Picked to Click XII

Hail the Conquering Heroes: Polls and Praise for This Year's Best New Artists

Let it Bleed

In this town, people give blood for a cause they believe in--and it ain't the Red Cross. Earlier this summer, during a show at a house party in southeast Minneapolis, a cluster of people were dancing so hard that one woman fell, broke the glass of water she was holding, badly cut her hand, and kept right on moving amid the meat grinder of limbs. When a friend asked if she was okay, the woman was incredulous. "Okay?" she gushed. "I'm fantastic!"

Now, City Pages is not saying it's smart to spill your bodily fluids whenever possible. As R. Kelly taught us, such things have legal repercussions. But we are advocating that type of passion for local music: the numb-to-the-rest-of-the-world hysteria that you'll find at any basement concert in town--and that you'll rarely find at, say, a Clear Channel venue near you. Since we held the last Picked to Click more than 15 months ago (the best new local-artist poll coincides with the frequently rescheduled Minnesota Music Awards), the greatest local music has been lurking in the margins. Punk artists are getting more airtime on pirate radio and smaller, nonprofit stations and playing at smaller venues like the Babylon International Café and Gallery.

The Soviettes
The Soviettes

And apparently listeners like what they hear: Picked to Click winners and Babylon mainstays the Soviettes chart at number one on our poll. (Read about them in "The Revolution Will Be Illustrated," p. 14.) While doomsayers wail about the absence of major record-label deals, Picked to Click voters mark their ballots with the names of many artists whose albums are self-released. One such musician, love-song crooner Vicious Vicious, has contributed a relationship advice column to Picked to Click (see "Lovers Rock," p. 21). And panic-rock avatars have left "indie" venues like the Entry in favor of house-party shows--which have been this past year's most exciting local-music venues by far. In fact, City Pages contributor Cecile Cloutier notes that some of her favorite shows of late occurred not in clubs but in a park, an art gallery, and a certain church that so many local musos have come to love. (See Cloutier's and other local pundits' comments about the local music scene in "Vox Rockuli," p. 13.)

Of course, the 12th annual Picked to Click also includes a band that's comfortable packing fans into First Avenue's Mainroom: Ninja Tune artists Fog ranked fourth in our Top Ten for the second year in a row. Because he can compete with the best of them, Fog drummer and solo artist Martin Dosh, who placed second this year, was summoned to audition for City Pages' own version of American Idol--see "Minnesotan Idol," p. 18. And Dosh didn't even need a proper stage: He performed in a coffee shop less than a block from City Pages' offices.

The basement may have been better than the bar this year: People seemed to flock to the same house parties every week, no matter who was playing. As for the bands, they hardly seem to care whether the glass is half full or lying in shards on the floor. They're happy to play either way. You might say it's in their blood. --Melissa Maerz

Picked to CLICK XII

Hail the Conquering Heroes: Polls and Praise

for This Year's Best New Artists

HERE'S HOW

IT WORKS:

Once a year, we agree to shut our yaps. In honor of our annual Picked to Click poll, we asked 71 voters--record clerks, radio personalities, freelance writers--to vote for their top five new local bands, DJs, groups, solo artists. Together, they selected more than 200 acts (and we found a few choice spots to rattle on, as we're wont to do).

For each ballot, the number-one choice received five points, the number-two choice four points, etc. Bands who tied for fifth place got a half-point each. For ballots where the voters chose not to order their picks, each band received three points. If two bands tied in this case, they each got 1.5 points. (Since we at City Pages are right-brained journalists, we decided to hire Archimedes to help us with tallying votes. But since we haven't had a math class since high school, we didn't realize that he's dead. And so we enlisted City Pages editorial administrator Jessica Armbruster to count the ballots for us.)

Below are the Top Ten acts (actually 21, owing to ties), with comments from our poll participants. Thanks to everyone who voted--see the full list at the end, and check out "The Ballots" online at www.citypages.com. Most important, this poll is meant to be nothing more than a fun and informal way of highlighting new local talent. It's not a definitive list of every great band in town, so please do not use it as an excuse to gloat at other musicians, or to try to get laid. It won't work.

 

1. The Soviettes (35 points)

GENRE: GRRRLS GONE WILD

The Soviettes are a classic Book Your Own Fucking Life example of how to get a cool pop-punk band out of the basement. Here's what to do: Write catchy songs with your stylish girlfriends about how shit ain't right. Start performing live almost immediately. Keep playing until you're a tight unit. Sign on the best drummer. Record a 7-inch that everyone loves to hear on the radio. And voilà! In a few months, you're one of the best bands in town.

--Christina Schmitt, musician;
freelance writer

 

2. Dosh (31)

GENRE: PANSONIC YOUTH

Dosh possesses a keen, enterprising musical mind. Watching him perform solo is like watching a juggling act where some of the balls are dropping and it's still so exciting that you keep rooting for the guy.

--Ben Durrant, musician; owner/
engineer, Crazy Beast Studio

 

3. Ashtray Hearts (22)

GENRE: I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART...AND YOUR GUITAR STRINGS

Finding alt-country a snooze? Yeah, me too. That is, until the Ashtray Hearts invited me to eavesdrop at their worn apartment door, allowing me to digest slow, gentle tales of disappointment and regret that are centered on the heart. The results: a beautiful, melancholy delight perfect for those lonely autumn days and cold winter nights.

--Amy Carlson, music writer,
St. Paul Pioneer Press

 

Sweet J.A.P. (tie)

GENRE: ALL THE WORLD'S A STOOGE

What's so sweet about five sweaty rockers writhing on the floor, screaming in your face, falling into one another onstage, and peeling off their clothes? Everything.

--Kate Silver, freelance writer

 

4. Fog (21)

GENRE: APOCALYPSE NOW (EPIC

INDIE ROCK LATER)

Armed with a guitar, spasm-inducing turntable skills, an ear for beats, and an ability to weave it all together with ragged vocals and scraps of noise, Fog plays the soundtrack to being a lonely soul stuck in impersonal urbanity (i.e., Minneapolis in the midst of winter). Following this year's Check Fraud 12-inch and late-summer touring across the U.S. of A., the band is tight and ready to lead late-fall apartment dwellers in song. Everyone now: "Is this depression or disease/Tell it to the millipedes..."

--Mark Baumgarten, editor, Lost Cause

 

5. The C.O.R.E. (17)

GENRE: MORE SWING, LESS BLING

They dance, which rappers aren't supposed to do. They're funny, which "righteous" types aren't supposed to be. They're "street," too, because of where their social concerns lie, not how they're supposed to come off. They believe in more than themselves, and they are beginning to entertain more than themselves. That's enough happy surprises for five bands.

--Peter S. Scholtes, staff writer,
City Pages

 

6. Signal to Trust (15)

GENRE: I KILLED FIVE GRIZZLY BEARS WITH MY NAKED HANDS TO BRING YOU THIS ROCK

For anyone who ever went exploring in weather that would freeze nostril hairs into a solid block of ice, has watched the Shackleton IMAX 30 times, or thinks that punk rock is the only thing that pulses with John Muir's posthumous howl: This band's for you.

--Melissa Maerz, music editor,
City Pages

 

Vicious Vicious (tie)

GENRE: MUSIC TO MAKE LOVE, SWEET LOVE, TO YOUR OLD LADY BY

Rather than being predictable when he performs, Mr. Vicious (a.k.a. Erik Appelwick) plays shows like emotional swings: One moment he's all high jinks and humor, the next he's just killing you with a lovelorn little tune about a long-awaited reunion. Some cheeky lyrical gags are steeped in his lounge-pop melodies, but those tender little ballads just give him away.

--Marcie Hill, freelance writer

 

A Whisper in the Noise (tie)

GENRE: ORCHESTRAL MANEUVERS
IN THE DARK

A Whisper in the Noise is the sonic equivalent of a light going out. No matter, frontman West Thordson seems to be having a lot of fun in the dark. His brooding orchestral soundscapes, tinged with a cold sweetness, are hopeful at heart--a message to those still fumbling for the switch.

--Kate Silver

 

7. Divorcee (14)

GENRE: WHO HASN'T CRIBBED AN ACCENT FROM MONTY PYTHON?

Divorcee's music is smeared with such a thick coat of brilliant, shimmering Britpop that it's hard to believe they're from Minneapolis and not Manchester.

--Paul Sand, music editor,
the Minnesota Daily

 

Editor's note: As Simon Peter Groebner once noted, "this poll has become something of a contest to determine which new local buzz band will soon vanish from the face of the Earth." This year it's Divorcee: The group disbanded before this poll went to press.

 

Redstart (tie)

GENRE: QUIET RIOT

Finally, Wendy Lewis makes clear her transformation from vocalist to channeler of the ethereal inspirations that have shadowed her through her stints in Rhea Valentine and Mary Nail. Dangerous stuff, this wailing for the spirits of melancholy and desire. Fortunately for Lewis, drummer Matt Novachis, guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker, bassist Michael Lewis and wind man Greg Lewis are strong enough to be her band. Together they wield a force born of poignantly minimal melodies, thunderous percussion, and ambiguous keys and time signatures, wrenching messages from beyond.

--Rachel Joyce, performing arts publicist, Walker Art Center; DJ Nite Nurse

 

8. Askeleton (12)

GENRE: GENERATING NEW ORDER

FROM CHAOS

Knol Tate's melodic instincts--along with his use of textures that recall the Architecture and Morality/Dazzle Ships-era of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark--have led to one of the strongest debut releases in recent memory.

--Keith Moran, label owner,
Guilt Ridden Pop

 

Michael Yonkers (tie)

GENRE: WHAT A LONG, STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN

Yonkers's debut LP Microminature Love--which I released--was recorded 30-plus years ago, and probably sounds fresher today. This thing made me shudder harder than a barbed-wire enema. In a great year for psych reissues--with Public Nuisance and Rocket From the Tombs getting the lion's share of media attention--its Yonkers's LP that is the real boon.

--Clint Simonson, label owner, Destijl

 

9. Kentucky Gag Order (11)

GENRE: BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS

Kentucky Gag Order is a weird genetic experiment made up of Robert Duvall's Apostle and a steam locomotive band powered by dueling guitars. Their live approach resembles a Southern Baptist church in hell: part performance art, part in-your-face, hard-driving boogie.

--David Wesley, former co-owner, Sursumcorda

 

Ourmine (tie)

GENRE: AMBIENCE FOR A TRIBE CALLED DEPRESSED

Jim Anton creates some expansive soundscapes on bass. JT Bates and Tim Glen weave an intricate percussion tapestry like an eight-limbed master crocheter. Jeremy Ylvisaker colors each theme with all of the sounds that you had forgotten a guitar player could make. You'll laugh, cry, hate, and fall in love. This is the soundtrack to life.

--David Campbell, sales/consignment assistant, the Electric Fetus One-Stop; co-host/producer, KQ Homegrown, KQRS-FM (92.5)

 

The Psychedelicates (tie)

GENRE: NEW WAVE GOES OLD SCHOOL

The past isn't what it used to be: The Psychedelicates' contribution to Eighties revival is a chilling mix of early Berlin and the B-52's that you never actually heard back in that decade when Kylie was still doing the locomotion. No matter: The band's lyrical subjects--shooting your boyfriend in the head, for instance--should be popular with girls in any era.

--Melissa Maerz

 

10. Exercise (10)

GENRE: ...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY GALLONS OF BEER THAT OUR SINGER SPRAYS ON HIS AUDIENCE

Everybody is going to be looking for our local equivalent of the ...And You Will Know Us by the White Strokes. I don't think this quartet fits the bill or even knows who those bands are, but they are the nearest I've come to having my ass kicked by a new band lately. They spark a lot of memories of Austin's punk bands from long ago, like Scratch Acid and the Butthole Surfers when they were coming off an acid trip. They're real grungy, dirty, and blistery while actually quite tender in parts. Or maybe that's just their numbing effect.

--Chris Riemenschneider, music writer, Star Tribune

 

Falcon Crest (tie)

GENRE: I CAN HEAR THE GRANT HART BEATING AS ONE

Falcon Crest kick ass first and take names later with good, aggressive rock--like Hüsker Dü if they were on Am Rep.

--Tom Loftus, label owner, Modern Radio

 

Honeymoon Shockers (tie)

GENRE: POWER POP WILL EAT ITSELF

Graceful and intelligent, yet weirdly naive. Power-pop stomp filled with a malevolent spirit.

--Sonia Grover, booker, 7th St. Entry

 

The Owls (tie)

GENRE: GIVING A HOOT ABOUT HARMONIES

Who would have guessed that Allison LaBonne, who barely registered as a member of the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, would turn out to be the secret weapon of the best Minneapolis pop band since the Blue Up? Her voice is the fragile center around which three other singers (including two Hang Ups) dance with newfound confidence. And now that they're all appearing in clubs and on CD (the Apartment Music compilation), here's hoping their professionalism lays an album before it kills the golden goose.

--Peter S. Scholtes

 

Tiki Obmar (tie)

GENRE: HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

"Discovered" at Radio K's Breakfast Club high school band showcase, Tiki Obmar tempt you to be impressed by their precocity alone. Unlike most Crossfaded/Jazz Implosion acts--who are older jazz players finding new inspiration in the technology and sensibilities of electronic and dance music--this trio of 18-year-olds are hitting it straight out of the box. They're multi-instrumentalists running live drums, bass, guitar, and keys through samplers and effects with a WARP records aesthetic and tunes that move you with deft arrangements and mood-driven melodies.

--J.G. Everest, musician; label co-owner, Firetrunk Records; promoter Groove
Garden, the Dinkytowner Café

 

Thanks to all of the voters: Eric Bare, Mark Baumgarten, Shannon Bretl, Scott Brown, David Campbell, Amy Carlson, Chelsea 40oz Bondage, Cecile Cloutier, Dan Cote, Don Decker, Jennifer Downham, Nate Dungan, Bentley Alexander Durband, Ben Durrant, Ali Elabbady (Egypto Knuckles), Enemy of the People, Kasi Engler, J.G. Everest, Alan Freed, Joe P. Furth, J futurE, Deneen Gannon, Conal Garrity, Neal Gosman, Sonia Grover, Tom Hallett, Keith Harris, Felix Havoc, Marcie Hill, Scrap Jackson, Dave Johnson, Nate Johnson, Rachel Joyce, Diana Kim, Nate Kranz, Leo Kuelbs, Adam Linz, Tom Loftus, Patrick T. Lyman, Melissa Maerz, James "Taco" Martin, DJ ESP Woody McBride, Keith Moran, Paul Morel, Mark Nelson, Tim Nomeland, Brian Nordmann, Alex Oana, Patrick Olsen, Amber Orluck, Mark Pakulski, Nate Patrin, Chris Riemenschneider, David Ricker, Earl Root, Paul Sand, Christina Schmitt, Peter S. Scholtes, Danny Sigelman, Kate Silver, Clint Simonson, Rod Smith, Bill Snyder, Special Dark, Matthew St-Germain, Chris Strouth, Krista Vilinskis, Karrie Vrabel, David Wesley, Erik Westra, Tim Wilson, Mike Wisti.

Record clerks, radio personalities, and freelance writers rant about the local scene

 

Vox Rockuli

DIY: NOT DOA!

"Black, white, Puerto Rican, everybody just a-freakin'." Okay, so the reality of Minneapolis in 2002 is still a pale reflection of the multiculti, citywide house-party daydream Prince laid out in his Eighties hit "Uptown." But Wendy Lewis and Red Start's psychedelia, the Poet Tree's Rasta love visions, Divine Word's mind seductions, Roomsa's soul house shakedown, and Yawo's West African funk musings make me wanna jump on the hood of a car at 7th and Hennepin, blast Radio K International, and start the damn party myself.

--Rachel Joyce, performing arts publicist, Walker Art Center; DJ Nite Nurse

 

Energy is what makes music work. Energy is people having shows in their basements and warehouses. It is the do-it-yourselfers pumping every ounce of themselves into making things happen, working for something they love. What needs to happen in the Twin Towns is for everyone who's ever had even the foggiest notion to try something different, to forget about their PlayStation, put down their beer, quit masturbating, and get to it. Energy is contagious.

--Scott Brown, proprietor, Luddite
Printworks and Shh!Eat Music

 

YOUR BASEMENT: THE BEST
"ALTERNATIVE VENUE" IN TOWN

Old bands rule. So do unconventional venues. I saw rollicking C&W in a bar parking lot, African music in a park, killer guitar feedback in record stores, hours of improv and noise in a renovated church, and bone-bruisingly loud psych in an art gallery--most of it free or dirt cheap.

--Cecile Cloutier, freelance writer

 

UNDER THE RADAR, BUT NOT
OVER OUR HEADS

Davu Seru: Whatever group setting percussionist Davu Seru plays in, he seems to be both at peace and about ready to take us over the edge. Based on one drum and a host of other noisemakers, he produces an array of percussive fireworks that scatter and penetrate landscapes. The rooms where he performs are always small and dark, and there are usually only a half-dozen onlookers, but the sounds transcend these confines and we move rapidly through the roars and sit on the edge of our seats with the clicks and clatter.

--Enemy of the People, digital hardcore
artist; zine editor, Unarmed

 

Basement Apartment. If you ask me, there's only one Low, and all the other copycats put me to sleep. Actually, Low lulls me into submission sometimes, too. But I've yet to do so much as yawn listening to Basement Apartment, part of Ed Ackerson's Susstones label roster and probably the brightest new melody makers in town.

--Chris Riemenschneider, music writer,
Star Tribune

Becky Thompson and Old School: Becky Thompson and Dan Lund deserve a Lifetime Achievement Award for pleasing Twin Cities crowds for nearly 30 years, dating back to when they were in the Sky Blue Water Boys. And Joe Savage deserves a fire extinguisher for the way he burns up his steel guitar.

--Nate Dungan, musician; entertainment
supervisor, Minnesota State Fair

 

SMASH YOUR HEAD ON

THE PUNK ROCK!

The Twin Cities have long held a hard-won reputation as a bastion of prolific and groundbreaking punk talent. Judging by the enthusiastic turnout at the Punk Rock State Fair (a.k.a. the Vans Warped Tour), today's iteration of punk rock may just be winning over an unprecedented following. Among other formidable contenders for a new punk-rock "Best of" list are Red Vendetta, the Scamps, the Soviettes, Disrespect, and Kontrol Panel. Viva la evolution!

--Chelsea 40oz Bondage,
graphic artist, Pulse

 

Part of the scene that plays Babylon and House of Knives, then drinks its beer at the Triple Rock, the Goochers and the Soviettes represent a growing post-riot-grrrl faction in south Minneapolis.

--Christina Schmitt, freelance writer

"PRIDE" AIN'T JUST A GLBT PARADE

I am so pleased to see a buzz in the hard-rock scene. Recent signings of American Head Charge, Flipp, Sunset Black, and Sound and Fury have created a wave of local music crashing into the national scene. We are gaining the attention this town's musicians deserve.

--Patrick Olsen, host/producer, 93X
Loud and Local, KXXR-FM (93.7)

 

Whether they're at an IMF show at the Babylon, the Church, or a house, local bands are playing music with little to no regard for trying to "make it" or please the crowd. I have traveled around the country and couldn't imagine wanting to live anywhere else besides the Twin Cities. The general lack of pretension and honesty here is far more interesting than any of the new, hot bullshit being hyped up from either of the coasts.

--Tom Loftus, label owner, Modern Radio

 

This past year has given hope for the Twin Cities music scene. We witnessed the rise of a few new live-music clubs, many exciting upcoming acts, and bands taking their struggle to the streets and the Net. The days of fat record-label handouts and shrinking commercial radio play have led to local artists coming up with new models for being successful: Atmosphere, Big Wu, and Har Mar Superstar have laid out the blueprints for international touring, successful Internet sales, and guerrilla marketing. More local artists need to take notice and quit calling me with how many #@*! comps they had turned in at new band night!

--James "Taco" Martin, talent buyer, the Cabooze; owner, E Company Productions

 

A recent article by Chris Riemenschneider in the Star Tribune seems to have stirred up a little controversy as to whether the local music scene is in trouble or whether it's just an article with some poor assumptions. I'd tend to lean toward the latter. Where have the grand old days of Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum gone? No place, but they're seen through rose-colored glasses. Great bands often gather fans after their demise. Has the heyday of Twin/Tone come and gone? Indie labels across the country are struggling, but we've got two unique and moderately high-profile ones in NorthSide and Red House--that's more than I can say for most cities. Yes, the music industry still sucks. There's little to be done about that. It's the music, however, that has always rung true, and it still does.

--Bill Snyder, freelance writer and editor

 

JEERS TO YOU!

Jeers to all of the yahoos who stand in the middle of a crowded show and talk loudly about their annoyingly mundane lives during quiet songs. Why do you people waste the money on a ticket to a show that you don't actually watch? Do us all a favor: Go to a bar where there is no live performer that you will insult, and no people whose shows you will wreck with your big yaps. You know who you are!

--David Campbell, sales/consignment assistant, the Electric Fetus One-Stop; co-host/producer, KQ Homegrown, KQRS-FM (92.5)

 

What we're missing is a strong local label with national distribution. Without Twin/Tone or Am Rep on the scene, we're preaching to the choir. But the bidding wars for Rhyme Sayers, and Low's Chair Kickers label picking up acts, and national touring by Fog and Happy Apple could change all that.

--Ben Durrant, musician; owner/engineer, Crazy Beast Studio

 

I love the fact that more "unknown" local bands seem to be getting signed than ever before. Of course, it would be nice if any of them could stay signed for an extended period of time.

--Chris Strouth, label owner, UltraModern;
director of A&P, Innova Recordings;
producer/director, Future Perfect

GENERATING MORE ENERGY
THAN RELIANT

A line on a J-Live CD stuck with me--it was on "The Best Part," during an interview interlude with a friend of his. His friend said, "Performance is important. If I see you at a show and you wack, you gonna sound wack on tape." Some local artists are very passionate about their performance, especially local rappers. When I see an Atmosphere or a Heiruspecs show, the raw energy of the lead compared with the controlling vibe of the music created by the DJ/band can alter the amount of energy spread throughout the venue. And the audience is the main component that can make or break the performance itself.

--Ali Elabbady (a.k.a. Egypto Knuckles), host/producer, Radio K's The Beat Box, KUOM-AM (770)

 

Jeez, am I angry or what? If one were to judge by the band names I picked for this year's list--the Midnight Evils, Kingdom of Ghosts, etc.--that would certainly seem the case. But naw, 'taint so, kiddies. While I appreciate the raw power and amplifier towers of those artists, it's the HUMANITY FACTOR emanating from each of their albums that draws me hither and brings their varied styles together: loud, brash, hard-livin' tough guys who aren't afraid to scream in pain, rage, frustration, heartbreak, and, yes, even anger. Frankly, I'm sick to death of feeling like I have to take off my shoes and hang my jacket on a hook before I play a new local album. I think it's time to track some dirt into this house, man--crank up albums from kids whose moms are never home, drink all the old man's beer, and trash the joint! Aroooo!!!

--Tom Hallett, Pulse columnist;
freelance music writer

 

Rock 'n' roll is reborn, and goddamn, it hurts! Not White Stripes or Strokes--overhyped and well-funded rehash is for your little sister, and even she's not satisfied. The new, pure, and godless interpretation of form: straight novelty and REAL creativity, freaking the fuck out, pissing people off for all the right reasons, and demanding actual audience involvement (gasp!). Active entertainment at mutilating speeds. Wolf Eyes, No Doctors, Lightning Bolt, Sightings, Black Dice, Mammal, Total Shutdown, Hair Police, the Lowdown, 25 Suaves, Arab On Radar, Neon Hunk, Pink + Brown, Numbers, Orthrelm, Crack: We Are Rock, Deerhoof, et cetera--all doing it and doing it and doing it WELL. Music hasn't been this good since the release of Pearl Jam's Ten. But where are Minneapolis bands going?

--Matthew St-Germain, label owner,
Freedom From

 

OLD BANDS: STILL ROCK

Someday in the not-so-distant future, clusters of cultural-studies students will be reading about a man who changed the face of popular music. A man who "reinvigorated the downtrodden white male psyche" with performances that showed the virility and the soul of an average-looking Joe from Minnesota, who just happened to wear Hanes briefs with his assless chaps. Yes, they will be reading about our very own Sean Tillman in his masquerade as Har Mar Superstar.

--Mark Baumgarten, Lost Cause

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