Sunday, June 7, 2009

R.I.P. Jeff Hanson

By Evan Rytlewski
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A Milwaukee native who relocated to Minneapolis and began recording for Kill Rock Stars, Jeff Hanson was found dead Friday, apparently from an accidental fall. He was 31.

On a trio of folk-pop records for Kill Rock Stars beginning with 2003's Son, Hanson stood out for his high, remarkably feminine singing voice, a novelty that the label happily marketed and that Hanson had a sense of humor about. In Milwaukee, however, Hanson may be better remembered as the singer for the '90s emo-pop act M.I.J. Like all area emo bands, M.I.J. was eclipsed by The Promise Ring. They drew frequent, mostly accurate comparisons to Milwaukee's flagship emo band, but M.I.J.'s lone full-length, 2000's The Radio Goodnight, stands on its own, a deliberately lightweight fuzz-pop anthology more playful than most '90s emo yet less smug than the emo that would follow.

Hanson would later trade those Promise Ring comparisons for Elliott Smith ones, and although his work wasn't as memorable as Smith's, he was one of only a handful of the many post-Elliott Smith singer-songwriters who got Smith's formula right, balancing warm arrangements with gentle intimacy, while conveying a discernable personality of his own.

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