Archive for March, 2018

2018 MLB Predictions

Posted: March 28, 2018 in Baseball, Sports
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Major League Baseball seems to start their season earlier and earlier every year, which just shortens the time I have to do my due diligence with coming out with my predictions for the upcoming season. The 2018 season was especially tough considering lots of marquee free agents still have not signed. Anyway, I will try to make this as brief as possible. I originally planned on doing a division by division break down, but I found that in past years more people read my overall predictions rather than by division, so here goes.

Until recently the American League East used to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball. There would always be one surprise team outside of the Yankees and Red Sox that would sneak up on them. Those days are gone though. But with that said that doesn’t mean the AL East is not a tough division to predict. It’s gone back to a fairly level playing field after New York and Boston. The Blue Jays went from an overnight powerhouse to one of the worst teams in the division, while the Rays have quietly improved. The Orioles are another team hovering around .500 who make it next to impossible to predict the correct final standings after 162 games.

The Yankees were ahead of schedule last year, with almost everyone (including Yankees brass) predicting that 2018 would be the year they would be contenders again. Coming within one game of the World Series with a team full of rookies and other inexperienced players thanks to Brian Cashman finally putting long overdue stock in the farm system has led to a resurgence in the Bronx. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton is the nail in the coffin of this division. And the fact that they did it for next to nothing is even more worrisome for the rest of baseball, not just the American League. The Yankees landed the best power hitter in baseball to go along with the second best power hitter in baseball who they already had in Aaron Judge, and it presents a lineup that is arguably the most fearsome since murderer’s row. Add in Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, whomever of the platoon of center fielders, and you have a recipe for a pennant.

My only worry is their rotation, which is a real head scratcher. They re-signed former ace CC Sabathia, but other than that made no additions to what is the weakest part of their active roster. Jordan Montgomery was named the fifth starter. You’re still not sure what Masahiro Tanaka can provide considering his health is always a question mark. If you take away the brilliant performance CC turned in during the post season you’d be asking questions as to why Brian Cashman re-signed him. Sonny Gray was less than convincing since coming to the Bronx from Oakland, and he looked like a guy who just couldn’t play in New York. And until Luis Severino proves that last year was not a fluke, the most realistic Yankee fans will be on the edge of their seat.

I started writing this piece last week, before the news of the Greg Bird injury. This presents a hurdle for the Yankees that will leave them stumbling towards the finish line with aim for a World Series title. The fact that they don’t have a legitimate replacement in place for the oft injured Bird is worrisome, and I know the Yankees were really counting on Bird’s productivity in the lineup. Bird is expected to be out for six-to-eight weeks, and my money is on the latter part of that scenario. This is his second surgery on the same foot that had him miss most of the 2017 season. The fact that a bone spur popped up now, about six months after the first surgery is very concerning. Add in the fact that Bird missed all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury and the question begs asking; is Greg Bird one of those players whose career is shortened due to chronic injuries?

The Red Sox won the division last year in what should have been a runaway. But the aforementioned premature Yankees made it interesting down the stretch. But it didn’t play out as the Red Sox wanted as they were booted from the playoffs in the divisional round. Boston made very little additions in the offseason to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. That fact is even more troublesome considering what the Yankees did in the offseason. Boston’s pitching staff is worse than the Yankees, but they will still make the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Tampa Bay will sneak up on people, even without Evan Longoria. They have a good core of young players, and will also benefit from Baltimore rebuilding yet again and Toronto being caught in the dreaded no man’s land of not being in rebuild mode but also not being iserious contenders.

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Rays
  4. Blue Jays
  5. Orioles

Moving west, the AL Central was a bit of a surprise last season as the second wild card came from there. Nobody had Minnesota being contenders last year. In fact, lots of people had them finishing dead last in the division and being one of the worst teams in the league. Paul Molitor did a great job at the helm, and with a few key additions the Twins should be back in contention this season as well. But they still want dethrone the reigning division champ Cleveland Indians.

Cleveland suffered the infamous Champions loss let down in 2017, losing the World Series in heartbreaking fashion after coming back to take the lead in the bottom of the 8th at home in Game 7. They still made the playoffs, but were beaten by the aforementioned Yankees in the divisional round. The Tribe will be back in the hunt again next year, but will fall short of making it back to the World Series. I think they will benefit from the weakest division in the American League.

The White Sox, Tigers and Royals are all in rebuilding mode, with the White Sox likely being the best of the lot in my opinion. As expected, the Royals continued to lose key players in free agency from their 2015 World Series Championship team. The Tigers are an odd mix of once great veterans and unheralded youngsters. It’s tough to get a read on them. But with basically the same roster last year they finished dead last in the division and were tied with the Giants for the worst record in baseball. I think given the caliber of players the Royals lost, they will finish slightly ahead of the Tigers.

  1. Indians
  2. Twins
  3. White Sox
  4. Royals
  5. Tigers

 

I see no reason why the Astors won’t run away with the Al West once again in 2018. The only real completion they will face is for the best record in the American League with the Yankees. There was lots of hype around the Angels after they signed Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. But it looks like he will be an epic bust in America. It looks like it will come down to pitching between the Angels and Mariners to determine who finishes in second place. Both teams have lots of pop in their lineups, but their pitching has been the thing to really let them down in recent years.

Oakland will frustratingly be Oakland yet again, but I don’t see them finishing last in the division next year since Texas made no significant additions in the offseason. Considering Oakland only finished three games behind the Rangers last year, and I think they have a better roster than Texas this year, I see Oakland getting out of the cellar next year. Still nowhere near contenders, but if there was one team in the American League that would be a surprise contender next year like the Twins were last year, Oakland would be a strong candidate.

  1. Astros
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. A’s
  5. Rangers

 

The Nationals will once again be NL East champs in what is undoubtedly the worst division in baseball. The 2015 season is looking more and more like a fluke for the Mets, as they are back to being the Mets. The Marlins, after being one of the teams man people picked as being on the cusp of something great, are once again in tear down mode. Not just rebuilding, but a complete gut job is underway. New ownership traded away all their best players, and it honestly seems like the Marlins just never recovered after the untimely death of Jose Fernandez.

I want to add this in; I attended one game at Marlins Park while living in Miami for a year, and was fortunate to see Jose Fernandez pitch. I’ve been to a lot of baseball games in my life. I’ve witnessed Mark McGwire take batting practice in person. I’ve was at the final game of the old Yankee Stadium. Been in the ballpark when a World Series title was clinched. Sat there dumbfounded after the Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza bat throwing incident in the 2000 World Series. Stood on my seat cheering bench clearing brawls as Daryl Strawberry dove into the visiting Orioles dugout. Was there for the Mr. November game. I even saw a perfect game. But watching Jose Fernandez pitch that night was a thing of beauty. Hands down the best pitching performance I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in person.

  1. Nationals
  2. Mets
  3. Phillies
  4. Braves
  5. Marlins

 

It’s the end of an era in the NL Central as Andrew McCutcheon played his final game as a Pirate in 2017 and joined the San Francisco Giants in what has become a masterful job at retooling that ball club. If it wasn’t for the Reds I think the Pirates would finish in last place. That is how big of a loss McCutcheon is to Pittsburgh. Lots of people are high on the Brewers this season, but I’m just not quite there yet. I see them being a contender, but I think they’re still one or even two pieces away from getting into the playoffs. The Cubs will win the division again. Actually, I see this division finishing the same way as it did last year. You can never count the Cardinals out though.

  1. Cubs
  2. Cardinals
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Reds

 

The NL West is the most intriguing division in baseball. The Dodgers will once again be the crème of the crop. But the Giants will come roaring back with all the additions they made in the offseason. It will be night and day with San Francisco. Their lineup got better practically overnight with the additions of Evan Longoria and the aforementioned Andrew McCutcheon. Also on the horizon are the San Diego Padres, who are finally on the uptick. I don’t think they will be able to contend in this division for another few years though, as they have to leap frog too many teams. They’re just not quite there yet. Either Arizona or Colorado will miss out on the playoffs. This was by far the hardest division to predict for 2018. Nobody saw the Rockies contending last year, and with the loss of Carlos Gonzalez, that will leave them on the outside looking in this year. But with that said, Arizona lost a key piece too. But I think they are still better equipped to make it back to the playoffs, quite frankly thanks to a sharp drop of in quality after the top teams in the National League.

  1. Dodgers
  2. Diamondbacks
  3. Giants
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

 

Now on to the playoffs. I hate to basically repeat what happened last year, having the same teams in the playoffs, but I really don’t see much changing. It’s basically the rich got richer. The National League Wild Card spots were the toughest to predict. It was a tossup between the Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks and I even contemplated the Giants. In the end I went with the Cardinals and Diamondbacks. You can never trust the Mets. Like I said above the Brewers are still one or two key pieces away. And the Giants will be one of those pesky teams sticking around till the end, but they have some key pitching injuries that leave one of the weaker spots in their roster, much weaker.

I have the Red Sox beating the Twins in the AL Wild Card game, and the Diamondbacks beating the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game. The Astros will beat the Indians in the AL division series, with the Yankees, having the best record in the AL, beating the Red Sox in the other division series matchup. The Cubs will beat the Nationals in the NL division series, and The Dodgers, having the best record in the NL, will beat the Diamondbacks in the remaining division series. The Nationals, once again, can’t get out of their own way.

The Dodgers will get back to the World Series, and I see their old friend Yu Darvish, now of the Cubs, playing a prominent role in that. The Yankees will get past the Astros this time. Lots about baseball, well sports in general, is a gut feeling you get. I have that gut feeling about this Yankees team. I think getting as close as they did last year with be extra motivation for them. The youngsters clearly showed they could handle both the big stage of playing in New York in general, and all the added attention that comes with being in the post season.

I think the Dodgers ownership group will do whatever it takes to win a World Series after finally getting over the hump of winning a pennant last year, especially after coming oh so close to winning it all. Before Greg Bird’s injury, I was tossing the idea of who would win the World Series back and forth between the Yankees and Dodgers. But considering Bird’s injury and the fact that the Yankees, in all their wisdom, did not go out and get a suitable backup, I have the Dodgers winning the World Series in 6 games. I think the bird injury is more serious than the Yankees are letting on to, and it will keep him out much longer than the two months. And if he does somehow get back in May, his production just won’t live up to expectations because of it. Maybe the Yankees were scared off after what happened with the free agent signing of Chris Carter last year. But Tyler Austin, and the possibility of Neil Walker filling in at first, are not going to be enough to get the job done in the Fall Classic.

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Here is my bracket for the 2018 NCAA Division I Tournament. See gallery below for all my picks. Figured it would be better to take screenshots of my bracket than list out in writing all my picks.

I don’t have a formula for my picks; I don’t pick schools based on colors or mascots or funny names or what state they’re from. I use my gut, which is based on a team’s record (good wins vs. bad losses), coaching and the history of the program. I have schools I always go to, I call them my tournament teams. And then I have schools I never pick because they inevitably lose way earlier than they should. Unfortunately this year there were far fewer teams in my never pick category and many in my tournament team category, which made it a bit tougher. But I inevitably get burned by one of my teams that I never pick after they go on a deep run.

Teams I never pick include Purdue, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Ohio St., Texas and Baylor. My tournament teams, who I always lean on, are North Carolina, Michigan St, Minnesota, West Virginia, Villanova, Wisconsin, Miami, Florida, Arizona, Rhode Island, Temple, Gonzaga, Xavier and Syracuse. Obviously within reason I either pick or don’t pick a team. So say if Purdue is ever a 1 seed, I won’t have them lose in the first round, but I also won’t have them making a deep run. And I won’t have a team like Rhode Island make the Final Four this year.

As for upsets, I don’t have many this year. In the first round I have South Dakota St. over Ohio St., Syracuse over TCU (if you can call Syracuse winning an upset, but rankings wise it technically is an upset). In later rounds I have #10 Providence beating #7 Texas, #7 Nevada over #2 Cincinnati,  #7 Arkansas beating #2 Purdue (one of the teams I never pick), #7 Rhode Island over #2 Duke and #6 Miami over #3 Tennessee.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see #2 Duke lose to #15 Iona, #5 Clemson lose to #12 New Mexico St., #6 Miami lose to #11 Loyola-Chicago or even #3 Texas Tech lose to #13 Stephen F Austin in the first round. Heading into Selection Sunday Loyala-Chicago was going to be one of my upset picks had they not drawn one of my tournament teams. There are inevitably bracket busters out there, but in this year’s tournament I don’t see a big snafu happening like a few years ago when Michigan St. losing to Middle Tennessee St. That was the only time I lost a Final Four team in the first round of the tournament.

I have (in alphabetical order) Michigan St., North Carolina, Villanova and Virginia getting to the Final Four. I then have Virginia and Michigan St. squaring off in the National Championship game and Michigan St. winning the title.


The Movielife is back after 14 years with their fourth studio album; Cities In Search Of A Heart. I was excited when I heard that the band would be releasing a new album, but let me say they should have stayed broken up. It goes to show just how bad the new album is when Brandon Reilly, Vinnie Caruana and the band’s twitter accounts incessantly retweet and favorite crowd videos from their most recent co-headlining tour that are all of older songs off 40 Hour Train Back To Penn.

The band signed with Rise Records, who seem to be yet another label snapping up old scene bands to bolster their roster. I always thought it was odd that a hardcore label went out and signed the likes of Acceptance, At The Drive-In, The Bouncing Souls and Drive-Thru Records castaways The Early November and Hidden In Plain View. Now you can add The Movielife to that list. Rise typically does a lot of variants for their releases, and Cities In Search Of A Heart is no different.

There are six variants, with all of them being exclusive to certain places. First there are the Rise Records/Merchnow (label’s web store host) exclusives. There are two of them; doublemint limited to 700 copies and “ultra” clear with white smoke limited to 300 copies. The “ultra” clear is a bundle exclusive, where the cheapest option to get it cost $37. This $37 bundle had a flask, promo poster (which only had the album artwork on it) and one t-shirt in your choice of two different colors, as each color shirt had the same design. There were two more bundles, which were more expensive. The next tier bundle cost $53.50, and had the same flask and promo poster, and a hoodie (same design as t-shirts) instead of a t-shirt. The most expensive bundle, costing $73, had everything from the $3.507 bundle, but included a t-shirt (only the white shirt out of the options from the $37 bundle).

There is a Smartpunk exclusive; yes Smartpunk is back in business and getting into the vinyl game, pressed on “Easter” yellow limited to 500 copies. Now, there is some discrepancy here, because Smartpunk’s website says “Easter” yellow is limited to 475 copies. The /500 number is straight from Rise Records. What likely happened is they ordered 500, and they either only gave Smartpunk 475 of them to sell or the pressing plant shorted Rise. The Smartpunk exclusive is also individually numbered, on a sticker that is placed on the top left corner on a outer poly sleeve placed over the shrinkwrapped record by Smartpunk. This sticker says /475. Banquet Records (UK indie record store) also has their own exclusive color, which is on oxblood red limited to 500 copies. So it’s not just a UK exclusive, it’s a Banquet exclusive.

It wouldn’t 2017 without a tour variant, and the tour exclusive for this record is limited to 400 copies on baby blue with white swirl (what the band calls it) or A Side B Side – baby blue with white (what the label calls it). Based on photos of the tour exclusive, it’s baby blue with white swirl. The last variant is a retail exclusive on gold vinyl limited to 3,000 copies. Despite the title, the retail exclusive was also available on tour. The “ultra” clear with white smoke was also available on tour as well. The gold “retail” exclusive is actually a gold color. It’s not that weird orange/yellow color labels sometimes get and call “gold.”

Rise Records never released the pressing info for this album. They have a ‘releases’ page where the put the pressing info for all of their releases, sometimes putting them up before an album is even released. But the never did for this Movielife record. I had to email them for the pressing info.

All copies come in a single pocket jacket with an insert and download card. The insert has the lyrics printed on both sides, along with the liner notes taking up a portion of one side. The download code nets you awful 160 kbps MP3s. Ridiculous Rise, ridiculous. Every copy has the same hype sticker, which is s small white circle affixed to the top right corner that simply says “limited edition first pressing on colored vinyl.” It doesn’t indicate color. So in order to ensure what variant you get you have to buy from a certain place. Buying a copy on tour might be a crapshoot though since they’re selling three different variants, not just the tour exclusive.

Retail price on this record ranges greatly. Rise/Merchnow is selling copies for $16.50 before shipping. But indie record stores are selling them for closer to $20. Other online retailers are also closer to $20 as well. I found this from one of my go to online distros, which had it for a few cents more than Merchnow, with free shipping and a discount code I used on it to bring it down to just under $13. Considering how bad this album is, the extremely high amount of copies pressed for this and how the /300 variant is still not sold out, there is no urgency to buy this record. You can wait till the price comes down, because it inevitably will.

If they want to move this album, places selling it will have to mark it down a bit, because it’s clearly not selling well. In fact I probably should’ve waited till the price hit $10. I checked the stock level of the standalone /700 doublemint variant on MerchNow, and they barely sold 150 copies of it in the nine months since it was put up for pre-order at the end of May 2017. Rise severely overestimated the demand for a Movielife album in 2017, even more so when you consider their intentions to do a multiple pressings for it based on the “limited edition first pressing” they put on the hype sticker.

The Movielife – It’s Go Time

Posted: March 8, 2018 in Vinyl
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Back in 2015 The Movielife’s debut album It’s Go Time was pressed on vinyl, released by Fadeaway Records on four variants. Yes, you read right, four variants. Despite the label only making three publicized, there is a fourth variant, which was a tour exclusive. Despite the fact that band was not really touring much at the time. They weren’t even officially re-united at the point when this vinyl re-release came out. And since this is a Fadeaway Records release, that curiosity is not the first misstep with this release.

If you’re familiar with Fadeaway’s Friends triple LP comp released a handful of years ago, many of those same gripes arose with this Movielife re-issue; record being overpriced, shipping being a rip off, another charity release and flat out lies as “explanations” for the aforementioned gripes. This single LP cost $25, before shipping. With shipping being $6 for media mail, and a disgusting $9 to ship two records. It was actually initially doubled up, so for every record you ordered you were charged $6 per record for shipping. If you ordered two copies you were charged $12 shipping, if you ordered all three variants you were charged $15 for shipping.

But before you make final judgment on the price of this record, you have to take into account the etching on the b-side and the fact that it comes in a gatefold jacket. The fact that this record would have an etching was inexplicably kept a secret at the time the pre-order was announced and subsequently went live. It wasn’t announced until about a month after pre-orders were launched. That is by no means an excuse for overcharging for a single LP release, because even with those upgrades no single LP should ever cost more than $20. The price gets even more ludicrous when you consider that Fadeaway owns the rights to this album since they were the ones who originally released it back in 1999. Even with the re-mastering, which has to be done (or at least should be done) for every album that is getting pressed on vinyl, there is no legitimate reason for this record  to cost $25. Charity or not, which was the excuse the label gave, again, for overpricing this record.

I purposely waited, literally years, for this record to see a price cut. But it never happened. I wasn’t holding my breath for it, but I was still hoping that because the label didn’t sell out of any of the variants after three years that he would drop the price. So I used a good chunk of my higher than normal ebates check from Christmas shopping to buy this for a more reasonable price. Technically I could’ve paid $1 for this, but I opted to split the ebates check across two different records in order to lower my out of pocket cost on both of them.

Now to delve into the finer points of this record. This single LP has all nine, yes nine tracks on one side of the record. The b-side has an etching of the original cover art, which was changed for an unknown reason for the vinyl version. An interesting note about the new, alternate cover art for the vinyl version; it is Vinnie jumping off the cliff/bridge (not sure what it is). There was no reason given as to why the artwork was changed. Since I opted to order the clear base variant, it’s next to impossible to get a photo of the etching. So I’m including a photo taken from Fadeaway’s web store of a test pressing.

The gatefold jacket is nice and thick, but doesn’t really have any substance to it. It’s literally a collage of random photos of the band, a picture of a long retired WWF/WWE wrestler and a very long thank you section. But given the price, it’s better to have a pointless gatefold jacket than a traditional single pocket jacket, because Fadeaway would likely charge the same price for it. There is redundancy in the download code/card included with this record, as after you order you receive a download immediately (even those who pre-ordered back in 2015) along with a physical download card inside the jacket.

The track listing for this re-mastered vinyl version of the album was re-arranged for no logical reason. The jacket even has original track listing from the 1999 release printed on the back. The download card/code also has the correct track listing from the original 1999 release. But the record itself has some tracks switched around. So here is the track listing as it actually appears o the record itself:

  1. Barefoot
  2. Champ
  3. Dead To The World
  4. Except Me
  5. Maybe It’s Nothing
  6. One Way Ticket
  7. Racer
  8. Read My Lips
  9. Speed Demon

Track 4 on the original 1999 release was “Speed Demon,” so that song moves to the final track, track 9, on the vinyl version. The original track 9 on the 1999 release was “Racer,” which is track 7 on the vinyl vesion. “Except Me” was track 7 on the original 1999 release, but it’s now track 4 on the vinyl version. Another difference is that track 5 on the original 1999 release was “Read My Lips,” which is now track 8 on the vinyl version. The original track 8 on the 1999 release was “One Way Ticket,” which is now track 6 on the vinyl version. The original track 6 on the 1999 release was “Maybe It’s Nothing,” which moves to track 5 on the vinyl version. “Read My Lips” was track 5 on the original 1999 release, but it moves to track 8 on the vinyl version.

Initially advertised as each variant (the three that were publicly announced and made available) being limited to 250 copies, the actual pressing info was later revealed to be a bit different. It’s one of the few good things about Fadeaway Records; his transparency with pressing info. As is typically the case with vinyl pressings, there is either an overrun or underrun. Your rarely get the exact amount of copies you order. In the case of It’s Go Time, it was all across the board. So here is the final numbers; 256 copies on A Side Easter yellow / B Side cyan blue, 224 copies on ultra clear w/ blood red, orange crush, piss yellow, kelly green, royal blue and deep purple splatter and 242 copies on electric blue w/ cyan blue, sea blue and highlighter yellow heavy splatter. I feel like I am saying this more and more, but those have to be the longest variant names/descriptions ever, especially the ultra clear splatter one. Which I happened to have bought and photos of which can be seen in the gallery below.

It’s also worth noting that none of the variants turned out like the mock ups released for them in the Fadeaway Records web store. Not even close. It’s actually the most far off I’ve ever seen mock ups be from the finished product. It’s like he ordered completely different variants than what he mocked up. He actually had a transparent base record be grey in the mock up. Common sense would tell you to not do that if you were paying any sort of attention. And he had the a-side/b-side variant be black and white in the mock up. But at least he got the “heavy” splatter mock up right in terms of what splatter looks like, though he did use the wrong color for the splatter; once again, grey.

But, as mentioned earlier, that is not all the variants. Those are just the ones that were made publicly available and were announced via the pre-order. There is a fourth variant, which was a “tour” / band exclusive. Considering the band was not really touring at the time of this re-release, they were only playing a handful of shows here and there spread out over a couple months, it’s a little deceptive to call this a tour exclusive. Though the label called it a band exclusive on social media, the band themselves called it a tour exclusive on their social media accounts. While they were only available at shows, there weren’t enough shows to consider it a tour in my book. This tour/band exclusive was pressed on clear with blue haze/smoke, limited to 200 copies. There was never an official announcement as to what the color was called, which would’ve helped as Fadeaway went into extreme detail describing the rest of the variants, right down to the exact shade/hue of a color and using visual descriptions like “piss.” From pictures of this tour variant that I have seen, there is very little blue to be seen. It’s only found around the center of the record, and covers maybe from the run out to the last track on the a-side.

It was briefly mentioned above, but this was yet another charity release by Fadeaway, where it was claimed 100% of the proceeds were donated to a charity. Thing was though at the time pre-orders were launched the charity people’s money was going to wasn’t named. So people had no idea where their money was going. The only thing announced about where the money would be going was that it would be a charity of the band’s choosing. People kept asking what the charity was, but radio silence for a long time on the label’s end. Eventually it was put up in Fadeaway’s web store that the charity chosen was The Lustgarten Foundation. No formal announcement was made regarding the charity chosen. Not even a description of what the charity does; no mention of that anywhere.


Manchester Orchestra’s latest album, A Black Mile To The Surface, is their fifth overall. And yes, you’re right, I’m not including Hope because it’s not a true studio album in my mind, nor am I including Nobody Signs Anymore because it was never officially released. In my opinion A Black Mile To The Surface is better than the band’s previous effort, Cope. I’ve enjoyed each of Manchester Orchestra’s albums, but found Cope to be the worst of them. And I will say I think their music has strayed from my tastes more and more as time has gone on, with each album.

The band has always been strong supporters of the vinyl format, and keeping their albums accessible by not letting them go out of print for too long. A re-press is always on the horizon with them. They have also been no strangers to doing deluxe editions or special box set type releases. Their latest album is no different, as it has a special edition that comes in a hard cover book packaging, deemed a photobook by the band. But what is different this go around is that they did variants for what could be called the standard version. Though the band/label differentiate these variants as “deluxe version” and “standard version.”

There are substantial differences between the deluxe version and standard version. The deluxe version, which is featured here, is pressed on 180 gram smoke colored vinyl (clear with black smoke) and comes housed in an exclusive gatefold jacket with an exclusive insert. Yes, you read that right, only the deluxe version comes in a gatefold jacket and with an insert. The standard version comes in a single pocket jacket and is pressed on 130 gram black vinyl. Both versions come with an etching on the d-side.Because the deluxe version is on clear vinyl, it was tough to get a photo (see gallery below) of the etching, but it’s basically the cover art with the tree and person dangling from it. The deluxe version is $10 more than the standard version. It’s an interesting move by the band/label, to offer a cheaper, but no frills option for fans, and I wonder if more bands and/or labels will follow suit.

I mentioned above that the deluxe cost $10 more than the standard version, so let me clarify. Direct from the band and label (Loma Vista Recordings), the deluxe cost $35 before shipping. And it’s pretty much that price everywhere else selling it as well. The standard version cost $25 direct from the band and label. Though prices on the standard version range greatly by online retailer/brick & mortar store. Both versions are available all over the place; they’re not exclusive to anywhere. But some brick & mortar stores are only choosing to carry one of them, typically the deluxe version. Why I don’t know.

These prices kept me from buying a copy of A Black Mile To The Surface because I found them to be ridiculous. I know the days of $10 single LP’s are long over, and $15 for a single LP seems out of reach now too unfortunately, but I still strive to save money first and foremost these days. My target price is under $15 for a single LP and under $20 for a double LP, and for the most part I can meet those goals by taking advantage of price drops long after an album is released combined with discount/coupon/promo codes. I know I like to brag sometimes about how cheap I score a record for, so I’ll do it again here. I bought the deluxe version of this album for less than half of its original retail price. Only catch was the download card was used and it was an opened used copy with the shrink wrap completely torn off (though the seller did tell me he never played it).

I like to have the hype sticker(s) that come with records for completionist sake, so that was one of the concessions I had to make in order to get this record for so cheap. Personally, what I do with gatefold jackets is slit the shrink down the side to get the records out, take the desired photos, then carefully slide the shrink wrap off the jacket and tuck it inside the gatefold jacket. I’ve gotten so good at it that I don’t tear the shrink in the process, so I have no need to rip it off the jacket in order to see what is printed inside the gatefold. For the record, (no pun intended) I leave the shrink wrap on my single LP’s too. I know it’s taboo, but I haven’t seen any damage from the shrink tightening over time, even on records I’ve owned since new for over 10 years. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’ve never encountered it.

The special edition photobook is similar to the Bad Books II and The Early November – In Currents hard cover/photobooks in terms of packaging. Its 32 pages according to the item description, and the records are pressed on gold vinyl. Though the “gold” vinyl looks more like the typical yellow/orange shade that many records advertised as being on “gold” vinyl actually come out looking like. To be clear, this does not look like the first pressing of Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree but looks more like the orange/yellow variant of the debut self-titled Bad Books album or the gold variant of Saves The Day’s Anywhere With You 7”.

The band offered a special bundle for the photobook that included an exclusive t-shirt and “The Sunnshine” music box. I’m assuming the music box plays the song “The Sunshine.” This bundle cost $80 before shipping, and according to what some people said on message boards, shipping was around $30. This bundle was initially the only way to get the photobook, and it sold out relatively quickly. But the label did put up copies of the photobook individually, without the shirt or music box, at some point after the bundle sold out.

There was some shadiness on Loma Vista’s part with this photobook version though, as initially they were selling it for $50, but than inexplicably they jacked up the price to $60. This price jump corresponded to the album’s release date though, as it increased after it was released. But I don’t think the label’s web store said the $50 price was a limited time offer or special pre-sale/pre-order price. It’s the reason why I haven’t bought it yet.

After reading this you may be surprised to see Manchester Orchestra associated with a label other than their own; Favorite Gentlemen. While Favorite Gentlemen is still associated with this, and one side of the record has their familiar stock center labels, the band did partner with Loma Vista for this album. I’m not sure why, and can’t find any press release about the band signing with them.

Because I do not have the two stickers placed on the shrink wrap of the deluxe version, I’ve included photos I found of them elsewhere online (hence no watermarks) in the gallery below. The bar code sticker does list the variant color, and the hype sticker says it’s the deluxe version and that it’s on 180 gram vinyl. The hype sticker found on the standard version makes no mention of standard or deluxe, but does say 130 gram vinyl on if as if that is something worthwhile (it isn’t).

 

 

Bush – Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition

Posted: March 5, 2018 in Vinyl
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In keeping with releasing anniversary editions of old albums, Bush released a “20th Anniversary” edition, albeit in 2017, of their sophomore album Razorblade Suitcase. Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition is the album’s official title, and the band made it worth purchasing even if you already own a copy of the album on any format. It comes packaging in a high quality gatefold jacket, with alternate artwork, and most importantly it comes with some good b-sides. In total Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition has four b-sides that were left off all previous releases of the studio album on vinyl (or any format for that matter), with one of them being unreleased until now.

These four b-sides are (in order of appearance) “Old,” “’Sleeper,” “Broken TV” and “Bubbles.” The lone never before released song out of those is “Sleeper. “Bubbles” was previously released on the soundtrack to the classic Kevin Smith film Mallrats, and prior to the release of Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition, the song was exclusive to the soundtrack. “Old” was previously released on the “Greedy Fly” CD single, “Broken TV” was previously released on the “Swallowed” CD single. My only complaint with the track listing of this anniversary release is that they omitted one b-side; “In A Lonely Place,” which was released on the “Bone Driven” CD single. But this was likely due to time restraints, as the D-side (where all the b-sides are located) of the Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition clocks in at over 20 minutes in length, and “In A Lonely Place” is a six minute song. So without re-arranging the track listing of the original studio album, “In A Lonely Place” was left on the cutting room floor, for a second time.

I mentioned above alternate artwork; it’s not as alternate as you’d think. It’s the original Razorblade Suitcase cover art, only with a pearlescent/metallic finish to it. Each record in the double LP set comes in a full color dust. A huge foldout poster is also included, which has the lyrics for every song printed on it. There is a download card for high quality 320 kbps MP3s of all the songs on the record, including all the b-sides.

Pressing info was never released, and I doubt it ever will be. But all copies were pressed on black/white swirl. Razorblade Suitcase: In Addition was released by Round Hill Records, who seem to specialize in anniversary re-presses as they also did the 20th Anniversary edition of The Offspring’s Ixnay on The Hombre released in the later part of 2017. This record was also released in conjunction with Gavin Rossdale’s own label, Zuma Rock Records.

When this record was first released it was overpriced; $30 was the retail price. But prices have started to come down, but only slightly. Instead of buying this for $30, you can now easily find this for the heavily discounted price of $25! My advice, wait longer for it to inevitably further drop in price, because these things are not selling well. Or use a smartly timed discount/coupon/promo code in order to save more money on it if you’re getting tire of waiting for this to drop to a reasonable price. Which is what I did to bring the price down to $18 shipped.