New Arrivals

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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!

Okay friends, you’re likely growing weary of our posts about the Blind Shake, whose various solo projects we featured (here and here), but we’ve got more news from the Twin Cities most awesome and prolific trio.

They recorded two songs at the famous Third Man Records last year, and those songs are now available on a 7″ single. The folks at Third Man were gracious enough to ask which record store should debut the single, and here we are.

Our only complaint is that two songs doesn’t really capture the band. They’re so much bigger than a 7″ single. But we’re honored for the opportunity to debut this little slice of rock and roll magic.

You can see Jim and the French Vanilla — a Blind Shake side project — every Saturday in March at Grumpys Bar here in Minneapolis.

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