“The Minnesota Sound” might be in reference to the former r&b, soul and funk glory days of the mid-20th century, but even after Prince’s revival and reinterpretation of the sound passed, something strange happened; a new Minnesota sound appeared. The new sound may not have been as flashy, the design wasn’t as intricate, but the subtlety captures an isolation, an unrequited calm in which genres are defied and rarely embraced outside of the state in its original form. Previously, this new take on sound was captured well on “Let It Be” by The Replacements or Hüsker Dü’s “Zen Arcade.” Modern incarnations would include Atmosphere, P.O.S, and Halloween, Alaska.
Halloween, Alaska the ambient, alternative rock band from Minneapolis, is unlike any other band on the scene right now: many rock and pop groups claim to not focus on one sole genre, but very few can say it as sincerely as the group. Influences range from 50s rockabilly to 80s r&b, according to lead singer James Diers. Not to mention, if that doesn’t convince on their range in influence, they covered LL Cool J’s “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” on their Too Tall to Hide album. Combine that with an ever-evolving songwriting style, 2011’s All Night The Calls Came In has layered atmosphere with a more hook-driven foundation.
With 2015 coming to a close, the group has a lot for which to be excited. A successful show at The Turf Club in St. Paul that had the small club packed–the set was about 40 minutes long, the band not taking more time than needed to perform, but every moment was on display–a campaign to reissue their self-titled debut album on vinyl for the very first time; a new album sometime after 2016 turns; it will be a good year for the group, their fans and the music community.
“We’ve been taking our time writing songs, but I think we’ve been wanting to go towards a little more progressive angle,” said Diers. At the Turf Club, the group performed three new songs. They followed the natural progression of their discography; that’s to say, the new material makes sense. The music itself took advantage of mood shifts and tempo changes. Overall, the newest, untitled work is impressive. While the group’s strengths shine through the brightest on record, their lean but strong live performance lends much anticipation.
Halloween, Alaska represents a new direction for rock music in the Twin Cities. While many rock groups do their best to either mimic the former 80s rock hey-day or do their best to land a spot on the radio, Halloween, Alaska doesn’t solely embrace any of those ideas. The group often seamlessly blends multiple genres and aesthetic philosophies. A group comfortable in thoughtful nuance, it’s incredible the genuineness on the group’s sleeve. It often leads to an often enjoyable, if not enlightening, listen.
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