I attended a wedding a few weeks ago where I made a promise to write, once again, about one of the greatest bands that you’ve probably never listened to. This band is Cloud Cult and they don’t get nearly the amount of attention, money, or acclaim that they deserve. Part of this general malaise most likely stems from the fact that they self publish their albums on Earthology Records which was founded by lead singer Craig Minowa in 1997. Although college radio stations and critics seem to find much to like about this group from Minneapolis more often than not people I have the privilege of meeting in person invariably have never heard of them.
My love for Cloud Cult began while I was living overseas and was mailed mix albums by an old college friend. One such album contained the track Pretty Voice from their 2007 album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes). Instantaneously I was hooked. The layered vocals, the slow build, and the energy and narrative in this one song seemed to be tailor made to make me pay attention. The Meaning of 8 has a haunting quality smothered in beauty, discovery, and joy that has proven to be timeless in appeal.
From there I took a small step back in time and I found the rougher, raw gemstone that is their 2005 release Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus (amazon) (itunes). Although this album doesn’t have the melodies and polish of their later efforts the songwriting and energy are just as apparent this effort as those that were still to come.
At this point in my life it was still 2007 and I was already hooked deeply on anything I could find by Cloud Cult. I was routinely putting them in compilations and featuring them on Best of the Year lists. When their 2008 album was released, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes) it seemed that their musical abilities had matured at the same pace as my musical taste. This album is immaculate from start to finish and contains some wonderful lyrical vignettes. I was also helped along during this time by being blessed with a live show that took place a mere 25 miles from my home at the time. I was blown away during their set with the energy and personable nature with which the band took the stage. And I was not prepared to watch two people paint, on stage, throughout the set. If I could have afforded the post show auction for the artwork I most definitely would have walked home with a painting (the art auction profits helps finance their live tours).
In 2010 the band released an EP entitled Running With the Wolves in which they proved that a group of modern musicians can take a masterful song from the likes of Bob Dylan and translate it enough that it becomes their own. They still play this song live and it is wonderful to hear.
Their most recent studio album was released in autumn of 2010 (although they will have a new album out later this year). Again Cloud Cult did not disappoint. With the album Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes) the band creates a single narrative piece that is woven throughout all sixteen tracks. Although some artists would label this a gimmick “concept album” or some other classification I think this album transcends that identity. Yes there is a meta story going on throughout the album, but each track both furthers that narrative while presenting its own individual identity. In the end you’re left with a great album that encourages a listener to enjoy the full experience of listening to all of the tracks from start to finish (an increasingly rare attempt in the day of digital single song downloads).
And just recently, as a bonus for those of us who check their website routinely (hoping they will play another show near our home) they posted a masterful cover of the Beatles.
I still stand by my assertion that Cloud Cult is one of the greatest bands that you’ve never heard of. They are under appreciated and undoubtedly underpaid. It’s bands like this that inspire me to write again on this aging blog. It’s bands like this that deserve to still be written about.