Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

When Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh fell off her roof while clearing ice in early 2018, she smashed her L1 vertebrae and battered her spine, leaving her in a brace with limited mobility for months. Yet Poliça’s fourth album, “When We Stay Alive”, is not about one debilitating accident. It’s about the redemptive power of rewriting your story in order to heal, and reclaiming your identity as a result.

While recovering, Leaneagh’s doctor told her to focus not only on physical healing, but to meditate on the mental act of healing as well – working to erase the anger, regrets, and fear she felt about her fall. To do so, he suggested she rewrite the story she told herself about what happened on February 28th. Left alone with her thoughts and her back fully braced, Leaneagh would visualize herself slipping and falling not onto cement, but instead onto a cloud, landing safely before breaking into a sprint over snow melting to reveal tall blades of green grass. As she felt the positive effects of this mental exercise, she set about doing the same for other injuries and pains that she gripped onto from her past.

Prior to Leaneagh’s accident, she had been setting music aside as she raised her children and worked to make ends meet as a nursing assistant. Now in the still silence of healing, she found that a multitude of feelings were becoming very loud. Leaneagh realized her self-identity had become attached to her experiences of physical and mental trauma, and she began to consider what it would be like to live without the past as a burden. “I felt there were many things I could look at and say, ‘This happened to me but I’m okay now. It’s not happening anymore and I got the care I needed for it. Now it’s time to rewrite the story I tell about myself and to myself,’”


Released January 31st, 2020

Minnesota’s Remo Drive picked up a lot of buzz for their 2017 debut album “Greatest Hits”, which was self-released and soon became the talk of many emo-friendly online music circles. How many more bands with strained, nasally vocals, pop punk chord progressions, and silly song titles do we need? — but Remo Drive quickly caught on, signed to Epitaph Records, and continued to expand their fanbase. And now I’d say the many people who saw potential in them were right all along. Their recently-released second album is — in my humble opinion — much better than Greatest Hits and a pretty huge step forward.

“Natural, Everyday Degradation” has much cleaner production than Greatest Hits (it was produced by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart and mixed by The National/Interpol collaborator Peter Katis), and the band’s singing and songwriting is a lot stronger than it was two years ago. The album is still under the umbrella of indie rock-friendly emo and pop punk, but these songs aren’t really written like emo or pop punk songs. Erik Paulson’s voice sounds a lot more pristine, and his melodies hearken back to classic pop like pre-acid Beatles or early power pop like Elvis Costello. His voice has evolved from a punky yelp into a matured croon, and he’s developed a real knack for songcraft that was only hinted at on Greatest Hits, and that you don’t hear everyday in the punk/emo scene. Also, Saves the Day and Joyce Manor are touring together later this year, and if you’re excited for that tour, Natural, Everyday Degradation is probably right up your alley.)


Natural, Everyday Degradation is the kind of creative, artistic progression that you usually don’t hear this early on in a band’s career, so it already has me excited to hear where Remo Drive go next. If there are still some setbacks, the songs could be a little more musically diverse and Remo Drive could use a really strong chorus or two — the new album may remind me of Stay What You Are but they haven’t written their “At Your Funeral” yet — but at the rate they’re going, I wouldn’t be surprised if they churn out a modern classic one of these days.

Sass live up to their name, but they use sarcasm and cheekiness as a deflection tactic against a looming darkness. The songs on their debut album, “Chew Toy”, are about heavy shit, and Stephanie Murck never undersells the very serious topics she’s singing about. But the gnarled and fuzzy towers of attitude that Sass build up around that are stunning — frustrated bursts of pure release.

released May 31st, 2019

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.”