Local Current Blog

Local Radar: John Mark Nelson, Gallupstar and more

Local Radar highlights bands that the local team at The Current is spinning heavily at their desks. You’ll be able to preview a track from each as well as hear them on The Local Show and Local Current.

John Mark Nelson
Is John Mark Nelson Minnesota’s hidden treasure? We’ve only played him twice on The Local Show since first plopping the CD in our players two weeks ago. Since then, the response has been rather overwhelming, and it’s difficult for me not to think that this young man out of Minnetonka is having a major effect on listeners. To be a singer-songwriter in today’s world can sometimes be sidelined as a trite sound, but John has managed to create something distinctly fresh. It’s natural to be attracted to his bold arrangements; David Campbell described his sound as chamber pop, and I think this is a fitting classification. The 18-year-old plays every instrument on “What Did I Find?” and accompanies it with soaring, no-holds-barred lyrics that intertwine with one another. He understands when to let something breathe, a component of composition that is hard to grasp for any musician. But for John Mark Nelson, a future McNally Smith student, these songs just seem to be flowing naturally out of a brain that musically clicks. The mechanics are powerful, and we can’t wait to see what he dreams up next.

Andrea Swensson will be interviewing Nelson for the Local Current blog. Expect it online soon.

Stream: John Mark Nelson – “What Did I Find?” available now


Another emerging one-man band comes in the form of Gallupstar, built prominently on gradual layering that forms into an unexpectedly cohesive product. Again, this is some wild pop at heart, hinged by Chris Webber’s barely discernible voice, one which echoes Avery Tare’s vocal range and yelps. And while Webber has been around for three years, this is really his magnum opus (I think he would agree). Nothing here sounds recycled, instead invoking thoughts of a meticulous recording process that probably drove Webber bonkers to get exactly right. But I can’t help but think that he knew songs like “Vertebrae” were going to end up being pretty damn solid. There’s a certain confidence in his execution that makes me more and more proud to see such a burgeoning experimental (or pseudo-pop as he calls it) community in Minnesota.

Stream: Gallupstar – “Vertebrae” from Bullet-Proof Squirrel EP out now

The Chalice
This is a find from Andrea Swensson, an act she’ll be playing on the April 29th all-ladies edition of The Local Show. Featuring three quickly rising emcees (Claire de Lune, Sophia Eris, and Lizzo of Lizzo and the Larva Ink), The Chalice has been performing pretty regularly over the past few weeks, and “Push It” is one of the few songs circulating for public consumption. An all-female hip-hop collective seems rare to come by these days, and “Push It” confirms why we need to hear more. At once allegorical and the next an unabashed criticism of relationships, these three women wind in and out of each other’s verses, expanding ideas effortlessly to come crashing together at the end, aided by the bold production of Prophis.

Stream: The Chalice – “Push It” – available now


Smoke Room
Smoke Room has been quietly gathering steam within the underground electronic backdrop of the Twin Cities, bolstering his name through frequent shows and a steady output of material over the past two years. Lightly promoted and instead focused on maintaining an ethereal persona, Kyle Y. just released another record called “Caramelism,” a 13-track collection of genre-crossing arrangements, all trance-like in nature and meant to be enjoyed in the dark with the volume cranked up. It’s a sound we’ve been hearing a lot of lately on the music blog circuit, but not so much locally, and that’s a reason to keep him on our minds as the year progresses.

Stream: Smoke Room – “Damask” from Caramelism out now