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We noticed it years ago, when our old rocker friends started borrowing Elvis records. Punk rock is fun but it’s a lot of work to be in it for the long haul — they still had tattoos and tall bikes (and Tall Boys) but over time our conversations were about Bill Monroe and not Maximumrocknroll. We felt a little vindicated, but not really certain it would last. When no less an accomplished traditionalist as Jack Klatt came in with old punk albums to sell, among them Inflammable Materials, we knew there was a sea change at work. We love Stiff Little Fingers, but to Jack’s credit it never really meant much to us be besides the memorable riffs (When I was sixteen I had to look up what an Ulster was before I knew if an alternative was in order).
Still, we haven’t gotten round to purging the record collection of those old punk albums because doing that feels like admitting defeat. Like growing up. In our early twenties we had a neighbor who would clean his above-ground pool while blasting James Taylor’s Greatest Hits — we laughed at him so much back then. Still can’t stomach a little JT, but were feeling a lot less snide these days; truth is, we’d rather listen to something a little lighter on a Sunday afternoon.
Which brings us to Chris Ryba-Tures, whose been a friend of ours here at the shop ever since we first saw his band, Dragons Power Up!, a couple years ago. We posted their last release — as split single with Puppies and Trains – here on the blog in 2011. The Dragons have been largely dormant since around then. When Chris approached us with a new project to open up for the White Whales here in the shop we expected something along the lines of Brace for the Bloom, the last Dragons album, which was a promising, creative mish-mash of post punk sounds. Instead we were surprised by a quiet collaboration between four friends, seated on stage, each singing and contributing lyrics (there’s a Youtube video from this day). Aldine was a warm surprise on what we recall was a cold day at the end of a busy week — they were quiet, they would probably have preferred to play acoustic, and their set invited you to step closer.
Another year has gone by and Aldine has an album, Lafond, to release this weekend with another show here in the shop. This one will be acoustic. If the disc is any indication, they’ll pass the instruments around and take turns singing the lead — each of them contributed a couple songs to Lafond. The variations really help the disc around the “too quiet, too slow” feeling that makes some modern folk albums forgettable — We found ourselves going back to hear a first favorite another time, then another track, and on until it has became regular disc to play in the shop these past couple weeks.
Joe Adrian’s nostalgic “Summer Hours” (above) and Ryba-Tures’ steady-building instrumental “Mountain Climbers” feel at times like a lighter Murder by Death — “Summer Hours,” with its moody cello and simple percussion surrounding Adrian’s bright voice, ought to be picked by a radio station, somewhere. It seems like just the right song to come on the radio along some flat highway halfway home. “Mountain Climbers” has a quiet, chamber music feeling, but is also suggestive of an adventure — strange that a St. Paul band would write a moving melody around climbing mountains (but not as strange as the White Whales writing song after song about the sea). Here Rhett Borner takes a lead, establishing the feeling on the piano.
Renee Spillum’s songs, on the other hand, are more introspective and get to the listener that second or third time around. “One to Learn the Hard Way” is really as much a pop ballad (Fleetwood Mac-ish if you want to get down to it) as a rootsy folk song like others on Lafond. Its matter of fact chorus compliments several other songs on the album, even though its hardly sentimental:
or maybe this is no lesson
maybe there’s nothing to gain
maybe this is no lesson
maybe this is just life
It doesn’t feel, to us at least, like this is a bitter response to adversity, just a realistic one. Like that February when Aldine first performed at Hymie’s, the last couple weeks have been really stressful around here — A lot going on and not enough rest, not to mention the frustration of a break-in on Halloween. It’s easy, when times are tough, to go to your thoughtful spot and look for a meaning to it all — not so easy to pick up and move on. We’ve heard John Lennon tell us “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” but that doesn’t really help since he was making those plans in a multi-million dollar Upper East side apartment. It’s refreshing to hear something more honest, open-ended as it is.
“One to Learn the Hard Way”
It’s easy to hear the “One to Learn the Hard Way” side of Aldine being drowned out by the noise of a bar, and almost impossible to imagine “Mountain Climbers” fitting well. Maybe that’s why chamber groups like the Poor Nobodys are so often heard playing in less-conventional settings. It’s too bad so much of our live music experiences are centered around bars and late-night settings, because it narrows our options and dulls our senses — not just the noise or the beer, but the monotony.
That’s why we’re excited Aldine wanted to celebrate the release of their album with a late afternoon acoustic performance here in the shop. It seems like a good setting for songs like these. If you can’t make it here Sunday afternoon, by the way, they’ve provided you with a soundtrack for another afternoon: You can hear the whole album here in the right order on their Bandcamp page.
Other Aldine tracks are well suited for the honky tonks, however, especially the driven, old time “Poor Six,” where Borner sings lead. There are also two great country feeling songs by Ryba-Tures: “Pale Yellow Rose” carries itself with a fun Jerry Jeff swagger but is as sad as near anything heard on the jukebox from Wynn Stewart’s “Heartache for a Dime.” Without overselling the heartbreak (think Randy Newman’s “Living without You”) he laments a loss and the life led since. “Horses” is a catchy arrangement which reminded us of Jake Manders on a first listen.
“Pale Yellow Rose”
We’d guess each of the four members of Aldine could create an album of their own, but the collaborative feeling of Lafond would be lost. It’s not so much a “little bit of everything” collection as a meeting of ideas. Hardly hodge-podged, the album moves back and forth between alternative pulls, which works to its benefit. We’ll make a prediction that these friends continue to compose and perform together, and the next disc carries a more cohesive, distinctly-Aldine sound.
Aldine will play their CD release show here at Hymie’s Records on Sunday November 10th. Sister Species will perform an opening set, around 4pm. This is a free, all ages event.
In February we posted some tracks from Whiskey with Goliath, a new EP by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, who were our big “band crush” at the time (that post is here). The disc is still on solid rotation here in the shop, and of course a couple months later Brian and his band were invited to open up the 39th Avenue stage at our third annual Record Store Day block party. More recently they played an awesome set during Hymie’s employee Tyler Haag‘s residency at the Nomad World Pub.
And this past week Brian Laidlaw dropped off a copy of his latest disc, which he recorded with Danny Vitali in Telephone Studio in San Francisco. The five-track Echolalia arrived just in time, a welcoming warm listen for a bitter cold, damn Monday morning. Where Whiskey with Goliath was marked with grandeur — exploring the American landscape, taking us on a trip across the continent in the first track alone — this disc is distinguished by its intimacy. Here the explorations are of the topography of the heart.
“The Bitterest Seed”
Stripped to simple arrangements as it is, Echolalia still bears much in common with Whiskey with Goliath. Laidlaw’s talent for turning a phrase in often unexpected directions is as sharp as ever. In the EP’s opening track, “The Bitterest Seed” and “Prodigal Son” he turns his insight to themes of aging and family. Both reminded us of songs that John Hartford had written on the same subjects (“In Tall Buildings,” “I Didn’t think the World Would Last this Long,” “Before they Tow my Car Away,” etc). Laidlaw’s take on the heavy stuff is similar; wistful maybe, a little bittersweet, but hardly gloomy. “The Bitterest Seed” builds steadily like the opening track of Whiskey with Goliath, “Drugstore Hucksters,” Laidlaw employing inflection to make up for the lack of a backing band, to good effect. The song’s repetition hits a sweet spot — it seems like a lot of Laidlaw’s songs have you singing along even the first time you’ve heard them.
Funny we didn’t sooner notice a similarity between Laidlaw, left, and Hartford (from the back cover of his 1969 self-titled album) because we love their songs for some of the same reasons. Both can be a little wordy — you’re going to have to listen to most songs a few times to really wrap your head around what’s going on — but both are really writing about simple, down-to-earth feelings. What’s especially loveable about Laidlaw is his singing. We’d like to see one of his songs launch him to a life of luxury and steamboat captaining (or whatever), like “Gentle on my Mind” did for Hartford in 1968, we just can’t imagine anyone else singing “Clotheslines” (or any other Laidlaw song for that matter).
No one else could have sung “Call Your Old Friends” without sounding like a sap — Where Hartford often comes off as sardonic, there’s an aching sincerity to Laidlaw’s honey-sweet voice. How he could write and so movingly perform the role of a father wishing for his son to return to the farm is beyond our imagination, and “Prodigal Son” is surely the saddest song he has yet written. Yep, consider our hearts broken, if only by its final line. Time to call home. And in it (“Every minute that you’re here repays a decade you were not”) we realize the song is not only referring to the parable of the prodigal son, as suggested by its title, but also the parable of the workers of the field (Matthew 20:1-16 if you’re looking for it). We are all so fortunate for the time we have together, whether its with friends of family, and we should be thankful for the grace that has provided it for us rather than looking around to see if life has been fair. If you are not a spiritual person it may just as well the be grace of your mother and father for all they have done for you, or the grace of the friends who have long forgiven you in your worst moments to be there with you at your best.
Echolalia lacks the energy of Laidlaw’s backing band, the Family Trade, making it a somber fall-time listen. In that its got the warmth of a familiar favorite already. Singer-songwriter is a tough role to play because so many people expect you’re going to be James Taylor or some other dinosaur shit and compare your every song to “Carolina on my Mind” while forgetting all the filler on 70s albums. Even Tapestry had a dud (“Way Over Yonder”) and if you ask us most James Taylor albums were 1/2 filler. We would love to hear a full-length album where the two sides, the epic feeling of songs like “Drugstore Hucksters” and “State Motto” and the intimacy of this new disc, meet. There hasn’t been a filler track on either EP (maybe that’s why they’re so short!). We’re guessing there’s many more songs yet to be heard. Hard to imagine Brian Laidlaw is ever at a loss for words.
Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will perform at the Hymie’s-sponsored night of the Republic Bar’s new “American Roots” music series this Thursday, October 17th, at 9pm. Ellie Bryan (Crow Call) will perform an opening set. Our friend Patrick Harison has created the series (below is the entire bill for October) — Hymie’s will be back to spin records on Halloween along with Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers.
There’s Martin Devaney, all twenty-one years of him, with a wry nod to Nashville Skyline — Tony Nelson took this and several other photographs of him for the City Pages‘ first feature (here) on the fella who went on to become the unofficial Mayor of St. Paul and put a half-dozen discs between himself and Whatever that Is. The story was all “new Dylan,” the sort of thing people have been writing about other “new Dylans” since the Boss or before, aptly applied as it is here– find a copy of that debut disc and you’ll hear what I mean. Devaney’s homages to our favorite son from Hibbing are described as “familiar, sweet and clumsy.”
Devaney claims his mother once mistook a framed copy of New Morning for a new photograph of him, and I have to admit I myself saw Devaney in this picture inside the latest “Bootleg Series” collection, Another Self Portrait. It’s not just the fuzzy hair, it’s the way he holds himself.
And last month I found myself writing City Pages’ second feature on Devaney (in today’s paper and online here), listening to Another Self Portrait while talking to my old friend about twelve years of making music, and of his desire to leave his latest album, House of Rust, somewhere in the past. Abandoned as it is even on the eve of its release, Devaney’s sixth full-length album is his most individual, singular work yet — the first, he tells me, where you can’t play the “what was Martin listening to” guessing game. It is as distinctly Devaney as Dylan’s enigmatic Self Portrait was entirely his own, though House of Rust is unlikely to be greeted with the same widespread disdain (“What is this shit?” asked Rolling Stone in 1970). In fact, Devaney has never sounded more at ease, turning phrases with a casual confidence, and — as always — “familiar, sweet and clumsy.”
“You Can’t Win”
House of Rust was recorded way out at Rich Mattson’s retreat-like Sparta Sound with, he says, friends and girlfriends and dogs all along for the ride. It was the fall of 2011. The entire project coming together with the ease of a lazy breeze through changing leaves — “My girlfriend asked when I had written all these songs,” he explains, because they seem to have come together suddenly, smoothly, in incidental moments like waiting for her to get dressed for an evening out. Another — which became the album’s closer — started with some chords he’d been strumming for years and a couple lines he sang while waiting for fiddler Jake Hyer to head out to a gig. Short and simple, “Fountain Cave” refers to Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant’s 1838 settlement on the Mississippi River — yep folks, the founding of the city of St Paul — as much as to the tranquility of Devaney’s life that fall.
Maybe there was a prescience to the album that seemed to flow so naturally — I wrote as much in a passage I ultimately cut from today’s story in the City Pages. House of Rust‘s lazy opening sets a slightly ominous tone. Devaney described the song as a continuation of “Nashville by Nightfall,” which closed his 2010 album The West End. An amalgam of real and fictional settings on either end of I-35, “Magnolia Diner” hints at a “couple in the break-up booth” with, you guessed it, a sweet, familiar clumsiness.
House of Rust may have been his most domestic work to date — distinguished by “Crosby Block,” a Pogues-y paean to the Prior Avenue apartment where his father’s family first lived when they came to America — but the feeling is tenuous, uneasy. Devaney describes the album as “a spiritual sister to West End,” but it’s more of a sequel, a second act that follows storylines to uncertain conclusions. The outlaws of a song like “Wise Blood” have become bitter — “Sometimes you get the feeling that you can’t win,” Devaney snarls in House of Rust‘s sharpest chorus. He takes an even darker tone near the end of the album with “Keep it Dark,” an intense performance where our “familiar, sweet and clumsy” Mayor sounds less like the Dylan of Self Portrait and more like the Dylan of Time Out of Mind.
“Keep it Dark”
Throughout these tracks are tightly constrained in arrangements that — contrary to Devaney’s live performances of the past year — are hardly, if ever, guitar-driven. Despite the excellent musicians contributing to House of Rust (including our favorite fiddler Jake Hyer of Pocahontas County, Ol’ Yeller’s Mattson, and a great piano player I feel like I shouldn’t name) there aren’t any extended solos on the album. Taken as a whole it’s a rich ensemble piece, consistently held together by the rhythm section of Steve Murray (bass) and Mick Wirtz (drums). These guys back Devaney’s rockers with jaunty confidence, and the laid back tracks like “Magnolia Diner” with quiet grandeur. Having a backing band this good is one of the benefits of working in the same city for twelve years.
Elsewhere the restless souls of West End return simply resigned, as in the last track on side one, which pulls the album’s conflicting comfort and unease together. In the City Pages story I compared “Weddings and Funerals” to my personal favorite Dylan song, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” because it captures the very same weariness. Devaney delivers some of his best character descriptions in a third verse, and he parts with the past with peace. “It could be one of us next time around,” he sings in the voice panned by one local critic (I won’t say who because I love his writing) as “flat.” I prefer to think of it as “familiar, sweet and clumsy.”
So the short version is that the relationship which had buoyed his life and music two years ago came to an end. I could find you a picture of them singing together at the first Record Store Day we hosted — in the basement of the old Hymie’s. I could write about how worried I was about him the night we ran into each other at the Triple Rock and he said his life was coming apart at the seams, or that it got worse from there. I felt uncomfortable not crediting her performance in the duet “Lowertown,” in the story I wrote about the album, because it was really awesome. There just didn’t seem to be a nice way to say it. It all seems too close to the bone. Devaney says he’s going to release the record and then put it all behind him — but we all know you don’t walk away from the past so easily, especially in St. Paul. House of Rust nearly became Devaney’s own Basement Tapes, and I for one am glad it didn’t. From the first time I heard “Magnolia Diner” in Devaney’s car behind the Turf Club, I argued against shit-canning something so “familiar, sweet and clumsy.” After all, we’d end up visiting it someday in the Martin Devaney “Bootleg Series.”
You can’t just walk away from your past — you’re going to run into it at a funeral, or a wedding, or at the Triple Rock. Somewhere, anyway. If nothing else you’re going to see it every time you look in the mirror — it made you the person you are. This became the unintentional theme of House of Rust, a great album nearly unheard. And since it’s all but certainly never going to be played again, let’s have a listen to “Lowertown.” Thanks for reading — hope to see you at the release show at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday night (Ol’ Yeller and the Cactus Blossoms will open).
When large collections of albums come into the shop, it’s not that uncommon to find all of the ‘classic’ Springsteen albums (which we define as everything up to and including Tunnel of Love). Recently something did surprise us — Look what fell out of a copy of Born to Run:
Somebody saw the Boss in no less than a dozen times in three different states between 1980 and 1990. Three times in 1984 alone, the lucky bastard! Springsteen and the E Street Band have a legendary reputation for live performances, which is why many people — ourselves included — prefer bootlegs to the actual albums. Many shows have attained a mythical status, such as their shows at the Roxy in 1975 and 1978, and some of the Born in the USA stadium shows which featured Springsteen’s re-telling of the Garden of Eden story (“It’s actually located about 15 miles south of Jersey City, that’s why they call it the Garden State”). On February 5th, 1975 they opened with a stripped down arrangement of “Incident on 57th Street,” featuring only Roy Bitten on piano and Suki Lehav on violin.
The siren you hear at the end was not a planned part of the show. A police car just happened to be going by. A few minutes later, after light-hearted cover of Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love,” the band introduced a new song. This is the first performance of “Born to Run”:
In recent weeks local media has been swooning over the Replacements’ reunion tour, a limited series that does not include a show in Minneapolis. We’re a little gristled about it all, given our sour feelings after tossing away fifteen bucks on Songs for Slim, a record that’s sure to be little more than a place-filler in our collection. It’s great that it raised some money for replacement Replacement Slim Dunlap — and bless ‘im, this is the first disappointing Replacements record he didn’t contribute to — but it’s hardly a reunion when you’re hearing two of four original members. How would you respond, we ask, if Paul and Ringo toured calling themselves the Beatles?
Local music media has run an overwhelming series of laudatory posts about the band, while carefully avoiding the subject of drummer Chris Mars, who is not participating in the “reunion.” His track on the disappointing five-track EP was recorded with a different group here in Minneapolis.
Two recent features have celebrated the uptown house where Bob and Tommy Stinson lived. It was featured on the cover of their 1984 album, Let it Be.
Tigerox Recreates Iconic Let it Be Album Cover
If they had searched around a little longer they might have found this post from the Hymie’s blog three years ago. It included a photograph of our family on the roof, which has been hanging in the shop ever since. Let it Be is still one of our favorite records!
“I Will Dare” by the Replacements
We’ve been listening to our old Superchunk albums this week after getting our copy of their latest, I Hate Music. Foolish remains my all time favorite, and one thing I love about the jacket is the picture of the dog on the back. It’s credited as “from a continuing series ‘Dogs in Cars’ by L. Ballance.”
Another dog, this one in a pickup truck, is on the inside of their next album, Here’s Where the Strings Come In. Photographing dogs in cars is probably a lot of fun on tour, and Superchunk toured a lot in those middle 90s years.
Of course, here in town the most famous record cover dog is Wiggy, the Flowers Studio Boston Terrier on the cover of BNLX’s first record, LP.
Dogs are just like people — they want to look awesome on the album cover. Every dog wants to look like this fella:
and not this fella:
Left: Scene from Avatar. Right: Painting by Roger Dean.
I’m not really into the movies, but last night I saw a really cool science fiction movie that came out a few years ago called Avatar. I think it was just a limited release art-house kind of a thing, so you might have never heard of it. The story takes place on this jungle moon around a gas giant orbiting Alpha Centauri, sort of a big blue Jupiter. It was a very beautiful setting.
The whole time I was watching the story I had a feeling there was something familiar about it all. Giant mushrooms and surreal spiraling trees, floating island and bizarre elephant-like creatures, even blue people. Then I realized that the movie must have been set inside a Yes album jacket!
“The Fish” by Yes
It turns out I am far from the first person to notice the similarity. In fact, earlier this summer British watercolor artist Roger Dean, best known around here for the super trippy album covers he painted for Yes in the 70s, filed a lawsuit against movie director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox. The suit states, in part that “the similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre.” Dean is asking for millions in damages and a “cease and desist from any further reproduction, distribution, transmission or other use.”
Yes was not the only group who’s albums featured Dean’s artwork. He also created very similar landscapes, complete with hybrid creatures, for the pioneering African jam band Osibisa (these are really good albums). Another major arena act of the era who he painted covers for was Uriah Heep. Dean happens to have created the covers for two of their best albums.
And if you go get your copy of Demons and Wizards and look closely, you’ll find that Dean hid images of human genitalia in his painting.
Dean also created artwork for several albums that do not feature the surreal landscapes of imagined worlds, such as the first and third albums by Atomic Rooster.
IMBD reports that several sequels to Avatar are in production, and that they are going to explore the moon’s oceans, as well as other moons around the same planet. Cameron has already weather a couple other lawsuits and accusations he lifted from a number of classic science fiction novels (notably Alan Dean Foster’s Midworld, Poul Anderson’s “Call me Joe,” and the Russian Noon Universe series by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky). There’s also some pretty striking similarities to other films, such as Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Dances with Wolves. If Cameron manages to escape the cabal of attorneys on his tail, we suggest he set the next Avatar film in the world from Roger Dean’s covers for 80s prog-sters Asia. The purple guy on the cover of Astra seems like he’d be bad news.
At any given time there’s at least a hundred thousand LPs in the shop for your browsing pleasure. 100,000 records you can take to the listening station and sample (this is, assuming an average album length of thirty-five minutes, just over six and a half years worth of listening entertainment). If I were you I wouldn’t bother with a record store that doesn’t have a listening station.
Fortunately for Laura and I, few regulars fail to put the records they’ve played back where they belong. That’s good because it’s hard to keep everything in order, given the size of the shop and the nuances of it’s layout and our organization of the browsers. Still, from time to time, records wind up in the wrong place (hopefully it’s not the one you’ve been looking for).
Sometimes the wrong record is in the jacket, and some of the mismatches make you think…
Of course, this is a little more conceptional than what we usually do here at Hymies Records dot com. I mean, you have to put it together. Eric Carmen is singing about being “aaaawwwwl by myself” and Jackson Browne really is all by himself in a crowd.
Less of a “thinker”.
If you think this one was offensive (Tiny Tim died of a heart attack on stage, here in Minneapolis in 1996) then you should probably skip the next couple…
Man I wish I had ten dollars for every time some know-it-all with a copy of the ultra-rare discontinued “flames” jacket came into the shop demanding a fortune – Yeah, ten bucks would be perfect because that’s about what they should sell for.
Actually, in his defense what Phil Spector said to the limo driver was a little less definitive than the Misfits lyrics. He said “I think I’ve killed someone.” See, there’s some ambiguity there.
Its a huge store and there are three listening stations which everyone is welcome to use. Nearly all of you are kind enough to put away the records you don’t want, but once in a while they get a little mixed up. Seems like it’s been a while since we dug through a stack of mismatched records, which is what we call an album in the wrong jacket. Our last post of mismatches is here, and this is what we found this morning:
A counterfeit copy of Carole King’s Tapestry, a 1971 hit record that sold over 25 million copies. We featured a couple great tracks from it here on the Hymie’s blog earlier this year in our birthday tribute to King (here).
Any time you see specific assurance that “all royalties required to be paid by federal law have been paid,” it’s a fair bet the artist hasn’t received a dime. There are probably a gazillion 8-Track cassettes out there with the exact same sentence printed on them.