MUSIC REVIEW | Erik Koskinen record release and Chastity Brown at Real Phonic Radio


Real Phonic Radio on a Saturday night? Something must be special – like the record release of Real Phonic Radio member Erik Koskinen. Or a boatload of snow on ice of the third Thursday of the month. Or a little bit of both. Either way the show was worth the wait, battling the Crashed Ice traffic and an inch of ice on every road in St Paul!

As my nine year old (Aine) is quick to point out whenever we go to a record release of a favorite band: these songs aren’t new. And no they aren’t new if you’ve been seeing the band monthly for a year, even so it’s fun to see the finished product and the final spin on the newly recorded songs. If my count is right, the band played the entire album at the show. As a whole, the album seems to oscillate between personal retrospective (whether it’s autobiographical or not) and a commentary on society, both local and world. The set started with For the First Time in Year, a very country, yet optimistic and personal song, as the title would indicate. That was followed up with Glow Sky Glow, which seems more observational and captures universal sights and thoughts, which really might be more Midwestern than universal but if your Midwestern that’s universal enough. Aine loved the song. It wasn’t my favorite but it was the one running around my head this morning so it must have staying power with a simple beat, clean rhymes and image-inducing lyrics. And it’s not that I didn’t like it – it’s just no Boomtown, which is a faster song that plays more to my style of dance-friendly music. Blood and Money is another easy-dance song through more sway than shake. It seems the two songs might foretell the possible story of North Dakota, based perhaps on what’s happened in Detroit.

It was fun to have Chastity Brown on stage with the band as well. She joined in For Confusion, which is a bluesier song and Slow Burn, which is definitely a slow dance song. In fact it’s exactly a hot summer, up north, slow dance with someone you like song. The timing of the tune is slowed down and somehow feels like it’s on the half beat with the lyrics sung with Koskinen’s unique accent just evoke the summer scene. As always the band was spot on – much of the music highlights the strong guitar and the drums set the tone.

Chastity Brown was her usual soulful self. She played a lot of new songs and didn’t play some of her bigger hits, such as After You, which we missed but we didn’t mind because it  didn’t fit the tone of the night. Yonder Light, a new song, did fit the night – kind of country and toe tapping – in fact it even included a toe tambourine! She has an amazing voice that reach stretches from soulful to pretty.

The night also included poetry from Ben Weaver, a continuation of last month’s epic poem. Again, it was a nature poem with lists of details that paint a series of pictures and include clever lines that make an English Major’s heart skip a beat – such as “the only thing worth carrying is the tune you’re singing. 

Finally the night began with Frankie Lee in his new role of lead singer of the Joskinens, the most famous Erik Koskinen cover band. Fun to hear reggae versions of Koskinen classics.