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The Black Dog inspires creativity -- its high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious tables encourage daydreaming, journaling, doodling and other precursors to art making.


Twin Town High (vol. 8)

Your Locally Grown Alternative Newspaper

Topics > Music > Cover - Music
It's our cover stories that are about what we've all come to know and love, music.Music

Local Hip-Hop heroes--
Wednesday 27 June @ 15:03:27 (Read: 17830)
Cover - Music
new discs by Toki Wright and Desdamona


If Hip-Hip hero Toki Wright don’t know nothin’ else, he certainly knows how to whet his audience’s appetite. He dropped the word a year or so ago that on its way was A Different Mirror, and, in the meantime, he released the seven-song EP, Low Budget High Quality 2.0, to tide fans over—which, on the strength of some very strong cuts, did quite nicely. Now, here it is a while later. Wright is still threatening to throw down with A Different Mirror. And still setting the stage.

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Pamela McNeill
Thursday 21 June @ 15:41:44 (Read: 3033)
Cover - Music
Interview with powerhouse singer-songwriter Pamela McNeill

June 30 at Bogart's Place | 9 p.m |

The Pamela McNeill collection-2 Sides To Every Sky, American Breakup and Nightingale-shows this singer-songwriter can belt with the best of them. But you have to catch her in the flesh to appreciate how strong a performer she is—and, fact is, McNeill packs one helluva punch. The style is originally home-cooked, countrified rock done to a smoldering turn. The execution is emotive, articulate, full-throated vocals. And a world of stage presence. Until you get the chance to see her perform, settle for getting your hands on her albums. You’ll thank yourself. On the heels of recently blowing away a crowd at Bunker’s and doing back-to-back sold-out shows at Pioneer Place On 5th Theater (St. Cloud), Pamela McNeill spoke with www.pulsetc.com.

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New Moon Rising: The Return of Eclipse Records
Thursday 22 March @ 12:19:16 (Read: 3834)
Cover - Musicby STEVE McPHERSON

A week in Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest Music Conference has driven home to me, once again, the importance of physical space when it comes to music. Hundreds of bands played over the course of four days, and thousands of fans and industry types milled around Sixth Street, finding new bands by happenstance and chance. We might trade mp3s over the internet, we might network with venues, bands and record labels through MySpace, but when it comes to the thrill of discovery, there needs to be a real world location that can allow for accidents. A place where people meet-- a place where disparate elements come into contact with each other over and over again-- is a space that's beautiful. There's a reason why gorgeously rendered computer graphics can't have the warmth and vitality of an honest-to-god place. A computer model has to be programmed by someone; it's filled with intentionality, when often our most powerful experiences are the result of accident. When it comes to music, a good venue--or a good record store--bears the marks of the thousands who've come through its doors. They're aggregates of all that influence, and while Joe Furth brings the spirit of the former Eclipse Records on Grand Avenue to its new location on University and Prior Avenues, in most ways it's a tabula rasa. What history will it accrue? What will you take away from it, and what will you leave behind?

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Give the Drummer Some ... And the Bass Player
Wednesday 03 January @ 17:30:55 (Read: 3356)
Cover - Musicby ANDREA MYERS

Did you hear about the time the bass player locked his keys in the car? It took two hours to get the drummer out.

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Jazz Christmas
Wednesday 20 December @ 21:09:11 (Read: 2155)
Cover - Musicby STEVE McPHERSON

Kenny Burrell
Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas
Cadet Records

“Merry” is such a played out adjective, don’t you think? Barbara J. Gardner, who provides the liner notes for this 1966 album certainly does. “The balance of us who comprise the lunatic fringe of ‘free spirits,’” she writes, “hang a bit more loose and resort to terms like ‘groovey,’ ‘swinging’ or ‘down.’” Ah, the ’60s. Most jazz guitar—and certainly just about any jazz guitar take on holiday standards—makes me want to lose my lunch, and I’m speaking here as someone who studied jazz guitar in college. But Burrell does the instrument proud here. There’s the usual grab bag of well-worn Christmas tunes (“The Little Drummer Boy,” “White Christmas,” “Silent Night”), which get a fresh treatment thanks to concise and swinging horn and string accompaniment, but there’s also a great version of “My Favorite Things” that Burrell imbues with his usual confident and bluesy swagger. Most of the tracks feature Burrell on electric guitar—his natural habitat—but a few (including the Latin-flecked “Mary’s Little Boy Chile”) afford us a rare chance to hear him on acoustic guitar and, much like organist Jimmy Smith (see below), he manages to put his personal stamp on some tired material. Sure, the decision to do “The 12 Days of Christmas” is completely inexplicable, but I’ll give him a mulligan on that one.

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A Surprising Christmas Music Mix
Wednesday 20 December @ 21:09:38 (Read: 2699)
Cover - MusicChristmas mix from PulseSIDE A (Steve McPherson)

“Fuselage (It’s Starting to Look Like Christmas Once Again)” by Centro-matic
You wouldn’t think Will Johnson’s Denton, Tex., band Centro-matic would be capable of cranking out a great Christmas song, based strictly on locale, but then again, you probably wouldn’t guess that the gray, autumnal movie “Rushmore” was filmed outside of Dallas, either. “Fuselage,” which originally appeared on the Idol Records compilation, Electric Ornaments, bears all of Centro-matic’s trademarks— propulsive drumming, racuously fuzzed-out start-stop guitars and gently rolling harmonies— but with a tongue-in-cheek holiday twist. “It’s starting to look like Christmas once again,” sings Johnson in the chorus, “it’s been some 20 years since the tree fire in the den.”

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Roma di Luna CD Review
Wednesday 08 November @ 16:03:18 (Read: 2683)
Cover - MusicRoma di Luna
Face of My Friends


Once you’ve become familiar with both groups, it’s hard not to hear Roma di Luna’s Face of My Friends as being strongly related to Kill the Vultures’ The Careless Flame. Taken together, the albums only amount to an hour of music and 16 tracks between them—for a unique listening experience, I’d recommend putting them in one playlist in iTunes and shuffling ‘em together.

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Kill the Vultures: Meet the Pleasure Seekers
Wednesday 08 November @ 16:03:31 (Read: 3081)
Cover - Musicby STEVE McPHERSON

“Snakeskin kiss, slithering hiss
Twist of the hips, smeared cherry-red lips.
Jeans ‘round her ankles, ceiling fan spins
Mascara rivers dripping off of her chin.
Adrenaline, hormones; alcohol, torn clothes.
Tell me who’s upstairs and why is the door closed?
Handfuls of meek blood rise and settle
Tell me how she looked in the eyes of the devil.”

There are few things I dislike more than lyrics quoted out of context in music articles, but I’m prepared to make exceptions, especially when the words are so richly evocative of a moment that they deserve to be stripped from their uneasy musical backdrop of spindly gypsy guitar and placed naked on a page. The above lines come from “Days Slip Into Nights” from Kill the Vultures’ latest disc, The Careless Flame, which drops next week. But don’t expect it to sink—it’s got far too much fight for that.

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What we talk about when we talk about music
Thursday 12 October @ 12:28:04 (Read: 5197)
Cover - MusicBehind the Making Music Series


Walk with me here. It’s about this time of year in 1998, and I’m sitting at a table in Little Tijuana at two in the morning. To my left is James Everest, then of the Sensational Joint Chiefs. Across from him is Eric Fratzke and to his left is David King, and they’ve just finished playing a Happy Apple gig. There might be nachos in front of me, or maybe a Whittier burger, but what’s consuming all my attention is the heated debate going on between Fratzke and Everest. Fratzke has a rather dim view of hip-hop, especially its appropriation by suburban white kids (this may no longer be his opinion—I haven’t asked him recently), and Everest is trying to disabuse him of this notion, explaining how hip-hop is entering a new phase, where the kids who are doing it now have never known a world without it, how it’s no longer the musical tourism/opportunism of Vanilla Ice. The kids who are making it today have it in their blood, he insists; they grew up in it the same way that we grew up in rock and roll. Look at this guy’s brother, he says—indicating me—and Heiruspecs, who were at the time just a bunch of highschoolers. Mostly I just sat there, soaking it all in, savoring being in the middle of a real discussion about music with serious musicians, thinking that this guy James knows what’s up here.

Fast forward eight years. Everest’s latest project, the Making Music Series, is getting set to welcome two of its most high profile guests so far, the stunningly talented violinist/singer/whistler Andrew Bird on Thursday, Oct. 19 and beatmaker extraordinaire Anthony Davis aka ANT of Atmosphere, on Thursday, Nov. 30. Of course, the arm’s-length list of guests that have already graced the Whole Music Club’s stage is already impressive: David King, Wendy Lewis, Martin Dosh, Haley Bonar, James Diers, Andrew Broder, British electronic musician Scanner, Robert Skoro, P.O.S. and many more, including most recently Lori Barbero. They’ve all been subjected to questions about their childhood, some adorable baby pictures, embarassingly bad early recordings and, in the process, given the audience a little better insight into their craft.

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Jorma Kaukonen: Living legend
Friday 15 September @ 03:16:43 (Read: 2533)
Cover - MusicJorma Kaukonen. For fans of classic rock and roots music, the name says it all. A singular, historic presence in American rock, Kaukonen posseses one of the most distinct instrumental signatures in the music business. Whether it’s a Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna or solo recording, as soon as the song starts, you know that’s his blues-honed guitar, somewhat drawling voice and, on his originals, his very interesting, existential lyrics. As most of his contemporaries passed into nostalgia, Kaukonen just kept on keepin’ on. These days, he’s quite arguably the brightest feather in Red House Records’ cap, having just signed with the label. He spoke with Pulse of the Twin Cities about his craft and his career.

Pulse of the Twin Cities: How’d you come to sign with Red House?

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Show your roots: The Red House story
Friday 15 September @ 03:17:08 (Read: 4551)
Cover - MusicAs best as founder Greg Brown can recollect, Red House Records began around 1980, a funky little enterprise it’d be generous to call shoestring. “It was some boxes with two of my records in ’em and a notebook,” is how he puts it. The now living legend of folk-blues couldn’t convince labels of the day to take an interest and decided to hell with it—he’d record and market his music himself.


“I sent my tape around,” he recalls. “Nobody wanted to make a record. So, I set up my own deal.” This while he gigged out of and lived in a small, red house in the country, outside Iowa City, Iowa (so much for the folksy notion that the label was named to honor the houses of the world’s oldest profession). Brown then got himself to St. Paul in 1983, signing on to perform on radio with Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion”—for considerably less money than he’d been told he’d be making. “I had a family. So, I had to scramble and get a bunch of gigs.” Busy putting food on the table and a roof overhead, he turned to a fella he’d met just previously, a guy who’d “organized a benefit for an umbrella organization that dispersed money to different ecological and social service types of organizations. Me and Claudia Schmidt had played at one of ‘em.” This was Bob Feldman, a fan of Greg Brown’s and someone with the time to take things over while Brown went about making a living. “Bob and I got to talkin’ and Bob said, ‘Why don’t you let me run it?’ There wasn’t much to run. All we really did was move the boxes and the notebook over to Bob’s apartment. From there, Bob turned it into a bona fide label.”

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Wave of the future
Wednesday 16 August @ 15:25:15 (Read: 5804)
Cover - MusicThe dollars and sense of digital music


On April 2, 2006, pop duo Gnarls Barkley made history. The first single from their St. Elsewhere album, “Crazy,” debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles chart without a copy of the song ever being pressed. Following rule changes in the stringent British charts, “Crazy” became the first single to hit No. 1 based on downloads alone. Five years ago, this would have been unthinkable; the iPod’s unveiling was still two months distant, and the iTunes Music Store was just a glimmer in Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ eye.

In November of 2004, Billboard Magazine—compiler of every chart that counts in the U.S. not compiled by CMJ (College Music Journal)—began listing the country’s top-selling polyphonic ringtones and so far this year, Americans have bought more than 150 million of them. Five years before that, cellphones were just beginning their stranglehold on America and no one had ever heard of a polyphonic ringtone.

It’s not an entirely brave new world yet. You can’t make an in-store appearance at the iTunes music store the way Bonnie “Prince” Billy did at Roadrunner Records last week and, for the truly record-hungry, looking at a list of 150 downloaded songs can’t quite match the visceral appeal of a 15-deep stack of vinyl. Culturally, it’s a change that’s been coming on for a while now, but economically, it’s a crisis. According to Nielsen Soundscan, overall CD sales fell 4 percent in the first half of 2006, while the sale of digital singles rose 77 percent. For the major labels (of which there are now only four—Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group), it could be a musical eschaton—the end of days.

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Mason Jennings: Moving forward under Boneclouds
Thursday 11 May @ 14:52:12 (Read: 9730)
Cover - Musicby Andrea Myers

Mason Jennings, Minnesota’s folk-rock singer-songwriter darling, has recorded an album on a major label. For a generation of twenty and thirty-something Mason fans schooled on Nirvana rebellion and the evils of The Man, we have come to respond quickly to the term “major label”
with an equally powerful word: “sellout.” So ever since last fall, when the fiercely independent songwriter and recording artist made the decision to sign with Isaac Brock’s brand new label Glacial Pace (an offshoot of mammoth-sized Epic Records), fans and critics have been waiting with bated breath to hear the tracks off of Jennings’ major label debut.

Chin up, my grunge youth comrades, that day has come. The new album, Boneclouds, will be in stores May 16, and—though there are some drastically different, experimental elements on the album—fans can rest assured that this record is 100 percent Mason.

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Bringing Young Bob back home: The photography of John Cohen
Thursday 11 May @ 14:52:07 (Read: 7057)
Cover - MusicWe’ve recently enjoyed a nostalgic resurgence of Bob Dylan—what with the release of his well-received autobiography “Chronicles Volume One,” and the Scorsese macro-music-doc “No Direction Home.” But what we haven’t yet seen is an exclusive photography retrospective like the one that’s about to land at Icebox Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis.

by Nancy Sartor

Young Bob is a unique exhibition of rare and unpublished photographs, along with images from the book of the same name by John Cohen. Cohen shot these pictures in the early 1960s, after a then-20-year-old Dylan left the confines of a stifled Minnesota upbringing for the promise of New York City. At the time, Greenwich Village was a convergence of young and enlightened artists.

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BURN THIS COMP (or create your own...)
Monday 27 March @ 12:45:32 (Read: 3197)
Cover - Music“Music to Garden By”

by Lynn Zecca

When the Roses Bloom AgainBilly Bragg & Wilco • Chelsea Walls ST

Mr. RabbitPaul Westerberg • Stereo

Waiting For The SunThe Jayhawks • Hollywood Town Hall

I Am A TreeGuided By Voices • Mag Earwig!

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Inside Rhymesayers
Sunday 05 March @ 17:07:46 (Read: 11730)
Cover - Musicby Steve McPherson

Oklahoma hip-hop. Boise hip-hop. No offense to the possibly burgeoning hip-hop scenes in these areas, but there’s a reason that when you say Minnesota hip-hop and Twin Cities hip-hop it sounds legitimate—and not just here, but in New York, Los Angeles and in the music scene in general. There’s a thriving and vibrant hip-hop community here, and as much as you can attribute it to one thing, that thing would be Rhymesayers Entertainment (RSE).

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Joe Mabbott's Big Move
Sunday 05 March @ 15:58:47 (Read: 3669)
Cover - Musicby Steve McPherson

Certain engineers and/or studios have become inexorably linked with certain record labels: Tom Dowd and Atlantic Records, Muscle Shoals and Stax Records, Rudy Van Gelder and Blue Note Records. Joe Mabbott has been twisting the knobs for Atmosphere since Godlovesugly and has worked on the debuts from Brother Ali and P.O.S. as well. And now he’s moving his studio, which will still go by the name the Hideaway (‘We Mess with Your Shit While You’re Gone’ is the slogan), into the Rhymesayers offices this spring. Could this be a move we’ll be looking at as momentous in the history of hip-hop? It’s not that far-fetched.

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Hearts of champions: The Plastic Constellations + P.O.S.
Thursday 26 January @ 13:18:09 (Read: 6951)
Cover - Musicstory and photos by Steve McPherson

People get into music for all kinds of reasons: the girls (or boys), the money, the fame or for any number of dreams. But I’m willing to bet that most musicians quickly realize there’s something more intangible and difficult to pin down that makes music worth their time. It’s tough to frame correctly, but music—truly exciting amazing awe-inspiring music—makes you feel more alive. Call me sentimental, but there are certain elements in the things people make—the bowl of a well-designed lowercase “a” in a typeface, the dovetail joint of a piece of woodwork, the perfect grid of Manhattan streets—that nearly unhinge me in my admiration for human endeavor. And when music serves as your religion in as much as it makes you believe humankind is capable of true grace and beauty, what you hunger for are albums, songs, hooks, moments—whatever—that transport you. There’s no formula or exact science for this kind of alchemy, but you know it when you see it, so with that in mind, if you haven’t already met: Everybody, these are The Plastic Constellations and P.O.S. TPC and P.O.S., everybody.

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Go West!
Wednesday 14 December @ 19:35:34 (Read: 7088)
Cover - MusicAn interview with Peter Jesperson

by Tom Hallett

There are some mighty important names on the local music scene you’ll hear mentioned any time questions about its early days arise—First Avenue head honcho Steve McLellan, Suicide Commando Chris Osgood and record shop/label owner Terry Katzman are just a few of them. But many of those old tales—and the scene-nurturing fallout that resulted—lead back to Peter Jesperson, a guy whose burning passion for music has seen him delivering Brit music mag New Musical Express door-to-door as a kid, helping launch interest in the burgeoning punk movement during his tenure as DJ/manager at legendary indie record store Oar Folk, discovering and signing groundbreaking acts like The Replacements, co-founding world-famous label Twin/Tone Records, and hosting a highly popular rock ’n’ roll variety show—“Shakin’ Street”—on now defunct alternative FM radio station REV 105. And those are merely the first few installments in an ongoing rock and roll saga that’s traveled from the cold, hard sidewalks of Minneapolis to the balmy, sun-kissed streets of Southern California.

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The Hold Steady
Thursday 27 October @ 21:18:51 (Read: 6345)
Cover - MusicLast Night a Bar Band Saved My Life


Simulacra are idealized representations of things that never really existed in the first place. A good example is the quaint notion of the ‘50s in this country as a time of innocence where all was right and moral with the world. To an extent, they’re what any writer of fiction (and by extension, songwriter) is dealing in, pulling together characters and situations that ring true without necessarily being true to life. What shows vision and determination is when an entire band can give itself over to the cause, creating, say, the band you always wished was holding down the corner of your favorite wood-paneled dive bar.

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Death and Taxis
Thursday 06 October @ 05:14:53 (Read: 5484)
Cover - MusicDeath Cab for Cutie plan for the inevitable

by Steve McPherson

“You know, the band does really well,” says singer Ben Gibbard by phone from New York City, where Death Cab for Cutie are killing time before taping their first appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “but there are always going to be those people who are anti-sentimental that just can’t stand what we do or they don’t get it.
And it’s weird because every once in a while, I’ll run into somebody who has been through a situtation like that [a bad breakup] and found the records and says, ‘I never liked your band, but I got it.’ And I’m sorry that they had to get it that way.”

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Devil's Night:
Friday 16 September @ 00:37:46 (Read: 3692)
Cover - MusicGet ready for Halloween Alaska

by Steve McPherson

Unleashing the lead track, “A New Stain,” off of Halloween, Alaska’s second album on anyone familiar with the band will probably evince a similar reaction: “This is Hallloween, Alaska?” And it’s not the kind of bewilderment that comes from a band going completely experimental, but rather from a band growing into its sound, finding the nooks and crannies only hinted at by earlier work.

Download an mp3 of Halloween, Alaska's song "Drowned."

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Building Community:
Thursday 18 August @ 13:25:17 (Read: 3895)
Cover - MusicSpitting, spinning, breaking and tagging for a better tomorrow

See also: YO! Exclusive Interview with T3 of Slum Village; Secret Voices in Hip-Hop; “How Do I Be Ghetto?”; Bridging the Gap (I Self Devine).

Hip-Hop: The New Face of Youth Development

by Toki Wright

Street promotion. Mixtapes. Block and rent parties. Talent shows. The entrepreneurial spirit has existed since hip-hop’s inception. That same attitude is alive and well today. Take Houston, Texas’ support of artists like Ghetto Boys and UGK or new-schoolers Mike Jones and Slim Thug. Locally you can look at the support of artists like Atmosphere and Brother Ali. Each example proving that with years of blood and sweat you can see the positive product of your hard work.

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YO! Exclusive Interview with T3 of Slum Village
Thursday 18 August @ 13:22:20 (Read: 3951)
Cover - Musicby Claire Redmond

Claire: Who are the members of Slum Village?

T3: Myself and Elzhi.

Claire: In the whole spectrum of hip-hop music where does Slum Village’s style fit in?

T3: Somewhere in the middle. We really like to do our own thing withoutrying to be like something else.

Claire: Why do you think that the Midwest gets so little recognition in hip-hop?

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Secret Voices in Hip-Hop
Thursday 18 August @ 13:20:19 (Read: 6827)
Cover - MusicHmong Emcees rise and stay true to roots.

by Bang TziaNeng Lis

As refugees trying to find their way in a new land living in a society and culture extremely different from their own, many of the first groups of Hmong rappers were rap music clichés and replicas of what was seen in mainstream rap music. Dysfunktional Family represent a few of many fresh Hmong emcees that understand hip-hop as a culture and art.

Rodger Kue (AKA Mr. Rodgers from the hip-hop group Dysfunktional Family from Providence, Rhode Island) explains, “Many Hmong rappers were just copying what they saw on TV and following whatever the trend was. There was no love, no passion; they just wanted to play a role.”

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“How Do I Be Ghetto?”
Thursday 18 August @ 13:18:29 (Read: 3811)
Cover - Musicby Anu Cherucheril

While watching a Destiny’s Child video, my 9-year-old cousin put his hands on my knees, searched my eyes and asked, “Anuchachy, how do I be ghetto?” I found the question alarming, to say the least. In the last six months, Mathew has visited Oklahoma, Chicago and India. He lives in a beautiful three-story home where his family is living the American Dream. When Mathew told me his favorite group was G-Unit, I rolled my eyes. “You know 50 was shot like nine times right? And he’s not even dead,” he said, nodding to reinforce his statement. Mathew lives in Prior Lake, and I’m sure he has no idea what a ghetto really is. Because of pop culture, the noun has become an adjective. Ghetto is normally deemed as negative, but in this case, it was something for Mathew to aspire to.

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Bridging the Gap
Thursday 18 August @ 13:16:06 (Read: 3721)
Cover - Musicby Young E

Recently new artist Young E of OAC (On and Cracking) Entertainment sat down with veteran emcee I Self Devine to speak about the Generation Gap. Young E is a team member at YO! The Movement.

Young E: How do you feel hip-hop influences people of my generation versus people of the Civil Rights Generation?

I Self Devine: The Hip-Hop Generation has people selling hip-hop back to them, but hip-hop wasn’t around during the Civil Rights Generation; they were more involved in the struggle and protest.

Young E: What can the Hip-Hop Generation do to avoid and learn from the mistakes of the Civil Rights Generation?

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Schedule of Events
Thursday 18 August @ 13:14:03 (Read: 3070)
Cover - MusicThe 4th Annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop: BE HEALTHY

Building Community: Spitting, spinning, breaking and tagging for a better tomorrow

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Hockey Night: Naked Ambition
Thursday 14 July @ 06:21:41 (Read: 6726)
Cover - Musicby Donny Doane

Whenever I start a new project I always wonder if this is the piece where I’ll get all H.P. Lovecraft on everyone’s ass. Well, sadly for all the goths out there, this isn’t the one. Why? Because there’s nothing frightening or morose about St. Paul indie-rock outfit Hockey Night. No, they are only scary in a Lola Heatherton kind of way. The rank sickness of the moldering universe doesn’t seep through to cast its dead light upon a glowing world when I listen to Hockey Night’s soon to be released sophomore effort, Keep Guessin’, and the spirits of the night dance not to lumbering minor key malaise but rather to magical flutes, lyres and perhaps a zither or two for good measure. This is the summer where the lowly flip-flop stomps the mighty Doc Marten, where a fun and energetic local band kicks overly serious musical mopesters to the curb. There’s nothing dark about Hockey Night’s music, and this is precisely its operative virtue.

Download an mp3 of Hockey Night’s song “For Guys Eyes Only.”

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The last of a dying breed?
Thursday 30 June @ 17:01:21 (Read: 7437)
Cover - MusicLocal indie record stores fight for survival

by Rob van Alstyne

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days of yore—let’s call it the pre-Clear Channel era—independent record stores dotted the landscapes of America. Even in piddling mid-sized cities like the one I grew up in—Albany, N.Y., affectionately known by many as “smallbany”—there was at least one or two hip spots where a musically curious kid could get lost in stacks of used CDs, vintage vinyl and obscure bootleg cassettes.

A trip to the local indie-shop, in my case a hole in the wall called Last Vestige, was its own form of musical history lesson, with cool music blasting over the speakers and listening stations on hand, where one could sample releases before plunking down their hard-earned cash. New independent releases also dotted the shelves, live concerts were displayed on overhead TVs and the entire place gave off an aura of unattainable cool to my early teenaged self. This was just 10 short years ago, but it feels like a lifetime.

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Divorcee: Brand new
Wednesday 08 June @ 01:41:11 (Read: 5714)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

Four years ago Divorcee appeared to be that rarest of all local music commodities, an instant-success-feel-good story. Their debut, Lovesick, was rubber-stamped with the approval of the local rock elite—partially recorded at Semisonic’s rehearsal studio and mixed by ace veteran Bryan Hannah. The slick pop milkshake went down smooth wherever it was heard, with the insta-anthem title track finding strong college radio airplay and national press kudos at a level rarely seen for local self-released debuts.

There was every reason to believe Divorcee were going to be the great new local pop hope of the 2000s—that is, until the wheels fell off the project and the band imploded after just a few gigs around town.

Download an mp3 of Divorcee’s song “Still Life.”

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Fashion Amplified
Wednesday 18 May @ 23:09:39 (Read: 8022)
Cover - Music"Voltage" legitimizes fashion and rock music's longstanding love affair

by Rob van Alstyne

Fashion and rock have been inseparable bedfellows for more than half a century. For having spent so much time in one other’s company, however, there’s little consensus as to the nature of their relationship. Just what exactly, for example, was the defining moment in rock ‘n’ roll and fashion’s mutual love affair?

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More Soul, Less Coughing
Wednesday 11 May @ 18:07:17 (Read: 4801)
Cover - MusicThe return of Mike Doughty

by Sally McGraw

When Mike Doughty first started playing solo shows, many fans of his primary musical project —the celebrated and genre-defying Soul Coughing—felt confused. How could someone who penned edgy, elusive lyrics about tiny lawnmowers that mow him down and worries that follow him like dinosaurs, someone whose Soul Coughing material was anchored by big, meaty basslines and layered with slightly sinister samples … be a closet folkie? Because when Doughty hauled out the acoustic and unleashed a group of deeply confessional songs on unsuspecting audiences, the raw emotion woven into those lucid lyrics spoke of folk. And for a while, listeners balked.

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Jeff Hanson: The Twin Cities' Hidden Music Treasure
Friday 18 February @ 22:30:52 (Read: 5769)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

The first reaction to hearing local folk-pop singer Jeff Hanson’s music is inevitably bewilderment. Hanson was born with a head-scratchingly high-registered singing voice, and initial CD player encounters with Hanson’s debut album, Son, had me convinced my stereo was beset with some sort of mechanical malfunction. After getting over the shock of the voice, however, a second, more lasting, assessment took place—this kid can play. The choir-girl-voice-trapped-in-a-man’s-body may be what grabbed my ear, but it was Hanson’s cagey songwriting skills that refused to set my lobe free from its melodic deathgrip in the months to follow.

Download an mp3 of Jeff Hanson’s song This Time It Will courtesy of Kill Rock Stars.

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Left of the Dial
Thursday 27 January @ 14:40:32 (Read: 11292)
Cover - MusicNew MPR station 89.3 FM The Current is ready to reclaim Minnesota’s alternative music airwaves

by Rob van Alstyne

Nearly a quarter-century ago the Buggles declared that “video killed the radio star,” as MTV first hit the airwaves. Little did they know the horrible truth, that the radio star was about to be pummeled into a shell of its former self by the vicious, combined consolidation of radio station and major record label ownership.

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Kid Dakota: Atomic Pilgrim
Wednesday 15 December @ 21:15:11 (Read: 5761)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

Darren Jackson has been to hell and back—and he’s been chronicling the turbulent trip in song ever since. Six short years ago Jackson was near the end of his rope, attempting to break a nasty drug habit and with little sense of where he was headed next. Channeling his inner demons into song after a stint in rehab, Jackson began gigging around town under the name Kid Dakota in the summer of 1999, playing creepy, minor-key songs that were often uncomfortably explicit in dealing with his heroin-addict past.

Download an mp3 of Kid Dakota’s song Winterkill.

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Martin Devaney On The Songs Of La Mancha
Wednesday 17 November @ 00:02:34 (Read: 4361)
Cover - Music1) “Is That You?” “That song kind of popped up as the most relevant opener, just because of the punchy guitars and shit. Just that feeling you get when you’re at a bar, and you’ve been there maybe an hour and the first band hasn’t gone on yet. And you know you’re going to end up talking to this person, and maybe you’re gonna smooch or something. And it might or might not be the person you think it is. And you’re trying to be charming, but you’re maybe more of a mess than you are charming.”

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Outside Looking In: The Inquisition of Martin Devaney
Wednesday 17 November @ 00:02:48 (Read: 5707)
Cover - Musicby Tom Hallett

"I'm the fucking worst singer ever,” quips 24-year-old local singer/songwriter Martin Devaney, uttering one of the many self-deprecating half-chortles he’ll be tossing into our conversation over the next hour and a half. It’s not true, of course. Sure, Devaney has what some might term a “unique” set of pipes—his style alternates between excited, young buck yelps and a smooth, almost hypnotic croon in a blink of an eye—but hearing him exercise those degrees isn’t an altogether unpleasant experience, by any means. Besides, he’s the first to admit that he dove headfirst into the local scene with not much more than rudimentary guitar skills, a handful of songs and the proverbial impossible dream. That display of guts and bravado has paid off in increments over the past few years, though, culminating in the release, this week, of his third full-length album.

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Pick Up The Change
Wednesday 20 October @ 18:36:21 (Read: 5790)
Cover - MusicWilco, Then and Now

by Rob van Alstyne

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way Wilco became famous.

Was it back in 1996 when the sprawling Being There made the collective critical establishment bow in awe? No, then the Chicago quintet was still deemed untouchable by commercial radio and couldn’t transcend the world of large nightclubs for their tours.

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Valet: The Finest Worksong
Thursday 16 September @ 16:58:30 (Read: 5255)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

The men of Valet are teachers, taxi drivers and grad students. They are also—mostly on weekends and when their busy schedules allow—one of the best indie-pop bands to call the Twin Cities home. This isn’t news to local scenesters; the band’s been universally hailed in the local press since their formation and quick rise to prominence as Foxfire Coffee House regulars at the close of the ‘90s. However, after the fervor surrounding their self-released 2001 record The Glamour is Contagious died down, things got quiet in Valet land pretty quickly.

Download an mp3 of Valet’s song Havana.

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Are the Kids All Right?
Thursday 02 September @ 15:54:18 (Read: 4110)
Cover - MusicState of the Union of the Twin Cities All-Ages Rock Scene

by Ian Anderson

Growing as a music fan and musician in a scene that is overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of "the way things used to be" is a hard thing to do. The all-ages rock music scene in the Twin Cities is important, but often it seems that it used to be more important.

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YO! the movement
Wednesday 18 August @ 13:24:15 (Read: 4722)
Cover - Musicby Toki Wright

Imagine being that kid walking into a Hip-Hop show or venue and having hundreds of people look at you like you shouldn’t be there, based on the color of your skin.

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Space Invader
Wednesday 18 August @ 12:48:04 (Read: 5199)
Cover - Musicby Emmanuel Mauleon

Since the early ’90s, Minneapolis graffiti legend Ewok has been an international ambassador for the Twin Cities graffiti scene. Known for his work with Life Sucks Die Magazine, Burlesque of North America, Rhymesayers Entertainment, Fobia Skate Shop, Real, Consolidated and Iota Skateboards, Ewok’s art continues to invade space, public or private. Fellow local graf artist Chen, best known for his work on the Merit Printing Mural on Washington Avenue, and Ewok will create a 40-foot-long mural at the 3rd Annual Twin Cities Hip-Hop festival.

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Performer Biographies
Wednesday 18 August @ 12:37:16 (Read: 10806)
Cover - MusicClipse

From Virginia, Malice and Pusha T. are some of the first artists to be released on the Neptunes’ own Startrak record label. They dropped their debut album, Lord Willin’, in 2002 and are soon to release their follow up, Hell Hath No Fury. Well known for the single “Grindin.”

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The Magnetic Fields: Life After 69 Love Songs
Thursday 24 June @ 20:49:58 (Read: 6270)
Cover - Musicby Rob Van Alstyne

Stephin Merritt knows how to make people feel stupid – really stupid. He does it on his records – delivering a seemingly endless stream of hyper-pithy wordplay guaranteed to make other songwriters green with envy and masterfully aping any genre of music that grabs his fancy at the moment.

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The Soviettes
Wednesday 09 June @ 13:04:31 (Read: 6335)
Cover - Musicby Kate Silver
Photos by Darin Back

The Soviettes have pep. Where kappa-kappa-gamma meets guitar-bass-drums, there's an unflappable spirit charging through the pop-punk quartet's LP II (Adeline).

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We Didn't Start the Fire...
Wednesday 21 April @ 14:23:34 (Read: 65363)
Cover - MusicAn Interview with Albert Hammond Jr. of
The Strokes

by Rob van Alstyne

It’s sometimes hard to remember that just four short years ago we lived in a pre-Strokes era—the public consciousness yet to be deluged with lurid tales of singer Julian Casablancas’ epic drinking exploits and woefully bereft of paparazzi shots catching drummer Fabrizio Morreti snogging with celeb girlfriend Drew Barrymore in assumed privacy.

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The Hold Steady
Wednesday 10 March @ 15:12:06 (Read: 11112)
Cover - MusicEx-Lifter Puller Members Return from NYC Exile as the Hold Steady

by Kate Silver

At last count, Craig Finn had dropped the phrase “Hold steady” five times. An assurance for all the sniffling indie kids, the late nightclub crawlers and Page Six stalkers. Memo to the City Center buskers, just take it easy. Hold steady. Add to the list all of the cult Lifter Puller fans with LFTR PLLR knuckle tattoos snapping photos in front of 15th & Franklin. More than a rock band; hold steady is a mantra, and a warning.

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Mason Jennings: the long and winding road
Wednesday 11 February @ 12:02:24 (Read: 4022)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

Mason Jennings is arguably the most polarizing artist the Twin Cities music community has ever seen. The mere mention of his name triggers wildly varying responses from Minnesotans: from rapturous fans stirring themselves into a frenzy describing his singular voice and speaking of the “next Bob Dylan,” to nonbelievers sniggering over Jennings’ optimistic heart-on-sleeve lyricism.

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Under the Radar: Music You May Have Missed in 2003
Thursday 22 January @ 13:53:02 (Read: 15068)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

As a semi-pro music scribe it can be all too easy to forget about the inherent power of great rock/pop music to move your ass and/or shape your mind. Amidst the nonstop deluge of press releases that come across my desk in any given week there’s a nearly endless stream of crap (equally likely to arrive in the form of an incredibly slick major-label press pack as a hastily scribbled on home-recorded CDR)—balanced out by those precious few records whose songwriting fortitude or sonic inventiveness make the whole thing worthwhile in the first place.

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The Hang Ups: As Time Goes By
Wednesday 19 November @ 14:31:42 (Read: 5754)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

Catchy pop music has a way of tricking listeners. When most non-musicians hear a three-minute pop song with readily accessible melodies and sing-a-long choruses, the assumption is that instant aural gratification has come at the expense of more intricate musicianship and songwriting. It’s an easy enough mistake to make, and one that Minneapolis outfit the Hang Ups have undoubtedly fallen victim to innumerable times over their dozen-plus years of existence.

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Bright Lights, Big City
Wednesday 05 November @ 12:27:10 (Read: 8641)
Cover - MusicCMJ 2003

by Paul Morel

I’ve been worried for a while that I’ve been losing my interest in rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no shortage of reasons why I ought to be: there’s Corporate Rock, of course, though that hardly bears mentioning by now; there’s the fact that overly-hip bands like the White Stripes and the Strokes have been canonized by the mainstream media as the best rock has to offer right now; there’s that depressing 90-minute classic rock soundtrack called The School of Rock (I has high hopes, Jack Black, high hopes); and there’s the fact that a bunch of my favorite bands have gone the way of the dodo recently. Then too, I just haven’t found much music lately that has a spark—that feels important, immediate.

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Cruel Muses of Music
Thursday 30 October @ 12:21:07 (Read: 4588)
Cover - MusicBudget cuts will ruin an addict's chances of staying

Clean & Sober

by Caleb Palmiter

In December of 2002, I believed I was not fit to live. I had experienced extreme highs, appearing as a rock and roll musician on David Letterman and on MTV in music videos, etc. The trappings of success in this material world had engrossed me. However, less than two years after my “Late Nite” appearance, I was homeless, living on the streets of New York City.

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Depression and Drugs
Wednesday 29 October @ 15:37:37 (Read: 13591)
Cover - MusicElliott Smith * 1969-2003

by Rob van Alstyne

When the news of Elliott Smith’s death from a self-inflicted stab wound hit the press last Wednesday, a mixture of emotions immediately swept over me.

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Death Cab for Cutie: Such great heights
Wednesday 08 October @ 13:44:03 (Read: 8542)
Cover - Musicby ROB VAN ALSTYNE

Started as the lo-fi, one-man project of a music control freak (singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard), Death Cab for Cutie have morphed over the ensuing five years into one of the leading lights of the ever nebulous “college rock” category.

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Duluth’s Haley Bonar is headed for the big time
Thursday 18 September @ 13:55:53 (Read: 7278)
Cover - Musicby Rob van Alstyne

...The Size of Planets, is the kind of fully realized artistic triumph that usually takes musicians at least a few records and years to reach, the end result of relentlessly refining one’s artistic approach and finally clicking on all cylinders. It’s a subtle stunner of a record, effortlessly mixing bluesy Fender Rhodes-led vamps (“Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”) with acoustic folk (“Am I Allowed) and gently rollickin’ country-tinged pop (“Drinking Again”)—and that’s just the first three tracks. Now for the shocker. Bonar, she of the versatile song-writing style and lived-in soulful cowgirl voice, isn’t some grizzled vet made good—she’s 20 years old. And Size of Planets, an album that most artists would feel comfortable with as their career defining achievement, is just her first proper record and second release overall.

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R.E.M. Peter Buck Talks About The Passion
Thursday 11 September @ 15:09:02 (Read: 5494)
Cover - MusicR.E.M. means different things to different people. For those that came of age during the ’80s they were the quintessential college rock group, the “little band that could,” with a strong cult following and road warrior work ethic. As a talented songwriter for an up-and-coming band once described it to me, “Everybody who was cool during the ’80s knew about R.E.M.” For the college set of the early ’90s, R.E.M. were reclusive global super-stars, defying typical industry rules by increasing in popularity while refusing to tour. And for the youth of today—in what is tantamount to a pop music War Crime given that Creed is still capable of selling in the millions—R.E.M. are a mostly forgotten blip on the pop culture radar.

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