Maro Helgeson and Casey Sowa, the duo behind Strange Relations, will play their new record “Editorial You” at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Sept. 2. Photo by Tamara Alswager

Maro Helgeson and Casey Sowa, the duo behind Strange Relations, will play their new record “Editorial You” at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Sept. 2. Photo by Tamara Alswager

Best Picks: Aug. 24–Sept. 6

Updated: May 17, 2018 - 3:52 pm

What to do downtown after work

Strange to say

The music of Casey Sowa and Maro Helgeson is often described as diary rock.

It’s a unique and seemingly apt term for the couple’s band Strange Relations, but it doesn’t describe their sound, which is at times bright and full of attitude and other times fine and feathery. If anything, it gets at what they’re saying, not how they’re saying it.

On “Editorial You,” the St. Paul-based band’s second record, the two and guitarist Nate Hart-Andersen focus on how we create ourselves. Like in a diary, Sowa, the group’s principle songwriter, vocalist and drummer, delves into the personal, but as songs, the music lifts her writing to the universal.

The title can also be read as an editorialized or constructed version of the self, which, “in the digital media era, is really something people put a decent amount of time into,” Sowa said.

The record is an extension of the band’s debut album, 2015’s “-Centrism,” both sonically and thematically, Sowa said. Reviving their post-punk and bass-driven pop-rock, “Editorial You” builds a murky depth of complex feelings where nothing is clear cut.

Sowa, who takes inspiration from bands like Warpaint and Bloc Party, said her favorite records tend to avoid one-note songs, creating immersive soundscapes instead.

“The records I’ve loved growing up break out of that mode, create a world and drop you into it and let you explore the landscapes,” she said.

STRANGE RELATIONS Editorial You Album Cover 600 webTo that end, Strange Relations defy an easy description. There’s not an obvious punk-rock attitude to the songs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a defiant spirit there. Sowa, who sings behind a drum kit, said their power comes from putting themselves out there in a personal, vulnerable way. Their motto is a sentiment she credits to Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “There’s nothing more punk rock than a heartfelt ballad.”

Sowa also credits her and Helgeson’s time going to school in Philadelphia and rubbing elbows with the city’s robust punk scene for rubbing off on them.

“There’s a punk spirit we carry with us to this day that we picked up from playing in these basements with all these bands,” she said.

The band has performed much of the album over the past couple years, whittling away at them to create “Editorial You.” The result is a heady, engaging collection of songs that are all at once unguarded and forceful, intimate and ubiquitous.

Strange Relations will debut the record at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Sept. 2. The 18-plus show will feature local melodic punk trio Double Grave and Loud Sun, the stage name of Madison, Wisconsin native Andrew Jansen. Loud Sun will perform songs from new record “Sea Grave.”

For readers, Sowa recommends checking out local musicians like self-described “sad-pop” band City Counselor and Fort Wilson Riot, a favorite among local summer festivals.

Outside the Twin Cities, Sowa says to check out Land of Talk, a Montreal-based band from Elizabeth Powell that released its latest album, “Life After Youth,” earlier this year.  Strange Relations opened for them in the spring, which she said was one of her biggest dreams come true.

“Editorial You” will be available at on Sept. 8.

Stop and smell the Roselle

Roselle4packGlassDRecently I brought some out-of-town friends to Bachelor Farmer in the North Loop. At the beautiful and humbly sized bar, my friends tasted aquavit for the first time while I opted for a beer from Fair State Brewing Cooperative, a Northeast-based brewery that is now expanding with a production facility in St. Paul. The beer, dubbed Roselle, was like no beer I’ve ever had before. I realized I’m late to the party — Roselle, the first sour beer canned in Minnesota, has been available for a while — but humor me. Upon your first sip, you’ll notice its bold, if not bloody, red color. Second, its light body, almost like a sparkling iced tea or champagne. Lastly, its hibiscus and floral flavors. The beer, a kettle sour saison Fair State makes with its own lactobacillus strain, isn’t bitter at all with an IBU of 19 and, if you’re wondering, about an average ABV at 5.7 percent. I’d recommend trying it, and there are few better venues than the bar at Bachelor Farmer. If you want to bring it home, however, Fair State bottles it in equally scarlet cans.

It’s Greek to me

It seems too soon to say it, but summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to enjoy the rest of our warm-weather months. The Minneapolis Greek Festival returns to St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church near the shores of Lake Calhoun from Sept. 8-10. The festivities kick off on Friday with a 5K toga run and walk around the lake, complete with a best toga contest, a kid’s run and a Greek-themed photo booth. The festival is one of the best — and certainly one of the most unique — when it comes to the food. Try the loukaniko, a Greek sausage sandwich on fresh pita bread, or the pastitsio, a Greek take on lasagna. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with a baklava sundae or, if you’d like to stick with the traditional, a savory koulouri butter cookie or diples, a sweet made from crispy sheets of fried dough covered in honey. In the evening, take to the courtyard café for flights of Greek wine and pick up some Greek dance moves at the outdoor stage.