Random acts

For the record

In the rhinestone jacket that is WNC, West Asheville’s escalating hipness is the newest synthetic ruby. And neighborhood entrepreneurs are apparently hoping that everyone west of the French Broad dresses exclusively vintage, drinks only espresso and microbrews, requires exceptionally funky hairstyling and budgets at least $30 a week for music.

So before the icy death-grip of economic reality set in, it seemed a good time to snoop around incognito and see what each of the Haywood strip’s three new record stores had to offer.

In Your Ear Music (781 Haywood Road)

The first In Your Ear Music store cropped up almost a decade ago in downtown Sylva. This new Asheville addition caters to the mainstream-rock crowd — there’s little here you couldn’t find in any FYE or Best Buy (barring In Your Ear’s clothing and related paraphernalia, and a small-but-serviceable used-CD bin).

The selection at the Haywood Road location is, in its way, a plus –allowing those guilty few who want to buy the latest Blink-182 disc the chance to support a locally owned store. But of great surprise is In Your Ear’s local-music offerings, the most extensive collection to be found outside of downtown.

Recollection Records (637 Haywood Road)

Maybe I’m just not the avid-collector type, but paying $5 for a badly battered copy of Isaac Hayes’ Shaft soundtrack on 8-track doesn’t seem like the best of deals. Granted, a lot of unlikely titles are to be found at Recollection, like a crumbling copy of Johnny Cash’s Gospel Road ($4) and an amusingly pristine 45 of Billy Joel’s “My Life” ($5). So this shop may be worth a visit for the truly analog-obsessed. However, most stuff — even the cassettes — hovers in the $10-$15 range of a new CD.

Unkle Bubby’s Toons (643-A Haywood Road)

Searching through Unkle Bubby’s handful of bins is like going through a soon-to-be-moving hip friend’s basement record collection. The store has a particular tone — it’s heavy on obscure blues and old-time records and ’70s jazz staples. There’s also a healthy selection of garage rock and old-school punk, with the occasional, bewilderingly mainstream pop album showing up in the mix. Works by T-Bone Walker, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, The Clash and Sonic Youth dominate both the store’s album racks and CD bins.

But even if this isn’t your type of music, you end up liking this uncannily earnest establishment anyway. Standing at the counter to pay (and awkwardly trying not to stare at the collection of lesbian-kitsch postcards displayed there), you almost feel bad buying what you’ve found — because these albums were, obviously, once greatly loved by someone else. And now you’re taking them away.

Virtual Battle of the Bands

Vote for your favorite band in each set of two below by sending an e-mail to unknowncity@hotmail.com, with “Battle of the Bands” in the subject line. To check out each of these local acts’ music, visit the suggested online sites. Winners will be announced in the June 2 edition of Random Acts.

Round 1 — Best Alt-Retro Rock: Fantastic Life vs. Senatobia. Visit www.senatobiamusic.net and www.fantasticlifemusic.com.

Round 2 — Best Odd Rock: Reductio Ad Absurdum vs. Dig Shovel Dig. Visit www.digshoveldig.com and www.reductioband.com.

Round 3 — Roots Rock Grudge Match: Black Eyed Dog vs. Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers. Visit www.blackeyeddog.com and www.goodluckcricket.com.

Round 4 — Best Schlock-Rock Shtick: Crank County Daredevils vs. Monsters of Japan. Visit www.monstersofjapan.com and www.crankcountydaredevils.com.

Round 5 — Titan of Tranquility: Benjammin’ vs. Michael Farr. Visit www.bjbmusic.com and www.iamthankful.com.

The Main EventThe Blue Rags vs. Scrappy Hamilton. (Search amazon.com or any other major online record store for music.)

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