Ugly Winner opting for beautiful sound

Vinyl is king.

The LP, the top dog of media when it comes to playing music, took a slight backseat to the compact disc and then the iPod in the early 1990s, finding itself solely the love of music geeks as they plowed through thrift stores and yard sales looking to add to their collection. Record stores stopped carrying vinyl, and the number of record pressing plants, the places that actually make records in this country, dropped to fewer than 10. With the exception of a handful of bands, the output of music on vinyl five, 10 and 15 years ago was minimal.

But the king is making a comeback. Musicians who came of age as record collectors who purchased J.F.A., Henry Mancini and Black Sabbath records are celebrating the auditory excellence of the wax LP, at times forgoing the compact disc, putting records out they way they should, on vinyl, and including a digital download for the iPod. On-the-go music is fine coming out of a hand-held digital device that stores thousands of titles; in the home, that music should come from the classic hi-fi turntable.

One of the many young rock bands putting out music the right way is Ugly Winner. The San Jose rock quartet, which will play the American Legion tonight, just released its second record, “Inside Your Wave.” Ugly Winner is Todd Flanagan on bass, Nicolas Lopez on drums, Takashi Makino on vocals and guitar and Maxwell Borkenhagen on guitar. “Inside Your Wave” was initially planned to be released on vinyl only, along with the digital download. Still, the band produced a compact disc as well, knowing that the CD, whose days are numbered, would eventually end up in someone’s iTunes anyway.

Ugly Winner is an indie rock band with a sound reminiscent of early Built to Spill. They also maintain a classic D.I.Y. stance, favoring home recording sessions for their releases over major studio time. They’re happy with the sound of their record, which was recorded in Makino’s home with his roommate/engineer.

As music lovers they also favor the vinyl.

“We knew we wanted to put it out on vinyl. Vinyl is not only a piece of artifact, it sounds so much better,” Makino said earlier this week during a tour stop in Idaho. “It’s nice, you play one side while you’re doing whatever and the motion of going back to the record player, flipping it over, having the needle drop on the second side, that’s all part of it, it’s ritualistic really.”

Ugly Winner also favors the D.I.Y. effort of gaining fans the old-fashioned way: by hitting the road. This tour started in the Northwest, and will hit through Colorado, and they’ll reach as far as Texas, then to the West Coast until they return home to San Jose, Calif.

“Playing your hometown is great, you always have friends there. But playing out of your hometown, I hold it dear,” Makino said. “That’s where you meet new people and you get to share your music with new people. The whole point of it is to get the music out there to new people.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at