1. “Marina and I” – The Gorgeous Chans. The syncopated guitars, perky horns, and enthusiastic attack of this track took all of 1 second to steal my Vampire Weekend-loving heart.
2. “The Fringe” – Sego. If you miss James Murphy slurring into a microphone over rubbery bass and insistent dance grooves, Sego is LCD Soundsystem’s musical, lyrical, and spiritual successor. “You Wanted a Hit,” indeed.
3. “Even Fireworks” – Pushing Static. This electro-pop/dance-rock fiesta makes me want to crank the volume knob way up.
4. “Island” – Hey Anna. If Braids drank a Red Bull and went to a beach party, they might come up with this fragile-yet-peppy indie-rock track.
5. “Inside Your Heart” – Hectorina. Their previous work is chaotic, fractured, ecstatic, and mind-bending; this track sands down some of the eccentric flair and reveals the ecstatic rock band at their core. (The fact that their beating heart sounds like Prince is perfect.) Everybody clap your hands.
6. “That Kind of Girl” – All Dogs. The sort of melodies that I’d expect from a emo-focused band fused in to a huge punk-rock/pop-punk/power-pop stomper. It just works perfectly.
7. “Sleep Talk” – Diet Cig. The idiosyncratic indie-pop quirkiness of the Juno soundtrack + confessional pop-punk + female vocals + intimate lyrics = excellent track.
8. “Island Kids” – Holy ’57. Sometimes a chorus just works so perfectly that it feels like I’ve know it forever. The perky tropical indie-pop builds through the verse to a speak-sung chorus that just knocks it out of the park. Re: your summer parties.
9. “’82” – Death in the Afternoon. This electronic cut is a lot more breathy, chill, and smooth than I thought death would be.
10. “Good” – Ehmandah. This, right here, is a modern day (some might even say musically progressive) gospel tune. Get in on this infectious, irresistible vibe. Everybody clap your hands.
11. “Sugar Dream” – Valley Shine. The band’s press photos capture them lying on a bed of brightly-colored candy and showered with an absurd amount of confetti. These are excellent visual representations of their Beatles-on-a-sugar-high sound.
12. “Reach Out” – The Bone Chimes. The arrangement of this orchestral-folk-rock tune is clean, bright, and carefully organized: the band builds anticipation from the first reverbed guitar note to a big conclusion.
13. “Sensual People” – Lylas. If hypnotic groove is one of the things you seek in an indie-rock tune, Lylas’ dense textures, ostinato rhythms, and slowly-unfolding song development will catch your ear.
14, “Up of Stairs” – James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg. Watching two talented athletes go against each other can excite, but only rarely does that interaction produce beauty. It’s much more likely when two talented musicians play off each other, which is the basic premise of this track: two incredibly talented acoustic guitar players push each other and come up with relaxing, impressive acoustic gold.
15. “Repeat” – Sye Elaine Spence. An unconventional acoustic strumming pattern and a strong focus on Spence’s enveloping voice create an immersive, unique experience.
I’ve always been a big proponent of seasonal music. If I can’t get it to stop raining here in Texas, I can at least listen to summery sounds. Hey Anna‘s Pompette EP is just the thing to tune up my rainy days. The quintet, which includes three sisters, has packed just about every upbeat, happy thing possible into these four tunes: perky high-hat percussion, bouncy bass work, zooming synths, major-key guitar chords, and twirling top guitar work. It seems to be scientifically engineered to get in your party mix. More evidence: the single is called “Dance Until Three,” and “Superglue” is about kissing. If you can’t have fun while listening to Pompette, this blog is probably not a good fit with your musical interests. I expect to hear a lot from this band in the near future, because they’re just a blast to hear. Rock on, Hey Anna.
Trading in the summery for the sultry is Jenny Dragon. The six-piece Americana band features two lead female vocalists and a serious love for 1930s-50s radio on A Fair Souvenir. The all-analog (!) recording sounds pristine in its sound quality, but that’s just the front door. Once you get into the songwriting, there’s a ton to enjoy. The band sticks with traditional songwriting styles and motifs, creating tunes that will appeal to fans of The Ditty Bops. “Be That As It May” has a perky jump in its step that makes me want to get up and dance, from the guitar strum to the attitude-filled double bass (!). The very next tune, “Slow Ride West,” shows off their ability to write a slow, sentimental tune that would be perfect for a slow-dance at a sock hop. (It also shows off the double bass, which I am thrilled about.) So if you’re into vintage-style songwriting led by classic female vocals, A Fair Souvenir by Jenny Dragon should be in your corner.
We’re moving ever closer to summer! We’ve almost emerged from the wintry doldrums! I must play as much wintry, doldrum-y music as I can before it’s June and that sort of music gets weird! The first three are sunshiny, the back five are chilly and reminiscent of snow (or at least dead leaves).
Winter Won’t Go Without A Fight Mix
1. “Dance Until Three” – Hey Anna. Just do what they say, as summer comes.
2. “Knock Yourself Out” – Slow Buildings. Guitar rock never dies, it just grows another appendage. Nice wiry, spry tune here with a surf-rock-inspired chorus.
3. “W.T.A.” – The Miners. Like The Killers, how had this name not been taken? These Philadelphians peddle story-tellin’ alt-country that makes the most of pedal-steel and six-string interactions.
4. “Hold On” – Sons of the East. Because Mumford and Sons don’t tour Australia enough.
5. “Common Year” – Thomas. I used to turn to Pedro the Lion for morose indie-rock like this, but now that’s not a thing, so I’m thrilled that Thomas is here to alleviate some of that hole in my heart.
6. “My Own” – Morgan Manifacier. Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear haven’t collaborated yet (to the best of my knowledge), but I imagine this tune would be sorta what they’d come up with. This one balances lush chamber-folk arrangements and stark moods effortlessly.
7. “Life in the Paint (Jesu Remix)” – Challenger. Like the Challenger remix we debuted, Jesu’s wide-eyed take on “Life in the Paint” strips out the original layers of synths to cut right at the heart of the tune. Cool stuff going on with these remixes.
8. “Liquid Gold” – Archie Atholl. A calming, wintry piano tune to close out the evening.
1. “Zeek and Axl Rose” – Automotive High School. The softer side of AHS’ fuzzed-out pop/pop-punk is just as hooky in a completely different way. The band is quickly moving up my “to-watch” list for 2013.
2. “Graveyard” – LVL UP. I keep a special place in my heart for video-game inspired music, and LVL UP’s punked-out geek pop is right in that space.
3. “Not a Riot” – Permanent Makeup. A wiry, low-slung, yelled punk tune with a neat guitar solo. No, for real.
4. “An Inter-dimensional Spat for the Right to Walk Away the Victor” – Hectorina. Not for the faint of heart or ear, this is a math/garage/post-punk/pop tune that is complex and almost entirely unique. If Queen and The Mars Volta got together, they’d both agree on this. Maybe.
5. “Hurricanes, XO” – Beat Radio. Is there ever not a market for enthusiastically fuzzed-out pop tunes?
6. “Come On. Stand Out.” – 7Bit Hero. A giddy slice of Australian electro-pop.
7. “Fame is for Assholes (Feat. Chiddy)” – Hoodie Allen. It finally happened.
8. “Tiny Kiss” – Hey Anna. This indie-pop tune is whimsical and propulsive, with memorable guitar work.
9. “Sandblonde” – The Bear & The Sea. I am here to state that I never stopped loving chillwave.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.