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We have a lot of pride in this neighborhood where we live and run our little record store. Many of our customers live as nearby as we do, and are friends and neighbors we see in shops and restaurants along East Lake Street and throughout the Longfellow community. With pride we’ve always done all our shopping right here in this neighborhood.

Many more customers come from all over the Twin Cities, the country and even the world to visit us — we’re quick to offer recommendations if they’re looking for a tasty lunch or another place to shop. Hymie’s is sometimes identified as one of the neighborhood’s jewels, which gives us a nice warm-fuzzy but also reminds us of a responsibility to continue to be involved with the work to build a better community.

We think one of the neighborhood’s real treasure is Patrick’s Cabaret, the non-profit theater just a short jump down East Lake from our shop. Their legacy of providing a platform for performance arts on the fringes can’t be beat here in the Cities, from the work of artists of color and members of the GLBT community, to young and emerging performers. They are open-minded, accepting and great neighbors, and we are glad to call them friends. Our favorite shows at Patrick’s Cabaret are their “Singer/Songwriter” and “Eclectic/Electric” Series, but that’s because we’re always most interested in music of course.

If you haven’t been to a performance at Patrick’s, there is one this weekend which would be an awesome introduction. They’re celebrating the release of their Live At Patrick’s Cabaret compilation, which features local musicians who have participated in those two ongoing series. The show is this Friday, November 21st, at 8pm, and will feature live music by Molly Dean, Love Nocturnal and i like you. The collection is produced by the Cabaret’s music programmer, Chris Mozena, and features live recordings of some of our favorite local artists. Take a look at the amazing tracklisting! (you can click on the picture to make it larger)

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“Tippy Toes” by i like you

The album opens with this awesome song by i like you (this band keeps getting better every time we hear them) and ends with a really great recording of “Summer of 88″ by Spider John Koerner, our favorite song on his great Red House Records album Raised by Humans. In between there’s a wide variety, which happily includes a lot of artists we’ve worked with here at Hymie’s. There’s even a song by Jack Klatt from his collaborative 2012 disc Mississippi Roll, a great recording of a song we singled out as a favorite at the time.

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“Do You Think About Tomorrow?” by Jack Klatt

Say, that’s twice in as many days ol’ Jack has appeared here — one more and we’re gonna have to ask him to start helping out around the shop. One of this collections best tracks is “St. Michael vs The Devil,” a lengthy story song by Davina & the Vagabonds (the same Davina Sowers who is performing at the Patty and the Buttons show we wrote about yesterday). They’re one of the best blues acts around, but this live recording is the next best thing to seeing them on stage.

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“St. Michael vs the Devil” by Davina and the Vagabonds

A friend of ours has long pushed a theory that there are places which become unique crossroads in the universe. They’re the places where you meet remarkable people who become lifelong friends (he first came up with this concept in the kitchen at Al’s Breakfast almost twenty years ago, and has been a friend of ours ever since). They’re also the places where people come up with incredible ideas together, and they provide people with something more than just a sense of community, something almost intangible it’s so fleeting and special. You might not even know where these places are in your life. The story of how Patrick’s Cabaret came to move into a hundred-year-old firehouse hints at how much it has become a magical place for many people.

We’re excited to see they’ve labeled this disc “Vol.1″ because it hints that more will follow. We’ve always been drawn to live albums and wish more would come out of the current Twin Cities scene. As it is, Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is a really unique cross-section of the things you can hear just by looking around town a little, and also a tribute to one of the most original and amazing places in town.

The release show for Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is this Friday, November 21st. You’ll find more details on their events calendar here.

When you spend all day in a record store, you are sometimes at a loss for what to choose next. Believe it or not, sometimes we’re not sure what to play out of the quarter-million or so records jammed into this building! On those days, we likely turn to a couple of favorite sections: the jazz section (especially the swing and dixieland records) and the local section. And of course, Minnesota has a long tradition of New Orleans style jazz music, sometime we have posted about often over the years (most recently here).

One new local release has become a favorite around here over the past few weeks — The Mercury Blues, the second full-length disc by Patty and the Buttons, reminds us why we have always enjoyed working with Patrick Harison over the years, and also why we love working here in the record store so much. Its the kind of music that puts a bounce in our steps, even on the chilliest of days when our feet can’t seem to warm up from the walk here.

Regular readers are likely to recognize Patty from his work with our ol’ pal Jack Klatt, and his appearance on the Cactus Blossoms’ Live at the Turf Club disc last year. As one of Jack Klatt’s Cat Swingers, Patty plays the role of ‘hype man’ in some of the band’s best numbers, like the as yet unrecorded “Crack Song.” His interplay with Jack reminds us that country music (specifically Bob Wills) invented the ‘hype man’ role decades before Flava Flav put a giant clock around his neck and shouted “Yeah, boy!”

Joining the Cactus Blossoms during their magical Monday night residency at the Turf Club, Patty brought the feeling of New Orleans to their genuine revival of western swing. Their jaunty “Down South in New Orleans” on those lovely nights took its Crescent City flavor from Patty. On Live at the Turf Club he alternates between his accordion and his washboard with the familiar, battered little cymbal. He studied and played in New Orleans, and few young musicians this far upriver can bring its worldly gumbo to a song with such grace. Who but Patty could shift so smoothly from Parisian Gypsy jazz to hokum blues? Sometimes he does it in the same set, sometimes in the same song.

Our pal Patty is also a performer of powerful convictions, especially when it comes to the subject of pop music. We’re guessing he cringes each time the Southside Aces perform Buttons bandmate Tony Baluff’s arrangement of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” (on their awesome disc A Big Fine Thing). It’s a number which surely signifies them as Aces in every way, one you could request if you checked out their third Thursday residency at the Minneapolis Eagles Club for yourself — It’s also based on the sort of pop music Patty loathes, and the sort of cover tune the bands he works with would never record. We understand (we stopped listening to “Bluegrass Saturday Morning” when it felt like every second song was a cover of an 80s pop hit). The covers in the Buttons’ repertoire are all from solid traditional sources.

So, to Muppet-ify Patty we’d describe him as divided somewhere between Gonzo the Great and Sam the Eagle. His dual role as traditionalist and irreverent outlaw reared hilarious results this winter with the release of XXX, a disc of vintage smuts songs recorded by the Buttons and presented as a low-budget kickstarter campaign (an project we enthusiastically endorsed here on the Hymie’s blog). Silly as it seemed, the whole venture pointed out a number of problems, and not just the suspicion of kickstarter campaigns which we share — most poignant for us was the challenge of making any money playing traditional jazz these days. That America’s only truly unique art form merits minimal attention from not just mainstream media, but local media everywhere (here in the Twin Cities in particular) is a tragedy. And yeah, tragedy plus time equals comedy, but we’ve been waiting a while for the laughs to come.

Actually, the marriage of jazz and comedy is maybe the longest-lasting and healthiest in our modern cultural history (except for Ozzy and Sharon, of course). Surely most straight-ahead and serious jazz musicians recognize the inevitable, inherent silliness of their craft, or they’d all end up like the “hot and heavy” guy from Seinfeld. If you don’t understand you ought to listen to a few Fats Waller records, or Lester Bowie’s recording of the “Howdy Doody” theme, or Nina Simone’s masterpiece “Mississippi Goddamn,” in which she takes the edge of biting commentary with prodding asides. “You thought I was kidding, didn’t you,” she says with an arresting combination of warmth and acidity.

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“You Can’t Swing”

To this end we’re enchanted with Patty and the Buttons‘ new disc, The Mercury Blues. their very best recorded outing to date. The band backs both sides of Patty’s personality through a selection split evenly between original tunes and traditional gems. Patty sings super fun tunes of his own like “I Really Hate Hawaii” and “Just a Little Song.” The Buttons are in top form throughout, especially clarinetist Tony Balluff, whose arrangement of “Back to Black” we’re guessing you already found by following that link above. He and Patty each deliver knockout, nimble-fingered solos throughout, but the best thing about the disc is the band’s solid arrangements. Guitarist Mar Kreitzer is no slouch, and his turn at lead (in a German tune he wrote, “Sag Nur Ein Wort”) is a riotously fun reminder of the band’s varied influence — and bassist Keith Boyles reminds us throughout the album why his is the instrument we most often watch when seeing the band.

Patty’s originals rightly stand out. Our favorite, “You Can’t Swing,” swings itself like one of Basie’s small groups. Rick Carlson’s fingers seem to dance on the keys. As we mentioned, other songs capture the sense of humor implicit in healthy jazz. “I Really Hate Hawaii” is especially fun because we know he often buys the very best Hawaiian and steel guitar records we can find for folks — records which are a relic of the boom in popularity of Hawaiian culture in the pre-War years. That he has taken to learning the steel guitar hints at his serious musicianship, while the song itself is a product of the sense of humor we’ve grown to love.

The various cover tunes, dating from the turn of the century to a very modern 1920, are approached with both reverence and silly fun — it seems likely “Alcoholic Blues” would be the first encounter for many listeners with the songs of Albert Von Tilzer (except for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which I’m guessing we could all sing together right now). The Buttons’ rendition of this prohibition lament is very potent jazz!

Mercury Blues also boasts the lightest, airiest rendition of “Whispering” we’ve found — more loved by us here than recordings by Oscar Peterson, the Dorsey Brothers, or either recording made by Miles Davis. It feels to us more old-fashioned and more in tune with the spirit of the melody.

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“I Hate Hawaii”

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“The Mercury Blues”

The songs we chose to share from the album are all originals. We have been playing the album here in the shop a lot, so it’s likely you’ve heard the rest if you’ve visited over the past few weeks. New Orleans style jazz music is some of the best stuff to warm up days like this, when the walk to work alone leave our bones frozen –Irene might have to take the day off, by the way, but we hope you’ll fight the chilly weather to stop by. At least you know you’ll hear some hot jazz!

 

The band has planned an incredible event to celebrate the release of this magical album –a Saturday matinee performance at the historic Heights Theater on Saturday the 29th. There will be a selection or rare silent films recently discovered by the Library of Congress (accompanied by the mighty Wurlitzer organ!) and a solo performance by Davina Sowers of the Vagabonds. Details? Are there details? Find em here.

These past couple days we have been re-running some favorite music about winter weather. Here is the title song from a disc by Caitlin Robertson that we always enjoy around this time of year.

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“If It Takes All Winter”

A couple years ago Caitlin introduced us to another songwriter from up north named Barbara Jean, and we absolutely loved her debut disc, The Great Escape. There was a lot of Minnesota flavor to that album, including in this snowy tune.

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“Snowfalls”

barbara jean cdBarbara Jean has a new album out next week called Darker Than Blue, which features collaborations with an impressive list of favorite Minnesota musicians. It was produced by Erik Koskinen at his RealPhonic Studio — his solo album, American Theater, is one of our favorite records of 2014 (we first posted it here). From what we can hear in the promotional video below, we expect we’re going to enjoy Darker Than Blue as much as we have her first album.

The release show is a week from this Saturday at the Icehouse. Details can be found here.

 

Wild Hands

Oh, River by Wild Hands is one of the most impressive, fully-formed debut records we’ve heard in a long time. They’re an awesome country/rock band from Hymie’s hometown, Minot. We had a few copies prior its release in September and played ‘em like bananas, even posting this same Bandcamp player last summer. We’re already sold out of the LPs, but will see if we can get some more copies tonight while they’re in town.

Looks like their Turf Club show tonight with good ole Charlie Parr is sold out. Maybe you can hitch a ride to Minot with the Roe Family Singers, who are playing with Wild Hands tomorrow night.

 

One of our favorite new LPs this fall appeared on record shelves without much fanfare, and the band never had a special record release show for it. That last part is especially unfortunate, because they are one of the most fun and exciting rock acts working in the Twin Cities right now. We’re talking about Narco States, of course — the five-piece garage band we’ve been telling all our friends about for a couple years. They were one of the first bands we invited to shoot a video in our “Practice Space” series (there are nine more of these in post-production right now, by the way!)

…and we told the whole state to check ‘em out when we were invited to join MPR’s Art Hounds last year. They’re one of our favorite bands in the Twin Cities and their first LP, Wicked Sun, is something we’ve been eagerly anticipating for a long time.

narco statesWicked Sun revisits the track recorded by Brian Herb’s Mother of All Music for the “Practice Space” shoot here in the record shop, as well as the live track at the end of their debut EP from way back when, but the album take the band into awesome new territory. They lean further into the bluesy psych rock vein visited with “My Only Sin” on that first EP.

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“Lost in Time”

Their core sound of gooey Jefferson Airplane-y guitars topped with delicious creamy organ riffs is entirely intact, just more expansive throughout Wicked Sun. Yep, Wicked Sun is like a really good candy bar, not like one of those fucking Milky Ways still at the bottom of the kids bag the Wednesday after Halloween. At times you’d be sure this tasty treat is some lost Bay Area treasure like that mind-blowing Crystal Syphon album unearthed by local label Roaratorio a couple years ago — for sure a Butterfinger-quality record. Narco States never leaves you with that disingenuous aftertaste you get from 00s retro-garage records (thanks Jack White for somehow taking all of the fun out of rock and roll) — nothing on Wicked Sun sounds like last year’s candy.

That’s because Narco States puts the organ back into a dual-lead role with the guitar, a balance post-punk garage records don’t always manage well. Folks have really enjoyed this LP when we played it in the shop, and often remark about the role of keyboardist Aaron Robertson — old rocker dudes usually say something about the Doors, but Robertson reminds us more of guys like Alan Price (who gives the Animals’ “House of the Rising Son” is heft or fourteen-year-old Frank Rodriguez, who played those sweet fills on “96 Tears by ? And the Mysterians. Of course the Doors’ Ray Manzarek and these fellas all played similar Vox Continental keyboards.

Robertson is tearing it up on a Farfisa and a Wurlitzer 7300, both instruments with their own awesome legacies in garage rock, like the Swingin’ Medallion’s “Double Shot” for instance — but where he and the rest of the band push it out of retro territory is in the explosive arrangements that don’t rely on a single keyboard riff the way the Doors sometimes did (“Light my Fire,” “Love Her Madly,” etc) — In fact lead guitarist Nate McGuire is the #1 reason this record rewards repeated listening. Some of his work is in the classic Kaukonen/Cipollina psychedelic form, but he shifts into overdrive without the slightest lurch, as in “Invasion,” a track Quicksilver Messenger Service would have stretched to a full side.

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“Invasion”

The organ/guitar interplay is most original in “Amputated,” especially as the two meet at the end and support drummer Justin DeRusha’s manic pounding. The band couldn’t get away with blending party rock style garage with psychobilly fanaticism if it weren’t for the solid base DeRusha and Nick Sampson build. These two are one of the best parts of the band’s explosive live sets, simply because they carry that center-of-the-storm calm with such class, whether its in the wild rockers like “Amputated” and “Lost in Time” or the blues-infused, dark and driving title track.

Frontman Michael Meyers makes those explosive live sets, alternating between playing rhythm guitar and swaggering and strutting with the mic stand as a prop. We’ve watched him swing from the ceiling, climb the walls and roll on the floor — but on the record all this energy comes out in his voice, somewhere between the Iggy Pop and Lux Interior frenzy and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ genuine madness. His delivers the darkest lines in the brooding “Jekyll Meets Hyde” and “Wicked Sun” with drama, and the rest of the album with a veteran showman’s flair. We didn’t believe a record could capture all the excitement of this band’s live performances, but Wicked Sun succeeds.

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This album went through a series of pressing problems unrelated to its content, and it never received the attention it properly deserves. It was quietly added to the shelves here at Hymie’s a couple weeks ago, but has been played loudly ever since.

Narco States are playing a couple shows out of town later this month (In Sioux Falls and Green Bay) before returning to Minneapolis for a show at 7th Street Entry on November 16th. A proper record release show is planned for December. Details for the 7th St Entry show are here.

 

 

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“We Don’t Break Bread” by the Brian Just Band

We first posted this song three years ago, but its still a favorite. When we first shared the Brian Just Band‘s album If You Want to be Alone or If You Need to be With Someone, we were enchanted by its bright, springtime sound — something Brian pointed out was a misunderstanding.

Listening to it this mid-autumn morning, on a day where we’ll try to make time to clean up the garden a little more while keeping up with everything going on in the record shop, we understand what he meant.

Saturdays are great days here — lots of friends who can’t visit during the week stop by. Several great collections of used records have been added to the stacks out there, so they’re sure to find something special.

One more song by the Brian Just Band, the first one on their more recent disc, Enlightenment.

By the way, you catch them, along with Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade, on November 1st at Harriet Brewing‘s Tap Room.

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“Maybe”

Twenty years ago I was entirely ready to leave home, although entirely unprepared to do so. One thing I knew was which of my parent’s books and records I would take with me. I couldn’t simply claim my mother’s Herman Hesse novels to pad a shelf to impress girls, as I assumed they would, but if I had read them and expressed enthusiasm they were mine. So I read Siddhartha and I listened to a lot of Cat Stevens records. And that’s how I came to read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, based on its humorous title (borrowed from Swift) and its Mort Drucker-ish cover. Oh, we had paperback then! and I that was one I wanted on my shelf.

The novel was published more than a decade after Toole took his own life after its rejection. His mother found a carbon copy in his belongings (the original manuscript remains lost) and spent years pursuing its publication — when finally put to ink, A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and remains not merely a cult favorite but a genuine classic of American literature. Walker Percy, a Loyola University professor who helped Thelma Toole push her son’s book on publishers, wrote in the introduction:

… I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.

Like Percy, I read Dunces laughing, shaking my head in wonderment. How could its magic have been unrecognized? And reaching the last page … how could it end? It was the only time in my life I finished a book and I didn’t want it to end.

There are a number of records we’ve been known to flip back to the beginning after the end of side B. Spider John & Willie Murphy’s Running, Jumping, Standing Still, for instance. One particular favorite around here over the past few years has been Songs to Love and Die To, the first album by Southside Desire. Two years ago the band approached us about carrying it exclusively for the first month, and they said some of the nicest things about the record shop in an interview for the City Pages‘ music blog Gimme Noise (here). Our first listen to the album might have been a little like Percy’s response to the unpublished novel a mourning mother had been haranguing him with, incredulous: surely it’s not this good.

It is and we wore out a copy that winter, and chose it as our favorite album of the year, although it went heartbreakingly unnoticed by most local music media. While we thought “When I Was Your Queen” was a natural radio hit, we hardly heard it on the air.

Songs to Love and Die To left listeners with a story yet untold, just as John Kennedy Toole had with his novel. A listener couldn’t help but wish there were just a little more when the bass walks aways just as it had arrived at the end of “The Ballad of a Flickering Flame,” a classic torcher in which Devitt speculates on life and death with striking candor. If you ask us (although no one has), this song alone should have merited Marvel Devitt as one of the best young songwriters in the Twin Cities. You should give it a listen, along with the whole album, here.

from the end of our days til the birth of the suns
our particles wanted to turn into one
and the birds will keep singing and the trees will still grow
and i’lll hold you forever, that’s all i know

Southside Desire’s story is essential to the band’s sound: a group of south Minneapolis kids who grew up together, playing in a succession of bands that didn’t ‘make it.’ The bassist who opens and closes Songs to Love and Die To is Devitt’s husband (and, full disclosure, an employee here at Hymie’s Records) — so when she speculates on “mak[ing] one together” in this last song from their first album, it’s very real. They’re expecting their first next month. “Ballad of a Flickering Flame” could easily have turned into a much darker piece of music, something like the Cowboy Junkies’ “To Love is to Bury,” but instead Devitt focuses on the precious time we have, in this case our heads safely rested on a shoulder.

wall-1260x946The band is back with a new album after two years of recording and launching a successful record label, Piñata Records, which has a staggering six new releases in 2014. They’ve shot some great videos (here’s the latest) rehearsed their way to more than merely a reliable live set, but one you wouldn’t want to miss.

Southside Desire approaches the same themes as the debut album (loving, leaving, dying) through more sophisticated arrangements without losing their appealing blend of old fashioned rhythm & blues, power pop and punk rock. In fact, in a lot of ways it makes us think of those second and third albums by new wave-y bands coming into their own — Get Happy!!!, All Mod Cons, Plastic Letters, those sort of albums.

southside desireYou can hear the entire album for yourself on their bandcamp page here. It opens with “Four Broken Souls,” a song which pushes the boundaries of their further than any other into the same new wave/disco territory Pennyroyal tapped in our favorite song of last year, “Record Machine.” Everything about this song works well, especially guitarist Paul Puelo’s performance which has become more prominent as the band has expanded its sound. The dynamic opening establishes high expectations, but the album doesn’t disappoint — especially Devitt, who delivers with all the dexterity and dignity of a genuine pop music diva.

What we’ve come to love about the Piñata Records approach, which includes bands like Black Diet, Narco States and Mystery Date, is that its not a rehash of something we’ve already heard as much as a fresh approach to the familiar. They’re giving new life to power pop, garage rock and good old fashioned soul music. Southside Desire ties them all together, even shades of sixties girl pop and the singer-songwriter expressions of the seventies, where Devitt is accompanied by piano and vocal arrangements on “Taking Time.”

On either side of that song are solid single we hope to hear on the radio. “The Heat” sounds a little smokier than the tune they released on a split single with Black Diet last year, “Casualty of Love.” Puelo and fellow backers Trevor Engelbrektson and Damien Tank sounding so surely like the Stax rhythm section (eg the MGs) one can’t help but tap a foot or nod a head.

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“the Heat”

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“Missing”

Most of the songs have rich back stories the listener has to discern from context, which makes them all the more interesting each listen — none of them seem like happy stories. The sugar-sweet artwork on the album, by singer Joy Spika, hides the heartbreak-heavy themes throughout the songs, just as the band’s bright sound often has. Besides the far heavier production of “Four Broken Souls,” the other stylistic change is their increased inclusion of keyboards. “Taking Time,” Devitt’s piano ballad, is the simplest arrangement they’ve recorded yet but one of their very best songs.

This album exceeds their debut in every way — it’s that next chapter we wanted each time we flipped Songs to Love and Die To back to the beginning. On the last track Devitt sings, “We are saving for the things dreams cost / the work is never done.” It may be so, but it seems to us the work is paying off. The insights into love and loss in Devitt’s songs are sharper, the band’s backing better. Southside Desire is the kind of record you can listen to several times, discovering something with each passing, and it’s become a favorite around here this fall.

Southside Desire’s record release show for their self-titled second album is this Wednesday at the 7th Street Entry. Details here.

 

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