Notes on Midtown Island Records, Or An Open Letter to Johnny Reno

Record player


I have to tell you about this batch of records I received from Midtown Island. They’re based in Tucson and all their releases are connected to the Lenguas Largas family tree. Well, at least the four I ordered are all related to Lenguas. Technically, Lenguas are still together, but it’s been too long since their last studio record. I miss that band. What’s it been six-to-eight years since their last full length, depending on your calculus? These Midtown records remind me of the late ‘80s when every member of the Cars put out a solo record. Those guys could barely muster the modicum of effort it took to be in the Cars. Making solo records would only entail more work, at least theoretically.

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“What if Enya Were in Minor Threat?”: An Interview With Sky Creature

Sky Creature

Trying to classify the music made by Sky Creature isn’t easy. At times, you can hear the presence of thunderous punk rock in their DNA; at others, a much more ethereal sound comes to the foreground. The duo of Majel Connery and Matt Walsh have a new double EP, Childworld/Bear Mountain, out now, with a nationwide tour to follow. Each side of the EP shows a different element of the band’s style, and it makes for a haunting and immersive experience. I spoke with the duo about how the two records came about.

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Notes on All Hits’ “Men and Their Work”, or An Expression of Gratitude for People Who Keep Me Moving Forward 

All Hits

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for All Hits Mania!
Men and Their Work (Iron Lung Records)

I don’t remember their words, but I remember their stances. My grandfather and my uncle at the kitchen table, summer of ’93. They were arguing about people with HIV. My uncle was calm and compassionate. He argued people deserve care. My grandfather was defensive, doubling down, blinded by homophobia. He argued people should be shamed, isolated.

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Turning Earth Sounds Into Ethereal Music: Inside the Making of Field Works’ “Stations”

Recording the Earth

The last time we spoke with Stuart Hyatt about his Field Works project, he had recently released an album of immersive music with the sounds of bats at its center. The new Field Works album, Stations, goes to a very different place than that in a very literal sense. For this album, Hyatt drew upon the work of EarthScope, recording the sounds of the planet itself and then bringing in a host of collaborators, including Laaraji and Qasim Naqvi, to transform those sounds into a haunting, gorgeous soundscape. Reached via email, Hyatt discussed how everything came together.

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Notes on a Night at Quinn’s, Late February: Featuring Joe McPhee, Michael Bisio, Chris Corsano, Steve Swell

Steve Swell, Joe McPhee, Chris Corsano, Michael Bisio

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Joe McPhee, Michael Bisio, Chris Corsano & Steve Swell Mania!

The entrance to Quinn’s is crowded. I start looking for familiar faces, but then I find myself doing math, calculating fractions, rounding, converting to percentages. Who else is masking? How do the numbers compare to my classroom? To the grocery store?  

For the first time in two years, I’m at Quinn’s to see live music, and it’s weird. Beyond the obvious emerging-from-a-pandemic reasons, Quinn’s is for sale, which kicks things in a different direction, makes me wonder how much longer this scene is going to last. Then again, I’ve had similar thoughts since I first came to Quinn’s. That’s part of what motivated me to write a book about the place—I didn’t think it could keep going. 

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“I Recognize That Boston’s a Hard Sell”: An Interview With Chris Brokaw

Chris Brokaw

Chris Brokaw is one of the most searching, prolific, expressive musicians I know. Switching between guitar and drums, he’s left an indelible impression in bands like Codeine, Come, Charnel Ground, and The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries. He’s also been a sought after sideman with the likes of the Lemonheads and often tours the world playing solo, in between scoring independent films like I Was Born, But… 

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Notes on Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “She-Wolf”

Hemphill album cover

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time For Jessie Mae Hemphill Mania!
She-Wolf (Vogue, 1981; reissued by HighTone, 1998)

I love reading lists of recommended records. In high school I devoured Rolling Stone lists of the best records of all-time. They were helpful entry points for a curious kid stuck in another “home of classic rock’n’roll!” radio town and no sense that record stores existed beyond the mall. I took the lists at face value, trusting the experts knew more than I did, before gradually developing my own navigating systems. By this point in my life, though, I’ve probably overcompensated for my early naivety, moving from too trusting to too critical, too quick to dismiss.

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Notes on Sunny War’s “Simple Syrup”

Sunny War

No More Beatlemania, Once Was Enough!
It’s Time for Sunny War Mania!
Simple Syrup (Henhouse/Org, 2021)

“Ain’t got no Joni Mitchell 8-tracks in the car”
-Weird Al Yankovic, “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”

From roughly age 15 to age 50 those lyrics encapsulated my sense of what Joni Mitchell had to offer. She embodied the overly laid-back Southern California soft rock of the early ‘70s. Joni, the Eagles, Dan Fogelberg. Coked up and gazing down at their navels. Oy, and the sounds, the all too super soft sounds. The lyrics occasionally brushed up against introspection but the rule of the day seemed to be don’t harsh anyone’s mellow. 

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