Katie Ekin has always had a heart for music, but she didn’t always have the heart to play for an audience. Although she grew up watching her father perform in a band, it wasn’t until she was 15 that Ekin finally picked up the guitar. Since then, she hasn’t put it down much. To date, she’s got nearly 200 songs under her belt and no desire to slow down any time soon. Her indie folk pop is sparely arranged and lightly glazed. Falling Out Of Your Arms tells the story of slipping out of love through rippling guitars, soft percussion, and Ekin’s lilting, multi-tracked vocals. Minus the appearance of an improbable guitar solo in the middle, it’s a song meant for chilling out. With the holidays just around the corner, we recommend putting Underneath the Christmas Tree on rotation. Retro-styled in the same vein as Santa Baby, the track is sonic hot apple cider”sweet, warm, and something you’ll want seconds of.
There are innumerable artists out there, filled with talent, who are frittering away in obscurity because they don’t have exposure. This is not Xoe Wise’s story. The singer-songwriter was plucked from the teeming masses of Chicago artists by none other than Microsoft to perform at the company’s Illinois store opening. Things went so well there that the technology giant then funded Wise’s 25-date U.S. tour. It may not be a breakthrough, but it’s definitely a push in the right direction for someone who deserves the attention. Wise’s music provides the soundtrack for sleepyheaded romance and quiet reverie. The pitter-patter of percussion, yawing violins, soft piano, and Wise’s gauzy vocals combine for dulcet melodies like Silent Rain and All You Gave. She even weaves a little Auto-Tune in on My Heart as her voices tiptoes up the scales. Wise’s songs are sweet panaceas for life’s pricklier moments. Let’s face it, we can all use more of those.
Pop music is great, but if you’re looking for emotional depth, you may not find it in an LMFAO song. So when Chase Manhattan was recalibrating after his band short-circuited midway to their big breakthrough, he turned his focus to making pop music with substance. Enter Goodnight Argent, a nod to an old studio on Argent Road in the band’s hometown of Pasco, Wash. The band crafts burning, soulful pop, part Justin Timberlake, part Ben Gibbard. Those Were The Days is a smoldering look at summer love, driven by a simple back beat and panging piano. When the sun comes up will the stars remember our love? Manhattan wonders. Then, like an admonishment, the band fires back with Don’t Get Sentimental, a track filled with spacy sequences and piercing guitars. The only thing these guys have in common with LMFAO is that they’re sexy and they know it.
Bands of brothers”history is riddled with them. From Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Bee Gees to Kings of Leon to The Beach Boys to Kool & The Gang to Good Charlotte to Pantera to, well, you get the point. Oaklynn, a band out of Dalton, Ga., brings its own exceptional symmetry to this illustrious group. Made up of two pairs of brothers”Josh and Seth Smith and Tripp and Tate Howell”Oaklynn purveys catchy, hook-driven synth rock with gossamer vocals. Fans of Postal Service will love the band’s single Everytime. Over compressed beats, tambourines, digital bleeps, and reverb guitars, Tate Hollowell sings, Every time you come around here lately, you lift me off the ground. Oaklynn’s ethereal songcraft has a similar effect. Next time you need a serotonin surge, give these guys a try.
MSF hails from Boston, so it’s not surprising one of their biggest influences is the seminal post-punk Beantown band, the Pixies. You can hear that influence best in their dark and cheeky track, Oven Head. Over piercing guitars that sound like they were recorded in a silo, David Michaels intones, That’s all I want, to die. Like the Pixies, the music is galvanizing, fitful and manic, but Michaels’ adenoidal croon brings an element of Elvis Costello to the mix. Oven Head is the sound of unraveling, but on the catchy Walking Jealousy frothy guitars and galloping, polyrhythmic drums lighten the mood. Who cares if you can’t decipher what the chorus is (We haven’t got our keys? We’ve all forgot our drinks?)? Your body will move regardless of what your brain understands.
Before he had even finished high school in Alabama, Nick Gill had three albums and a 50-date tour under his belt. And if that doesn’t impress you, his music will. Gill has come a long way since penning his first song in 8th grade about a kooky English teacher. These days his songs are poignant, spare meditations on life’s more difficult experiences: love, loss, and growing up. The haunting How It Feels is about a friend’s suicide. But rather than dwelling on the shock and horror, Gill reminisces about the good times”driving around with beauty queens on Halloween. As a violin, piano, and a softy strummed guitar deliver the elegy, Gill’s mellow voice ascends into a honeyed falsetto. Game is lighter fare”an upbeat melody led by a guiro, acoustic guitar and piano. Gill’s warm and dusty songs are on par with singer-songwriters like Jack Johnson and John Mayer. But unlike those elderish statesmen, this young buck’s just getting started.