Hoboken, New Jersey, a mile square city in the shadow of The Big Apple, served as the launch pad for some of indie rock’s true giants. Instrumental to the success of many of these artists is Coyote Records, a label primarily focusing on releasing acts that frequented Hoboken clubs on a regular basis. Established in 1985 by original Maxwell’s owner Steve Fallon, the label’s first release was a compilation of area artists presciently titled “Luxury Condominiums Coming To Your Area.” It featured tracks from Hobokenites Yo La Tengo, Rage To Live, and The Wygals.
With the closing of Maxwell’s in 2013 and the continued devolution of Hoboken, these echoes from the past sit firmly in the rear-view mirror – but thanks to Coyote Records, the artists of that time had an outlet to release their work and a simple discogs search can put you in touch with the entire catalagoue.
Wondering where to start? Here’s my take are the five essential Coyote releases:
1) The Feelies – “The Good Earth” – The second installment in the Feelies catalogue, “The Good Earth” features an expanded lineup and a sound that the late Jonathan Demme described as a “two guitar magic zone.” That portrayal is essentially code for the seamless interweaving of Bill Million’s warm acoustic guitar with Glenn Mercer’s cutting electric sound. This LP is considered to be the group’s magnum opus by fans and critics alike – and for good reason. With its release, The Feelies abandoned the more jittery, new-wave sound of “Crazy Rhythms” and adopted a more mesmerizing, low-key feel. Produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the record is a perfect folk-rock soundtrack for a lazy summer Sunday spent relaxing in a suburban backyard.
2) Yung Wu – “Shore Leave”: Yung Wu is one of the most beloved side projects in the Feelies universe, as the the eccentrically loveable Dave Weckerman takes on frontman duties! While fans are used to Weckermen banging a cowbell and a snare drum, the album “Shore Leave” is a testament to his own songwriting chops. Weckerman contributed eight original songs to the record, including “The Empty Pool” and the title track, “Shore Leave,” a soft, jangly masterpiece that fits squarely at the intersection of R.E.M. and Neil Young. Bar None Records is set to reissue this album in 2018, so pick it up at your local record store!
3) Yo La Tengo – “Ride The Tiger”: Yo La Tengo’s first effort is also their most endearing, as it captures one of independent music’s most enduring forces s in it’s infancy. Recorded in 1986, the record features some early entries in the Yo La Tengo encyclopedia of covers, including “Big Sky” by the Kinks, a known Kaplan-Hubley favorite. Though the group would go onto to create some of the most memorable albums of the last 30 years, on its own terms “Ride The Tiger” is a 1980s college radio stand out, given Dave Schramm’s eclectic guitar playing and Kaplan’s fine melodies.
4) Chris Stamey – “Instant Excitement”: After releasing two critically acclaimed albums with the dB’s, including 1981’s masterful “Stands For Decibels,” Chris Stamey parted ways with longtime collaborator Peter Holsapple and embarked on a solo career. Stamey remained a staple in Hoboken, but spread his wings into unchartered territory with his first solo EP. While tracks like “Excitement” and a cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” stay true to his signature jangly guitar pop sound, Stamey’s diversity of influences shines through on “When We’re Alone,” a heartfelt acoustic ballad, and his take on country classic, “The Wild Side of Life” by Willie Nelson.
5) Gut Bank – “The Dark Ages” – Comprised of Hoboken natives Karyn Kuhl, Alice Genese, Mike Korman, and the late Tia Palmisano, “Gut Bank” burst onto the scene in the mid-1980s with a hard, fast, and loud sound driven by heavy riffs and dark lyrics. Produced by Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller, the album represents a departure from some of the more upbeat, new-wave sounds of the scene’s contemporaries – as the record sounds more like “Zen Arcade” than “Drums Along The Hudson.” Instead, “The Dark Ages” is a template followed by countless successors a decade later, including Hole, Babes of Toyland and L7, to mention a few!
While Coyote Records remains largely inactive – aside from a single release from Speed The Plough in 2015 – the catalogue serves as a lens into the burgeoning creativity and jangle-power-pop goodness of the era. This starting point can lead you down an endless road of other remarkable artists from the mile square city, including The Individuals, The Bongos, Tiny Lights, and many more!
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