Archive for The Soundtrack of My Life (Music)

What Came First, the Misery or the Music: Fingerprints Music

“Do we look like the kind of store that sells “I Just Called to Say I Love You”? Go to the mall.”
— Jack Black as Barry, High Fidelity

I’m no hipster.

I wish I had more indie cred. I enjoy indie movies, but I don’t know anything about indie music and, as all hipsters and aspiring hipsters know, music is the heartbeat of the indie scene.

Well, I recently had an amazing musical experience that might also have been my initiation into independence.

And of course it happened at Fingerprints.

Fingerprints is an independent record store. And when I say “record,” I mean “record” – they boast a fine collection of vinyl on top of an excellent stock of regular CDs (mostly for indie newbies like me). It’s a smallish place with a hippish vibe worthy of comparison to Championship Vinyl (if you’ve never seen High Fidelity, go and rent it. IMMEDIATELY).

The owner may not be as hot as John Cusack (no offense, dude), but he could certainly go head-to-head with Rob Gordon in a “Top Five” challenge. He always has two fingers firmly on the pulse of the indie scene and he’s a master at keeping the store up-to-date and relevant.

But my favorite thing about Fingerprints has to be the in-stores.

Fingerprints will occasionally invite indie artists to play a show in their store. They’ll shut down for the night (or the afternoon, if the in-store is on a Sunday) and anyone who buys the artist’s CD (usually about $12-$13) gets free entry for himself and a friend.

Space is limited, so the shows are always intimate. And the artists are unlimited, so the shows are always amazing.

Sure, they’ve featured known artists like Ingrid Michaelson and, more recently, The Swell Season. But they’re also committed to supporting local indie artists. They know that this helps them as well as the artist. And it certainly doesn’t harm the fans who come to see the shows.

If you’re a budding hipster, then I’d highly recommend that you check out Fingerprints. Not only will they give you a quality indie education, but they’ll ease your transition to the road less traveled – and have you dancing down it to the beat of a different drummer.

Fingerprints Music
4612-B E 2nd St
Long Beach, CA 90803
(562) 433-4996
www.fingerprintsmusic.com

Falling Slowly: The Swell Season at Fingerprints

A while back, my friend Monster lent me a DVD. “You have to watch this. You’re gonna love it.”

Monster’s tastes and mine run in the same circles, so I trusted her and watched the movie.

A film like this only comes along once in a lifetime.

A film like this only comes along once in a lifetime.

That movie was Once. The rest is history.

I had the opportunity to see The Swell Season the last time they were in town, and they were amazing. When I heard that they were back in town, I breathed a heavy sigh. You see, I’m an out-of-work writer, masquerading as an underpaid all-purpose girl at a wretched Korean property management company. I can’t afford luxuries like a mind-blowing live performance on a perfect autumn evening.

But thank God for Fingerprints. Located in beautiful Belmont Shore, Fingerprints is the indie record store to end all indie record stores. Championship Vinyl’s got nothin’ on them.

They occasionally have musicians come and play special acoustic sets for a small crowd. When Monster found out that The Swell Season was coming to Fingerprints, she wasted no time (or effort — she had to redial for two hours before she finally got through) in procuring entrance for both of us.

When I arrived at Fingerprints on Tuesday evening (thanks to my fat commute), the place was packed. I found Monster quickly and we waited for the show to begin. And then the owner came out to introduce the band, and the rest of the world just fell away.

Glen Hansard, formerly of The Frames, plays with a vigor that you’d expect from someone as energetic as he is. The moment he takes the stage, you can feel his passion. There is no mellow with this guy. Even his slower songs are charged with electric emotion. He doesn’t sing sad songs — he sings heart-wrenchingly mournful ones. Whatever he does has movement to it.

And that’s not even counting his physical movement. Hansard is so fun to watch — he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he wears it right on his face. And his quick sense of humor adds to the fun. He loves interacting with his audience and it shows.

And that voice — oh, that voice. That’s what raw emotion sounds like, people. It has a roughness to it that seems to embody the heart behind his songs — this is a guy who’s been kicked down by love time and time again, but continues to believe in it enough to keep wanting it. Some would call it rough — I call it real.

Contrast this to the calm beauty of Markéta Irglová. Her voice is so pure — almost childlike in its innocence. But it has an almost deceptive versatility. When she’s harmonizing to Hansard, she provides a delicate counterbalance to his raw emotion. But when she takes the lead herself, her voice conveys all the same yearning behind Hansard’s loudest shouts.

When I first heard her sing, I thought she had a nice voice, but nothing special. But something about it just cuts right to the soul and makes you think about the most broken your heart has ever been. Hansard wears his heart on his face. Irglová wears hers in her voice.

I’ve just described two completely different artists. But like French fries and soft serve ice cream, you wouldn’t think they’d work together, but combine the two, and — magic.

Afterwards, they signed autographs for a really long time. Despite having just played an amazing show and the sight of a line of fans around the block, which couldn’t have been wholly welcome at 9pm, they stuck around and signed autographs and took pictures and were generally really nice to everyone.

Just me and Monster and The Swell Season (and some dude who works at Fingerprints -- lucky).

Just me and Monster and The Swell Season (and some dude who works at Fingerprints -- lucky).

I saw Hansard initiate handshakes with anyone who seemed too shy to proffer their own hand (including me — I was momentarily flustered at being so close to a musician right after a show. The shekinah glory must have temporarily blinded me). Irglová, who was fighting a cold on top of having just performed, smiled bravely as she signed posters and posed for pictures. She even complimented my Czech.

They asked for each fan’s name and personalized every autograph. These are people that care about their fans and understand that they owe a lot to these people who pay money (well, except for me — thanks, Monster!) to hear them play.

And this is part of why “The Swell Season” is such an appropriate name for the band. Their music, their talent, even who they are — it swells the heart to almost bursting. I’ll take that over boredom any day.

The Swell Season’s latest album, Strict Joy, drops on October 27, 2009. You can click here to pre-order from Amazon.com or, if you’re too cool for Amazon, go to fingerprintsmusic.com.