Sound Check

It's the end of the world and he feels fine: Stuart Davis

The Spanish Connection

WHY DO TWO recent murmury pop exports from Spain bear a Stillwater, Minnesota, imprint? You'll find no clue in the booklets of either Le Mans' Aquí Vivía Yo or Ana D's Satélite 99, each of which lists complete lyrics (en español), the P.O. Box of Madrid's Elefant label, a Web site for local indie-pop purveyor Grimsey Records, and little else. A quick call to Grimsey's Andrea Troolin clears up the matter. "Some friends of mine said I'd like these Spanish pop imports--and they were right," Troolin says from behind the counter at Let It Be Records in Minneapolis, where she clerks when not running the label. "So I wrote to Elefant and set things up. It was a pretty simple process."

A quick listen to Ana D or Le Mans and you'll instantly recognize the secondhand trappings of exotica--lithe samba beats, whispering lady sprites, percussion clicks imitating crickets--artfully naturalized from patchwork into a languorous whole. Satélite, which leads and closes with snippets of Chopin, has the perfect ambiance to soothe argumentative dinner-party guests or to help you read hard books before bedtime. (Incidentally, Let It Be innocuously displays the disc under "Andrea's Picks" on the wall reserved for employee suggestions. Hmmm.)

Le Mans are a bit more specific sonically speaking, with sinuous basslines tumbling into discernable melodies, one of which sounds as suspiciously like Anne Murray's "Danny's Song" as it did when the Cardigans cribbed it for "Life." In fact, the album might just instigate a local-pop taste shift from presweetened Sweden toward the allure of a more Mediterranean clime. At least for this particular non-Spanish speaker, Le Mans overcome American dream-pop's dearth of anything to say--the words exist primarily as sound, not sense. And while the now-defunct local studio phenom the Bomb Pops sing in plain American English, you might say the same about Grimsey's newest release, a collection that has been bequeathed the unnecessarily arch title Recommended for Diversion Seekers.

Intriguing snatches of lyrics do surface (something does something "just like Hayley Mills," and "Minneapolis is but a dream") but never distract from the shimmer of sound and hopefully wan vocal chirps. Produced by the Hot's Brian Hanna, who formed and disbanded the Bomb Pops with Troolin and Rick Durgin, the disc is recommended for those whose spiritual home is that ethereal plane misplaced in the reverbed space between the strum of the pick and the chime of the chord.

In addition to future Spanish pop releases, Grimsey has a full schedule of local music upcoming. Local guitar wunderkind John Crozier, who sits in on organ on one of the Bomb Pops tracks and released his solo debut (Steep Steps) on Grimsey under the moniker Ninian Hawick, is slated to release a new disc as the Shebrews in February. And then there's Do Not Fear the Future: Grimsey 2000, dubbed an "optimistic compilation" by the imprint's maven. "It's my antidote to all my friends saying that the world will end next year," Troolin declares, adding with flat impatience, "It's not going to." (Keith Harris)

Home For the Holidays

THANKSGIVING WEEK IS always a good time for natives to catch up on returning "local" bands rarely seen at home, at least before both musicians and fans slip out to Mom's to watch football and snarf dressing. On Wednesday, Soul Asylum play one of their increasingly rare First Avenue gigs--hey, it beats Ribfest; (612) 338-8388. The following night the Pushbacks revive wonderfully snotty lead singer John Freeman's Magnolias heyday, playing the Uptown Bar with openers Dynamo Hum and Big House; (612) 823-4719.

Meanwhile, since Tina & the B-Sides are more-than-officially defunct, fans were wondering if the band's annual Thanksgiving concert at Bunker's, under the bad-cover-band alias Lola & the Red Hots, would also be a goner. Instead, this evil-twin combo returns supporting its own dubious farewell live disc, The Red Album; (612) 338-8188. (Tina plays minus B-Sides or Red Hots the next night at the 400 Bar.) On Saturday, ex-Gear Daddy Martin Zellar returns for some home cooking at the Fine Line; (612) 338-8100. The same night, beloved local singer-ironist Stuart Davis plays a homecoming show supporting his new Y2-A-OK take on the end-time, Bright Apocalypse. It's a fitting close to the week of your stomach's own doom, and it's held at the Cedar Cultural Centre; (612) 338-2674. (Scholtes)

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