“III” is the Magic Number

Is/Is are proving themselves as a vital force in Twin Cities indie rock.


WHAT: Is/Is — “III” record release with Acid Baby Jesus, Zoo Animal, Heavy Deeds and Fire in the Northern Firs

WHERE: Turf Club

1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul

WHEN: 9 p.m., Friday

COST:  $7 / 21+

If you’ve been worried that quality, gimmick-free rock music is dead and gone, you’re not alone. Sarah Rose, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the Minneapolis group Is/Is, agrees.

“We were talking about how there is no timeless music anymore,” she said.

Their debut album “III” should dispel these worries. Drenched in analog fuzz — “No laptops,” Rose emphasized — the album’s aesthetic could fit in perfectly with the best of the ’90s indie rock canon.

The three-piece has only been together for three years, but they’re making the most of the classic guitar-bass-drums-vocals lineup. Landing somewhere between shoegaze and garage rock, tracks like “Shadow,” “Hate Smile” and “Fire” have all the gritty aggression you would expect.

Elsewhere, sweet, melodious pop hooks show another side of the group. Rose’s vocals are unwaveringly strong and even intimidating at times, but the melodies she creates on “Loose Skin” and “Lie Awake” are swoon-worthy.

The strength of Rose’s songwriting shines brightly on “III.” Compared to the “spacey” nature of their previous 7-inch and EP, the album has a lot more going on, Rose said.

“I’ve been focusing on being a better songwriter,” she said. “A few of those [older] songs I wrote when I was 13. Everything that Is/Is has been putting out is songs I’ve been writing my whole life. ‘III’ is the most recent version of my songwriting.”

But that’s not to dismiss the power of the rest of the band: Drummer Annie May and bassist Sarah Nienaber continuously push the album’s sound into heavier territory, in addition to the several guest musicians who appear throughout the record.

The heaviest hitters are “Sun Tsunami” and “Save Your Savior,” the eight-minute psych-rockers that close the record. In the same vein as Yo La Tengo’s lengthier tunes (think “Blue Line Swinger” and “I Heard You Looking”), the songs shine in their deceptive simplicity. Though they use only a few chords, the band avoids resorting to the oft-abused crescendo to resolve the tunes. Instead, they effortlessly toy with sonic dynamics, creating an atmosphere that remains spellbinding throughout.

On Friday night, Is/Is will celebrate the release of “III” at the Turf Club, and later this month they’ll be kicking off a tour to Texas and the East Coast. “We’ve been super busy lately,” Rose said. “We already have a few new songs, [and] we’ve daydreamed about putting out another EP right away.”

Whatever comes next, Rose asserts that Is/Is has no plans of slowing down. “III” is already one of the strongest rock albums of the year, so be sure to catch them in the Twin Cities while you can. If the record is anything to go by, the trio is certainly heading to bold places.