One of the best local albums of 2012 also happened to be one of the shortest, as Strange Names made their official debut last year with their immaculately produced four-song EP, Strange Names.
The duo’s tight, punchy disco-pop caught the attention of the Twin Cities and landed them in last fall’s Picked to Click issue of City Pages, but shortly after releasing the EP they already started to explore other sonic territories live. As I noted after this year’s Best New Bands showcase, Strange Names’ Liam Benzvi and Francis Jimenez were exploring much darker and richer textures in the live setting, at times channeling the Britpop sound of bands like Blur.
When I interviewed Benzvi and Jimenez last August, they mentioned that they were intentionally combining a lot of different influences from the very beginning of their time as a band, so this departure makes a lot of sense. “There were a number of sounds we were experimenting with,” Jimenez told me last year. “We were into some lo-fi, and some surf stuff, But then also we like some kind of retro throwback stuff, and we’re really into post-punk and ‘90s pop.”
“We wanted to combine them all,” added Benzvi.
The post-punk and ’90s pop are certainly on display in their first of two new singles, “Minor Times.” Jimenez especially seems to evoke Britpop singers with his vocal delivery, even taking on a bit of a British accent or affect at times. The track will be featured as the A-side on a new 7″ out today on White Iris Records, and you can sample it right here:
The B-side of the 7″, “Once an Ocean,” explores a more surf-oriented sound, with Benzvi taking the lead on vocals and Jimenez singing harmonies. They both have such unique, strong voices (and, as vocalists, can really deliver live), so it’s nice to see them taking a more collaborative approach on this 7″.
The new Strange Names 7″ is available via White Iris here. Coincidentally, it was also just announced that the band will be playing the new City Pages 10 Thousand Sounds festival on June 22 in Minneapolis.