1. “The Itch” – Brother O’ Brother. Stripping some of the Black Keys-esque arena-rock sheen from their guitar-and-drums approach ends up with a raging, distortion-laden tune that has The White Stripes on speed-dial. Ka-pow.
2. “The Dusty Song” – Sebastian Brkic. Brkic creates a swooping, diving panorama that relies just as much on creaky-voiced MeWithoutYou-style indie-rock as it does acoustic material.
3. “Ridiculous” – Mleo. Surprising vocal and instrumental range make this an impressive rock tune.
4. “Salvo” – CFIT. Serious music that reaches for the seriousness of Radiohead, the swirling development of shoegaze, some airy aesthetics of chillwave, and an overall sense that none of those influences take away from the inventiveness of the work.
5. “What’s Pesto” – The River Fane. Ominous clicking and clacking undergird this menacing, pondering, powerful indie rock track that’s anchored by thunderous piano chords and wavering vocals a la Thom Yorke.
6. “Rubbernecking” – Frog. Fresh off their triumphant Kind of Blah, Frog re-released their debut. This track points toward the ragged enthusiasm and vocal intricacies that made the guitar rock of KOB such a charm.
7. “End of Something” – Febria. This tunes’ an omnivorous beast, as prog, math-rock, laid-back ’70s psych, jazz, and guitar heroics blend together into a mindbending stew. It’s not as hectic as The Mars Volta, but it’s maybe in the zipcode next door.
8. “Golden Threads From the Sun (excerpt)” – yndi halda. This bit of a tune from a larger post-rock work points to the scope at which yndi halda feels comfortable: massive. As such, there are some group vocals, Sigur Ros-like distortion explosions and frantic drums, strings, and generally all manner of thing going on. Here’s to maximalist post-rock.
9. “Thank You For Your Time” – Citizen Shade. Soulful and dramatic, this piano-led romp starts off quiet and ramps way up.
I’ve been posting singles and videos from Colony House since January, because their alt-rock had that anthemic edge which usually portends great things. And while “Keep On Keepin’ On,” “Silhouettes,” and “Waiting for My Time to Come” are great by themselves, they’re amazing when crammed together and packaged with 11 other great tunes on When I Was Younger.
“Moving Forward” is the sort of deep cut that bands realize is amazing late in the album’s cycle, haphazardly throw to radio, and manage to get a career-defining hit from (see “All These Things That I’ve Done” by the Killers). It has a jubilant riff that turns into a revelatory, shiver-inducing “whoa-oh” coda; that arching melody is the sort that Coldplay at its Viva La Vida finest was putting out. It’s the type I wear out the repeat button over.
“Waiting For My Time To Come” is still great in album version–more whoa-ohs, horns, and general good vibes. In other places Colony House echoes an amped-up Black Keys (“2:20”), the Killers, U2, Imagine Dragons, ’80s new-wave (“Roll With the Punches”), and more. Those influences might read like a derivative mess, but they sound like a eye-opening wonder. I haven’t heard anything this immediately engaging and potentially career-launching since I heard .fun’s Some Nights. And we all know how that turned out. If you like fun, cheery alt-rock-pop music, you’ll love Colony House.
Americo‘s style of rock would fit neatly in with Spoon: the rhythms, melodies, and instrumental performances fit together in a very tight, almost clockwork-like way. As a result, their recent release I is a tight, polished EP instead of a frantic, shoot-from-the-hip garage-rock set of tunes. “Stylized” doesn’t mean a lot in its dictionary definition, but the music-world connotations of restless aesthetes crafting and honing sounds seems to (mostly) fit here.
I say “mostly” because the duo also has laidback vibes as one of the core tenets of the sound. Opener “Blastin’ Off” has a stuttering strum and a liberal use of space as its calling cards, not giant guitar antics. (You have to wait for second track “Sled” for those.) “Slingshot” has a ’90s slackerish vibe in the way the chords lazily morph into each other; “Perfect World” relies on rim-clicks and jazzy vibes. This is a band that has both chops and restraint–most bands don’t even have one of those things. (Some of my favorite bands are just fine without either one.) They can even get a little weird and experimental if you’d like (“Prizes”).
Americo’s I shows off a well-developed songwriting sensibility that will appeal to fans of thoughtful rockers. The duo has made it clear that they can rock out and a lot of other things. That versatility could blossom into a particular style down the road, or they could stick with the Swiss Army Knife approach. Either way, I is commendable.
Depending on your interest in the genre, Brother O’ Brother is either carrying on the tradition of or thoroughly indebted to The White Stripes and The Black Keys. The guitar and drums duo rips through heavy blues rock stompers with screaming guitars, howling vocals, and basic drumming. The band’s self-titled record doesn’t let up for the 30+ minute runtime; there are no pop-friendly arena rock tunes or quirky acoustic ditties to break the mood. From the outraged opener “Without Love” to the last high-hat snap of “Mice & Men,” Chris Banta barrels, blasts, struts, strains, and powers his way through through riff-heavy tunes galore.
“Means to Be a Woman” is a highlight of the set. After its bluesy guitar intro reminiscent of the White Stripes, Banta lets his voice take most of the drama. He alternates between snarling speak-singing in the verses and outright howling in the chorus. If you’re into heavy guitars and moral indignation at how the media portrays women, you’ll be all over this tune. Throughout the album, Banta is interested in spiritual and moral themes; it gives another edge to the screaming guitars. Everyone needs some good righteous indignation over the injustices of the world now and then. If that sounds like a good time, Brother O’ Brother can hook you up.
Strand of Oaks’ “Shut In” starts slow, but once it gets going the song and the video complement each other perfectly. I cried a little.
Frantic vocals + crunchy blues rock riffs + gender politics = gold. Brother O’ Brother will get compared to The Black Keys and the White Stripes; it should be comparison, not demeaning. Great stuff here.
Some look at the state of the world and say there are too many love story narratives. I look at the same things and say there aren’t yet enough.
There’ s nothing “indie” about Blag’ard‘s gritty, two-man garage rock other than the band’s unsigned (and therefore “independent”) status. These ten songs don’t spend time on atmospherics, mood or arrangements; they get straight to the rock’n’roll. This aesthetic gives the best songs on Mach II an urgency that is rare in any sort of rock’n’roll, much less the bare-bones two-man variety.
Indie-rock vet Joe Taylor (ex-Capsize 7) holds down the guitars and vocals, while newcomer Adam Brinson cranks out the drumming in this duo. The majority of the urgency comes from Taylor’s guitar work. Taylor rarely leaves a moment without guitar in it; while the lines can be angular at times, they never pause. By never letting up, Taylor covers the roles of bassist, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist. His buzzing guitar sound is reminiscent of The White Stripes’ early guitar work, as the guitar work is definitely distorted but not so much so that you can’t hear what’s going on.
Brinson’s drumming fills out the sound in a very Meg White-esque way, contributing simple but appropriate drumming. Brinson does exercise more chops than White, but it’s a similar style. Brinson’s not showing off his drum skills, and it fits the sound well. He shows some syncopated work on “Snowball” and makes a solid drum line out of a repeated fill on “Harmony,” but most of the tunes use high hat, snare and kick drum in a consistent and insistent manner to match the propulsive qualities of Taylor’s songwriting.
When Taylor gets comfortably vocally in a song, it becomes a highlight. The lighter feel of “Snowball” allows Taylor to sing instead of snarling, and the melody one of the more memorable. Album standout is “RCO,” which scales back the intensity a bit to feature a sinister vibe, eerie backup vocals and a haunting chorus. “Life in Reverse” is the best of the straight-up rock tracks that they have here, as Taylor turns in a good vocal performance. The tight opening riff in “Ophelia” is also worth noting, as it steals the show from the rest of the song (even the whistling!).
The garage-rock of Mach II is messy, urgent, insistent, imperfect, and all rock. There’s no question as to what Blag’ard set out to do with this release, and they knock it out of the ballpark. If you like gritty, raw, untainted rock’n’roll straight outta the garage/Detroit, then Blag’ard is in your corner.
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.