Local Current Blog

Local Radar: Phantom Vibration, The Counterfactuals and Dollarstore Keyboard

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.

Phantom Vibration
This dream pop trio out of St. Paul has been prepping their third EP for a good part of the past year, delayed in part because the members were spread throughout the country at college. The summer has provided them ample time to reconnect and hone the sound of their newest effort, a much more subdued affair than some of their past work. It’s also their most mature release yet, superbly layered with harmony-laden vocals that illustrate just how far this young act has come since debuting in March of 2011.

They’ve also been playing around town much more frequently — maybe you caught them at the Gemini Club gig this week alongside rising minimal artist Mickey Davis (Olsen Twinns). The live setting has probably given them an indication of what works and doesn’t work in their style, hence the major difference in sound on their Aged EP. “River Rock,” the closer to the four-song release, is a lilting Real Estate/Fleet Foxes-esque cut that’s just really pleasant to listen to. By the time the tempo kicks it up a notch halfway through and the crackle of the recording becomes more evident, the promise of Phantom Vibration’s future becomes evidently bright.

Stream: Phantom Vibration – “River Rock,” from the Aged EP

The Counterfactuals
On a previous Local Radar, I wrote about Northfield band The Counterfactuals and their demo “Running Dry” which had a terribly infectious melody. Voted the city’s best band in 2010, the original two-piece then became a four-piece comprised of a mix of professors between Carleton and St. Olaf. They also retreated from the spotlight to start the process of recording their record, and we’ve been getting a few teasers here and there on Facebook of the process.

The newest update comes in the song “I’m Through” which is a live rendition recorded in a hallway at Carleton College with the lovely vocal help of Alison Rae. In just one take and six minutes, they manage to make something hauntingly beautiful which, for being completely exposed with no mixing, lends extreme promise to what this album is going to sound like. It’s especially impressive to hear the delicacy that The Counterfactuals have when creating ballads and the pop sensibilities they can conjure when they want to channel the faster side of things.

Also, I must finally give a shout-out to Dig and Be Doug who does the graphic design work for this band. Check them out and give them love.

Stream: The Counterfactuals – “I’m Through (Live)”

Dollarstore Keyboard
And because I am a sucker for music that hits the lo-fi end of the spectrum, Dollarstore Keyboard’s got a new EP out that fills that insatiable void. “Goodblind” is the strongest cut from the release, rooted in a wonderful chord progression that continues to build throughout the song as the vocal volume grows simultaneously. While this structure of songwriting is something that’s been explored for ages, making it sound effortless like Dollarstore Keyboard does is harder than we may think. I’m sure that on paper it’s a much harder effect to relay, especially when you’re looking for a specific impact.

There’s only a handful of local bands I’ve heard do this as well as Dollarstore Keyboard does (also see: Deimos Phobos, Gallupstar), and all of these projects have a superb emotional focus. The only problem? I have yet to see this style of music transformed on a regular basis to a live setting. It’s something I hope happens soon — the Twin Cities is definitely missing this niche in the club.

Stream: Dollarstore Keyboard – “Goodblind,” from the Goodblind EP