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10408663_10152700154380028_6633489256019974392_nOur new neighbors, Peppers and Fries, have opened up in the old gas station across 39th Avenue! Click on their name to go to their website and check out the menu.

We’re pretty excited to walk over for our first burrito later this week. Meanwhile, this is as good an excuse as we’re going to get to re-post our favorite song about tortillas.

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“I Love Tortillas” by La Banda de Ray Camacho

i love tortillas

Here is a local band that’s been around for so long we’re surprised they haven’t recorded more. More than a half dozen years have passed since they released a full length disc, In the Winepress, and broke up for a while. By the time they first played here at Hymie’s a couple years ago, they’d recruited Matt Engelstadt as a new bass player and already started playing some of the songs on their new album, out this weekend, as well as a great tune they’d released on a split single with the Knotwells.

They’ve never sounded as good as on The Future Was a Long Time Ago, a great album a long time coming. This “little band from Minneapolis” has always had a charming punk rock-ish interpretation of country music, which is highlighted here with shorter, quicker arrangements and exceptionally catchy hooks. On In the Winepress, Jon Collins’ lyrics about drinking and disenfranchisement had been so dense you’d have to read along to follow them (and find your glasses to do that), these eleven new songs are cleverly concise, if still about the same subjects.

the future

The songs seem seeped in the working class worries of what we’re now calling the “Great Recession,” which for a lot of us didn’t really end when the guv’ment saved the banks. Or something. As cheerful as the band sounds, there’s an oppressive sense of dread just underneath the rollicking surface, probably best captured in the concise lament which lent itself to the album’s title:

When the past goes it leaves a big hole
The future was a long time ago

The album opens happily enough with “Salt and Ice,” the first of several songs to highlight dual lead vocals by Collins and fiddler Pamela Laizure. They’ve got a great chemistry here, which reminds us of our favorite songs by This Bike is a Pipe Bomb (one of which is “Of Chivalry and Romance in a Dumpster,” if you’re wondering) and the Gr’ups. Does anybody remember the Gr’ups? They were awesome.

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“Salt and Ice”

A few years ago the Brian Just Band told us we got it all wrong when we described their first disc as a “summer record,” and so we’ve avoided giving seasonal tags to albums. That said, it sure seems like The Future Was a Long Time ago is set in a Minnesota winter, from the romanticized “Salt and Ice” to the way bus windows fog up late at night. It also seems like the themes in Collins’ lyrics are connected to songs like Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter in America.” Here it’s contemporary crises like the impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods like ours, and the failed evacuation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, but like Scott-Heron did in the seventies, Collins pairs politics with personal experience. “Banks” is a particularly successful example of this.

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“Banks”

Classic country music and punk rock have a complicated past, a stormy relationship going all the way back to CBGB’s, which really isn’t so strange when you think about it: both often focus on the feelings of the disenfranchised, especially those oppressed by economic conditions. There’s not so much difference between Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and the tattered jeans Mike Ness wears with shame in Social Distortion’s “Story of my Life.” The dead man’s shirt in Chokecherry’s “Good Times (Are Over)” might end up on the same thrift store rack.

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“The Future Was a Long Time Ago”

Chokecherry sounds better than ever throughout the album, which was recorded by Matt Castore at his A Harder Commune Studio. Instead of the flat, lo-fi sound of lots of folk-punk bands (like, again, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb) they’re recorded and mixed the way you’d want a good ol’ fashioned punk rock album to sound. Drummer Chris Schuck, who has been with Collins and Laizure all along, sounds great, which you can tell just listening to “Salt and Ice” up above. And two tracks feature the one and only Ross Fellrath of Whiskey Jeff’s Beer Back Band on steel guitar. He adds a particularly countryfied atmosphere to the title track. One thing we especially love about the album is how Laizure’s fiddle sounds, sometimes very country as on that song, and other times heavy, in the style of the 90s English band the Levellers as on “Downtown Dogs.”

Last week we drank a beer for breakfast and wrote about Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy with a little wrought self-depreciation. Sometimes it feels like we’re just a few years from obsolescence — small business seems doomed in this country, especially something like a neighborhood record shop. All the while we’re not getting any younger, we know what Collins’ means when he sings about the cold wind and the “after-work bus with the windows fogged up, [when] you feel yourself growing older every day.” But that song doesn’t end with that gloomy image — instead Collins and Laizure remind us that “It’s alright.”

Chokecherry has two shows this weekend to celebrate the release of The Future Was a Long Time Ago. The first is at the Seward Cafe on Saturday night with an awesome bill of groups: Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band, Diver Dress and Up the Mountain Down the Mountain. The second is Sunday afternoon here at Hymie’s, where they’ll be joined by Wisconsin folk musician Jake Duda. Every little detail you could ask for can be found here.

 

11-11-1953There’s an early Peanuts where Schroeder is caught “air-conducting” by the dog, and he walks away embarrassed. Ironically, he had nothing to be embarrassed about: while most of Snoopy’s subsequent adventures were imagined, Schroeder confidently delivered virtuoso performances of everything from Beethoven and Brahms to Schubert, Chopin and Rachmaninoff, all on a toy piano through efforts cartoonist Charles Schultz later admitted were “tedious” to draw.

Peanuts provided classical music its last front in the culture war. No famous figure in the big world of sequential art has so intimately entwined music into their work as sincerely as Schultz did for decades — Decades later when Bloom County revisited the same embarrassing scenarios, Steve Dallas is caught dancing to “Billy Jean” in the shower.

This brings us to Mystery Date, the Minneapolis trio who have a new LP out this week and are the most emulate-able band in the Twin Cities. Their songs are solid air guitar material. In fact, the only reason we haven’t jammed to their last single, “You And Your Sister,” is that its not on the radio when we’re showering. Seems like the best air-guitarin’ rock and roll you’re gonna get from the radio is the Knack, the Romantics, or Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

mystery date new noir

Mystery Date is the antidote to your anxiety nobody could create something new in the guitar/bass/drums form. The ten new songs on their second album, New Noir, are surprisingly clever and catchy. Tunes like “Foreign Affairs” are better rock and roll than anything we’ve heard on KQRS in a long time. The band has picked up a lot from obscure power pop records, as well as from some of our favorite punk rock bands like the Buzzcocks, whose sound they approach on “White City.”

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“Foreign Affairs”

New Noir has more hooks than a pirate convention — its actually hard to pick out the best track. The production is sharper than on their first album, Love Collector, especially for drummer Grady Appleton, whose parts positively boom. Check out the way he and bassist Steve Spettstazer launch into the first cut on the second side, “Wouldn’t You Like to Know.” Don’t mistake this album for garage rock or lo-fi anything.

This is the first 2015 release for Piñata Records, whose three full-lengths last year were some of the Twin Cities’ best. We’ve been praising this label’s fresh approach since their first record. They’ve been breathing new life into classic American pop music from psychedelic rock (Narco States) to rhythm and blues (Southside Desire and Black Diet). Mystery Date does the same for power pop. What we love about all these bands is that none of them sound “retro,” they’re just recording new songs in familiar styles.

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“Wouldn’t You Like to Know”

Lead singer Johnny Eggerman’s wry delivery is one of the best things about Mystery Date. There’s a sense of fun to all the songs on New Noir, which is a pretty essential element to good rock and roll. Because the band is a trio, there’s more pressure on Spettstazer, who rounds out the band’s arrangements really well, and also provides backing vocals. We’ve always loved songs written for a basic rock trio — one of our favorite bands of all time is the Jam, who are certainly an influence on Mystery Date. There’s a haiku-like simplicity to a good rock trio we find irresistible. We’ve been listening to New Noir a lot in the shop, and been caught a couple times air guitarin’ and singing along.

You can meet Mystery Date at the record release show for New Noir this Saturday at the Eagles Club #34 here in our neighborhood. Also playing are Teenage Stranglers and Vats.

“I’ve got an idea the American audience would rather hear Dixieland than any other kind of music — if it had the chance.”
- Doc Evans

When the sound of jazz first shuffled itself across the United States it came to Minnesota not over the airwaves or on records as you might expect, but by transit not long for the world in the 10s and 20s: the riverboat. Bix Beiderbecke himself visited the Twin Cities at least once before 1922, while working on the Majestic, a 228-foot boat which ran from his hometown, Davenport, to St. Paul. We learned this and a thousand other interesting things about the history of Minnesota jazz when we read Jay Goetting’s book, Joined at the Hip.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the way jazz came to Minnesota in those days before trucks and trains because there has always been such a strong connection between our hometown and the crescent city on the other end of the Mississippi. Here at Hymie’s we’re fortunate to have friends who love traditional jazz and share their enthusiasm with us, sometimes pulling awesome local records out of our jazz section which we didn’t even know were there. This is how we discovered the Mill City Seven and Upper Mississippi Jazz Band LPs we posted a couple years ago as a tribute to clarinetist Dick Ramberg (here). These have since become favorite albums to play on gloomy days; no matter the weather outside they always brighten our day.

Much of Goetting’s rich history of Minnesota jazz is about traditional bands, most famously those of Doc Evans and the Hall Brothers, of course. There are many other jazz traditions in Minnesota, from an early exotica act (the Ron Hamar Trio) to the wave of fusion bands like Natural Life and Solstice in the seventies. Our friend Maurice Turner, a bassist now in his 80s, loves to tell the story of the day he played a set with Coltrane at the Walker (and we love to hear it), a venue which hosted all kinds of national and local modern jazz groups. As much as we love all of these folks, our favorite Minnesota jazz records are the traditional ones, and our favorite local jazz group to hear today is the Southside Aces.

second thursday

Second Thursday is the fifth album by this local sextet, named for their long-standing residency at the Eagles Club #34, right here in our neighborhood (the best in town, by the way). Lead arranger Tony Balluff uses the monthly gig to highlight the music of a specific jazz artist or composer, like a recent set of songs by Jell Roll Morton. Here at your friendly neighborhood record shop we usually know who it will be ahead of time because he stops in for a few records to give away during the show. Their albums haven’t ever followed the same format, although tribute albums are certainly a jazz tradition, and Second Thursday is a varied cross-section of songs they’ve been performing at the Eagles.

Its been almost exactly ten years since the Aces released their first disc, All Aboard!, and their original lineup is still intact — a pretty remarkable accomplishment for a band these days. What listeners like ourselves enjoy about this is the intuitive interactions which make for great jazz, especially when trying to recreate the style of early jazz. The Aces’ polyphonic ensemble choruses at the end of “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” are pure Dixieland, full of joyous energy and improvisation. Other tracks are much more in the various styles established by the great swing orchestras. One of our favorites is an original by trombonist Steve Sandberg, “J For Jump,” which is written in the jungle style of Duke Ellington’s first great orchestra or Jelly Roll Morton’s classic “Jungle Blues,” complete with scat vocals, horns growling through mutes and wild tom-pounding drum breaks by Dave Michael. There’s a lot of later swing in the tune, too, especially the feel of the Benny Goodman’s famous performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing” at Carnegie Hall in 1938 (which we featured in a post here this spring). You can hear why this one would tear up the parquetry dance floor at the Eagles Club.

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“J for Jump”

What’s remarkable is how tastefully the band transitions into “Japansy,” an introspective slow dance tune first recorded by Johnny Hamp’s Kentucky Serenaders in the late 20s, but maybe likely familiar to some folks as a Guy Lombardo number. The Aces’ rendition is closer to the former’s, but we couldn’t find a copy here at Hymie’s. We bet you could find a 78 of the original single on Victor if you visit our pals at Vintage Music Company. Balluff, on clarinet, and guitarist Robert Bell offer sensitive, lightly swinging solos over over the backing of Erik Jacobson’s sousaphone. That’s right, this band has a sousaphonist, and a damn good one too. Remember, these guys play in New Orleans every year, and are well-received while also studying with jazz veterans.

Second Thursday is really evenly paced like this throughout, balancing big numbers like “J For Jump” with beautiful tunes like “Japansy” and the lesser-known holiday tune, “Winter Weather” — which is well-chosen considering today’s sub-zero temperature, although we’d prefer a tune like “Freezing my Ass Off,” if anyone has ever written such a song. Anyway, this has always been the case for the Aces’ residency at the Eagles, giving swing dancers a chance to cool their heels, but always keeping the mood and energy up. Like the Cactus Blossoms’ Live at the Turf Club album recorded last year, Second Thursday captures the feel of a popular residency. Another thing we love about this disc is that the tunes we’ve chosen for today’s post are both original numbers which fit firmly with the band’s usual classic jazz repertoire. We haven’t asked why Balluff titled his opening tune “Little Duke,” because it reminds us of Count Basie, especially those “Kansas City 5,”and “6” and “7” (and so on) records he made for Pablo in his later years which awesome cats like Harry “Sweets” Edison, Louis Bellson and Joe Pass. We should probably mention you can check out the entire disc on their Bandcamp page here.

In Goetting’s book, clarinetist Harry Blons describes how the Doc Evans band began to make a name for itself after the war, when Dixieland wasn’t what most bands were playing. “People wanted to hear pop tunes, but a band like this could make a Dixieland tune out of a pop tune,” Harry Blons. The Aces have done the same thing, adapting everything from Al Green to Amy Winehouse on earlier albums, but on Second Thursday the closest to a pop tune cover is Norah Jones’ “Come Away with Me” in the Dixieland style, which offers an opportunity for a lovely solo by Sandberg after trumpeter Zack Lozier has smoothly stated the familiar melody. We stopped listening to “Bluegrass Saturday Morning” some years ago when it seemed like every other song was an ironic cover of an 80s pop hit, and we’re glad jazz bands haven’t painted themselves into the same corner. The song selection on Second Thursday is a lot of fun without falling into this trap, which turns traditional music into a novelty. We especially enjoyed the Aces’ arrangement of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” a song we never thought we’d enjoy so much.

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“Little Duke”

A couple years ago we were given the honor of writing the liner notes to Jack Klatt‘s solo disc, Love Me Lonely, and we concluded our thoughts by borrowing from novelist W. Somerset Maugham, who wrote, “Tradition is a guide, not a jailer.” Jazz, like so many other American traditions, is sometimes treated like a museum piece, a relic of a past era we appreciate the same way old men like to look at old cars. We walk a tenuous line on this subject here at Hymie’s, with one foot firmly in the past and another feeling its way forward — we’ve always avoided becoming purists of any kind, whether its the sort who feel an album simply must be on vinyl to be appreciated, or that the “rules” of traditional jazz must be followed without fail. When we think about jazz purists like Wynton Marsalis we remember how The Simpsons‘ Superintendent Chalmers described Principal Skinner: “The rod up that man’s butt must have a rod up its butt!” Some people take all the fun out it.

Just this week, we were listening to Second Thursday when a regular who had known Hymie walked in the door and said, “Now that sounds like Hymie’s.” The band was playing Jelly Roll Morton’s “New Orleans Bump.” True, we love the old tunes as much as our departed founder, who left us fifteen years ago and whose obituary in the Star Tribune opened with a description of the very same Edith Piaf song the Aces Perform on this disc (its true) — but we hardly think of ourselves as archivists in the serious sense.  We’re not comfortable with the idea of jazz as a dead art form, especially this style so deeply rooted in Minnesota’s history. We’re very thankful there’s folks like the Southside Aces carrying the jazz tradition into its second century. Their residency at the Eagles Club has been a helluva lotta fun.

The Southside Aces’ record release show for Second Thursday is, naturally, this Thursday, at the Eagles Club #34. Music starts at 8pm. The $5 cover also gets you a raffle ticket, where you can win some prizes, including albums from your friendly neighborhood record store.

 

 

make out musicYou may have noticed some peculiar little sections stashed around your friendly neighborhood record shop — things like Music from Outer Space, Classical Gasp, and Difficult Listening. Our favorite of all of these is Make-Out Music, which is filled a variety of classic tunes for foolin’ around, from Marvin Gaye’s essential “Lets Get it On” to James Last’s Seduction. It’s our favorite little section in the shop.

Of course, what makes for make-out music is subjective. Chuck Klosterman writes in Fargo Rock City, “I went to high school with a secretly sleazy farm girl who once said it was ‘totally awesome to fuck to Faster Pussycat,’ and since this girl always had a lot of boyfriends, I assumed she knew what she was talking about.” National Public Radio, possibly one of the least sexy things that could possibly come out of your speakers, listed a make-out mix here which inexplicably includes a song from Swordfishtrombones and “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band. These, of course, are probably not the best authorities on the subject of getting laid.

Our own make-out mix (what, doesn’t everyone have one?) leans heavily towards sultry seventies tunes like Kellee Patterson’s “I’m Gonna Love You a Little More Baby” and a friend insists you can’t do better than Sade’s Diamond Life. We didn’t really expect there would be anyone up here in the chilly midwest making music like that, but we were wrong. Love in Blue by BAIN is a tight mixture of soft rock, jazz and smooth R&B which is surprisingly sophisticated and well-produced for a debut LP, and superbly suited for romance.

bain love in blue

Its eight tracks are leisurely paced, hardly topping a hundred beats a minute, making this just about the opposite album from the Blind Shake’s Breakfast of Failures, which we posted last week. The standout rhythm is in the breezy “Whereever,” but this track, “The Way,” is the most romantic. Leader Davis Bain and Jayanthi Kyle share vocals here, and alternate the lead on other tracks.

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“The Way”

You can hear the entire album on their website by clicking the link above, by the way. Its a nice reminder that people are still writing original, sincere love songs.

Although Love in Blue leans in the direction of jazz, the solos are kept simple, pushing the focus towards its melodies. It seems like this is a band that might really cook, but would rather simmer just below a rolling boil, especially keyboardist Erik “Afrokeys” Anderson and the tight rhythm section — the result is a sensual tension that hits the sweet spot several times. The whole band sounds electric in “The One” at the middle of the second side, and deftly brings it down from there. We imagine this is one of the tracks that’s going to be really awesome live.

We’ve been surprised how these songs stick with us after a couple listens, making Love in Blue a good album for general listening, not just making out. Still, we recommend you find someone special and give it a try yourself.

BAIN’s record release show for Love in Blue is this Sunday at the Icehouse, along with Ashley Gold and DJ Fourfeet. Details here.

 

 

Tonight at Memory Lanes

Memory Lanes 10-49-03

The Blind Shake may be the busiest band in the Twin Cities, with a track on Amphetamine Reptiles’ revived Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets series out this week and two albums slated for release in the spring, including a surf rock album with Rocket From the Crypt’s John Reis. They’ve also got a single out this year on a European label, where they’ll be touring next year. They just returned from an East Coast tour, and oh yeah — they’re releasing this awesome LP tonight at the Hexagon Bar. It’s easily one of our favorite albums of the year.

blind shakeAny new album by the venerable trio is likely to be a favorite of ours, but Breakfast of Failures is a resounding success sure to push this band into larger territory. They’ve never explored their sound as widely in a single record as on this album, which has all the furious urgency of their live sets, but a steadier approach to some of the arrangements, from the bombastic title track to the methodically paced “Dots in the Fog,” where Mike Blaha’s baritone guitar takes on the tone of a baroque keyboard over brother Jim’s mournful-sounding accompaniment. It’s consistently surprising that you’re hearing only a trio, especially during the wild frenzy at the end of “Pollen,” and this tightly-packed track, “Parachute”:

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“Parachute”

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“Dots in the Fog”

Breakfast of Failures finds the Blind Shake bolder than ever before, but we still have no idea what’s got ‘em so riled up. “Youth Carnival Waste” hurls rage at someone who’s “kind are the worst,” we think, but we’re not sure who. We keep getting caught up in the song’s surf-styled drive and missing the lyrics. “Go Lie” seems the angriest of all, with a slower pace which sounds like Wire’s “Lowdown” or a track off Generic Flipper, and the cryptic admonishment “Go lie with your words.”

And we’re not sure if we’re being told to “Grab a parachute and dive,” or “die.” We’ve never been very good at deciphering lyrics around here anyway. Breakfast of Failures is a cathartic joy, an album which feels filled to the brim with manic demons who need to stretch their legs. Dave Roper makes it just about impossible to keep your feet still for twenty frantic minutes, and Mike and Jim Blaha explore just about every extraordinary sound a guitar can make along the way, running the range from rage to, um, rage. We get exhausted just listening to this album.

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“Breakfast of Failures”

The Blind Shake will perform tonight at the Hexagon Bar along with Joust, who are releasing a debut single, and Teenage Moods. 21+, 10pm.

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