Jennifer Downham, KFAI's Groove Garden: 1. Jayson Heinrichs 2. Happy Apple 3. Yer Uncle 4. Eye-dea and DJ Abilities 5. Lady & the Katz. Also: Kanser Troop--Jayson Heinrichs is the beat Einstein... watch out for the inevitable whiplash epidemic when his work hits the streets! Happy Apple: scalpel precision, chainsaw results. Yer Uncle: tiger-horse blues, shy flamboyant grooves. Eye-dea and DJ Abilities: mind-boggling MC and jaw-dropping vocalist. Lady & the Katz: vocal passion and tight butter jazz; their breakup was the unfortunate young-band casualty of the year. Kanser Troop: young mic rockers workin' it.
Pat Dwyer, Amphetamine Reptile Records: (no order) Vaz, Freedom Fighters, Play For Beer Band, Three Way Grady, The Stillroven
Alan Freed, Beat Radio: (no order) L.E.D., Ann Nesby, Greazy Meal, Superstitch, Think Tank
Simon Peter Groebner, City Pages: 1. Brother Sun Sister Moon 2. Ninotchka 3. Swoon 4. Mike Merz & the Can o' Worms 5. Oxpecker--Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973) was an exotic Zeffirelli film about a young Francis of Assisi; Ninotchka (1939) starred Greta Garbo as an icy Bolshevik spy who melts in Paris. So it follows (right?) that Brother Sun Sister Moon and Ninotchka are both Minneapolitan male-female studio duos in 1997--in each case with the boy as veteran soundscape-ist and the girl as knockout vocalist. (Ninotchka, the lesser known of the two, is ex-Hang Up John Crozier plus February singer Amy Turany, currently unknown to the world but for one gorgeous summer-day 7-inch.) Dominant "wisdom" contends there aren't any women who've mastered the art of guitar effects, but Karen Kopacs confounds that myth with Swoon, sort of a female-led 12 Rods (aye, Ryan Olcott plays bass) by way of Hüsker Dü and King Crimson. Mike Merz's Buzzkill Nation was the most provocative and subversive singer-songwriter concept disc of the last year; and what Oxpecker lacks in tasteful nomenclature it makes up for in explosive, genderfucking skronk-punk mayhem. (Honorable mentions: Patch, Florida, Atmosphere, Mindphaseone, Lady & the (defunct) Katz. Welcome comebacks: Lily Liver, Dutch Oven.)
Will Hermes, City Pages: 1. Sukpatch 2. Brother Sun Sister Moon 3. DJ Capsule 4. Happy Apple 5. The Beatifics--Sukpatch topped my scorecard because their loopy beats were consistently dope, and their pop pleasure principle always in effect (though I still don't know what the fuck they're singing about). Last time I saw 'em live, the kids at the Fine Line were so worked up they flung hula hoops. When I saw BSSM at the Fine Line, I imagined I was an A&R guy smelling dollar signs--not an altogether bad feeling, I'll confess. They were least convincing when trying to work grooves ("trip hop" they are not, press notices notwithstanding). Rather, the popcraft is the thing, and when Barb Cohen's voice and Paul Robb's arrangements are just right (as on "Havana" and "Cairo"), they make for a warm, handsome, late-'90s rereading of Eurythmics. A hardstep mix by local junglist DJ Capsule stayed in my car deck longer than any other tape this year, and he always keeps things jumping live. (Next time out, watch him work the decks with those crazy Giacometti fingers.) I'm embarrassed to say I've yet to see the free-jazzy Happy Apple live, but the advance tape of their new LP showcases some hot, harmolodically minded two-sax attacks. And that drummer's got it goin' on. Lastly, I thought the Beatifics single that REV 105 was always playing this past winter would be the great summer single of 1997. Who's playing it now?
Dylan Hicks, Governor of Fun: (no order) Rhyme Sayers Collective, The Sensational Joint Chiefs, Terry Eason, Billy Holloman & The Sho Nuff Band featuring Johnny Hodges, Mike Merz/Lori Wray Axis--Unfortunately, my list of "New Local Bands I've Seen and Actually Paid Attention To In the Past Year" wouldn't be much longer than this list, so consider me hopelessly unqualified. A very cool vibe can be found at Rhyme Sayers events, which showcase hip-hop acts like Beyond, Atmosphere, and Phull Surkle. The Joint Chiefs had become more sensational even before their moniker change, developing an enviable band chemistry and improving as tunesmiths. Terry Eason (who plays guitar in my band, I confess) has released some very limited-edition solo outings in the past, but has emerged in earnest as a solo act this year, playing songs as lovably eccentric as he is. Holloman's group features the show-stealing Johnny Hodges, and can be heard playing covers from James Brown to R. Kelly at area bars (also check out Holloman's Hammond organ night Tuesdays at the Artist's Quarter). Mike Merz and Lori Wray are two excellent songwriters that lead separate bands with identical personnel. If they joined forces, they might earn a support slot on the upcoming Fleetwood Mac reunion tour.
Chris Hodapp, KBA Marketing: 1. Buffo 2. Buzzwell 3. Wheelo 4. The Big Wu 5. 2 Tickets 2 Paradise