It’s hard to remember another day that has been quite so rich with Minnesota releases. Nestled amid a very busy fall for Minnesota musicians, today finds big-name artists like Mason Jennings and Trampled by Turtles celebrating new albums in addition to hip-hop trio No Bird Sing taking a big step forward, Tina Schlieske of Tina and the B-Sides returning to the studio, and artists from throughout the roots rock world banding together to pay tribute to former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap.
Get all that? I know it’s a lot to soak in, so let’s break it down record by record and sample all of the fine releases hitting the shelves (and the iTunes, and the Rdios, etc.) this week…
Mason Jennings, Always Been
For his 10th album, Mason Jennings moved out of his cabin and into a studio to record a collection of robust, gorgeous folk-pop songs. Some of the more upbeat tracks, like lead single “Lonely Street,” hearken back to Jennings’ earliest days as a songwriter, while “Wilderness” showcases some of his most adventurous melodies yet, conjuring memories of old crooners like Roy Orbison.
“I think it’s a pretty joyful record,” Jennings told the Current. “There’s a lot of focus on melody and joy. For me, emotionally, I thought about what was missing in the music I listen to, and there’s a joy I could use to hear in the world a little bit, and a kindness. And sonically, I really wanted something that just sounded excellent.”
Hear Mason perform more of the songs from Always Been in this in-studio session, which just aired on the Current this morning.
No Bird Sing, Definition Sickness
It’s been a productive couple of years for No Bird Sing, who helped launch hip-hop collective FIX, signed to Sage Francis’s Strange Famous Records, and wrote and recorded their third full-length album, Definition Sickness. The trio have always pushed their compositions into dark, vibey territory, which makes for an ideal backdrop for MC Joe Horton’s imaginative and thought-provoking poetry, and the new album finds them digging even deeper into a grandiose, post-apocolyptic pop sound.
The album also features way more guests than any previous No Bird Sing release. Rising vocalist Molly Dean (who also performs with No Bird Sing’s Graham O’Brien in the electro-pop project Moon & Pollution) is featured prominently on one of the album’s first singles, and other artists featured on the album include Aby Wolf, Kristoff Krane, Crescent Moon of Kill the Vultures, and the group’s new labelhead, Sage Francis.
Hear more from No Bird Sing in this Local Show session, which just aired on Sunday night.
One of the Boys, Pinned Up
Minneapolis native Tina Schlieske, best known as the lead singer of rock ‘n’ roll band Tina and the B-Sides, returned from Santa Barbara to her hometown to cut the six tracks on her new covers EP, Pinned Up. She says the collection is meant to be a tribute to the bands who inspired her as she was coming up in the Minneapolis scene, which happened to be quite male-dominated back in the 1980s. To drive that point home she’s releasing it under the pseudonym One of the Boys.
“I wanted to do a cover album of songs by the guy bands that were all around me when I first started the B-Sides,” she writes on her website. “It wasn’t the easiest of things to be a woman wanting to do rock in the predominantly male Minneapolis music scene back then… And yes, there were incredible women musicians in bands back then but I wasn’t the cute cool alternative chick or the cool hard core punk chick. I wanted to be one of the boys, I wanted to play rock and roll.”
The new album features covers of songs by the Replacements, Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks, Hüsker Dü, Bob Dylan, and Prince. Stream the full album here.
Various Artists, Rockin Here Tonight: A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap
The ongoing Songs for Slim project has been doing great work raising money for ailing guitarist and songwriter Bob “Slim” Dunlap, who suffered a severe stroke back in February of 2012 and has been on a long, arduous journey to recovery ever since. For those who might have lost track of just how many different covers of Slim’s work have been released to date, the Songs for Slim team have just released a two-disc, 28-track collection that pays homage to the fallen local hero.
Of course the Replacements track, “Busted Up,” has gotten plenty of attention (and spawned a three-city reunion tour), but there are plenty of other gems worth just as much ink. The first disc comprises all of the Songs for Slim 45s that were released this past year, which includes covers by stars like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Jeff Tweedy, while disc two offers up unreleased bonus tracks by Soul Asylum, Chan Poling, and mysteriously billed LP.ORG (the Jayhawks’ Louris, Perlman, O’Reagan, and Grotberg).
All told, the album should help Dunlap’s personal, poetic songs connect with a wider audience, and gives a much-needed new voice to a songwriter who has unjustly been rendered voiceless. As with all of the previous Songs for Slim releases, proceeds from the sale of the album will go to the Slim Dunlap Fund.
Trampled by Turtles, Live at First Avenue
It’s no secret to Trampled by Turtles fans that, even as their studio albums continue to be more representative of the band’s live sound, the best way to experience the quintet is still at one of their shows. The communal energy of the room; the breakneck pace of their fastest songs; the quiet, weepy moments that come out of nowhere during crowd favorites like “Alone”—these are things that must be seen to be believed.
Now, even those who haven’t gone to a TBT show can revel in the experience thanks to a new album and DVD, Live at First Avenue. The album was recorded during the band’s three-night stand at First Avenue last April, and features a cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” alongside a collection of career-spanning TBT material. The DVD includes a few more covers, including their take on the Faces’ “Ooh La La,” and a deluxe edition of the release also comes with a 64-page photo book.
Preview the DVD, which was directed by Dan Huiting, in this video of the song “Alone”: