A feature in our yearly look at the best new Minnesota musicians, Picked to Click, is a great honor. But it can also be a bit of a poison pill. Some nascent bands can barely stay together long enough to celebrate the attention they've garnered after the local community rallies around them.
Ahead of Wednesday's reveal of the 2014 Picked to Click crew, here's a look back at the Class of 2013. Spoiler alert: A lot of these groups are thriving -- some much more than others.
10 (tie). Vandaam
The experimental cosmic-dance trio Vandaam released their second EP, the appropriately titled VNDM EP 2, in August. The six songs on that collection broaden the sonic palette featured on their 2013 self-titled debut. The group, composed of producers Sloslylove and Absent and vocalist Lady Midnight, enjoys being shrouded in mystery. Lady Midnight recently traveled to Mexico and did some solo stuff of her own with producer Mustafa, but it's her underheralded work in Vandaam that has stayed central to her and the innovative producers.
10 (tie). Animal Lover
This hard-rocking local-by-way-of-Fargo trio released the stellar Guilt 12" on Learning Curve Records, toured relentlessly, and put out a limited-edition cassette featuring a raucous radio session at the University of Chicago's WHPK. They rocked the Turf Club just before the venerable St. Paul venue closed for renovations, and play frequently enough around town to keep your ears ringing on a permanent basis. Animal Lover are one of the loudest bands in the current music scene, echoing the untamed qualities of AmRep while also managing to put their own potent personal stamp on the Twin Cities rock sound.
9. Fury Things
The three members of garage-rock trio Fury Things have been really busy as of late. It wasn't enough for the band to record their long-awaited full-length debut at Flowers Studio with Ed Ackerson. They wasted little time writing and recording a highly charged new batch of songs that will be released sometime soon on their third EP. No recap of the Fury's past year would be complete without mentioning their stint opening for Bob Mould during his historic return to the Entry. They were hand-picked by Mould himself. The guys rose to the occasion that night, just as they do every time they take the stage.
Southwire's self-titled debut album and enthralling live show caught the attention of music fans throughout the state. The Duluth-based group performed their folk-gospel songs more around the Twin Cites than they ever had in the past. Every now and then you get another new song thrown into their live mix, with the new material blending seamlessly with their earlier work, but there's no word yet about an eventual follow-up.
7. Pony Bwoy
Jeremy Nutzman and Hunter Morley's beat-driven, sexually charged creative collaboration released a dynamic full-length album and played a string of spirited live shows over the past year or so, setting off a nonstop party where ever they went. The Totally Gross National Product act will release their second album, när-kə, on December 9.[page]
Tapes 'n' Tapes' Josh Grier's celebrated side project made quite a splash on the local radar with Manopause, a fun, rollicking collection of off-kilter rock jams. Ginkgo played quite a few clubs and local festivals throughout the summer, with Grier's feisty vocals and rousing guitar riffs meshing well with the talented group of friends he assembled around him to help bring his material to life. Things have quieted down a bit for Grier on the music front, but Tapes 'n' Tapes did make a surprise appearance at the CC Club's 80th Anniversary shows last December.
5. Frankie Lee
Frankie Lee's gorgeous, Americana-drenched EP, Middle West, continues to floor his local constituency. Lee continues poppping up at plenty of local shows -- either with his own band or playing sideman to countless other bands and musicians around town -- but still keeps us waiting patiently for a full-length. Frankie's songs have a timeless, well-worn quality to them that sound well lived-in long before your first listen, and in a live setting they come to life under his deft musical direction and routinely stellar bandmates.
These Minneapolis indie-rock darlings decamped to Philadelphia to record their full-length debut, with producer Jonathan Low (the National, the War on Drugs) manning the boards at Miner Street Recordings. The first single from that forthcoming album, "Bad Water," builds on their auspicious debut EP, Needs, while also showcasing the creative and artistic growth that the group has taken over the past year. They are reportedly still seeking a record label to release the new songs.
3. GRRRL PRTY
Lizzo's had a busy schedule, but GRRRL PRTY has still managed to put on a few memorable shows and release a few dope singles. Whenever Lizzo, Eris, and Manchita take the stage together -- led by the booming beats of DJ Shannon Blowtorch and the energetic hype of Quinn Wilson -- the potent creative chemistry of the three MCs gets the audience behind their music and their message. The crew did release a mixtape that showcased a few of their live favorties, we are all still waiting for that long-rumored studio EP and the announcement of some more local live shows.
2. Greg Grease
The Minneapolis MC has pushed the boundaries of his musical exploration within the past year. In addition to sharing tracks from his forthcoming album, Born to Lurk Forced to Work, Grease also teamed up with DJ Just Nine, Taylor Johnson, Trelly Mo, and various other collaborators to form ZuluZuluu, an experimental rap/soul/jazz collective that put on memorable, mind-expanding performances throughout this past summer. One thing remains clear throughout all of these musical endeavors, Grease refuses to remain still and brazenly resists being placed within the confines of any convenient genre or style. He's also a video director, producer, remixer, visual artist, backpack creator, and modern-day jack-of-all-trades, pushing the creative envelope with every project.
Even with all of the hype and accolades swirling around Lizzo when the vibrant MC topped our poll and graced our cover, she still had an incredibly successful year that exceeded lofty expectations. Lizzobangers is a flat-out gem of an album, filled with spirited hip-hop jams that Lizzo has had the pleasure of performing throughout the world, and on Late Show With David Letterman. She never stops her roll, either, going from one lively show and creative project to the next, barely having a moment to catch her breath, collaborating with Har Mar Superstar one night and Caroline Smith the next. Lizzo had a big, breakout year in 2014, and 2015 might be an even better one for her.
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