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Another year has come and gone.  2014 saw another new batch of bands arrive, some depart, and lot of great music get made.  As far as I’m concerned, 2014 in the Twin Cities will be defined by the teenagers who burst onto the scene.  Regardless of genre, it seems like a crazy amount of the best music was made by people who usually can’t get into the clubs they’re planning when they aren’t on stage.  That said there is still room on this list for a man pushing 70 and room at the top for a guy who suddenly finds himself a part of the old guard despite only having been on the scene since about 2006.

As usual, these are just my personal top 15 of the year.  I can guarantee I missed something despite my best efforts to avoid it.  In fact, City Pages just published a list of the best local punk albums of the year and I don’t recognize a couple of them.  So once I publish this list, I’ll be heading over there to explore.  For now, though, here are my favorite Twin Cities albums for 2014.

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The Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments to an ElegyThe Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy

A Smashing Pumpkins album with Tommy Lee on drums and a running time of a mere 32 minutes?  I’m intrigued.  Oddly, even with the incredibly short (for Billy Corgan) running time, this is one of the more varied Pumpkins albums in terms of sound.  It has the heavy rockers you expect (“One and All”), but also has quieter moments (“Being Beige”), electronic based dance tunes (“Run2me”), and is that a flute on “Drum + Fife”?  Based on the title I guess that makes sense.  Surprisingly, on first listen at least, the album holds together despite these variations, and provides a very enjoyable listen.  It is way too early to know if Monuments to an Elegy will have the stickiness of its excellent predecessor Oceania, but it has that potential.

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Trash Kit - ConfidenceTrash Kit – Confidence

Trash Kit is a post punk trio out of England.  Being a female band leads to lots of comparisons to The Slits and Raincoats and Trash Kit certainly has the hooks those bands did, but Confidence reminds me (and this is splitting hairs a bit) more of New York No Wave acts.  It’s not quite as shambling as a Lizzy Mercier Descloux or James Chance, but there is still a sense the music could fall apart at any moment.  The songs all hang together, though, (primarily due to their throbbing tribal beats) and they present a thoroughly enjoyable whole that explores some truly wonderful melodies and sounds.

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Savages & Bo Ningen - Words to the Blind

Savages & Bo Ningen – Words to the Blind

British post punk band Savages and Japanese psych rock band Bo Ningen came together for the collaborative album Words to the Blind.  Both bands have an experimental bent to their individual work and Words to the Blind seems to have increased those individual tendencies exponentially.  The single track album starts with about four and a half minutes of Savages’ frontwoman Jehnny Beth speaking in French and Bo Ningen’s Taigen Kawabe  speaking in Japanese with only the occasional instrumental note.  It’s unclear if the two are in conversation or even if the words are related.  Thereafter, harsh drones and baselines kick in for about five minutes followed by two minutes of eeriness. 

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Big K.R.I.T. CadillacticaBig K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica

Based on the early singles, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Big K.R.I.T.’s latest, and with its soulful, spacey, laid-back southern hip hop, Cadillactica more than lives up to my hopes.  As usual, K.R.I.T. brings positive, hopeful lyrics and acts as his own producer, so the beats and rhymes are of a piece (that piece is reminiscent of early Outkast, although not on that level).  There’s been a string of excellent hip hop albums released in the last few weeks (after a pretty barren summer), and Cadillactica, while very different in style/sound from something like Run the Jewels 2 or Hell Can Wait, fits in well with that high quality.  This one is highly recommended.

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RTJ2Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

Killer Mike and El-P are back with the best hip hop album of 2014 thus far.  Surprisingly released last Friday, RTJ2 is everything the duo’s first album was and then some.  The beats hit harder, the lyrics are broader, and the imagery is even sharper.  This time around, though, they’ve added some guests to the mix (most notably Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha and Gangsta Boo) who do an excellent job adding to the album without stealing focus from the guys who brought them there. 

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Allan Kingdom - Soundset 2014

Allan Kingdom – Soundset 2014

Soundset 2014 brought an opportunity to speak with the Twin Cities own Allan Kingdom.  Allan’s been working on breaking into the local scene for a few years now and is starting to see snowballing success.  In addition to his first performance at Soundset (three years after he attended as a fan then swore he wouldn’t go back until he was a performer), the real life Allan Kyariga was named to First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2013, got a cover story with local indie newspaper The City Pages, created an official remix of Poliça’s “Chain My Name”, and is in the process of readying two new releases.  Allan and I chatted about achieving childhood goals before even being old enough to drink legally, getting inspiration from the world around us, and what it means to be ‘The Northern Gentleman.’

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27

May

2014

Photo Review: Soundset 2014

By Craig McManus. Posted in Concert Review, Hip Hop, Rap | No Comments »

Soundset 2014

Once again, Sunday of Memorial Day weekend meant Rhymesayers Entertainment’s Soundset festival at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.  2014 saw Soundset sell out its 30,000 tickets for the first time through advance ticket sales, and the massive crowd was treated to a perfect day of hip hop both with regards to the weather (highs in the upper 70s and partly sunny) and the music (from classics like Nas and Cypress Hill to a fresh from jail Wiz Khalifa).  Head below for a photo review of the day (more photos are available on MiG’s Facebook), and check back in the next couple of days for MiG interviews with Lizzo w/Lazerbeak and Allan Kingdom.

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21

May

2014

Soundset 2014

By Craig McManus. Posted in Hip Hop, Rap | No Comments »

Soundset

This weekend, I will again be attending Rhymesayers Entertainment’s Soundset in Shakopee, Minnesota.  So keep your eye here over the next couple weeks for photos and interviews from this fantastic hip hop festival.

 

2013 was another banner year for the Twin Cities music scene.  Prince introduced his new band, 3rdeyegirl, and started making more appearances than he had in the last few years (including a pajama party at Paisley Park), The Replacements (well, half The Replacements) reunited to record some music to raise money for former guitarist Slim Dunlap and to play some out-of-town festivals (we’re still waiting Westerberg and Stinson…as if you didn’t know), local O.G.s The Suburbs and Run Westy Run also reunited, Low played a 30 minute festival set consisting of a single drone, and Rhymesayers snagged Snoop Dogg for Soundset.  Oh, and on top of all that a ton of great new music was released by artists both new and old, with a ridiculous amount of that music being released by one local label that is absolutely killing it right now.

For my “Top 20 of 2013” list I limited myself to a single word or phrase about each album.  I think the technique worked in that context because each of the albums on the list already had thousands of words written about them.  When it comes to the top releases by Twin Cities artists, however, that isn’t necessarily the case.  Accordingly, while I’ll still be limiting the amount I write about each album, there will be more information than in the Top 20.  Of note, four of the albums in the Top 10, and several more honorable mentions, are available for free download.  So, if you’re at all interested in exploring the Twin Cities music scene circa 2013, get downloading!

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