What to do downtown after work
No sophomore slump for Communist Daughter
The much-anticipated sophomore album from rising indie-folk rockers Communist Daughter is finally out, and it symbolizes a huge move forward for the band that has gone through several years of production following their acclaimed “Soundtrack to the End.” On their latest record, “The Cracks That Built The Wall,” the Twin Cities-based band tackle their inner demons through songs like “BB Gun” and “The Dealer” — tunes with confessional lines that build from soft whispers to sweeping rock arrangements.
Frontman Johnny Solomon and singer and now-wife Molly Solomon each have moments when their voices shine. On “All Lit Up” and “Strange,” Molly’s voice, normally paired with Johnny’s, rises as his voice steps back — and the results give the band a varied, more universal tone.
Some changes aside, the record reveals the band is still at their best despite the wait, and, if anything, the years of studio time show through. Communist Daughter expands their sound with inspirations both old and new, from The Beach Boys to The New Pornographers. The band continues to offer a powerful emotional punch, but this time the music divulges more experience and maturity, and imparts more optimism.
The band will wrap up a short tour with an album release show at the First Avenue mainroom on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The 18-plus show features a lineup packed with locals: rock band Alpha Consumer, up-and-coming “shadow pop” duo Fraea and eclectic rockers Catbath.
We caught up with Johnny Solomon to talk about their new record. The conversation was been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Journal: Was it different sitting down to make “The Cracks That Built The Wall”?
Solomon: Writing this new record was a completely different experience than everything I’ve done before. I went in to it knowing myself a lot better, knowing what I can do and what I don’t do very well. It took longer, but I think in a lot of ways I was relearning how to write songs. I was in a different place, with a different perspective, so I probably spent a lot of time worrying about that more than I needed too. I’d say it was probably the hardest time I’ve ever had, but in the end I’m happy with where it went, it makes me feel like I could do it again. You have to have a short memory to be a musician.
You spent years in production with this record. Talk about that process and who you worked with.
We went in to the studio with Kevin Bowe (The Replacements, Meat Puppets), originally just to record a single, then it turned in to an EP, and then we just kept going. He understood the way that I worked and he worked around that to get it all together. We just kept working on stuff till we felt like we had the record we wanted. He made it all seem like it was still a very personal record. He recorded us in studios and then in basements, and then he even let me take some mics so I could continue to do all my vocals in my bedroom. It still just feels like that personal indie project we started years ago. After we had the record I went down to Nashville and spent a week with [The Bomb Shelter’s] Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Benjamin Booker) while he mixed it. It was great to hear it go through his ears. It felt like he tied everything up that we did.
You’ve been public about your own struggles with mental health and addiction. I read your recent The Talkhouse piece concerning the connections between them and your music. Does the record say something about where you are in that journey?
My earlier songs were definitely more about me struggling with my problems, just trying to understand them. I think this record, these songs, it’s more about coming to terms with it. I know that I made it to the other side, but now I have to look back on all of it and try to understand what that says about me. It’s a different story when you know what the ending is going to be, but you still have to come to terms with why.
What were you listening to while creating the record?
I get my inspiration from all over, but a lot of what I was listening to this time around came from Molly. We toured all over the country for two years and she would sit in the passenger seat and put on these great records. Angel Olsen, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Twin Limb, Lavender Diamond, Sharon Van Etten. I’m drawn in to the latest female songwriters because they have a perspective that I can’t write. I feel like those bands have a genre specific unto themselves. It’s a little old country and new indie.
What would you recommend our readers listen to? Anything local?
Locally, I am loving Bad Bad Hats, Haley Bonar and Good Night Gold Dust. Jami Lynn, she’s from South Dakota but she’s amazing, and close enough to be a local.
“The Cracks That Built The Wall” is out now. The album is available for streaming on Spotify and Soundcloud.
Instinct’s swan song
Instinct Art Gallery in downtown Minneapolis is — probably — hosting its last exhibition this fall, says John Schuerman, the gallery’s director. If you’ve never visited Instinct before, you’ve probably walked right past it. The gallery is tucked away behind the Nicollet Mall Target’s eatery and can be easy to miss. After more than three years, the gallery is set to close and Instinct’s new show, “Verity in Vision: Art at the Edge of Human/Nature,” may be its last. The exhibition, which runs Nov. 9 through Dec. 17, delves deep into human nature and how it interacts — and often controls — the natural forces around us. It will have an opening reception on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 6 p.m.–8 p.m. And at 940 Nicollet Mall, Instinct is perfect for a little work retreat. It’s open Wednesday through Saturday from noon–5 p.m.
I’ve tried one of downtown’s best burgers, and — with a beer, mind you — it’s just $10. The culprit behind the transformative meal is Haute Dish, the Washington Avenue gem from chef and owner Landon Schoenefeld. For one Hamilton — not the one on Broadway, that would be way pricier — you get a delectable burger and choice of beer during a post-work happy hour from 4 p.m.–6 p.m. But what makes it unique? It sounds weird, but dehydrated ketchup. It’s nothing like what you’ve had before, and you don’t have to break the bank to try it.