Local Current Blog

Local Radar: John Maus, Caetani and Is/Is

Credit: Photo courtesy of Upset The Rhythm

A weekly feature on the blog will be a highlight of 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 Maus
Those who know me know that I may be the biggest John Maus fanboy around town. He’s an elusive local figure and yet has managed to make consistent headlines in the national and international press. Maus’ Minnesota ties run deep, but unfortunately his stint studying and teaching abroad (which led him to work with Ariel Pink and Noah Lennox of Panda Bear and Animal Collective) made many forget he even existed. And to be fair, I don’t think John Maus necessarily cares if anyone knows he exists. He has currently secluded himself in a farmhouse in Austin since the release of critically acclaimed We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, his first record for a major indie label.

So it’s been a long time since Mr. Maus has given us any new material to slap on repeat for weeks on end. Thank goodness Ribbon Music and Domino Records fixed that problem with the announcement of their limited FlexiDisc release Smugglers Way on Record Store Day. Among the many treats that the package will offer, we’ve also received a remixed, remastered version of “(No Title) Molly” as a teaser, one of Maus’ demos which didn’t make the cut onto his latest album. It’s his most accessible song yet, steeped in ‘80s pop sensibilities while maintaining his trademark warped vocals. The original version of the song can be found here (and it’s just as good).

I have been backlogged on e-mail, and as we all know it can sometimes be a chore to revisit unanswered correspondence. Even worse is when you miss a message from a musician that brings on a great discovery. So is the case with Caetani (pronounced “kai-tawn-ee”). I can’t quite describe what Caetani reminds me of, but this lead single off the forthcoming The Black EP hinges on the power of frontwoman Brianna Kocka’s voice, one of the most distinctive and striking timbres I’ve heard in a long time. “A Shield, A Fire” is extremely adventurous, aided in part by the arrangements that Kocka’s bandmates help construct when she brings in the skeleton for a new song at rehearsal. The guys who accompany her, Levi Stugelmeyer, Steve Bosmans and Matt Uttech, deserve accolades for developing a framework which doesn’t wash out their lead but manages to create an identifiable melody which sticks with you long after the brief song has crashed to an end. They’ll be releasing their EP on April 20 at the Kitty Cat Klub with Fire In The Northern Firs and The Farewell Circuit in support.

Let’s take a quick moment to shine another Local Radar spotlight on three-piece, girl rock group Is/Is in advance of their Local Show session Sunday night. The debut record III came in the mail yesterday, and I obviously dug into it right away. If there was any reservation as to why this band is central to the Twin Cities grunge and psych rock scenes, all you need to do is listen to something like “Shadow” off the new album. It should become pretty clear that Is/Is could beat some buzzy Brooklyn act in a Battle of the Bands without a second glance. It’s about time that Is/Is gets the attention that they have waited three years for — let’s help make it happen for them. Their record release show is on Friday, April 13 at the Turf Club with Zoo Animal and Fire In The Northern Firs in support.