New Arrivals

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Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?           –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ben Weaver Buffalo LPListen closely and you can hear birds and animals throughout Ben Weaver’s new LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo. It was recorded by Tom Herbers, an engineer with a storied career capturing Minnesota music, in a barn outside Rochester. It’s Ben’s eighth album, and also the first released by our shop through its own in-house imprint.

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7 Inch LabelTomorrow we’re also releasing a 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, two songs we are very proud to share with the world. If you’ve been following us here, you’ve already heard the A side, which was featured in a very sweet video shot by Ali Rogers (here) and included footage of the band playing at our block party this past spring. We’ve added the B side of the single at the end of this post.

You may have read this Washington Post article when it was picked up by our local paper last week — one of the plants featured in the article is Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, who are the folks we worked with in making these first two releases. You may also have an idea how difficult it has become to press records these days. The cost, the quality and the timing are all very serious considerations — we’re really happy with our experience working with this plant (and would totally recommend them!) but we’ve heard some terribly heartbreaking stories from friends who have had poor luck with other, larger presses: lost masters, entire runs mis-pressed, damaged lacquers and poor communication. And this is all after the long process of learning to play, writing new music, performing it before an audience, and recording what you want to preserve and share.

Those of us who never stopped buying and listening to records are a little confused by the “resurgence of vinyl” craze. None of us understood what everyone was doing with their CDs and iPods, and DJs that don’t play records. We’re baffled that record shops stopped selling LPs for years, though not surprised they jumped back into it once it proved both fashionable and profitable. When asked if records are “really coming back” by new visitors here, we’ve always just said they never left.

Dropping the needle onto a record never loses that magical feeling — it’s sublime no matter how long you’ve understood the physical process that recreates the sound stored in the grooves. And playing one you helped create has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had here in the record shop.

While we have been working on these projects, I have been running along the river, which is a unique experience early in the morning during this time of the year — the trees are beginning to show us the fall colors, and all the critters are frantically storing away for the coming winter. It has provided a perfect setting to think about ideas presented by these two records, and what Ben and Brian and so many others have brought to our lives with the music they bring to the shop.

I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, for the second time this fall. Emerson is one of those writers one ought to revisit at different stages of life, because they’ll find new inspiration. A young man takes his lessons from Self Reliance and its theme of independence and individualism, but after the world has worn him down a little he can appreciate the more pensive expressions in Nature.

There are passages of Emerson’s essay which fit beautifully with the words Ben wrote for his new album. In the second section, “Beauty,” he describes the benefits our access to the natural world provide for our physical and spiritual well being:

The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

Of course, even in Emerson’s time, urban life prohibited such peaceful repose, and little has changed in the nearly two centuries since. Artificial living continues to leave us both physically and spiritually unfit. Even one of our most base expressions, music, has become sterilized when it is produced in insulated and windowless studios intended to eliminate such nuisances as the wind that rustles the leaves above our heads.

This past week Ben has visited a couple local radio shows, including one of our favorites, KFAI’s Pam Without Boundaries, which happened to be, sadly, on its last broadcast. In his conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer (which you can stream here) and with the Current’s Dave Campbell (here), Ben offers a familiar explanation for his bicycle tour, one we have heard before here at Hymie’s: “There’s nothing harder than driving to Cleveland on a Tuesday night and playing to ten people in a bar, where they’re probably not listening anyway,” he explains. “It’s so inconducive to having the kind of interactions I want to have with people.”

Instead he has planned to tour on this new album by bicycle, performing in farms and nature centers instead of bars, and participating in projects such as prairie restorations along the way. Details for Ben’s tour to New Orleans, which he has called It’s All the River, can be found on his website here. It’s a plan which again recalls Emerson, who famously wrote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Way up above we promised to post the B side of Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade’s new single, and its fitting we should. It was a conversation with him at the picnic table in our garden which led to the creation of a record label based in this shop — and since announcing these two releases we have started building the plans for the next several.

Over the years we’ve expressed our love for the flip side of a single several times (recently here and here), and so it was with a sort of reverence for the irreverence of the B side that we approached the first ever issued on our own label. Brian brought to us a song he described as “classic Family Trade” which we could hardly resist.

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“Glad for Every Burden” expresses just how we feel about all the work that has gone into these two records, and into this record store. All of it has been a blessing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ben Weaver and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will both perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday October 10 (details here). Both new releases from Hymie’s will be available. They will also be reading at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday (details here).

 

If you’ve been by your friendly neighborhood record shop recently you’ve noticed some changes. Earlier this summer we started some ambitious landscaping in front of the building, and in September it was finally re-painted by an awesome local craftsman, Jonas Bakkan and his Alchemy Painting and Restoration.

10615954_10152383722010028_8163201052826852815_nWe have been working hard on the launch of our own in-house record label (Hymie’s Records, naturally) and its first two releases. All the while we’re putting together a program of fun, free live music for the fall, even putting together a couple of fun in-store performances for December. Our own Trevor and his lovely wife are expecting their first baby in just over a month, and the little ones you used to see drawing and playing in the booths around here are now in school full time.

This fall is going to be an exciting time for local music, with so many new albums coming out in October alone. On Friday, The Ericksons will release their fourth album, Bring me Home, at the Cedar (we posted the single when they first sent it out here). Southside Desire is releasing their second album on October 22nd at 7th Street Entry, and we’ll be posting our review of it next week. Right now if you follow that link you can hear about half of the album on their bandcamp page, as they’re adding a new song each week. Another release from Piñata Records due this fall is Narco States’ debut, Wicked Sun, which we have been eagerly anticipating for a long time (you can rock out to the first song here) — the release show for this album will be here at Hymie’s on November 8th.

Another album we’re proud to be a part of is the first record put out by our shop, I Would Rather be a Buffalo by Ben Weaver. Ben has long been a supporter of the shop, and has been a part of our block party each year, and has been a good friend — we’re just returning the favor. With the release of his album, October 10th at the Cedar, he’s launching an ambitions bicycle tour down the Mississippi where in addition to performing the new songs he’s going to participate in community river cleanup projects. Also out on the new Hymie’s label is the first in we hope an ongoing series of 45rpm singles highlighting local roots/Americana artists — This single is by Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade, and was written by Brian after visiting the drought-stricken region of his home state California. You can hear the A-side on the new Hymie’s Label page in the menu above.

So that’s a little round-up of local artists with new vinyl coming out in the next six weeks or so. There’s just one other we wanted to highlight, because it was a band who played here in September and really knocked us out. Hanan’s first album, Sonder, is also being released by a new start-up label, Inspirus Records. The release show for the new LP is October 21th at the fabulous and newly re-opened Turf Club. It’s one of the most original and enjoyable local releases we’ve heard this year.

We were lucky enough to hear Hanan and meet them when another instrumental band, Echo’s Answer (from Minot, ND) invited them along to an in-store. Their live set was an unexpected surprise, and one we really enjoyed — and their album is a remarkable combination of sounds which transcends genre. This group paints pictures with post punk energy and ambient grace, all with a base coat of progressive rock.

Rare is the album which can create such a natural, organic landscape, while incorporating electronics so intimately. Sonder opens suggestively, with a brief prelude called “Buttons,” before launching a solid, hypnotic rocker, “Parsimony,” which reminds us of the instrumental half of Story of the Sea‘s double-disc swan song. Even here Hanan’s approach to composition is less rock-oriented, and more like mid-century serialism — check out the incredible passage at the end of this song for an idea of how they bring together the different approaches.

Their experiments in ambient sound are heavier and more directed than what Sativa Flats was doing in the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge for years (not that we didn’t love sharing a night with those guys all that time). Instrumental music often attempts to take the listener’s mind on amazing journey’s or into realms where words would become cumbersome, making it often music associated with science fiction and fantasy. A lot of bands re-enforce the connection with evocative album art and titles, while others leave it to all but entirely to the listener’s imagination by providing cryptic clues — it’s no secret we love Wizards Are Real for this reason, among many others.

The instrumental half of Story of the Sea’s final, self-titled album establishes this with a clear thematic development, moving from “Launch” to “Landing” over ten tracks. Even at its most electronic and experimental (the highly addictive “It’s Real Science” in the middle of the disc) their approach sounds like a rock band’s approach to instrumental music. Sonder is not like that, bringing in such a wide variety of sounds and styles. Done poorly it would perhaps have an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clutter, but Hanan moves with seductive grace through its ideas.

The album’s single is a great example. “Pay Attention” is like a classic King Crimson which shifts, sometimes suddenly, from driving percussive passages to long, quiet stretches, even hinting at modern jazz in the middle with a keyboard part that sounded to us like the timbre of Courtney Pine’s tenor. When really rocking the band sounds just as much like Fugazi as it does “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic,” but less harshly angular. Moments later the next song has the interesting lilt and shape of Charles Ives’ short works. And “Widdershins” is an interesting combination of programmed composition and guitar that’s really its own animal — it’s track seven on the album and definitely one to hear for yourself.

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Sonder is an album which rewards repeat listening, as it balances cerebral and sensual to create soundscapes likely to inspire the listener’s imagination. It’s a rainy fall morning here in Minneapolis and we’re finding this album hits a sweet spot, in between ‘wait, go back, what was that?’ and moving forward — just the way we feel about the days that pass like minutes and the sublime minutes that pass like days.

Frozen

Our five year old daughter has her own record player, so we’ve been hearing these songs twice a day.

frozen

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“Let It Go”

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“In Summer”

If you missed the Hollow Boys LP release show at the Eagles Club last weekend, you’ll have another chance to see them this Saturday here in the record shop. Believe in Nothing is their third release, and is a much more fully-realized take on their self-described “gloom pop.”

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“Melted”

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“Spellbreaker”

In a City Pages feature (here) the band strikes a suitably gloomy pose and credits new bassist Cole Benson for bringing a new energy to the recordings that make up Believe in Nothing. Hollow Boys sound heavier and more driven, but the underlying pop to their melodies feels more carefully crafted. All of this is buoyed by improved production. Where the first single, “Melted,” sludges through familiar noise rock territory (sounding a little like local scene emigrés Is/Is, for instance), songs like “Spellbinder” lovingly recall those standards of gloominess, the Smiths. In fact, Ali Jaafar, who we though sounded strikingly like Texas crooner Alejandro Escoveda on It’s True, brings a good deal more Morrissey to his performance on those tracks.

You can hear their previous releases on a Bandcamp page here. Hymie’s still has a copy of It’s True, their LP on Modern Radio which was limited to 200 copies. We are out of their cassette though.

Despite its gloomy bearings, Believe in Nothing is a fun pop record, experimental in places and successful in that. The bridge between the two tracks above is spanned by several tracks that combine the jangly pop and the noisy rock. “Rue” follows an in-like-a-lamb, out-like-a-lion arc that is particularly enjoyable. Throughout, Hollow Boys sound very much like a band that’s just discovered itself, giving the new album the inspired feeling of a debut.

Hollow Boys will perform songs from Believe in Nothing here at Hymie’s on Saturday evening. White Boyfriend will play an opening set. Start time TBD — will update when that’s resolved.

Here is an interesting album that modestly appeared here in the shop last week without much fanfare. There is no release show scheduled for this disc as yet, still it’s something we’ve enjoyed and think many of you may too. And, as our friend Ben Weaver has often pointed out, the cycle of record release and promotion isn’t always conducive to the creating of lasting art.

Fans of Weaver are likely to enjoy Crow Call’s new disc, as are folks who have enjoyed other like-minded traditional music here in the Twin Cities such as Harry Smith-revivalists Corpse Reviver or Charlie Parr. Ellie Bryan’s first disc, Am I Born to Die, was a promising collection of familiar and forgotten folk songs, distinguished by innovative arrangements that were often arrestingly stark. Twice, for instance, she presents “O Death” (familiar to many as the song Ralph Stanley sang in O Brother Where Art Thou a few years ago), recalling the spirit of Doc Boggs as surely as putting her own imprint on the song’s dark narrative.

In pairing with Peter Ruddy to produce Crow Call, Bryan expands the potential range of her music without cluttering up its shadowy narrative. Ruddy’s role, playing 12-string guitar or bajo quinto (a Mexican guitar-like instrument tuned in forths), adds atmospheric richness similar to Charlie Parr’s recent instrumental album, Hollandale. On their original “Oak Trees” his playing is especially beautiful, pushing the song forward with building intensity.

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“Oak Trees”

Still, s Marcel Marceau once wrote, “it’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference.” There’s a lot more going on in Crow Call’s self-titled debut disc than Bryan’s solo album, but even the fastest tune, the standard “Pretty Polly,” is clean and uncluttered unlike some of the lightning-fast bluegrass that has become widespread.

crow call

Crow Call is most of all remarkable for Ellie Bryan’s confidence, both as a performer on the banjo and as a singer — in this this disc takes giant steps beyond Am I Born to Die, and Bryan ought to any list of local folkies to follow. Her interpretation of “I Wish My Baby Was Born” is one of the best folk songs to appear on a local album so far this year — as a song curiously more often performed by men, Bryan gives the old saw a more convincing recreation than revered figures like Jeff Tweedy (on the third Uncle Tupelo album) or Tim Eriksen, whose recording for the Cold Mountain soundtrack is more along the Appalachian lines of Ralph Stanley than Bryan’s old world version. Its something remarkably like what Corpse Reviver’s Jillian Rae did last year with “Wagoner’s Lad,” a song likely as old as “I Wish My Baby Was Born.”

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“I Wish my Baby was Born”

Bryan has recorded several songs from the two best-selling T Bone Burnett soundtracks we’ve mentioned, but it wouldn’t be fair to suggest Crow Call is in any way derivative of those revival records. The originals on this album imply a wider range of influence, from Black Sabbath to the Cowboy Junkie’s Trinity Sessions album. Their originals are slow, driven and haunting, especially “They Know,” which was the first sample we heard from this disc a while back. Ruddy’s slide guitar is surprisingly bluesy on the closer, “In the Pines,” and the appearance of a guest on harmonica, Patrich Donaghue, is a great choice. There’s a lot of range to Crow Call — it’s often amazing what can be done in the simplest folk tradition, something Jack Klatt reminded us of a couple years ago when he recorded his solo album in the tradition of Dave Von Ronk.

With this debut disc (which you can hear in its entirety here) Crow Call offers a little glimpse into what their collaboration will likely produce — we would like very much to hear more from this duo.

crow call 2

It Friday the 13th but we’re feeling pretty lucky this morning. Wanna know why? Because tonight we get to go to an awesome five-band show at the Hexagon Bar. And it’s not just any ordinary five-band bill at the Hex, the awesome Now People from New York will play, and it’s a “record release show” for Lutheran Heat.

And we’re so lucky today that we already have copies of this great new single in stock. This is a much-anticipated record around here because Lutheran Heat knocks us out every time we’ve heard them, and they’ve even performed here in the shop (told you we were lucky). Everyone here has loved the scattered tracks they have on a bandcamp page (click here), which incidentally have been collected onto a lovely little cassette you’ll find here at your friendly neighborhood record shop. Yep, we’re real lucky.

Lutheran Heat is a little jangly, a little power pop-y, and a whole lot of fun. We love this band for the same reasons we love Mystery Date and Chokecherry — all three bands are crafting catchy, memorable tunes which reflect a lot of passion and energy without falling into the gloomy shoegaze-y rut kids are calling rock and roll these days. Lutheran Heat’s songs are especially singable, and especially air guitar-able too.

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“Shoot into the Sun”

Betcha want to hear the second side now, huh? It’s great. You’ll have to shake your rear down to the Hexagon tonight and catch Lutheran Heat along with four other great bands, and they’ll be glad to sell you a copy. Can’t make it or afraid to go out on Friday the 13th? Come one by this weekend and you can get a copy.

lutheran heat

Our friends at Piñata Records have swapped stock with French label Croque Macadam and are now carrying three awesome titles similar to their retro-fueled power pop, garage-y soul catalog (familiar Hymie’s favorites like Southside Desire, Black Diet, and so on). Their most recent release, the Mystery Date single, is nearly sold out with many copies going oversea! Now you can try out some French pop without all those frustrating overseas shipping expenses.

Here’s our favorite of the Croque Macadam releases, which reminds us of the new Mystery Date record a little — you’d almost think these guys were kids from the “littered alleys of South Minneapolis.” The Piñata crew will be bringing copies here too, so you can also get these awesome French records here at your friendly neighborhood record shop.

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