Local Current Blog

Picked to Click 2014: Allan Kingdom tops annual City Pages poll

Allan Kingdom at the Current studios. Photo by Leah Garaas/MPR.

This morning City Pages published the results of their annual Picked to Click poll, one of the most looked-to indicators of which up-and-coming local artists are making waves in the eyes of a panel of over 100 Minnesota music influentials. Music editor Reed Fischer stopped by our studios to reveal half of this year’s winners on the Morning Show—as he noted, last year’s winner Lizzo has done pretty well for herself in the intervening year.

This year, another rapper—the wunderkind Allan Kingdom—topped the poll. Here are the complete results, with links to our coverage of these artists who are, young and old, on the rise both locally and nationally. See the complete City Pages feature here.

1. Allan Kingdom

It’s already been a big year for breakout rapper Allan Kingdom, who has gained notoriety for his unique, percussive, and atonal rapping and his sweet and airy falsetto. The prolific young MC is currently on tour with his explorative hip-hop/R&B quartet thestand4rd (which also includes Picked to Click finalist Spooky Black), all the while stoking the flames underneath his own solo work with a quick succession of free EPs and albums that he’s released for free online. Hear his session in the Current studios.

2. Hippo Campus

Few young rock bands manage to emerge so fully-formed. Hippo Campus have only been together for a year, and already the recent high school grads have released an impressive single (the catchy Tropicalia-leaning “Little Grace,” which you’ve likely heard on the Current) and earned a reputation for putting on high-energy, polished live shows. Their debut EP is due out next Tuesday. Read Andrea Swensson’s feature on Hippo Campus, and hear them perform a set live in the Current studios.

3. Tickle Torture

One of the most refreshingly subversive artists to hit the Twin Cities in recent years is the sexed-up one-man-band Tickle Torture. The man behind the project, Elliott Kozel, was previously known for his work in the jangle garage rock band Sleeping in the Aviary, and he did a complete 180 when he dreamed up this slinky, funky R&B-influenced electro pop sound. Read Andrea Swensson’s profile of Tickle Torture.

4. Spooky Black

Up until this month it was only possible to describe Spooky Black as an internet sensation—that 16-year-old kid in the durag who tore up YouTube with his ominous, slow-crawling beats and big booming voice. Now that Spooky’s band thestand4rd has started touring, it’s been confirmed that the kid can, in fact, sing, and his self-conscious stage presence and unnerving voice have already been written up in the New York Times. It’s safe to say this one is already “clicking.”

5. Stereo Confession

Is this the youngest Picked to Click top five ever? So far only one of the finalists we’ve mentioned so far is of legal drinking age, and Spooky Black and most of the members of Stereo Confession are still in high school. Led by Max Timander, Stereo Confession are the latest in a long line of Twin Cities rock ‘n’ rollers that channel the surf influences of the West Coast into catchy, feedback-heavy garage rock tunes. Hear Stereo Confession perform a set in the Current studios.

6. Frankie Teardrop

This absurdist garage rocker tore up local stages with his gleefully dirty rave-ups. When he visited our studios to record a session this spring, he told David Campbell, “I’m just kind of a dummy that got lucky and then got unlucky again and then bought a guitar. Well, actually, I’m going to retract the lucky.” Maybe it’s time to un-retract it.

7. Suzie

Suzie is the dream-pop alter ego of Mark Ritsema (Night Moves, Mouthful of Bees). We’ve been playing Suzie’s song “Coffin in Houston,” and have watched with interest as Ritsema’s built a band and a following for what started as a side project and is now becoming something much more.

8. Sonny Knight & the Lakers

Everyone loves a comeback story, and it’s hard to resist the story of Sonny Knight, a local soul survivor whose new record on Secret Stash turned him into one of the summer’s most popular live performers—both at Twin Cities block parties and on stages at SXSW and across Europe. Knight and his crack band brought their boundless energy to our studios for a session this spring.

9. Tiny Deaths

Claire de Lune was on the cover of City Pages a couple of years ago, when the Chalice—her trio with Lizzo and Sophia Eris—won the 2012 Picked to Click poll. Though that group is on indefinite hiatus, the group’s name came up again this year when all three members appeared on a new Prince track—and Claire de Lune is back in the Picked to Click results with Tiny Deaths, her project with Minnesota expat Grant Cutler. Tiny Deaths have been performing both in New York (with Cutler) and in Minnesota (with Claire and a live band), and won acclaim for their atmospheric self-titled EP.

10 (tie). Breakaway

Perhaps the least familiar name in this year’s top ten, Breakaway is an experimental electronic (or “freak folk,” or “darkwave,” or “witch house”) project by Minneapolis-via-Winona musician Joe Kujawa. Both of Breakaway’s albums are available on SoundCloud, so you can experience Kujawa’s magic for yourself—and watch for upcoming local shows.

10 (tie). Toki Wright & Big Cats

Neither esteemed MC Toki Wright or producer Big Cats are foreign to local stages, but they made a splash anew this year with their collaborative album Pangaea, immediately hailed by critics and fans as one of the year’s best. Wright continues to use his prominent position in the local music scene to advocate for new voices and new music, particularly from the hip-hop community. “The music scene in the Twin Cities has gotten so much better in the last 10 years because of access and because these new voices are allowed the platform to speak,” he told David Campbell when he and Big Cats came in to perform their new material this fall. “It shakes things up.”

Written by Andrea Swensson and Jay Gabler