Essentially a Playlist : they don’t look like twins

Having just returned from Minneapolis where I saw the Vikings trounce a lackluster Giants team, the Twin Cities remain at the top of my mind. While there are some big differences between Minneapolis and Winnipeg (four professional sports teams, Light Rail Transit), we do share similarities in our climate. And I’m not just talking about the weather here — Minneapolis’ musical climate is a vibrant and diverse as our own. This week’s playlist doesn’t feature any Bob Dylan (while he is a Minnesotan, he’s from Duluth), but it does feature the little purple one.

Semisonic — “Down In Flames” (from Great Divide)

While the band will forever be known for “Closing Time” from Feeling Strangely Fine, their follow-up to this 1996 record, the trio weren’t one-hit wonders. They had strong singles before and after “Closing Time,” just none that became as ubiquitous as that song. For my money, Great Divide had some of the best songs Dan Wilson ever wrote.

Prince — “Raspberry Beret” (from The Hits 2)

I think the little purple genius may actually live near Toronto now, but the man helped put Minneapolis on the map and made the already cool club First Avenue that much cooler when it featured in Purple Rain. Now what does it say about his strengths as a songwriter that a song as good as “Raspberry Beret” fell to the second volume of his hits?

The Hold Steady — “Stuck Between Stations” (from Boys And Girls In America)

While they may call Brooklyn their home now, America’s greatest bar band are Minneapolis boys at heart. In addition to recording a Twinkie version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” Craig Finn can frequently be spotted sporting a ballcap with the familiar TC of the Twins.

Husker Du — “Makes No Sense At All” (from Flip Your Wig)

I think there may be a civic by-law that you can’t mention the Minneapolis music scene without discussing Husker Du. The band pretty much own the history of indie-rock in that city and if Target didn’t have its corporate headquarters there and a bunch of money to throw around, I suspect the new baseball stadium would be called Bob Mould Ballpark.

Sounds Of Blackness — “Optimistic” (from The Evolution Of Gospel)

In addition to exporting some solid rock and funk to the rest of the world, Minneapolis also has one of the finest gospel groups in the history of the genre. Sounds Of Blackness — a 40-person choir — formed in St. Paul in 1969, but it wasn’t until Gary Hines (the songwriter of “Optimistic”) became group leader in 1971 that things really took off for the group.

The Replacements — “Kiss Me On The Bus” (from All For Nothing/Nothing For All)

While they joke that All For Nothing/Nothing For All isn’t a greatest hits album since they didn’t really have any, The Replacements had a fan in no less a figure than the legendary Seymour Stein, who writes in the liner notes to this collection that he first caught them live on one of the greatest of their great nights in the winter of 1984.

Paul Westerberg — “Waiting For Somebody” (from Singles: OST)

Consider this a double-dose of Paul Westerberg, who was included on the time-capsule of a soundtrack to this Cameron Crowe film about grunge-era Seattle. There’s no replacing the Replacements, so Westerberg began forging a solo career that built on the slice-of-life writing he’d begun in the late ‘80s. Best bit of trivia about Singles? It featured Prezbo from The Wire.

The Jayhawks — “Blue” (from Tomorrow The Green Grass)

It’s a tough call for me who my favourite Minneapolis act is, but few albums are dearer to me than Tomorrow The Green Grass. Front-to-back it’s one of the finest roots-rock records ever made and “Blue” is, as my father-in-law would say: “tremendous.”

Babes In Toyland — “More, More, More (Pt.1)” (from Spirit of ’73)

This Andrea True Connection cover from Minneapolis grunge band, Babes In Toyland, appeared on a 1995 collection subtitled “Rock For Choice” that featured a host of diverse female artists commemorating the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States on Jan. 22, 1973.

Fog — “The Girl From The Gum Commercial” (from Ether Teeth)

Fog was the act that broke the Ninja Tune mold. Prior to this Minneapolis group signing to the UK electronic label, the roster was pretty vanilla with DJs and producers making albums that all fit comfortably next to one another. Fog was like Tiger Tiger next to the Vanilla — strange sounds, even stranger lyrics and some curious instrumentation all made for something wholly new.