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For the seven nights from December 4 to December 10, First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry in downtown Minneapolis will be taken over by the top hip hop crew in Minnesota: The Doomtree collective.  Doomtree Blowout VII is larger and more daring than any of the first six and celebrates the release of the collective’s new album No Kings, which received excellent reviews over the last couple of weeks from Pitchfork, the Onion A/V Club, and countless others.

Doomtree is a crew of hip hop musicians that initially came together around 2001 at Hopkins High School in a first ring suburb of Minneapolis, but has since seen some shift in membership to its current, seemingly static, form.  The collective as a whole creates highly literate lyrics to go with music and beats that are strongly influenced by punk rock.  This combination has certainly aided the group’s crossover into the type of indie rap that gets the attention of blogs like Pitchfork, and seems to have Doomtree on the verge of breaking through into the indie mainstream (if such a thing actually exists and if they haven’t done so already).  Now they are undertaking a massive homestand before heading out on a long tour in the new year.

The first five nights of the Blowout will be held at the Entry with each night being curated by one of the collective’s M.C.s who will be joined on stage by special guests.  Then the whole crew will convene in the First Avenue Mainroom on Friday and Saturday night for what I’m sure will be killer shows.  Before they do, though, the collective needs to be introduced to the fine readers of Music is Good:

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Two Christmas Mornings

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Folk | No Comments »

Time flies. It’s hard to believe that another Christmas season is already upon us. Didn’t I just get through wading through holiday shoppers in crowded malls?  It seems to me our modern, technologically advanced world has set the clock at warp speed. Every Christmas, perhaps as a subconscious survival tool, I find myself turning to holiday music composed in what I think must have been simpler times – sort of my way of turning the clock back to a time when life somehow seemed to move slower and was perhaps a little more human.  I play two very special CD’s every Christmas which fit that bill perfectly (heck, I have been known to still be playing them in July because they are too good to hear but once a year). The two disks have similar titles – All On a Christmas Morning by the traditional Irish group, Aengus, and The First Christmas Morning by Dan Fogelberg (yes, Fogelberg – although one may not necessarily view his music as coming from olden times).

Here’s the first CD in my Christmas survival kit:

All on a Christmas Morning - Celtic Christmas Celebration

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These are the best-reviewed discs in the latest issues of the three U.K.-based classical review magazines – Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and International Record Review.

Gramophone Choice, December 2011

[Recording of the month] Schumann: String quartets, op.41. Doric String Quartet. Chandos 10692

“here, at last, is a seriously recommendable version of all three [quartets]” – Harriet Smith

Ireland: Piano concerto; Legend; First Rhapsody; etc. John Lenehan (p); Royal Liverpool PO/John Wilson. Naxos 8.572598

“a splendid new recording of what is undoubtedly the finest of all British piano concertos… A CD not to be missed by all lovers of English music” – Ivan March

Saariaho: Clarinet concerto, ‘D’om le vrai sens’; Laterna magica; Leino songs. Kari Kriikku (cl); Anu Komsi (sop); Finnish Radio SO/Sakari Oramo. Ondine 1173-2

“As Kaija Saariaho approaches her 60th birthday, her music continues to extend in range and depth” – Guy Rickards

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Nathan (photo by Jon Schledwitz)

“If David Lynch had directed ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?,’ Nathan’s music would be the soundtrack.” – Michael Wrycraft, CBC Radio

Two women and two men.

Acoustic and electric guitars,  6-string banjo, accordion, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro, drums and percussion, piano, organ, some horns (trumpet, French Horn, and tuba) – even the eerie howling sound of a theremin, a motion-sensitive synthesizer. Add some Appalachia to the pot and throw in a little jazz – a dash of  country, Tex-Mex, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, and some cabaret for good measure.

That’s the Canadian band Nathan.  No wonder they’re hard to categorize.  One thing is not hard to figure, though – this is some seriously good music.

Nathan’s debut album Stranger was released independently to much acclaim in 2001, and won a Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Independent Album.

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offthesky - The Door in the Wall

I was an easy recruit. I stumbled across a new label called Wist Rec and one of its early projects, the Book Report Series. The series consists of releases of music inspired by literary works selected from among the Penguin Mini Modern Classics. Each release takes the form of a 3” CDR attached to a copy of the book upon which it was based. A translucent dustjacket mingles the names of musician and author. This combination of book and music is, according to the Wist Rec site, intended to “allow one to glean new, immediate connections between differing art forms,” and each release is limited to 100 copies. This was already intriguing. Add the twin facts that one of the works chosen was a short story by H.G. Wells that I remembered particularly admiring some years ago, and that the artist who would be covering this work was one already responsible for well over 200 tracks in my music library, and it was an easy decision to order The Door in the Wall by offthesky.

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Contemporary English Folk Music Part 1

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Folk | 1 Comment »

An on-going musical interest of mine is contemporary English Folk Music. I first became interested over 40 years ago in the late 1960s when I was a student. The late 1960s was a period of renaissance for folk music in the UK. My college had a Folk Club with another club weekly in a local pub. It was whilst he was on his way to play for us that Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound when he was sitting on the Widnes station platform.  There has been another renaissance in recent years led by a number of bands and solo artists playing in a more contemporary approach while bringing in music from other genres. This is the first of a monthly series of articles to introduce the key artists and albums of the current English folk music scene.

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Is Tyler, The Creator Maturing?

By Craig McManus. Posted in Hip Hop, Rap | 2 Comments »

In a new SPIN interview, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All ringmaster Tyler, The Creator says, “[t]alking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn’t interest me anymore.  What interests me is making weird hippie music for people to get high to…I can’t rap about the same shit.”  If true, this statement will surely be unwelcome news to the indie blogosphere that has garnered thousands of clicks over the last couple of years as it endlessly debates whether the homophobia and violence against women contained in many OFWGKTA tracks is a sign of the downfall of society or just kids being kids.  It would also be yet another instance of the cycle of youthful envelope-pushing followed by steady maturation that we see every few years in popular music.

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About 450 releases and rereleases were reviewed in the September/October 2011 issue of American Record Guide. These are the ones that generated most enthusiasm:

Johann Christian Bach: Symphonies opp.6, 9, 18. Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/David Zinman. Newton 8002065

“These recordings, made from 1974 to 1977 and originally released on Philips, made me ask, “Johann Christian Bach, where have you been all my life?” Here’s wonderful, incredibly inventive music in performances that are simply the best” – Gil French

Blow: Venus and Adonis. Amanda Forsyth, Tyler Duncan, Boston Early Music Festival/Paul O’Dette, Stephen Stubbs. CPO 777614

“This is a beautiful release in every aspect… a topnotch production, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for a first choice or only one for people who are less than die-hard collectors” – Ardella Crawford

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By Jake Scissorman. Posted in Indie, Shoegaze, Trends | 3 Comments »
Melissa Arpin and Scott Cortez of lovesliescrushing
Melissa Arpin and Scott Cortez of lovesliescrushing

For those of you with English degrees – and we all know there are more of you than you’d care to admit – the World Wide Web has proven to be a stubborn and resourceful enemy of grammatical correctness. It isn’t just that forum posters, news-site commenters, and bloggers (like me!) insist on ignoring virtually every rule of grammar, punctuation, and spelling consistency in the book; most of them refuse to admit the book even exists. “Let’s just crowdsource the rules of grammar,” they often say, as if this weren’t completely contrary to the whole purpose of language, or as if “crowdsource” were even a real word. And the web’s ubiquitous domain-naming system (DNS) merely adds fuel to the fire, with its uncaring approach to capitalization, and above all, its complete non-support of the space character.

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The Smile Sessions – The Beach Boys

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Pop, Reviews | No Comments »


I’ve been waiting for this album for 45 years, virtually three quarters of my life, but it is still not the finished article! Back in the mid 1960s, The Beatles reigned supreme in the world of popular music. But if any group (as we then called them) came close to taking that crown, it was the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys’ previous album to the Smile sessions was Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson’s answer to Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles had raised the bar with their albums; until then, LPs were usually collections of singles, b-sides and fillers. But a few months after the release of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper raised the bar even higher for Wilson. He wanted something even grander, and Smile was to be his answer. As he describes it in the notes published for this new release, “Each Beatles album had sounded different. The way I saw it we were in a race, a production race.”

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