By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
As the Twin Cities music scene continues to flourish, we thought it best to call attention to some local artists that we are particularly excited about as we look forward to the new year. We've selected 10 bands who are doing cool things—and if their upcoming projects are any indication, 2011 will be another epic year for local music.
Not that 2010 wasn't a tremendous year for the talented band featuring Minneapolis music vets Christy Hunt, Arzu Gokcen, Jacques Wait, and Charles Gehr. Since playing their first show in back in May, this buzzy new band has come a long way, topping 2010's Picked to Click poll and, with their frenzied performance energy, becoming a crowd favorite. With plenty of notable shows already under their belts (Gastro Non Grata, the MIA's Third Thursdays in November) and catchy, Twin Cities-centric songs like "Seeking Scott Seekins," Pink Mink are poised for bright things in 2011. They'll be recording their first album in January, and are set to release it early in the year; based on the previews offered up so far, it's going to be deliciously well-seasoned with rock. Pink Mink are also set to play Voltage: Fashion Amplified in April 2011.
Tapes 'n Tapes have seen a lot since their debut album, The Loon, came out in 2006, and with the onset of a new tour and their third album, Outside, ready for release in 2011, it could turn out to be a very big year for this local favorite. At their preview show at the Turf Club back in November, a packed house demanded a second encore from the band, who delivered smartly produced and arranged indie rock under the guise of a good time. Their record-release show is set for January 11 at the Electric Fetus, and two weeks later they hit the road for a national tour. The band have been careful about staying relatively off the radar in these last few months before their album comes out—almost suspiciously quiet, actually—which should make their 2011 debut all the more explosive.
Rhymesayers may be the label that immediately comes to mind at the mention of Minneapolis hip hop, but there is a talented pool of local MCs outside of the heavyweight family that are building their reputations brick by brick. Among them is Mally, a brilliant rap artist who can spin rhymes at dizzying speeds. With three solo albums released (most recently The Passion in 2009), numerous collaborations, and a polished delivery, Mally has a talent for his genre that is too strong to sit calmly for much longer. His latest single, "Lights Off" (produced by the Sundance Kid), has all the makings of an underground anthem—and is a surefire signal of what is to come in spring 2011 on Mally and Sundance's as-yet-untitled collaborative album. It's going to be golden.
A popular name around town these days, Grant Cutler seems to have an unending flurry of projects—producing, DJing, or performing new material with his new band, Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords. Since the October release of his GC&GL EP, Cutler has shown a new musical side—a mellowed-out, lyrical, meditative side, one that perhaps surprised fans but essentially allowed them to cozy up next to what Cutler humorously calls "drone-pop." He has a few shows lined up with the Gorgeous Lords in 2011, including a set at First Avenue's Best New Bands of 2010 in January, and is planning to work on a new album as well. In other news, his experimental electronic project 2012 has been picked up by local record label Innova Records and is set to be released in February on vinyl and as a digital download. This "synthesizer dream world," as Cutler calls it, is compelling stuff to say the least, and it will be interesting to see in which direction Cutler leads his schemes in 2011.
For concept-man Chris Koza, 2011 will see the finale of an impressive endeavor: to release four full-length albums in a year (more than plenty of musicians do in a lifetime). Each album was inspired by a season: The project started with the spring-themed release of Crater Lake in April, the summer album The Bookseller's House came next, and that was followed by the fall album, Geese in the Flyway. March 2011 will see the last installment in this novelesque series. "The idea is that there's a rich story throughout all the albums and all the songs," he explains. "My feeling is that when it's all together it will be very clear what I've been trying to do all along, but I think each album stands alone on its own." Releasing four albums in a year was a self-imposed challenge, and when asked about future plans for Rogue Valley, Koza admits that it would be great to get out on the road and tour a bit—all their resources and energy for a year, after all, have been spent in the studio. In the end, Rogue Valley has been one of the most ambitious projects of 2010/2011, and we will be keeping a close eye on Koza as he navigates through his next phase.
Since the debut of their full-legth LP, Brass Beads, in 2010, this all-female indie-rock trio has kept things relatively quiet with just a handful of shows, including performing as the openers for Dark Dark Dark. With the haunting, almost tribal-sounding record and its dynamic progression of symphonic songs, it will come as a surprise to many that the only instruments played are a viola, drums, electric bass, and sometimes a piano. Brute Heart offer a splash of psychedelic indie rock with what could otherwise be construed as experimental jazz, but overall these ladies have composed a sound that is striking in very new ways. Seek them out in 2011—their live shows are just as eerily captivating as their record.
To call Slapping Purses experimental electronica would be doing it a disservice—Jason Power's brainchild of synthesized goodness is much, much more. His intricate constructions of noise and beats have often been the electrifying dance-party element to close out a classic evening with a great lineup or, alternatively, to jumpstart a night and inject the audience with some life. Power is a creative virtuoso in that way—far from the static nothingness of some electronic indie bands, he manages to draw from the energy of the crowd and offer something akin to a wake-up call, somehow simultaneously in ode to and in defiance of the "experimental" genre. After two years of honing his skills live (including a gig this Saturday at the 501 Club), he should finaly treat fans to a debut album from Slapping Purses this year.
Chastity Brown may well be one of the most underrated vocalists in the Twin Cities. Her music has roots in funky neo-soul and she has a voice that runs like warm honey, warming you up whether you're prepared for it or not. She brings a bluegrass-fed gritty, earthy sound that is as unencumbered by the waves of popular indie-rock trends as it is the jazz genre that would be a typical category for her songs. Far from being a coffeehouse blues singer-songwriter type, Brown has crafted a sound that will sneakily pull you in and keep you close. Her summer 2010-released third album, High Noon Teeth, got attention for its poetry and flow. Brown is a rare bird in these Minnesota parts, and it's worth a trip to see her play; she has a few dates out for early 2011 in some southern states and Minnesota, including a show on January 22 at the Aster Café.
Set to release their eighth studio album in spring or summer 2011, the Jayhawks are setting themselves up for an interesting new year: They haven't put out a record since 2003's Rainy Day Music and haven't recorded with Mark Olson since 1995. Jayhawks fans are, needless to say, jumping-for-joy excited; the Jayhawks are one of the most prolific and celebrated bands to come out of Minneapolis. They're planning a mini-tour in January 2011 of five major cities—Minneapolis, of course, being one of them. Fellow "Band to Watch" Rogue Valley will be opening for the Jayhawks on January 29 at First Avenue.
He was 2010's Best Hip-Hop Artist, but that doesn't mean 2011 will be a quiet year for this hard-working rapper. Since his 2008-released Never Better, P.O.S. has tirelessly toured, performed, and worked it on the local, national, and international scenes. With gigs from the Taste of Minnesota to Soundset to Coachella, this determined star has been on the rise for some time, having garnered plenty of national media coverage—enough to make him a household name in the indie-rap scene. He'll be back in the studios in January, and his new 2011 record will be one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year.
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