Ten months into the pandemic, musicheads know the drill: Indie music site Bandcamp.com is waiving its fees to artists on the first Friday of the month to help them sell music and merch. Here are some new Minnesota albums to sweeten the deal.
Kid Dakota, "Age of Roaches"
Back in Minneapolis after a few ambitious personal forays — including a temporary return to his native Bison, N.D. — Darren Jackson has also settled back into the frenetic and foreboding musical persona that made him a good stage pairing with Low in the 2000s. Songs like the deceptively beautified "Prairie Flowers" and the missile-haunted title track are some of his bleakest and bloodiest. Age hasn't dulled the Kid's sharp edges or paranoia. But he does brighten the dark corners with awesome results in the cosmic-poppy "A Fox in a Cage" and the wondrous 7½-minute finale "Stephen Hawking."
Mac Irv, "The Breakthrough"
When former NBA prospect Lawrence McKenzie confesses, "Money is all I think of," two songs into his latest album as Mac Irv, he's not just another Jay-Z wannabe pretending he's rich; he sounds more like Mississippi John Hurt laying his burden down. The north Minneapolis rapper and MVP wordsmith has the blues throughout this 16-track saga, released via Prof's label Stophouse. He laments overdue child support in "Wrong Day" and old bad-boy behavior in "Hold On." His downtrodden reminders of hard times before the pandemic hit even harder during it.
Rich Mattson & the Northstars, "Skylights"
Holed up in tiny Sparta, Minn., Mattson and his romantic and musical partner Germaine Gemberling bust out in a big way on their latest and loudest effort under the Northstars moniker. The road song "Iowa" and wigged-out jam "Kiss the Sky" sound more akin to the ragged glory of Mattson's Neil Young tribute group Tired Eyes than his more alt-twangy old bands Ol' Yeller and the Tisdales. He and Gemberling also trade off vocals more often and share their shared sense of sardonic Minnesota humor (see: "Another Stupid Song"), coming off like a Turf Club answer to X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka.
Mattson and the Northstars' virtual release party premieres noon Friday via YouTube.
Under Violet, "Threes"
Teaming with Zoo Animal leader Holly Hansen to produce her second album as Under Violet, Minneapolis strummer Sara Bischoff (ex-Web of Sunsets) tones down the electric sonic layers and delivers a more direct and acoustic nine-song collection. Barbara Jean's lilting viola spurs on the wild-horse-breezy "Waltz," and Jeremy Ylvisaker's swirly guitar work adds verve to the should-be hit "Daisy." But mostly Bischoff is left to her own lonesome devices, and the results are still lush and beautiful — less like the oft-made Mazzy Star comparison and more like Iron & Wine.
Some other new Minnesota releases of note on Bandcamp: Annie Mack, "Testify" (see last week's feature); Annie & the Bang Bang, "Loveland" (spotlighted here); King Broder, "Sweeps" (Dave King + Andrew Broder); Har Mar Superstar, "Roseville" (pre-order); Leslie Rich & the Rocket Soul Choir, "The Butcher Boy;" Atmosphere, "God's Bathroom Floor" (reissue); Joe Fahey, "February on Ice;" Empire Down, "Gallows of Winter;" Paul Metsa, "Whistling Past the Graveyard" (reissue).
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