By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Well, we're still alive. Earlier this month, when Bush got elected, First Avenue closed, daylight saving time made everything darker, and a swarm of locusts descended on Egypt, I swore that if the last trumpeters of the apocalypse descended upon the Twin Cities to seal the deal, I'd vote for them as my favorite new band of 2004. But after counting over 200 music fans' picks for the best new local acts, I decided that the end is not as nigh as I thought, because four out of five Picked to Click ballot-casters agreed that City Pages' own private "vote or die" campaign was worth their participation. (The fifth respondent was killed by P. Diddy and thus couldn't reply.) So after Satan confirmed that he'd give me and First Avenue a little more time on this earth, I sent some of our pollsters out to prove that the local music scene ain't dead yet. Chuck Terhark confirmed that hunch when he chatted with Picked to Click winners Olympic Hopefuls in "Talk of the Town". Peter S. Scholtes echoed Terhark's verdict when he interviewed kids from all-ages clubs in "Sonic Youth". And Dylan Hicks checked the pulse of four of our top new bands in "We Built This City on Rock and Roll...and Other Equally Valuable Varieties of Popular Music". Plus, all of our pollsters found signs of life in the local scene in their ballots and comments (see "Ninety One Ballots...and No Hanging Chads!" and "Tell Us What You Really Think").
We asked a panel of 91 local experts--music critics, record store employees, radio personalities, record label owners--to vote for their top five new local bands, DJs, or solo artists, and together, they selected more than 224 acts. For each ballot, the number one choice received five points, the number two choice four points, etc. For ballots where the voters chose not to order their picks, each band received three points. Below are the top 10 acts (actually 13, owing to ties), with comments from our poll participants.
Olympic Hopefuls (90)
WHAT THE VOTERS SAY: Pick 'em to already have clicked: The Olympic Hopefuls arrived on the scene in their novelty track suits late this spring and provided the epochal soundtrack for the summer days and summer nights of 2004. Originally intended as an all-star side project for songwriters Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota) and Erik Appelwick (Vicious Vicious), and supposedly recorded as a less self-conscious outlet for more id-ful (i.e. hooky) songs, the Hopefuls are a perfect example of why great, fun pop songs--when written, sung, and played with intelligence, chops, form, and feel--can be transcendent and extraordinary even while seeming familiar. Just one thing, guys: Now that this Olympic summer is over, how 'bout losing the tracksuits? I'd actually really like to see you all in figure skating regalia!
WHAT THE VOTERS SAY: P.O.S. and Doomtree aren't the same entity, though this poll combined votes for both the rapper and his crew into one tally. The rapper is not new, for one thing (I voted for him in 2002). Yet P.O.S.'s shows, which are to soul as farmer-blows are to snot, renewed his lease on the attention of a scene crowded with competition, and he paid years of dues in a span of months. (Dude, did you notice how much weight he lost on the Warped tour?) His music made you want to pump your fist or cry. His crew, which actually was new this year, offered the comforting notion that slacker MCs (Sims, Cecil Otter) and female power poets (Dessa) can unite and fight the powers that be.
Melodious Owl (48)
WHAT THE VOTERS SAY: In a year that Franz Ferdinand infamously flashed their raison d'être as a titillating frat fantasy to "make music girls can dance to," Melodious Owl seemed to squawk back their own slogan: College rock is for old people. These hyper Hopkins high schoolers (who pinched their name from canonic sophomore reading, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five) electrified punk-disco by exposing the term as nothing more then an illogical conjunction of words: people who can't play their instruments, making music for people who can't dance.
But that also doubles as a definition of high school, so the joke is on you, 'cuz these kids can really play their horns and keyboards, even if it seems blissfully improbable that they've studied their new wave, much less Gang of Four. "The church is on fire," shrieks a panicked-yet-elated Wes Statler, but you aren't sure if he's prophesying the last gasp of the religious right or dropping an incendiary device on those postgraduate noise punks slacking at the south Minneapolis performance space the Church. Quick, turn off the after-school special and go see them--before they start making college music.
Spaghetti Western (39)
WHAT THE VOTERS SAY: Drive out of the city before the snow flies to a part of the country where you find nothing but dirt roads and empty fields. Maybe there is a graveyard. Leave your car, and walk until you can no longer see it. Then, as you stand alone with only earth around you, imagine a soundtrack to the images you'd see if a full year of life in that place flashed before you in random order over 41 minutes and 23 seconds. What you'd imagine would probably be a lot like the music you will find on Spaghetti Western's debut, Do Right By People(Adonis).