The 10 best Minnesota singles of 2013
Photo by Guy Eppel
On both national and local levels, 2013 has been a great year for music. Plenty of talented artists and acts have produced memorable songs and and albums that have kept the area scene buzzing for 12 thrilling months now, making the choice of the ten best singles of the year a hard -- but ultimately rewarding -- one.
Some of these tracks weren't heating up the airwaves or burning up the charts, but they still warrant your rapt attention and should be played loud and proud by those who love local music. These ten songs represent only a fraction of what the area has to offer, but they boldly stood out as being fresh and original amidst the flourishing Minnesota music scene in 2013.
See Also: The 10 best Minnesota albums of 2013
Batteryboy - "Minus One Together"
This delicately heartbreaking tune by Batteryboy was first shared with their fans in a live setting before the group gathered to record this stirring studio version as part of a commission for the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. Frontman Cobey Rouse elegantly captures the sting of loss as well as the overwhelming weight of having to move on within the song's plaintive lyrics, while the track swells to a fragile emotional release that envelops the listener as the raw sentiments of the number sweeps you away.
Aby Wolf - "Permission"
Aby Wolf's collaboration with Grant Cutler was just bound to produce some stellar results, and "Permission" is just one of many highlights on their Wolf Lords album. The synth-driven track gradually blossoms as Wolf's pristine vocals carry the song heavenward. Cutler's bold, refined production provides a modern texture that perfectly compliments Wolf's impassioned delivery, creating a stylish, assured musical statement from two supremely talented local artists who turn to gold everything that they touch.
Sombear - "Incredibly Still"
As the national success of Bradley Hale's main band, Now, Now, took off around him, the drummer quietly worked on a solo project of his own to satisfy his synth-based electronic leanings. The results of which stylishly color his Sombear debut, Love You In The Dark, which is launched by the dynamic lead-off track, "Incredibly Still." Hale once again teamed up with Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla for this project, who released the album on his label, Trans-Records. And their time working together has clearly paid off, both for Now, Now and Sombear, as Hale's refined sense of rhythm propels the effortlessly poppy song forward atop a vibrant synth melody that proves to be indelible and infectious.
Gospel Gossip - "Dreamawake"
Gospel Gossip quite frankly put out the best local record of the year with their self-titled album, and you could technically pick out any song from that brilliant collection and it would be worthy of inclusion on this list. But "Dreamawake" captures the hazy charms of the record perfectly, with Sarah Nienaber's wistful vocals and swelling guitars giving the song a churning edge that builds to a dramatic release of blissful discord and raw fury. The band really hit on something exceptional and moving on this album, and this track is proof positive that Gospel Gossip are on another level entirely, and are one of the best of many talented bands in this thriving Twin Cities music scene.
Four Fists - "MMMMMHMMMMM"
P.O.S. and Astronautalis teased us about their eventual Four Fists collaboration for long enough, and finally gave their fans a creative double-shot on their fiery debut 7-inch, which features "Please Go" and this dynamic banger, "MMMMMHMMMMM." Both MC's are in feisty lyrical form throughout this insistent track, as their inspired rhymes roil atop a menacing beat that urgently pushes the number forward. Hopefully, this represents just the first of many musical offerings from Stef and Andy, who form a potent combination that the local hip-hop community could use more of in 2014 and beyond.
Har Mar Superstar - "Lady, You Shot Me"
We know what you're gonna say. Har Mar Superstar no longer belongs just to Minnesota. Now he's the world's gift. But when he switched things up on his soul-infused recent record, Bye Bye 17, the locals responded favorably. His effervescent personality and buoyant sense of humor still shines through, especially on the vibrant "Lady, You Shot Me." There are rhythmic echoes of Stax Records and the Muscle Shoals sound throughout this track and the record as a whole, all guided along by the distinctive artistic vision of Har Mar. It's a more mature, inspired direction for Sean Tillmann, but his tongue-in-cheek charms are still at the heart of his spirited new sound.
CLAPS - "Lies"
The minimalist darkwave trio, CLAPS, have hit on something special on their new EP, Lies/White Lies, and the mercurial lead-off track "Lies" contains the ominous sonic textures that permeated the UK scene in the '70s and '80s, just with a refreshing modern twist. The track is filled with moody synth flourishes that is immersive and ethereal. The saturnine beat churns with a haunting elegance, while the ghostly lyrics seem to be coming from a room you've yet to find your way into yet. If this is the sound of lies, then let me never hear the truth again.
On An On - "Every Song"
On An On have adopted Minneapolis as their hometown while splitting time between here and Chicago, and the local scene has clearly benefited from the fresh modern pulse that courses through their enthralling debut, Give In. The trio formed out of the creative ashes of Scattered Trees, and took their sound in an intoxicating new direction. "Every Song" is a dynamic example of the musical allure that courses through the record, as spiraling synths crest atop a churning beat that perfectly compliments Nate Eiesland's rueful lyrics. It's a beguiling combination, as the band coalesced to craft a dreamy, expansive number that swells and sways at all the right moments.
Fury Things - "Harsh"
If you are after a heavy dose of deafening, guitar-driven garage rock, there is no better band to turn to than Fury Things. The raucous Minneapolis trio put out two stellar EP's in the past year, and in the process solidified themselves as one of the best live acts currently making a racket on our local stages. "Harsh" is the boisterous lead-off track to their simply titled EP 2, and the song wastes little time exploding with a potent urgency that proves to be impossible to resist and not turn up to 11. Their influences are easy to spot and the band does little to hide them (they are proudly named after a Dinosaur Jr. song after all), but these guys take the rock baton from all who have come before them and charge restlessly toward a finish line that hopefully is still a long way off.
Gloss - "Front Porch"
The jangly, blissful charms of Gloss seemed to arrive out of nowhere in 2013, as the young quintet emerged out of the basement where they recorded their initial songs and gradually took the Twin Cities by storm. Their stellar debut 7-inch featured two indelible tracks, "Ian's Dream," and this bouncy ode to the solitary satisfaction of late-night cigarettes, "Front Porch." The track is effortlessly catchy and entirely addictive, pulsing with a youthful creative exuberance that is bashful but assured. Gloss have just released a long-awaited EP, Between Themselves, and are poised to not only build on the promise suggested by their strong debut single but also help carry the Twin Cities music scene forward with a sound that is fresh and inspired.
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