New Arrivals

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That was the question on our minds earlier this summer when we were trying to organize the stacks and stacks of CDs in our office. We’re always enthusiastic to give any new local recording a listen, but sometimes we forget where they came from or how they ended up here. In this case, it turned out J. Briozo was a new name for an old friend of the record shop.

This new disc, out on Friday with a release show at the Phoenix Theater, is an offshoot of longstanding roots rock band Swallows, whose own third album is now a half-decade in the works. Fans of the group are familiar with their penchants for such projects, which in recent years has included instrumental chamber music and a country album.

Swallows’ songwriter Jeff Crandall created the J. Briozo persona drawing from his mother’s Azore Island and Portuguese heritage and tapping into memories of his grandmother, who sang in her native language on a Fresno, California radio station in the 40s and 50s. The result was something entirely removed from the two and a half albums he’d written with Swallows, something much closer to the AM radio which first inspired his imagination as a child. Crandall has paid several visits to the record shop to talk more about Deep in the Waves, which may refer to the airwaves as aptly as those of the sea.

While there’s a strong feeling Deep in the Waves owes a debt to 70s airwave staples like Bread, Poco or Brewer & Shipley, one can hear the recent sounds of a Sea Change or Morning Phase or the midwest’s own Bon Iver reflected in the album. And although the album is issued under a new name, it doesn’t sound all that removed from the last Swallows record, Witching & Divining. The band’s earthy approach to Americana is just in the DNA of their recordings. If you’re eager to stream another song from the album, you can hear the first track on Soundcloud here.

There are some moments on the album perfect for old AM radio, especially the bright closing cut, “Sun Sun True” and “Beautiful Mess,” both songs which recall Everclear-era American Music Club. The song “Catalonia” finds a drifter traveling to the region where “the warm wind blows,” but the song doesn’t take a position on its current movement for independence from Spain (it was recorded well before the recent vote).

On “Deep in the Waves” Crandall’s voice comes across without any alteration and this provides one of the most earnest moments on the album, which is dedicated to his mother. She passed away from an unexpected illness as the band was finishing the project, which Crandall described to us as a life changing experience. In a conversation with us, Crandall said its difficult to lose the person who raised you, but that “you also start think that much harder about your own mortality and that you are becoming the oldest generation in your family.”

He had more to say about that title track in a recent interview on Vents Magazine:

The song “Deep in the Waves” is told from the point of view of one’s inner voice compelling you rise up and sieze the day – to be alive and awake instead of submerged and drowning. It’s easy to feel underwater in life, like you are struggling every day just to keep afloat. “Deep in the Waves” is essentially a song from the soul to the self about transforming that struggle into something more positive and constructive.

Crandall is coming up on a decade and a half of making music here in Minnesota and this album, his best-yet set of songs, is buoyed by moving performances from longtime collaborators, especially bassist/cellist Aaron Kerr, multi-instrumentalist Tyson Allison and drummer Justin DeLeon. While not in name a new album by his band, Swallows, Deep in the Waves is an excellent addition to their catalog.

The release show for Deep in the Waves is this Friday at the Phoenix Theater on Hennepin Avenue (details on their website here). Lolo’s Ghost will open up the show.

Charlie Parr has never been one to follow the rules when it comes to releasing a record, so many fans have already heard his new album, Dog. The album is officially out tomorrow, and you may have seen Charlie featured in yesterday’s City Pages or caught his show here in town. Along with the media blitz is this hilarious video for “Peacefully Valley” animated and directed by Jake Huffcutt.

Charlie will be performing two nights at the Cedar Cultural Center next month to celebrate the new album. The first night will feature an acoustic performance and the second an electric performance, and we’ll be there again to spin some blues and old time records in between the sets each night. Details on the Cedar’s website are here.

Piñata Records is our favorite local label because they have cultivated a consistent style rooted in retro sounds. Their catalog of soul, garage and pop groups puts a fresh spin on classic American forms without falling into the familiar pitfalls of revival. The label’s two latest releases are from bands we have loved seeing and hearing for years — both were included on our 2016 Live at Hymies compilation album, providing standout performances (here and here). Both albums have been available for a few weeks and have begun a regular rotation here in the record shop.

The first is Temples into Tombs, the second full-length release by Narco States. This album has already earned rave reviews from blogs with names like Faster and Louder and If It’s Too Loud…. Their heavy feature of the farfisa organ leads to inevitable, lazy comparisons to the Doors, but any connection begins and ends there. First of all, Narco States’ sound is grounded in an altogether heavier rhythm section, including bassist Nick Sampson whose key role is largely unsung throughout the praise the band has received for each of its three releases. Second, vocalist Michael MacBlane-Meyer is a far more interesting performer than Jim Morrison. The later is amusingly dismissed as “a drunken buffoon” by Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, and the former is rightfully regarded as Minneapolis’ own answer to Iggy Pop.

The new album has a more intense feel than Wicked Sun, which was released in 2014. There’s a stronger sense of the Stooges but also a wider psychedelic landscape. The tour de force performance of organist Aaron Robertson, who also engineered the recording of Temples into Tombs, doesn’t steal the show. In fact, what’s truly remarkable about their second album is how well the quintet compliment one another and how absolutely seamless the arrangements are. This is as clear in the hook-heavy garage jams “Robin Hood” or “Generation F” as it is in the album’s brooding title track, where MacBlane-Meyer’s spoken performance and Robb Lauer’s blend ancient world mysticism with the anxiety of contemporary despair.

You can check out the entire album for yourself on their Bandcamp page here.

The second new release from Piñata Records is especially welcome because the band is better represented than they were on previous recordings. The Cult of Percolation, previously performing as Mary Allen and her Percolators, has arrived with the release of Elegant Interactions Laboratory. Like Narco States, they’ve earned an enthusiastic review from Faster and Louder, whose Lord Rutledge writes in part,

I can tell you that I’ve never heard a band in my life that sounds quite like The Cult of Percolation – a Minneapolis outfit so “out there” that you just might believe this reallyis a soul band from another galaxy.

We were quick converts to the cause but found their first album proved a hard sell to the unbelievers. Like Narco States, the Cult of Percolation self-recorded their new album, but guitarist Eliot Gordon’s BBQ Laundromat Studio more effectively captured the group’s call-and-response styled vocals and his own part on Elegant Interactions Laboratory. This stands out on the catchy riff which drives “Jessica” and the lighter “Lovin A Van.” As with the Narco States alum, you can hear the whole thing on Bandcamp here.

 

The songs on Elegant Interactions Laboratory are written to be performed live, with backing vocals that have an old time Pentecostal revivalism and the tight arrangements of the Stax revue. The Cult’s sound, and Mary Allen’s dynamism in particular, feel almost constrained in the recording, but that’s part of the magic. The record is only a taste — for the whole thing you’ll have to make a pilgrimage and witness it for yourself.

The new Brian Just LP is without a doubt one of our favorite records of 2017, although it hasn’t actually been released yet. He has released a couple videos to tease fans in advance of the release show at the Turf Club in just a couple weeks (details here). We have been fortunate enough to have a copy of this future classic burning up the needle on our turntable for a month now, and we still can’t pick a favorite song.

The new single out on Bandcamp couldn’t have arrived on a better day. Here’s a song to enjoy while you’re watching the eclipse beginning shortly, for those readers here in Minneapolis. Brian tells us all sales of the single on Bandcamp will go to the Climate Reality Project.

Our old friend Ben Weaver is releasing his new album, Sees Like A River, tonight at Creation Audio. Here is a link to information about tickets, but it appears online tickets are sold out — the good news is that a few seats for the intimate show have been reserved for walk-ups.

For the first time since 2008’s The Ax in the Oak, Ben recorded the album with a backing group — this time with the members of Alpha Consumer, who are some of the most talented musicians in the Twin Cities. The album also includes several short spoken word pieces, such as this one, “Uncle Whistle Bone.”

Sees Like A River is being released in a limited edition letter-pressed package which includes poetry as well as the disc. The band fits seamlessly along with Ben’s songs, but you’ll have to get yourself a copy to hear for yourself. Tonight’s performance is certain to includes the new songs as well as poems and stories from Ben’s bicycle travels and clean water advocacy projects.

These days there’s something brought back into print on LP every week. Some of this month’s releases (the soundtrack, for instance) seem unnecessary, simply because it seems to us someone could find a nice original copy of they put some effort into the search. Others are albums that all but hardly ever appeared on vinyl, especially during those dark times in the 90s when the industry was trying to convince us all we didn’t like records anymore.

Later this month several of Tom Petty’s albums from that era will be back in print, including the soundtrack to She’s the One. You probably don’t remember this movie, even if you’ve actually seen it, but if you’re a Tom Petty fan you likely remember the album as one of his best. Also being reissued is The Last DJ, which we thought was just as good.

Those old CDs work just fine, but some people really want to have their favorites on vinyl. So if you’re a Tom Petty fan and you’d like these two great albums, good news! You don’t have to buy an original copy online at a price tag in the hundreds — reissues for these two will be out in just two weeks! Also, if you’d like one of those Saturday Night Fever reissues, we could order one for you. Otherwise there’s pretty much always a nice copy in the shop for under ten bucks.

Earlier this month the folks at Third Man Records released a 7-inch of two new songs recorded by the Blind Shake in their “blue room.” They asked the guys where they’d like to debut the single, and to our surprise our favorite local band chose us! At the time, the blue vinyl of the singles were delayed and they’re finally here. So if you’re a colored-vinyl freak and you were waiting to hear these killer live takes of “I Shot all the Birds” and “Tar Paper,” today’s your day!

<—– Look! Blind Shake live at Third Man on blue vinyl while they last!

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