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Welcome to MSP: Ten Minnesota songs for newcomers to groove to

Lady Midnight at The Current. (Mary Mathis/MPR)
Lady Midnight at The Current. (Mary Mathis/MPR)

by Kayla Song

September 09, 2019

This week, individuals and organizations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area are celebrating MSP Welcome Week: a Make It. MSP. initiative designed to roll out the red carpet for valued newcomers to our area. We thought we'd do our part by offering this introduction to Minnesota music via ten songs and videos recorded in our studio.

These tracks are also available as a playlist on YouTube and Spotify. Of course this only scratches the surface of our internationally-renowned music scene, and you can hear much more on Local Current: our 24/7 stream of Minnesota music, always a fresh mix of new releases and classic tracks. It's available on our website, on The Current app, and on 89.3 HD2 for listeners with HD radios in our metro broadcast area.

Nur-D, “Take My Picture”

We’ll begin the playlist with an upbeat number by Twin Cities rapper Matt Allen, better known as Nur-D. The up-and-coming artist made it onto the 2018 Soundset Music Festival bill not long after he started his rap career earlier that year, which goes to show just how quickly he is able to electrify people with his dynamic stage presence, sense of rhythm, and the fun way he dismantles toxic masculinity through his music.

Semisonic, “Basement Tapes”

“We’re cool, temporarily ‘cus we’re from Minnesota,” sang Semisonic in this song “Basement Tapes,” which had still been unreleased at the time of their in-studio session. The alternative rock band, known to millions for their 1998 smash "Closing Time" and frontman Dan Wilson's songwriting collaborations with the likes of Adele and the Dixie Chicks, are on the road again with new music for the first time since 2001, debuting a few new songs with hints of more to come.

Lady Lark, “Rendezvous”

Taylor Harris is known as Lady Lark on stage, rising from modest beginnings singing karaoke on Fridays with friends to representing Minnesota at the 2019 Midwest Music Exchange. Blending multiple influences from pop to soul and R&B, Lady Lark has also collaborated with artists like Har Mar Superstar — another local hero — in songs like “Rendezvous.”

Dua Saleh, “Sugar Mama”

The Current first supported Dua Saleh’s music when they emerged with their debut single “First Take” in 2017. Since then, they have garnered the attention of fans and artists both locally and nationally. Earlier this year, after Saleh released their EP Nūr, Pitchfork published a favorable review of the album, which Saleh says meant a lot.

Soul Asylum, “Gravity”

These Minneapolis rockers' most recent album is Change of Fortune (2016), and although their local music roots run deep, they may be best known for their haunting 1992 song “Runaway Train.” The song was recently remade with an interactive video that shows viewers missing young people near them. This performance of "Gravity" is from a 2012 performance in Minnesota Public Radio's Forum (and yes, that's Michael Bland of Prince's New Power Generation on drums).

26 BATS!, “Do What You Do”

Headed by pathbreaker Bailey Cogan, who has achieved numerous milestones since releasing their first mixtape in high school, 26 BATS! are deliberately unanchored to any specific genre, helping them appeal to a wide range of Minnesota music fans.

The Suburbs, “Hey Muse”

Newcomers are sure to like these Current familiars with their mixture of Chan Poling’s smooth deep voice and the harmonization of Janey Winterbauer. The Suburbs, formed in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, rose in popularity back in the '70s and throughout the '80s. With their 2017 release Hey Muse full of strong new songs, the Suburbs today blend their classic post-punk charm with a brassy new polish.

Dessa, “The Chaconne”

Having risen to fame with the indie hip-hop collective Doomtree, rapper/ singer/ songwriter/ writer Dessa is an artist of many gifts. Last year at this time, she was preparing to release her memoir, My Own Devices. There are still a couple of days to enter for a chance to see Dessa deconstruct her latest album, Sound the Bells, at Minneapolis's beautiful Orchestra Hall. This performance of "The Chaconne" is from a visit to our studio almost ten years ago.

Lady Midnight, "Say It"

Adriana Rimpel is one of the most respected singer-songwriters in the Twin Cities today, a veteran of the Afro-Caribbean group Malamanya and a collaborator with the likes of Bon Iver and Brother Ali. She came into her own with the recent solo album Death Before Mourning, and if you have a chance to see Lady Midnight perform live, don't miss her stylish and spiritual set.

J.S. Ondara, “Saying Goodbye”

Say hello to local favorite J.S. Ondara, who actually immigrated to Minnesota from Nairobi, Kenya — inspired by Minnesota-born music legend Bob Dylan — and has since claimed the state as his own. He performed for The Current’s most recent birthday party earlier this year, and you can listen to Mary Lucia and Andrea Swensson dive deeper into his career and music on this episode of Listen to Looch.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.