Obscure seventies singer-songwriter and sometime novelist


Dylan Hicks & Small Screens: Airport Sparrows

New album, Airport Sparrows.

Praise for Airport Sparrows:

“Long one of the Twin Cities’ most sophisticated songwriters even going back to his lo-fi ’90s cassettes, the Minneapolis pop/rocker has a lot of sophisticated tools and talent behind him for ‘Airport Sparrows,’ the debut album by his ambitious and elegant new jazz-infused band. Jazz and classical MVPs including sax/clarinet player Chris Thomson, cellist Michelle Kinney and guitar ace Zacc Harris richly fleshed out Hicks’ novella-like tunes over a velvety sonic backdrop that variously recalls Steely Dan, Lambchop and late-era Joe Henry.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The album is so warm and blissful, it aches. It’s a conflation of all your favorite autumn experiences – the dense orange heat of a midnight bonfire; plodding through a grassy field; holding hands in the heat. Bliss.” –Youa Vang, Mpls. St Paul

“Now five albums into the second act of his career as a singer-songwriter, Hicks’s musical ambitions keep expanding. The instrumental title track of his latest, Airport Sparrows, a showcase for the supple chamber-jazz sextet of top local players he’s gathered, stretches out for more than nine-and-a-half minutes but never meanders. The album features sax and clarinet colors and breezy solos from Christopher Thomson, Michelle Kinney’s dominant cello, and comps and improvisations from guitarist Zacc Harris and Hicks’s own keyboards, while the rhythm section of Charlie Lincoln and Peter Hennig that keeps things moving. But at the core still are Hicks’s straightforward melodies and wry lyrics.” Keith Harris, Racket

“Heartily endorsed: the new LP by Dylan Hicks & Small Screens, which dwells in the exhilarating threshold between Randy Newman at his most humane and Loudon Wainwright at his most self-lacerating. How do you fight loneliness? With a stiff upper lip and no chance of winning at all.” –Elizabeth Nelson

“Hicks’ turns of phrase elevate these catchy tunes that are at once self-deprecating and vulnerable.” –Sheila Regan, MinnPost

“If lounge-rock there must be, then let it be as brainy and stubbornly unslick as this.”  –Robert Christgau, And It Don’t Stop

“A singer/songwriter who’s also a novelist, or a novelist who’s also a singer/songwriter. Either way, I’m encountering him here for the first time with an album of depth and intelligence. His songs are orchestrated, with jazz influences (or at least chords) brought out on piano, saxophone, and in the rhythm section. His vocals are nuanced and delicate, bringing images and melodies into sharp relief before letting those instrumentalists take over. Heck, the title track doesn’t have any vocals at all. I’m gonna single out ‘I Ain’t Forgotten You’ as the high point here, even if it isn’t typical of the rest of the cuts. It’s a short song with lots of words, almost Dylan-like as he runs down all the things he can’t remember but ending with the modern-day Proustian phenomena of opening the shrink wrap on a Prince album.” –Steve Pick, Steve Pick’s Writing Place

“Hicks is a songwriter first: hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching, Midwestern-Gen-X-specific lyrics. But the baked-in weirdness in his musicality and an affection for really talented collaborators gives you more to chew on than “singer-songwriter” generally implies: What is this, jazz?–Margit Berman, Jackson Street Arts blog

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