A week ago I came to the realization I spent most of 2016 with my fingers in my ears. I didn’t listen to much music at all and I didn’t actively seek out any new music. Bummed by that realization, I asked you to tell me who to listen to – send me songs, albums, bands – and I promised to listen to you. I received as many comments as I expected for my first post – Zero.
No worries. There’s music all around so I took it upon myself to find new music this week. Below are 5 artists I listened to for the first time. Share any thoughts or musical suggestions however you like: in the comments, Tweet at me or send me an email.
Band: Real Friends
How I found it? I started following Chorus.fm’s blog and their article announcing Real Friends’ upcoming tour was one of the first posts I came across.
First Impressions: Not my style. Immediately I was reminded of music I experimented with my freshman year of college: Fallout Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, Hellogoodbye, etc. I’m sure fans of Real Friends could contest their categorical sameness with the before-mentioned bands (emo, emo-punk, indie, I’m not sure) but for all I know they they would approve. I took a chance on a band I’d never heard of and I found their song, “Mess”, to be fast, flimsy and immature. Great for their audience (I imagine), but not for me.
Band: Strange Passage | Song(s): Shine and Scatter, EP
How I found it? | Twitter post from Ezra Furman
Strange Passage, a great band, play Subterranean in Chicago. Look em up for a good time https://t.co/unQlQI83pF
— Ezra Furman (@ezrafurman) January 17, 2017
First Impressions: Strange Passage is from Somerville, Massachusetts. I didn’t know that before I listened to them for the first time. Out of the gate, they reminded me of The Cure or a subdued Jens Lekman so I think I assumed they were from overseas. Renato Montenegro is the sole vocalist. Throughout Shine and Scatter he doesn’t exhibit much range, but I get the impression that’s a stylistic choice for the 4 songs on the EP. Similarly, the percussion can almost go overlooked but, in my opinion, that’s only a testament to how fitting Ricky Hartman’s drums are for these songs. It’s Montenegro and Greg Witz’s guitars that set the tone on Shine and Scatter. They’re bright, poppy and precise. Vocals and guitars juxtaposed to the point I overlooked lyrics completely on my first listen. The overall sound was precise so I revisited each song with the lyrics in front of me.
The first 3 songs on the EP conjure feelings of uncertainty effectively conveyed through the character’s physical surroundings:
“Unsettled amber towers, Unsettled ground, Bent columns built on flowers, Folding columns about were folding and viaducts burning down” ~ “Viaducts Burning Down.”
“Standing on the ground, On settled sand, On settled silt, Standing on the ground and standing still” ~ “Lament.”
“Does the image still remain? The image you despise, Before your eyes. Would you welcome back the rain? To cover up the skies, At morning’s Cruel and brilliant rise.” ~ “Shine and Scatter”
But for me, “People Being People,” is the best track on the EP. Guitars cut through cleaner and harder. Montenegro brings much needed attitude to the small collection of songs by repeatedly posing the question, “Is that right you don’t say?” in an antagonizing tone. In the final line of the song he reveals the second half of what turns out to be a two-part question, “Got no reason to stay?” It’s the shortest song on the EP but in my opinion says the most.
Band: Two Castles
How I found it? | WordPress tag search for “Eau Claire.” WI’s little city on the rise led me to Dime Store Saints blog.
First Impressions: Two Castles definitely pulled me out of my comfort zone. :17 into “Survive” I got Flaming Lips vibes and once Eric Charles Christenson’s vocals emerged I was reminded of a song or a band I couldn’t put my finger on right away, but then it hit me – the band was Hockey and it wasn’t a specific song but rather an album, Wyeth. Outside those two touch-points not much more about this song held my attention. To be fair, I think that’s more reflective of how underexposed I’ve been as of late (hence why I’m seeking new music) and less indicative of Christenson’s talents. I will say, Dimestore Saints’ description of ECC was alluring and will have me keeping an eye on him for future work of all kinds.
Band: Two Houses | Song(s): I Feel So Good I Can’t Stand Myself, LP
How I found it? | Two Houses caught my attention online somehow over the last year or so. I imagine they shared a bill with a band I followed on Facebook but can’t be certain. I am certain the poster above is the reason I finally decided to give them a listen. I’m glad I did.
First Impressions: I Feel So Good and I Can’t Stand Myself couldn’t be more aptly named. Each of the 10 songs describes an unsatisfying high and/or prolonged low. Collectively the songs feel like the sonic embodiment of a bender. The party starts with (what appears to be) an affectionate nod to The Boss in, “Thunder Road,” but definitely feels more like a flattering emulation of Titus Andronicus’ “A More Perfect Union,” and maybe it was.
Except for, “The Fear” and “One More for Dom” the songs clock in between 2 and 3 minutes. Every song rocks. Halfway through track 3, “Never Come Down” I literally thought – “God, I need to see these guys live. Shit, I want to book them for a show.” Then, “If You Cough You’re Good” came on and further confirmed that impulse and so on through Track 10, “One More for Dom.” Only a 3-piece – drums, bass, guitar – they bring a huge sound with catchy melodies, sly riffs and powerful harmonies.
Luckily they have a massive tour coming up and who knows, maybe “Unknown, IL” on February 3rd will change to a rock show in Woodstock, IL.
The picture above explains the who, what, when, where.
First Impressions: I felt like I needed more context. I had a hard time imagining where, “Anxi.” would fit in an album. Since this is Kelly Lee Owens first song released off her debut album context wasn’t something I could get. So I re-listened to the song a few times. Either I didn’t get it or I didn’t like it. I felt like I could have it on and move around my apartment to it – it’s pretty, there’s an infectious rhythm throughout the whole song – but I don’t feel like I would ever put it on.
Perhaps within an album or after more listens Kelly Lee Owens will grow on me.