Today, Greater MSP—a regional economic development partnership for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area—is launching a new site for its initiative Make It. MSP. The site serves as a welcome mat for everyone in the MSP area, especially newcomers and those who are considering moving to the area.
I’ve had the privilege of working with this project, on a volunteer basis, for over a year now. When staff at Greater MSP asked if The Current and I could help curate a playlist of local music to showcase the wide range of sweet sounds coming from our scene, I enthusiastically agreed.
Though this quick sampler only scratches the surface of our scene—for more, tune in to our 24/7 Minnesota music stream—here are 16 videos recorded in our studios or in concert. These videos are also available as a playlist on YouTube.
Atmosphere, “Say Shh”
What better song to open a Welcome to MSP playlist than Atmosphere’s ode to local living? This song, by the Rhymesayers duo who’ve helped to put our independent hip-hop scene on the map worldwide, was the first song ever played on The Current. This version was recorded at The Current’s tenth birthday party, this past January at First Avenue.
Jeremy Messersmith, “Tourniquet”
Singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith, a longtime standby of our local music scene, had a breakout national success with last year’s Heart Murmurs. The album’s soaring lead single “Tourniquet” became an indie hit, and a particular favorite on our airwaves. This version was recorded in Minnesota Public Radio’s Forum; click here to hear the entire session.
There’s no one word that can describe Lizzo, but if you had to pick one, it might be “dynamo.” She’s a barn-burning rapper who’s not afraid to push boundaries in her subject matter and her sound, and in addition to her exploding solo career, she’s well-known locally for her participation in the groups GRRRL PRTY and the Chalice. “Paris” was featured in an episode of HBO’s Girls, and during a visit to our studios, Lizzo treated us to the song’s first-ever live performance.
Bruise Violet, “Wasted”
MSP is home to a lot of young talent, and groups like Bruise Violet aren’t even waiting until they graduate from high school to begin their music careers. This trio, who take their name from a song by the legendary MSP punk pioneers Babes in Toyland, were featured on this year’s back-to-school episode of the Current’s Local Show.
Low, “No Comprende”
Full disclosure: Low aren’t actually from MSP. They proudly represent for Duluth, the beautiful Lake Superior port city that lies 150 miles to the north. Still, the acclaimed minimalist rock trio are no strangers to Minneapolis and St. Paul. “No Comprende” is a song from their new album Ones and Sixes, which The Current’s Andrea Swensson calls “one of the finest of the band’s 22-year career.” Click here to listen to their entire recent session in our studios.
Bad Bad Hats, “Midway”
It’s almost time to start compiling best-of lists for 2015, and Bad Bad Hats’ debut album Psychic Reader is one of the shoo-ins for many local critics’ lists. The Minneapolis-based band—who met as students at St. Paul’s Macalester College—are one of MSP’s latest breakout successes. Hear more of their music here.
Dan Wilson, “Disappearing”
Singer-songwriter Dan Wilson came to fame with the cult-favorite indie band Trip Shakespeare; and then as the leader of Semisonic, who had a national Top 40 hit with 1998’s “Closing Time,” a song inspired by a bar in Minneapolis’s West Bank neighborhood. Now, Wilson has a flourishing solo career, and he’s sought after for songwriting collaborations by megastars like Adele (“Someone Like You”), Taylor Swift (“Treacherous”), and the Dixie Chicks (“Not Ready to Make Nice”). “Disappearing,” which Wilson performed in our studio last year, appears on his most recent solo album Love Without Fear.
Sonny Knight and the Lakers, “It Had to Change”
The story of Sonny Knight is truly inspirational. He cut his first single in 1965, when he was just a teenager, then had a brief taste of Top 40 success in the 1970s before his music career went on a long hiatus. Rediscovered when a pair of compilations shed new light on MSP’s hot 1970s R&B scene, Knight was urged to return to the stage and came roaring back with last year’s aptly-titled I’m Still Here. Knight and his band the Lakers have just released a live album recorded at Minneapolis’s Dakota Jazz Club, and this summer they performed new songs including “It Had to Change” for an appreciative live audience at the Minnesota State Fair.
Motion City Soundtrack, “TKO”
Pop punk never died, and local band Motion City Soundtrack—one of the biggest acts to come out of that turn-of-the-21st-century music movement—are still going strong. Recently, they stopped by our studios to play their new song “TKO” as well as songs from Commit This to Memory, in celebration of that album’s tenth anniversary.
Thestand4rd are emblematic of how MSP is staying on the cutting edge of new music. The group includes Allan Kingdom, an up-and-coming MC who none other than Kanye West recently tapped to collaborate on his song “All Day”; Corbin, whose atmospheric song “Without You” went viral on hip-hop blogs around the world; MC Bobby Raps; and producer Psymun. They had already won acclaim from the likes of the New York Times on a national tour that they wrapped up in time to perform this past summer at Rock the Garden—an annual outdoor music festival that The Current co-presents with the Walker Art Center.
Tickle Torture, “Would I Love You”
The flamboyant Tickle Torture, an incendiary pop performer who proudly cites Prince as a paramount inspiration, brought something special to his March performance in our studio, turning the facility—originally built to record classical music performances—into a smoky, sexy private club.
Black Diet, “Fever”
MSP is the land of 10,000 block parties, and when summertime comes, locals rush to pop-up stages to catch fun-loving performances by bands like soul sensations Black Diet. This July, the group took some time out of their busy schedule to visit our studios and play songs from their new album The Good One.
Hippo Campus, “Little Grace”
The success of Hippo Campus is prime evidence of the power of MSP’s live music scene. Though they’ve only released two EPs, this young quartet have built a massive fan base with news of their infallibly fun live shows spreading through social media like wildfire. When they paid their first visit to our studios, last summer, they played songs including their breakout single “Little Grace.”
Caroline Smith, “Child of Moving On”
Caroline Smith has been a fixture of the MSP music scene for several years, but she entered a new orbit in 2013 when she traded her pop-folk sound for a sultry R&B groove. This version of “Child of Moving On” was recorded during an intimate roundtable performance The Current convened at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Uptown Minneapolis.
Har Mar Superstar, “Lady You Shot Me”
Named after a local mall, Har Mar Superstar is one of the biggest personalities ever to come out of MSP—and that’s saying a lot. At First Avenue for The Current’s ninth birthday party, Har Mar treated us to a passionate performance of his hot single “Lady You Shot Me.”
The hip-hop collective Doomtree epitomize the spirit of MSP: fun, creative, collaborative, and passionate. Here, they perform their fiery “Bangarang” in MPR’s Forum.