Eric Pollard’s band Actual Wolf will play songs from their latest record, “Faded Days,” at St. Paul’s Turf Club on Sept. 15. Photo by Tiffany Thoelke

Eric Pollard’s band Actual Wolf will play songs from their latest record, “Faded Days,” at St. Paul’s Turf Club on Sept. 15. Photo by Tiffany Thoelke

Best Picks Sept. 7–20

Updated: September 8, 2017 - 1:42 pm

What to do downtown after work

Fading into the limelight

The Americana flavors of Actual Wolf’s latest record, “Faded Days,” are authentic.

Eric Pollard, the actual Actual Wolf, spent two years writing dozens of songs, some of which made it on the album. In that time, the Iron Range-born musician moved across Minnesota, New York and Tennessee before putting down new roots in California following a run-in with the law.

The process of producing “Faded Days” ended closer to home. Pollard and Midwestern bandmates Jeremy Hanson (Tapes ‘n Tapes), Jake Hanson (Halloween, Alaska), Steve Garrington (Low) and contributors like Al Church recorded the album in about a week spread out over the course of a year. The album was engineered by Brad Bivens of Minneapolis and released on Pollard’s new label, St. Paul’s Red House Records.

304Despite being his fourth full-length album, Pollard describes “Faded Days” as a sort of debut. The record’s sound is nostalgic, but entirely old-fashioned, blending together ‘70s classic rock and old-school country music with folk and shoegaze elements. As a teenager in the 1990s, Pollard said he grew up listening to Bob Dylan and bands like Dire Straits and Moody Blues. “Faded Days” feels like the result of a journey.

“You’re a product of your own environment,” he said.

Pollard takes the faded part of the album seriously. After a cannabis bust in Minnesota years ago, he now resides in Oakland where he works for a boutique provider of rare strains of pot. On “Little Runaway,” the album’s clearest classic rock-influenced track, the chorus asks: “Can you still get high?” The title tune saunters along, beckoning for a former time, a former lover or a former self from the past (“Why don’t you go all night? / Don’t you still get high? / Why don’t you play all night? / Can we still get high?”).

There are other dimensions to the record’s faded qualities. The first and second songs, intro track “The City is an Ocean” and single “Be My Love (American Hips),” blend one right into the other thanks to a subtle fade out and fade in. Nearly all the tracks feature Pollard playing with a fade, from the minute-long fade in on Haley cover “Hometown” to “You Let Me Down,” which fades to a quiet whisper two-and-a-half minutes in before returning to full volume.

“The beauty of live music and recorded music is that you can play them differently,” he said. “I always like it when older recordings fade out.”

Pollard hopes musical choices like that have made “Faded Days” into “a work of art,” he said. He’s already at work on the follow-up to the album, which he said hopes sounds similar.

“I hope this is the one that gets attention,” he said.

The result is a warm, intoxicating string of songs that leave you thinking of home and previous homes gone by. Like returning to a hometown that’s changed while you were gone, the nostalgia in “Faded Days” pines for a time and place that seems to only exist in hazy thoughts.

Actual Wolf will debut the vinyl of “Faded Days” with a Friday, Sept. 15 show at the Turf Club. The 21-plus show will see performances from longtime Minneapolis musicians Kid Dakota and Dosh.

“This record was made for vinyl,” he said.

For readers, Pollard has been listening to Iowa City-based folksinger Dave Moore — “he’s a very good songwriter,” he said — hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and jazz musicians like Wayne Shorter.

Raise the bar

IMG_0514 webFor the whiskey lovers out there, there’s a new spot for you. And if you’re in the North Loop, just look up. Above Kado no Mise, the high-end sushi spot from chef Shigeyuki Furukawa, there are two new concepts: Kaiseki Furukawa — an even higher-end dining experience — and a tiny bar specializing in Japanese whisky. While I understand it’s not for everyone — myself included, or so I thought — there is a lot to learn and enjoy about Japanese whisky if you’re willing to try. Walk into Kado no Mise and head up the stairs. Take a left and let the cedar incense guide you into the dimly lit bar — your eyes will have to adjust. Given my relationship with a whiskey lover, I was going to end up there at one point or another. The bartender found something for both his seasoned palette and my less experienced tastes. I had the Hibiki Japanese Harmony, a blend of whiskies from Suntory Whisky that tasted faintly of honey and orange. Plus, I didn’t feel like a fire-breathing dragon afterward. For him, the bartender suggested Yamazaki’s 12-year single malt whisky, which even I enjoyed. While no cheap happy hour hang, the bar is certainly worth a trip to experience something off the beaten path.

Photo by Eric Best
Photo by Eric Best

Music in the park

The Minnesota Orchestra is planning a music in the park event on steroids. We’ve all chanced upon a guitar player or small band in parks before, but an upcoming concert from the orchestra will be a metric ton more exciting. Led by Osmo Vänskä, the Grammy Award-winning orchestra will play a free, one-hour concert at the Commons, the two-block part in front of U.S. Bank Stadium. From Sibelius’ “Finlandia” to John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark” music, the musicians plan to perform some of the most powerful songs in their repertoire. The event, presented by park operator Green Minneapolis, marks the orchestra’s debut in the park. Check out the performance from 6 p.m.–7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19.