Feeling Minnesota

The 10 (or 28) best local albums of 2004

 

JONATHAN RUNDMAN
Public Library
Salt Lady Records

I was initially ambivalent about Chicago transplant Jonathan Rundman's seventh album, Public Library. The first track, "Smart Girls," a peon to, yes, smart girls, struck me as precious and even a tad creepy--the sonic equivalent of a girls-with-glasses porn site. But any apprehensions about Rundman were quickly bowled over by his ridiculously infectious melodies and farm-fresh tenor vocals. Backed by members of the Silos (and produced by Silos frontman Walter Salas-Hamara), Rundman manages to make blissful folk-pop out of the most mundane of matters, including library work. But he's at his best when he lets his darker impulses mingle with those chipper melodies on songs such as "The Serious Kind" and "Park River Bridge." My favorite track is the immigrant anti-love song "Second Language," which captures a relationship that has hit the skids with one perfect line: "We were sweeter when we sent mail." --Paul Demko

 

THE SOVIETTES
LP II
Adeline Records

A considerably shorter "LP" than Brother Ali's above-lauded "EP," this second offering from tune-positive punk quartet the Soviettes is fast and not exactly furious but certainly peeved here and there, occasionally silly, frequently in love, almost always right. Like Parliament, the Soviettes can write a good song with the word "flashlight" in the title. Also like Parliament, the Soviettes will make you want to be their friends. Plus, the album is performed with the kind of confident amateurism that inspires kids to form bands--or at least that's how things go according to the punk-rock ideal, which LP II might renew your faith in. --Dylan Hicks

 

SPAGHETTI WESTERN
Do Right by People
Adonis Music

Desert music for an era when all the Dust Bowl legends have turned to sand. Like the crackle of ancient bluegrass records heard through iPod headphones, Spaghetti Western's post-Morricone instrumentals make the old, weird America sound like a new country standard. Somewhere between the uncanny accordion moan of "Ernestine's Waltz" and the factory-work din of "Droomz," Appalachia drifts toward the lonesome, crowded West. Old-timey banjos give way to Tortoise-style guitar loops, acoustic fingerpicking gets tangled in digital static, classic ballads whisper through industrial-age production, but these lovely ghost-town eulogies won't give up the ghost. --Melissa Maerz

 

WILLIE WALKER AND THE BUTANES
Right Where I Belong
One on One Records

Modern soul albums performed and recorded in the spirit of Johnson-and-Nixon-era Southern soul must struggle to overcome the funky (funky like onions, not funky like Clyde Stubblefield) aroma of preservationist moribundity. This late-in-life full-length debut does just that, and without any apparent struggle. With a raspy passion reminiscent of early '70s-period O.V. Wright, Walker glides through a set of originals by lead Butane and understated guitarist Curt Obeda, whose south Minneapolis home was transformed into makeshift Memphis-style studio for this atavistic, lively gem. --Dylan Hicks

 

Honorable mentions: Andrew Broder & George Cartwright (Roaratorio); Contac,Eeyeaya (Wildside); Die Electric,Push Pull (Heart of a Champion); Dosh,Pure Trasch (Anticon); Terry Eason,Bees Will Bumble (Reticulated/Jam); Eyedea & Abilities,E&A (Rhymesayers Entertainment); EPL & Snakebird,Songs (Big Quarters/Snakebird); Heavy Sleeper,The Gifted Curse (self-released); Heiruspecs,A Tiger Dancing (Razor & Tie); Dan Israel,Time I Get Home (Electone Records); Kid Dakota,The West Is the Future (Chair Kickers Music); Malachi Constant,Infinite Justice (Guilt Ridden Pop); P.O.S.,Ipecac Neat (Doomtree Records); Prince,Musicology (Columbia/NPG); Soul Asylum,After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom, June 28, 1997 (Columbia Legacy); Walker Kong,Transparent Life (Magic Marker); Irv Williams,That's All (Ding Dong Music); Willie August Project,Surrender to the Wind (DiPhoCal Jazz)

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