25 Reasons...

...the scene is now

 

Valet
Zurich

A found telegram of such naked longing--for another place, peace, utopia--it can sound, on the right (wrong) night, like the only voice that makes sense anymore.

 

The Hundred Flowers
Spread the Disease

What happened to these guys? How did they manage to write a left-of-the-deal anthem that everybody from Tsar to T-Rex would kill for yet escape the great soundtrack makers of The O.C. and Alias?

 

Har Mar Superstar
DUI

In all seriousness, it was about damn time someone took the shame out of drunk dialing and turned it into a fonky pepfest cheer.

 

Beau Kinstler
Distance

A fleeting moment between two lovers on a beach, a waning belief that love conquers all and that everything is possible, and now there's just this goddamn...gulf. What's a songwriter-in-healing to do? "Sing about the stars, sing about the stars, sing about the stars."

 

Prince
Dear Mr. Man

Talk about your signs o' the times: The man who once had his penis on the pulse of a generation writes an open letter to the president of the United States and the white power structure, and has to give it away free at concerts for anyone to hear it.

 

Brother Ali
Room with a View

Life on the mean streets of Minneapolis, as rendered by a voice so sick with experience, you can almost hear the police on his back.

 

Ben Weaver
Ragged Words

One man's mind unspooling with leftover poems and autobiographical afterthoughts, sung in a tarantula voice (low, beautiful, scary) and concluding, "Wherever you are, this song is for you." Just like a prayer, he takes you there.

 

Alva Star
Alva Star

Before he left town a couple of years ago, Mark Baumgarten wrote a terrific mini-essay about how so much great art is born of desperation. This is the sound of that in spades, from a songwriter (John Hermanson) who taps into subtlety and deep-seated sadness with the best of them.

 

Halloween, Alaska
Call It Clear

Next time someone tries to define "The Minneapolis Sound" as something earnest (read: narrow, cute, precious), cue up this perfect pop song, which could have come from Manchester or Mars and could easily be a springtime hit on the Current.

 

Kraig Johnson
Soul Parade

Speaking of could-be Current hits, this is a kite of a tune--all billows, taunting tails, and tangled string. When he sings, "I can feel the whole world spinnin' around when you're in town," he's talking about you and me and this town. When he sings, "If you could only see/Realize how we intertwine/It would probably/Blow your motherfucking mind," it totally motherfucking does!

 

The Owls
Drop Me a Line

In what could be the companion piece to the Stars' "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," this is an end-of-the-affair kiss-off that can't help but leave the door open, and the future open to suggestion.

 

Midnight Evils
Ain't Got Time for Love

A cavity-rattling declaration of independence, and a testament to the recuperative powers of the broken heart.

 

Jan
Dumb Guy

From the criminally undiscovered The Early Year, this is one of the great lost pop singles of the last few years, a sweet ballad that Ashlee or Lindsay or a Shangri-Las reunion could make into a Disney Radio smash, propelled as it is by the ultimate geek-boy fantasy: a smart party girl who ditches the loudmouths in favor of the wallflower.

 

Rank Strangers
No One Gets My Genius

A self-deprecating ode to the ego, creativity, and the artist's way that's right up there with Daniel Johnston's "Story of an Artist," the Chills' "Song for Randy Newman, Etc.," or Johnny Cash's "Singer of Songs."

 

The Soviettes
The Land of Clear Blue Radio

Twenty years ago the Ramones demanded, "We want the airwaves," and now that we've got 'em, we get to regularly hear stuff like these punks, who exemplify the embarrassment of riches to be found on the local dial.

 

Ol' Yeller
13th Grade

As a rule, coming-of-age rock anthems must be as wistful as they are wry, and this one nails it right between the eyes.

 

Kangaroo
Sweet Dreams

From the ashes of the late, great, went-nowhere-but-the-basement-tapes Tropicals comes a quiet carpe diem sing-along that'll make you want to write to old friends, make new ones, have cookouts, live in the moment, watch the sun set, linger awhile, etc.

 

Low
When I Go Deaf

We want our artists to bleed, and few do so quite as epically as Alan Sparhawk did here, which was perhaps the first sign that the cracks were starting to show in his world. Shortly after the release of this record, he pulled the plug on his tour to try to get his shit together.

 

Mint Condition
Look Whachu Done 2 Me

The sloppiest handclaps since the Faces (or pre-click track Prince) make for a careening chorus that could only be the stench of bad love.

 

Mason Jennings
Ulysses

The last song on his last record; the guttural falsetto that burbles up between the boredom feels like a promise to the listener that he's only just begun.

 

Bellwether
Willing to Trade

Plenty of songs yearn for another life. This one walks up to the edge and almost jumps off.

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