A while ago I started listening to albums I had seen a hundred times – in record shops and in thrift stores and in friends’ houses and all over the place – but never heard. I was going to write about the experience until I got to the end of the first album, the Meatloaf record, and I realized they were probably going to all be that disappointing (it looks so awesome, after all). I kept putting the really familiar but unheard albums on the turntable even though I abandoned the idea of writing about it (I mean, it should totally be a metal record if you go by the picture on the jacket – why didn’t anyone ever tell me it was so lame?!). Most were disappointing, but this week I listened to this album
and I realized that I really like this band. I always loved “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and a friend who gave me some pretty awesome mix tapes fifteen years ago encouraged me to appreciate A Salty Dog.
Broken Barricades, which is their fifth album (1971), was a lot more rockin’ and blues-y than I expected, and it also had a memorable spacy psych tune:
(“Song for a Dreamer”)
It reminded me of something I have been listening to in the shop a lot lately, which is one of the year’s best local releases – Actually, it’s a sort of a compilation of recordings spanning several years, although a new listener like myself would hardly notice. Magic Castles is a sort of early retrospective on the bands’ brief career of relatively obscure releases. The dreamlike, hypnotic “Songs of the Forest” was the title track of the band’s sole release for the awesome cassette-based label, Moon Glyph (who were rightfully named the Twin Cities’ best record label by City Pages in 2012), and I assume a number of the remaining tracks come from Magic Castles’ earlier, self-released albums. The band also appeared on Moon Glyph’s enormously entertaining compilation LP, Regolith Vol. 1, in 2010, but that track is not reissued here.
(“Songs of the Forest”)
The double LP is consistently reminiscent of my favorite 60s psychedelic albums without becoming bogged down in outdated styles or weird instruments – “Now I’m a Little Cold” could have come off the obscure teenage psych trip Suddenly One Summer by J.K. & Co (recently revived by reissue label Sundazed). A couple of other tracks remind me of the 70s Beach Boys albums we were listening to on the blog this fall.
Not everything feels like it’s from four decades ago – “Imaginary Friends” and “10 100” could be Lambchop’s lush chamber pop, and “Emery Memories” could be any of a number of contemporary garage pop bands, most of whom spend a lot of time and money trying to sound this genuinely lo-fi.
Hints of modern music aside, Magic Castles is an album you could put along side your favorite psych albums with pride.