By Emily Eveland
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By CP Staff
By Zach McCormick
By Jack Spencer
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
Like most good ideas, Picked to Click started on a whim. The first installment debuted 20 years ago this past May, compiled by then-City Pages music editor Jim Walsh and inspired by a recent poll he and others had assembled hedging bets on that season's baseball players.
In 1991, the paper asked 38 music-scene staples—including City Pages contributors, writers for other publications, venue bookers, and band managers—to weigh in with five favorite new, undiscovered, or underappreciated Twin Cities acts. Even then, the language of the poll was clear: The rules were loose, the idea was informal, and the whole thing was meant to be fun—"nothing more, nothing less." In the 20 years since that first round of winners debuted, Picked to Click has been revered, endeared, despised, and argued over, but it still remains.
In this nitpicky, overstimulated age, some might say we're already so inundated with new bands and sounds that we don't need a silly poll to tell us what's what. But the Twin Cities has always been a live-music-centered town, and by grilling a throng of musically obsessed showgoers we're not just finding out which bands might have the best mp3s to download online—in fact, many of this year's winners are so new they barely have a recorded demo to their name. Rather, think of the Picked to Click issue as a checklist you can clip out and tape to your fridge. It's a less-than-comprehensive but pretty great list of up-and-coming new bands that are worth the cover charge to check out live—nothing more, nothing less.
Here are the rules we played by: We asked 115 newspaper writers, bloggers, photographers, bookers, DJs, record store clerks, label owners, and a few past Picked to Click luminaries to send us their top five favorite new local acts. Their top choice received five points, second choice received four points, third choice received three points, and so on. If they left their choices unranked, each artist was given three points. As you'll see below, one particularly detail-oriented voter went so far as to split his final vote between five acts, awarding them .2 points each.
We added the points and came up with one landslide victor, a couple of popular runners-up, and a few ties, which left us with 13 bands in the top 10 spots (true, it's not how a mathematician would do it, but the spirit of the poll has always been to feature as many bands as possible).
Presenting the winners of our 21st Picked to Click poll:
1. The Cloak Ox (141 points)
2. Poliça (78.2 points)
3. Night Moves (55.2 points)
4. Howler (55 points)
5. Robust Worlds (35 points)
6. (tie) The 4onthefloor, blood&stuff (32 points)
7. Nightosaur (30 points)
8. (tie) Gramma's Boyfriend, MaLLy (29 points)
9. UMAMI (28 points)
10. (tie) Dream Crusher, Elite Gymnastics (24 points)
By Andrea Swensson
Here's an exercise in futility you can all try at home: Get a large piece of paper and a pen, and sidle up next to your local-record collection. Write the words "The Cloak Ox" in the middle of the page, with four spokes leading to members Andrew Broder, Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, and Mark Erickson. Start creating a flow chart that connects each member to each of his previous Twin Cities projects, to each other, and out into the musical universe. Color-code the entries if you must. Stop when you've either filled in every inch of blank space on the page or thrown your hands up in despair.
It should only take you an hour or two. Trust us, we've tried it.
There's a recurring joke/dig against the Picked to Click poll that it somehow always votes in familiar faces. This has been a banner year for bands who have re-formed out of the ashes of other bands, and this theme of regeneration speaks more about the fluidity of the Twin Cities music scene and the increasingly collaborative nature of our multigenerational and multifaceted community than it does about the poll.
"I guess I've just noticed that there are a lot of creative people here, and all of them have too many ideas," says Ylvisaker. "Me included—I don't spend all of my time nurturing one. I'm chasing the next one."
"I think if you have one idea that you're pursuing as far as you can, you don't live here," suggests Erickson. "You live in L.A. or you live in New York, because that's where the people who 'can make your dream a reality' live. Here, we don't give a shit about those people or have that kind of a dream. We have a dream of multiplicity—to do as many things as you can at the same time."
Despite its members' numerous past and present projects (too many to list here; we'll just refer you to the flowchart), the Cloak Ox gelled quickly and debuted as a fully formed, fully functioning rock band earlier this year. If there's one lyric that represents the band's new outlook, it's the repeated refrain from the title track of the band's debut EP: "I feel like I just got out of prison!" That sense of unbridled freedom—freedom to unhinge oneself from the past, to be happy when the mood calls for it, and to bravely face and even embrace the unknown—binds the work together and lends the band its undeniable spark. Lead singer and songwriter Andrew Broder has certainly stayed busy in the time since his critically lauded but chronically underappreciated band, Fog, dissolved. In addition to performing solo sets as Brodr and releasing a series of ambient, instrumental guitar and turntable albums for free on the web, he recorded a soundtrack for an audiovisual project by comic-book author Alan Moore. But there is a sense that Broder is reinventing himself in this new band, and the Cloak Ox's songs course with a sense of newfound enthusiasm that bursts to life onstage.