New Arrivals

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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.

 

poor nobodysLast month we posted a couple tracks from this test pressing, courtesy of the Poor Nobodys, whose record release show for Ink no Ink, their third album, is tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center (details here). Shortly after that they performed at our block party, and then headed overseas for an amazing tour of Europe! Here is what we had to say about the album by this extraordinary band that we really admire — we should also add that along with the opening acts the Murder of Crows and Anonymous Choir, we’ll be there spinning some records between the sets.

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“Thousand, Thousand”

If it seems like you’re listening to a movie soundtrack when you hear these songs from Ink no Ink, it’s because the Poor Nobodys have spent much of the past couple years working on film and theater projects, which lends an exciting, dramatic quality to their music. We have written before that their in-store performances here at Hymie’s have been some of the most memorable performances we’ve ever had.

Poor_Nobodys_Capitol_Theater_pic

Although it is a single LP, Ink no Ink has an epic quality, the kind of album you could find yourself getting lost in — we are particularly fond of the quieter passages, where the interplay between instruments you don’t hear together as often in bands around town (cello, banjo, accordion, electric keyboards, and so on) is almost hypnotic. We have listened to it a couple of times here in the shop since they dropped off this copy, and each time people have come up to the counter curious about what they were hearing.

Ink No Ink Art

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“Ink No Ink”

The fact that these two records ended up in the same crate by the time they got here is one of those things that makes this job so interesting.

husbands frustrated housewife

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Selection from Husbands, Love your Wives by Gene Jakubek, S.J.

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“Frustrated Houswife” by Ava Aldridge

“Country music is trauma music, with more booze, drugs and murder than all other pop formats combined. More rubbed-raw emotions. More take-this-job-and-shove-it worker rage, too. For all its alleged reactionary spirit, country-and-western lyrics address the indignities of working life far more than any other pop format. The folk-singing hippies who demonized working white stiffs never copped to the fact that they stole their whole shtick from Woody Guthrie and the coal-mining bards. While the Alternative Nation meows about personal fashion angst, the Appalachian Nation still sings about unemployment.”

- Jim Goad in The Redneck Manifesto

Jim Goad’s Redneck Manifesto is now fifteen years old, but still likely the most shocking, polarizing book about pop culture you’ll read. It will insult you and assault your assumptions, and in exchange you won’t put it down. You might even walk away from the confrontation with — gasp! — an appreciation of country music. Long the lightning rod of elite disdain for working white culture, country music is today as divided as rap was during the East Coast/West Coast wars (though thankfully not as driven to sectarian violence). Hardly represented by, say, the 2013 CMT Awards (where crooner Kenny Rogers seems to have been the sole participant representing an older generation), the big tent of country music ought to include everything from traditionalists and revivalists to the biggest pop stars. It just doesn’t anymore.

Country is the most categorically-dismissed genre in the world of pop music. Trust us, we run a record store and see it all the time. Consider this representative exchange with one of the Twin Cities’ most prominent DJs: Seeing a tall stack of loose 45s on the counter he eagerly began to flip through them. A few inches into what we thought was an awesome collection of uncommon gems (including this Louvin Brothers classic we posted last month) he dismissed the whole pile. “All country?” Pretty much, we told him. “Then don’t waste the sleeves.”

JillianRaeBW950wAll this said, enter Jillian Rae with one of the most satisfying, realized debut releases of the year. On Heartbeat the long-time second-fiddler sounds surprisingly like some of the stars celebrated during “Country Music’s Biggest Night of the Year,” singing through ten tales of heartbreak like she’d recorded them in Nashville — not at all what we expected when she first mentioned recording an album with her new band sometime around the beginning of this busy year. Already in 2013 Rae has lent her voice and violin to the Brian Just Band‘s second disc of lush, 60s-style baroque pop (the effervescent Enlightenment, reviewed here) as well as Corpse Reviver‘s first volume of 20s-era folk and blues covers (which we wrote about here). On that second disc, a favorite around here for in-store play, she belts out Buell Kazee’s 1928 heartbreaker, “Wagoner’s Lad,” with such force that it actually stops folks in their tracks. And just last week Rae was on stage at First Avenue, adding a stunning solo to the Blackberry Brandy Boys‘ cosmic country take on the Replacements’ “Aching to Be.”

There is, to borrow Jack Hawkins’ catchphrase from Bridge on the River Kwai, “always the unexpected.” And we’re happy for the unexpected surprise of Heartbeat‘s successful blend of contemporary country and classic rock. The disc hardly sounds like a debut, given its big and vibrant production (by Matthew DiRose) and Rae’s confidence throughout. Take a listen to “Heartbeat,” which launches the new disc in the high-energy spirit of that combination:

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“Heartbeat”

jillian raeFurther in, there’s tracks like “Chains” and “Don’t Want You Back,” which seems more likely to find a fit on K102′s playlist — nestled somewhere in between Taylor Swift’s “Red” and the latest Keith Urban/Marinda Lambert duet. We’re a little worried, though, that that suggestion is going to cause some of our regular readers to turn up their noses at Heartbeat and miss out on a great album.

K102

The Twin Cities’ biggest country station: You either love it or hate it.

Yep, as much as your average local music fan/record collector around here says they loath “Minnesota’s Country Station,” tons of people don’t agree. Tons of people love it! In fact, K102 has the fourth-largest market share in the Twin Cities, followed by another country station, BUZ’N 102.9 in fifth place.

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“Chains”

Some people just don’t say much about it — Loretta Lynn, who wrote about the same feeling in her 1976 autobiography: “When I’d tell people I was into country music they’d get this look on their faces. People were sort of ashamed of country.” Rae’s bandmate in Corpse Reviver, Mikkel Beckmen, had about the same to say in this interview describing people’s attitudes towards traditional roots music around the time Harry Smith’s Anthology  was released twenty-five years earlier. “It was music people weren’t ashamed of,” explains Beckmen, when talking about the folk and country 78s collecting in Smith’s influential collection.

Heartbeat seems sure to overcome people’s bias — its first singles have already been heard around town on Cities 97 and the Current, and eventually folks will discover “Helpless,” the last track on the album which sounds more like the forgotten rockers on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers (“You Wreck Me,” “Honey Bee”) than anything on the country stations — It’s nice to hear high-energy closer on an album, something not so common these days –and this is a disc that hardly goes out like a lamb! Guitarist Eric Martin co-wrote “Helpless” with Rae (along with another rockin’ track, “Don’t Want You Back”) but they are not the only moments where he gives the album a little bit of rock and roll.

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“Helpless”

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“Don’t Want You Back”

There’s really nothing in Heartbeat that hints at Goad’s Manifesto, or any of the socio-economic baggage that comes along with contextualizing country music — maybe it’s not fair but we’ve been meaning to defend the Taylor Swifts or Marinda Lamberts for a while, even if their music doesn’t sell very well on LP. It makes people happy and some of it’s really good. Besides, we spend a lot of our time over-intellectualizing the records we listen to because that’s what you do in a record store. That and make “top five” lists. Heartbeat should make some local lists, we think — especially if we’re singling out the top female singers in the Cities.

heartbeat backRae’s songs are simple, straight-forward heartbreak stories — the bread & butter of country music. Sometimes the sadness or bitterness in her lyrics is even masked by the big production and her even bigger voice. It’s all a balancing act –”Its funny how something so simple can make or break how you feel,” she sings in one track. “When you’re hanging on the edge of disaster but only two steps from okay.” With one of the softest tracks, “Somebody,” Rae takes a mellower approach that reminds us of another favorite singer from up north, Brenda Weiler (who is sadly retired from music, but now happily running a yoga studio in Fargo). Weiler’s best work was characterized by an arresting vulnerability which sometimes made it feel like she was in the room with the listener. Even in the quietest moments, Rae is larger than life, what you’d expect from a star. The breakups are epic (we feel a little sorry for the hapless loser in “Don’t Want You Back”) and we’ll bet this first disc is just a step towards something much bigger.

 

Jillian Rae’s album release show for Heartbeat is Saturday night at the Cedar Cultural Center (details here). Gallupstar and the Honeydogs will play opening sets. Hope to see you there!

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