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.
Arca is a very of the moment producer (some of Yeezus and one of my favorite albums of the year FKA twigs’ LP1), and Xen is very of the moment experimental electronics. The album is hard hitting, glitchy, full of space, and in many ways harsh. It’s also safe to say it is where a lot of experimental electronic music will be going in the next year or two. This is an album to listen to on headphones when you don’t have anything else going on and can wallow in the oddness.
Life in 24 Frames is a Sacramento, California based band founded in 2008 by guitarist/lead vocalist Kris Adams. Over the years the band has evolved into a 6 piece (Adams, Richie Smith – Guitar/Backing vocals, Andrew Bernhardt – Keyboard/Backing vocals, Malory Wheeler – Organ/Backing vocals, Jason Brown – Bass/Backing vocals, and Joe Strouth – Drums) and built a large local following via their brand of folk based indie rock. Following the release their second full length album, Bitter End, on March 25, 2014, I chatted with Kris Adams via e-mail about storytelling through music, the difficulty of the label based music business, and Sacramento as a music town.
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!
MiG jumps into the year end ‘Best of’ lists, with Craig McManus leading off with his Top 20 albums of the year:
In the past, I’ve always written a blurb about each album explaining it’s inclusion on my list. Over the years of checking other people’s lists, however, I’ve noticed that I rarely read similar blurbs. Instead I scroll through to see what made it, what I agree with, what I disagree with, and with what I am unfamiliar. Then I move on to the next list. As I highly doubt I’m alone in this technique, I’m going to dispense with the paragraph of explanation and instead simply note the word or phrase by which it is best encapsulated. Think of it as a ‘Best of’ word association. It’ll save me time, and perhaps someone will actually read it rather than skimming to the next image.
It’s the time of year when folks post their “Best of” lists, and MiG is no exception. So without further ado, here are the Top 20 albums (and some others that deserve recognition) according to Craig McManus:
1. Purity Ring – Shrines: 2011 introduced us to Purity Ring through the singles “Ungirthed”, “Lofticries”, and “Belispeak”, and each of these songs could have made my best of list. Accordingly, I was highly anticipating the release of the band’s debut full length. When news broke that each of these songs would be included on Shrines, however, I grew concerned that Purity Ring didn’t have the depth of quality for a full LP. Obviously, Shrines’ placement on this list demonstrates that my concern was unfounded. With tracks like “Obedear”, “Fineshrine”, and “Crawlersout” added to the early singles, Purity Ring created a dark synth pop gem. The only real negative to the album is the inclusion of the frankly dreadful, “Grandloves”.
Dirty Projectors brought their new album Swing Lo Magellan to First Avenue in Minneapolis on July 15, 2012, and Purity Ring tagged along for the last of their six dates opening on the tour before their debut LP, Shrines, is released on July 24 via 4AD. I came home from the show with Shrines (at first listen it’s as good as hoped), and a Dirty Projectors’ tour only 7″ (limited to 1000) that cannot be purchased but is free when you tell the merch booth the secret Twitter word for that show (this time it was “Fuel Vapour Hose”). It has the unreleased tracks “Buckle Up” and “Desire to Love”, and only about 20 are being brought to each show. I passed on the “Gun Has No Trigger” square 7″ that comes in a hard case with the lyrics to the song etched into the case in cuneiform. My wife already rolls her eyes at me enough so I didn’t drop $15 for that. It was seriously cool looking though.
Founded in 1995 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rhymesayers Entertainment has risen to the top of the heap of independent hip hop labels. Over the years it has grown from releasing albums solely by its founders, to becoming the home base for most of the surprisingly fertile Minnesota hip hop scene, and finally to being the label home for albums by indie hip hop greats regardless of hometown. In fact, since its founding, Atmosphere, MF Doom, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, and P.O.S have all called Rhymesayers home.
Despite this success, Rhymesayers continues to expand as it follows its mission to put its “dreams, passions, and destinies in their own hands.” One of those dreams is to continue growing hip hop in the Twin Cities area, so in 2008 Rhymesayers founded the Soundset hip hop festival. Held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Soundset started in the Metrodome parking lot, but has since moved to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.
More important then the location switch, however, the last five years have seen Soundset grow beyond showcasing solely artists on the Rhymesayers label to bringing both titans and the next generation of hip hop to the upper Midwest. 2012 was no exception as Ghostface Killah & Raekwon and Lupe Fiasco joined Atmosphere as scheduled headliners while Action Bronson, Kendrick Lamar, and Danny Brown played earlier in the day with Rhymesayers’ own I Self Devine and Evidence.
The music of multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick should be much busier. Bouncing from guitar to strings to keyboards to horns (to name a few), and shifting from folk to classical to indie pop to ambient drone (to name a few), the expectation is that the end result would be music with so many moving parts that its main appeal would be as a spectacle of incomprehension. But the thing of it is, he finds a way to fuse all of these disparate elements into a cohesive cloud of serenity. And those disparate elements? They’re all there, but masked in subtlety and hinted at just enough for the ear to pick up on them without ever feeling overwhelmed. This is beautiful music, with a densely packed emotional center.
This is part of a series suggesting ingredients for mixtapes or playlists on a variety of themes.
Whether you have a special someone to be your valentine this year or not, we’ve got you covered with this genre hopping “two-fer” mixtape of old and new songs ranging from easy listening to rock, pop, R&B, and lesser known indie singer-songwriter folk stuff. Side A is just the thing for happy couples to play while celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic evening alone – or, if the love affair’s over, flip it to Side B and let the music keep you company this Valentine’s Day. Either way, it’s a night spent with some great music.
Links to artist websites are provided for each track – a good way to learn more about the artists or to catch up on their latest news. Many of them are working on new recording projects for 2012.
When Irish troubadour Declan O’Rourke wrote this song, he thought no one would want to hear it. But he liked it and says he only finished it because he thought his family might enjoy it. He was more than a little surprised when he learned Josh Groban picked it up for inclusion on one of his albums – and a little sad to say goodbye to “his little song.” Since then, it has been covered by numerous artists and is destined to become a romantic standard.