By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Rod Smith, Polar Bear Club/House of Miracles:
1. Ts 2. Salamander 3. Criterion 4. Rexor 5. (tie) Ousia, Lost in Translation
Bill Snyder, Pulse:
1. Souls of Kilimanjaro 2. Reba Fritz 3. Love-cars 4. The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers 5. Myriad.
No, it's not a coincidence that Souls of Kilimanjaro's Dean Magraw (guitar), Dave King (drums), and Anthony Cox (bass) are all nominated for MMA awards in their respective categories. When they get together, which isn't very often, the walls shake. They get classified as jazz, but truth be told they play any kind of music they damn well please. They have three cuts on Magraw's forthcoming disc, Seventh One (Red House).
Reba Fritz is late of Muskellunge and June Sunday, but it's been great seeing her step out on her own. Her set at this year's "Noiseless" had me totally captivated. Stripping down to guitar and drums, Fritz has cleared plenty of space for her voice, which is breathtakingly sensuous and expressive.
Love-cars, oh why do I love thee? Because Dave King kicks as much ass drumming for a pop band as he does in anything else he does? Because James Diers fronts the band with a geeky charm reminiscent of late-'70s/early-'80s Peter Gabriel? Because they lay down some of the most glorious power-pop grooves in town? Try all the above.
Mark Olson used to be from here, Razz Russell is still from here, and Mabel Albright (a.k.a. Victoria Williams) has never lived here. In my book, that makes the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers 50 percent local. During their recent swing through town it just felt so good to hear Olson's voice again. Their self-titled debut's rough home-recorded gems show Olson's songwriting edging toward Williams's and away from the Jayhawks'. Myriad's guitar, bass, drums, and male/female vocals spread out into the room, soothing the mind without numbing it.
Chris Strouth, TRG Records/Ultramodern Records/America Online/Future Perfect:
1. Lunar 9 2. Ana Voog 3. Janis Figure 4. Anomaly 5. Coup de Grace.
The amazing thing about all these new bands is that none of them is really all that new. Lunar 9 is a project that formed out of Shapeshifter and Deep Shag. It's good pop music for riding around in a UFO. Ana Voog in a past life was the guiding force behind the Blue Up? And even though she sounds completely different now, the muse and the madness are the same.
Janis Figure have been around for a long time, but something happened to them: They got amazing. Now they're Minneapolis's answer to Jon Spencer (now if we could just get a Minneapolis take on Boss Hog!). Anomaly's Jayson Heinrichs was the man on bass for Brother Sun Sister Moon. Now he's front and center with his own trip-hop experience. Their debut, Howle's Book, isn't the best record you'll hear, but it's worth the listen. As for the Coup, everywhere you go someone's talking about them. Of course, no one I know has heard the band, but what does that matter?
Bill Sullivan, 400 Bar:
(no order) Autonomous, So-So, American Paint, Vintage, Brits Out of America.
Jamie Swanson, Radio K:
1. The Minx 2. Ousia 3. Oxpecker 4. Happy Apple 5. Lunar 9.
Sarah Thomas, Kingpin Records:
1. Giving Tree 2. Rhyme Sayers Collective 3. M.I.J.
Ed Varga, Homocore Mpls.:
1. Slalom 2. Sherman Electric 3. The Selby Tigers 4. The Fracture.
This list should probably be titled "My Favorite Unknown Basement Bands." Some are queer, some are not. Slalom is a very charming girl/boy, guitar-and-keyboards duo who play atmospheric instrumentals inspired by Tortoise, Stereolab, and Steely Dan. Sherman Electric is a girl/boy foursome with shades of Devo, power pop, and punk. The Selby Tigers include three ex-Lefty Lucy members and one ex-member of Arm. They have a dual punk-guitar attack reminiscent of Superchunk and Fugazi. The art rockers the Fracture employ heavy-hitting drums, guitar, saxophone, and vocals somewhere between Frank Black, Johnny Cash, and Calvin Johnson.
Krista Vilinskis, OarFin Records:
(no order) The Autumn Leaves, The Scott Laurent Band, The Bison Burns, Patrick Tanner & the Faraway Men, Dazy Head Mazy.
Jim Walsh, St. Paul Pioneer Press:
1. Baby Grant Johnson 2. The Autumn Leaves 3. Vanguard 4. Sliver 5. Umbrella Bed (Honorable mentions: The Harlows, Vic Volare and the Volare Lounge Orchestra, Accident Clearinghouse, American Paint, The Pushbacks, Jacqueline Jaquez, Busiest Bankruptcy Lawyers in Minnesota, Justin Roberts).
Mark Wheat, KFAI/Pulse/Zone 105:
1. Brits Out of America 2. Ousia 3. Mary Nail 4. 3 Minute Hero 5. Skyeklad.
To separate all the new band material that comes in every year, I have to see the band live and in some way be moved by them. That unique connection between artist and audience can only be achieved in a live setting, never through an aural medium alone, and I still cling to the apparently old-fashioned view that creating those moments of connection is what should be considered artistic success.