The Northland’s best music of 2010 (a mix tape)Budgeteer editor Matthew R. Perrine introduces you to his favorite local music from the last year — in mix tape form — from heavy hitters like Cloud Cult and Trampled by Turtles to promising upstarts like Modern Gentlemen and Excuse Me, Princess.
It’s a good thing Duluth is so accustomed to sharing its many treasures. A number of area musicians watched as their audiences expanded from coast to coast: Retribution Gospel Choir released its second album on Seattle’s legendary Sub Pop label. Trampled by Turtles and Charlie Parr both benefited from nationwide distribution deals. And Cloud Cult? Why, it’s hard to write something about Craig Minowa and company that hasn’t already been meticulously “tweeted” by some hipper-than-thou New York City blogger.
Quality-wise, it was also a banner year for the local scene, and I’d like to share the best of what I heard.
But instead of just rattling off the best albums that came out of the area in the last 12 months, I thought I’d try something different: I put together a virtual “mix tape” using the best songs to come out of our area’s furtive music scene — because, let’s face it, not every worthwhile act that calls the Northland home releases albums. Some are content just to play live, or share a song or two here or there. (Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Lion or Gazelle, which released a full five EPs in the last calendar year.)
On that, if I’ve still managed to snub any of your favorites utilizing this approach, just remember: This is all one jerk’s opinion. Besides, you can always find out what other “jerks” are listening to by reading “What the Mayor and Other Northlanders Liked in 2010.”
1. Trampled by Turtles - “Wait So Long”
I never thought I’d say this about anything with a banjo involved, but this is some pretty exciting stuff. The leadoff track from TBT’s phenomenal “Palomino” has enough raw power to rival most punk bands.
2. Retribution Gospel Choir - “Workin’ Hard”
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one in the Twin Ports who still breaks out his Bachman-Turner Overdrive records from time to time. It’s hard to say how old-school Low fans react to Alan Sparhawk’s adventures in ’70s radio rock on the Sub Pop-released "2," but I know I sure like what I hear.
3. James Moors - “Once in a While”
Established Superior singer/songwriter James Moors (who used to record under “Sterling Waters”) wrote this “Skyline” track with Aussie Rick Price, whom he described as “Australia’s version of Richard Marx.” The two met in Memphis during a recent Folk Alliance International conference.
4. Marc Gartband - “Cyclops Man”
Not only was it another banner year for the local music scene, but it was also another banner year for Marc Gartman. His must-hear contributions this year included new albums from Coyote, Two Many Banjos and Night Owl; ultimately, however, I felt Marc Gartband’s “Fatwa” was the most daring and innovative of the lot. “Cyclops Man” is just one of many Gartman-penned 2010 highlights.
5. Batteries - “Dirty Dogs”
Indie rock doesn’t get much catchier than this standout track from Batteries’ sophomore effort, “You’re So Excited” — which, by the way, frontman Dave Frankenfeld informed the Budgeteer is a disparaging term for that other great Hibbing export: Greyhound buses.
6. The Boomchucks - “Another One”
Speaking of catchy — and recycling material… — roughneck folk (a term actually coined by Duluth Mayor Don Ness) doesn’t get much catchier than this inebriated sing-along from Brad Nelson and Jamie Ness’ first, self-titled album together as the Boomchucks.
7. Charlie Parr - “I Dreamed I Saw Jesse James Last Night”
Sometimes we can take for granted the greatest wonders around us. I was reminded of this during a recent interview with the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank’s Ian Thomas Alexy, who was reflecting on his time as a Zenith City resident: “That was a great time in Duluth. You could see Charlie Parr five nights a week without ever leaving Duluth!”
Just because he plays a free show at the Brewhouse every week doesn’t mean we should be paying any less attention. (This track was taken from “When the Devil Goes Blind,” one of Parr’s three 2010 releases.)
8. Cloud Cult - “You’ll Be Bright”
Similarly, even though it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just catch Cloud Cult when they return in a few months,” there is something none of us should neglect to acknowledge: Craig Minowa and his talented worker bees (I mean no disrespect, Connie, Shannon, both Sarahs, Scott, Shawn and Arlen) continue to make some of the most phenomenal music on the planet. “Light Chasers” is a great record. Period.
1. Saint Anyway - “I’ll Never Be the Same”
Tony Petersen wrote this refreshing ditty for “Two” in the back of the duo’s crumbling-apart tour van while the other Cloquet expat in the group, Jamie Kallestad, got some coffee. Fans of Trampled by Turtles should pay attention to this one.
2. Pennies for a Dime - “Iron Path”
While it’s true that this slab o’ dirty Northern blues made the Budgeteer’s year-end list of best local music a few years back (as a rough demo), it deserves a second helping of recognition because the power trio of Dustin Fennessey, Mikey Trifilette and Faye Baron finally put out an official release this year: “Welcome to the RedRoom.”
3. The Virgin Marcus - “Refuge”
The Virgin Marcus is the definition of generous.
Not only did he put out two albums this year (something his fans have been waiting some time for), but he is currently giving both of them away at http://thevirginmarcus.bandcamp.com. This emotional masterwork comes from “With Endless Love, We Left You Sleeping,” which has a title and front cover (think “Psycho” meets “Wild Things”) that the kiddies at Hot Topic would surely eat up. Just saying…
4. Modern Gentlemen - “Cooler than Me”
Speaking of Bandcamp, rappers David “Bliss” Kittelson and Cory “MC1980” Jezierski gave away one of their two 2010 releases (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Mixing Tapes”) at http://moderngentlemen.bandcamp.com. While the official release, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Dangerous Living,” contained a number of noteworthy tracks and collaborations with other artists, this song just seems like the perfect introduction to this entertaining rap duo.
5. Excuse Me, Princess - “Stop the Flow”
This group is definitely my pick for Duluth’s next big musical export. Singer Jack Campbell sounds like a cross between Norway native Sondre Lerche and Salt Lake City great Drew Danburry, and the imaginative songs he conjures up with EMP work wonders — despite the fact that the group’s 2010 full-length (“The Sun & The Moon”) wasn’t exactly recorded at Sacred Heart with Eric Swanson (more like in a basement with no one behind the boards). And, good news, checking them out won’t cost you a dime: Both of the group’s 2010 releases can be downloaded for free at http://excusemeprincess.bandcamp.com.
6. The Tisdales - “Scenester Bingo”
I hate to rip off what Cars & Trucks frontman Tony Bennett said in “What the Mayor and Other Northlanders Liked in 2010,” but: Shame on you, America, for not buying at least 2 million copies of “Out with the New.” The album, an impeccable collection of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll deserves nothing less than “double platinum” status.
7. Ryan Van Slooten - “Working Man’s World”
The Twin Ports has enjoyed the talents of Ryan Van Slooten via outfits like Bone Appétit, the SuperTacks and Rock Brigade, but his solo offerings — in the singer/songwriter vein — are just as worthwhile. And, like he told us when “All But My Soul” was released, “Doing the rock thing is great, but my solo material is far more personal, and a better representation of who I am.”
8. The Brushstrokes - “Haggard Whore”
While the Brushstrokes’ debut, “This is How the World Will End,” took approximately three years (and a couple of band breakups) to complete, it was more than worth the wait. This track, which I’ve always been fond of, is a gypsy-rock romp of “Carnivàle”-level proportions.
BONUS TRACK: Dirty Horse - “Buy Me an Airplane”
We’ll just call “Buy Me an Airplane” something to look forward to. This track from the “Tartan” EP — which sports a 2011 release date — is simply monumental. Duluth finally has its own Manchester Orchestra!
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