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Another week, another local electronic-rock act earning major Internet buzz. ...
This week's installment of the now-popular game show "Who Needs a Record Deal, Anyway?" is about a 22-year-old whiz kid from Owatonna, Minn., named Adam Young, who until a few months ago still lived with his parents and made music in their basement under the moniker Owl City. His home recordings are a charming takeoff -- OK, sometimes they sound like a blatant rip-off -- of the Postal Service. But hey, Ben Gibbard is too busy these days with his pending marriage to Zooey Deschanel, so let somebody else make his brooding brand of poetic digi-pop.
Young's first live performance in town is a sold-out show tonight at the Varsity Theater (he already has another gig booked there May 15). He also plays Schuba's in Chicago on Saturday and sold that one out, too.
His popularity can almost exclusively be attributed to MySpace.com, where he has racked up more than 5 million page views and 150,000 song downloads. In a word, the kid has gone viral. The song that's more or less his hit, "Hello Seattle" -- a whirring synth-pop track laden with late-night-dreamy poetry -- has been listened to 3.5 million times on the site.
"He makes the kind of music that can do really well on the Internet," explained his Minneapolis-based entertainment attorney, Ken Abdo, who called Young "just a regular Minnesota kid who happens to stay up all night, making music."
Abdo recently helped Young hammer out a record deal at Universal Republic, but that was almost a secondary element to a bigger business plan that will start with an online campaign with downloadable singles well before a physical CD comes out in the fall. Young has also signed on with New York's Foundations Artist Management, which also represents Dr. Dog and Ladyhawk.
Foundations' Laura Pease said, "He's a total MySpace baby. There's a lot of opportunity for him because of that."
Young was busy rehearsing with his two Owl City bandmates this week, but he did answer a few questions via e-mail from Owatonna.
"We're as nervous as three sheep in a spaceship on its way to the dentist," he wrote of this weekend's gigs. "But it's a good nervous."
Asked about his phenomenal ascent thus far, Young said, "I can't really figure it out, either. I wrote a bunch of songs in my parents' basement one weekend when they were out of town, put them on MySpace and, well ... here I am. I have no idea what's going on."
Clearly, he's not alone. But it's a good kind of no-idea-what's-going-on.Best new metal band?
More young prodigies of a totally different genre and volume: Rivet turned heads as it spawned a sea of head-banging two years ago at Radio K's Battle of the Underage Underground, an event where indie-rock and hip-hop acts typically reign. The guitar-shredding, double-kick-drumming thrash metal quartet from St. Paul -- whose members are still in their teens -- proves it deserved the trophy with a truly bursting and brutal debut CD, which it's promoting Sunday with a "St. Valentine's Massacre" release party at Station 4 (6 p.m., $5, all ages).
The eponymous disc is unabashed "Kill 'Em All" revivalism, something Metallica itself also did with its latest album. Songs like "Jezebel" and the mellow-to-manic opener "Total War" prove there's nothing ironic or disingenuous about Rivet's high-energy thrashing. Granted, the boyishly growled lyrics about destruction and, well, more destruction come off a bit trite, but you'll barely have time to notice as these metal kids constantly throw in a dime-stopped time change or dust-stormy guitar solos.Wiley brings it 'Home'
It's a little hard to believe Alicia Wiley is only 26. She has been a known talent in the local scene for half a decade and her smoky, candlelit jazz-pop ballads sound as sophisticated as a singer/songwriter twice her age.
The latter point is especially obvious on her elegant but passion-brimming new CD, "Halfway Home," which follows last year's live CD, "Changes," and two previous albums. With an MVP band that includes Yohannes Tona on bass and guitarist Jacob Hanson, Wiley's piano-fueled pageantry comes off as part Fiona Apple, a bit of Diana Krall and more than a little Adele-ish (great timing!). Her writing style ranges from aching love songs like the title track to great girl-vs.-the-world anthems such as the still closer "Dreaming Eyes."
The standout, though, is the album's lone cover song, a mellow but mesmerizing take on Joni Mitchell's song about giving a child up for adoption, "Little Green." Wiley and Co. are hosting a release party Thursday at the Varsity (7 p.m., $8).Random mix
I'm still a little miffed I didn't win anything in the meat raffle last time, but I can't really leave out a plug for this one: The latest installment of Gastros Non Gratas -- cross-promoting local food artisans, indie bands and craft brewers -- is Sunday, 6-9 p.m., at the Triple Rock. Participants hail from the Modern Cafe, Miel y Leche Catering and Duvel beer, and music will be provided by Gospel Gossip, Skirt and Jim & the French Vanilla (led by the Blind Shake's Jim Blaha). It's all free. Really, what more can you ask for? ...
Last week's hard-stomping North Mississippi Allstars gig at the Cabooze was the perfect time/place for news to get out about the change in location for this summer's Deep Blues Festival, which attracted fans from around the globe but had trouble drawing Twin Citians out to Lake Elmo. The third annual installment will be held right in town at the Cabooze July 15-19, with outdoor and indoor stages and 70-some bands. ...
Another star on the achievement board for Cloud Cult: The band earned a slot at April's Coachella Music Fest. ... Another star on the achievement board for Trampled by Turtles: Their latest and best album, "Duluth," made it to No. 8 on Billboard's bluegrass chart last month. TBT, btw, are headlining the second of two nights of the third annual Concert to End Homelessness at the Cabooze Saturday, also featuring Two Many Banjos and Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. Tonight's lineup features Pert Near Sandstone, the Brass Kings and Floorbirds. Both shows start at 9 p.m. and benefit St. Stephen's Human Services ($10, or get a $16 two-day pass at TicketFusion.com). ...
Paul Westerberg has issued yet another ramshackle collection of basement-taped songs via the ever-burgeoning Amazon.com MP3 site for the ever-irresistible price of $.79. This one is a three-song set, "D.G.T.," which is highlighted by the twangy, bouncy song of the same name and includes rocking versions of the cowboy anthem "Streets of Laredo" and the Christmas hit "Away in a Manger." That one probably sounded better two months ago. It's fun stuff, but can we all agree it's time the guy got to making a real record again?
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658