Minnetonkans were proud to see one of their own get some recognition when Skippers grad John Mark Nelson premiered his first music video on MTV. But young as the 19-year-old singer is, his success didn’t come overnight. Nelson put out two albums before releasing his latest single, “The Moon and The Stars.”
Release date: Dec. 29, 2011
No. of tracks: 11
Style: Ethereal. From the very beginning track, “North St. Paul/Silver Lake,” Still Here has an otherworldly ambiance. Both the music and lyrics have a haunting quality, as seen in “Columbia”: “Will they come looking for me!?/Here I am/Floating around/Someone please/Just make a sound.” “Hello From the Interstate!” even has a unique vibe that combines a digitized sound with the style of an a capella group. The album also features heavy use of the natural metaphors that continue right up to Nelson’s latest song.
Standout track: “Taylors Falls” is less airy than the other tracks on the album. But it’s a mellow, relaxing piece that makes great use of vocals—perfect for an early morning drive. “This song is about a field trip of sorts. Late afternoon. I remember it so vividly. It could have been last week. I couldn't ever forget it,” Nelson wrote about the song.
Waiting and Waiting
Release date: Aug. 12, 2012
No. of tracks: 10
Style: A bright sound covering deep, dark layers. The overture offers a good hint of what’s to come. The music opens in with a ’50s love song vibe as Nelson croons, “Baby, are you mine all the time?/Sometimes when you stay out at night, I wonder if your love is true.” Similarly, the first real song, “Home,” opens with a chorus of ooos and a lively xylophone in the background, but the lyrics suggest someone who’s passed through rough times. “Reminisce” hits those notes even better. Nelson layers a tinkly, light sound over sadness—albeit sadness tinged with hope: “All these places so reminiscent of/Our mistakes and all the we should have done/And in time the veil will be lifted from/All I need and all that I won't become.” The album is a tour de force, as local music critics were quick to recognize. "In short, Nelson's songs already sound like they belong alongside the mainstays of the indie-folk up-swell currently figuring into our daily lives on radio, commercials, movies, and certainly spilling out of live music venues of all sizes," wrote Reed Fischer of City Pages.
Standout track: “Rain Comes Down” moves from maudlin to lively in both tempo and lyrics. Nelson brings the listener along an emotional journey as well as any author. Honorable mention has to go to “Worst to Forget.” The lyrics and music-box waltz couldn’t be simpler. But it’s that very simplicity that tugs at the heartstrings.