Things We Lost in the Fire
Call me crazy, but I don't think they lost anything in that fire. This album is still the Low you know, only more voluptuous. With trademark dramatic harmonies, the subtle thuds of drum mallets, and the goosebumped textures of minimalist bass and guitar, this urgent album feels poignant and sobering rather than emotionally draining. And I'm still smoldering from Mimi Parker's cold but clear voice singing, "Hold me closer than that": a prophetic plea for the year's end, when the only thing that unified everyone was that no one felt safe.
Surex, Jamie Ness misquotes T.S. Eliot in his wistful song "Like a Banjo." No matter: The rest of this singer-songwriter's lyrical folk album is completely dead on. From the surprisingly melancholy undertone of "I Puked on My Girlfriend" to the bluesy Neil Young sound of "Blue Collar," it's a witty, alt-country endeavor filled with acute observations. ("I don't mind just sitting here with you/Watching the Roseanne Barr show/ Where did Becky go?/Where'd they get that new one from?") The melodies have the classic sound of a Southern traditional, and catching all of Ness's punch lines will clean out your ears faster than a hot-Q-tip job.
Slug once claimed that he wanted to be "bigger than breast implants." You can supersize "big" when you shrink down the context from national to local circles: Within the Twin Cities hip-hop scene of the past few years, Atmosphere has probably equaled the combined boobage of any given Hooters waitstaff. But in 2001, Kanser were probably venturing into Anna Nicole Smith territory. Quintessential is melodious funk for loudmouths, a proper schooling with a soulful beat. Zach Combs is a truly ambitious poet for every Minnesota kid who ever aspired to cop a coastal rapper's style. Let's hope that "Three Kats" becomes Minneapolis's theme song before Combs himself moves to Brooklyn.
9. JAKE MANDELL
Love Songs for Machines
The future is boring. A decade ago electronic artists were salivating over the increasing sophistication of glitch-making technology. But this year Autechre released an ultramodern album that made critics yawn, and now every laptop debutante with a digital cable modem is downloading SuperCollider software and imitating old Model 500 albums. Jake Mandell's latest is the best local throwback to vintage techno, an affectionate history of electronic music that settles somewhere between Boards of Canada and a My First Casio infested with buggy innards. "The computer beckons with pouty lips whenever I have a creative urge," Mandell writes in the liner notes. I read this and fear for his health. Then I start to catch Mandell's electro-lust and I fear what I might do to my Sony Vaio.
10. HOWLIN' ANDY HOUND
The Electric Dreams of...Howlin Andy Hound
Mod Holland Enterprises
Knick-knack, paddywhack, give this dawg a bone. Andy Kereakos--the sexed-up yowler who is the Hound--makes "garage-rock revival" sound like some sort of seedy religious cult fronted by an evangelical Mick Jagger with a throat cold. Amid covers of UFO, the Lollipop Shoppe, and Sir Lord Baltimore, the Hound's "(I Hate) My Generation" stands out as the anti-anthem that even a crowd of hipster cynics can believe in. And Kereakos scratches at his guitar strings so hard and fast you'd think they itched like the woolen undies your grandma knit you for Christmas.
Honorable mentions, in alphabetical order: Atmosphere, Lucy Ford (Rhymesayers Entertainment); Bellwether, Home Late (Rust Belt Records); Busy Signals, Pretend Hits (Sugar Free); CenospeciesIn Definition (Peak); Mark Mallman and Vermont, Mark Mallman and Vermont (Guilt Ridden Pop); Mata Hari, Mata Hari; Nationale, Nationale (Fighting Electric); S.U.S.P.E.C.T.S., Delusions of Grandeur (SOL); Triangle, * (File 13).
What happened?! What happened?! Be-tween the war on raves and the war in Afghanistan, Minnesota music was a blur for us this year. Here are some of things we remember.
Before midnight on January 26, Minneapolis police enter a crowded Northeast warehouse space in full riot gear, putting an end to "Liquid Fridays" dance parties with all the politesse of a crack raid. The bust has its intended effect: While the Ecstasy business keeps busy in clubs, the rite of the warehouse rave soon becomes all but extinct in the Twin Cities. By April, Profile Music Café in Stadium Village is the haven of last resort for an all-ages dance scene in retreat. And it's a fricking cafeteria.
Twelve days after Jack McDuff dies of an apparent heart attack, friends and family gather on February 4 to remember the great Minneapolis jazz organist who inspired guitarist George Benson, among many others. At a Dakota Bar and Grill memorial celebration, piano player Bobby Lyle suddenly remembers how much he used to love playing the Captain's preferred instrument, the Hammond B-3 organ. He adjusts his career plans accordingly.
In other funereal developments, indie rock is declared dead for the 386 billionth time when the 15-year-old Garage D'Or record shop is forced to close. Months later, Treehouse Records can't stock enough Strokes imports, and indie rock is declared not dead yet.