Hanging with buds, falling in love, partying all night ” that’s what teenage dreams are made of. Take The Day, out of New Berlin, Wis., has dedicated their talent to providing a killer soundtrack for youth. Their songs are high-adrenaline, hooky dance rockers, inspired in equal measure by Top 40 pop and EDM. Freaks gets the blood pumping with big synth blooms, pitch-shifted beats, and grungy guitars. Although Take The Day is clearly influenced by artists like Skrillex, they like their rock, as the gnarly guitar solos of Look Who’s Laughing Now prove. But it’s Celebrities that epitomizes what the band is all about. Gimme the fame so everybody knows my name, demands singer Adam Devlin, I want to party every day. If you think this band is settling for anything less than supreme rock stardom, you got another thing coming.
Most teen musicians play their first gigs in dubious places ” their parents’ garage, an empty parking lot, or, if they’re lucky, an abandoned shed out in the middle of nowhere. Not The Nowhere Nauts. Sofie Kapur, Hunter Lombard, Anders Kapur, and Tony Franco grew up in NYC, performing at clubs that more established bands would kill to get into. After being brought together by former Guided By Voices drummer Kevin March in 2008, the group began mining their influences and styles. What emerged was street-smart indie rock with punk and jazz underpinnings. Try To Light My Fuse starts with pulsing synths before guitars and bass burst forward, bobbing and weaving around sharp angles while drums whip them on. Sofie’s powerful voice is eerily reminiscent of Ann Wilson from Heart, shaking the rafters with wild abandon. The prize is in your view / Why not take a chance? She’s singing to you ” turn up the volume and grab your prize.
Warning Birds is a band of Perthians led by Sam Carmody, a virtuosic singer songwriter with a bent for storytelling that tugs at the heartstrings. With his bandmates”bassist Carmen Pepper, guitarist Bensen Thomas and drummer Tim Bates”Carmody crafts dreamy, fitful indie pop. On Sally glistening pangs of guitar meld with gossamer layers of vocals and brisk rhythms in a tale of love gone dangerously wrong. Plastic Palms explodes out of the gate with soaring guitars and drums, then settles into a meditative meander through watery guitars and the intertwined vocals of Carmody and Pepper. Nowhere do these two sound more transcendent than on Ghost Town, a shuffling, melancholic melody with a chorus that swoons. There must be something here, they sing in harmony, before their voices are swallowed by rolling drums and funereal horns. Fans of Arcade Fire will love this. Put it on, sit back, and get your blissed-out brood on.
It’s no easy thing to be an original these days, but despite the bounty of artists out there, Nemes has managed to do just that. The Brighton, MA quintet has created a sound that takes listeners off the rails for a manic ride through blues, grass, and punk. On the swampy, junkyard environs of Blues, singers Dave Anthony and Josh Knowles bellow and bray over a squealing fiddle, declaring Robert Johnson’s back and he walks in my shoes. Even if their insidious blues mojo doesn’t literally raise the dead, it most definitely raises hackles. As guitars grind up clouds of distortion on Beam in the Track, a ukulele nimbly picks its way through. It’s that interplay between post-punk dissonance and old time music that makes Nemes akin to nothing else out there. But if you have to have a signpost, think of the band as a cross between Avett Brothers and Say Anything”a troupe of roughshod, wild-hearted melody makers with some serious amps.
The name alone should tell you Set It Off’s M.O. The Tampa-based band is all about starting a frenzy through adrenaline-soaked, emotive rockers. Led by singer Cody Carson, Set It Off blends theater, social sensitivity and angst a la bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco. On Horrible Kids Carson, guitarists Dan Clermont and Zach DeWall, bassist Austin Kerr and drummer Maxx Danziger delve into bullying with equal parts empathy and rage. It’s jittery and paranoid, but ultimately a redemptive tune. But on Breathe In, Breathe Out, the mood takes a turn towards a manic carnival. Jabbing guitars, coursing verse and a soaring chorus create a totally irresistible, totally schizoid rocker. Set It Off are masters of mood swings. On Pages and Paragraphs Carson sings, I’m on cloud nine. Even if happiness is fleeting there’s still pleasure to be found in pain. Enjoy the ride.
Flagstaff, Arizona’s Fight The Quiet has a long list of influences, from Death Can For Cutie to Foo Fighters to Guns ˜N Roses. You can catch snippets of all of them in the band’s fervent rock. There’s the gnarly guitar solo of Sway that tips its top hat to Slash, and the motivational artillery of This Is The Moment that follows the earnest, post-punk footsteps of alternative bands like Jimmy Eat World. You might think these influences are strange bedfellows, but what holds them all together is Fight The Quiet’s tenderhearted take on what it means to kick ass. Guitars chug and charge through banks of distortion, drums thrash, unrest creeps in”but as intense as things can get, the band always wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s hard to pull off lyrics like Living without you / That ain’t living at all while still maintaining your edge. But Fight The Quiet does it, and does it well.
The dichotomy of an artist on and offstage is an interesting thing. A performer might be austere onstage, but a total sailor once the mic is turned off. We’re betting Joanna Erdos of The Midnight Show is far sweeter in person than her lyrics might lead you to believe. On Hearts Explode, she cautions, I’m sick of being patient; I’m ready to attack through a torchy, diaphanous arrangement of strings, keys and percussion. Despite the warning, her secretive, romantic music has likely already drawn you in. Go Team is a more whimsical romp”twitchy and blithe despite cutting lyrics like, You loser; you faker. With a voice that’s part Natalie Merchant, part Annie Clark, Erdos delivers her verbal jabs in the gentlest way. On the ambitious and elegant I’m Not the Only One, her voice cascades over the lines I want to rip you apart; I want to tear out your heart with not a shred of menace. Beauty can be a dangerous weapon, and Erdos wields hers like a winner.
Rebecca Ramone likens her music to the sounds of a Texas strip club, but we’ll to venture to say that you don’t have to have a pole between your legs or a $1 bill in your hand to appreciate the Torontonian’s sultry blues. If you like to ease into things, start with Worryin, where the static burn of guitar, the dusty stomp of drums and the amiable wheeze of a Hammond organ combine for a sweet, shuffling groove. Here, Ramone transforms her powerhouse voice into a feline coo that brushes over the words. She can purr when she wants to, but you’ll soon discover that the singer is more inclined to yowl. Back In My Bed is less a wish than a demand”a blistering blues rock summons that will have your fur standing upright. On El Camino, Ramone warns the listener that she has a pistol at the hip of her pink underwear. Whether she’s whipping you with guitar lashes in The Flood or transfixing you with her caterwaul in Like I Knew, Ramone aims to make you hurt so good. We think you’ll like being in her crosshairs.
Most bands have an m.o., whether it’s simply the love of making music or the dream of power and influence. For Jessie Murphy In The Woods, the drive comes from Murphy’s desire to recapture a perfect autumnal moment from her childhood. And that desire has yielded songs that are literate, bright and haunting. The group is comprised of Murphy, Marcia Wood, and Amy Wood”all music teachers. Between the three you get a quixotic assemblage of woodwinds and brass, percussion and strings. There’s an economy to JMITW’s chamber pop arrangements that gives each idea its own space. God Save Owen Wilson is as funny as it is sad”the somber flutter of flute and a baleful horn in the distance juxtapose whimsically with a mock-heroic refrain about, well, Owen Wilson. The vibe is Sufjan Stevens in heels. New York City Lights, on the other hand, is folksy romanticism, sung without affectation. The orchestral, theatrical In The Woods tries to conjure the faintest whiff of that perfect autumn day, invoking the virgin forest with urgency. Even if the moment is forever out of reach, the music that’s produced in its wake is worth the loss.
[Ed. Note: You can download “God Save Owen Wilson” on the OurStage Facebook page for free, where it is featured as one of OurStage’s Editor Picks for the month of May.]
Barking dogs, idle chit-chat, jubilant whoops”the background noise of The Mowgli’s is almost as interesting as what’s going on in front of the mic. The California band’s relaxed approach to recording creates the effect of a soundtrack to a boisterous campfire sing-a-long. Five vocalists make for a rag-tag choir where improvisation is always welcome. Take, for instance, Waiting For The Dawn/Blues”an unruly and earnest folk-blues revival. Let’s change the world! the choir shouts. With one vocalist, the line might sound cheesy. But when everyone sings it, you’re more inclined to roll with it. The Great Divide is simpler, sweeter terrain. As a composition, it’s stripped back, but the choir helps fill the void with feral, joyful singing. Think of The Mowgli’s as a laid-back Fleetwood Mac, high on life. In San Francisco, a loose and shambling folk rock song, the choir sings, Do you feel the love? We do. Now it’s your turn.