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Every so often an area sees its scene explode not just locally, but nationally and internationally.  This has happened before in the Twin Cities when the late ’70s funk scene exploded behind Prince and The Time, then in the early to mid ’80s the local rock scene had its turn led by Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and the hip hop world of the early to mid 2000s was greatly influenced by Atmosphere and Brother Ali.  Following developments in 2011 it is quite possible we are standing on the verge of the Twin Cities pop scene taking its place at the top of the heap.

The Twin Cities pop movement is led by three bands who started to break through last year, and now find themselves at the edge of stardom.  All three are most certainly pop bands, but they come at the genre from very different perspectives.  One is garage influenced guitar pop, another uses electronics to create a smooth dream pop, and the last features dark, smoldering synth pop.  Each have an album due in 2012, though, and are set to make lots of noise locally and internationally.

In the Spring of 2010, Total Babe lead guitarist Jordan Gatesmith and some friends formed the indie pop band Howler and signed with Total Babe’s label, So-TM.  About a year later on April 28, 2011 they released their debut EP, This One’s Different.  Howler’s sound is straight garage rock as demonstrated by This One’s Different‘s closing track “I Told You Once”:

Then something remarkable happened.  NME got a hold of the EP and fired up their well-oiled hype machine.  On June 3, 2011, NME named Howler the #3 best new band of 2011 and in August gave This One’s Different an 8/10 rating saying, “Howler are different because they make commonplace components fly with a brilliant nonchalance.”  By the end of the year, a young band that wasn’t yet selling out the small 7th Street Entry in their hometown and didn’t even have an LP to its name, was signed to major indie label Rough Trade and going on headlining tours of the UK, while Gatesmith was named the 44th coolest person of 2011 by NME.

Whether Howler can live up to British press hype, unlike so many bands before them, is still to be determined, but we’ll soon find out.  On January 16th in the UK and 17th in the US, Rough Trade will release Howler’s debut LP, America Give Up.  You can stream/download the first single “Back of Your Neck” here:

So-TM isn’t the only local label to lose an artist to an indie titan this year.  For much of 2011, dream pop outfit Night Moves’ debut LP Colored Emotions was available for free download from Afternoon Records.  That changed, however, when the band announced via Twitter on December 21st that they had signed with Domino, and that Colored Emotions would be reissued on that label in 2012.  Apparently a Domino rep flew into town specifically to hear the band at the Square Lake Festival near Stillwater, which led to a label showcase for the band in New York.

Night Moves is comprised of former members of Mouthful of Bees, Food Pyramid, and Battle Royale and were named one of First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2011.  Described by the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider as “[p]art MGMT electro-haze pop and part cosmic twang-rock,” Colored Emotions should be out again on Domino sometime this summer.  In the meantime, two tracks off the album are still available for free download on the band’s Bandcamp page.  “Horses” is a smooth synth based ‘70s throwback and the album’s standout track:

“Headlights” brings out much more of the country twang side of Riemenschneider’s description:

It seems counterintuitive, but it is distinctly possible that the biggest new local band in 2011 is the one still on a local label.  In August it was announced that local roots band Roma di Luna was calling it quits with its husband and wife leads moving on to other projects.  The wife part of the couple, Channy Casselle, quickly found a home working with Ryan Olson, the brains behind Gayngs, as Poliça. Poliça’s sound is a synth pop, featuring bass, synth loops and multiple percussion players, that is light years from the bluesy roots music of Roma di Luna, but really suits Channy’s smoky vocals

By the end of August, Poliça had already recorded their debut LP, Give You the Ghost, with Olson and Spoon’s Jim Eno at the controls, played CMJ, scheduled several dates opening for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and were readying their first single, “Wandering Star” (streamable below, and free download available from Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current: here).  Thereafter, the band has been playing out on what seems like a weekly basis, and have already become one the most popular local live acts.

Give You the Ghost is now available via some download sites, but the LP itself is scheduled for a CD release party (to be released on Totally Gross National Product) at First Avenue on February 14.  If you want to go, however, you are too late.  Poliça is the first band to ever sell out the First Avenue Mainroom for a debut album release party, and they did so more than a month and a half prior to the concert.

Wandering Star by POLIÇA

Dark Star by POLIÇA

Lay Your Cards Out (feat. Mike Noyce) by POLIÇA

An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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4 Responses to “Dispatches from Funkytown #3: The Next Generation”

  1. 1
    kez Says:

    Oh my, what a bombshell – I had no idea Roma di Luna had called it quits! They were one of my all-time favorite folk groups. It’s sad there will be nothing more from them. I realize things inevitably change, though, and wish the duo much success in following their separate paths in new directions. It appears a bright future is in store for both of them (but for me, personally, it’s not going to be the same – I think I’ll go play some of my Roma di Luna’s CDs now).

  2. 2
    Craig McManus Says:

    Yeah, near as I can tell it caught everyone by surprise. They were supposed to play some shows they already had scheduled in December, but at the last minute even those were cancelled. I’ve heard whispers, but haven’t really paid attention because it’s none of my business, that there are/were marriage issues. That would explain the suddenness.

    It was a rough couple years for local folk acts. My other favorite, A Night in the Box, also bit the dust fairly recently.

  3. 3
    Max Lasker Says:

    Nice picks. I love to see the MSP scene respected.

    Our hype machine is not running full blast, yet a simple Google or ITunes search will reveal that Totally Gross National Product will be releasing Poliça’s “Give You the Ghost” on 2/14/12.

    TGNP is a small yet respected Minneapolis record label. As with Poliça, many of our releases feature work of founders Ryan Olson and Drew Christopherson. “Give You the Ghost” will be our 23rd release.

  4. 4
    Craig McManus Says:

    Max – My apologies on missing that! It’s particularly poor of me because I am well acquainted with your label.

    I will correct the article, and best of luck on the release. I have no doubt it will do fantastically.



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