Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: #20-11
Photo by Emily Utne
Minnesotans need to remember to exhale sometimes -- especially fresh on the heels of being ranked as the number two music scene in the country. Shouldn't it be enough to simply enjoy a rich history of quality musicians blossoming from fertile local soil? For those times when worrying that people in Athens, New York, or Des Moines are having more fun than us becomes too much to bear, we've prepared this exhaustive list of the best acts to come out of the North Star State. It's an artistic blanket that fits nicely over a chipped shoulder or a bruised ego in a pinch. -Reed Fischer
Origin: Hopkins and Minneapolis | Active: 2001-present | Songs: "Bangarang," "Goodbye," and "Drumsticks"
Probably the best way to explain the Doomtree collective to an unknown is to call it the Wu-Tang Clan of the Minneapolis indie scene. Each member has their own well-respected, distinctive style that sets them apart from one another but when formed together, it's deadly entertaining. Members include P.O.S, Dessa, Sims, Mike Mictlan, Cecil Otter, Paper Tiger, and production genius Lazerbeak. What's scary about this group is even after 10-plus years turning out great music and shows they are just getting started. It's safe to say that the Doomtree clan ain't nuthin' to fuck wit. -Lars Larson
19. Walt Mink
Origin: St. Paul | Active: 1989-97 | Song: "Shine" (Directed by a 22-year-old Sofia Coppola and shot/edited by Spike Jonze)
Named after their favorite psychology professor at Macalester College, Walt Mink lurked on the hazy periphery of the Twin Cities music scene in the '90s. Their blistering debut, Miss Happiness, is one of the best records of the decade, and third album, El Producto, was the fledgling music review site Pitchfork's first perfect 10.0. After original drummer Joey Waronker left to be in Beck's band in '94, the group experienced record label difficulties, and Walt Mink lost a bit of their direction and potency. But their place in Twin Cities music history is secure based on the strength of their superb studio output alone. -Erik Thompson
18. The Suicide Commandos
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1974-1979 | Song: "Burn It Down"
They were together for barely five years, and they released only one studio album (plus a live one), but it's safe to say that without the Suicide Commandos, there'd be no Minneapolis punk as we know it. Granted, it didn't take much to parse out what Chris Osgood had in mind when he shouted, "Burn it down! Burn it down!" But then that was the point: The Commandos were all about energy and enthusiasm, a giddy squall of feedback and wiry hooks that may as well have announced the end of the world. Anyone since who's hit a power chord or turned the volume up to 11 owes these guys a debt of gratitude. -Jeff Gage
17. The Jayhawks
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1985-present | Songs: "Blue" and "Waiting for the Sun"
It's easy to pinpoint what got the Jayhawks to stand out in a flock of alt-country bands -- the voices. Gary Louris and Mark Olson's clear, intertwining tenors stood in stark contrast to the gruff, cigarette-raw delivery that traditionally dappled their mid-'90s contemporaries' work. Although the band's lineup seems to be constantly in flux, the quality of the songcraft has thankfully been far more stable. Tomorrow the Green Grass from 1995 is the easy favorite for its heft of weeping solos ("Miss Williams' Guitar"), a novelty Grand Funk Railroad cover ("Bad Time"), and crystalline beauty of "Blue." -Reed Fischer
16. Dillinger Four
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1994-present | Songs: "Noble Stabbings!!" and "Last Communion"
Dillinger Four might be the only band anyone gives a shit about that still has an Angelfire domain for their official website, but they've kept things far more current in the cred department. We have guitarist Erik Funk to thank for the majesty of is his property, Triple Rock Social Club, and the rigorous punk work with bandmates Paddy Costello, Billy Morrisette, and Lane Peterson. And unlike a lot of bands that eventually wussed out, these guys have stayed true to a balance of skinned-knuckle intensity and hooks for days. D4's habit of holding humor and political discourse in a tight, raised fist results in catchy statements like "A Floater Left With Pleasure in the Executive Bathroom." After all, getting brains to pogo along with bodies is a doubly visceral experience. -Reed Fischer
15. Lifter Puller
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1994-2000 | Song: "Let's Get Incredible"
Sure, the Hold Steady is one of the most beloved bar bands in America, but
14. The Jets
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1985-present | Songs: "Crush on You" and "Make It Real"
Back before everyone had to put a damn ukelele in their song, plenty of the best-known Jets jams were sultry synthesizer catnip for Adult Contemporary program directors. Overall, the group's mid-'80s output was an undeniable pop machine that had a good number of folks mentioning the eight Wolfgramm kids in the same breath as the Jacksons. Thanks to Nero, "Crush on You" has endured into the dubstep era, but the original still rules to this day. -Reed Fischer
13. Soul Asylum
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1983-present | Song: "Sometime to Return"
Folks frequenting the right Twin Cities bars in the late '80s and '90s were bound to eventually run into Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner. The band finally broke big in 1992 with the triple-platinum selling Grave Dancers Union after working tirelessly in their early days to cultivate a passionate local following with riveting live shows and steadily improving studio efforts. And while that runaway success eventually took its toll on the band (as did the sad passing of bassist Karl Mueller), Soul Asylum are poised to reconnect with their longtime fans on their forthcoming new record, Delayed Reaction, which is due out in July. -Erik Thompson
Origin: Duluth | Active: 1993-present | Song: "Murderer"
Low's patented slowcore style is akin to the muted, protracted sound of sheets of ice breaking during the first throes of spring in their native Duluth. While they certainly keep you waiting for the payoff within their sedate songs, Low were radically different from the flannel-covered, guitar-fueled angst that colored much of the '90s. Signing to the venerable grunge label Sub Pop in 2005 has given an added push to Low's career, and their recent output has taken on a welcome restless edge, while thankfully still allowing for the occasional tranquil moment. -Erik Thompson
11. Brother Ali
Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1998-present | Songs: "Forest Whitaker," "Take Me Home," and "Uncle Sam Goddamn"
In a medium that is currently dominated by rented Maybachs and soft Canadians, Brother Ali is a fresh breath of chilly Minnesota air. The North Side native has cemented himself as one of the top draws in this game, and even shared a stage with Justin Timberlake. The Rhymesayers vet puts on a must-see live show, and always turns out great product. While other rappers are rocking leopard-print leotards, Ali keeps it real with his no-nonsense yet humorous attitude, insightful lyrics, and soul -- so much soul you think Stevie Wonder is going to pop out his chest. Singed, sealed, delivered, he's ours. -Lars Larson
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