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Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Jessie Ware – Tough Love

Jessie Ware’s sophomore album comes a mere year and a half after her fantastic debut Devotion finally hit the U.S, and continues her exploration of R&B and electronic based pop music.  Tough Love is a mellow album that should make the perfect accompaniment to a winter afternoon spent under a blanket with a good book and your significant other, at least until “Keep on Lying” and its vaguely calypso beat (which oddly works despite sounding like a programed beat on an early Casio) kicks in and you put the book aside. 

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31

Mar

2014

Interview: Life in 24 Frames

By Craig McManus. Posted in Indie, Interviews, Rock | 1 Comment »

Bitter End

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.

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Any list implies criteria, but let’s eliminate some obvious candidates. This is not a list of the most original, or significant, or skilled, or successful releases of 2013. There is so much that I simply did not listen to that those kinds of judgments are out of reach (for me as for everyone else). Instead, I asked myself: if I were to be separated from my music for a month or two and could only keep 20 albums from my collection with me, all released in 2013, which would I choose? This approach keeps me from adding or skipping things because I somehow feel I ought to. Worthy or not in the ears of the world, this is what I liked most from this year’s releases. Listen in; who knows, you might like it too.

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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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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.

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Fury Things

In a music scene as crowded as the Twin Cities’, it can be difficult to stand out.  This can be particularly the case when you are a gimmick free, rock trio playing loud, fuzzed out rock that would have fit in perfectly in late ’80s to early ’90s Massachusetts.  Nonetheless, Fury Things is quickly finding their way to the top of the local heap and setting their sights beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  I recently chatted with the band about honest music, the Twin Cities music scene, and the future for Fury Things.  After checking out the interview, make sure to head over to Bandcamp and pick up their 2 EPs for the price you want to pay.

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12

Jun

2013

The Place Where the Music Died

By Craig McManus. Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

SONY DSC

I admit it.  I have a little Clark W. Griswold in me.  So when the family was taking a trip down Interstate 35 to Omaha, NE for a wedding, I informed my wife and toddler that we would be making a stop in Clear Lake, Iowa for a little Americana road side experience.  This particular road side experience, however, is a little macabre as well as a two parter: 1) The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson, a/k/a The Big Bopper, played there final show; and 2) the cornfield just north of town where their plane went down killing each of them as well as the pilot Roger Peterson.  That’s right, we were exploring “The Day the Music Died”.

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12

Mar

2013

Interview: Alamaailman Vasarat

By David Smith. Posted in Folk, Interviews, Jazz, Musicians, Rock, World | 1 Comment »
Alamaailman Vasarat

Alamaailman Vasarat

 

I reviewed here the most recent album by Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat. Following that review, Stakula, the band’s leader, kindly agreed to an interview, offering some insights into the processes behind the music.

Valta is an addition to what by now is a substantial body of work, and Alamaailman Vasarat has established a distinctive sound. Has anything changed on this album compared to previous releases?

The most obvious changes were in the lineup. Before the Valta sessions, our new drummer Santeri Saksala had already performed with the band for a year, much to our enjoyment. The live performances really tightened up and had a whole new level of energy. In the Valta sessions, his knowledge and passion for the drums as instruments made a huge difference to album sound, not forgetting some of the most memorable improvised moments, like in the opening track “Riistomaasiirtäjä”. His contribution has made a huge impact in the overall sound of the band and we’re very happy to have him on board.

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17

Jan

2013

Top 20 of 2012: Kezzie Baker

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Bluegrass, Folk, Rock | No Comments »

I will admit it.  At the end of each year, I attempt to come up with a “best-of” list of my own but struggle to identify even a handful.  This is partly due to the fact that I am so bad about paying attention to the actual release dates of albums that I will invariably include several recordings that are older than I thought.  This time, however, I had no trouble at all.  2012 proved to be a stellar year for releasing good music.  Here are my picks for the best of the best, in no particular order:

 

O’ Be Joyful by Shovels & Rope (Dualtone Music Group).  (AMERICANA)  Shovels & Rope is Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, a husband-and-wife duo.  Their website says they “sing harmony driven folk, rock and country songs using two old guitars, a kick drum, a snare, a few tambourines, harmonicas, and maybe a little keyboard sometimes.”  There’s plenty of that on O’ Be Joyful, plus fiddles, banjos, and some wonderful, slightly off-kilter horns that take the genre to a new level (“Hail, Hail,” and “Tickin’ Bomb”).  Clanky percussion is prominent on most of the tracks.  Songs like “Carnival” demonstrate the duo can dazzle with slow-tempo ballads, too.  It’s just quirky enough that it may not be for everyone, but if you like an old-timey country sound with a rockin’ edge to it, this album just might be right up your alley. ( Listen to samples here.)

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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:

Top 20

Purity Ring1. 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”.

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