Hands down one of my favorite Florida singer-songwriters is Tampa youngster Connor Zwetsch. The 21-year-old female is a must-see live act with a soulful croon that belies her years. A gifted poet with a keen eye (and ear) for detail her debut single “For Michelle,” off the EP of the same name, is an intimate, warm and wholly convincing work of post-romance soul searching. Buttressed by a an amiable banjo, her top-flight vocals and unfailing honesty, the song represents both boldness and candor from a singer who seems destined to make her mark in the months and years to come.
Not since Jill Sobule and Sophie B. Hawkins has a woman so openly sang about another woman. That kind of chutzpah is why Zwetsch is so darn refreshing. Despite her diminutive frame, there’s a whole lot of sass, spunk and soul in every utterance. Zwetsch, who made it to the Hollywood round (see below) on this year’s American Idol season, is still in the infancy of her career, but one has to think with a sound this inviting and amiable, there’s a good chance she’ll get noticed in the very near future.
Yesterday, Alex Dezen of The Damnwells released “HELLp,” the first single off his forthcoming effort 1/4, the first in a series of four Bedhead EPs due over the next few months. The song itself is a sturdy, confident prayer for salvation that’s as strong as anything Dezen has ever released. What makes the song so powerful is not just the soaring chorus but that the chorus draws most of its strength from Dezen’s voice and that alone.
Guitars are heard but are faint, the power is in the vocal and only that. Dezen is no stranger to critical acclaim and very rarely releases a bad song, so the fact that “HELLp” is so indelible is no shock. Uber-prolific and never content to sit idle, Dezen’s back catalog is volumes long, so sorting out the super strong ones from the filler can sometimes be a chore. Make no mistake about “HELLp” though. It is absolutely tremendous and makes one anxious for the release of 2/4. Hear it for yourself below.
Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to focus our energies on bands we think will make a splash in 2014. Having just seen them this past weekend, there’s no doubt that Bowling Green, KY’s Sleeper Agent are surging towards a juggernaut 2014. Fronted by 21-year-old Alex Kandel, the band plays a jaunty, hyper-caffeinated slice of garage-pop that feels more Brooklyn than Kentucky. Standout songs from their brief 30-minute set included current single “Waves,” a punchy and urgent affair that seems more than ready to dominate the indie blogosphere; the splashy and shimmering “Astronaut,” and the hip-shaking singalong “Shit You Did.” Unfailingly polite, even-tempered and refreshingly sincere, this sextet appears to be on the precipice of something big in the very near future. Having already shared the stage with the likes of Fun, New Politics, Weezer and Grouplove, their live set is cohesive, polished and with few flaws. Their sophomore album About Last Night is due March 25 and if it’s anything like their debut Celebrasion it’s going to leave plenty of people talking.
Okay, so the title is probably a twinge of hyperbole, but seriously this song has absolutely shattered my world, and I mean that in the best way possible. Sometimes all it takes is one song to draw you closer, make you think harder and keep you wishing and hoping for something better. "Violent City" is that kind of song for me.
To be fair, I have little to no knowledge of this band. The video passed through my inbox, I listened and I felt compelled to share it with my audience, if there is such a thing.
I've sort of been in a funk lately due to work commitments and such, but this song here gives me hope. Klischee hail from Switzerland and play self-described electro-swing. As a casual observer of both genres, I can say I absolutely give this two thumbs up and an emphatic endorsement. There’s something very bubbly, ebullient and bright about every passing second. European stuff always struggles on American shores, but if radio programming was up to me, this song would be flooding airwaves.
Anberlin have now called it quits and thousands of us are sad. Heck, maybe even millions. As a self-professed Christian, I’m looking at the band’s career through that prism and wondering just how significant their success just might be to those of us who call ourselves Christians. While the band did their part to distance themselves from Christian rock and the CCM movement (a smart move, for certain) they were never short of professing their belief in Christ and for always keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.
There was never any pretense with Anberlin, there was never any braggadocio or outward signs of importance. They just played music, hoped you sang along and treated you like a member of their family each and every night. It’s an important lesson for young bands to learn. Anberlin were beloved because they wrote first-rate, compelling songs that spoke to people. But it should not be overlooked that a large part of their success was because they were sincere, honest, humble and trustworthy people. Shame on Christians all you want, but these five Christians got millions of people to like them and never once proselytized or waved their Christian flag. Despite the fact that one of their biggest singles featured the line “When life is in discord, praise Ye the Lord,” few batted an eyelash and everyone welcomed them with open arms.
Similarly, California’s Switchfoot have followed much the same model and taken it to wider and more mainstream success. Anberlin’s goals to reach those same dizzying heights may have fallen short but their legacy should never be overlooked. They’ve done more for Christian musicians than they will be given credit for/ever thought possible and did more for non-believers than will ever be documented.
Maybe one day we’ll have an AP.net Hall of Fame and they can be one of our first inductees. They deserve that kind of recognition. It’s never easy to bookend or conclude a post like this, but all I can say is, I look forward to what each of the members has up their sleeve going forward. For those that want a quiet life outside of rock ’n roll, I wish them only success, health and happiness.
For those band members want to keep chasing that ever elusive dream, I can assure you, you’ll have throngs of people waiting to pick up the next record, and I for one will be one of them. Thanks for the memories, Anberlin, you were truly a beacon of light in a sometimes all-too dark world.
I don’t know where I read it or when I read it, but I remember Adam Lazzara alluding to wanting to go alt-country/roots-folk on his upcoming solo effort. He cited Ryan Adams’ albums as inspiration and said he wanted to keep it in that vein. I waited with baiting breath and then last week, it hit the Interweb. “Because it Works” is an absolute scorcher from start to finish. The harmonica is a solid touch, his vocals are first-rate and everything about the song works, and works quite well. Being that Lazzara is a native North Carolinian, there's a good chance he knows the genre better than one might think. While he is not the first pop-punker to take on alt-country, judging by the polish and presence of “Because it Works,” it just might be the best yet.
Of all the bands that called it quits in 2013, none affected me as deeply as the the ultra-talented Charlotte quartet Sugar Glyder. Their Steven Haigler-produced full-length The Eyes, They See was an absolute firecracker and an album that most definitely deserved wider attention and acclaim. What's to come of the band going forward? Whose to say, really.
Guitarist Chris Rigo is currently fronting two projects: Solar Cat, a comic books/science themed garage rock duo and The Kodiak Brotherhood, an outlaw country band that features members of the New Familiars and Swift Robinson. Rigo is front and center for Solar Cat, playing both guitar and singing vocals, while on The Kodiak Brotherhood, he's behind the skins. Bassist Robby Hartis has moved on and is currently performing with the band Sidewalks.
Vocalist Daniel Howie and drummer Bobby Matthews have not announced their latest projects, but one can only hope they continue pursuing music. Whether any of these current or future bands has the same panache and appeal of Sugar Glyder remains to be seen. In truth, only time will tell. Ah hell, as Semisonic once said, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Thank you Sameer and Co.!
This is the Young the Giant I have come to know and love. I can't stop listening to "Crystallized." Probably one of the best songs they've ever written. Listening to it makes me all the more anxious for the rest of the songs. After feeling pretty lukewarm about the first single, this is way more what I was hoping and expecting from the boys. Hot damn, they are incredible. Such a blessing to have these boys creating music for all the world to consume.
Opening up for the legendary, iconic and ubiquitous country-rock group The Eagles is a daunting albeit enviable task, but sure enough, somebody has to do it. Last night at Orlando’s Amway Center that very task fell to veritable unknowns: New York City’s JD and the Straight Shot. Fronted by multi-millionaire James Dolan, the sharp-tongued owner of the New York Knicks and the telecom giant Cablevision, Dolan’s band included drummer/washboard Rich Mercurio, bassist Jeff Allen, his son Aidan on guitar, Brian Mitchell on piano, accordion, organ and harmonica; Lorenza Ponce on violin and Marc Copely on banjo. Their set opened with “Fall From Grace, an organ-infused jaunt with ample amounts of meandering piano, dulcet piano, hazy vocals and a rustic blues veneer. Ostensibly a song about political leaders’ penchant for failure, it had a decidedly well-placed organ flourish at its conclusion that stamped it as indelible.
Dolan has a deep affinity for swampy Louisiana blues and nowhere was that more apparent than on the thick and steamy “Voodoo Stew.” Anchored by accordion, upright bass and searing guitar, the song was sassy and loaded with attitude. The set segued into “Holy Water,” a Nick Cave-esque effort from the film Lawless, that combined dusty Appalachian folk with the haunting hypnotism of a New Orleans swamp. In the song’s latter stages, it meanders to a playful conclusion. If JD and the Straight Shot had a musical doppelgänger it would most likely be Little Feat. As if cognizant of that, the band rattled off a near-perfect rendition of Little Feat’s “Let it Roll,” featuring rollicking piano, buoyant banjo and Ponce’s exceptional violin.
On stage Dolan was a natural storyteller and a charismatic frontman. Before announcing the cut “Can’t Make Tears,” a song which appeared in the soundtrack of the TV show Hell on Wheels, he went about explaining the show’s premise: the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. This turn allowed the musician to serve as a sort-of history teacher and amiable host. As for the song, it was slow-moving, swampy and full of Delta blues. It was also the first moment at which one can see just how deeply the band has its hands dipped in history. The song’s finest moments included another interlude from Ponce and a stoic guitar solo from Aidan Dolan.
Dolan is not one to shy from spouting off and sure enough before introducing the song “White Bird,” recorded by the band It’s a Beautiful Day in 1969, he made sure to let the audience know, “this song isn’t played often because it’s so hard to play.” But if you can back up the talk, then play on, and sure enough ‘White Bird” was vernal, supple and at times orchestral. Decidedly British, and almost elegiac and funereal, the song is backed by a shimmering piano and the collective skill of his first-rate band. Dolan paused to introduce each of the members before performing “Violet’s Song,” which is featured in the upcoming film August: Osage County. Heartily Midwestern, it featured banjo, lap-steel and Ponce’s inimitable violin.
Though it was a bit of an awkward choice for a penultimate cut, the band’s last song “Midnight Run,” more than made up for it. Another cut that appeared in the film Lawless (albeit with Willie Nelson on vocals).”Midnight Run” was lively, limber and expertly crafted. When the Amway Center lights came back up and Dolan and Co. stepped off stage, they had achieved something truly awesome. No, they were not the Eagles and no they are not Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy, but they were something well worth remembering. Dolan, who has been actively pursuing music for more than two decades, finally seems on the cusp of something truly special. Their 45-minute set Saturday night proved exactly that.
I’m not too keen to give Tyson Ritter or AAR more press than they already have, but suffice it to say Ritter’s new single “Air” is ridiculously catchy if not a bit repetitive. I’d also say it is explosive and exciting. Sadly this makes me interested in hearing the rest of the disc.
New York band Ariana and the Rose’s recently released an acoustic video for their single “Heartbeat” and hot damn is it good. Equal parts haunting, nocturnal and inviting, the song slithers along with a coiled grace and allows vocalist Ariana DiLorenzo to do all the heavy lifting. And lifting she does. With a voice that has hints of Regina Spektor and LaRoux, this acoustic version is a novel take on her band’s electro-synth output. Whether or not this single gains traction remains to be seen, but with a song like this in her back pocket, there’s a good chance she’s got plenty more firecrackers up her sleeve. Mark this down as a name to remember for 2014: Ariana and the Rose.
Even though it falters in places, one of my favorite albums of the past half-decade or so is Young the Giant’s eponymous debut. The highly anticipated follow-up is finally on its way with the arrival of new single “It’s About Time.”
You may like it, but, eh, it’s okay. Skittering guitars, propulsive drums and a very British post-punk vibe. For some reason it makes me think Bloc Party. The whole thing is very raw and jagged, almost garagey. Gadhia’s vocals are always strong, so the fact that he slays it in throughout the song isn’t really much of a wow moment. Truth be told, the song does not have much of a chorus, the entire things feels very artsy and strange choice for a single.
Gadhia told Rolling Stone the song is the most aggressive on the disc and that’s a relief because the song feels very chaotic and all over the place, almost like it doesn’t know what it wants to do or be.The disc, titled Mind Over Matter, is due Jan. 21 and was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, M83, Tegan and Sara). Choosing Meldal-Johnsen was a strong choice and one can expect a cohesive and strong follow-up, but the merits of “It’s About Time” have me a bit confused.
Also, why in Sam Hill is this band signed to Fueled by Ramen? What was wrong with Roadrunner? Can someone help explain this for me.
While a headlining gig across the United States is probably a bit premature, nonetheless the Australian duo Atlas Genius entered into Orlando's House of Blues armed with two singles and a hot-selling album. But having only that album and a concise EP in their canon, the set was as expected, markedly brief, chronicling only 11 songs with a running time of 68 minutes.
Walking on stage to a Beach Boys tune, the Australian duo almost immediately foreshadowed what the night be: a breezy and bubbly set of cheery indie-pop. Opening the set was "On a Day," a fuzzy and bright slice of dance rock that set the tone nicely for what was about to take place. Rather unpredictably the band launched into current single "If So," a ditty that is the very epitome of the word hip-shaking. "When It Was Now," the title track to the band's current LP was equal parts throbbing and pulsating as it was fizzy and free-spirited.
An airy organ opened the introspective number "Back Seat," a song whose tranquil melodies and dreamy kinescopes made for arguably the most compelling listen of the set's first few selections. Towards the song's latter stages, vocalist Keith Jeffery, yielded to his guitar and set on a lively and invigorating guitar solo. While the result was rewarding, arguably the best part of the solo was that it veered from the script, allowing a bit of improvisation from a set that thus far had been as expected.
Nintendo-like keys opened "All These Girls," a song which benefitted from a lengthy introduction and Jeffery's inherent charisma. Ostensibly a hazy valentine that is both languorous and dream-like, the song is both swirly and intoxicating and reveals the kind of magnetism that has carried the Aussie duo this far in their career. Similarly, the circular and kaleidoscopic "Symptoms" was intoxicating and enveloping but benefitted most from Jeffery's inspired guitar solo in the latter stages.
Arguably the set's most heartfelt exercise was the crestfallen "Don't Make a Scene," the first time in the set in which Jeffery appeared to be at his most vulnerable. After heart-sleeving his way through "Don't Make a Scene," Jeffery and Co. offered up the evening's most straightforward, linear and accessible offering, the yearning and big-hearted "Through the Glass," an effort that seems to point towards a certain radio future. Aided by a spartan piano outro, "Through the Glass," made arguably the biggest splash of any song the entire evening. Predictably the set closed with a pounding and rhythmically dense version of "Trojans," before rattling off a two-song encore of "Centred On You" and "Electric."
The former was entrancing thanks to Jeffery's winning falsetto, his deft guitar playing and a meandering albeit melodic strut that kept the crowd captivated long after "Trojans" had played its last note. On "Electric," the band soared into a new direction, shedding their dance-rock arena for something far more energetic, dizzying and transcendent.. Channeling elements of psych-rock, 70s era album rock and Brit-rock swagger, "Electric" had a methodic and calculated complexity that proved the Australian duo is far more than just a charting pop song.
While the set was surprisingly brief and was sorely lacking a choice cover, Atlas Genius more than proved their worth in just 70 brief minutes. Having expanded the live ensemble to a quartet instead of a duo has certainly paid dividends for the young upstarts and one can certainly see a decidedly bright future in the months and years to come.
Made my way to The Beacham this past Saturday to catch Frightened Rabbit. They are everything as advertised and then some. Hutchison was extremely taciturn but unfailingly polite and very workmanlike about the entire thing. Highlights from the set were many but few performances will ever top their rendition of "Acts of Man." It was in many ways otherworldly and jaw-dropping. I am still left speechless and awestruck when thinking back on how truly magnetic the performance was. Ditto to encore closer "The Loneliness and the Scream."
Equally as impressive as Frightened Rabbit, was Brooklyn's Augustines. Frontman Billy McCarthy is an absolute born performer and his natural charisma, charm and inherent confidence was apparent from the get-go. Highlights from the set included the whiskey-soaked piano-ballad "City of Brotherly Love," and the raucous "Book of James." The fiery three piece plays a blend of sweaty, ragged rock not unlike The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen. While they've endured four name changes and their career has yet to skyrocket, their 45-minute set was an absolute head-turner and a surefire eye opener. If AP.net kids want a band to watch out for come 2014, it most certainly is Augustines.