Oh, local music, what a fickle lover you are. Even compared with the fleeting flavors of the national stage, Minnesota music often bears witness to high project turnover (even while the individual players often remain the same). So, as First Avenue’s Best New Bands showcase enters its 14th year since moving from 7th Street Entry to the Mainroom, let’s look at some of its most remarkable acts — some late, all great.
DOSH (2002): Dosh — the electro-wizard often associated with Andrew Bird — has become something of a poster child for stamina in the local scene. Last year’s Ghostband collab on the “Def Kith” EP showed Martin Dosh working through some of the most challenging, ambient work of his career.
DOOMTREE (2004): Rhymesayers did a commendable job of marketing Minneapolis’ hip-hop scene to a national audience around the turn of the millennium. But Doomtree’s full-fledged crew expanded the palette of a city whose rap offerings felt previously Golden Age-focused.
BIRTHDAY SUITS (2005): Not too much has changed in how Birthday Suits’ Hideo Takahashi and Matthew Kazama write and record since 2005. Loud, fast and short remain the band’s M.O. on 2013’s “Six 7” – a release that offered some newly discovered caverns in their normally staccato textures. While their future remains murky, Takahashi did return from Japan last year for some shows with Blind Shake. Fingers crossed that this live-show favorite hasn’t dissolved entirely.
JEREMY MESSERSMITH (2006): When Messersmith’s debut, “The Alcatraz Kid,” was released in 2006, the level of local gush reached suffocating levels for an artist so green. But last year’s “Heart Murmurs,” released on big-league Glassnote Records (Mumford & Sons, Phoenix), showed a songwriter who’s cruising but not coasting.
CAROLINE SMITH (2008): Smith’s evolution from feet-in-the-grass folkie beginnings with the Good Night Sleeps has positioned her as something of a Twin Cities Taylor Swift. Her soul-heavy 2013 effort “Half About Being a Woman” marked a stylistic shift, imbued with a greater sense of power and urgency. Last year’s track with Lizzo, “Let ’Em Say,” was shaking it off before Ms. Swift even put it on.
RED PENS (2009): In a town that bred the Replacements, it’s hard to come across rock acts without posture or pretension, though Red Pens felt like a blistered middle finger to both. The duo of Laura Bennett and Howard Hamilton apparently were only striving for Yo La Tengo’s chemistry and not longevity; they broke up in 2012, but 2010’s excellent “Reasons” is still Spotify-able. Andy Penkalski