Everybody Wins

Polls and punditry for the best new bands in town

I haven't slept well lately. The couple next door are shouting more loudly than usual about who was supposed to lock the door; the stoners downstairs are on day 5,000 of their all-night jam band/free-love sessions; and every night, some hissing animal seems to get hit by a passing car right outside my window. Last night, I turned up Arvo Pärt's Alina to turn down the noise in my head, but right when the good dreams kicked in, I woke up to a violin chiming quietly on the last track. This was exactly what happened the first time I heard Alina; maybe I'm doomed forever to jerk back into consciousness whenever that final composition begins. Listening to a song for the first time can set an alarm off inside you, and those bells will go off every time you hear it.

New bands issued that wake-up call many times in the past 12 months. I heard it during Monarques' exciting debut performance at the Triple Rock last summer, when the light from a disco ball spun around the band's fuzzy guitars. Now I feel that same dizziness every time Radio K plays the band's single. It's the thrill of the new: Tema Stauffer experienced it when she photographed new artists in their favorite hangouts around town (see "Rock Stars in Their Natural Habitats". Peter S. Scholtes found it when he scoped out rising rappers in Twin Cities hip-hop showcases (see "Blazin' on $20 a Day"). Jim Walsh tries to explain it in "Huh? Whazzat? Contact!", an essay that examines why falling for a band for the first time still inspires all the giddiness of a junior high crush. And Chuck Terhark felt the buzz when he wrote about this year's Picked to Click winners in "It's All Good," --then again, the six-pack that Monarques bought for him couldn't have hurt.

But we're not the only ones who have given in to infatuations. Seventy-two voters--more than we've ever had in any year of Picked to Click--agreed to cast ballots for their favorite new local bands. We're pleased to add new names to last year's list of contributors. Maybe they'll feel nostalgic for this season's bands when they're filling out next year's ballot. You never forget your first time. -- Melissa Maerz

 

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

Tired of explaining to local musicians that we'll write about how brilliant they are on stage as soon as they write about how brilliant we are in bed, City Pages recently commissioned the world's top scientist to formulate a super-secret equation. The mathematician's mission: to create a program that would objectively and with absolute certainty calculate the best band in town. Unfortunately, we discovered that, once created, the equation was useless to us: We rock 'n' roll types never learned to count past "one, two, three, four." So instead, we asked a panel of 72 local experts--music critics, record store employees, radio personalities, record label owners--to cast their ballots for their top five new local bands, DJs, or solo artists. Together, they selected more than 150 acts; we know this because we forced our intern, Brianna Riplinger--who, uh, may or may not be the "world's top scientist" mentioned above--to do the math.

For each ballot, the number one choice received five points, the number two choice four points, etc. Bands who tied for fifth place got half a point each. For ballots where the voters chose not to order their picks, each band received three points. And if you need to know more than that, talk to the Excel spreadsheet.

Below are the top 10 acts (actually 12, owing to ties), with comments from our poll participants. Thanks to everyone who voted- -we're glad we could count on you. Or at least on your fingers and toes.

 

1. Monarques (69)
GENRE: THE KINGS OF POP WEAR CROWNS OF THORNS

What The Voters Say: "Never mind the ballots. Judging from the hullabaloo dogging these recondite anti-wannabes, you'd think the very forces of nature conspired to enthrone them. A healthy chunk of Monarques' charm lies in their instinct for melody; in England, they'd be a pop band. Here, they meta-rock like tomorrow happened yesterday. Imagine a sonorous golden thread stretched from Les Paul to Autechre, passing in its trajectory through the Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Television, and Slint. Knot the thread as many times as possible until you're holding a perfect sphere. Then, and only then, listen to it sing." --Rod Smith, freelance writer

 

2. Haley Bonar (49)
GENRE: EVEN GIRLS WHO RIDE COWBOYS GET THE BLUES

What The Voters Say: "I used to love me a good folk singer, until I realized that most of them are boring as hell. So imagine my surprise when I first heard Duluth sensation Haley Bonar at the NorShor Theater back in February--plucking timidly away on her acoustic guitar and rhapsodizing about falling in love--and found that I wasn't compelled to stuff earplugs down my eustachian tubes. Bonar also plays a mean Rhodes, and the haunting instrument perfectly complements her charming melodies about cowboys and dead lovers, drawing from her wild imagination as well as her real-life nightmares." --Erin Anderson, freelance writer

 

3. Revolver Modèle (37)
GENRE: LOVE WILL TEAR US APART AGAIN... AND AGAIN... AND AGAIN...

What The Voters Say: "I really don't understand why any band other than Revolver would win Picked to Click. Normally, I'm not a conspiracy guy. It's probably true that the internal politics of the Twin Cities music scene isn't worth the time of any self-respecting Knight of Templar, and these ballots seem, at first glance, free of any shadowy Masonic influence. But if Revolver doesn't win, it's a sham. They have a lead singer who wracks his skinny body in agony, undergoing his own personal exorcism each show, a guitarist with a great forelock and a beautiful wall-of-sound tone, and a catholic rhythm section anchored by a nun. There's no contest." --Steve Marsh, freelance writer

 

4. Brother Ali (36)
GENRE: HIP HOP BEYOND THE PALE

What The Voters Say: "I don't know if I believe in hip hop anymore, but I believe in Brother Ali. He knows a good hero when he sees one--and he obviously sees one in himself. He calls the chunky albino in the mirror 'sexy ass me.' He's an idol to us, the ugly motherfuckers. Don't hate him because you're beautiful. Just listen to him tell a story. It's not enough for Brother Ali to rap about kicking some wife-batterer's ass. He has to add an ironic detail, like the wife calling the police on him. There's always that shadow of doubt with him. That's where he keeps cool." --Peter S. Scholtes, staff writer, City Pages

 

5. Mike Gunther (35)
GENRE: LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SIN

What The Voters Say:"Twin Citizens probably thought their souls were perfectly fine... until Mike Gunther and His Restless Souls took the stage. On Every Dream That's Dropped and Died (Heart of a Champion), dime store revivalist Gunther juggles salvation and sin like a whiskey- warped southern soul, tugging the guilt and faith strings of even the most jaded--all this with the down-home harmonics and clunk 'n' shatter traditional instrumentation of the Restless Souls. Gunther won't actually save anyone, but lines like 'Just because I have no faith/Don't mean no promised land' have seen sinner and saved alike singing along." --Mark Baumgarten, music editor, Willamette Week; former editor, Lost Cause

 

6. So Fox (24.5)
GENRE: 20TH CENTURY PUNK FOR 21ST CENTURY FOXES

What The Voters Say:"I've never been much for fashion. That gene passed me by at birth. I've got all I can do to get up in the morning put on an old pair of dirty sweats and a T-shirt and stumble out of the house with my hair looking like I don't own a mirror. I guess that's why I gravitated toward punk rock. There was something about this scraggly scene of misfits that led me to believe fashion was actually a faux pas in the world of rock. However, that theory doesn't hold water when it comes to local punk-rock outfit So Fox. They've got the look. They've got the style. They've got the beehive! Forged from the ashes of local favorites Selby Tigers, front woman Arzu has kept the spirit of late '70s punk and retro fashion alive. With call and response vocals, killer guitar riffs and a mesmerizing live performance, So Fox have blasted their way onto the scene and into the hearts and minds of the Twin Cities." --Ben Crew, editor, Twin Cities Hardcore Journal

 

7. Bridge Club (20)
GENRE: I THINK THE WHITE STRIPES DRANK TOO MANY RED STRIPES

What The Voters Say: "Two months ago, this band bored the piss out of me. Then they lost their singer and grabbed me by the balls. Their lack of a frontman meant that the remaining three members didn't have to play around a vocalist; it freed them up to mesh as an instrumentally savvy rock band and gave them space to extend guitar solos indefinitely without fucking off behind a singer with nothing to do but wait. They play with an energy that could raise the Titanic, then sink it again." --Sam Sawyer, publicist, First Avenue/7th St. Entry

 

8. Ice-Rod (19)
GENRE: SLIMMER AND SHADIER THAN THE REAL SLIM SHADY

What The Voters Say: "Ice-Rod is proof that you can't judge a rapper by his Sean Johns. With his mustache, rattail, and fluorescent pink running shorts, he may be the only MC alive who's not afraid to sell concert T-shirts adorned with puffy paint. Yet the second he gets onstage, you can see him as hip hop's poster boy. Like a dadaist Eminem, he compares the female body to a skate park, instigates a food fight, and teaches you how to fold a paper airplane, all within one continuous absurdist rant. But for Ice-Rod, every rhyme has a reason: When the crowd takes his broken boombox beats as a call to arms--and they always do-- you're left there with mashed potatoes on your pants, paper cuts on your hands, and a big stupid smile on your face. --Melissa Maerz, music editor, City Pages

 

9. Big Ditch Road (17)
GENRE: HIGHWAY TO HECK

What The Voters Say: "Wait, you mean alt-country doesn't have to be a derivative carpetbagging exercise? Big Ditch Road's pedal steel made me tear in my beer more than once. And I'm not a crier, dammit!" --Rob van Alstyne, music editor, Pulse of the Twin Cities

 

First Prize Killers (tie)
GENRE: IT DON'T MEAN A THANG IF IT AIN'T GOT THAT TWANG

What The Voters Say: "With a little bit of Pixies dust, a dash of Beck drawl, and some Neil Young guitar passion, First Prize Killers' warm mix of country, rock, and pop conjures the familiar. But on their first full- length release, The Powdery Parade, they quickly become unforgettable, owning their sound and their auspicious future. The best bit: These men are so refreshingly un- hipsterfied, you may have trouble recognizing them as local rock musicians." -- Brianna Riplinger, freelance writer

 

Tiki Obmar (17)
GENRE: DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC BLEEPS?

What The Voters Say:"Call it what you will: live IDM, laptop-enhanced lounge, or just a logical coming of age for young men with prodigious jazz chops, thoroughly composted imaginations, and no interest whatsoever in paying their remaining dues to the preening, clue-deficient denizens of yupster havens. One thing is apparent: The unbeatable lightness of Tiki Obmar's musical bearing hinges on the fact that they're strippers--at least in the focused, nuanced way they peel off layer after layer of their intricate compositions so relentlessly that, after a few minutes, you can almost see the individual electrons darting among band members' synapses." --Rod Smith

 

10. Luke's Angels (16)
GENRE: BABES IN BOYLAND

What The Voters Say:"This three- gals-and-a-guy outfit packs in surf-pop pep like a crowded Beetle beach-bound on a sunny Saturday. Imagine the Breeders in their heyday: Drummer Jamie Bollman's upswing rhythm cries, "Tequila!"; dual vocalists Amy Carson and Jennie Kalpin serve up the requisite "ooh-ah" harmonies; lead guitarist Melissa Kalpin is too busy crafting that full-throttle punk lick to sing. Their eponymous debut befits both an Indian summer top-down cruise and a late- night bar crawl. Beware of head-bob whiplash." --Kate Silver, freelance writer

 

THANKS TO ALL OF THE VOTERS:

Erin Anderson, Mark Baumgarten, Shannon Bretl, Scott Brown, David Campbell, Tim Campbell, Amy Carlson, Keri Carlson, Cecile Cloutier, Dan Cote, Ben Crew, Paul Demko, Mark Desrosiers, Martin Devaney, Dolores Dewberry, David de Young, Jennifer Downham, Ben Durrant, Enemy of the People, J.G. Everest, Sonia Grover, Nathan Grumdahl, Tom Hallett, Dan Haugen, Scott Henkemeyer, Tom Herbers, Rich Horton, Sarah R. Johnson, Rachel Lee Joyce, Diana Kim, Kevin Kippels, Nathan Kranz, Leo Kuelbs, Dawn Ledin, Tom Loftus, Melissa Maerz, Steve Marsh, James "Taco" Martin, Keith Moran, Marc Mueller, Davin Odegaard, Jeremy O'Kasick, Nate Patrin, Richard Paske, Nick Phillips, Robert Pickering, Dan Richmond, Chris Riemenschneider, Christina Rimstad, Brianna Riplinger, Earl Root, Reggie Royston, Sam Sawyer, Sarah Sawyer, Christina Schmitt, Peter S. Scholtes, Danny Sigelman, Kate Silver, Rod Smith, Rex Sorgatz, Matthew St-Germain, Chris Strouth, Chuck Terhark, Lindsey Thomas, Chris Valenty, Rob van Alstyne, Karrie Vrabel, Jacques Wait, Julie Wellman, Erik Westra, Gretchen Williams, Toki Wright.

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