Picked to Click 2012

After hundreds of ballots and votes, the best of the best new bands have been chosen

"Plane tickets and everything else are more expensive, but it seems to be working okay," Jimenez says of the physical separation. "In the modern age, it's easy to be split up across the country. It feels like you're in the same room, what with the internet, telephones, Skype."

With that said, there's hardly anything detached or calculated about Strange Names' music. "Potential Wife," the obvious single off their new, self-titled EP, is one of the most joyful, exuberant dance numbers to come out of the City of Lakes this year. And, with an energetic supporting cast, that vibe carries over to concerts. "We both put a lot of joy into the music we make," says Benzvi. "It's so easy to make recordings you do at home that sound really epic. When we do a live show, we want to maintain that feeling and mood."

Putting out a full-length is the next logical step. Not surprisingly, they already seem to be one step ahead. "We need a little more backing or support as far as funds go," says Benzvi of their upcoming plans. "We've been pursuing certain labels, and we're being pursued by others and whatnot, trying to figure out what's best to do.

"Nothing official yet," he adds, playing coyly. You can almost hear a grin through the phone. "But it's exciting."

B FRESH Photography

8 // Observer Drift

By Erik Thompson

Listeners might be surprised to learn that Observer Drift's expansive sonic experiments were all crafted by just one 20-year-old guy named Collin Ward. The polished nature of Ward's electro-pop album Corridors, recorded in a Bloomington basement, belies the young age and relative inexperience of its creator.

According to Ward, he's had musical leanings since beginning piano lessons at the age of seven, but didn't begin writing his own original material until he was 14 or 15. But in the years since, he's really honed his artistic vision, with the admitted help of modern conveniences. "Recording on a laptop and utilizing a lot of electronic instruments has really played a part in my approach," he says. "The recording software I use makes it possible to distort a guitar recording in a way that you wouldn't even be able to tell what instrument it is."

And while the textures and tones of the album blend together effortlessly, the recording process was a long one for Ward, who spent eight months poring over the songs that would make up Corridors, not knowing it was truly finished until right before he shared it with the music world. "Three nights before I uploaded it to Bandcamp, I listened to it all the way through without interruption for the first time. When I listened to them individually, I would have more concerns, but as a whole when I listened to it, each song seemed to complement the next and had a good flow throughout the entire listen. So once I finished listening, that's when I decided it was done."

Observer Drift opened for another Picked to Click artist, John Mark Nelson, at the Entry in August, but playing more shows in the future isn't high on Ward's priority list. "I can admit that performing live is not my strongest ability," he says. "I almost feel embarrassed playing songs that I simply wrote at home in my free time. I feel like they really aren't good enough to be given stage time. I would possibly do other shows here and there, but regarding touring or playing out in attempts to establish a reputable name in live music ... that's not a huge concern of mine."

Ward's been writing some new acoustic-based material, in an effort to get less digital, but the songs already in his arsenal have captured the attention of music fans not only in Minnesota and the U.S., but Europe and South America as well, which Ward is still trying to grasp. But rest assured he's not letting this growing interest in his songs go to his head. "I feel like if I attempted to take music too seriously, I would lose what I have right now. I love the fact that people can find it without [my] having to market it or promote the life out of it. I write it, I record it, and I upload it. The rest is really up to whomever chooses to listen to it and who they share it with."

David Mccrindle

9 // Prissy Clerks

By Andrew Penkalski

Prissy Clerks frontgirl Clara Salyer has built her pedigree around an ability to adapt.

Last year, the 20-year-old guitarist's pet project, Total Babe, dissolved amid the departure of her lead guitarist — a certain Julian Casablancas doppelganger who sought opportunities across the pond fronting a little band called Howler. In the throes of recording a full-length with Total Babe, Salyer scrapped the heft of the work and moved forward with friend and Red Pens frontman Howard Hamilton toward a set of Drag City-drenched demos that became Prissy Clerks.

"We'd been plotting playing together for a while," Hamilton says from the steamy confines of Uptown's Savoy Pizza. "And Total Babe wasn't anymore, so I kind of insisted on being the bass player."

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