WILLONA ON WAX: Hozier & The Fugees


hozier-album-coverThe first time I heard Hozier’s breakout (and Grammy-nominated) single, “Take Me to Church” I was sleeping. I woke as if from a beautiful dream, jumped out of bed and went to my computer. I needed to know what the song was before it slipped away.

Although I found out that the Irish singer/songwriter’s debut album was due out in the fall of 2014, I put off buying it because I was afraid I would be disappointed. I finally purchased the album on vinyl a couple of days ago, opened it, took a breath and listened.

I am not disappointed.

Hozier’s roots rock sound feels like it was born and bred in the Bible Belt of the American South. There are head-bobbing blues riffs, spare melodies, 1960’s soul, violins, cello and plenty of church choir style harmonies. Somehow, Hozier manages to wrangle these eclectic sounds into a cohesive album.

This record will appeal to fans of The Black Keys (especially the track “To Be Alone”). Standout tracks include “Work Song” and “It Will Come Back,” with the amazing lines “Jesus Christ, don’t be kind to me/Honey don’t feed me/I will come back.”


[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3fjPfTBA40

Packaging: Double LP. Beautiful collage artwork and lyric sheets. CD version included.

Where to Get It: You can buy the vinyl from Hozier’s website.

The Score

“How many mics do you rip on the daily?”

FugeesThis is really happening. The Fugees’ The Score is almost 20 years old, people. It’s a vintage classic.

When I went to buy the Hozier record, I came across this re-release in the crates. Let’s just say it wasn’t cheap, but as I debated whether or not to take it home I realized that I hadn’t heard the full album since my tape player died. So, I bought the record.

The Score is a perfect and amazing album. It’s not a bunch of singles. It’s a story. There are even weird little skits in-between songs.

Think about how many tracks have become legendary from this record: “Ready Or Not,” “How Many Mics,” “Fu-Gee-La” and Lauryn Hill’s cover of “Killing Me Softly.” That’s just to name a few because otherwise I would have to list every track.

Smart. Funny. Funky. This record is worth the cost of 180 gram vinyl.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Packaging: Double LP. Black and white photos of Lauryn Hill, Pras and Wyclef.

Where to Get It: I got it at Urban Outfitters, actually.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

WILLONA ON WAX: Heartbreak and Poetry

New Vinyl

Ben Howard
I Forget Where We Were

BEN_HOWARD_UMGI_Vinyl-12_Gatefold_6mmSpine_OUT.inddBritish singer/songwriter Ben Howard’s second full-length album, I Forget Where We Were, is a melancholy and musically-complex record. Howard experiments with tones and effects on each intricately crafted song. Instrumentally the work here is advanced and emotional, and Howard’s poetic lyrics add texture and depth.

The album opens with “Small Things,” featuring an electric slide-guitar melody that sounds like the reverberating echo in the chambers of Howard’s broken heart. My two favorite songs don’t come until Side D: The head-bobber “Conrad” and “All Is Now Harmed,” which gathers the energy of the album’s upbeat tunes and soars with India Bourne’s angelic backing vocals.

Although it wasn’t, Howard’s album feels like it was arranged specifically for vinyl because each side of the double LP ends on a dramatic note. The vinyl release even includes a bonus final track: “Am I In Your Light?”

My recommendation: Get the album and a bottle of red wine.

“Small Things” (live acoustic version)

Packaging: Double LP. Strangely uninspiring artwork. Lyrics are included. Digital download code included.

Where to Get It: Order the limited edition vinyl from here.


Vintage Vinyl

Moss Icon
Moss Icon – Complete Discography (reissue)
Temporary Residence

moss iconI found out about this Moss Icon reissue (which came in 2012) by accident. I was giving an old, double LP by Explosions in the Sky one more chance to wow me (it didn’t) when I pulled out the tiny little booklet advertising the Temporary Residence catalog. I couldn’t believe that one of my favorite band’s slender collection had been reissued on vinyl.

Hailing from Annapolis, MD, Moss Icon’s schizophrenically emo, art rock, post-hardcore sound gained a following in the D.C. scene, where they played alongside dischord bands like Fugazi, Soulside and Ignition during the late 1980s and early 1990s, but they only released fewer than 20 songs.

Moss Icon’s music is something of a performance art piece. Jonathan Vance mixes guttural vocals with esoteric musings. My favorite is the 11-minute epic “Lyburnum – Wit’s End (Liberation Fly),” which begins as gloomy as an early morning funeral and builds to an emotionally climatic ending.

I’ll admit that in some ways Moss Icon’s sound is stuck in time, but it takes me back to a place I like to visit.

Bonus: Moss Icon is playing a few reunion shows in December in D.C. and New York.

Packaging: Triple LP. The cover art is the same as the original releases and there is a customized etching on the sixth side. Digital download code included.

Where to Get It: You can order the album from Temporary Residence.

WILLONA ON WAX: Seattle Grunge & African Psych

Willona On Wax Vol. 1

Each month in Willona on Wax, Willona Sloan reviews new vinyl, reissues, and vintage finds. For her first installment, she reviews a Soul Jazz comp of lesser-known Northwestern grunge bands, and an Analog Africa comp of psychedelic sounds from Benin and Togo.


No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97 (Volume One)
Compilation by Soul Jazz Records


The thing is, I really wanted to like this record.  From the first song I heard — Thrillhammer’s “Alice’s Palace” — I knew that I would.

The majority of the bands on No Seattle never got record deals; they didn’t tour extensively outside of the North-West region and they didn’t achieve fame; therefore, their output was often raw and unpolished. The liner notes set the context for how tiny the rock scenes were in these small towns in Washington and Oregon, where the floor breaking from the walls at a house show could be a band’s biggest (or at least most memorable) gig — as it was for the band Pod.

It’s easy now to see how Nirvana evolved from this music scene.  The band’s Bleach-era songs fit neatly into this musical context, where bands were blending hard rock, metal and punk with throaty vocals that matched the ferocity of the music.

Often, comps lose steam and focus, but Volume One is solid all the way through.  Stand-outs include the delightful Starfish track “This Town;” a grungy, psychedelic tune by Yellow Snow called “Take Me For A Ride;” and Crunchbird’s erratic and emo “Woodstock Unvisited.”

Packaging: Double LP with a digital download code. The liner notes explain the idea behind the comp and give brief band bios.

Where to Get It: Purchase No Seattle from Soul Jazz Records here.



African Scream Contest—Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin & Togo 70s
Compilation by Analog Africa

African Scream contest

While record shopping in downtown Athens, GA, I saw this amazing album cover propped on display: an African singer, leaning cool, dark sunglasses, flared bottoms and a rock ‘n’ roll mic tilt that meant business.

This marvelously funky, groovy compilation reissues singles from popular 1960’s and 1970’s artists from Benin and Togo.  The compilation is the painstaking work of an enthusiastic German-based collector who selected the included tracks from the thousands of records he discovered during crate-digging expeditions in the two countries during the early 2000’s. In his notes, Samy Ben Redjeb explains that during the 1960’s and 1970’s the music of Benin and Togo was influenced primarily by Cuban and Brazilian rhythms; Congolese-style Highlife; French-African music, local traditional music, which included music used during Vodun (Voodoo) ceremonies; as well as American soul and funk.

Despite being a mishmash of influences, the compilation works well as a unit of highly danceable tunes. Standouts include “Oya Ka Jojo” by Les Volcans De la Capital; “Mi Kple Dogbekpo” by Lokonon André & Les Volcans; “Se Na Min” by El Rego et Ses Commandos and “Gbeti Madjro” by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou (video below).

Packaging: The inserts include interviews with the musicians, many of whose records have been long out of print.

Where to Get It: You can order the vinyl or CD or get digital downloads from Analog Africa here.