Favorite track: "We've Been Missing"
I met Chris and Rebekah at the Entry when I first moved to Minneapolis in 2012 and they had just released Dreaming Free. This year was quite exciting as the five-piece band has released two new singles: "Let Loose," and "Leagues," with new collaboration involved - including electric guitar by Cory Wong, as well as mixing and mastering done across the country in LA and New York. It's a busy time for this couple, now with a third member of the family and Chris managing Anthem Falls Music, but keep a look out for the full album sometime this year.
Favorite Track: "Leagues"
This six-piece is an exciting mix of connections made on Craigslist and great friendships, which together, make for one of the biggest breakout bands of Minneapolis this year. You may have heard them on The Current, or seen them live at the Sociable Ciderwerks Block Party, or perhaps caught them being featured on the Lowertown Line. These kids played a Sofar Sounds session on my birthday this past summer, and I'll never forget it. Special shout out to David for his many talents in video work, he directs and shoots many of the group's videos, including this hilarious one for "Unbroke."
Favorite track: "Nothing to Say"
To be honest, I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting this good-looking gang that makes up Enemy Planes. I have, however, seen them several times this year and been quite impressed. They create a dark and grungy base of sound, on which is layered floating vocals and a wash of electronics, all while switching between a laid-back build up and full-on rocking out. If you're looking for a solid definition of modern alt/indie rock with a dynamic stage presence, look no further.
Favorite track: "No Strings"
Where to begin... LOTT is the solo project of Leah Ottman, a member of local groups We Are the Willows and Batteryboy, among others. But she is a master of the stage in her own right, and after seeing her at least four times this year, I still am not satisfied. In October she performed for Sofar Sounds (left), and she performed twice at the Southern Theater Sessions, as well at Live Letters this year. In the canon of Kishi Bashi and other rising instrumental and vocal loopers, LOTT defies the definition of "one man band" with simply her voice, her violin, and some technological enhancement. And her stage outfits are often even as unique as her music.
Favorite Track: "Stacked"
Formerly of The Daredevil Christopher Wright - read the story here - Jonathan Sunde has branched out on his own as singer-songwriter J.E. Sunde, and recorded a first LP, titled Shapes That Kiss The Lips of God. And thank goodness, for this album is surely something else. A fan of the band, Sunde's vocals carry through as the same identifiable and heartbreaking tenor, but this time the stories he spins are more his own. Imagine if Messersmith was more of a realistic philosopher than a romantic, and that the comedy in his lyrics broke your heart a little more than they saved it, and you have a sense of J.E. Sunde. But you won't truly know until you hear him yourself.
Favorite tracks: "Easy Kid" & "I'm Gonna Disappoint You"
The Persian Leaps
Favorite Track: "Permission"
The Person and the People
Favorite Tracks: "NYC Freakout" & "Don't Fear the Richard"
This lady has not only a voice, but a personality, of gold. Accompanied by ukulele and now a well-mastered vocal looper, O'Brien's music is overflowing with originality and optimism. Sofar Sounds is lucky to have her now twice as a performer over the past two years, captivating entire living rooms. She has until recently, been a music therapist, but quit just this fall in order to fully commit to her personal music endeavors. I have few doubts about the success of her dream; she has already convinced me that almost anything is possible.
Favorite Track: "Not Aiming For Land"
Favorite Track: "Louder"
Reina del Cid
Favorite Track: "Emily" & "Pretty Lie"
Aaron and the Sea (AATS)
My knowledge of AATS comes from a rather unusual series of events, involving the purchase of a musical instrument on Craigslist last winter - one of those coincidences that doesn't feel so coincidental. Immediately hooked on the sound - indie electronic done achingly well, I recruited Aaron for a Sofar Sounds set last spring, and saw him again at Turf Club soon after. You should listen, but AATS is a must-see live.
Favorite track: "Vudu II"
I fell in love with this project of Gabriel Jorgensen's even before I knew he and I had both moved to Minneapolis in the second half of 2012. The EP In Solitude (currently free on Bandcamp) was released in 2013, and now as a trio, Ancient Mariner is working on a second EP and hopefully an LP in the near future. The minimalist and fleeting vocals of Jorgensen layer on top of gorgeous instrumental mixes and long-held electronic tones. More compositions than songs, the music they create requires length and repeated listens. I happened by 7th Street Entry this fall and was lucky to catch them live for the first time.
Favorite track: "Child of Wrath"
I caught Graveyard Club opening for The Drums this past September at Triple Rock, and was inclined to leave after their set so I wouldn't be disappointed with the rest of the show. That same week they released their LP Nightingale, a sensuous and haunting album of Matthew Schufman's low voice perfectly blended with dark, hazy dream-pop instrumentals and Amanda Zimmerman's vocals. They inspire a sense of longing you didn't know you had.
Favorite track: "Easy, Killer"
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Names Too Big to List:
These bands had an absolutely fantastic year, and were a big influence in mine - so you probably heard about them. But in case you did not, get listening.
We Are The Willows - Picture Portrait
The Ericksons - Bring Me Home
Jeremy Messersmith - Heart Murmurs
Haley Bonar - Last War
Chris Koza - In Real Time
Steprockets - "Kisser"