Alan Jackson scored a huge hit with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?” in 2001, although hindsight suggests it was opportunistic schlock. The song was parodied by South Park when Jackson appeared to sing “A Ladder to Heaven,” about the boy’s attempt to climb to clouds to get a raffle ticket from Kenny.

Actually country music has a long history of patriotic records in poor taste, and Jackson’s song was far from the most shameful cash-grab of the era (Toby Keith can have that dubious claim). That got us to wondering how long until somebody hits the money button with a song about Uncle Sam kicking the snot out of ISIL.

Recently, we read about Al-Rahel Al-Kabir, a Lebanese band (whose name means “the Great Departed”) which writes humorous songs about political and social issues in the Middle East. We don’t understand a word of their latest song, but have read it mocks ISIL and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. From the audience reaction, the song must be world-class satire.

freedom wins againSadly, we’re guessing any song about ISIL in the traditional American style will be more like this 1991 single by Quarter Moon.

 

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“Freedom Wins Again” by Quarter Moon

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”

The Facts o’ Life

We have always loved posting privately-pressed albums by 70s show bands — the most popular of these lost li’l gems we’ve shared with you has been the couple albums we’ve found by Dave Major and the Minors (here and here) which led folks to share, through the comment section, the band’s history of triumph, at least on the ballroom circuit, and tragedy.

Today’s selection is a little different from most others we’ve shared because it’s part comedy/part original music. There’s only one cover on The Facts O’ Life’s album (Willie Mitchell’s “Soul Serenade”) and the record has some goofy comedy bits interspersed, making it more like Music is Just A Bunch of Notes by Spider John Koerner and Willie & the Bees.

The originals are all by lead singer J. Terry Kratky, a similar blend of R&B and bar rock as that local album which is one of our personal favorites. Kratky doesn’t have the insight or wit of Koerner, but that’s not really a fair comparison if you ask us. He does have a knack for melody and puts some thoughtful love songs into the album.

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The comedy bits aren’t really better or worse than Koerner’s, mostly just a distraction when you’re listening to the album. Seems like the impulse to fit something silly into an album infiltrated nearly every kind of music around that time, even jazz (Roland Kirk’s Case of the Three Side Dream in Audio Color).

The Facts O’ Life LP has a label that looks suspiciously like the United Artists logo, but in fact says UMA, for United Music Artists. We wonder if this clever ruse tricked any record shoppers into thinking this was a big budget, major label release when they saw it on the shelves.

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“We Played this Show”

From the liner notes: “This album is our contribution to the salvation of mankind for it contains a smile. A smile, we hope, that will soon be on your face. Try it on, it feels good!”

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“Pig Fight”

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“The Hippy and the Straight”

Rejoice!

Some positive music for this beautiful Sunday morning. Hope you are having as good of a weekend as we are!

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“Rejoice” by Pharaoh Sanders

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Also just a reminder that today is “Free Records Day” — we’ll be pulling all the surplus crates out of our storage space and putting them on the sidewalk around noon. Come on by and dig — you might find a gem in there, and you’ll help keep them out of the landfill for just a little longer.

Our pal Craig is always bringing in odd finds from his thrift store trips, and he recently found this awesome tape of a 1988 radio documentary about Radio First Termer, a pirate station briefly broadcast in Vietnam.

vietnam radio first termerRadio First Termer broadcast just over sixty hours, for three weeks in January 1971. Its host, Dave Rabbit, is now known to have been US Air Force Sargent Clyde David DeLay. You can hear one of the only surviving recordings of the original broadcasts here.

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This 1931 single by Victor Young and his Orchestra is sort of like the “super groups” popular in the 70s and 80s, since it features vocals by many of the biggest names in music: The Mills Brothers, The Boswell Sisters (with a solo by Connie Boswell) and Bing Crosby. It was released on the Brunswick label just before Christmas that year.

The same month New York’s Bank of America collapsed, holding at the time total deposits of more than $200 million. It was the largest bank failure in the history of the United States. The following month Congress created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which lends millions of Federal dollars to banks, insurance companies and railroads — at a time when unemployment is nearing 24%, the program is dismissed by working people as “the millionaire’s dole.”

The popular music of the Depression era expresses an unexpected optimism, although there are also many songs which tell the heartbreaking stories of the depositors left holding the bag, so to speak, as the banks collapsed. Just a couple years later Connie Boswell was one of several people who recorded “Underneath the Arches,” a song about the homeless men who slept under a bridge (her single was not as successful as the Andrews Sisters’ recording). And Bing Crosby recorded one of the defining songs of the time in 1932, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?”:

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An enormous hit when Brunswick released it just before the election of 1932, the song was decried by Republicans as anti-capitalist. It is often described as a defining song of the era, and should be seen to represent in particular the broken dreams of a generation which felt it had not received due compensation for its contributions. The song’s most poignant lines make topical reference to the “Bonus Army” protest march of mid-summer 1932, in which tens of thousands of veterans of the Great War crowded around the Capitol as Congress voted down the Wright Patman bill, which would have provided immediate funds to begin paying veterans their long-promised bonuses.

Two unarmed veterans were shot by police on July 28, and the US Army was ordered to disperse the encampments with rifles, bayonets and tear gas. This all may sound alarmingly familiar.

We don’t have to tell you that these are some troubled times — picking up a newspaper any more is an exercise in how much bad news one’s heavy heart can stand. The headlines report different problems than those from the Great Depression, but times are nonetheless tough in what economists have been calling the Great Recession.

Generation X, to which belong the proprietors of your friendly neighborhood record shop, is likely to be the first generation in American history to find itself poorer than its parents, according to studies from the Pew Research Group. We’re accumulating far more debt, much of it related to college loans, and the things we tentatively invest in like our homes and, if any, our doomed retirement accounts, are at best barely staying above water, while for the Boomers the mere act of buying a home and maintaining a mortgage could set one up for comfort.

Ironically, those so quickly dismissed by Boomers as the “slacker” generation are proving to be more involved in our children’s lives and our communities than our parents were at the same age. Check out this awesome long-term study from the University of Michigan, if you want to feel better about what you’re doing Xers. We’re making more money, accomplish more, but accumulating less for ourselves. We’re actually living more aligned with that 1931 single “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” than the way we were raised.

While most mainstream reports of this phenomenon are accented with images from The Breakfast Club or Reality Bites, and peppered with references to REM (even though we’re, like, so over them) some get it right, and some are just fun to read.

You might have noticed during your last visit to Hymie’s that nearly all the once-vacant real estate along East Lake Street is bustling with activity — we’d say booming but most of these new businesses are being established by Gen Xers. We mentioned earlier that the music of the Great Depression often expressed an unexpected optimism. Bandleader Ted Lewis recorded a pair of sides in January 1931 with an all-star group (one even featuring Benny Goodman), the same month Wright Patman introduced his doomed bill to Congress — one was called “Headin’ for Better Times” and the other titled “There’s a New Day Comin’.” And another Victor Young single issued by Brunswick in 1931 also had some fun lines about food.

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Its hard to say if the music of Generation X is as characteristically optimistic, because popular music is so much more fragmented now than it was in the early 30s. Surely there have been waves of oppressive pessimism, like seemingly every corporate rock record recorded by an Xer in the 90s. Today it would all seem characteristically diverse more than anything else. Its amazing how many different things you could hear on an average night here in the Twin Cities, and how wide-ranging the interests of regular customers here at the record shop.

Having finally outlived the shackles of being the “slacker” generation, we’re now regarded as the “Meh” generation.

The positive side of this hardly-apathetic expression is the live-and-let-live attitude it embodies. More and more folks are creating music and other art for the simple joy of creation — here at Hymie’s we’re inspired by the hard-working musicians who balance the artistic ambitions with the obligations of work, parenthood, caring for parents, whatever it is, with grace and dignity. Whether we’re poorer or richer, we’re creating together a richer world.

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Our friend Jack Klatt wrote this song, “Life’s a Drag,” a few years ago for his second disc, Mississippi Roll. He didn’t like when we compared him to Bing Crosby, but we meant it in the kindest of ways. A drag or not, life here on East Lake Street is a bowl of cherries.

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