Aww…

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We (Laura and Dave) have been married for nine years today, and for more than half that time we have been fortunate enough to spend our time together running this record store. Our kids have basically grown up in and around it (to the frustration of some and delight of others), which has helped create a unique atmosphere where everyone’s kids are welcome to visit. They’ll even have fun.

The first Wednesday of the month is always Hymie’s night at the Turf Club, and we have some special plans tonight. Instead of a guest DJ we’re going to take turns spinning our favorite records together, which we spent last night picking out of our own collection.

Don’t worry — We’ll still have crates n’ crates of awesome recent arrivals from the shop at 15% off. And the Turf Club has good 2-for-1 drink specials.

We were looking at pictures of the old shop (five blocks west for your new followers) yesterday and found this one of Laura sitting behind the counter.

laura old shop

That space had its charm and its history, but by the end it was a disaster area (we’re sort of surprise they’ve found someone — anyone — to keep renting it). It’s amazing how much has changed in four and a half years, and that the shop has grown so much bigger. It’s amazing how much this neighborhood has grown in spite of a tough economy during the same time. And it’s amazing how many incredibly talented people have performed on the stage here in the new shop, and how much more it is still capable of growing. Whether or not you make it into the shop today or out to the Turf Club tonight, we want to say THANKS!

jumpin at the record shop

jumpin at the record shop

We’ll have an awesome selection of LPs from the shop set up at the Turf Club tonight after 8pm. Next month we’ll go back to hosting a guest DJ on the first Wednesday, and of selling everything on the turntables.

Starting last Monday we’ve been posting our top ten favorite local albums of 2012 – you can read our first six choices by scrolling down. You’ll also find Saturday’s post, a round-up of our favorite local EPs (which includes our favorite local release of the year.

The past twelve months saw so much great Minnesota music that this list has been re-written and revised a dozen times since we started working on it after Thanksgiving. Without a doubt there are ten more LPs or CDs of new music by Minnesota artists worth the same recognition.

This list represents not just ten of the best local albums of the year, but ten albums we listened to here in the shop A LOT. The comments section on our site hasn’t been working lately because of the abundance of spam comments, but we welcome your additions to our “top 10” list. Send ’em to  Big Cats‘ For my Mother is one of the few that has been played the most here in the shop. The album bursts out of the stereo from its dreamlike opening through the following nine instrumental jams. It is a surprisingly rich work based on the relatively simple sampling aesthetic, filled with the fervor of live music and the hypnotic appeal of classic hip hop. It keeps our feet moving while we’re working around the shop, and as an instrumental album it keeps our imaginations running.

for my mother

The album was recorded in honor of Spencer Wirth-Davis’ mother, who passed away after battling ovarian cancer. Wirth-Davis was awarded a composer’s fellowship grant from the McKnight Foundation – an unprecedented accomplishment for a hip hop producer – and set out to create the sort of music his mother enjoyed listening to when she was undergoing grueling (and boring) chemo treatments. To this end he recorded more than ten hours of Motown-style classic R&B with a diverse group of musicians and sampled the sessions. The end result is a beautiful tribute to the person who encouraged Wirth-Davis to play music (and as an additional tribute he has donated 75% of the album’s proceeds to Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, who you can learn about here).

The extraordinary group of musicians even performed the final Big Cats arrangements at an October release show at the Cedar Cultural Center, one of the most memorable live performances here in town this fall. Performers with rock, hip hop, jazz and classical backgrounds came together to realize Wirth-Davis’ dream. This incredible, moving performance was captured on video.

Aside from his successful solo album, 2012 was a watershed year for With-Davis, who as Big Cats produced sweet beats for K. Raydio and City Pages “Picked to Click” winners the Chalice, as well as entire albums with longtime collaborators the Tribe and Guante. One might be underwhelmed by his quiet solo project if it weren’t a work of such unusual grace and depth. It is, after all, amazing how much can be expressed without words (or at least with very few of them).

As noted up above, there is a dreamlike quality to the first track, “One” (the album’s ten tracks, by the way, are simply titled in numeric order, adding to the album’s open, zen-like feeling) The keyboards and vocals are effervescent and airy, while the beats are firmly grounded. This introduces an ongoing conflict between the keys (and later the saxophones and guitars) and the beats that move the music, as though the light melodies have to be held down.

One

“One”

Wirth-Davis spent years performing classical music on the string bass, and his experience comes across in several arrangements, like the dramatic string arrangement in “Seven.” He also has a musician’s sense for finding and using keyboard parts along with string arrangements, as in the album’s shortest track, “Five.” The piano here has the same beautiful sound as some of the gritty sampled piano parts he used on Space, his most recent album with the Tribe.

Seven

“Seven”

There has already been one remix of a track from For my Mother (here) and we’re fairly certain there will be many more. As it is this album really bursts out of the turntable with a warmth and energy that one can’t easily put into words. We hope hip hop producers take heed of Big Cats’ distinctive, laid back sound but we doubt any one else could have made a record like For my Mother. Not only a tribute, it captures Wirth-Davis’ genuinely good-natured personality and his ability to collaborate with musicians. It seems likely that his work in the future will only get better.

(You can hear the entire album on the Big Cats bandcamp page here.)

Can’t wait to post this until next May…after all the best way to say “I love you, Mom” is with a cheap flexi disc you bought at the drug store.

dear mom

(“Dear Mom” by Jerome Carlson)

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