Adam Johnson – Best Minnesota Albums/Songs

Adam Johnson

#1. Uranium Club – Cosmo Cleaners I honestly didn’t know this was even an AMERICAN band let alone a local band until translating the Italian article I found on them through Google. Regardless, these are some of the smartest, engaging songs I’ve come by in a while. Woke punk can be didactic, or even (worse) self-aggrandizing; but the Uranium Club make the matter the material, not themselves. Wholly competent post-punk progression cruise no-wave grooves with nervous energy, keeping the listener on the edge of their seat for the next anarcho-socialist scene study. “Grease Monkey” plays with one of those scenes with disregard, augmenting a relatively straight-forward story about cars (obviously not so) with sound collages and feedback. Now that I’ve found them, I don’t want to let them go.
#2. Last Import – s/t/Lunch Duchess – Crying For Fun This self-titled full-length is an even-keel, multi-faceted dissertation on Last Import by Last Import. Dynamic vocals, fabulous tones, and boundless energy make this one of the best good-ass, Minneapolis rock-n-roll albums in a long while. What makes Lunch Duchess such an engaging band (besides their obvious prowess) is their duality: they are reserved as much as they are forthright, bold yet timid. They are your friends, they are your neighbors, they are your family. Timely, emotional, and powerful. Also, doesn’t hurt that Sam Frederick’s guitar could direct airline traffic at La Guardia. All things considered, Crying For Fun could fairly be called Minneapolis’s 2019 album of the year.
#3. Catsax – s.t Sax-a-ma-phone isn’t the only thing going for this wonderfully weird offering from local alchemist Nelson Devereaux. Funky and sexy and right-on and all the other euphemistic things it’s far from appropriate for me to appropriate. Despite my stupidity, I truly hope those with stakes in jazz give this artist the attention they deserve.
#4. Double Grave – Ego Death Forever/Buildings – Negative Noise Besides the Cult of Lip (who did put out an LP version of their last two EPs, but it’s not technically new music) nobody turns noise into melody ‘round these parts better than Double Grave and Buildings. Ego Death Forever is DG’s homage to their past, sweet and nostalgic underneath all that fuzz. Negative Noise, however, aims its tremolo guitar-picking and steel girder bass right at the listener’s head. Both/either will scratch that distortion itch while giving you something to bang your head to.
#5 Falcon Arrow – Occurrens I got to listen to this entire record played front to back after being nearly accosted by a disturbed motorist with a gun. I may have a bias, but these poly-tastic post-rock sounds are the best this duplicitous duo has released yet.
#6. Wolf Blood – II Wolf Blood know they way to my heart and insist on stuffing it full of riffs and guitar effects. By the way I’m going I’ll be dead before they can release a follow-up to this massively packed six song outing. Whatever the technical term is for the slinking distorted barre-chord motif (if such a term exists), Wolf Blood have that shit down to a science.
#7. Temple – Vacuous Contention/The Rope – Lillian It seems very rude to call these particular neighbors spooky but I swear to God I mean it as a compliment. The Rope prefer to keep things moving, ala Bauhaus, or maybe if the Stone Roses guy kicked Danzig out of the Misfits. Temple is a little more focused on…well, Satan. Evil, at least; being evil is cool, and very important to them – which I also dig.
#8. Cut Hairs – Tomb Twister For his second outing as Cut Hairs, Butter Boys teammate Joe Marxen keeps the songs strong while working in more personal territory. All Feels Lost (2018) was angry and full of passion and not afraid to show it; Tomb Twister feels more somber, reflective, and even comfortable. It doesn’t hurt to write “minor” songs in major keys, either. Good stuff.
#9. ahem – Try Again ahem bring to mind the guitar rock of the 90s during the heyday of Sub-Pop and Matador. I can’t say I mind, though, since Minneapolis is often inundated with its own informed sound. Nothing else this year quite hit the positive rock notes like Try Again.
#10. Blackthorne – s/t/False – Portent Blackthorne were doing well as a four piece, curling hairs and bleeding ears for a minute before the absorption of friend/multi-instrumentalist Mickey Kahleck in 2017 and this, their aptly self-titled first full-length. Fast, furious, and winding, Blackthorne capture the sweep of an evil Ingmar Birgman film in a matter of moments, distilling their angst and anger into forward-thinking metal. False, on the other hand, take their time revealing their beautiful misery unto the world. While I’m not much for “epic” metal, I would listen to a False opera if such a thing existed. I feel comfortable calling Portent epic, for all its moments of Valkyrie fury as well as its evocative passages of symphonic doom.