The Drag City Newsletter - June 21, 2011

posted June 22nd, 2011


Jesus X. Christ! Is it just us, or has the planetary weather axis totally gone off its freakin' nut?!? What was once called "Spring" in the American Midwest has been a violent crashing of systems that have sent the thermometer riding up and down (and in and out - ;) ed.) and rain pouring into regularly into our lives, rivers, basements and souls. Now sure, rain is great for the earth and the waterways and we're down with that, even it it's Chinese Water Torturing us to motherfuckin' death, dude! We're not built for suicide weather like those freaks are out in Portland and Seattle (PS thanks for buying our records, PNW, you rule)! Meanwhile, we're applying the "it's five o'clock somewhere" principle (or is it the inverse?): if it's raining this much here, it must be dry as hell somewhere else! And sure enough, the Southwest is dry as a tinderbox just waiting to blow. This means that the waters of the ocean outside our all-American borders must be boiling and the volcanos of Tahiti are spilling forth with their payload. Fuck's sake, this might be it! And it's not even 2012 yet. Well, what are you waiting for? Into the streets! This could be your last shopping spree ever! Get the credit shield out — the limit's the limit this time around — (And please, please do not watch Collapse. Ever.)


Mm! We're so funny with our apocolypto imaginarinos — but we're just ripping off the masters with our end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it bit. It's been done before by more than a few of the greats — like Rudy Wurlitzer for starters! His take on the seismic undoing of LA in Quake is a personal favorite around the office — we even reenact scenes on particularly savage Monday morns"¦but speaking of Rudy, we're undulating ourselves down here in Le Bunker D'Ivoire now that we've finally brought project Slow Fade to its page-turning conclusion. By which we mean: the 1984 book that Drag City just restaged as an audio book read by Will Oldham has also just made it back to print in not only soft cover but a collectable hard cover edition as well! All the hard cover books are signed by the author himself, so Wurlitzer collectors, open up a spot between your Two Lane Blacktop paperback and hollowed-out Koran with your stash.


I know we were just talking about how the world is doomed, but"¦seriously, now. We're fully convinced it's a better world today — if only because there's a record called Goodbye Bread in the world today. I mean, there's a title that's been waiting around for an album since like, forever! And now that Goodbye Bread is here, courtesy of one Ty Segall (thank you, man), has time stopped? No sir — just begun instead. For this is not only a great album title but a great album as well! Packed solid with ten songs that cut the flesh and replenish the soul. The tense, pulse-pounding rock "˜n roll that is Ty's hallmark is present spiritually and bursts into flame once again throughout the album, with a wider variety of exothermic colors visible in the arc of its spectral emission, with Ty's signature tinny reverberations sanded down, not unlike an expert surfboard glasser (but unlike the other kind -- consistent dis ed. ).

Yessir, this is something new under the sun - a new handle on a great old way of rockin' and rollin'. Ty, however, is rollin' like he always does, with a schedule of tour dates extending out to the horizon. So far he's covered Europe in a pre-release tour and is set to shake the United States down to the ground through the fall. But after that, there'll are rumblings about jetting to Australia and Japan and then more Euro-dates. And then more US dates! You can't stop this kid, you can only hope to contain him - and Goodbye Bread barely does. He's growing, people - run! To the nearest store and club, natch. You don't want to miss out on Ty Segall in action.


You know what? We're tired of talking up the deluxe new Mickey Newbury CD boxset An American Trilogy. You know why? It's all gone, brother! We don't have any more sweet-sweet-ass limited boxed CD sets to rhapsodize over, they've all been shipped into the world — where they're still circulating around, so don't give up hope kids! And don't forget that we've got a lovely bunch of vinyl reproductions for the albums that our now-defunct deluxe boxset covers (Looks Like Rain, "˜Frisco Mabel Joy, Heaven Help the Child, Better Days). And don't forget that we'll have a smaller, more-cheaply-priced (but still awesome) version of the box coming soon! It'll have all the CDs but no map and a smaller booklet. But dig, the original booklet was so obscenely long that we don't figure to finish reading it until the end of the summer! And by then we'll have the new one in. So if you want a digital slice of vintage country-pop greatness but there's only so much you'll pay for it, good news! The mountain's coming down to you on this one, Mohammed. And in the meantime, don't forget that you can tune in to letter-perfect remastered LP reissues with beautifully dynamic grooves for Looks Like Rain, "˜Frisco Mabel Joy, Heaven Help the Child and the newly released collection Better Days. They're here now!


We've been rubbing our hands together over this one for a couple months now. There's a new Bonnie "˜Prince' Billy 10" single in town and it's got a naked chick on the cover (once again rendered by beloved erotic-friend of Drag City Tracy Nakayama!) and it's called "There Is No God." And inside, there's a funny picture and the vinyl with a couple songs on it that are great! The A side's one of our favorite Bonnie songs (sure, we play favorites — it'd be harder to do so if we were birthing the damn things out of our urethra - but as it is, it's sort of like having a favorite piece of mail), a real swinger with a colorful arrangement and very zesty vocals and a real message that you can understand. It's awesome and not just because of our agnostic nature either. You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of "There Is No God." Plus, you owe it to the world's water supply too! Profits from the sale of the "There Is No God" b/w "God Is Love" 10" single will go to Save Our Gulf and The Turtle Hospital to support efforts to clean up and maintain waterways and the lives dependent on them.


Gliding into view this June is a swan of a new musical act called, you guessed it, Cliffie Swan. Seriously, if that's what you guessed and you didn't know already, send in a few Drag City boxtops along with your post-dated winning guess and we'll get you a complimentary copy of the new Cliffie Swan record, Memories Come True. Because seriously (again), this is a sweet but spiky pop music record from a a few Brooklyn glam queens named Linnea Vedder, Sophia Knapp and Alena Amram . These girls have grace for miles, and their class is straight upper. The duckling phase of their swan-like existence was spent rockin' under the name Lights where Linnea and Sophia made a diverse pair of records (S/T and Rites). But Lights are snuffed out and Cliffie Swan is where it's at! Check out Memories Come True and make a few of new ones of your own while listening.


As long-time listeners know and new listeners are bound to find out, music makes the world go round — but the music that's doing a lot of the little breeze-making and tide-turning and nimbus cloud-forming and subcutaneous tectonic action, well that's the music that's really getting the globe to roll. And so, you can have your Bosses, your Merde-onnas and your Jackos, we're content to roll around in the ditch next to the super-highway upon which so much of rock history is rolling by in hermetically-sealed casks, never to experience the air in which this music that we love was originally created. what were we talking about again? Oh yeah...the unheard music. The music you're about to hear. The music of These Trails. This album was made by Hawaiian youngsters Margaret Morgan, Patrick Cockett and Dave Choy along with another eight talented musicians on the island of Kaua'ii in 1973. These kids loved walking the earth and riding its oceans and climbing its face, and they also enjoyed sitting on the surface and playing and singing the music of generations gone by and of themselves. In banding together, they united several different musics, bits of western and eastern (and northern and southern) folk, all of it couched together in a modern acoustic folk-rock sound particularly informed by the Hawaiian traditions. Add a bit of Arp synthesizer and you have a record that slots nicely into that dusty ol' "acid-folk" section of your local recorderryshire. This is a wonderful capsule of the age that plays quite freshly in our current age. With current sympathies such as they are, we can't see an end to These Trails — they're just gonna keep going on.


Some people say we're slow on the uptake and that this is because we're getting old. Well guess what, you young hares, we're no slower than we've ever been! And we're no tortoise (come to think of it, are they anymore? I mean, really?) either. We're just a record label who likes to think a thing through. Once we've finished the thought, look freakin' out - lightning finna strike. Case in point: it took us twenty years to complete our first audio book project. But the second one came out a mere two months later! And we got more shells in the chamber on that front, so don't you worry. And plus, the just-coming-out-now project, Victory Chimp, A Book is actually the audio book to end all audio books, so guess we won't have to worry about making the grade on that shit anymore! Of course, our third-ever release was the album to end all albums, Twin Infinitives (and it still is), but that didn't stop the world (or us) from continuing to make albums, so maybe there's some life in these audio books yet. There's certainly life in Victory Chimp, A Book, whose four discs resonate with the cut-up qualities that distinguished Neil Hagerty's book when originally released back in 1997 (when it was the hip paperback to end all hip paperbacks, don't you know). If this doesn't end the audio book era, it will at least usher in a new era of audio books that are closer to virtual reality games than actual cognitive listening experiences. To which we say, we welcome our new hominid overlords!


Rubies, water lilies, crabs and lions"¦sounds poetic, don't it? Ah, don't get your rhyming dictionaries out yet - we're just talking about July here. Those things are all symbols of the seventh month, which is also a month that some people refer to as "the dead of summer." So it's all in who you talk to, apparently. Fortunately, you're talking to us! And by "talking," we mean "listening," and by "us," we mean "you're preparing to buy everything we're talking about!"

Anyway, now that that thought's been planted (and none too soon — it's about to warm up around here!), July is indeed akin to a basket filled with jewels, flowers, crustaceans and giant cats — precious, fragrant, delicious and deadly. (And stinky? Just askin' — ed). Not in the least because Drag City has prepared for you a set of records containing Adventuresome New Pop Music, painstakingly repackaged ANPM (see above) and experimental music from some of the big names of that l'il pond as well as a young buck in the 21st century sound field. Oh, and some classic punk rock too!

Okay, enough with the name calling — the true identities of everything in July are as follows. Mindreading LP by Singer. Yes, Singer is back — well not from the dead, but from an abyss of sorts. And they brought sounds from the abyss! This is just what Singer fan's minds were hoping for: (a) not what they expected, and (b) one of the most unusual pop records of the year. Love Has Made Me Stronger LP/CD by Carol Kleyn. Collectors of private press records have been murmuring for years over Carol's debut album, on which she sings happy hippie songs while mostly playing a harp! This album was first released in 1976 and has a wonderfully handmade feeling about that we've tried to retain, except on the insert/CD booklet, which is slick as hell, but comprised of the sweet and fresh recollections of Ms Kleyn herself! Also being reissued in July and also featuring harp is a single song from Joanna Newsom, the b-side to the "Sprout and the Bean" single from way back in the not-particularly-cold-as-we-recall winter of 2004. "What We Have Known" was recorded especially for the occasion and has a "halfway to Ys" vibe to it. Furthermore, because of its six-plus minute length, we couldn't make a 7" single out of it, making this the first time this song has ever touched vinyl. For the occasion, we commissioned an etched second side of the 12" from Becca Mann, who also designed the cover, and this sweet piece is being sold as a mailorder and direct-store item only. But that's not the only short-play reissue we've got! Hailing from mid-80s Washington DC, Crisis of Conformity never got the credit they deserved for their classic hardcore moves. Did they really deserve it? Do they now? We're betting that the emphatic thrash of "Fist Fight" should get fists pumping across the nations. Buy the single and find out for your own damn self.

Also in July are two releases from Streamline that we're also pretty pumped about. The first will thrill the Christoph Heeman groupies around the world, not to mention the Jim O'Rourke sound-whores that pop up every time his records are played. These two old buds threw a lot of sounds together back in the day — so many in fact that they're still sorting them out! Plastic Palace People Vol 2 ups the ante on the first one — and the sine-waves'll be jumpin' all night long whenever you play this one. Also on Streamline is a new album from Nicholas Szcepanik, whose few records to date have been sending signals of a new talent in the world of ambience, soundscapes and drones. Please Stop Loving Me is a truly lovely iteration of his style in this world, and hopefully he iterates another word for it soon so that we don't choke the next time we drone on about ambient soundscapes. Sheez!

Anyway, as you can see, July is going to be EPIC, no matter what angle you take it from.


Still though — July's the summertime! And summer is nice and bright and warm and sunny, so if you want to get out of the house, we certainly don't blame you. And while you're out there, you might want to drop by the local club and see what's happening. Because what's happening is that we've got all kinds of Drag City artists on the road in July! Take, for instance, Bill Callahan (please! please.) — he's humming down the American highway right now and for almost all of July, playing favorites from Apocalypse and some classics too. Plus, he's selling his book while he's out there. A true renaissance dude. But he's not the only one. Ty Segall's celebrating his new Goodbye Bread release with a smattering of west coast dates, staying close to home, but not so close that he can't chill in Vegas or Reno for a night too. CAVE are celebrating a new album too — and even though it won't be out until September they're commandeering shows at Chicago's own Millennium Park and on campus at the UW Memorial Terrace in Madison. Plus, Sic Alps have a short tour out east and then come back west to close out July at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. Summer jams indeed! DC artists are teeming outside our glorious borders as well. Neil Hamburger is performing some of his classic routines in Canada right now and he will be again in mid-July. All in all, it's two weeks worth of shows! It's a good (and mysterious) thing that Canadians love to laugh. Bonnie "˜Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang are going to be up there later in the month as well, playing the Calgary Folk Festival and making an unprecedented appearance in St. John's as well. Meanwhile in Europe, David Grubbs is playing some solo shows and some shows with Andrea Belfi and Stefano Pilia. And Joanna Newsom's over there later in the month as well. And Alasdair Roberts is playing the Fano Free Folk Festival in Denmark then coming back to the UK for a couple more dates. You can't keep that man down! Why would you?

Want some sun in your life? We've got a show near you.


Over the course of twenty years of making records, Drag City has only made three shirts representing herself. She's a shy bitch! But always the lady. At this point, there are only two sizes left of the third shirt, the so-called Banana Girl shirt (as rendered by Tracy Nakayama — more on her dirty ass later!) and those of you who are either very little or very big can look into representing here (link). However, in a fit of nostalgia, we're bringing back the so-called Glaser (as in Milton, not that Garageband doofus with the extra "s") Zombie shirt in all sizes for all to, once again, gravitate towards! And To! This is the shirt you should be wearing when you start massing to rally for and against the president, or the prime minister, or the dictator, whoever your leader may be. It looks great on a body, whether you're standing still, running, screaming, bleeding profusely or lying unconscious. Truly a shirt for our times, and your parents will eventually accept it.


Well, that's done it. Another newsletter put to bed — and another nation of people awoken to the possibilities that music, books, movies and sometimes just a t-shirt can bring in this world in which we live in.

Peace out (gurk!) —

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.