The Drag City Newsletter, March 30 2010

posted March 31st, 2010


It’s gone! We were so looking forward to our future, too! Somehow, the new day that was to promised everyone – it’s over! How can it be dark again already? When do we get to enjoy our today?

Oh…hello readers. Sorry you had to hear that little outburst. We’re usually pretty cool with time, but lately... well, we know we haven’t written lately. But that’s because nothing’s been going on, can you believe that?

You don’t believe that. What gave us away?


OK, if you’re reading this, you clearly have to ask - and if you have to ask, you clearly expect an answer. And clearly, We love to talk about Us, so…

For the past six weeks give or take a week or two, guess what? We’ve been rolling the heavy-hitters, like Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me 3xLP/3xCD and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and the Cairo Gang’s The Wonder Show Of the World LP/CD, plus Bill Callahan’s vinyl-only double-live album Rough Travel For a Rare Thing and Michael Yonkers’ equally vinyl-only (but 100% less double-live-in-Australia) Lovely Gold – plus all of our January releases which have contributing to the heavy flow around here (Right, ladies? eucchhh!) as well. Just in case you can’t remember way back in January, it was a different time. No different from the present, but still, a different time: there were awesome new releases back then: Scout Niblett The Calcination of Scout Niblett LP/CD; Major Stars Return to Form LP/CD; The Red Krayola with Art & Language Five American Portraits LP/CD and the return of Royal Trux’s amazing untitled third album (on gatefold vinyl!).

Yes, it’s been an epic new year – but as April blooms and looms, perhaps you too feel that 2010 has already gotten old. We’re concerned about this new phenomenon, and naturally, we’ve got a few thoughts on the matter…some of them even less than profane. But, no – we’re not losing our edge, God Fuck us…


Let’s talk about you for a minute here. Ours has always been a world where individuals have spoken – or more often, shouted – their minds, but this day and age offers more opinions per square minute than any point in history. This seems to be what’s causing months, weeks, days, hours and minutes to weigh so much more heavily than they used to – their cellular (do you Brits really call it “stem-mobile- research”? Please.) system’s been altered, and the single unit that used to comprise something as singular as a minute is now fanned out into a multi-tasking mega-minute, with a maximum of information coming in and going out on an unprecedented number of channels. Somehow, we’re adapting, surviving and flourishing - but by the end of the day, we’ve been involved in more transactions than we’re used to, and when we turn around to measure where we’ve been… well shit, where haven’t we been?

We’re not here to offer any Oliver Sacks-like analysis of what this is doing to our brainstem and what that organ’s gonna look like in another century (think: huge erect penis…with tightly retracted scrotum bunched underneath. Like you weren’t thinking that already.), we’re just concerned about what it’s doing to the way we sell records. Clearly, attention spans are being pared to the bare minimum and the “window” (to use an old industry parlance, kids) for each new album is barely cracked open and stuck in place – we can’t get it up or down! But back to the window....(smile). Still, we’ve got a new release date every month, with more and more titles piled into each one - that ought to help keep the slides clicking through your voracious nerve centers! In fact, we’ve almost got this new version of time down to a mathematically science-like form of math-science: new releases + live shows + videos + surprise internet appearances = consumer engagement, 2010-style! And early Alzheimer’s for everybody plugged into this beast! Hey, we’re about sales today – not ten years from now when you’re all lining the sleek new mental wards of the future (assuming Planet X leaves us with as much)! Frankly people, this is about as much pedal as we want to put to the metal – really, we feel that our role is to slow you down as much as we can so as to have you listen ever more closely to these amazing records of ours. Ditto for the books, DVDs and occasional t-shirt…you gotta slow down and realize what they’re all about. Listen to your t-shirt!

Well, enough about you. Here’s how we’re looking…


As we alluded to above, one reason your humble newsletter’s been on mini-hiatus is the beauty and the beast we know as the new Joanna Newsom album. It’s not just all the people who want the record; it’s the size of the damn thing! 60 CDs fit into a box that’s meant to hold 120! 8 LPs fit into a box meant to hold 50! Even if we’re going 75 miles per hour into a 5 knot wind, it’ll still take us weeks to get all these LPs and CDs to all of you wunnerful people out there. We’re looking into getting a silo to hold it all – one of them old nuclear jobs so we can fire CDs and LPs out to stores (and especially vocal mailorder customers – take that, faithful bitches!). Don’t misread this – we’re not asking for your sympathy, only money, please - but this is why you’re a month older as you read this. Feels different, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Have One On Me is more than just an enormous box on our shelf (ladies!)… when opened and accessed, it’s like a diary of the finest order! If you read it with one eye closed, the events of a young woman’s life are inscribed, examined and redefined on the pages, speaking lyricially from the guts of her twenty-somethings and all the changes that seem to come in torrents every day. The pop industry has depended on the musings of its youngsters for decades now, but there’s never been a pushing-30-youngster quite like Joanna Newsom (she apparently has horns). And while we wish there was a little more cussing (she drew the fucking line after one “Goddamn”), we’re pleased to see that the words and music of Joanna Newsom continue to resonate in ever-growing waves through the many and varied cultures of our present-day planet.

Ahhh..we got through alla that without using the term “Joyceian.” I mean – whoops!

Joanna inspires some heavy love – and lite love too, while she’s at it. Like the sight of people hugging Have One On Me, for instance. Impressive, but for our money, they won’t be fully out of the closet until we get a picture of four dudes crossing St. John’s Wood outside of Abbey Road with copies of the album in their hands – and socks draped over their johnsons! Or what about tall skinny Fleetwood-esque dude holding a CD out at arms length while tiny little Nicks chick ballerinas herself around him? C’mon kids! Don’t stop at the Hooters waitress! Keep the surprises coming - next-level this shit!


So, February came and went with but one release. One big, fat, sexy-but-literate (What? C’mon, we’re talking about a record here!) release (see?) – but still one only. What were we supposed to focus our kaleidoscopic mind on? March! As of press time, it’s what’s still happening now. And for March, we’ve got three releases currently making inroads into your own universal mind out there: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & The Cairo Gang The Wonder Show of The World; Bill Callahan Rough Travel For a Rare Thing, and Michael Yonkers Lovely Gold.


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy musta gots ants in his pants! Fortunately, they seem to be making him dance. Since…well, since ever he’s been on a tear of lusty music-making, in as many moods and styles and he can bring forth from his gaunt and beardy frame. Everybody’s got their own favorite – why, over the past five years, fans of The Letting Go, “CHIJIMI,” Lie Down in the Light, “Ask Forgiveness,” Funtown Comedown and Beware bunch themselves into opposing groups on silly little chatboards around the world (though they all party together at the shows). Trust our boy to throw another spanner into the works by releasing a new album, just when we were getting used to the old one! The old spanner, not the old works – just in case you were wondering…

The Wonder Show Of The World is a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and The Cairo Gang co-joint, making this the first co-Bonny slarb since Superwolf tore you asunder. Remember that? It’s always a nice memory, thinking back to that summer you got torn asunder…anyway, since The Cairo Gang is the exclusive domain of guitarist and singer Emmett Kelly (betcha din’t know that), and since Emmett’s been on almost all of Bonny’s records since 2006 (you mighta known that), one might wonder what’s the diff, huh? Well, The Wonder Show Of The World is all Bonny and Emmett, getting bi- with a little help from a friend or two, including bassist and percussor extraordinaire, Shazad Ismaily. Plus, Emmett’s the composer of the tunes and Bonny the writer of the lyrics, so this is a lean and mean collaboration here, with the awesomeness coming in quiet, quieter and quietest sizes, yet featuring glistening jewels of sudden beauty in the form of massed harmony vocals or an elegantly turned guitar break. Bonny’s lyrics are further facts and fictions from down his singular path, all of which are made supremely musical in a manner suited only to the ‘Prince.’ Reference points are soft and lite rock moments from the previous century, but they’ve been rejigged to suit today’s purpose, and none other. Your time here is short, pay heed to The Wonder Show of the World – out in stores NOW.


What makes a record? Is it the format it comes in or the quantity it’s pressed in? Or wait, maybe it has something to do with the content, oh my God! Hmm…well, if it’s content, we might be in trouble – because we were thinking of the format and the quantity when we only made a cloven-hoof-full of Bill Callahan’s vinyl-only live album Rough Travel For a Rare Thing, which is far fewer than we’ll be making for Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle 2: Sometimes I Wish We Were In The Eagles. But hey, it’s a live record and it doesn’t come with a download and you never can tell…never, except for now. Man, we sold through those records faster than you can say ”Cold-Blooded Old Times” (which if you’re Bill, could take as long as a two to three weeks, with all of his signature melismas thrown in). Fear not, hardcore Callahan fans – the copies are out in the shops and distributors still have them and by the time they’re all gone, we’ll have more for you. But they still won’t have a download code – how the fuck will we sell them then? Keep those cards and threats coming….


Lovely Gold, that is. Yes! Priceless…Are y’all familiar with the name Michael Yonkers? If you’re not, it’s time to replace some bit of useless memory in your head (reality TV from the late ‘90’s can go) with a bit of the Michael Yonkers story. It’s the story of a young man with a dream, living in late-60s Minneapolis. Fortunately, the dream involved music, not guns. He wanted to make music made of sounds from instruments he’d made himself, on recording gear he’d rigged up himself as well. Man, if only he’d decided to make guns! It sounds like he’d have been good at it. And as we all know today, that’s where the money is…anyway, he turned a few heads with his DIY sounds, but at the end of the day (figuratively speaking, that is…for all our non-British readers), he had nobody on the line to release his music. He ended up making his own records and spreading them around as best he could until finally that first album was reissued in the early part of this 21st century as Microminiature Love. Subsequently, a more acoustical archival piece of Yonkers-alia entitled Grimwood was been pulled from the past to general approval…but with Lovely Gold, we think we’ve stumbled upon the perfect combination of Yonkers’ low-fi grunge sound and his shut-in folkie style. And now, on vinyl only, reproducing the look of Michael Yonkers’ self-released albums in the 1970s, it’s yours for the panning. Like panning gold, we mean. Ah, just go and buy it, before it goes out of print too!


Bam! Like straight shots to the head from a Yonkers .38 Special, we’re back at you with another new one, another amazing reissue from somewhere south of left field and a couple releases from one of our immortal colleagues in sound. WTF are we talking about? WTF! You’re not gonna stop reading now, are you?


Back in action: Baby Dee! Missing in action: the delightfully scatological romps we took such great pleasure in laying on you back at the time of Safe Inside the Day (two years ago already!). Listen, Baby Dee’s an artist, and that means that every record’s gonna have its own style – so get out the tissues, because A Book of Songs For Anne Marie is a weeper for sure. The recordings Dee’s made for this record are remakes of songs she recorded some years back for an ultra-mega-limited-edition release…so basically, these are new songs to you and me. There’s no way you heard them, you’re just not that on the tip – not even with your precious wireless internet! So these are new songs. Beautiful new songs at that, with stirring string and woodwind backings coming from one of Antony’s boys, Maxwell Moston, all captured in pulse-stopping clarity that leaves you wondering how Baby Dee broke into your house – and your heart! And how’d she get a piano into your heart? No wonder it feels like your heart’s gonna burst! The questions just keep mounting…but one thing’s for sure. A Book of Songs For Anne Marie has some of Baby Dee’s finest ballad moments – until the next one, we know! Decently exposed to the public on April 20, 2010.


Collectors! Punk rock kids! And other waggots! We’re privileged to bring yet another group back from over the overpriced 7” single rainbow. Back in 1979, the sound of the Ununited States was just beginning to fragment into the million little pieces that we find today, with everyone in their own separate niche. Down in Louisville, The Endtables were waving the freak flag that later got spray-painted into the punk rock flag of all nations in their decidedly own fashion. They rocked and they raged and they played shows everywhere they could in the sleepy hometown alongside some of the other bright lights of what would one day be called “the scene.” They made a 7” single and sold it wherever they could. And they broke up a year later. Now its thirty years later and we’re releasing the complete studio recordings of The Endtables. Yep, all six of ‘em! It makes a great 12”EP – and for real fans of the day and age, the CDs got additional live material and video footage too. On April 20, 2010, prepare to stone your mind with the exceptional punk rocks of The Endtables.


Also coming to you on “4/20” are two “head-expanding” (heh-heh-heh) “releases” from Streamline. Like all Streamline records, they sound and feel as if they were conceived in the darkest of night and executed in pure isolation (which of course, they were, but it was a really good feeling too)! Streamline is nothing if not the most honest label we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. And naturally, both releases will, in their quiet way, stop all conversation in whatever room they’re played in, drawing listeners in to their doom with bottomless fascination. AndrÉs Krause’s Move Ground LP is based on the soundtrack of an A/V installation that premiered in 2005. Mixing field recordings from inspiring acoustic locations with select electronic sounds, Move Ground visits different atmospheres and spatial dimensions over the course of its two-chaptered journey. If you turn it up loud enough, it might move some ground for you – or move the neighbors to call the pigs! Fuck that…Bloomington, Indiana…Autumn is credited to the trio of Lee Ranaldo, Jim O’Rourke and Christoph Heemann, but it is the work of O’Rourke and Heemann on a text read by Ranaldo that makes up the a-side, as they dissemble Ranaldo’s reading into a electroacoustic web that also might move ground and neighbors as it grows ever thicker. Then the b-side works as an almost seamless extension of the mood and activity, but – psych! It’s a whole separate thing, done in the years before the Ranaldo piece. Those Streamline guys, they’re such cosmiche jokers.


Woop! Look at this:

The shirt’s not for sale! The shoes ain’t for sale! The shades and the rings and the guitars and all the other gear’s staying right where they are. And the ass…no, that’s not for sale either! But the pants…oh yeah. JJ Rox herself, Ms. Jennifer Herrema, is now in the world of fashion design, where her blueprints are meticulously turned into blue jeans! Not by us of course…but she tells us she’s got a record almost finished, and that means cross-promotion, kids! Until then, you’ve got three chances to hear the music of that comes from the mind and soul that’s attached to the flesh that’s packed inside of those jeans – and they’re called Transmaniacon, RaTX and JJ Got Live RaTX. We got ‘em all right here, hombre. Consider yourself served.


Gee, you know what? It’s been twenty years and change since we started releasing Pavement records. And in a way, we’ve never quit that little business we had way back when. For those of you jived about the Pavement reunion (now currently underway in some completely other part of the world, and existence), don’t forget to pick up our commemorative edition of Westing (By Musket and Sextant). In an effort to recapture the vibe exactly as it was back then, the CDs and LPs of Westing have no additional material, no liner notes, no remastered sound…just exact vision of Pavement as it was presented to the world in the early ‘90s. They wouldn’t want us to water it down with bonus tracks, video footage and reminiscences that add absolutely nothing and perhaps even detract from the stellar first impression you get when you hear this record. Justice and history are thus served. The past is sacred, like ancient Indian burial grounds. Disturb those old bones and you’re fucking TOAST. And now, a toast!


Coming up in May: Elisa Randazzo, Rangda, CAVE and Jeff Eubank. Never heard of ‘em before? Well, they ain’t heard-a you neither! But get ready. You’re gonna want to know them and they you. Coming up in May, it’s gonna get consensual around here. But we’re not going to send you out into your new relationships (yeah, plural – it’s a modern world, not a monogamous one, kids!) without a bit of an introduction. And you’ll get one…next time. You gotta have something to look forward to, right?


Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.