Here are some stocking-stuffer suggestions for the music lover on your list who can’t enough of that funky stuff: Mayda, Soulacious, and Junkyard Empire. Want to score big points? Give him or her all three. Then, wait. They’ll be jawing your ear off about how tight you hooked them up.
Junkyard Empire’s EP Rise of the Wretched is the excellent follow-up to their killer debut Reclaim Freedom. Reclaim Freedom served notice Twin Cities hip-hop was in for a seriously new experience: prose-poetry fronting avant-garde jazz. Rise of the Wretched shows that album was no fluke and these cats plan to stay around, pulling society’s coat and making amazing music. To release Rise of the Wretched, the band did an “Anti-RNC Tour”—a mini-tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul to protest the Republican National Convention. When you listen to Junkyard Empire, you hear lyrics like “I slam poetics with the dialectic of a heretic. Eclectic styles I inherited from the dociet files, and walked the highways with James Meredith. Evoke the souls of Langston and James Baldwin, because there’s a fire in my eyes when I too sing America.” And you’re treated to some of the wildest jazz imaginable. December 13 at 10 p.m., they’ll be at a perfect place to catch this group: big enough to move around, small enough to let you dig what’s happening on the bandstand. Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Ave. on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Go check it out. You may just wind up buying a copy of Rise of the Wretched for gift-giving and one for yourself.
Soulacious’s Strange Love is one hot disc: straight-up, this bunch ain’t nothin’ nice. Strong vocalists front a funk band that would burn up hell. This, their debut, is a splendid blend of Soul-Train-era R&B with hip-hop, plus some rock. They also don’t mind giving society what-for. This is from the cut “Sittin’ On Top of the World”: “Yo, Ivy League grad got his Ph.D., turned CEO of a billion-dollar company / Now he lives the life of luxury…private jets, stock options and penthouse suites / Admired by his peers for his business acumen, yet he’s ruined the lives of many women and men / His board room choices spread pain and anger, he ain’t nothin’ but a Wall Street gangster.” You can catch them December 11 at Jitters Martini Bar (it’s okay if you order beer), 205 E. Hennepin Ave., 9:30 p.m.
Mayda’s EP Stereotype flat-out kills with singing and songwriting that fire up a storm. She brings it from the gut, at times raw as a bad luck, at times smooth as a free ride. Always heartfelt, always dead-on. Soulfully serious. Ask anyone who caught her at what became this year’s legendary She Rock Festival at Pi Bar (Minneapolis). From the song “Stereotype”: “It only takes one look to start shaping your head / It only takes one crook to start sleeping with a bat in your bed / It only takes one brick to start building those walls / and it only takes one hit to make them all fall / I wanna break your stereo / I wanna break your stereotype / I wanna break your stereo / I wanna break your stereotype.” Courtesy of killer producer Michael Bland, the recording’s got the James-Brown-cum-Prince groove nailed to the board. December 13, 5 p.m., Mayda is at First Avenue, corner of First Ave. & 7th St. in downtown Minneapolis on a bill with Heiruspecs.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.