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Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)

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Album Review

It's hard not to root for Cloud Cult. A Minneapolis-based collective whose social conscience is as important as their music, the bandmembers have made a strong name for themselves in green circles for putting their money where their mouth is on the topic: not only do they tour in a biodiesel van and use recycled and sustainable materials in their CD packaging, the group's profits are donated to charity. This includes the proceeds from the work of the band's two non-musicians, painters Connie Minowa and Scott West: during each Cloud Cult performance, they paint original works on-stage as the band plays, which are then auctioned off from the stage at the end of the show. Furthermore, it seems nearly impossible not to be moved by the fact that since the 2002 death of Kaidin Minowa, Connie and singer/songwriter Craig Minowa's young son, the majority of the band's songs have dealt, sometimes explicitly but more often obliquely, with that loss. But while doing press for the band's fifth album in five years, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), Craig Minowa announced that this was quite possibly the last Cloud Cult record, or at least the last before a long break. Releasing an album a year — especially while undergoing the processes of grief — is exhausting for even the most prolific bands, and unfortunately, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) shows the strain. Following the band's career high point, 2005's Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus, and 2007's more restrained The Meaning of 8, this has the undeniable feel of a songwriter and a band who have started running out of ideas. To cite the group's most obvious musical touchstone, the Flaming Lips, this is their Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the album where they recycle the sounds and themes of the albums just previous with considerably less of the imagination and innovation they had previously shown. Even the most devoted Cloud Cult fans will note that while there are undeniable charms to songs like "No One Said It Would Be Easy" (which opens the album with a minute-long fugue for acoustic and electric keyboards that features some outstanding, Pink Floyd-like stereo panning that must be heard on good headphones to truly appreciate) and the Arcade Fire-style urgency of "May Your Hearts Stay Strong," the high points are fewer and farther between this time out than they were before.


Formed: 1995 in Duluth, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The experimental, environmentally conscious Cloud Cult began in the mid-'90s in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band was initially the solo project of Craig Minowa, who launched Cloud Cult while he was pursuing a degree in environmental science, and also shining shoes and driving an ice cream truck, among other jobs. Minowa spent the bulk of 1995 recording The Shade Project, which included sounds produced by buckets, pans, and couch cushions. Additional musicians were recruited to play the material live,...
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Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), Cloud Cult
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