Like little spring chicks set to hatch, the Twin Cities music scene tends to burst forth with dozens upon dozens of new bands around this time of year. And one of the easiest ways to sort through all of these new hatchlings is the annual Are You Local? best-new-band contest hosted by Vita.mn, which asks bands to submit samples of their work and then conveniently shares all of the results on their site.
Vita.mn has already named its four finalists in this year’s competition: Molly Dean and Graham O’Brien’s expansive electro-pop project Moon and Pollution, who I recently profiled here; Red Lake rapper Baby Shel; alt-country crooner Sam Cassidy; and Ciaran and Crioster Daly of Idle Hands’ new band the Stress of Her Regard will face off in the 7th St. Entry on Friday, March 6. The winner will be sent to SXSW to play a showcase that Vita.mn is hosting with First Avenue, and will also get a chance to play the Mainroom on Friday night alongside acts Brother Ali, the Blind Shake, and tiny deaths.
In what has now become an annual tradition, I spent some time diving into all 126 submissions from this year’s contest and turning up my own collection of favorites. Some of the bands listed below have already received a few spins on the Local Show or a mention here or there on the blog, while some of them were brand new discoveries.
See and stream all the submissions for this year’s Are You Local? contest here, and read on for 10 bands I’ll be keeping an eye on in 2015.
This charming husband and wife team of Julie and Andrew Thoreen kick up quite a maelstrom of sounds, accentuating their synth-and-drum pop with looped vocals running in counterpoint and a snare and bass drum rhythm they refer to as “co-dependent drumming.” They call their music freak-pop. I simply call it delightful.
“We Scare Each Other” is the first single off their forthcoming EP, which will be released March 21 with a show at Bedlam Lowertown.
The Twin Cities has about as much need for another dream-pop band as Uptown does for yet another e-cig shop, but this voice! This is a voice that needs to be heard.
The vocalist for Perfume Monster goes by Hazen, and he’s backed here by two members of Hunting Club, Justin and Kyle Steen, who add spacey atmospherics and searing guitar riffs. Start with their submission to the Vita.mn contest, “RainFlakes,” which is only available online here. Then check out the teaser for the song below, “Slowing Down.”
Danami and the Blue
Detroit transplant Danami has been on the scene for a few years now, as both a student of McNally Smith College of Music and an omnipresent audience member and performer in the local hip-hop scene, but he’s just getting ready to step into the spotlight in a big way. The soulful rapper will release his EP, Before the Wait, with a theatrical concert at Intermedia Arts on March 22.
If you loved that Prince and the Time-channeling Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk” with Mark Ronson then you’ll love this burgeoning group. I’ve been straight-up obsessed with this song “Make You Mine” ever since hearing it a few months back, and am happy to report that the band brings just as much energy to their show live. This is irresistible, bouncy, uplifting stuff. Stay tuned for a full-length due out this spring.
Rock ‘n’ roll! There were a lot of bands professing “a return to rock” with their Are You Local? submissions, but Some Pulp were the band that brought not just the wall of noise and guitar-smashing video antics but also showed that they can write one hell of a riff. More, more, more!
Fans of early Headshots-era Atmosphere might dig this lo-fi, wry hip-hop duo, which features the dueling verses of MCs Ghostmeat and Bev over skittering jazz and soul-sampling beats by Es El.
The Dirty Banks
This song is pure ’90s alt bliss, with vocalist Danaca Booth channeling Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon with her too-cool vocal delivery and buoyant synthesized flute parts adding a hint of psychedelia. Their entire four-song EP is worth a listen.
Formerly known as White Boyfriend (read the reasoning behind their name change here), B.O.Y.F. have already become somewhat of a critics’ darling around town, and have earned a reputation for delivering beguiling live shows. Their minimalist, glammy synth-rock subverts gender norms in three-part harmony. What’s not to love?
The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League
One of the most prominent instruments in this year’s Are You Local? submissions was by far the banjo—and for my money, if you’re going to go banjo, you may as well go all the way. The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League take things all the way back to the 1930s with their Django Reinhardt-influenced gypsy jazz, and they do it damn well.
I have mad respect for women producers (one of the most male-dominated spheres of the still mostly male-dominated music industry), and Bae Tigre’s proficiency for beatmaking deserves just as much attention as her mournful, sighing voice. This is enchanting, soul-searching electro-pop.