What is the “Sound” of Duluth?

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7 Responses

  1. Will Wlizlo says:

    Profound post-script of the day: If you add some clever spacing and capitalization to the word “taconite,” it becomes “Taco Nite.” That is all.

  2. Zach says:

    I know I’m totally missing the point by commenting on your intro, but I think that the Twin Cities sound is totally a definable thing. There’s a bit of Midwest americana and North woods folk mixed in with a more urban punk and new wave style. In hip-hop we’re known introspective, socially conscious content and left-field production.

  3. It’s a bit insulting referring to The Hold Steady and Motion City Soundtrack’s name-dropping as “superficial.” I find these hat tips to be driven by pride more than anything in their lyrics. Seeing MCS play to just a couple dozen people at the Foxfire to headlining and selling out the Mainroom should give them a pretty solid sense of hometown spirit, one that musicians most easily translate into song.

  4. Will Wlizlo says:

    But Zach, what separates the urban punk, new wave, and even Midwest Americana written around Minneapolis from urban punk, new wave, and Midwest American written in Chicago or Milwaukee. And more importantly, how do those differences evoke a (for lack of better terminology) Minneapolis feeling? How do they convey the street life, the “placeness”? You bring up something I hadn’t thought of, though: politics. I’m not exactly sure how it would be done–perhaps dipping not only into the substance of political discourse of a place, but also that place’s political tradition, if you will. (The conscientious bipartisanship of the Arne Carlson years, maybe?) But that brings up the question (which I can’t answer) of how you convey the zeitgeist through an established genre.

    Steve, I’d never argue that THS and MCS lack a pride of place. But I’m sticking my guns about the superficiality of the name-checking. For me–and to those band’s credits–the CC Club or Washington Avenue bridge are just landmarks embedded into more universal songs about relationship hardships and identity formation. Hypothetically . . . replace “Triple Rock Social Club” with “Bowery Ballroom” and you don’t get a song that sounds like New York . . . but you’ve still got a song about getting dumped and walking home in the snow without your jacket.

  5. jonbehm says:

    From my perspective, just as much as the background noise of a city (horns, traffic, voices, etc.) a city’s sound can be defined by the individual bands that lend their voices to that sound as a whole. So, nothing about the way bands play here instrumentally defines anything local (though Paul Metzger might get close to creating something unique enough). But overall, a guitar/drum/organ/etc. sounds the same here as it does anywhere. When I hear a band member’s unique voice though, and begin to associate that voice with this locality, I think that that voice becomes a piece in the overall local patchwork. So the overall “Minneapolis sound” I guess is (to me) defined only by the unique voices that make it up at any given time. And I guess these voices stature plays a certain part as well – i.e. P.O.S.’s voice is probably more evocative of Minneapolis’s sound than a lesser known local artist. Does that make sense? I think trying to find an overarching “sound” is erroneous, however it is possible to define any area’s sound by the unique identifiers in it, and since instrumentation is by nature not very unique, this falls to individual voices.
    When it comes to instrumental music I guess we’ve got a whole new debate.

  6. I guess I just hear a negative tone in the word “superficial,” when (despite some of the bleak undertones) a word like “non-essential” would be more appropriate. Nevertheless, hearing Craig Finn sing about walking across the “Grain Belt Bridge” rather than the Brooklyn Bridge is a pleasant wink to the fans who followed him in his early Lifter Puller days, and I like those warm fuzzies.

  7. Glad you liked the Duluth aural experience. I have a ways to go before capturing the sonic essence of every city and town, but I did record/perform/publish “Habanera: A Sound Walk Through Old Havana, Cuba” which has plenty of uniquely-local flavor.

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