We noticed it years ago, when our old rocker friends started borrowing Elvis records. Punk rock is fun but it’s a lot of work to be in it for the long haul — they still had tattoos and tall bikes (and Tall Boys) but over time our conversations were about Bill Monroe and not Maximumrocknroll. We felt a little vindicated, but not really certain it would last. When no less an accomplished traditionalist as Jack Klatt came in with old punk albums to sell, among them Inflammable Materials, we knew there was a sea change at work. We love Stiff Little Fingers, but to Jack’s credit it never really meant much to us be besides the memorable riffs (When I was sixteen I had to look up what an Ulster was before I knew if an alternative was in order).
Still, we haven’t gotten round to purging the record collection of those old punk albums because doing that feels like admitting defeat. Like growing up. In our early twenties we had a neighbor who would clean his above-ground pool while blasting James Taylor’s Greatest Hits — we laughed at him so much back then. Still can’t stomach a little JT, but were feeling a lot less snide these days; truth is, we’d rather listen to something a little lighter on a Sunday afternoon.
Which brings us to Chris Ryba-Tures, whose been a friend of ours here at the shop ever since we first saw his band, Dragons Power Up!, a couple years ago. We posted their last release — as split single with Puppies and Trains — here on the blog in 2011. The Dragons have been largely dormant since around then. When Chris approached us with a new project to open up for the White Whales here in the shop we expected something along the lines of Brace for the Bloom, the last Dragons album, which was a promising, creative mish-mash of post punk sounds. Instead we were surprised by a quiet collaboration between four friends, seated on stage, each singing and contributing lyrics (there’s a Youtube video from this day). Aldine was a warm surprise on what we recall was a cold day at the end of a busy week — they were quiet, they would probably have preferred to play acoustic, and their set invited you to step closer.
summer hour“Summer Hours”
Another year has gone by and Aldine has an album, Lafond, to release this weekend with another show here in the shop. This one will be acoustic. If the disc is any indication, they’ll pass the instruments around and take turns singing the lead — each of them contributed a couple songs to Lafond. The variations really help the disc around the “too quiet, too slow” feeling that makes some modern folk albums forgettable — We found ourselves going back to hear a first favorite another time, then another track, and on until it has became regular disc to play in the shop these past couple weeks.
Joe Adrian’s nostalgic “Summer Hours” (above) and Ryba-Tures’ steady-building instrumental “Mountain Climbers” feel at times like a lighter Murder by Death — “Summer Hours,” with its moody cello and simple percussion surrounding Adrian’s bright voice, ought to be picked by a radio station, somewhere. It seems like just the right song to come on the radio along some flat highway halfway home. “Mountain Climbers” has a quiet, chamber music feeling, but is also suggestive of an adventure — strange that a St. Paul band would write a moving melody around climbing mountains (but not as strange as the White Whales writing song after song about the sea). Here Rhett Borner takes a lead, establishing the feeling on the piano.
Renee Spillum’s songs, on the other hand, are more introspective and get to the listener that second or third time around. “One to Learn the Hard Way” is really as much a pop ballad (Fleetwood Mac-ish if you want to get down to it) as a rootsy folk song like others on Lafond. Its matter of fact chorus compliments several other songs on the album, even though its hardly sentimental:
or maybe this is no lesson
maybe there’s nothing to gain
maybe this is no lesson
maybe this is just life
It doesn’t feel, to us at least, like this is a bitter response to adversity, just a realistic one. Like that February when Aldine first performed at Hymie’s, the last couple weeks have been really stressful around here — A lot going on and not enough rest, not to mention the frustration of a break-in on Halloween. It’s easy, when times are tough, to go to your thoughtful spot and look for a meaning to it all — not so easy to pick up and move on. We’ve heard John Lennon tell us “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” but that doesn’t really help since he was making those plans in a multi-million dollar Upper East side apartment. It’s refreshing to hear something more honest, open-ended as it is.
one to learn the hard way“One to Learn the Hard Way”
It’s easy to hear the “One to Learn the Hard Way” side of Aldine being drowned out by the noise of a bar, and almost impossible to imagine “Mountain Climbers” fitting well. Maybe that’s why chamber groups like the Poor Nobodys are so often heard playing in less-conventional settings. It’s too bad so much of our live music experiences are centered around bars and late-night settings, because it narrows our options and dulls our senses — not just the noise or the beer, but the monotony.
That’s why we’re excited Aldine wanted to celebrate the release of their album with a late afternoon acoustic performance here in the shop. It seems like a good setting for songs like these. If you can’t make it here Sunday afternoon, by the way, they’ve provided you with a soundtrack for another afternoon: You can hear the whole album here in the right order on their Bandcamp page.
poor six “Poor Six”
Other Aldine tracks are well suited for the honky tonks, however, especially the driven, old time “Poor Six,” where Borner sings lead. There are also two great country feeling songs by Ryba-Tures: “Pale Yellow Rose” carries itself with a fun Jerry Jeff swagger but is as sad as near anything heard on the jukebox from Wynn Stewart’s “Heartache for a Dime.” Without overselling the heartbreak (think Randy Newman’s “Living without You”) he laments a loss and the life led since. “Horses” is a catchy arrangement which reminded us of Jake Manders on a first listen.
pale yellow rose“Pale Yellow Rose”
We’d guess each of the four members of Aldine could create an album of their own, but the collaborative feeling of Lafond would be lost. It’s not so much a “little bit of everything” collection as a meeting of ideas. Hardly hodge-podged, the album moves back and forth between alternative pulls, which works to its benefit. We’ll make a prediction that these friends continue to compose and perform together, and the next disc carries a more cohesive, distinctly-Aldine sound.
Aldine will play their CD release show here at Hymie’s Records on Sunday November 10th. Sister Species will perform an opening set, around 4pm. This is a free, all ages event.