Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) steers us on to September, penning a thoughtful essay on Red Red Meat’s Jimmywine Majestic. Originally released on Sub Pop in 1994, Jimmywine Majestic was reissued on the acclaimed Jealous Butcher imprint in late 2015 as a double LP.
The product of a band that would eventually morph into the experimental indie-rock outfit Califone, Jimmywine…, more polished and assured than Red Red Meat’s debut, is driven by songwriter Tim Rutili’s “impressionistic lyrics hovering over twangy steel guitars, thick fuzzbox riffs, and barroom drums.”
This month subscribers will receive their own copy of this double vinyl on limited run blue transparent and white vinyl, along with a booklet of exclusive liners by Johnson, detailing his own history with the record.Sign Up
As a bonus, add-on a copy of Fruit Bats’ latest, Absolute Loser on vinyl:Sign Up + Absolute Loser
About Eric D. Johnson
Eric D. Johnson is Fruit Bats. And Fruit Bats is back.
Fruit Bats’ sixth album Absolute Loser represents a triumphant return to name, form, and self. Despite implications, its title refers to the furthest depths of loss itself, rather than the state of those who have lost something. It’s the most honest, most confessional album of Fruit Bats’ career.
Johnson draws from deeply those personal experiences, yet Absolute Loser encapsulates universal themes and emotions. While “My Sweet Midwest” could be taken completely literally, it addresses the holistic nature of finding your center during turmoil. “Baby Bluebird” stings in its portrayal of losing what you never really had. Album closer “Don’t You Know That” is about picking yourself up, even when no one seems to care how far you fell.
Musically, Absolute Loser retains the same structural pop elements that made Fruit Bats so beloved in the first place. Its simple sounding melodies belie such thick musical textures, as some tracks incorporate up to 10 guitar tracks layered on top of each other. Johnson also hearkens back to his days teaching banjo at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, and that instrumentation adds a folksy, Americana spirit to record.
About Jimmywine Majestic
In 1993 Red Red Meat released its first record for legendary Seattle label Sub Pop, Jimmywine Majestic. Building on the grungy roots of the band’s self-titled debut, the second album was more confident and refined, with songwriter Tim Rutili’s impressionistic lyrics hovering over twangy steel guitars, thick fuzzbox riffs, and barroom drums.
Produced by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, That Dog, Sunny Day Real Estate), the record finds the band (Rutili, Brian Deck, Glenn Girard, and Tim Hurley) moving away from the thrashing noise of the first record into more nuanced territory, maintaining its menacing swagger but injecting more space into songs like Moon Calf Tripe and Lather, swinging harder on opener Flank and the anthemic Ball, and pushing into blues and reconfigured roots rock with Dowser andComes.
Much of the album’s classic feel was informed by bands like the Rolling Stones and the Faces, a “favorite kind of music for Tim Rutilli,” says drummer and organist Brian Deck. “It was his writing that pulled things in that direction, and it was probably his writing and ambition to be different from that that ultimately drove [the band] toward being esoteric and experimental,” eventually morphing into Califone in the late ‘90s.
Informed by classic rock and blues, the album also benefits from Deck’s musical training and approach. While Red Red Meat’s other efforts, their self-titled debut in 1992, 1995’s Bunny Gets Paid, and 1996’s There’s A Star Above the Manager Tonight found Deck splitting his focus between production and performance, the drummer focused on Jimmywine Majestic from a player’s perspective. The record was the work of an invigorated, young, and hungry band.
“I remember [the album] mattering more to me than anything else in the world when we were doing it,” Deck says. “It’s a sensation that you have as a young artist. You tend to not have that the older you get. But it was the most important thing that had ever happened to me in my life when we were working on it. That was an awesome thing.”Read More
Mac McCaughan closes out the Summer of Merge with the incredible Soul Jazz Records release, The Keyboard King at Studio One, showcasing “one of the defining figureheads of reggae music,” Jackie Mittoo. This double LP compilation features Mittoo’s work as a solo artist at Studio One’s Brentford Road studios in the mid-sixties, recording on a near daily basis, honing his sound and influence as the funkiest keyboard player to ever come from Jamaica.
Featured as our record-of-the-month, this double album will come complete with an exclusive liner essay by Mac McCaughan. Members also have the opportunity to add-on copies of McCaughan’s recent solo releases, Non-Believers and the limited, hand-numbered remix Staring at Your Hologram to their shipment.
1 month + “Non-Believers” LP 1 Month + “Staring at Your Hologram” LP
Non-Believers:His first solo album under his own name, “McCaughan wanted to use the album to explore his attraction to that early-’80s era of music when punk evolved into something more introspective, focusing on themes of isolation and eventually turning into post-punk and new wave.”
Staring at Your Hologram: “Mac McCaughan’s full instrumental remix and deconstruction of his Non-Believers album. Forty minutes of music accompanied once again by cover art and photography by Trudy Benson and Lucas Blalock, respectively. Limited to 500 copies on translucent yellow vinyl, each hand-numbered by Mac.”Read More
Mike Krol is one of the newest additions to the acclaimed Merge Records roster. Coming from Milwaukee (via New York via Los Angeles) it took an escape to New York to appreciate much about his hometown, most notably the power of the Violent Femmes self-titled debut. After a blistering performance in Ottawa earlier this month, Krol talked with us about the Femmes, collecting 45s and what’s to come.
Both you and Violent Femmes are from Milwaukee. Did this play a part in this record being your pick?
Absolutely. Violent Femmes were my first realization that you could “make it” on a national or global scale even if you didn’t live in New York or Los Angeles. In the same way the Ramones made me feel like I could play music even though I wasn’t the best musician, the Femmes taught me that if you put out a strong product that you believe in, the rest of the world will notice no matter where you call home. To the people of Wisconsin, they were regarded both as international rock stars and as three ordinary guys from Milwaukee who were just like us. I always thought that was cool that they lived in both worlds.
Is this one of those records that grew up with you or one that hit you later in life?
Definitely one that hit me later in life, and I’m glad that it happened that way. I needed that time and distance away from it being around in my childhood to fully appreciate it as a young adult. But once I heard the album in full, without interruptions on vinyl – I was hooked immediately. To me as an adult, it captures my childhood growing up in Wisconsin perfectly. I’m immediately transported back to being an angsty teenager who doesn’t fit in, but filled with hope and dreams about what the future can hold.
Has the record had an impact on you musically, do you think?
This record single-handedly provided the template for what I try to achieve when I make an album. The length is perfect, the flow from song to song is perfect, the range of emotions is perfect. The minimal approach on production, raw/dry sounds mixed with playing that explodes in attitude and confidence… I could go on and on. But all I know is that no matter what mood I’m in when I start the record, by the time it ends I feel like something was accomplished, a battle was fought and won, and I’m a better person because of it. This is what I hope people feel if they listen to one of my albums from start to finish.
Do you consider yourself a vinyl collector?
Yes, but mostly 45s. I have quite a large collection of 7″ records because I love collecting picture sleeves and the alternate artwork for singles of songs I like. Living in Los Angeles, I mostly listen to music in my car, so I also have a pretty massive collection of CDs (somewhere around two thousand last I checked). But don’t get me wrong, I LOVE vinyl records. And any record that I consider an all-time favorite, I definitely own as an LP. In the case of the Femmes first album, I inherited a vinyl copy from a friend who had an extra, before I ever owned it on CD. And now I have it on CD in three different versions!
I read in another interview you consider yourself a drummer more than being able to play any other instrument. How badly did you want to be Violent Femmes new drummer?
Really funny you ask, because when it was announced that the Femmes got a new drummer in the local Milwaukee paper, my Dad sent the article to my brother (also a drummer) and I as a way of showing us we missed our chance. Although, I don’t think I could do very well on the Femmes songs. I’ve never been very good at using brushes. I prefer sticks.
It’s coming on a year since Turkey was released. What are some of the accomplishments/milestones you’ve made in the last year? Anything you couldn’t have guessed at a year ago?
I think the biggest accomplishments have been the amazing concerts I’ve gotten to play with some of my heroes. I got to tour with Mac McCaughan for the first leg of the tour and that was something I’ll never forget. I’m a huge Superchunk fan and all-things-Mac, so those shows were very special for me. I also got to open for the Sonics in the Netherlands, which was pretty surreal. And I just finished up a West Coast run with Bob Mould! So yeah, if you would have told me any of this a few years ago I would have definitely thought you were talking to the wrong guy.
What’s coming up for you?
I’m playing a few one-off festivals this summer, and then touring the Netherlands in September. Hope to have a new record written and recorded sometime before the year is over so I have something to tour on in 2017. Maybe some 7″ records or a reissue of my first two records also. I’m just getting started though, so I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
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Sign up by July 14th to get Violent Femmes with Mike Krol’s exclusive liner essayRead More
“One of the most distinctive records of the early alternative movement and an enduring cult classic, Violent Femmes weds the geeky, child-man persona of Jonathan Richman and the tense, jittery, hyperactive feel of new wave in an unlikely context: raw, amateurish acoustic folk-rock. The music also owes something to the Modern Lovers’ minimalism, but powered by Brian Ritchie’s busy acoustic bass riffing and the urgency and wild abandon of punk rock, the Femmes forged a sound all their own.” (All Music)
In the box:
– 180g Violent Femmes LP remastered for vinyl from the original recordings
– 10 page booklet liner essay by Mike Krol on the LP’s personal impact
– Add-on Krol’s Turkey LP from the Member Shop
About Mike Krol
A Milwaukee native, Krol released his first two albums I Hate Jazz and Trust Fund on Counter Counter Culture before joining the Merge Records roster in 2015 to release his third, Turkey:
Mike Krol got his bike stolen and his heart broken. He bailed on graphic-design-as-career. He kept playing drums and guitars, and he kept writing songs about the stuff he hated and the stuff he loved. Leaving Milwaukee for Los Angeles, he took a few years’ worth of wrong turns. But when he showed up at a studio in Sacramento in March 2014, he had his affairs in order. Plug the vocal mic into a guitar amp. Plug the guitar into an overheating box of vacuum tubes. Put the computer in the closet. Roll the tape.
“It has a do-or-die desperation: The sound is scuzzy, but the energy is pure, bristling with the aim to be stronger and more memorable…” (Pitchfork)
Michael Benjamin Lerner, the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter behind TELEKINESIS, is our esteemed curator for the month of June, spotlighting Pavement’s Brighten the Corners LP. This past September saw the release of his fourth and latest album, Ad Infinitum: a noted departure from his power pop roots into a more synthesized realm of analog keyboards and electronic sounds.
Ahead of Lerner’s appearance at last month’s Sasquatch Music Festival, he fielded a few questions from us on Pavement, collecting vinyl, his listening set-up, Ad Infinitum and what’s on tap for the future.
How were you introduced to Brighten the Corners?
You know, I think I was introduced to this record when I was at university in Liverpool, England. This would have been around 2006, I believe.
A friend, named Lucy, was kind of obsessed with Stephen Malkmus. I was only really sort of familiar with the older records, but her favorite Pavement record was Brighten The Corners, so she let me borrow it, and I just fell really hard for the record. It’s that perfect mix of the Pavement thing, with a little more hi-fi recording and fleshed out songs.
How did you get started collecting vinyl?
I’ve always been fond of records, and have been lucky enough to inherit a lot of them from my Dad. He was a DJ on the radio during the time when they switched over from LP’s to CD’s, so he (very smartly) took a lot of ridiculously great records home for free, and I inherited those when I got old enough to care about collecting and listening.
I also worked at a record store for many years, and there, it becomes a ‘spend half your money on records’ sort of thing. You could take it directly out of your paycheck, which was so dangerous.
Vinyl has just always seemed like the best medium for me. It’s finicky for sure, but I think once you get your setup dialed, it’s really the most pure way to listen to music. I still love how artwork looks on a 12” record.
Your new Instagram @arecordadaykeepsthedoctoraway cycles through your extensive vinyl collection, one LP at a time. Are you finding records you forgot about? New favorites?
I’m only at B right now, but man, it’s been really fun. Great to connect with old favorites, and find a bunch of new records that I had no idea I had!
I’ve been really into a bunch of jazz stuff my Dad’s Dad passed down. These two John Abercrombie records on ECM were really great.
I also hadn’t really listened to ‘Smile’ by the Beach Boys all the way through, and that’s a fascinating listen. Staggeringly good.
I also connected with Afghan Whigs ‘Black Love’, a record I hadn’t really listened to, as I was so into ‘Gentleman’. So that’s been fun!
What is your current listening set-up?
I had always had an aversion to synth-based music, but your latest record, Ad Infinitum completely turned that around for me. Have you ever had a similar experience with a record/sound?
Wow! That’s an incredibly wonderful compliment, thank you so much for saying so!
Yeah, that’s happened for sure. I mean, for truths sake, I wasn’t always into synth music, but I think I only recently got into it.
There’s this band OMD, and they really marry the two worlds of synth / rock very well. I really got into that heavily before making Ad Infinitum, and I think that informed that sound of my record quite a lot.
If it isn’t too soon to ask, what’s on the horizon musically?
Starting to think about writing another Telekinesis record! It’s exciting! I’m not quite sure where this one is going to go, but I’m thinking it probably won’t be as outwardly synthy, but maybe more of a marriage of the first Telekinesis records, with a mix of this new one too. We shall see!
Sign up by June 15th to receive Brighten the Corners on vinyl along with Michael Lerner’s exclusive track-by-track synopsis.
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For the months of June, July and August Keepers will feature curators from the eclectic and highly revered Merge Records roster, spotlighting their favorite records.
June: Michael Lerner
July: Mike Krol
August: Mac McCaughan
Subscriptions start at $25/month. See How it Works and use the code MERGE at checkout for 10% off!
Gift subscriptions and international plans also available.
Keepers Vinyl Record Club is a subscription vinyl record club curated by musicians. Each month a new curator selects a record from their collection and writes liners on its personal impact. A copy of the record and liners are sent to each subscriber, fostering a shared experience between the musician and subscriber.
“The twist for Keepers Vinyl Record Club is that the curators are musicians themselves, lending erudite and compelling insight. For instance, Dave Schools (bass player and founding member of Widespread Panic) writes knowingly about the intricate bass lines in 1985’s Up on the Sun by the Meat Puppets. More recently, Daniel Pujol provided a lengthy discourse on Iggy Pop’s seminal Lust for Life from 1977.” – Forbes
As easy as it is nowadays to pull up just about any piece of music on the planet, it’s the tried and true personal recommendations that still have the strongest pull for all of us. The goal of Keepers is to give musicians a platform to endorse the records they love and help vinyl lovers build a quality record collection.
Nov. 2015: Dave Schools / Up On The Sun
Dec. 2015: William Tyler / Black Woman
Jan. 2016: Kishi Bashi / The Barr Brothers
Feb. 2016: Justin Kinkel-Schuster / What Comes After The Blues?
Mar. 2016: Daniel Pujol / Lust For Life
Apr. 2016: TW Walsh / Steady Diet Of Nothing
May 2016: James Toth / The Hired Hand
As easy as it is nowadays to pull up just about any piece of music on the planet, it’s the tried and true personal recommendations that still have the strongest pull for all of us.
The goal of Keepers is to give musicians a platform to endorse the records they love and in the process help you build an eclectic record collection.
Expand your vinyl collection with tried and true records recommended by today's most inspired artists.