How a Minneapolis String Quartet Got Hired by Belle & Sebastian

Categories: Interview, Music
Photo by Stacy Schwartz
L-R: Josh Misner, Jesse Peterson, Erica Burton, and Cory Grossman; cellist Dan Lawonn filled in for the Belle & Sebastian session.

Glaswegian twee-pop collective Belle and Sebastian just released their ninth album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, this week. Without looking at the liner notes, it might go unnoticed that several songs came together with the help of Minneapolis's Laurels String Quartet playing arrangements by another local musician, Andy Thompson. Their sumptuous additions were recorded last year at Humans Win! studio in Northeast.

Gimme Noise reached out to the Laurels and Thompson to find out how and why they got hired by Stuart Murdoch and co.

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PJ Harvey Is Rock's Most Fearless Musician

Categories: Music
Photo courtesy of Somerset House

PJ Harvey has brazenly defied industry expectations throughout her 25-year-plus music career. The English musician has boldly morphed from a 50 ft. queenie to a strutting Vegas-style lounge singer to a hushed, fragile soul-stirrer. Her songs sting, soothe, and heal in equal measure.

For her ninth album, Harvey's career full of risk-taking artistry has yet another exciting development. She and her band -- along with longtime producers Flood and John Parish -- will discuss, play, and record her new material behind a glass box in full view of the public at the Somerset House in London. Recording in Progress combines composition, studio art, performance, and observation, proving yet again that she is rock's most fearless musician. Here are the brave steps she's taken up to this point.

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The Life of a House Band: Dr. Mambo's Combo

Courtesy of Dr. Mambo's Combo

Around 8:30 p.m. on a Monday evening, the crowd at North Loop institution Bunker's Music Bar & Grill was a bit thin. Only 15 people were there, including a well-dressed man in a cream-colored three-piece suit accented by a navy blazer and an almond-colored hat.

Just under an hour later, more folks trickled in slowly. Many of them clearly knew each other. Warm smiles were met with open arms, and followed by embraces. All of them also knew why they were here: Dr. Mambo's Combo was set to perform. This was where young and old meet to get down, dance, and get funky.

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What it's actually like to perform on David Letterman

Photo By Allison LaBonne

When Jeremy Messersmith was invited to play Late Show with David Letterman recently, he brought his 10-piece band along with him to perform Heart Murmurs standout "Bubblin'" to its largest audience yet.

Gimme Noise asked Messersmith's guitarist Brian Tighe (The Starfolk/The Owls/The Hang Ups) to keep track of his insider experiences leading up to the show, as well as his overall thoughts on the performance itself. He kept a detailed journal of the New York adventure. Also included is violinist Jesse Peterson's harrowing account of losing luggage that almost derailed their plans to play Letterman with the band.

See also:
Jeremy Messersmith plays "Bubblin'" on Letterman

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Shonen Knife to play 1,000th show at Turf Club

Categories: Gimme News, Music

Shonen Knife are hitting a major career milestone later this year when they return to the Twin Cities. The garage rockers from Osaka, Japan, have a September show at Turf Club marking their 1,000th since forming in 1981. They plan to celebrate with a special set list with founding member Atsuko Yamano re-joining the band.

See also:
Shonen Knife at the 7th St. Entry, 11/11/11

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Why David Bowie needs to tour again

Categories: Music
Photo By Jimmy King

We all have that one musician we have never seen live, and it eats at us. I'm not talking about some new U.K. buzz band. I'm talking about someone influential and essential -- someone on David Bowie's level. For me, and a good lot of fans, I'm specifically talking about the Thin White Duke.

Bowie's last local performance was at the Target Center in January 2004, and to be perfectly honest, I can't specifically remember what conflict kept me from attending that show. Looking back on it now, I made the wrong choice that evening. In a metamorphic career such as Bowie's, 10 years is an eternity. In any given decade since Bowie first released his eponymous 1967 debut album, he's changed styles and sounds countless times. Especially considering his recent creative reawakening, the world is aching to see him onstage again, or for the very first time.

See also:
David Bowie's The Next Day marks the return of the world's greatest chameleon

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Summer Music & Movies announces 2014 lineup

Photo by Steve Cohen

The Walker Art Center's Summer Music & Movies series has consistently provided Twin Cities film and music lovers with a wonderful -- and entirely free -- night out that celebrates the eternal link of both creative mediums.

This year's lineup incudes Greg Grease (above) and his new ZuluZuluu project, the Cloak Ox, and more paired with iconic films. Showings and performances are every Monday night in August. Loring Park hosts the events on August 4, 11, and 18, and Walker's Open Field is the setting for the final night on August 25.  

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My six-week-old recognized the song I sang to him in utero

Categories: Music, Pop Culture
Amber Taufen

The transportive power of music never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I hear the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," it's suddenly 1997 inside my head; I'm back in high school, daydreaming while sitting on my bedroom floor, and my little blue boombox's dial is tuned to my favorite radio station, which plays the song at least once a day. When Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" plays -- and I allow myself to really listen to it -- I'm back in 2006, and my dad has just had a fatal heart attack; to cope, I listen to sad songs that help me purge the waves of unmanageable emotions I'm feeling through catharsis, and Roger Waters helps me cry myself to sleep more than once.

Just a few weeks ago, the neurons in my brain connected a brand-new memory to yet another song -- and it's one of my happiest memories to date, so I know I'll enjoy hearing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" every time it enters my aural sphere. Here's why.

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The Mercury Music Prize is far superior to the Grammys

Categories: Music
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen
This year's Mercury Prize winner, James Blake, performing at First Ave in May

For a high school/college kid in the early '90s, it was easy to get fed up with the U.S. mainstream's increasingly homogenized take on popular music -- especially whenever the disappointing Grammy Awards came around every February.

The Grammys have always had an elderly, buttoned-down air to their winners, and artistic merit is trumped by corporate strength on a consistent, embarrassing basis. Since its launch in 1992, the Mercury Music Prize has championed the best U.K. and Ireland albums and represented the tastes and trends of younger, more discerning listeners. Based upon its winners, it has always seemed -- despite its ever-present sponsorship straight from the start -- like an award for enlightened music fans instead of ignorant stuffed shirts.

See Also: James Blake at First Avenue, 5/1/13

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Arcade Fire are music's most unserious serious band


If you thought that Arcade Fire would play it safe in order to win over the "Who the fuck are Arcade Fire" crowd that sprung up after The Suburbs won a 2010 Grammy for Album of the Year, you were mistaken. Instead they hired Zach Galifianakis.

The Canadian group toyed with their personas on their recent retro-tinged Saturday Night Live performance (assisted by Minnesota's own Mike Lewis on saxophone). They followed that up with a bizarre, celebrity-filled short concert film directed by Roman Coppola called Here Comes the Night Time, in addition to their Anton Corbijn-directed music video for new single "Reflektor." But the more peculiar and abstract that Arcade Fire get -- and the more they confuse the typical music fan -- the better it is for the creative industry as a whole.

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