Best Music Of 2006: Loon State Edition

As the A.V. Club’s Twin Cities editor, I was happy to weigh in on our collective national Best Music Of 2006 list (here’s a link to my personal top 10), but I also thought it would be important to do the same for my own local music scene. I put the following list together for the A.V. Club’s Minneapolis print edition, and in the name of civic pride and all that, I’ll share it with you guys here too. Though making these annual best-of lists is one of the highlights of a critics’ year, the idea of ranking one musician against another sometimes seems a little ludicrous. Is a rap group really comparable to a folk duo, or an alt-country band? You know what they say about apples and oranges. Still, they’re both fruit, and if you can’t pick out rotten produce, you’re gonna wind up in the hospital. Of course, you can’t really compare CDs and fruit either, except to say that if you try to eat a CD you will definitely end up in the hospital even if it’s a good band. (This despite the fact that economists call people who buy CDs “consumers.”) At any rate, here are my picks for the best Minnesota-made music of 2006.

Originally published Dec. 14, 2006 on Read the complete article.

Inventory: 12 Songs About Shopping

10. Billy Bragg, “The Busy Girl Buys Beauty”
It’s only to be expected that rock’s most outspoken socialist would view shopping with a skeptical eye. In this song from Billy Bragg’s fiery 1983 debut EP, he mocks the notion at the heart of the modern advertising industry—namely, that a person can simply buy happiness as long as she “buys what she’s told to buy.” But he isn’t being a grinch: His proletarian anger isn’t directed at the girls trying to buy their way into better lives, but the lies they’re fed that try to get them to hand over cash for a chance at a mostly illusory “mail-order paradise.”

11. The Handsome Family, “24-Hour Store”
Where Billy Bragg worries that the world of commerce damages people by making them see things that aren’t real, Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family is troubled instead by lonely, isolated people who might be happy if only they could see the miraculous world that’s hidden from them. “24-Hour Store” is a typically Sparks-esque combination of ghostly mysticism and detached observation of mundane life. It’s easy to imagine Sparks off in a corner at her neighborhood Wal-Mart at midnight, watching the insomniacs pushing broken carts down the aisle in a mild, sad stupor, while invisible angels “fly through lights… in particles of light that fall from the sun.” Whether she’s talking about God, art, or some other spiritual lack is, well, immaterial.

Originally published on Dec. 1, 2006 as part of a group-written Inventory feature; I wrote the sections on Billy Bragg and the Handsome Family. Read the complete article.

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