Sounds Like: Ben Gibbard joined Band Of Horses and recorded songs with spiritual guidance from Alan Parsons.
There’s “weird” experimental music, and then there’s good music that’s not afraid to experiment. Bloomington’s own Stellardaze has a blend of progressive instrumentation and melodic songwriting that follows the latter, and they’re an exciting new band getting some attention here in the Midwest.
This six-piece band reminds me of Transatlanticism-era Death Cab For Cutie in which their songs have plenty of space to breathe and grow, and the vocals are strong and clear. There’s also hints of Cease To Begin-era Band Of Horses in which the band easily flows between melodic and hard-hitting groove. But this isn’t just another folk-pop band. Throughout their music there are changes between odd time signatures, orchestrated touches, and great guitar playing that’s interesting but not indulgent enough to turn them into a jam band. All in all, this is one of the more exciting young bands to come around Bloomington, and this is a band that you should start following now.
Stellardaze’s debut EP Paintress was recorded at Echo Park Studio here in Bloomington and is available now. Be on the lookout for a full length album hopefully by this Summer.
Check out “RXN” and “Europa” below. Also make sure to check out their bandcamp where you can download their EP.
Country music’s biggest strength, and it’s biggest weakness, is its unapologetic emphasis on a familiar structure that has remained virtually unchanged since its hillbilly origins almost a hundred years ago.
You know the rules: a typical country song has a familiar chord pattern, a distinct melody, lyrics that favor direct imagery over poetic ambiguity and deal with working class and family-oriented values, you get the idea. Country legend Harlan Howard affectionately called this structure “three chords and the truth”, but anyone who finds this structure impersonal and used only as a means to sell sex, trucks, and beer would show you this.
But regardless on where you stand, there’s no denying this structure’s success: almost half of Americans are country fans and, since 2012, it’s apparently America’s favorite music genre. Even in its current pop-rock, New Nashville-influenced embodiment, which was popularized in the mid-2000’s by Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, and later Taylor Swift, modern popular Country music still retains its structure and probably will continue doing so as long as people keep buying trucks and beer.
Joey Hyde, a Country music newcomer who’s gaining some traction with his debut single “Get It On”, does nothing to try and fight this structure, but there’s no reason for him to do so. His upcoming EP touches on all the necessities of a modern country-star in the making, which results in an enjoyable collection of well-written, well-produced songs.
A song with the words “American” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” in the title? Check. A song about drinking? Check. A song about watching a sunset with that special girl? Check. Crisp production? Check. A solid singing voice with just enough twang to appeal to traditionalists but not enough to turn people off? Check. Good lyrics that are cheeky and relatable, even if you won’t admit that you can relate to them? Check.
Hyde does gets some bonus points though for the few key details that he hides throughout his songs. He references Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” on my favorite song on the EP “American Rock ‘N’ Roll”, his tongue and cheek video for “Get It On” is better than most overly serious country music videos, and there’s nothing cringe-worthy in his lyrics, a little victory for this genre (there’s nothing here that’s as bad as “She thinks my tractor’s sexy”).
So you could dismiss Hyde for sounding like the young talented country star that he’s becoming, but that would be your loss and your misunderstanding of what country music is about. Plus, this is also an exciting time for country music. Eric Church, with his “Springsteen” song that actually sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song, has led the pack of other country stars like Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Sturgill Simpson to make traditional country music sound exciting and fresh again. Right now is the best time for anyone who doesn’t like country music to give it a second chance.
Joey Hyde could very much follow that pack if he wanted to. But no matter what he ends up doing, it looks like we have another potential hit maker on the rise.
New Orleans native Benjamin Booker sounds like a punk who plays blues music, or maybe he’s a blues musician who listens to punk. Either way, this guy’s hot boogie guitar and smokey voice is compelling for nearly all music fans. He’s currently on tour with Jack White and will be playing at this year’s Austin City Limits.
Booker’s self-titled debut will be released on August 19th. Below is the single “Violent Shiver”. Check out his website here.
“Ten Things”, the second song off Paul Baribeau’s 2007 album Grand Ledge, was the first song I ever heard by the South Central Michigan folk punker, and it was one of those songs I’ve been waiting to hear my entire life. The track is just Baribeau aggressively thumbing his acoustic guitar as he shouts about how all we have in life is time and how we must use that time to do everything we want to do like right now. It’s the kind of song that can sum up life in under two minutes and it only needs an acoustic guitar and a passionate voice.
Baribeau sings and plays guitar like a punk musician, yet his songs don’t sound like punk songs played on acoustic guitar. Instead, Baribeau sounds like a folk musician who is so emotionally invested in what he’s singing about that he sounds like he’s about to explode from all that emotion. With a punk attitude and a Bon Iver approved beard, Baribeau’s unique brand of folk-punk is extremely appealing to anyone who likes either punk or folk, because Baribeau writes clear and meaningful songs that we can all relate to.
In addition to Grand Ledge, check out his self-titled 2004 debut and 2010’s Unbearable. Listen to “Ten Things” and his song “Strawberry” below and check out his website here.
In America it seems that we’re always scraping to find the next great guitar-rock band, but overseas it seems that there are plenty of them forming each week. The Savage Nomads is one of the young British bands that you’ll wanna know sooner than later. The band grabs your attention with an unconventional singing delivery that feels strangely familiar i.e. XTC or Arctic Monkeys, but the band keeps your attention with some solid songwriting.
Check out their new single “Jaded Edges” below, which you can also download for free via their bandcamp site.
Monuments & Statues is a folk pop group from Kingston, Ontario that make quirky (and lovely) pop music inspired by classical folk. The mixture of romantic-era songwriting and pop sensibilities are comparable to Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom and Simon & Garfunkel.
Check out their single “Red Dress” below, and expect a formal debut to be released late 2013/early 2014.
All There is an online collaboration between Echo Vessel, Copys and Infinitefreefall, three different musicians from different parts of the country. Apparently none of these musicians have met in person, but they have come together to make a strong electronic pop album that sounds tight and coherent. This album is a testament to the power of the Internet and how different people can come together and make excellent music.
When you add punk and synthesizers together you either get a punchy new wave sound or you get post-punk ambient pop. Prevrat’s music mostly sounds like the latter, but the influence of both sides of 80s punk can be heard in his dark pop sensibility, and it’s a sound that’s both intriguing and a joy to listen to.
Prevrat is Ric Gordon, and he has an impressive resume including running Russian Winter Records and Floorshime Zipper Boots music blog. Ric also has a PhD. in physics and has published over a dozen peer reviewed research papers. Ric cites The Velvet Underground, XTC, Devo, and Brian Eno as sources of inspiration.
Make sure to check out Prevrat’s new album Symbols via the bandcamp link above.
The All-About is the work of musician Zac Coe along with his revolving cast of friends, including members of Ghost Pal and The Great American Novel. Originally a drummer, Coe began to develop as a songwriter and with each new release is honing his talents.
Suburban Heart is an earnest study of the places and people we associated “home” with and how both change over time for better and worse. I’m a big fan of the record, especially considering that all these songs touch that one special place in my heart for my suburban roots. It’s a great record that’s easy to enjoy, especially tracks like “Whatever, Happy Birthday” (which you can play below) and “Lyla Garrity”.
Accompanying both the physical and digital releases of Suburban Heart is a full-length comic book, drawn by Casey Roonan. The record is available digitally on iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify, Noisetrade and the Bandcamp link above.