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Doomtree - All HandsDoomtree – All Hands

The latest from beloved Twin Cities hip hop crew Doomtree, All Hands doesn’t bang quite as hard as its predecessor No Kings, but it still hits pretty hard (especially lead singles “.38 Airweight”, “Gray Duck”, and “Final Boss”).  More importantly the group’s MCs really upped the ante both lyrically and with their flow this time around.  Sims in particular is at the top of his game, but everyone really pulls their weight, making All Hands an absolute must for fans of indie hip hop.  Now…who wants to play a rousing game of “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.”

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22

Jan

2015

Top 20 of 2014: Kezzie Baker

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, Indie, Uncategorized | No Comments »

‘Best of’ year-end lists are very subjective, being subject to the individual musical tastes of the compiler and my list, of course, is no different.  Thus, the albums I have named (in no particular order) are simply the newly released ones that I enjoyed listening to the most during 2014.

Love and Gravity – Mary Fahl:  This newest album by Mary Fahl recalls the glory days of her now defunct group October Project and excels them.  Fahl’s rich contralto voice sounds as good as ever with no fillers here. Each track is a treasure, but a few standouts warrant special mention.  It is hard to imagine a siren more spellbinding than in the song, “Siren,” and Fahl’s cover of “Both Sides Now” sounds like the song was written especially for her, infusing it with a deep emotional introspection I never appreciated before (not to take away from Collins’ timeless original). Then there is the beautiful memorial, “The Dawning of the Day,” written for the fallen firefighter heroes of 9/11. This is a stunning album from start to finish.

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Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to LoveSleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

There could be no other album to kick off NMT this week.  Sleater-Kinney is an all time rock band and even though the band members have had other great projects (The Corin Tucker Band and Wild Flag chief among them), there has been a hole in the music world since the band broke up in 2006.  Thankfully, they’re back together and No Cities to Love is right there with Dig Me Out and The Woods among their best.  The guitars are as precisely jagged as ever, Janet Weiss still doesn’t miss a beat on the drums, and the vocals (Corin Tucker handles most of the primary ones here) are on point for society in 2015.  No Cities to Love is punk rock at its absolute best.  Give it a listen and then get your popcorn, Sleater-Kinney is going to be omnipresent for the foreseeable future.

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18

Jan

2015

Top 15 ‘Old’ Classical of 2014: Stephen J Nereffid

By Stephen J. Nereffid. Posted in Classical | No Comments »

prohaskaFollowing on from my list of music by still-living composers, here’s one of older music. The usual caveats apply regarding how representative of the year’s releases this is, with the added proviso that I tend to avoid new recordings of repertoire that’s already in my collection, which brings the selection somewhat away from the mainstream. That said, I’ve covered a lot of ground and the 15 albums collectively serve to demonstrate just how broad the term “classical music” is—and how new centuries-old music can sound.

#1.

Anna Prohaska. Behind the Lines [DG]

The Austrian soprano marks the centenary of the First World War, with a selection of songs spanning several centuries and countries. From the opening folk song segueing into a piece from Beethoven’s “Egmont” music, through such varied composers as Roger Quilter and Wolfgang Rihm, to the final pair of Whitman settings by Kurt Weill, Prohaska is always at home. A superb, moving recital.

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Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim ReaperPanda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Psychedelic? Freak folk?  Experimental pop?  I’ve never been totally sure how to classify Panda Bear (or Animal Collective, for that matter), but whatever the term for it Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a definitive example.  The album is all layered vocals, synth swirls and samples, and gittery percussion.  Lead single “Mr Noah” is definitely the standout track, but the album as a whole is stronger than its predecessor Tomboy and almost certainly the best work from an Animal Collective member since Merriweather Post Pavilion.

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Rae Sremmurd - SremmLifeRae Sremmurd – SremmLife

SremmLife is the debut album from Rae Sremmurd (‘drummers ear’ spelled backwards for…reasons?) a Mississippi rap duo currently based in Atlanta.  Comprised of brothers Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee, Rae Sremmurd made waves in 2014 with hit singles “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” and a sound bridging the gap between chart rap and the ‘weird’ rap currently coming out of Atlanta.  Produced by Mike WiLL Made It (and the first release on his Eardruma label), SremmLife is bouncy southern trap highlighted by those previous singles and the Nicki Minaj/Young Thug collaboration “Throw Sum Mo”.  The rest of the album doesn’t quite rise to those heights, but remains an enjoyable listen and makes for a very promising debut.

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26

Dec

2014

Top 15 New Classical of 2014: Stephen J Nereffid

By Stephen J. Nereffid. Posted in Classical | No Comments »

allemeierThis year I seemed to listen to a lot more new classical music; not just that, but a lot more really good new classical music, so much so that it deserves its own end-of-year list (an “old” music list will follow). I’m defining “new” music simply as music written by people who are still alive, though the bulk of what appears here is from the present century. If you know nothing about contemporary classical, let me assure you that my list is utterly unrepresentative of the overall state of the art. So, with that in mind…

#1.

John Allemeier. Deep Water: The Murder Ballads [Albany]

Ellen Smith, shot through the heart; Frankie Silver, who killed her abusive husband with his own gun and then dismembered him; and Omie Wise, seduced and drowned by a wealthy young man. Three folk songs from North Carolina inspired John Allemeier and choreographer E.E. Balcos to create a darkly lyrical trio of chamber works that together make a single piece of dance theatre. This is vivid music that doesn’t need to be seen to be believed.

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I listened to a lot of music this year.  According to last.fm I’ve listened to around 30,000 tracks, or an average of about 84 a day, in 2014.  A whole lot of those listens weren’t close listens and a lot of them were songs released prior to 2014, but a good number of them were released in the past year.  So while I certainly haven’t heard everything released this year, I’ve heard quite a bit of it and the below list is what I believe is the best.  Unlike most of the writers here at MiG I don’t focus my listening on one or two genres (unless you want to define my listening habits as “blog pop,” which is kind of accurate), so there should be something for most people here.  The blurbs about each album only scratch the surface of them, but I’m hopeful they will lead the reader to explore a couple of them more fully and that you find something you enjoy.  Happy holidays, and here’s to an even better 2015 (Sleater-Kinney is back, so that’s a good start).

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I didn’t listen to everything this year. Neither did you. I have no objective way of knowing that these are (or are not) the 20 best albums released this year. Neither do you. But these are the ones I most loved and most want to spend more time with next year, and who knows, maybe you’ll find something special here too, something you missed but can connect with and find riches in, something off your usual menu that you might come to be thankful for. If that happens even once, the list will be worthwhile. And as always, if any of the musicians drop by, thank you for the work, care, commitment, and creativity represented below.

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D'Angelo - Black MessiahD’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  After 15 years and countless false alarms, D’Angelo’s follow up to Voodoo is finally here, and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: Funky, smooth, sexy, hip hop infused, and glorious neo soul.  Lead single “Sugah Daddy” is particularly strong, but there isn’t a weak spot on the album.  Is it another Voodoo?  Probably not.  Unlike most long gestating albums from reclusive artists, however, it’s a worthy follow up and a fantastic addition to D’Angelo’s catalog.  It also has the benefit of making all previously published ‘best of 2014′ lists invalid.  Better get to revising NME, Paste, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone (well, you should have been revising already).

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