From the first crazy mumbles of The Trashmen, through The 'Mats and Husker Dü, and all the way to Marcy Playground, Minnesota has had storied tradition of indie, alternative and punk rock.
While locals like Now, Now and Hippo Campus enjoyed some well-deserved national attention in 2017, we dug deeper to find the weird and wonderful sounds that you might have missed from the Minnesota underground.
Tabah - Symmetry Somewhere
In a town with a soft spot for loveable losers with provincial worldviews, it's important to remember that ambition is a very good thing for rock bands to have, and hardly anybody took as big a swing for the fences as Tabah did this year.
Trucking down to Nashville to record their expansive double-LP debut Symmetry Somewhere, the four piece captured a sound that's at once folksy and literate. Big Neil Young guitars give way to moody, soulful vocalizations from the singular talent of guitarist Cecilia Erholtz. Backed by a crack team of music school-honed pickers unafraid to flex their chops, Symmetry Somewhere sounds immediate, yet undefinable. Try to find the halfway point between Wye Oak and Hiatus Kaiyote and you might be in the building.
Yeah Wings - Tomorrow Will Be Better
A spare, unflinching portrait of millenial depression and the slow unwinding of a band, Tomorrow Will Be Better is the third and final album from Yeah Wings, who broke up immidiately following its release in the fall of 2017.
Stealing a page from the playbook of Duluth's Low, guitarist and singer Collin Dall crafted an album's worth of slow-burning tension that never coddles the listener with the benefit of a release point. While there's elements of bristly '90s emo vulnerability on Tomorrow, you won't find a single cathartic break-down here, nor should you need one.
The Chinchees - S/T
While Minneapolis has long been a major force in pop-punk thanks to the allied powers of Dillinger Four, The Soviettes and Off with Their Heads, one could call our native sound "homogenous" without being entirely uncharitable. The Chinchees represent something blessedly different, with amphetamine power-pop grooves reminiscent of Denton, TX bands like The Marked Men.
Resplendent, not in flannel and denim but in matching white jumpsuits, The Chinchees embrace their goofball ethos on tracks "Gosling Days" and "GORP," with brilliant visuals to match from local director and musician Gordon Byrd.
The Slow Death - Punishers
Now that we've dapped up a local pop-punk band for breaking out of the mold, it's time to celebrate a band that took the mold, dumped a beer on it, and injected it with pizza-flavored gold.
Longtime D4/Soviettes partner-in-crime Jesse Thorson has been faithfully adhering to the recipe of big chugging guitars and guttural singalong hooks for long enough to become a note-for-note expert in the form. Punishers is a masterclass in midwest punk, made all the richer by Thorson's penchant for bruised Americana storytelling.
the Miami Dolphins - Water Your Waiting For
In the shadow of ugly Super Bowl clouds forming over the Twin Cities, Minneapolis' most uniquely talented, definitely-not-football-related band released their second full-length LP as a blistering salvo against corporatized monotony.
You'd have an easier time explaining an NFL playbook than the musical morass that is Water Your Waiting For, but that's a very good thing. Headbutting the walls between NoWave, surf-punk, Minutemen-esque minimalism and full gonzo Beefheart, the Miami Dolphins have created a fascinating, conspiratorial blitz that's perfectly suited to our chaotic times.
Another Heaven - You Are Loved
Speaking of chaotic times, local tape label founder Ali Jaafar had a pretty rough 2017. He was forced to uproot his recording studio headquarters, Ecstattic Records, multiple times, and his main songwriting vehicle went through a hard reset.
Jaafar's misery has been productive for local music, however. Reconstituting his former project Hollow Boys into a new four-piece entity known as Another Heaven, Jaafar's signature washed-out melancholy got a turbo-boost of stoner metal riffage and atmospherics courtesy of a new lineup. The resulting nine-plus minute epic "Dead Star/Dr. Mars" on You Are Loved is undoubtably Jaafar's most ambitious work to date.
The Florists - No Costume
After releasing one of the most promising EPs of 2016, The Florists have partially jettisoned the skittering post-punk of Can You Feel the Stasis? and thrown a hooky, '90s-indie influenced fastball straight down the middle.
With lyrics largely focused on singer-guitarist Jo Kellen's struggles to be treated as a human being after coming out as non-binary, No Costume is thorny and confessional while still being a fun hang. "Thanks Again" and "Joey, You're a Dream" serve up a little Thermals-esque power-pop while "(I'm Gonna Kill That) Blue Haired Kid" is a winking tribute to Fiestas and Fiascos era LFTR PLLR.
Double Grave - New Year's Daydream
Bleak and gray but dappled with moments of striking beauty, Double Grave's New Year's Daydream EP bears more than a passing resemblance to the Minneapolis winters that inspired it.
The three-piece band has grown slightly heavier since changing their name from Ego Death last year, but Double Grave are still an open book. Superchunk sized guitar riffs and choruses combine with a unique lyrical sensibility that nimbly dodges every emo-revival cliche. The perfect companion to your Vitamin D lamp ennui this season.
Loud Sun - Sea Grave
Scruffy, charming and frill-free like the singer-songwriter who masterminded it, Sea Grave is the second full length from Dial-Up and Crimes founder Andrew Jansen's Loud Sun project.
Full of analog crackles and warm '60s psych melodies with an ambling, carefree vibe, Sea Grave ought to turn the ear of a few Mac Demarco fans if there's any justice in the world. A self-recorded bedroom record for all intents and purposes, Jansen's sunny sounds mask a melancholy streak as the songwriter wrestles with single parenthood in addition to all the other crap we all dealt with in 2017. Sea Grave is so fun that it'll only bum you out if you let it, though.