Local Current Blog

Local Radar: Jim and the French Vanilla, Skoal Kodiak and more

A new weekly feature on the blog will be a highlight of five 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.

Jim and the French Vanilla
Anything Blind Shake related will already have my heart, especially a new release from Jim and the French Vanilla which veers in a total 180 to the lo-fi folk side of things. But calling this folk in any respect is probably misguided as the rest of Jim Blaha’s new record II can’t be defined in a nutshell. There’s an experiment undertone on all of these tracks, the result of self-recording on a cassette four-track in his bedroom. The result is a gorgeous collection of early Kurt Vile-esque compositions that shouldn’t go overlooked. I’ve always maintained that these men have been making some of the best music in the Twin Cities for years — let’s hope that never ends. Jim Blaha will be celebrating the release of this record at the Kitty Cat Klub on March 1 with guest DJ sets from Tom Loftus, Pete Biasi of Signal To Trust, and Chris Besinger of STNNNG.

Sometimes you get a CD in a jewel case in the mail with no information attached except a band name and album title and sometimes these mysterious submissions are complete gems. This is the case with Vague-a-Bonde, also known as Nicole Brenny, a 23-year-old producer and songwriter who spent many months making this debut record in her apartment. Completed using several recording platforms, the melodies are sweeping and pretty flawless, envoking Canadian DIY artist Grimes. This is another bedroom artist, with the album having been produced in an apartment on a lake, a rented bedroom in South Minneapolis, a cabin, and during a three-month couch surfing experience. Involution/Evolution sees its digital release via iTunes and other digital audio stores on February 22.

Very Small Animal
The result of another Are You Local? entry in Vita.mn’s contest, Andrea took notice of this band and promptly let me know — it’s easy to hear what’s so enticing about the sound that Very Small Animal explores. It’s a darker type of folk with bouncing instrumentation reflective of musicians who are obviously comfortable playing with one another. It’s unabashed in every capacity; if a long note from frontman Patrick Noonan kicks out of tune, it seems right. Very Small Animal is also part of the Yes!Let’s Collective, a local group of musicians and artists that put on interactive, multimedia events. The list of additional members is impressive: the Dusty Porch Sisters, Brian Laidlaw, Oak Ribbons, and Bipolar Bear all count themselves in attendance. Very Small Animal will release their debut EP Starlings on March 10 at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall.

Skoal Kodiak

This one is for all you noise rock fans out there, the result of a new four-way split EP out on local label Learning Curve Records. The main goal is to showcase the best of this genre and the release does exactly that, a brilliant foray into the seedy underside of the Midwest with New York’s Power Take Off also in tow. The material is completely new and all is worthy of a spotlight, however my favorite came with Skoal Kodiak’s contribution, two tracks of screeching vocals, succinct rhythm, and some serious dance vibes in the same breath. “Ruined Rings” can be previewed below and is the instrumental half of the two tracks, but if you’re looking to hear the haunting screams of Marcus Lunkenheimer in full force, accompaning song “99999” is the one for you.

The NPC’s

Continuing this local inner-breeding that’s been going on, especially in the area of the Twin Cities that Red Pens, Total Babe, and Teenage Strangler occupy, members from each of those acts are back with a new collaboration called The NPC’s, basically a suzzier version of Red Pens with the volume somehow turned even louder. The effort features Howard Hamilton III, Clara Salyer, and Dylan Ritchie… sound familiar? Yes, they also make up the band Prissy Clerks which Local Current has been playing often (Prissy Clerks has an even longer family tree, so I’ll spare you). The NPC’s have songs which mostly all fall in the 2 minute or less range, and the fuzzed out melodies are immediately memorable. These musicians are talented — I’d be hard pressed to believe they won’t get exposure outside of Minnesota in the near future.