Hello Dollface hails from a small town called Durango, tucked into the southwest corner of Colorado. But they haven’t stayed put, racking up miles playing shows across Colorado, Mexico, and Arizona. Their music has the same vagabond soul ” meandering between blues, jazz, and folk pop and even making its way over to Scandanavia for a tune. Den Svenska Laten translates to The Swedish Song, and, true to its name, is a Baltic waltz sung entirely in Swedish. Violin, soft percussion, and plucked strings are braided with Ashley Edwards‘ husky, silky vocals. Capital Me is more percussive, jazzier fare with reverberating guitars, xylophone, and a strutting bass. But it’s Great Wall that really picks up the pace, galloping along while the violin whinnies and the xylophone twinkles. It’s a sad and hopeful little melody from a band of restless romantics. Check ˜em out.
It takes a mighty presence to hold an arena-sized audience captive. And though Kat Robichaud, who fronts Raleigh-based band The Design, has spent the bulk of her career on smaller stages, she’s the kind of heavyweight performer who could shake the rafters of a stadium. Armed with a muscular contralto, the singer powers through theatrical rockers that harken back to the ˜80s. Young America is the soundtrack to defiance, a stomping gutter groove for those with their jaws firmly jutted out. But even protestors like to take things to the dance floor now and then, and Sing, Girl, Sing provides the chunky rock guitars, a funk bass line, and angular percussion to get things moving. Still, The Design is a band that thrives on dissent, and nowhere is their unrest more palatable than on Burn” a rallying cry sounded by syncopated drums and a salvo of gnarly guitars. I will not be found wanting, Robichaud warns. No, ma’am. Absolutely not.
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.
Just across the Hudson, tucked between the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, is Hoboken, NJ. A less frenetic, friendlier version of New York City, Hoboken still functions as sort of a microcosm of Manhattan with its restaurants, galleries, and vibrant music scene. Just like Hoboken, ARTWORK reflects the sometimes opposing forces and surprising beauty of the big city. On Skies gnarled guitars and stomping drums give way to a coasting melody with blissed out vocals and twee lyrics reminiscent of Owl City. But just as soon as you begin to get lulled into submission, in comes a menacing, spoken word bridge to upset the calm. On Casting Stones staccato guitars, blasts of distortion, thrashing drums, and whirls of synths create a decidedly more turbulent vibe. I’ll set the world in flames, singer Darren Fisher promises. True, but they’ll also provide the salve to soothe the burn.
Brothers Nicholas and Lucas James may have had a wholesome upbringing”home school, Quaker school, Connecticut suburbs”but they didn’t let that corrupt their rock and roll souls. The brothers stood by their hot sauce-lovin’, God-fearin’, skinny jeans-wearin’ values, joining up with likeminded brethren Kevin Clymer and Dean Miller to form Ula Ruth in 2011. Their rock is steeped in distortion, with banged up and bruised grooves. Exhibit A: Empty, a stylish and subversive rocker with zig-zagging guitars engulfed in feedback. Exhibit B: Call To The Lonely, where handclaps, reverb riffs, guttural bass lines and throaty hollers combine for the New England version of Kings of Leon. I always open my mouth instead of walking away, Nick laments. Be glad he does”Ula Ruth’s rebel yell is worth the listen.
Prepare to sweat your weaves out, people. Coming straight outta the city of brotherly love is DaCav5, an electro-pop band armed with its own party rock anthems. Like LMFAO, DaCav5 specializes in crazed, pitch-bent beats that burrow down into your brain and command your body to move. Dirty Style has a whiff of Party Rock Anthem, kicking off with a big, fat, bassy beat. Add defiant mantras like I don’t care what people say, Ima party anyway, with a sexy female refrain and you’ve got yourself a hit. David Guetta, eat your heart out. Party Started does exactly what it proposes to do. The track gets underway with orchestral pulses and edgy vocal stylings. Bitch get back, you know the kid got swag. The kid definitely has swag. Make that all five kids. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some partying to do.
There’s a pantheon of music constructed of staccato guitars, thrashing drums, and searching, volatile vocals. Some call it emo, some call it pop-punk, some call it alternative. The name itself isn’t important. What matters is the legion of fans who flock to festivals like Warped Tour, snatch up records put out by Fueled By Ramen, and pour their love into every note, every word uttered. Band like At The Drive In, Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack and countless others have supplied this demand over the course of two decades. You can add the name All About A Bubble to the list. The Tulsa, Okla. group delivers frenetic, precise rockers like West Coast, with its chugging guitars and monster melody. Impossible to Fade begins with singer Dustin Storm’s innervated croon before kicking into a coursing power ballad. The calm after the storm comes from Paper Planes, a mostly acoustic heartbreaker moved along by”you guessed it”big guitars and drums. Welcome to the pantheon, guys.
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.
Having the last name Star bodes well for a music career. Let’s see, there’s Ryan, Mazzie and Ringo to name a few. In time, you may see the name Sheila Star on that list of illustrious musicians. The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter is already active in Bay Area songwriting circles, penning lustrous piano pop that’s seductive and punchy. Keeps Me Alive starts with a somber piano intro before the beat snaps in and transforms the track into a sexy, soaring pop ballad. Star’s breathy vocals bring a feline quality to her songs. In Addiction she coos Every day and every night, yeah it gets me high, adding some headiness to the song’s squelching groove. Bad Dream is pure piano swagger where Star struts around in her bad girl persona: The devil himself he took the good out of me. We think there’s plenty of good to be found, especially if you like your good to break bad sometimes.
You want untapped, gutsy, street cool? You go to Brooklyn. And if you’re lucky, you just might find an artist half as interesting as Brittany Campbell. The singer-songwriter/producer/guitarist cross-pollinates doo-wop, Motown, new wave and pop rock for a completely fresh and revelatory sound. Like Amy Winehouse, Debbie Harry and Santigold, Campbell’s an original. On Call Me Baby, vintage guitars strut against a beat while Campbell summons the soulful angst of a 1950s teen, singing There’ll be no mercy now / Wherever you are is where I’ll be. Nerd, with its handclaps, 8-bit synths and bouncing beat is instantly infectious even as the singer delivers dubious lines like, Guess you haven’t heard / God, I’m such a nerd. As if. Goody Goody is the track you’ll want to put on repeat. New wave synths, surf guitars and Campbell’s powerful voice make for a smart and sexy rocker with a vintage edge. Have mercy.