Multi-instrumentalist Al Church (center) and his band will play a vinyl release show for his new album “Night Games” at the Turf Club on Friday, April 27. Photos by Graham Tolbert

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What to do downtown after work

Take me to Church

If Al Church’s first album was a bright, summery record, he said his latest is more like a “dark basement at midnight.”

The midnight hour is all over “Night Games,” the Minneapolis music veteran’s album out April 27. From late-night drives to the freedom of youth playing in the wild night, the record explores semi-autobiographical moments of Church’s childhood in Duluth — and much more — set to a soundtrack of neon light-soaked funk and atmospheric rock. Maybe that makes it perfect for a spring that doesn’t feel so springy.

“I wanted to write a darker, more dangerous album,” Church said. “It’s darker, sweatier, basement funk.”

Church, a South Minneapolis resident, has been making waves in the Twin Cities music scene for years now. The multi-instrumentalist plays with bands like Actual Wolf, Andy Cook and BBGUN, a guitar-driven rock band with friend Neal Perbix, on top of producing, including most recently a record for Gaelynn Lea, a high school friend from Duluth and a musical rising star in her own right (she whistles on his new record).

Finding his own musical voice amid these other projects was key. Church combed through his own life in writing the record.

AL_-22On “Night Games,” Church describes the youthful thrill of escaping the house and venturing out into the wilderness to ride bikes, play games and just be a kid. The song sets the scene like a ’90s version of “Stranger Things” or “The Goonies,” with Church and his three older brothers talking on walkie-talkies and staying up past their bedtime to play capture the flag.

Meanwhile Church’s voice reveals the dangers “outside the windows of your home,” such as a neighbor who buries their stolen bikes. They’re based on a real neighbor Church once witnessed stab his soccer ball and bury it in her backyard. The dichotomy between thrills and chills plays out sonically with an internal push and pull with the chords.

“I like to experiment with chords that aren’t in the key and chords that just shouldn’t work,” he said. “Finding out how to make a major chord sad, that’s my MO.”

“Waiting for the Chorus,” a brighter tune made lighter with Church’s smooth falsetto and quick guitar runs, is a spiritual sequel to “Turquoise Sun” from 2015’s “Next Summer,” his first album. The songs are part of one big road trip — Church often writes about cars, where he gets ideas — about a couple forgetting the past.

“To me, I find some of (my) best music moments have been driving,” he said.

AL_-33 webOther winners on the album include “Savannah,” a sort of unrequited love song whose wondrously layered screams of the titular character’s name hit like a ton of bricks, and “I’m So Afraid,” a delicate confessional with electronic drums, (even more) sweet sax lines and beautifully distorted vocals.

On “Night Games,” Church has traded in a rougher edge to his rock for a batch of melody-driven pop-funk reminiscent of Of Montreal or MGMT. His often-theatrical voice can back up character-prone lyrics that set detailed scenes with soundtracks worth revisiting.

Church and his band — Cole Pulice (saxophone), Ryan Rupprecht (keyboard), Evan Fox (bass) and Jeff Marcovis (drums) — will play a vinyl release show at St. Paul’s Turf Club on Friday, April 27. The 21-plus concert will feature a lineup of 26 Bats! and Jennie Lawless. Perbix of BBGUN, Mina Moore (YSHEYELLIN) and I Was Born to Love-Love You will have DJ Sets.

Church recommends checking out music from Twin Cities-based Dem Yuut, which features fellow BBGUN member Jeremy Hanson and Danny O’Brien, who mixed “Night Games.” The bedroom-pop band has released two singles and is set to — hopefully soon, Church said — release a debut album.

The North Loop's Colonial Warehouse building. Photo by Eric Best
The North Loop’s Colonial Warehouse building. Photo by Eric Best

Spring shopping

It’s time to spring into, well, spring with some shopping in the North Loop. One of the city’s hippest neighborhoods will host its annual shopping crawl 10 a.m.­–6 p.m. Saturday, April 21. To start, simply attend one of your favorite North Loop retailers — personally, I love browsing all the stationery options at russell + hazel — and pick up a passport. Each participating store, from martinpatrick3 to Mitrebox Framing Studio, will have a stamp of its own to collect for a chance at winning prizes. Be sure to enjoy the spring-themed art in the various show floors along the way. Shoppers can make a day of the crawl with discounted events, from fitness classes to cheaper meals at local restaurants. The crawl will culminate with an after-party at the Hewing Hotel featuring appetizers, cocktails, music and prizes. Participating stores include Bonobos, C’est Chic Boutique, D. NOLO, Jeromeo, Lappin Lighting, North Loop Wine & Spirits, Statement Boutique and more.