labels are a variation of stock Atlantic Records labels.  It’s an odd choice for the center labels, because all the other Academy Is vinyl releases, even the ones with an association with Atlantic, have album/release specific center labels that are inspired by the cover art or other imagery associated with the release. I own the CD version of Santi, and even that doesn’t have any stock Atlantic imagery on the disc itself. One thing to note with this release is that ETR has apparently started springing for shrink wrapping on their releases, so Santi comes shrink wrapped, but without a hype sticker of any kind.

One good thing ETR did with Santi is included the bonus track “Ghost” at the end of the studio album, appearing as the last track on side B of the record. ETR could have done better though, as there are four bonus tracks for Santi. Yes, the studio album with all four bonus tracks would not fit on a single LP. But ETR could have done a double LP, either stretching out the master to fit on all four sides, or do a nice screen print or etching of the album art on the d-side.  And yes, I don’t know the fine print of the license deal ETR worked out to release Santi, but considering Atlantic let him use one bonus track, odds are they would let him use all four of them. And considering he already charges $25 for a single LP, it shouldn’t cost much more for consumers for a double LP. Say it costs $30, that would be $15 per record, which last time I checked is cheaper than $25 for a single LP.

The record as it stands with just the one bonus track, clocks in at 42 minutes, 47 seconds. Which barely fits on a single LP at 33 1/3 rpm to begin with. The studio album, with all four bonus tracks, clocks in at 50 minutes, 25 seconds. ETR could have done the studio album on sides A and B, and then put all four bonus track on side C, leaving room for the aforementioned screen print or etching on side D. Or even mastered it at 45 rpm and spread it out over all four sides.

An interesting note about this release is that the splatter sold out much faster than the split, doing so in about 4 hours. The entire first pressing took a few days to sell out. So further illustrates that people love splatter variants, if you somehow weren’t aware of that by now. This week (as of the posting date of this entry) ETR announced a second pressing, on yet to be announced colors and pressing info.

The Academy Is - Santi - Copy

 

 

311 – Greatest Hits ’93 – ’03

Posted: January 30, 2018 in Vinyl
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Around the same time 311 was embarking on their annual Summer Tour in 2017, it was announced that their greatest hits album would be released on vinyl for the first time. The greatest hits album, which has the official title of Greatest Hits ‘93 – ’03, was pressed as a double LP on black vinyl. It comes in a gatefold jacket, with the records housed in anti-static dust sleeves as opposed to the more traditional paper dust sleeves. A download card is also included, which a nice touch for an old compilation album, especially considering major labels like Warner Bros. and Universal are not even including download cards in a lot of their new releases these days.

This greatest hits comp is worth getting for the somewhat exclusive song on it; the Morrissey cover “Love Song,” which was recorded for the movie 50 First Dates. Along with that song, there are two more unreleased (at the time Greatest Hits ‘93 – ’03 was first released in 2004) b-sides on this greatest hits comp; “How Does It Feel” and “First Straw.”

Retail price on this, as with most 311 releases it seems, is around $25. But like with most 311 releases, prices will eventually come down because it doesn’t sell well. I learned my lesson with this the hard way. It took several months, but prices have finally started falling. I was able to snag this for $15 shipped.

311 – Mosaic

Posted: January 30, 2018 in Vinyl
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311 is still going strong, releasing their 12th studio album in 2017; Mosaic. Mosaic continues on the track of the band’s two previous efforts in Universal Pulse and Stereolithic, but does take it up a notch in terms of quality. It has more of reggae vibe than the metal, alternative and hard rock touches found on their earliest albums. Not that Mosaic doesn’t have any of those elements on it, it’s just not as prevalent as say Grassroots, their self-titled album or even From Chaos. The only thing counting against Mosaic is that it’s just too long of an album. I found my interest starting to wane towards the end of the album both from the length of the songs themselves, and the monotony of them. Those two go hand in hand; because most of the songs are close to if not over four minutes in length. Songs started blending together after a while, and it became tougher to listen intently in order to critique the album.

Mosaic was pressed as a double LP housed in a gatefold jacket, and in an interesting move, the band released several variants for it. Not that 311 albums haven’t had variants in the past, but those that did were licensed out to other labels trying to cash in on the resurgence of vinyl. This album was released by major label BMG/Sony, so it’s even more surprising to see variants. In total there are three variants, with all of them being exclusive to somewhere.

There is a white variant that is exclusive to FYE, a translucent coke bottle clear variant that was exclusively sold on the band’s 2017 Summer tour, and a black variant that is the mass retail exclusive. So if you buy a copy from any retailer other than FYE, you will receive a copy on black vinyl. Each variant has its own unique hype sticker too, which helps you identify the variant. The white FYE exclusive has a white vertical rectangle hype sticker that says “FYE exclusive” and “white vinyl” on it. The FYE hype sticker is slightly larger than the hype stickers found on the rest of the variants, but it has the same basic design. You can even see that it was meant to have the same design and layout as the rest of the hype sticker, but an extra portion was added to the length/height of the sticker to accommodate the “FYE exclusive” text. The tour exclusive on coke bottle clear has a teal hype sticker that says “translucent coke bottle clear variant” and “limited edition” on it. It makes no mention of it being a tour exclusive, but don’t worry, it is. The black variant has a blue hype sticker that is similar in design to the hype sticker on the tour exclusive variant. But it does not mention color.

Pressing info has not been officially released for any of the variants. So don’t believe any numbers you see published anywhere. It’s all pure speculation or even worse, taking the word of an ebay flipper as gold. And if there is one person we all know is trust worthy, it’s someone who is trying to sell something they bought for $25 with the sole intention to resell it for over $100 the very next day.

All copies come with a huge, one sided fold out poster. But this poster is just the album artwork enlarged. What makes this poster a bit more understandable is that the band asked fans to send in photos of themselves in order to include the photos in the cover art. So this enlarged posters allows fans a slightly better chance to find their photo. A download card is also included. The lyrics are printed inside the gatefold. The center labels of each record are different colors; A/B is purple and C/D is light blue.

When Mosaic was first released retail price on it as on the high side; $25. The tour exclusive was $30 at shows. But like with most 311 releases, prices will eventually come down because it doesn’t sell well. I learned my lesson with this the hard way. It took several months, but prices have drastically fallen. You can buy Mosaic on black vinyl for $15 or even less as of posting this.  I bought my copy for $10 shipped, and that was after losing out on a copy by a mere 49 cents a week earlier. But I got the last laugh there because I was able to snag the next copy the ebay seller listed for $9.99 with free shipping. Because the white and coke bottle clear variants are “limited” they are still fetching more on the secondary market, but prices are not crazy, even for the tour variant which is now unavailable from a retail perspective. The highest a tour variant has sold for is $150, but that was after the first few dates of the tour. Prices have steadily declined ever since that initial sale on the secondary market; dropping all the way down to the original price of $30.


Foo Fighters are back with their latest album Concrete And Gold, the band’s ninth studio album. Concrete And Gold is much better than Sonic Highways. Can we just forget that album ever happened and have this be the deserved followed up to Wasted Light?

There are elements of math rock, and lots of syncopation on Concrete And Gold. Some songs are very technical with lots of dynamics; a lost art in today’s era of overproduced, auto tuned garbage. It’s like they went back to the basics of music composition to shore up the foundation that was weakening beneath them. But with that said, there are hints of the producer, Greg Kurstin, taking a song to another level. Not so much overproduction, but what a producer used to be before the days of garage band and pro tools turning anyone with a computer and a guitar bought at a big box store into a “musician.”

In order to grasp the scope of this record, you need to watch the mini documentary Dave Grohl released about the recording process of Concrete And Gold. When I say mini, it’s roughly six minutes in length, and it’s animated. One of the reasons I loved Wasted Light was because of how that album was recorded. While Concrete And Gold strays away from those roots, it’s a far more coherent album than Sonic Highways. The one running theme carrying between all three of these albums though is guest musicians/vocalists. Concrete And Gold has its fair share of guests, ranging from Justin Timberlake to Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men to Sir Paul McCartney (on drums no less. what can’t he play?). Drummer Taylor Hawkins even gets lead vocal duties on one song; “Sunday Rain.” Which led to Grohl joking in a tv interview that it’s always been his dream to get Taylor to sing more, so he could quite the band and go to one of their shows to watch them.

Another thing that carried over from Sonic Highways is variants for the vinyl version of the album. If you remember, Sonic Highways had several different covers, one for each city a song was recorded in, along with a composite cover featuring the complete artwork. Concrete And Gold thankfully does not have as many variants; only two. But both are based on the cover art/packaging. There is the main, widely available variant, which has the main album artwork, the one we’re all familiar with. Then there is the quasi Spotify exclusive cover/packaging that was exclusively sold by merch company Merchbar, dubbed the “Black-on-Black Edition.”  The link wasn’t intended to be made publicly available, but as soon as someone found it or was given access to it, of course it was posted all over the internet. This was intended to be a “reward” for people who listened to a lot of Foo Fighters songs on Spotify, as initially only links were given to them, but you didn’t have to put in a code or anything like that to buy it. So in reality anyone could buy this if they followed the link.

The “Black-on-Black Edition” has the same basic artwork, with the Concrete And Gold logo on it, but it’s all black. The Concrete And Gold logo is embossed on the “Black-on-Black Edition,” which is exclusive to this variant. If you ordered the black-on-black- edition variant online, a free sticker o the Concrete And Gold log was included (see photo of it below). This variant was advertised as being limited edition, but without pressing info listed. It took a few weeks for it to sell out, despite what many flippers would like you to believe. Initially the “Black-on-Black Edition” was only available online. Retail price on it was $20 before shipping, which is about the same price the standard variant is being sold for.

As expected, this “Black-on-Black Edition” was flipped extensively. It seems like at least 60% of copies bought were bought just to flip, with one person buying at least eight copies to flip. Ebay was littered with copies in the days after it shipped, with flippers not even bothering to take the record out of the box in order to photograph it. They listed it with photos of the record sitting inside the opened box it originally shipped in. Initially prices were out of control for it, selling for over $100 at auction, with majority of flippers listing them as a BIN with prices over $100. But in the month or so since the album was released, prices have fallen drastically, with copies routinely selling for closer to $50.

Both variants come in a gatefold jacket, with the artwork inside the gatefold being the same for both. Both variants also come pressed on standard weight black vinyl, with the same etching on the d-side. The phrasing on the web store selling the “Black-on-Black Edition” claims “audiophile grade 140 gram vinyl,” but don’t believe that hype. It’s just a buzz word used to drive up sales. All copies come with a download card, which gains you access to high quality 320 kbps MP3s. Only the regular jacket variant comes with a hype sticker.

Getting back to the etching, it’s rather bland as at first it appears to just be text for a random website. But when you go to the website it leads you to a song book with sheet music for every song on the album, which can be downloaded for free as a PDF file. You have the option to download the sheet music for each song individually, or download the entire book. It’s an interesting addition, especially when you consider song books are one of the new trendy things bands are printing up and selling to their fans for 20 bucks a pop.

Retail price on the standard variant is around $20. Of course some retailers may sell it for a little more, or even a little less. I bought a copy for around $15 shipped. Considering this is a double LP, I don’t see many places discounting this record any less than that price. I mentioned above that the “Black-on-Black Edition” retailed for $20 (before shipping) online via MerchBar, but once the band’s headlining tour in support of Concrete And Gold kicked off, they were selling copies of it at the shows, but for $25. Considering shipping cost around $5 from Merchbar, it’s essentially the same price.

Because of my stance on refraining from pre-ordering records, I missed the boat on the “Black-on-Black Edition.” I planned on buying it, but held off after seeing it sell so slowly. Like I said above, it was available for weeks. In a cruel twist of fate, when I finally convinced myself to go and pre-order it because it was getting close to release date, it was sold out. It was still available the day before. Even with this strike out, it’s one of only a few records/variants I missed out on through my somewhat diligent no pre-ordering policy these days. But the game went into extra innings and I got another chance to buy the “Black-on-Black Edition” for retail price via the official Foo Fighters store, as more copies of it would put up for sale online there.

 

 

 

 

Foo Fighters – Big Me 7″

Posted: January 25, 2018 in Vinyl
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One of the last few records needed to complete my Foo Fighters collection; the “Big Me” 7” was not so much hard to find as it was finding for a decent price. This 7” pops up for sale on a regular basis, but usually winds up selling for more than I’m willing to spend for a multitude of factors. It’s not as expensive at their most expensive record, the “Everlong” 7”, which can sell for over $100, but the “Big Me” 7” is a UK release, and very few of them were imported to the U.S.. And that makes it inherently more expensive to buy for Americans. The song being the band’s breakout hit doesn’t help much either.

Copies of this 7” routinely sell for $20, but when you consider majority of them have to be imported from somewhere in Europe, that price immediately jumps up at least another $10. So when I saw a U.S. based seller selling one on ebay not too long ago, I jumped on it. I wound up spending a tad more than I would’ve liked, but I bit the bullet in order to check this off my want list. It was sitting on that list for literally over a decade. Which brings me to the next hurdle in trying to snag this 7”; condition.

Seeing as the “Big Me” 7” was released back in 1996, lots of copies have not aged well. Many were cut up in order to fit into jukeboxes. Others have damaged jackets simply due to age because they weren’t printed on the best material to begin with. Some have random price tags stuck onto the cover that would be impossible to get off. Circling back to the damage I just mentioned, considering most copies being sold had to be shipped overseas, the damage risk went up even more.

All copies of the “Big Me” 7” were pressed on white marble, with some copies having slight marbling to them. There is a black circle hype sticker on the cover of all copies as well, which says “Special Edition White Vinyl.” The record has a small hole, not a large hole. Don’t be fooled by people selling copies with a large hole saying that is how the record was originally released. That person is selling a copy that was cut in order to be used in a jukebox. The jacket is made of weird card stock type material, but it’s not the thick modern card stock most of us are familiar with. It’s somewhere between a paper sleeve and a traditional 7” jacket. The track listing has “Big Me” on the a-side along with “Floaty (BBC Evening Session Recording)” and “Gas Chamber” (BBC Evening Session Recording)” as the lone track on the b-side.

Foo Fighters - Big Me - Copy