Despite being festering bag of baby shit in the context of politics and socio-economics, 2016 has been a monumental year for local music.
Banner Minnesota acts the likes of Soul Asylum, Bob Mould, Har Mar Superstar, Poliça, Haley Bonar, Night Moves, Fog, After the Burial, and Mark Mallman (more on that soon) all dropped great records this year, and even ol’ Bobby Dylan got in on the action. And though Prince’s premature passing was an indelible gut-punch to the music world, it also exposed how deep his influence ran, inspiring a months-long lovefest that galvanized those touched by his work to keep on carrying the torch.
Local Album of the Year roundups are gonna be hotly contested this year, and that’s a good thing. When the top stars of the scene are leading the way with such immaculate quality, that trickles down to the more obscure folks toiling away beneath the surface. Though we’re only three-quarters of the way to New Year’s, it’s safe to say 2016 is a year that rose the tide.
Mark Mallman -- “The End Is Not the End”
Mark Mallman is perhaps Minnesota music’s greatest innovator. We’ve seen him turn sleeping brainwaves into music and film a video entirely through Snapchat. But what’s commonly forgotten is how damn good the Marathon Man is when he goes straight up.
The title track from his magnificent LP, March's The End Is Not the End, is Mallman at his most anthemic. The only true innovation is his ability to turn a throwaway line about Terminator into a profound statement on fate and death. In the video for the song (which has striking animation courtesy of Chris Hadland and Wilson Webb), Mallman confronts the vortex of fate and doesn’t back down. In a visual metaphor for the despair he felt after the loss of his mother, Mallman triumphs through the blackness, channelling his dark thoughts into a textbook rock anthem.
Skyhaven -- “Cielo”
Spoiler alert for those who never took eighth grade Spanish, “cielo” means “sky” en Español.
Twin Cities instra-metal band Skyhaven have taken a shining to the Big Blue Thing Up There, incorporating celestial imagery into every corner of their debut EP Liftoff, which is out Friday August 19. Lead track “Cielo” is filmed in a train station (St. Paul's The Depot, specifically), eschewing a lot of that sky imagery, but the heavenly guitar and keyboards still give it an undeniable summer brightness.
Speaking of brightness, the lead guitarist of Skyhaven just turned 16, and so the future of this young impresario is definitely optimistic. Even without a vocalist, the band is able to put together an intriguing narrative that unfolds over the course of the video. If the camera work looks familiar, it’s because “Cielo” is directed by Jake Woodbridge, who also directed the recent feature from Portraits of War.
Cory Wong and Steve Goold -- "Starks and Ewing"
Cory Wong (“the most famous Minnesota musician you’ve probably never heard of” according to some hyperbole from 89.3 the Current) has started a semi-regular YouTube series called Public Access 33 Presents where he invites friends to jam and be processed into 8-bit wonderland. He did the favors solo in the series’ initial video, but this time, he’s got percussionist homie Steve Goold joining him for some NBA Jam-style visuals.
The pair pay homage to bygone New York Knicks twosome John Starks and Patrick Ewing, using the fatefully championship-less vets as a metaphor for their own unsung mastery. The two have an elemental chemistry that comes to life in the campy, low-fi video, with Goold’s jazzy claps and snare hits working perfectly into the keys and strings that Wong plays with wit and delight.
Hopefully they dup will pair better than Starks and Ewing did in 1994.
Dima Kash -- "Blow"
The shrill keys that open Mobb Deep’s infamous single “Shook Ones” are so recognizable that they’re almost uninterpretable.
Sure, they pulled it off in 8 Mile, but the instrumental for “Shook Ones” has always been one that even talented rhymers have, ironically, shied away from for fear of being held to the standard of the original. Dima Kash ain’t shook, though. In his new video for “Blow,” the Russian-born Minnesota transplant utterly transforms “Shook Ones,” creating his own vision on top of Havoc’s iconic beat.
Unafraid of trampling sacred ground, Kash makes the song all about him, showcasing his tight verbals in shots that show him afront Minneapolis landmarks like U.S. Bank Stadium so that all who are offended by his vision of the song know where they can come find him.
SickDaPunchLiner -- "Wanna Be"
Three times this year SickDaPunchliner has popped up on Local Frames, and all three times, he’s been flanked by homies like Bossman or other Team 100 members. We’ve yet to see the relocated Chicagoan go in alone, but Sick’s newest video for “Wanna Be” rectifies all that. Let loose by himself on an ominous beat, Sick goes full psychopath -- Jason Voorhees mask and all.
Released via hip-hop interview channel Zack TV, “Wanna Be” is lead by a 40-second soundbite that comes with no real explanation. But soon the machete-wielding Sick pops onto the screen, stalking with tons of AutoTune and malice.
Shot by Alite Productions, the video ends with the horror movie cliche of “To be continued ...,” but here it feels more like a warning than anything else.
Dream of seeing your video appear in Local Frames? Email writer Jerard Fagerberg at [email protected]