Tag Archives: Romantica

I Love the Shadowlands Record by Romantica and You Should Too

Shadowlands by RomanticaTwin Cities band Romantica has officially released their new album, Shadowlands, after a five-year hiatus and a one-year delay. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s worth the wait.

Last year the band crowd-funded their new project and recorded it in a barn south of the Twin Cities. One of the rewards was a  pre-Valentine’s Day show that I gushed about.

While the new album was done, and lucky backers like myself got copies, it never quite released publicly. Turns out the album landed a record deal and an official release, which happened last week. Now you can listen to the album on Spotify or Apple Music and buy a copy on iTunes or Amazon.

And you should buy a copy. It’s good. Continue reading I Love the Shadowlands Record by Romantica and You Should Too

Happy Easter Music Mix

Holy Week began yesterday morning with the waving of the palms. We stood outside our church on the corner of Ford Parkway and Macalester, savoring the little bit of sun that offered warmth against the bitter Minnesota cold. It may have been the first day of spring, but it was still in the 30s. We waved our palms to sing Hosanna, to fight back the cold, to celebrate the march toward Easter.

So with that backdrop I offer an Easter music list.

I’m always making mix CDs for my wife, and as I started another list for her, I realized I was collecting a lot of gospel songs. Most of my mixes are pretty random, so I decided to lean into the theme.

The result is a collection of music that speaks to faith and spirituality and hope and the gospel. I’m well beyond saying this is “Christian” music, but it is a collection of hymns, psalms and laments, tinged with that old-time gospel sound.

  1. “Little Light” by The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers
  2. “What Wondrous Love Is This? by Chelsea Moon & The Franz Brothers
  3. “Not Enough” by Caedmon’s Call
  4. “Here it Comes” by Romantica
  5. “He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word” by The Welcome Wagon
  6. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash
  7. “Purpose (live)” by Cloud Cult
  8. “Hand in Hand” by Jayanthi Kyle
  9. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Rattle & Hum movie version)” by U2
  10. “Be Thou My Vision” by Ginny Owens
  11. “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons & Daughters
  12. “The Transfiguration” by Sufjan Stevens
  13. “Lamb of God, Have Mercy” by Gospel Machine
  14. “People of God” by Gungor
  15. “Poor Man’s Son” by Noah Gundersen
  16. “This Little Light” by Mavis Staples
  17. “This No More” by The Vespers
  18. “Amazing Grace (featuring The Lily of the Valley Gospel Choir)” by Justin McRoberts
  19. “40 (live)” by U2

Continue reading Happy Easter Music Mix

Romantica Pre-Valentine’s Day

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I took Abby to a barn 50 miles south of the Cities for a pre-release concert by Romantica. It was a little bit magic.

After being on hiatus for about five years, they crowd-funded their new album, Shadowlands. One of the rewards was this exclusive pre-release show in the barn where they recorded the album. I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been a fan of Romantica since long before their debut album turned me into a fawning fan boy. The new material is great: atmospheric and soulful, dripping with depth and beauty. I haven’t seen the band play in a long time (they have been on hiatus), so this was the first time I saw the addition of Jayanthi Kyle on backing vocals (yes, she’s frontman Ben Kyle’s sister-in-law). Wow. I love the depth she adds. (And bonus: I was already a fan of her work, I just didn’t know it. She wrote the Black Lives Matter protest song, “Hand in Hand.”)

The show started with the mournful/hopeful “Harder to Hear,” which resonates with the doubt, depression and yearning of this season. Here’s a poorly filmed snippet:

Another stand out track is “Here It Comes,” which Jayanthi described as her favorite. Talk about soulful and yearning. Ben said the song came to him on the last day of recording, a gift. “Cecil Ingram Conor” is another barn-burner, though I’m not sure my crummy video does it justice (Ben’s solo living room performance might be a better taste).

So many other good tracks, but that’s a start. (And the letterpress packaging design is beautiful. Worth getting a physical copy.)

Braving the Minnesota tundra to discover tender music with the woman I love is like a tonic for my soul.


Ben Kyle Living Room Show

I used to go to concerts all the time. It was mostly pre-marriage and definitely pre-kid. But these days it’s rare. I made it to the Five Iron Frenzy show a couple weeks ago and it was pretty odd to be in a club for a rock show.

Yeah, I’m old.

On Saturday night I went to another concert that was an entirely new experience. Ben Kyle, of Romantica fame, played a living room show in Arden Hills, Minn. I’ve heard about living room performances before—small, intimate shows in someone’s home. But I’ve never been able to make it to one before.

It’s the ideal atmosphere, especially for Ben’s introspective, acoustic, singer/songwriter style. He talks a lot, telling stories and introducing songs so you get the context. It’s an introduction to the music that, as you can imagine, works a lot better than just listening to an online stream of the new album.

Here’s a glimpse of the experience:

I couldn’t help telling the story of how I first rediscovered Ben’s music when Romantica’s first album came out. It was the kind of crowd of friends where everyone has a story like that.

Romantica on the Current

You may remember my complete shock at recognizing Ben Kyle’s voice when I first heard Romantica. Their debut album, It’s Your Weakness That I Want, is pretty good and I’ve had the pleasure of reliving that shock when I hear their music on the radio (so far just the Current).

But the Current really likes them, and that’s pretty cool. Today the Current’s Song of the Day is “The National Side”. Plus they played live in the studio a few weeks back which you can hear online–and you can hear Mary Lucia tell Ben Kyle to “shut it” (when Ben tells her one of the judges of the International Songwriting Competition, which Romatica has won, was Tom Waits).

Romantica’s sophomore album, America, is now available. You can hear some of it on MySpace. Plus, they’ll be playing this Sunday at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts. It’s free. It’s outside. I might just have to go (and hey, it’s Father’s Day, so I get to do what I want, right?).

Romantica. No Way.

2004_05_01 romantica.jpgThat’s what I said when the music started playing. The sound was amazing, better than I expected. But the vocals made my jaw drop. That sounds like Ben Kyle, doesn’t it? I know that guy!

Steve Knight mentioned going to see the band Romantica when he came to town, and his fawning over the band and the fact that you can listen to their CD online prompted me to head over to the site and check them out.

From the first word of the first song I knew I recognized that voice. Could that be Ben Kyle? But this sounds amazing. This sounds like a full-blown, record-signed, professional band. Not that I don’t think Ben’s capable of that, but when did that happen?

Maybe you need a little background to be as blown away as I am. I went to college with Ben Kyle. He was the cool artsy, musical guy from Ireland. He had dreadlocks and an Irish accent. He teamed up with Luke Jacobs and they played some amazing acoustic folk music. We had them on our radio show, Mission Control, multiple times. In fact, I’ve got a few tapes of those performances and have been in the process of transferring them to my computer. Abby and I went to several Ben & Luke performances at local coffee houses.

After college I didn’t hear much about Ben Kyle anymore. I did track him down for a story about playing Irish music in pubs for passageway.org. I went to a show in Dinkytown and filmed his performance for the article, and one song is available on the site.

After that I never heard much about Ben Kyle. Every now and then I’d remember those accoustic songs, pull out my Mission Control tapes and hear them again. Occasionally I’d Google “Ben Kyle,” wondering what he was up to. I never did find him.

I guess that’s why it’s such an amazing, drop-what-I’m-doing, fawn-like-a-fan-boy thing. I didn’t expect to hear Ben singing, see Ben and Luke’s names and pictures on the site. I always thought Ben and Luke should plunge headlong into the music biz. Maybe that’s just me wanting to hear more of the local music I loved, but I always thought they’d go far. And maybe they’re not far yet. They’re a local band on a local label, but they have an amazing CD and are being reviewed in City Pages. It’s a start.