Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

An indie rock band from the land of lakes , led by Kerry Alexander who when she wants to write a song, turns on the radio. That’s because Alexander, the lead singer and songwriter of the Minneapolis band Bad Bad Hats, is interested in pop tropes – how to play around with them, why they work the way they do.

After alternating between acoustic offerings and revved-up, garage-leaning rock on their debut, the band settles into a comfortable mid-tempo groove on the new LP, with richly-produced synth-pop sound.


Band Members
Kerry Alexander,
Connor Davison,
Chris Hoge,

In one of the most impressive stylistic pivots of the year, indie-emo vets Now, Now returned with drum machines and synths in tow for their third LP Saved, one of the most pleasing and unique pop records of the year. After the opening guitar notes of “SGL,” the Minnesota duo of Kacey Dalager and Brad Hale fill out their sound by weaving in swelling electronic soundscapes and catchy dance-pop hooks. The differences between Saved and previous album Threads are immense. Mostly, they’ve expertly traded in their garage-y rawness and emo leanings for a more polished dream-pop vibe – without sacrificing any of the poignancy or intimacy of their songwriting. Shimmering dance-pop jam “MJ” mixes Michael Jackson references with flickering synth textures and emotions that stir an aura of bittersweet, childlike wonder.


There’s also the nostalgia-soaked “AZ,” with its ticking acoustic guitar and flurry of lo-fi synths that beautifully crescendo during the song’s dramatic outro. The album explores the disillusionment of adulthood and the tangled nature of spirituality, with religious imagery complementing Dalager’s pleas for love and affection, or in her case, emotional salvation: “Oh my God I’m saved!” she proclaims on the trippy, seismic title track. Meanwhile, album highlight “Yours” is the sort of earnest and maximalist alt-pop tune that should’ve been a huge hit in this streaming era. With Saved, Now, Now reveal a stunning new side of themselves, and pull off one hell of a creative left turn.

Low’s 12th album is awash in noise – static, electrical hum, broken down electronics. Over 11 songs, these forces work to obscure Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s voices, wrapped together as always in close harmony. Recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base with producer BJ Burton, the album implodes the Low template and builds something terrifying and confusing in its place. Many songwriters have attempted to document the pressing anxiety of our overloaded information age; with Double Negative, Low processes the ugliness of our age without abandoning their signature haunting beauty.


Slowcore pioneers Low first introduced electronics to their moody, minimal instrumental palette cautiously, on 2015’s Ones and Sixes; the change, partially brought about by working with producer BJ Burton, helped revitalize both their sound and creativity. On Double Negative(also recorded with Burton), those electronics become a key component, truly directing the album—warping vocals (opener “Quorum” feels like a constantly-interrupted transmission), incorporating rhythmic noise (“Dancing and Blood”), adding a glacial effect to guitars (“Poor Sucker”). It took the group nearly two years of trial and error to craft. This is all true, but it doesn’t capture what a terrifying, majestic, heavy gut-punch of an album Double Negative is, how emotionally affecting it is, how it feels like an ice cave one crawls into to find solace from worse weather and to escape potential predators. A stunning album, one that reveals new depths with every play.

Kid Dakota is the musical moniker of Darren Jackson. He started performing as “Kid Dakota and the Tumbleweeds” in 1998 while living in Providence, Rhode Island. The name was chosen in homage to his home state of South Dakota and also as a parody of Kid Rock. In the summer of 1999, Darren recorded the five songs that would appear on the So Pretty ep with long-time friend and producer, Alex Oana at City Cabin (formerly Blackberry Way). Darren moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota that winter and self-released the “So Pretty” (Kid Dakota album)” An ep in the spring of 2000. The ep caught the attention of Alan Sparhawk, singer and guitarist for the seminal slow-core band, Low (band)and he offered to release the ep on his label,


Darren Jackson – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Mathew Kazama – drums
Brent Paschke – guitar
Adam Levy – guitar


Husband-and-wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have never been satisfied with just being slowcore trailblazers. Over the past decades, their minimal, melancholic sound has taken on nearly a liquid quality, thanks not just to their ever-changing choices of collaborators but their willingness to always push their songwriting to new places. On their last album, 2015’s Ones and Sixes, they began to introduce electronic elements; here, on the absolutely magnificent Double Negative, they use those beats and synths to spin their work into darker and more discordant territory, to incredible effect.

At the beginning of the album, hiss and burble warp the delicate vocals into some kind of alien transmission; by the end, processing buoys those same vocals into the sublime, setting them against choppy textures that evoke a passing train. Movement—glacial, but steady—has always been key to Low’s work, and that’s never been more evident.


Not just a beautiful album, but one that illustrates the depth, breadth, and power of a group who’s always pushing, never settling.

The latest album from this Minneapolis trio adds pop polish to its folk-tinged sound. “[Lead singer] Kerry [Alexander] and I were kind of thinking, ‘Yeah, we’ll pretty much just do the same thing again,” multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoge said. “But [producer] Brett Bullion really pushed us to make something different.”

Pop sensibilities mingle with garage rock on Lightning Round, the newest release from the Minnesota-based band Bad Bad Hats. Listen to “Nothing Gets Me High,” where front-woman Kerry Alexander somehow turns empty love into something you want to dance and thrash to. Or listen to “Girl,” where Alexander tells an all-too-familiar story. “You smell like smoke and look like satin,” she sings. In fact, a theme of doubt permeates the collection as much as catchy hooks do, as the group smartly melds lost emotion into upbeat tracks.

Lightning Round is the second studio album by Bad Bad Hats. It will be released August 3rd, 2018 on Afternoon Records.


When Kerry Alexander wants to write a song, she turns on the radio. That’s because Alexander, the lead singer and songwriter of the Minneapolis band Bad Bad Hats, is interested in pop tropes – how to play around with them, why they work the way they do.

Take “Nothing Gets Me High,” the power-pop centerpiece of her band’s new album, Lightning Round. Alexander wrote it after listening to Tove Lo’s 2014 hit “Habits (Stay High)” and figuring how to invert the song’s premise. “I was thinking about how there are so many songs about love and drugs as a metaphor,” she says, before spelling out her uniquely personal premise for the song: “And I was like, ‘I want to write a song like that, but I have never actually been high. I have never done drugs.”

Another new song, “1-800,” came from listening to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and wondering why more songs didn’t play around with toll-free numbers. “I like that phrase, using 1-800 as a metaphor for how you get nothing but junk in your life,” she says, “Or that you feel like people look at you like a 1-800 call, like, ‘No one picks me up. They all let me go.’”

On Lightning Round, the Minnesota quartet refine and polish the blend of indie-pop, folk, and rock that they introduced on their 2015 debut, Psychic Reader, an album that won positive reviews and high-profile opening gigs for Third Eye Blind and Margaret Glaspy.

Bad Bad Hats is:
Kerry Alexander,
Connor Davison,
Chris Hoge

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St. Paul, Minnesota indie foursome Hippo Campus have dropped their first new material since last autumn’s ‘warm glow’ EP and earlier ‘Landmark’ full-length.

Titled ‘Passenger’, the stand-alone track is out now via Transgressive Records.

Passenger was written in the winter of 2017 after the first four months of touring on landmark,” says singer/guitarist Jake Luppen. “Lyrically the themes deal with the challenges of growing alongside the person you love. For this song in particular I tried to challenge myself to write a more complex chord progression to sing to. I started off with a TR-8 groove and the rest followed pretty naturally.”

“Twinkle” is a pretty uncool name for an indie-rock subgenre, even if it has a certain onomatopoeic honesty: There is perhaps no better word to describe the sound of such guitars. Tiny Moving Parts do this stuff better than anybody else right now, and when they’re tapping the fretboards and jumping between time signatures, these songs are absolutely sparkling. Of course, like fellow Minnesotans the Replacements, Tiny Moving Parts are way above the scene to which they’ve been tied, and also like the ‘Mats, they could just as easily be described as “punk” or “alternative” or just “rock” and the songs would kick ass just as hard. Tiny Moving Parts use their tools in the service of huge-chorus, heart-on-sleeve anthems that would shine in any era. Swell doesn’t just twinkle; this thing is made of future stars. Very rarely does one come across an album in which every single song is thoroughly enjoyable; This is one of those albums.


Released January 26th, 2018

Tiny Moving Parts:
Dylan Mattheisen – vocal/guitar
Matthew Chevalier – bass/vocals
William Chevalier – drums

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In 2018, Low as a band will turn twenty-five. Since 1993, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker—the married couple whose heaven-and-earth harmonies have always held the band’s center—have pioneered a subgenre, shrugged off its strictures, recorded a Christmas classic, become a magnetic onstage force, and emerged as one of music’s most steadfast and vital vehicles for pulling light from our darkest emotional recesses. But Low will not commemorate its first quarter-century with mawkish nostalgia or safe runs through songbook favorites. Instead, in faithfully defiant fashion, Low will release its most brazen, abrasive (and, paradoxically, most empowering) album ever: Double Negative, an unflinching eleven-song quest through snarling static and shattering beats that somehow culminates in the brightest pop song of Low’s career.To make Double Negative, Low reenlisted B.J. Burton, the quietly energetic and adventurous producer who has made records with James Blake, Sylvan Esso, and The Tallest Man on Earth in recent years while working as one of the go-to figures at Bon Iver’s home studio, April Base. Burton recorded Low’s last album, 2015’s Ones and Sixes, at April Base, adding might to many of its beats and squelch and frisson beneath many of its melodies.

Featuring the music videos “Quorum” “Dancing and Blood” and “Fly” from Low’s upcoming album Double Negative (Release Date: September 14, 2018)

This time, though, Sparhawk, Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington knew they wanted to go further with Burton and his palette of sounds, to see what someone who is, as Sparhawk puts it, “a hip-hop guy” could truly do to their music. Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative cowriters, building the pieces up and breaking them down and building them again until their purpose and force felt clear. As the world outside seemed to slide deeper into instability, Low repeated this process for the better part of two years, pondering the results during tours and breaks at home. They considered not only how the fragments fit together but also how, in the United States of 2018, they functioned as statements and salves.

Double Negative is, indeed, a record perfectly and painfully suited for our time. Loud and contentious and commanding, Low fights for the world by fighting against it. It begins in pure bedlam, with a beat built from a loop of ruptured noise waging war against the paired voices of Sparhawk and Parker the moment they begin to sing during the massive “Quorum.” For forty minutes, they indulge the battle, trying to be heard amid the noisy grain, sometimes winning and sometimes being tossed toward oblivion. In spite of the mounting noise, Sparhawk and Parker still sing. Or maybe they sing because of the noise. For Low, has there ever really been a difference?.

Low. A band from Duluth, Minnesota, formed in 1993. Featuring Alan Sparhawk on vocals and guitar and Mimi Parker on vocals and drums and Steve Garrington on bass. Sparhawk and Parker are married with two children; they first met in fourth grade in rural Minnesota. Garrington is the latest addition to the band, longtime bassist Zak Sally previously replaced original bassist John Nichols and Sally departed the group after the release of Great Destroyer.

Low released its first album, I Could Live in Hope, in 1994 (producer by Kramer) on Vernon Yard Records. Pegged as “slowcore,” due to the band’s minimalist soundscapes and the beautiful harmonies of Sparhawk and Parker, which stood in stark contrast to the era’s fascination with “grunge.” Low continued to work with varied producers and released a constant stream of critically acclaimed albums (e.g., Long Division, Curtain Hits the Cast, Things We Lost in the Fire), one-offs, collaborations and other miscellany, including a classic Christmas album, aptly titled Low Christmas. Throughout, Low have toured the world.

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Minnesota native Caitlyn Smith has been one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets for a couple of years now as co-writer of hits for everybody from Cassadee Pope to Meghan Trainor. But the secret will be out with her upcoming album (titled Starfire, due later this year), a deeply personal collection of songs that sound like she opened a vein. Of particular note: “This Town Is Killing Me,” a pensive ode to Music City’s darker side, and “Tacoma” which shows off Smith’s sonic boom of a voice to devastating effect.

She Says: “Every time I perform that song, I almost go into a trance where I’m just transported into the story,” Smith says of “Tacoma.” “I can’t not sing that one at 100 percent, it’s all emotional. ‘This Town Is Killing Me’ is emotional, too, from a very real and honest place. This industry is not for the faint of heart. There are days I just face-plant on the couch and don’t want to get up.”

The yearning “Tacoma,” captured live here, is the best example of Smith’s full-on howl. Caitlyn Smith live at Paste Studio NYC!


1. Starfire 0:45 2. Before You Called Me Baby 8:49 3. Tacoma 17:20