I get a lot of e-mails from people about things they want me to write about and think I would like, and it’s really cool that people do that & I am really very appreciative (even though I don’t write about everything that I’m e-mailed about, I do my best to listen to all of it), but usually the things I enjoy listening to the most are things that I find out about completely incidentally, with no “please write about this” attached to it.
On Monday afternoon I came home to a stack of packages — some 7”s and CDs from Jigsaw (really, really, I cannot say enough good things about what Chris is doing with his corner of the internet — he has an amazing selection of indie rock and pop, the prices are good, and the shipping is expedient. It’s everything you could ever want (and more!) from mail order), some Jordan Crane comics, and a mysterious package wrapped in plain brown paper.
The mystery package turned out to be a very generous and surprising piece of mail from Tae Won Yu. I’m quite a fan of Tae’s art and music, and was nothing short of blown away to find this on my doorstep. One of the things in the package was a copy of Tiny Idols: Transmissions from the Indie Underground 1991-1995, vol. III. I took a quick look at the track listing & realized that I didn’t recognize any of the bands (other than Tae’s band, Kicking Giant), which made me even more excited to listen to the collection. So, I raced through lunch & then walked back to work, sat down at my desk, & plugged in my headphones.
& you know what? It’s really, truly stunning. Mark from Snowglobe Records has curated a truly beautiful comp. There are 22 tracks and each of them brings something unique to the overall collection. It’s hard to pick out favorites when each of the tracks are so strong (and so new to me!), but Small Factory, The Hazeltones, Witch Hazel, and Radon are definitely bands that I’ll be looking to dig up some more on. The Tiny Idols series functions almost as an indie rock and pop Nuggets, collecting tracks from “lesser-known and underappreciated artists from the era who deserve reappraisal.”
What I really love about Tiny Idols, aside from the music, is the care and attention that went into the compilation. The CD is accompanied by a beautiful, twenty page booklet that includes a bio of each of the 22 featured bands. A lot of information is packed into the bios, including a brief history of the band, major/notable recordings, band members, related projects, etc. It’s not often that I come across a compilation so purposefully thought out & thoughtfully put together.
So often, independent music exists in tiny pieces of ephemera. It’s easy to forget bands as old concert bills get crumpled and cassette tapes disintegrate. Scenes are packed away in boxes in closets and emerge later to be resold on eBay. Last month, Patton Oswalt had an article about geek culture on Wired where he said that the internet has changed the act of collecting knowledge — that as we move towards an increasingly digital culture, we get closer and closer to “everything that ever was, available forever,” and with it, instant, downloadable expertise. It’s clear that the internet has changed the way that music is not only shared, but preserved, especially with regard to music that has been produced independently. It may not be possible to find a physical copy of a 7” limited to 200 copies or a tape limited to 75, but technology allows people to digitally transfer & instantly share these releases with each other (I won’t lie, though, I’ll always prefer a physical product to a download.) I like Tiny Idols because it’s a compilation that seems to speak both to and against the concept of “everything that ever was, available forever.” Tiny Idols gives you fragments of a scene, letting you peek into the windows to hear bits and pieces, but gently reminding you that the Big Picture, the experience of being there, is something that cannot be recreated. As our cultural products become increasingly digital (and everlasting), I think it’s important to be reminded of the ephemeral and to recognize the importance of something that can’t be perfectly preserved or recreated.
Volumes 1-3 of the Tiny Idols series are $10 each from Snowglobe Records, you can order online here. If the third compilation in the Tiny Idols series is this strong, I can’t imagine how good 1 & 2 must be. Mike also has a Tiny Idols blog, though it’s light on content and hasn’t been updated for awhile.
Complete Track Listing
- “I’ll Be Around” – Sardina
- “What to Want” – Small Factory
- “Sugar Juice” – Vacation Bible School
- “Delirious” – The Hazeltones
- “2,000” – Coctails
- “Send” – It Thing
- “Loon” – Poole
- “Too Close” – The Christines
- “Endure Me” – Honeybunch
- “Just Don’t Try” – Witch Hazel
- “Today is a Fine Day to Die” – Apollonia Heck
- “Kibbles and Bits” – Radon
- “No Surprise” – Glue
- “Bruce Jenner” – Honda
- “Balboa’s Canyon” – Zoom
- “Crazy Steven” – Zen Frisbee
- “The Girl with 10,000 Holes” – Baldo Rec
- “Satellite” – Kicking Giant
- “Pedal” – Crayon
- “Ultra Crush” – Her Tears
- “Girlwish” – Fudge
- “Senile Felines” – Aleka’s Attic