I am incredibly stoked to be premiering the Straight and Narrow Digital 45 from Band and the Beat today! It’s a perfect two-song set for a spring afternoon and evening (and it’s Friday, to boot!)
B&TB is a North Carolina-based indie-pop duo using analog synths to create perky, warm, smile-inducing tunes reminiscent of Mates of States’ electronic side. Tracy Shedd’s vocals lead the way, as her forthright tenor slides smoothly along the bed of pad synths, drum machines, and good vibes.
The digital 45 they’re releasing today contains twelve minutes of work in two tunes. The gently tumbling vocal melodies of “Straight and Narrow” and the more dusky, terse minor key action of “Jimmy’s Jam.” Both tunes are the sort to make me lean my chair back, close my eyes, and take a mental trip. The fact that the two tunes go different places in my mind is a bonus–both are strong examples of the sort of veteran, polished, easily-lovable work that the members of Band and the Beat are putting out early in their career.
The Band and the Beat‘s two-song single is a warm, lush blast. It’s a blast in the “blast of air” sense: the analog synths and drum machine create a surprisingly different atmosphere than the harsh digital synths I’m used to. (It’s also a blast in that it’s a lot of fun.) Even when the sound turns ominous, as it does about four and half minutes through the seven-minute runtime, the tune seems comforting. I keep wanting to say “warm blanket,” but gives short shrift to the tightly constructed arrangements and song structures. Freeflowing jams these are not, which is good–I’m not usually the guy trying to sell people on lengthy noodling (be it of the synth or guitar type).
No, “21” stays tight due to thoughtful songwriting and Tracy Tritten’s pristine vocals (of Tracy Shedd). Her soft alto/mezzo-soprano floats effortlessly over the seas of synths. Her voice is more playful in b-side “Buoy,” which fits with the lighter mood of the track. “Buoy” sounds like a lost Mates of State track, if they gave up the piano altogether and went full synth. It’s a friendly, smile-inducing song that features a bit of arpeggiated bass thump to break up the legato lines. “We were never meant to settle down,” Tritten claims, “Another trip and another town.” The song fits as a road song–perfect for the bit when the adrenaline of leaving has worn off and the enjoyment of the ride has set in.
“Get ready / suit up,” Tritten offers at the conclusion of “21,” and it’s a worthy mantra for the outfit as well as the listeners. I’m intrigued to hear more from The Band and the Beat, as their synth-pop is more than just cheery melodies. The complexity of the songwriting in “21” points towards strong offerings in the future.
If you’re in the Triangle of North Carolina, you’ll have a couple chances to see them live over the next week or so:
Nov 1. Durham. Duke Coffeehouse. w/ Free Pizza (Boston)
Nov 7. Chapel Hill. The Cave. w/ Tim Lee 3
1. “Hopeful” – Bear Mountain. A little bit of Passion Pit, a little bit of Vampire Weekend, a little M83, and you’ve got one of the best dance-pop songs I’ve heard all year.
2. “Entomologist” – Luxxe. Shades of Jason Isbell’s evocative voice creep in here, placed in the context of a perky-yet-mature pop-rock tune. It all comes off with impressive cohesion.
3. “Buoy” – The Band and the Beat. If you wished that Mates of State used analog synths all the time, you’ll be way into TBxB’s gentle, warm, female-fronted synth-pop. The tune just wraps itself around my brain and comforts it.
4. “Understand” – Photoreal. It seems wrong to describe this pop-rock tune as “muscly,” but it feels like a streamlined, beefed-up version of Generationals’ catchy indie-pop work.
5. “Au Naturel” – Holy ’57. The frenetic blitz of a major-key sugar rush will never get old. This tune has everything I’m looking for in a pop tune.
6. “Lodestar” – Starlight Girls. The disco vibes are impeccably done and the vocals are tight, but–for my money–this song is 100% about that bass work. It’s melodic, funky, tight, and just plain irresistible. A knock-out.
7. “Storm” – Bright Whistles. Sometimes I’m concerned that I’ve abused the term “quirky,” because something always seems to come along that was quirkier than the last. Suffice it to say, “Storm” by Bright Whistles is like what The Flaming Lips could have been if they kept on the Yoshimi path, or what all genres of indie-rock sound like in a giant blender, or (stay with me on this one) what an OK GO music video would sound like if the video itself were transformed into audio that reflected the clever, enthusiastic, enigmatic visuals. In other words, it’s pretty rad.
8. “Summertime” – The High Divers. Bands are always making odes to that sunniest of seasons, but this one really nails it: a touch of Vampire Weekend, a splash of Hamilton Leithauser’s vocal gymnastics, and a whole lot of good-old-pop-music. Dare you to not smile.
9. “Two Weeks” – HIGH UP. File this powerhouse tune under “Muscle Shoals Soul/Funk,” right there next to Alabama Shakes, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
10. “Burning Candles” – Disaster Lover. It’s like I walked into a room where Disaster Lover’s vision was already fully employed: not so many songs capture and modify the aural space that they’re deployed in. The whirling/somewhat chaotic percussion and synths that are woven together to create this here/there/everywhere piece of work are wild and yet inviting.
11. “We All Decided No” – S.M. Wolf. This is, at its core, a pop-rock song. It is a very weird, arch, theatrical, blown-out take on the theme, but it’s in there. This is basically what I imagine we’re trying to capture with the idea of indie-pop: pop songs that just aren’t radio material in this universe, but only because it’s an unjust universe.
The acoustic guy/girl duo is an old, old form, but the beauty of intertwined vocals almost ensures that it will never fall out of use. Laura and Greg‘s Forever For Sure lives happily and easily inside the bounds of that genre, delivering chipper, charming indie-pop songs. The easiest comparison is the Weepies, with whom they share a predilection for precise, staccato rhythms and stark framing of individual melodic elements. But where The Weepies are titularly mopey, L&G are more sprightly in tempo and mood.
While opener “Muscle Memory” and the title track make use of wistful guitar and fragile voice, tracks like the handclap-laden “Pennies” and the woozy ’50s charm of “Fireflies” evoke the enthusiasm of Mates of State. “Undertow (water waves)” is a strummy tune that draws off some country vibes, even. But it’s in their intimate moments that they shine brightest: “Same World” is a joy to behold, with their two beautiful voices blending and swirling over a meticulously picked guitar. Muscle Memory is fresh, vital, and warm, the sort of work that makes you forget about the difficulties and injustices of life for a while. Who doesn’t want that?
On the other end of the spectrum from Laura & Greg in the indie world is The View Electrical, a dreamy band that can drift around calmly or ratchet up to post-hardcore thrashiness (complete with screaming).
The trick they pull off in Roseland is making all of their motion feel seamless: opener “Haunted by a Dream” turns a cascading acoustic guitar line into a lead guitar line by lifting it in the mix above groove-laden drums, treble-heavy pad synths, and grumbling bass. Within a few more seconds it has exploded into multiple vocal lines (including a scream) before closing. They may throw the kitchen sink at this record (the second song opens with a glitchy electro-pop clicks, the third with four-on-the-floor dance-rock beats, the fourth with delicate acoustic picking), but the strong engineering job and distinct vocal approach keeps this from being a mishmash.
Where the mixing pulls out all the stops to lend coherence to the sound, the vocals float along blithely, seemingly unconcerned by the herculean task that they’re given. Leading a band with the ambitions of The View Electrical is not easy, but the vocalist does it. My favorite of his approaches is somewhere between Surrounded’s whisper-singing (“Haunted by a Dream”) and Sigur Ros’s aria-esque delivery (“It Was Time”); it’s airy but grounded, breathy but solid. It ties together the many parts of The View Electrical’s sound neatly. Even when a more direct tonal approach is called for in songs, the singer seems to corral the disparate parts of the sound and marshal them in the listener’s defense.
Towards the back half of the album things get a little more straightforward and aggressive. “Death and the Young Man” is laden with aggressive beats, dropping out the lightness of the first few tracks; “In My Defense” and “Protect Us” are dissonant and heavy. Still, even in tunes as minor-key and ominous as “Protect Us” there’s a break from the gloom in the way of a dreamy guitar layered on top. The band returns to the Surrounded-esque rock/dream-pop by the end of the record, showing the minor-key sections to be part and parcel of their omnivorous approach: the thrashy, post-rock/post-metal moment of “We Won’t Stay” is dropped right into the middle of one of their most beautiful (9-minute!) songs. It’s similar to how Sigur Ros uses heaviness, but that doesn’t make it feel any less impressive or unexpected.
Roseland is an extremely ambitious record that succeeds on many levels. If you’re into thoughtful music that doesn’t bother with labels (indie-pop, indie-rock, electro, post-rock, post-metal), you’ll get a lot of listens out of this record.
I’ve sung the praises of pop-punk many times before (including quite recently); still, it’s moved into a legacy spot in my heart. I cover the occasional single and video, but covering full releases is rare these days. But you can’t leave your sonic or physical friends behind (isn’t this the moral of all early 2000s pop-punk/emo?), and thus I’m here to tell you that Dan Webb and the Spiders‘ Perfect Problem is rad. If you’re into snare-heavy pop music with enthusiastic melodies and excess adrenaline played very loudly, you should look it up.
Perfect Problem hits right in my sweet spot: pop-punk that has enough meat to not sound like an airy pop-rock tune a la Boys Like Girls but enough melodic bonafides to stay away from ragged hollered/screamed vocals a la the Menzingers. Even the tougher vocal performances here (“Night Games,” “The Neighborhood”) rough up the tone a bit but never sacrifice a charming melody or ubiquitous, spot-on high harmony. Even crunchy songs like “Moment,” which was recorded by inimitable Steve Albini, balance the brittle distorted guitar chop and thundering back-line with other generic influences: there’s a ’50s-pop influence in the rhythmic patterns, guitar solo, and soaring chorus vocal line. It’s these subtle influences and recording flourishes that give this a volume and depth separating it from streamlined, radio-friendly pop.
The highlight is the title track, which combines all of the best parts of Dan Webb’s sound together: infectious melodies, charging guitars, harmonies, and an upbeat vibe. If you’re into pop-punk with just the light scrubbing of grit, Dan Webb is on your team.
1. “All I Can Give” – Haring. Chillwave forever: bright synth washes, gentle beats, and burbling melodies. Chillwave forever,
2. “Petrol Station” – Sorcha Richardson. Right when I think that I can’t take one more downtempo electro-pop tune, Sorcha Richardson renews my faith in the genre. This is slinky, groove-laden, and funky in all the best senses of those terms. Her vocals are just so smooth.
3. “Outro (Entry Code, Dial Tone)” – Heart/Dancer. Warm, refreshing, and intimate electro pop; the male/female vocals remind of Chairlift or Mates of State.
4. “Everything” – Wall of Trophies. Brittany Jean and Will Copps return as Wall of Trophies, showing off their particular skills: whirlwinds of artsy electronic/acoustic sound marshaled by Jean’s acrobatic vocals and passionate delivery. The sonic conclusion at the end of the tune will raise your eyebrows.
5. “Surrender” – Briana Marela. Somewhere between the intimate voice morphing of Imogen Heap and the cinematic vocal loops of Julianna Barwick lies Briana Marela. “Surrender” is a burbling electro/acoustic track that relies on complex beats, layers of sounds, and delicate/feathery melodies.
6. “Ready 2 Wear” – Loveskills. What would dance music sound like if there were no drum machines or synths? That’s the question Loveskills admirably tackles here, creating a bouncy, infectious track out of piano, finger snaps, strings, and intriguing vocals. This is a great pop song.
7. “Wavering Down” – Kasey Keller Big Band. Starts off as an abstract, outsider electronic piece, ends in a bit of a hooky electro jam–all in under 90 seconds.
1. “We Are on the Hill” – Montoya. A fist-pumping indie-dance-rock anthem, complete with anthemic slogan to yell (which makes no sense out of context). I love the piano in this track.
2. “My Fortune” – Sameblod. I tried writing about this sunshiny dance-pop track, but it ended up with this anyway: Ah, what do I know. Just turn it up in your car.
3. “Ran Ran Run” – Pavo Pavo. Half languid, swirly San Fran indie-pop, half unassuming four-on-the-floor Mates of State-style indie-dance thumper. It works surprisingly well for the diversity.
4. “Por Cima” – Flavia Coelho. I don’t know, man, sometimes I just need some Brazilian bossa nova/rap funkiness in my life. I also enjoy not being able to understand the words or the subtitles on this track. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and not worry about it.
5. “We Will Be Palm” – Panda Kid. If you’re into Burger Records’ lo-fi, upbeat rock, you’ll love Panda Kid’s fuzzed-out, reverb-heavy, surf-influenced pop-rock.
6. “Nervous Breakthrough” – Bloodplums. Neuroses! Anti-authoritarianism! Politics! Religion! Big guitars! Snarling vocals! Does it get more pop-punk than this? Come and get it.
7. “High” – Puzzlecuts. Here’s some fun Post-Pavement slacker rock that combines relaxed melodies, laid-back arrangements and noisy guitars. It rambles and shambles along, cheerfully rocking.
8. “Golden Rat” – Cusses. I dare you to listen to that open guitar riff and not be totally sucked into this stomping rock song. That’s not even including the frantic, wild vocals of their female lead singer. Dynamite in a bottle. (Band is not to be confused with CURXES or Swearin’ despite (one definition of) their name–but man wouldn’t that make a great trio tour?)
9. “Eyes Lie” – Sebastian Brkic. I don’t know what to call minor-key rock that isn’t aggressive. Brkic’s new tune isn’t chill, but it’s also not aggro–it lives somewhere between cerebral and dreamy, somewhere between marching and swaying.
10. “No Justice” – Astronauts, Etc. I’ve been getting real into white-boy slow jamz recently, and this track has everything I’m looking for: a sensuous vibe created by mellow keys, smooth falsetto, unobtrusive percussion, and lithe bass. It’s not funky or aggressive, but it’s got movement and energy. It’s a tough balance to strike, but this track nails it.
11. “Good Will Rise” – Amber Edgar. This earnest acoustic tune knocked me back on my heels. The strings and trumpet in this tune don’t make the sound more expansive–they somehow make it more intimate. This is a powerful statement, musically and lyrically.
12. “Slow I Go” – Paul Doffing. This gentle, warm, optimistic fingerpicked acoustic tune calls up the kindest moments of James Taylor, which is high praise from over here.
1. “Winter is for Kierkegaard” – Tyler Lyle. There are few things that get me more than a earnest tenor singing way too many words over a folky arrangement. Lyle plays somewhere between Josh Ritter, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Gregory Alan Isakov.
2. “Resolution” – Young Legs. The world always needs more quirky, delightful indie-pop on a strummed banjo.
3. “The Fall” – Reina del Cid. Warm, fingerpicked acoustic guitar; brushed snare; stand-up bass; contented alto vocals–it sounds like all the bits and bobs of a country song, but del Cid turns it into a charming folky ballad.
4. “Forever for Sure” – Laura & Greg. The gentle, easy-going guitar and male/female vocals create an intimate vibe, while a mournful instrument in the distance creates a sense of spaciousness. The strings glue them together–the whole thing comes off beautifully. I’ve likened them to the Weepies before, but this one also has a Mates of State vibe.
5. “Touch the Ground” – The Chordaes. Dour Brit-pop verses, sky-high falsetto in the sunshiny, hooky chorus–the band’s covering all their bases on the pop spectrum. That chorus is one to hum.
6. “Inside Out” – Avalanche City. My favorite Kiwis return not with an Antlers-esque, downtempo, white-boy-soul song. It’s not exactly the chipper acoustic pop of previous, but it’s still infectiously catchy.
7. “Bad Timing” – The Phatapillars. If Jack Johnson’s muse was outdoor camping and music festivals instead of surfing, he could have ended up like this. For fans of Dispatch and old-school Guster.
8. “Tapes” – The Weather Station. Sometimes trying to describe beauty diminishes it. Let this song just drift you away.
9. “ Forest of Dreams” – Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands. The Decemberists have largely gone standard with their arrangements, but there are still people holding it down for klezmer arrangements of gypsy-influenced melodies mashed up with the occasional operatic vocal performance. It’s like a madcap Beirut or a female-fronted Gogol Bordello.
10. “Heavy Star Movin’ – The Silver Lake Chorus. Written by the Flaming Lips for the choir (which operates in a very Polyphonic Spree-like manner), it’s appropriately cosmic and trippy. Strings accompany, but nothing else–the vocals are the focus here.
11. “Emma Jean” – WolfCryer. Here’s Matt Baumann doing what he’s great at: playing the storytelling troubadour with an acoustic guitar and a world-weary baritone.
Independent Clauses (IC): Who are your major influences (musicians to your music and movie or TV stars to your look and painters to the way your apartment looks)?
Steven Luscher of Lakefield (SL): We think we’re pretty transparent with respect to our influences. Kate and I are big fans of Mates of State, and we place our guy/girl harmonies front and centre accordingly. Another guy/girl duo we love is Stars’ Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell; we love the way they weave stories in their back-and-forth way, atop epic cinematic arrangements. Lakefield’s visual aesthetic is mostly my doing. I’m a fan of capital-M: modernism, minimalism, and high-concept design, which should be evident when looking at things like the brand system on all of our albums, posters, and press materials, or our “Awkward Turtle” and “Camping With Bears” photoshoots. It’s less punk rawk and more Dwell magazine.
IC: Does Vancouver have a lot to do with your lyrics?
SL: For most of us, having moved to Vancouver counts as a pretty significant life-event. This city means so much to me; I’m sure that no matter what I write a song about, something about this place, or an experience that I had here will sneak its way in.
IC: Do past relationships have a lot to do with your lyrics?
SL: It seems that way, doesn’t it? You know, I’ve heard people refer to our debut album Sounds From The Treeline as a breakup album. I would tend to agree, though even I can’t tell you who’s being broken up with; those secrets will die with Kate.
IC (aside): Well, Blood on the Tracks….
IC: Who’s your go to for fiction/or creative writing? Authors, TV writers, loudmouths, comedians?
SL: I’m about to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, a book about living in a modern surveillance state (so, you know, real life). Have you seen the bit where Russell Brand roasts MSNBC’s anchors for being an embarrassment to journalism? It’s poetic. And of course, all of us go nuts for Louis CK.
I’ve never seen anything Russell Brand has ever done. Louis CK is the bread, butter, plate, and table… yes.
IC: Does having a major influence (I saw this on Facebook and they happen to be one of my favorite bands ever) like Mineral leave you feeling a bit pigeonholed as maybe a leftover emo-era-sounding (this is not a critique or a criticism. This was very much so MY big coming of age genre: the late 90’s emo-indie bands) and expound, please. Or, have you never felt this way at all or heard this before?
SL: Recently, in conversation with a well-respected Vancouver area producer, I had a small epiphany. He warned me that I’ve been writing music for a very narrow audience of people like me: musicians. Most people who listen to music are, generally speaking, not musicians. They don’t hear music the way a musician does – thankfully, some might say. Where I might perceive a reference, a mistake, or a cliché, most might hear a summer’s day, a first kiss, or nothing at all. Puzzled though I am at the fact that bands like Mineral, Battles, Cornelius, The Appleseed Cast, and American Football aren’t massive commercial success stories, maybe it’s because they just don’t resonate with the masses like they do with me. I accept that as a criticism of Lakefield; though we’re undoubtedly more pop than emo, in some small way I’ve been writing music that my 19-year-old musician-self would love. And let me tell you, there aren’t enough of my 19-year-old self left to turn Lakefield into an international success story today.
IC: Also, I think the vocals in Lakefield sound akin to and maybe are written to sound very much in the JeJune and Rainer Maria vein. Again… just what I’m hearing (not necessarily even going to make it into my review).
SL: I flew from Vancouver to New York City to see Rainer Maria’s farewell show at the Bowery Ballroom. When I was 17 years old, my band opened for Rainer Maria at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto – Caithlin said that she loved my band. I saw Rainer Maria’s very first show in Vancouver. If you hear Rainer Maria in Lakefield, it’s because they’re in my blood.
I have some funny stories about running into Rainer Maria a bunch in my past, too. I’ll save them for another time, though.
IC: Are you all married or single or happily involved? If not, do you meet a lot of hotties because you make music… or because you’re at bars more than an average person (performing)… or after performing (after a sweaty rave-up or after an awkward stage to front two rows too-long eye contact)?
SL: The band elected Bryan to be the official Lakefield hottie. Whenever there were Hott™ duties to perform, we could count on Bryan to come through.
IC: Who’s the most famous musician you’ve ever met? Is there a story there?
SL: I’ve been backstage / around back with Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Slean, Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), and Hayden. The entire Appleseed Cast stayed at my house once, on their way through Vancouver. I won’t name the musician, but once an industry friend of mine took me backstage to meet someone famous (well… Canada-famous anyway). The musician thought we had met before – I have this face that everyone thinks they’ve seen somewhere – and I replied, without hesitation: “not in real life.” My industry friend doesn’t talk to me anymore.
I bet it was Anne Murray. In fact, I KNOW it was.
IC: Why did you start writing songs? The catalyst?
SL: I remember watching Daniel Johns from Silverchair play on Saturday Night Live when I was a kid. My face was 3 centimeters from the screen, and I was soaking it up. Here was a young band, playing three-chord ditties to a massive audience, and I remember thinking: “I can do that.”
IC: I remember seeing Jawbox on 120 Minutes on MTV, and being like… what you just said, but more chords, and all jangly and shouty. I wanted to shout.
In my humble opinion, this conversation IS the review of Lakefield’s new album Swan Songs. Here are a few blurbable blurbs about it. The lead track, “Good Guy,” grabs the listener so tightly. You can’t touch Kate’s voice on this song. She’s “sorry for this heartache, but it’s all for you.” This reviewer’s favorite track is “Your Conviction Is So Sweet.” “Don’t give up before the end of this song;” if one did, they’d miss a powerful denouement. The guitars light up, and the keys and drums kick like a corrected toddler…like the last few beats of a heart once in love. Lakefield is a really focused band with great songs and, most importantly, great vocals. They tug at one’s heartstrings a lot, so get ready for that. Hear their new album, Swan Songs, when it comes out. There’s a count-down clock on their website. Exciting!–Gary Lee Barrett
It appears that I can’t get enough of guy/girl duos. Venna, Jenny and Tyler, Destroy Nate Allen!, Matt and Kim, and Mates of State are some of my favorite bands that I’ve covered here at Independent Clauses, and each fall into the aforementioned category. You can add The Gray Havens to that list, as their EP Where Eyes Don’t Go has swept me off my feet.
The duo fits somewhere between Mates of State’s piano-heavy indie-pop and Jenny and Tyler’s pop-folk. Dave and Licia Radford combine ukulele, piano and acoustic guitar to create pop songs with folk instrumentation that are near-impossible to wrest from my brain. From the perky, Weepies-esque strum and clap of “Let’s Get Married” to the orchestrated sweep of “Where It Goes” and “Music from a Garden,” The Gray Havens show their melodic talents in diverse ways. Dave Radford is the primary vocalist, and his smooth voice fits perfectly in the genre; his rhythmic and tonal flair in delivering the melodies is one of the most engaging elements of their sound. Although featured less, Licia Radford’s soprano voice is charming as well (“Let’s Get Married”).
The duo has more than just pretty melodies up their sleeves. “Silver” incorporates a horn section and accordion, which are both sure-fire ways to get me on board with your tune. While “Silver” is the most triumphantly catchy tune of the bunch (due to the horns and some great background vocals), the most unique tune is “Train Station,” which actually mocks up the sound of a train moving with guitar rhythms and percussion. But even with their arrangement skills, the simple “Let’s Get Married” is the tune that I keep humming to myself. It’s just wonderful.
If you’re into precise, upbeat indie-pop with an acoustic bent, you need to check out The Gray Havens’ Where Eyes Don’t Go. Their infectious melodies and creative songwriting touches make for a very engaging listen. Expect to hear much more from this duo in the future.
Independent Clauses is but one man at the moment, and that means that it’s impossible for me to cover everything that comes through the front doors. Some notable music flies under the radar for lack of time. To remedy these oversights, I’ve created two shout-out lists. Today’s is for the more pop-oriented stuff, while tomorrow’s is for indie-rock and singer/songwriter.
Alex and the XO’s – North to the Future Here’s some fun ukulele-fronted pop-rock with a female vocalist. Don’t confuse this for an Ingrid Michaelson copy: there’s a lot of crunch in these pop-rock tunes alongside the ukulele strum.
Christian Hansen – C’mon Arizona. This driving-ready synth-pop features a baritone vocalist for a change. Fans of Talking Heads should check the infectious “Spirit Guide” and the money-titled “You Were a Juggalo.”
Coed Pageant – The Seasons EPs Vol. 4: The Fallout. Boy/girl pop that goes for the grand sweep instead of the intimate coo. If Mates of State thought that their loudest arrangement could use a couple more instruments for scope, they might end up in this arena.
Hostage Calm – Please Remain Calm. Gonna throw my hat in here with the rest of the punk world: this one is pretty stellar. I’m a huge Menzingers fan, and this pushes all the same buttons lyrically and musically (only with a bit less gruffness).
Nora and One Left – Bicycle. Enthusiastic, girl-fronted indie-pop that occasionally includes accordion.
The World Record – Freeway Special. Similar to Fountains of Wayne, TWR goes to great lengths and many sub-genres in search of the perfect pop song. And check that sweet album art.
Wise Girl – Wise Girl EP. Straight-up power-pop with a great female vocalist. Turn it up loud.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.