Twin Cities is a “white-hot music scene” according to Andrew Hamp of Billboard.biz, citing the success of breakout bands like The Hold Steady and Bon Iver. Hamp attributes a lot of the band’s successes to MPR radio station KCMP The Current. “More recently, the station has helped give early exposure to local favorites Trampled By Turtles, Gayngs and Polica months before they became national indie-blog fixtures,” says Hamp. He adds, “(KCMP station manager) McGuinn is currently obsessing over chamber-pop artist John Mark Nelson.”
Andrea Swensson, music blogger for The Current, believes the five picks below are the biggest new acts. However, she also says, “I would also suggest looking into hip-hop collective Audio Perm and classic country band The Cactus Blossoms.” Soul-folk singer Chastity Brown is another one of her likes, “though she’s been on the scene for a while, growing a following at a steady rate.”
These four St. Paul Central students deliver an eclectic mix of folk, jazz, rock and blues with a mastery that belies their youth. This band started in 2010 playing in their small high school theater and moved on to opening for established local bands the following year. The band’s youthful energy leaps off its two digital albums with such chilling presence that NPR Music produced a video with lead singer Lydia Hoglund singing a deep-felt soulful blues song “Howl At The Moon” in September. The group has suddenly received a lot of attention.
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This all-female hip-hop trio is a find by Swensson, an act she introduced on an all-ladies edition of “The Local Show” earlier in the year. Respected emcees in their own right, the trio conspired on their first EP, “We are the Chalice,” released this September. Claire de Lune, Sophia Eris and Lizzo (of Lizzo and the Larva Ink) showcased sensitive phrasing woven together in a soft rhythmic tapestry. Their collaborative music and imaginative lines won them City Pages’ “Picked 2 Click” best new bands poll of 146 Twin Cities music mavens announced this October.
Wiping Out Thousands is premiering a new electro-clash genre of music. Composed by two people in two albums, “Reaction Machine” was studio-bound, computer-generated music with vocals while “This Came First” broke out of the studio and onto the stage with spellbinding fury. The group’s West Bank Music Festival appearance in August was a crowd pleaser but its powerful “This Came First” album release played to an over-capacity audience at First Avenue and 7th Street Entry in November. Taylor Nelson and Alaine Dickman are students at McNally Smith College of Music.
John Mark Nelson, a chamber pop/folk singer/songwriter and recent Minnetonka High School graduate, is for real. This indie-pop singer/songwriter’s melodies flow more naturally than a young Mozart with a strong vocal component like a Paul Simon wrapped together in solid musical instrumentation. “These tunes are coming out of thin air and I just had to write them down,” he said of his most recent album, “Waiting and Waiting,” in an interview with “The Local Show” host David Campbell.
Name a successful acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriter from northern Minnesota and Bob Dylan comes to mind. Move over Robert Zimmerman, because Actual Wolf has arrived. A summer of hard work in the Twin Cities and Midwest this fall has brought a shower of accolades. The Grand Rapids-native Eric Pollard plays lively and harmonic folk-rock with his band and sings clear-throated solo gigs on acoustic guitar as Actual Wolf.
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Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.