We start the new year without any context. We spill across the December/January divide like idiot newborns with the nostalgic rundowns of the previous year ringing in our heads like a pre-partum dream.
After the end-of-the-year melee, it’s borderline obnoxious to have to flip over the calendar and start a new season of meaning making. But things never idle here in the Minnesota music scene. While last year’s favorites are busy building dynasties, this year’s crop is hunched and ready to make their names.
These are the musicians and bands in the Land of 10,000 who’ll demand your attention in 2017 -- whether you’re ready for them or not.
For fans of: Joy Division, the Smiths, early Death Cab for Cutie
Though the local scene is replete with gloomy, New Order-idolizing goth-rock bands (Graveyard Club, the Rope, Warehouse Eyes, etc.), recently split quintet Murder Shoes felt special, which is why Hollow Boys’ sudden rebrand feels like such a triumphant moment.
With drummer/vocalist Monica Coleslaw leaving the fold and Murder Shoes guitarist Chris White coming in, Hollow Boys re-envisioned themselves as Another Heaven — an even more industrial and apocalyptic take on both bands’ legacies. Surprise single “Sugar” paved the way for Ali Jaafar and White (alongside Ego Death’s Jeremy Warden and Diver Dress’ Aaron LeMay) to revitalize their respective careers in new, deeper shadows. Their debut EP will be out this spring.
For fans of: Arca, FKA twigs, Bjork (DJ set)
Producer/DJ Talia Knight relocated to Minneapolis two years ago, and the Chilean instrumentalist has quickly impressed with her knockin’ reggaeton and dance sets. But at the heart of her work is tranquility. 2015’s Nocturna is basically a spell book meant to hypnotize and placate.
That’s why Knight resonates with Ness Nite, having remixed the Minneapolis moodmaker’s “Divine” into a Calypso meditation. There’s also an undulating current in Kinght’s work that brings rhythm immediately to the feet and hips. It’s this vibrant mixing of peace and movement that make her such a sought-after DJ in the Twin Cities. Knight worked DJ booths everywhere in 2016, but 2017 will be defined by her forthcoming follow-up to Nocturna.
For fans of: A$AP Ferg, D.R.A.M., Playboi Carti
Minneapolis cohort V.I.C.E. BOYS have developed a deep aesthetic in their brief time on the scene. Led by videographer/photographer Nate P., the squad of RoDizzyy, Connor Marques, Chvnsv, and Yahiko mastered social media as an engine to drive hype around their shows. As a crew, the four MCs opened for $uicideboy$ and Playboi Carti last year, and each individual has shown his strength in solo sets.
Most notably, Chvnsv demonstrated incredible power in his GainesFM collab “Face.” And there’s Marques, whose brooding, fang-bearing singles like “No Reason” belie the savagery of the entire group. It’s unclear if solo projects or a group record will come first, but we’re excited for whatever comes from the V.I.C.E. camp.
For fans of: Lil’ Uzi Vert, Metro Boomin, Desiigner’s less hype songs
Allan Kingdom surrounds himself with waves of talent. You don’t have to look further than his So Cold Records to find the successors to his throne as the king of Twin Cities come-ups. Heir apparent right now appears to be south Minneapolis vibe lord Drelli, who was tapped to open for bubblegum-trap progenitor Lil’ Yachty when he came through town last June.
Drelli’s faded-out, drawling party rap is the antithesis of the high-energy bustin’ of local rappers like Finding Novyon. Where Novy and his crewmates in the Rotation make buck-wild hip-hop, Drelli’s lean-soaked verses appeal to the low-key lurkers in the scene.
The Controversial New ‘Skinny Pill’
For fans of: Richard Cheese, Captain Beefheart, Talking Heads
If the Controversial New ‘Skinny Pill’’s jangly, psychedelic, party-starting LP Location! Location! Location! from December had been released two months earlier, there’s no doubt the gonzo four-piece would’ve made our annual Picked to Click roundup.
There’s something inherently intoxicating about finding an act that’s too bizarre to cordon off into any earthly genre, and TCNSP are just that act. Seeing them on stage is like wandering into a child’s birthday party in the Salad Fingers extended universe. As a group that operates primarily on their own curiosity factor, TCNSP has a high likelihood of flopping in 2017. But for as long as the music is still novel and beguiling, the band is a highlight of this rising class.
For fans of: Talib Kweli, Ab-Soul, Food & Liquor-era Lupe Fiasco
Minneapolis/St. Paul has a rich history of producing storyteller rhymers, but even in a scene saturated with so-called “conscious” hip-hop, Juice Lord stands out. Half rapper, half National Poetry Slam competitor, the 20-year-old St. Paul MC broke onto Soundcloud two years ago with the soulful “Hope” and re-emerged last October with the Philando Castile-inspired heart-punch “Growth.”
Since his high school days, Juice Lord has wielded chops well beyond his years, and now he’s finally ready to shine. We saw him flex bars over Fat Joe and Curren$y remixes in 2016, but 2017 is the year he solidifies the past two years of work into a debut EP that’s due out soon.
For fans of: Courtney Barnett, Mac Demarco, the Runaways
Heidi and Hilary James are sisters. That’s the crux of Fiji-13’s lead single “Hey Mister, Meet My Sister” — a catchy surf jaunt that sounds best played on a cassette jammed into a Salvation Army boombox. Alongside drummer Steve Crowley, the James sisters make deadpan fuzz-punk that paints the patriarchy in ridiculous strokes of thumpy bass and coarse vocals.
Last September’s Sleezy is a master class on the transformative power of irreverence. Tracks like “Cool Boobs” and “Blurry Dream Boy” invert ’60s malt-shop rock into feminist rallying cries, and bonus cut “Mansplain It to Me BB” is a perfect fuck-you to institutional sexism. With lampooning the patriarchy as their directive, Fiji-13 should have plenty of ammo in ’17.
For fans of: Animal Collective, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the Microphones
If Lazy Scorsese doesn’t make it into Picked to Click in 2017, you can bet they’ll join fellow Minneapolitans Gay Witch Abortion and Jehovah’s Shitlist on the A.V. Club’s annual Year in Band Names rundown. Despite the group’s cheeky moniker and wry outlook on life, Lazy Scorsese are formidable mood makers with surplus depth.
Their October EP Grigio stirs an abundance of moods — from dread to ennui to bliss — in its scant four-song run. As the title suggests, Grigio is a study in grays, not specifically the color, but the philosophical concept of the in-between. It’s best capitulated by six-minute lead single “Soulshaper,” a marathon of dreamy guitars, incorporeal vocals, and ambiguous songwriting.
For fans of: Behemoth, Wrest/Leviathan, Baring Teeth
The Twin Cities is often cited as a hotbed for unsigned metal bands, but the genre is so clandestine it’s hard to tell when one band rises above the rest. False destroyed that mold with 2015’s Untitled, and now melodic growlers Sunless seem poised to follow suit. Sunless dropped a two-song demo nearly a year ago, and the seismic hangover still lingers.
Through six minutes of dissonant licks and impenetrable double bass on “Born from Clay,” Lucas Scott’s scraping vocals barely ever subside, thrashing on to the B-side “Aberrant Clime” with exhilarating abandon. Though Sunless only played 12 shows in 2016, the avant-metal foursome have cultured enough of a buzz for a hotly awaited forthcoming full-length.
For fans of: Kurt Vile, Phoenix, MIKA
Poolboy have a mythical songwriting muse that nasally singer Seth Conover named “Prince Slut.” Under the auspices of Prince Slut, Poolboy put out a fantastic self-titled EP last February. With ethereal vocal wisps and profusive strings, the album is a trance induced layer by layer. It’s a subsuming listen that comes with just a hint of sleaze — as if Prince Slut would allow anything less.
The band’s self-billed “agitated psych rock ’n’ roll” signifier kinda misses the mark. There’s a definite sexual energy, but that’s really where the rock element ends. The music is impressionistic like psych, though it’s more perturbed — odd and indistinct, it’s music that captivates regardless of how it’s categorized.