Last Wednesday night at Kung Fu Necktie, Flash Mob Productions presented a fantastic weeknight show, headlined by local stalwarts The Great Socio. Touring act Kalen & the Sky Thieves came down from Brooklyn to act as lead support, and the opening slot was ably filled by local up-and-comers Flat Mary Road. In the interest of full disclosure, I played a DJ set before and after each band to keep things moving and therefore had my own small part in what turned out to be an excellent evening. While they’ve been playing shows around Philadelphia since 2007, this was my first encounter with Flat Mary Road and their verbose brand of indie rock. Frontman Steve Teare’s reverb-soaked vocals trade melodies back and forth with Peter Clark’s violin, an interplay that tinges many songs with an alt-country/folk feel. In concert, the rhythm section of Chris Reber and Alex Irwin takes a more prominent place in the mix, though never overwhelming Teare and Dan Papa’s guitars. The group’s energy on stage clearly conveyed the simple joy of playing music, unaffected by the less rambunctious midweek crowd. Their debut single from 2011 is still up for free download, so grab that and give it some spins to convince you to drop the $8 for their most recent album The Great Talk.
Kalen Lister, the titular frontwoman of Kalen & the Sky Thieves, has the makings of an art pop/rock diva in the vein of Karen O or Cat Power. Her vocal range and power complement her jazz and funk-influenced songwriting nicely, soaring soulfully over the oft-intricate meanderings of the Sky Thieves, holding it all together. While that remains true on record, intricate meanderings would be misleading as an overall description of the band’s sound, however, as the two adjectives that first come to mind after seeing them perform are “heavy” and “driving”. In the live format, this is most assuredly rock music, with riffs that would be more at home at Ozzfest than a folk festival. Bringing these disparate descriptors together can either enable Kalen and company to spread their music far and wide to a variety of venues and audiences, or make it difficult for them to get traction with any particular group. It will be interesting to see how they continue to develop over time, with Kalen’s more synthpop-oriented solo work being rearranged to a groove rock sound. This video from their website really illustrates the distinction:
Groove rock has always been The Great Socio‘s home base, with bass player Craig Stenger’s songwriting keeping rhythm at the center of all they do. Despite the midweek date, the four-piece was in full party mode, frontman Alberto Munoz’s theatrics in top form, complete with a venture out into the crowd and up onto the bar. Crowd favorites like “The Lioness” had everyone singing along, and the dancefloor was more popular than the bar for the first time that night. After a long summer of near-constant touring, their enthusiasm was impressive, with Monty’s personal mosh pit behind the keys seemingly daring anyone to have as much fun as they do on stage. Drummer Drew Bernier’s backing vocals were a bit more prominent in the mix this time around, drawing attention to his harmony with Stenger in a way I hadn’t previously appreciated. Be sure to catch them on their upcoming mini-tour:
The Seattle electronic duo ODESZA, made up of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, has just released their sophomore album In Return. As many who’ve been lumped into the ‘chillwave’ moniker shift their sound to avoid such classification, ODESZA has chosen to stick to their guns, doubling down on the skittering beats, layered synths, and disembodied vocal chops on which they’ve built their growing reputation. Lead single “Say My Name”, featuring female vocalist Zyra, preceded the album with the excellent video embedded above. A parody of product placements and commercial culture, it focuses on the alienation and frustration of those repeatedly counterfeiting love for profit, breaking the fourth wall of a production within the production. It serves well to position the independent act as anti-corporate, an important move for a group whose music can at times seem tailor-made to soundtrack just such an advertisement. In a sly move, the parody itself proves how well their tracks would work for such ends. Director Ian Pons Jewell, the Bolivian/Londoner behind recent clips for Naughty Boy and others, has done a bit of commercial work himself. A bit of English influence seems present in the music as well, as the duo situates themselves in relationship to both their roots and the current deep house/garage revival precipitated by the success of Disclosure and others.
An opening slot on Pretty Lights‘ tour last fall raised their profile dramatically, so ODESZA’s upcoming headlining tour has been getting a lot of attention. They’ve already sold out several midsize venues well in advance, with the rest expected to follow. With double headers in San Francisco, Vancouver, Brooklyn, and their native Seattle, as well as DJ gigs in San Francisco and Brooklyn, they’ve certainly cemented their popularity in several major markets. Closing their tour with a set at Hard Day of the Dead in Los Angeles before heading off to Copenhagen seems to guarantee that that will continue to expand. Check them out live at one of the following dates, which as of yet have not sold out:
With promising UK producer Mark Dobson aka Ambassadeurs and Australian upstart Hayden James as tour support, a venture overseas seems imminent. After this album and tour, ODESZA will be well on their way to becoming a household name, at least in the indie electronic music community here in the States. Get familiar now before they explode!
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC
Thursday night saw one of, if not, the biggest shows of the year in San Diego as powerhouse bands Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails teamed up for a US tour. The black horse of the bunch, was opening artist Cold Cave, the moniker for the music by Wesley Eisold.
Cold Cave is Eisold’s first venture into instrumentation, after previously being lead vocalist for hardcore bands. Born without a left hand has focused his musicality in the electronic direction. Throughout the years, he has managed to release 2 albums while simultaneously working and touring with artists such as Beck and Patti Smith.
Described as a ”collage of darkwave, noise, and synthpop,” Eisold is accompanied on stage by Amy Lee, who has been touring with him for the past year. Both set up with their own keyboard, a video showing the rolling ocean paying in the background (a contrasting, but very interesting juxtaposition), the duo plays through a fairly quick set. While Lee stays fairly still and quiet manning her half of the songs, Eisold moves away from his position to emotively sing through the songs. His voice is deep and emotive, another fine contrast to the music that accompanies it. Definitely worth rocking up to that Nine Inch Nails/ Soundgarden show early to catch a peek for yourself.
Lauren Wilson | San Diego Ambassador | @Twitter | @Instagram | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC
American Authors Have The “Best Day of Their Lives” in Australia [VIDEO][TOUR INFO]
American Authors recently took a trip to play some shows “down under” and created a really cool behind-the-scenes video from their trip! The clip includes footage from their shows, interviews, beautiful beaches and the band getting to know some exotic Australian animals!
It’s been almost a year since PAPA released their debut full-length album, Tender Madness, but the Los Angeles duo has been busy. Consisting of childhood friends, former Girls drummer Darren Weiss and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Presant, PAPA is almost always on the road in support of their first project and planning the next. Weiss discussed some of the geographical and fictional inspirations behind their first project in an interview with Spin last summer:
“Some of the songs on this album that come across as love songs, or lustful confessions, have much more to do with my feelings towards America than any personal romantic longings,” he said via statement. “Some love songs were written about fictional characters in novels who were oftentimes far more compelling than the creatures I had access to. And sometimes, perhaps most often, I tried in earnest to tell my truths as I lived them.”
We all know the typical stereotypes that may go with a band who’s frontman is a drummer, but you’ll have to put those aside for now. Okay, well you can hold on to a few… they’ll really never all go away. However, there was that one band [The Eagles]. Check out the music video for “I Am The Lion King.” You may think this is a typical video with a band playing their instruments in front of a white background, but I can assure you there will be more than a few moments that will hold your attention.
Attention held? In a Springsteen-esque sort of way, PAPA communicates their feelings of life in America, with descriptions that are certainly appropriate stepping stones for the up-and-coming artists. Take a listen to the rest of the album and you’ll find the core to be more in the solidity of the rhythm section. Overall, it’s definitely a chill album, well done with some great sounds produced by Michael Harris (Vampire Weekend, Portugal. The Man) and Tony Hoffer (Fitz & the Tantrums, 30 Seconds to Mars). Take a listen to a couple more songs on the album:
Keep an eye out for upcoming PAPA shows in Los Angeles this week in Santa Monica, and next week in Chicago for Lollapalooza. Looking forward to hearing more from PAPA!
By Steve Harpine | Digital Content Manager | @Steve_MWL | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC
The Stationary Set is a buzzing Brooklyn indie band that just released their new EP, Lion, earlier this month. Billboard recently described them as a band that ”paints a sonic masterpiece which transcends pop, electronic and beyond, always transforming into new musical spaces, both live and recorded.” After originally forming in 2009, Andrew Lutes (vocals, guitar), Joshua Hoisington (vocals, guitar, keys, programming), Josh Davis (guitar, keys), Gabriel Kubitz (bass, vocals), and Logan Baldwin (drums, aux electronics) immediately began shaping their sound. They’ve played SXSW and CMJ festivals and shared stages with notable acts such as X Ambassadors, Phoenix, Temper Trap, and Mumford & Sons. The Stationary Set has remained independent, but partnered with VEVOin order to debut the music video for their latest single “Year of My Sign.”
One thing’s for sure, The Stationary Set is one of the top up and coming indie pop bands in Brooklyn, and it’s only a matter of time until they truly pop. “Year of My Sign” is a great song, and the video was engaging right from the beginning. The Stationary Set has maintained a goal to “write songs of a greater nature that it found appealing and attainable without sacrificing any content, without dumbing anything down or being afraid to be loud or blatant.” As an indie pop band, they’ve managed to form “pop” into something that can stand on it’s own. If you live in New York, don’t miss their show at Brooklyn Night Bazaar on June 27. The Stationary Set will be headlining, featuring opening performances by Slonk Donkerson, Pampers, Swamp Boots, and live DJ sets by Josh Hoisington. Get their new EP, Lion, by clicking on the album art below. It’s a good one.
By Steve Harpine | Digital Content Manager | @Steve_MWL | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC