Friday Night Jazz Rock: Magic Numbers

I learned an astonishing fact from the WSJ’s Weekend Adviser: the first CD from The
Magic Numbers
sold a mere 44,000 copies in the US.

That’s astonishing to me, considering what a great CD it is. Long time readers may remember a mention of this from our Best of 2006 music list.

I thought the band’s debut disc, The Magic Numbers, was the best new rock and roll release of 2006.

The band is an amalgam of all sorts of oddities, but the entire assemblage works surprisingly well: Magic Numbers are two pairs of brother/sister teams (from Trinidad/New York/London), running somewhat counter-trend. A reviewer described it as “an unfashionable blend of soft country pop with Fifties and Sixties inflections.” What I liked about it was the strong mix of rock and roll, summery guitars, laid over skiffle and country pop structures. It is spare and at the same time complex, flavored with an inflection of a1960s guitar band.

Somehow, it all sounds very modern, via classic rock instruments — simply guitar bass drums — no synth.

Romeo Stodart, the lead singer/guitarist said “I feel that we’ve made a real, classic debut album”– and that’s an apt description. The songs are jangly, melodic and hook laden; the writing is outstanding. Lyrics and vocals reveal a tender vulnerability. I found the album very addictive — with each listen, you want to hear more.

On the strength of the first CD, I bought the UK version of their next disc, Those the Brokes. It was merely ok, with a few good songs.

Now I learn the new CD is being re-released, in a bit less somber version. Here’s the latest update on the 2nd version of their sophomore effort:

“British rockers The Magic Numbers have something unusual to thank for their new album’s mood: corporate restructuring.

The U.S. version of the CD, “Those the Brokes,” was to come out in February on Capitol Records. But when EMI decided to merge Capitol with its Virgin Records label, the album was left in limbo. Finally EMI’s indie-oriented label, Astralwerks, stepped in, offering to put it out this summer.

The extended delay gave the band a chance to digest some of the complaints (too long, too somber) the album received after its fall release in the United Kingdom, where the band is far more popular. The members reordered the tracks, cut two long ballads and added a shorter, peppier number, according to the band’s manager, Paul Noble.

“It’s not ridiculously sunny pop,” Mr. Noble says. “But there’s a more upbeat flavor to it.”

Be sure to check out the first album — its a must own. You can stream much of the new disc from the band’s website, the Magic Numbers.net.

The Magic Numbers – Love Me Like You:

WSJ on the Magic Numbers:

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Source:
Music: Rockers Reflect, Cheer Up
SAM SCHECHNER
WSJ, July 13, 2007

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118429007757865492.html

Category: Digital Media, Music

Coming Soon: the Touchscreen iPod

Category: Digital Media, Film, Music, Technology

Media Appearance: Bloomberg TV (07/13/07)

Category: Consumer Spending, Media, Retail

Retail Follow Up

Category: Consumer Spending, Data Analysis, Economy, Inflation, Retail

“This is a bullshit rally!”

Fascinating and instructive conversation with a few of our traders/clients this afternoon, including a hedge fund momentum gunner who asked me "if this rally really mattered."

The answer is simply if it goes against you, it matters to your bottom line and/or your clients net for the year. If you were long going into this you made money, you showed a better P&L, your assets under management grew, your clients are happy. If you were short, you got your nuts squeezed, and that’s that.

More importantly, the S&P cleared key resistance, the spread triple top so many technicians have been talking about is now toast (See chart at bottom). If this breakout holds holds the next couple of days, that will inform of us about the technical strength right here, and if it fails, that will also be quite instructive. Indeed, this is shaping up to be quite an important rally. 

So to answer the original question, yes, this rally matters.

"This is a bullshit rally"  he said.

I asked him Why? Specifically, I ask:

"Do you disagree with this because you were positioned improperly, or because you cannot find a rational basis for today’s move? Do either of those things matter?"

No answer. He then asks me, "What did you think of today’s Retail data?"

Sigh. . . I said it was weak, that most retailers were doing only fair, that in addition to anyone home-related (i.e., Home Depot (HD) and Sears (SHLD)), we saw the Department stores doing poorly, Macy’s (M) and JCPenney  (JCP). We already heard Target (TGT) was at the low end of their range.

Here comes the money shot:  "And Wal-Mart" he asked?

Mediocre. They don’t break out food (as they do energy), but we can draw some assumptions from their breakdown between Wal-mart and Sam’s Price Club (see our earlier post), as well as what BJs said. As we learned today, Food sales at Wal-Mart, Sam’s, Cost-Co (COST) and BJ’s Warehouse (BJ) were robust.

Here’s the key line from BJ’s report:

"Sales of food increased by 6% and sales of general merchandise increased by
approximately 1%."

So to answer all of his queries: yes, today’s rally mattered. Yes, the retail sales data was weak. Yes, it was essentially a celebration of higher food prices.

However, if you are looking for a rational basis for the day to day movements of markets, if you seek to find a degree of serenity by understanding why markets do what they do short term (A/K/A noise), well then you are going to drive yourself insane.

 

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Category: Consumer Spending, Markets, Psychology, Retail, Technical Analysis, Trading

Economic Research and Retail Shopping

Mrs. Big Picture is smart enough to know that when she wants to go
shopping, she best not call it that if she wants me to come along. So
the clever lass has taken to calling sport shopping "Economic Research."

I do this sort of "research" every week.

That’s why I laughed on Tuesday night, when Noah Blackstein busted my chops for shopping at Sears (I’ve been a Land’s End client for years). While I was there, I looked at appliances, lawn mowers, plasmas, and Levis. On a Saturday afternoon, tumbleweeds rolled by — the store was totally empty.

I have the same routine every time I visit a store: I look at the merchandise, see how well the store is stocked, merchandised, organized, cleaned, etc. Typical Peter Lynch stuff. I lurk around, watching other customers interact with store employees. I often buy something, if only to return it and see how the process is. (A pair of Levis went back to Sears 3X — they were defective and split in the wash).

Over the past month, I have been to the following stores:

Public
Target (TGT)
Home Depot (HD)
Lowes (LOW)
Best Buy (BBY)
Circuit City (CC)
Ralph Lauren Polo (RL)
Macys (M)
Apple (AAPL)
BJs (BJ)
Nordstrom (JWN)
Starbucks (SBUX)
Smith & Wollensky (SWRG)
Saks Fifth Avenue (SKS)
Pottery Barn (WSM)
Coach (COH)
Williams Sonoma (WSM)
Gap (GPS)
Sears (SHLD)
Blockbuster (BBI)

Online
Netflix (NFLX)
Amazon (AMZN)
EBay (EBAY)

Private:
Fortunoffs
Lord & Taylor
Century 21
Barneys (formerly BNNY)

Autos
Toyota
Acura
Chrysler
Nissan
BMW

That doesn’t count all the small mom and pop stores and restaurants.

Over that period, I purchased items at Home Depot and Lowes (all sorts of stuff), Fortunoffs, Target, Polo, Century 21 (my Ted Baker ties come from there as well as Saks and Ebay), Lord & Taylor, Amazon (books and DVDs/CDs), and an auto dealer (I used Swapalease.com to replace the wifes RX8). Oh, and I got a new keyboard at Apple.

I avoid Wal-Mart (WMT) in NY, as the stores are these horrific garish fluorescent nightmares. In California, where they seem to be open til midnight or even 24 hours, I have made emergency/lost luggage purchases at the only slightly less ugly versions. I cannot recall the last time I was in a K-Mart (SHLD), but many years ago they wrere the only big box retailer in the Hamptons/Riverhead.

~~~

Sandy in comments asks: Aside from Sears, how does everything else look?

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Category: Consumer Spending, Economy, Retail

Retail Day !

Category: Consumer Spending, Inflation, Retail

Top 100 Retailers

Category: Consumer Spending, Economy, Retail

Blade Runner Final Cut in Theaters Fall 2007

Category: Digital Media, Film

Borrowing & Spending

Category: Consumer Spending, Credit, Psychology, Real Estate, Retail