Howler clears New York Times hurdle handsomely

Categories: Local Music
Howler_Peter_Van_Hattem.jpg
Photo by Peter Van Hattem
It's time to stop claiming Howler as our own, Minneapolis. Once you have the erudite vocabulary and muscular verbiage of New York Times' Jon Caramanica exploring the niceties of a band's slice of indie rock, there's a strict no returns policy. Get ready for trend pieces, fashion magazine spreads, SXSW barraging, and "something definitive" written by Sasha Frere-Jones. Not to say that any of this is a bad thing, but your friends from other parts of the country are gonna be name-checking the hell out of Howler in 2012.

Let's get to Caramanica's nuggets, shall we? The piece is a double-purposed exposition of two key facts: Howler's America Give Up is out on Rough Trade now, and the guys are in the throes of a four-night New York itinerary to let people know about fact number one.

Aside from the generosity of the writer to call Minneapolis' indie-rock scene "bustling" considering his fertile home pastures, this is effusive praise heaped on top of shimmering approval for the quintet. Regarding the album, it's "an affectionate revision of bands that preceded it, from the ragged optimism of [our storied hometown band] the Replacements to the ragged pessimism of [Caramanica's storied hometown band] the Strokes." This is a nice way of saying that America Give Up is not overly derivative, and it isn't.

As for the band's performance at Pianos, a cozy, influential establishment in Manhattan's Lower East Side where you can spit in any direction and likely hit a wall and/or a music journalist, we find that the set "blazed by" and "its churn was reliable, its manner casual, its mood slightly cutting." And for many, that's a great night.

Just as a lesson for others attempting the concert review craft, it's dangerous to pose unanswerable questions -- especially as your lead. "Just how long will it take for Howler to become very, very handsome?" is the one that Caramanica opts for. The Twin Cities didn't really have to worry about this, as the heft of the songcraft and performing acumen has already stared a good crowd of locals in the mug for months already. But at the end, we find this was a rhetorical play by our writer.

Regarding singer Jordan Gatesmith, "His hair was a bit shaggy, but appealingly so." Furthermore, "And Mr. Nygaard already had his hair slicked back, his jeans tight and cuffed. He's ready." You can almost hear the racks of selvage denim shuffling as fashion directors plot a March spreads on our gents. Handsome words, indeed.

Read Caramanica's entire review here.

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31 comments
Letter
Letter

Dear Howler, you've got an ok sound, I'm sure I'll hear it in a bunch of commercials this year.  Try not to be a flash-in-the-pan.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

nobody here claims them because nobody here knows who they are. good riddance.

just what we need is more articles about the exact same thing. give it up already.

give respect for those bands that work their asses off hauling gear for $50.

there's over 700 of them in our database. and then CP has the audacity to keep writing about the same damn things? Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy here.

what
what

So... this. This is... an article, about, an article? Um, okay. That's kind of stupid.

Hi Pals
Hi Pals

Nice haircuts, d-bags. God this sucks.

A2d2
A2d2

im really happy for these guys!!!  so happy. people I talk to are lukewarm about them in this "scene" which yeah who gives a shit.  I have never approached the music scene as one to win over because the intl music scene is so much broader and open minded than minneapolis.  there are so many cases of bands starting to break out from mpls now..who do different types of music.  in the end it will make mpls known for more than folk and social hip hop ...and I can't wait for that day. because then local media then music fans will appreciate and follow other music more closely.

I also like your writing style...  look forward to more

Damien
Damien

Reminds me of...

"the guitar guy played real good feedback, and super sounding riffswith his mild mannered look on, yeah he was truly hipthe girl started out in red patent leathervery I'm in a band with knee padswe watch her fall over and lay down,shouting the poetic truths of high school journal keepers"

-Lee Renaldo "Skip Tracer"

Good luck, Howler!

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

Last time I checked, hauling gear is not what people who actually like music care about. Listing a vast number of mediocre bands in any scene doesn't interest me. Most people can't name 70 bands they like, let alone 700. Either make some choices, take some risks, and push the best ones to your forefront, or be quiet.

meta
meta

comments about articles about articles, however...

Damien
Damien

I've been really surprised at how little attention this band gets in the Twin Cities. I don't mean from publications. CP and Strib have been panting all over them. But then there will be no comments on their stories. I wonder if it's actual apathy about Howler, or envy coming from musicians that aren't "making it" after years spent paying dues.

I think the majority of TC music fans (i.e. those who actually go to small local shows at the clubs) are either musicians or friends of those musicians. This results in lots of small clusters of fans, and if a band doesn't fall into my cluster, I probably don't know about them. That is, until the press catches on and jealousy ensues (no reason my favorite band shouldn't be getting such praise and adoration). When this happens so big and fast, like it did for Howler, the lack of knowledge about them has to be intentional. Kind of a passive-aggressive way of saying you don't like the band because of their success so you refuse to listen to them.

Kudos to Howler for bypassing the local scene-wars and heading straight to the bigger leagues.

scooter
scooter

...such an excellent song!  Very excited about Mr. Ranaldo's new record

Chris Tures
Chris Tures

If Howler, Doomtree and Polica are the best we have to offer, then maybe we (as a collective music/press scene) should be quiet for a little while. Musically speaking, it feels like Minneapolis is so desperate to move the needle on a greater cultural scale (as it did in the 80s) that "local" as a buzz word has been over/misused to the point of meaninglessness. Pushing the "best ones" to your forefront has a bandwagoning effect, almost over-celebrating bands that get the national/international nod and reducing the tendency for press/radio (and thereby their readership/listenership) to take risks on gear-humping undiscovereds. At the moment, this is an H&M town (Howler is a perfect example of this - more derivative than original, but good at what they do), and if we keep celebrating the mediocrity, we'll never achieve the collective excellence we're capable of. We can do better.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

maybe you should check again. you just started at this new job and you're already out of touch.

24
24

A2d2 agrees with damien. (im a robot I can speak in 3rd person)seriously though, it's a clique fest and the media is involved with this too.  not worth to get invested in it all. my advice is screw the scene and go for the big prize... carnitas!

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

it's not envy it's because nobody knows and / or nobody cares. it's the same formula the CP and trib writers continually bandwagon-ing on the same thing.

they don't get replies because they haven't earned the respect and working in the trenches long enough to make it like they actually deserve it.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

Thanks for the recommendation, and keep 'em coming. Trust that there will be plenty of new names and faces filtering through as time passes  -- and arguably there have been already. It has only been a month.

Sean Chaucer
Sean Chaucer

And I'm not dissing on writing about popular artists.  I like Justin Beiber just as much as the next hipster.

Sean Chaucer
Sean Chaucer

Reed,

Thanks for reiterating my point.  It wasn't a personal attack, more of a defense, actually.

Do keep in mind, however, (while I agree that City Pages is under no obligation, and in fact shouldn't report on soley "indie" music) that Gimme Noise in particular is very popular with fans of local music of many genres, because it gives them insight into something that is difficult for them to find elsewhere, which is news about the releases and doings of local artists.  This is the same reason that Pitchfork became so popular.  Back in the late 1990's, Rolling Stone Magazine wasn't reviewing music that took some deep digging to find.  Pitchfork was taking risks.  Gimme Noise was (among other things) utilized as a way for City Pages writers to write about things that weren't quite big enough for a full-fledged magazine article, but would still be something music-related that people of the Twin Cities may like to read/hear.  I am not telling you what to write about.  In fact, I believe if you read my previous post, I was doing the exact opposite.  On a side note, completely unrelated to City Pages, it may do you some good to delve a bit deeper into this "vast number of mediocre bands" that the Twin Cities holds so near and dear, and you may discover that  some of them aren't so mediocre.  I recommend starting with Self-Evident, a post-hardcore punk band that have been around for 15 years with very little local press that I am aware of.  This didn't stop them from being one of the few Twin Cities bands that my "indie-hipster" friends out East have heard of and enjoy.  I believe they have a considerable national and international fan base as well.  Worth checking out.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

Hey Sean,It's true that City Pages is owned by Village Voice Media, and that we thrive on people reading stuff on our site and picking up the paper. It's also true that writing (and reading) only about indie rock is boring as fuck.

At this point, "indie" is such a stupid concept. It used to lend credibility to an artist or a publication, but with consolidations and cutbacks, few entities can remain independent and actually survive. Every artist with a brain and dedication will find a place that can keep them creating their art, and that increasingly means some creative business models that aren't completely DIY -- unless you're blessed with deep pockets. Should we automatically ignore the people who succeed?

As for this comment: "If you want a publication that cares about the underground music scene, City Pages is not it." This is nonsense. Here's my problem: People who love music (and arguably good writing) don't have to say "this isn't underground enough for me to like," and when we cover something -- regardless of its popularity -- we pay people to provide a lot more content, insight, and reporting than just a paragraph and a picture.

Plus, the underground scene, whatever people choose to decide what that is, is only part of what keeps the Twin Cities a vibrant music community. Music fans need not feel guilty about their pleasures, nor should they have to put up with an onslaught of boring music coverage that clings to always being "fiercely underground." Come pick my brain sometime if you really want to know what I care about.

And, the great thing about the Twin Cities is that you can read Gimme Noise, and then go read Reviler, Sound Verite', Artcetera, the Local Current blog, the A.V. Club, Radio K, Empty's Tapes, the PiPress, Cake in 15, Wild Tundra, LOL/OMG, MFR, Midwest Broadcast, Vita.mn, MinnPost, MPLS.TV, The Somethin' Else, Secrets of the City, MinnDaily... and about 90 other local blogs dealing with music on a semi-regular basis. I bet each of them would admit to having some sort of "biased slant," and people who actually care about music around here never need rely on just one source anyhow. You're right that it's up to the reader, and I think they deserve more credit than you give them here.

P.S. Regrettably, there is no Village Voice publication in Chicago.

Sean Chaucer
Sean Chaucer

People are forgetting something in this conversation.  As much as I agree and prefer publications that do dig deeper to find music with a bit more originality and innovation, one must remember that City Pages is not an indie publication.  It is owned by Village Voice, and while Village Voice and City Pages have tended to learn towards the "indie" rock movement in their writing, Village Voice is corporate and its main concern is page views.  Being owned by Village Voice, I can only imagine that City Pages is very pressured to worry more about Page Views than Local Music.  If you want a publication that cares about the underground music scene, City Pages is not it.  There are blogs and such for that.  There used to be Pitchfork, but they're about as "indie" (I'm using the term indie lightly here, because it has basically lost most of its meaning) as Rolling Stone now.  In the Twin Cities, "indie" fans tend to rely on City Pages.  This is not the case in cities like Chicago and New York, where it is understood that Village Voice has a biased slant.  So this argument is fairly pointless, because in the end, it's not entirely up to Reed.  It's up to the reader.

Damien
Damien

Ha! It's all so exciting! Take the carnitas and run.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

If you are trying to prove that this particular blog doesn't matter by continuing to comment on it, it's not working.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

sorry but ahem. you're full of shit. this is exactly the statements of somebody who doesn't know what the fuck they're doing. instead of pretending and trying to take over Andrea's position maybe you should make one of your own, stop the bullshit, and be comprehensive ---- we already appreciate you observe the opportunity to be more communicative that is already a huge step forward. -- let's keep going that way and we'll really be in a position to have something more than "6" likes and a few very well held back comments.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

Hey Some Guy. I appreciate your blessing to occasionally "be a dick."

To address the two examples you provide: I happen to like Howler a lot, but I have more conflicted feelings about Bon Iver. I think that the way people write about Justin Vernon sometimes annoys me more than the music itself, actually.

In any case, I believe that the people who make/made a splash in the TC and beyond always should be featured on Gimme Noise, whether we personally like them or not. It's a motivator to up-and-coming artists to push their material out, and market themselves creatively so that people can find out about them, and it keeps the content on the blog engaging. "This band has an album" is not enough of a news hook for me, usually.

Don't worry, though. The bigger an act gets, the more they put themselves out there for constructive criticism, and I seek to provide that here.

Some Guy
Some Guy

Welcome Reed! As a local musician I agree with Mr. Tures about needing more conversation and constructive criticism from the media. Enough with this MN Nice attitude when it's supposed to be your job to elevate this scene by putting some egos in check. While I'm all about an artist staying true to his/her vision, sometimes local bands on the edge of a breakthrough need critics to say "I really liked this part of your sound but this other part really doesn't do it for me." I don't find flawless gushing reviews to be believable when breakout bands like Howler come through and it seems like all the local music press has to say is positive because those reviews seem more motivated by hype than by actual interest in the band. Example: I hate Bon Iver and I have a hard time believing that every music critic absolutely loves his music. Please do this music scene a favor and be a dick with your reviews once in a while. If you need advice on doing that, talk to Riemenschneider. I wish you the best at CityPages.

Chris Tures
Chris Tures

Absolutely, Reed. I appreciate that openness. I think a lot of what we need in this town is more conversation, constructive criticism and openness. Of all the music/press outlets in this town, I most often look to City Pages and Radio K. And I haven't given up on either. I think it's important to be direct with our opinions and from the consequent discourse, we'll evolve.

That said, there are very few bands in this town that knock my socks off. Wizards Are Real are one of those bands. I'll likely take advantage of that invitation to communicate directly should anyone else knock my socks off. Godspeed in your adventures in local press.

p.s.What bands do you like, Reed?

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

Damien, I'm glad you can admit that your comments are partially motivated by getting attention for your band. A pursuit I can understand. As for the rest of you, why don't you just tell me the bands you like? Or e-mail them to me if that feels more civilized.

Damien
Damien

Well said. But in fairness, City Pages and Gimme Noise in particular have been pretty good at shining a light on smaller TC acts, either through their 7" reviews, or the Last Night concert reviews, or other features I can't remember right now. They just never talk about my band. Sad face.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

you just proved my point, why are you trying to disagree?

R2D2 4 ever
R2D2 4 ever

are you like 80 dude?  Im old but you make me sound like a tween (carnita eating tween).   

"they don't get replies because they haven't earned the respect and working in the trenches long enough to make it like they actually deserve it. "  

this is ice age thinking. here's a formula for you...1) make music you want when you want how you want2) make an album3) don't promote it in mpls4) meet people on the internet (world wide web, lotus notes, etc)5) get an international record deal

this is starting to happen more and more in the Twin cities with bands that don't fit the social hip hop / folk music mold that everyone fawns over. this group is going to make mpls an internationally diverse music scene.. 

24 R2D2
24 R2D2

people do care.. get your head outta your ass.  the world cares. geez. seriously.. get your head out of your "MPLS MUSIC ROXX" ass.  Howler is next level bubb... they already are so big that city pages everyone else in mpls is just trying to play catchup.  mpls music - get pissed at Rough Trade, NY Times, Guardian etc etc etc.  just get mad at the UK to keep it simple. then eat some carnitas!

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