Royal City’s 2001 sophomore album Alone At The Microphone has been deemed a Lost Classic (by us; read all about it), and for good reason. This overlooked Canadian four-piece managed to release three solid albums of wistful, Biblical indie folk in just a few short years. Though the band might have broken up in 2004, the Asthmatic Kitty label is putting out an eponymous, career-spanning b-sides/ rarities retrospective this summer. “Fill Your Belly Up With Wine” is just a taste of Royal City’s melancholy charms, and it will make you miss a band you’ve only just discovered.
Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
Smith: In the ’90s, at the height of grunge, we got a call that Sonic Youth wanted us to open for them in Seattle. The theater, the Paramount, was big—balconies and all that. When it came time in our set to do “I Walk Alone,” I left the microphone and ran to the side of the stage. I edged past the main speakers, singing, and down the steps. I ran up the aisle to sing directly into people’s rather shocked faces. I dashed back toward the stage, but there was a bouncer standing at the top of the steps and I guess he hadn’t seen me leave the stage. I must have appeared to be a rabid fan trying to accost Dave, who was playing the simple riff over and over wondering if I’d ever return. The guitar was blasting out of the mains right beside the bouncer, so I couldn’t get him to hear what I was saying. Eventually I pushed past him and returned to the mic totally exhausted with Dave looking at me like I’d lost my mind for being gone for so long.
You probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.
Stringfellow: Here we encounter an exception to the list (Tristan Egolf being an American author), but he did live, write and was discovered and first published here in Paris. I was in a bookstore in Berlin a couple of years ago, looking through the small quantity of English-language books. One title stood out. In fact, made me laugh just to see it: Kornwolf. I bought it on the spot and found inside a wit comparable to other favorites of mine, George Saunders and Thomas Pynchon. I soon picked up Egolf’s first novel, Lord Of The Barnyard, which depicts an alternate universe that places a thinly disguised Long Winters singer John Roderick (OK, not really, but the comparisons were striking) in the midst of “Pennsyltucky” and imagines the ensuing chaos. Egolf was, like me, a musician (he had a band called Kitschchao, which released one seven-inch) and a Paris resident, and he has a daughter about the same age as mine. I would have truly loved to have known him, as it seems we had much in common. But Egolf killed himself in 2005, just after the completion of Kornwolf. I have yet to run in to anyone who knew him, and there isn’t a ton of info on him on the web, so, if anyone reading this did know him and could reminisce a bit, please contact me: email@example.com. I can’t recommend the two books above highly enough. I have his second book, Skirt And Fiddle, on order at The Red Wheelbarrow bookstore in Paris.
They’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.
Hammock Style // Merge, 1998
Instrumental rock fiends who thought Tortoise’s patented double-bass thump was played out by the late ‘90s found salvation in Glasgow quartet Ganger. Hammock Style turbocharged the increasingly imitated Chicago sound with expansive, major-key melodies and stream-of-consciousness narratives from bassist Natasha Noramly. “I feel lost in a city of sound,” she whispered on “Capo (South Of Caspian),” a nine-minute tour de force that subtly tweaked a simple riff made from mandolin and Sonic Youth-style electric-guitar eruptions until it tumbled toward a blissful climax. This style of music has aged poorly (where art thou, Paul Newman, Pele and Billie Mahonie?), but the jams on Hammock Style still have the power to mesmerize.
Ever wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:
Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
We know our near-weekly harping on Brooklyn’s Pains is at or near the overkill level, but the band makes its TV debut tonight. Unless you’ve already caught them live (like, say, in Austin, where they played 10 SXSW shows and most likely did a few impromptu performances in Whataburger restrooms), this is your first chance to see how the re-tweeing of America sounds live.