Tag Archives: Cool Band Alert

Be Still My Beating Heart – Greta Van Fleet

I was listening to one of those new music mixes on Apple Music and catching up on work when this song popped up and I thought, ‘This new Heart sounds pretty good!” Except it wasn’t Heart, it was Frankenmuth, Michigan’s own Greta Van Fleet. More on that in a bit.

Heart is one of those bands that had a bunch of chart dominating singles, insanely talented writing, vocals and musicianship, especially in the sister duo of Ann & Nancy Wilson, but very few bands wear them on their sleeves as obvious influences. I’m not sure why that is, but I can’t think of a single band where I can say, “Oh yeah, these guys obviously love Heart.”

So when the vocals came in on Greta Van Fleet’s new single “Black Smoke Rising,” I was pleasantly surprised to hear the connection. I mean, there’s no way this vocal performance is not influenced by Ann Wilson, right?

Black Smoke Rising

It gets better. It turns out that it’s not even a modern-day Ann Wilson fronting this band. In fact, there’s isn’t a female in sight! Greta Van Fleet is a four-piece band of dudes—three brothers and a friend! So it’s not a sister act emulating the Wilsons, but a brother act. How great is that?

But wait, there’s more!

Continue reading Be Still My Beating Heart — Greta Van Fleet

Cool Band: Vanish Valley

Vanish ValleyIt’s summer on the west coast, which means we have absolutely perfect days that dim into the most beautiful sunsets followed by breezy nights where the air is sweet with campfires and acoustic guitars. Yes, I am in a mood for smart folk-rock kissed with a taste of California sun. Vanish Valley fits the bill so well that I may throw everything else out the window for the rest of this fast vanishing summer.

Andrew McAllister (formerly of Conrad Ford/Tarnished Records) has assembled a group of musicians for something he’s calling a “song cycle” titled, Vanish Valley. The truth is he’s gathered some friends to record a simple, sweet, brief album that should remind you of the sunshine warming your jeans when the cold rain of autumn falls again.

MP3: Vanish Valley – “Prettiest Girl in California”

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Cool Band: Pancho-san

Pancho-san Last week I joined some friends in a great big Portland welcome for former Beulah frontman Miles Kurosky who recently settled in our fair city. It was everything you loved about Beulah…without Beulah…sorta.

Kurosky did have a great backing band featuring two other members of Beulah, Patrick Abernethy (also of Rogue Wave) and Eli Crews. Those two were joined by drummer Pat Spurgeon and opened the show with their own deal: Pancho-san.

Still following along? Good.

There’s a jaunty, jangly spirit to Pancho-san. A dash of the Beatles, a pinch of the Libertines, a smidge of Arcade Fire, all adding up to their own sound. I only mention these other bands as a frame of reference for the elements within the Pancho-san stew. They don’t really sound like any of those bands, but they do have these bits and pieces that reference their work. They could be in a Canadian collective with those bands.

But then, true to the name, there’s a bit of a Spanish flair thrown in, which is both welcome and surprising. They don’t play Spanish songs but instead sprinkle some of the spice and flavor. If this band were a Tapas dish I would order two: one to share and one to keep to myself.

No MP3s available but their album Oh Mellow Melody is streaming on MySpace. I especially dig “Kick the Fences Down” with it’s spooky, groovy George Harrison outtro. Extra texture, indeed!

Pancho-san: iTunes

Beulah: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Miles Kurosky: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Rogue Wave: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Cool Band: Finn Riggins

Finn Riggins What do you know about Idaho besides potatoes and it’s attraction to weird white supremacy groups? Did you know that Boise is actually a totally cool little town where seemingly everyone rides bikes? It’s true. It’s like a little piece of Holland smack down in the middle of Nowheresville. I once saw a Rod Stewart impersonator/Limo driver just hanging out in front of a bar having a smoke. And he wasn’t at all out of place. It’s a cool, weird place.

Finn Riggins is from Boise and they’re kinda weird and cool too. A collaboration between Cameron Bouiss, Eric Gilbert and Lisa Simpson, the trio met while completing their music degrees at the University of Idaho and have been playing together since 2000. Six years later they ended up in Sun Valley and then three years after that they call Boise home…when they are home. They seem to be on the road all the time with over 200 dates in 2008 alone.

Their new album, Vs. Wilderness is their fourth and if this song is any indication of the what the rest of their catalog holds then it’s sure to find a place in the hearts of hipsters with a yen for sea shanties and accordion ballads. The video for “A Whale, A Fish” was shot in an old YMCA with live mics. It’s spooky and pretty and lonely…just like Finn Riggins.

Video: Finn Riggins – “A Whale, A Fish”

MP3: Finn Riggins – “Wake (Keep This Town Alive)”

Finn Riggins: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Tour dates after the jump…

Continue reading Cool Band: Finn Riggins

Cool Band: Local Natives

Local Natives I have to admit it’s interesting and a bit unsettling to hear music I revered as a youngster now old enough to have passed through lameness, into irrelevance, stopping briefly as ironic, and now into full-fledged and legitimate influential sound. The late-80s and early-90s were when the rise of “Alternative” was still exciting and subversive of the dominate music scene and industry—this was before Hot Topic and Sony Music subverted the whole deal into one big marketing ploy. But now we’ve come full circle and those jangly guitars and quirky vocal stylings don’t sound so put on. They almost sound…fresh.

Los Angeles band Local Natives get it. They hear the ring of Johnny Marr‘s guitar on post-Smiths session work as more than effects-laden chiming. They hear the poly-rhythmic stick clicks coming from Adam & the Ants as more than a white boy nod to tribal drums and more as a few more beats to which we can all nod our heads.

With so many new bands taking more of their fashion cues than their music inspiration from the 80s, it’s good to hear a band who understands that the Morning in America was generally met with a Sun Country Coolers hangover.

Video: Local Natives – “Wide Eyes” (Live In Session)

Local Natives: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, MySpace, Website.

Cool Band: Black Heart Moon

Black Heart Moon There are a lot of bands out there and some of them suck, some of them are OK, some of them are good, and some of them are special. Those who fall into the last category often have a combination of music, image, and personal dynamics. Black Heart Moon may just be a special band.

I’ve been meaning to catch this band for a while. I know lap-steel player David Dyas and had heard from friends that I would like this project of his. And how! This Portland trio combines a mellow vibe with clever lyrics and catchy harmonies to somehow craft the soundtrack of a Portland winter night.

Portland is the Morrissey of American cities; it’s woefully misunderstood as a sad sack when in fact it’s a hilarious cad who’s in on the joke as much as it is the butt of it. The image overshadows the reality. Yes, it rains here, but not nearly as much as you’ve heard and the good news is that it doesn’t keep people from doing their thing. Rather than being this damp, dreary town awash in beards and drizzle, Portland is alive with a thousand neighborhood pubs all brimming with creativity and music. Seeing Black Heart Moon at my own local, The Alberta Street Public House, was the perfect setting to see a band that best captures my own personal experience with this city. I doubt that was by design but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that is what I saw…and heard.

Continue reading Cool Band: Black Heart Moon

Cool Band: Black Whales

Black WhalesRemember the first time you heard Jane’s Addiction and it was weird and a bit menacing but still kind of fun and light? This is before Perry became a model for douche-y brands that market to douche-y guys like Navarro. There was something so cool about that band that you couldn’t really put your finger on. Something unique and interesting and…baffling.

Black Whales don’t sound like Jane’s Addiction (except occasional vocal inflections) but I am getting some nostalgic feelings of those first encounters with Jane’s that made me seek out more. The Seattle quintet treads delicately on enough musical styles that none really define the band. These guys are children of mix tapes, that’s clear. But rather than mimicking the styles of their heroes they do what any band worth a second listen does: they eke out their own sound from those colliding influences. That’s not to say this is some mish mash of sonic crumbs. In fact, it’s a bit spare—in a good way. Their EP Origins is stripped down to the elements: slamming drums and interesting beats; quirky, catchy guitar lines (not riffs, but melodic lines); anchored bass; and arresting vocals. *Yes, I just typed “arresting” in describing vocals.

Despite the spare production, Origins is not some minor undertaking. As lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Robert explains,”No memories, no regrets, no heartbreak, no blood. The album is meant to sound wide-eyed and optimistic but with lots of ghosts and memories still hanging around. I guess that’s as close as it gets to thematic.”

MP3: Black Whales – “Young Blood”

VIDEO: Black Whales – “The Diamond Divide”

Black Whales: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki (not the band, but interesting info on actual black whales)

Cool Band: Spindrift

Spindrift.jpg I caught these guys when they closed out a night of psych rock at Dante’s in Portland. What started out as a love fest for local heroes the Dandy Warhols (who had just hosted the bands on the bill to an apparent desert bacchanal) turned into a loud and trippy homage to spaghetti westerns and West Coast freakiness.

With a flair for the cinematic (the band has its own full length feature film, The Legend of God’s Gun), these Los Angelenos make no attempt to hide their penchant for Ennio Morricone hero worship, and God Bless ’em for it. There’s an undercurrent of violence gurgling under the surface that is too often the focus of modern psych bands, but Spindrift understands that it’s often what’s off-screen that is most frightening.

MP3: Spin Drift – “Beauty”

VIDEO: The Legend of God’s Gun (Director’s Cut Trailer)

Spindrift: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Cool Band: The Jaguar Club

The Jaguar ClubFor a while now, Brooklyn has been a hotbed of cooler than thou indie bands and freaky neo-hippies; I don’t know what is going on over there. Maybe that little borough has an unusually high unemployment rate that allows these kids to lounge about making records and scouring vintage shops. Whatever…keep the good jams coming.

The Jaguar Club is our latest find and they indeed hail from Brooklyn but exhibit more of an association with mid-80s Manchester than the neo-funk or synth driven palette of their neighbors. There’s more than a bit of the Smiths lurking in the corners of their basement and the minimalist approach to recording would make our friends in MGMT quiver at the thought of being so exposed. Singer/guitarist Will Popadic’s vocal styling won’t be for everyone. The band’s one-sheet cites Morrissey and Interpol‘s Paul Banks as inspirations and neither exhibit a dynamic range but each (especially our beloved Moz) offer a distinct personality that our newbie is still trying to find. But check them out and let’s see how they develop on their debut self-released LP And We Wake Up Slowly, out on September 1.

MP3: The Jaguar Club – “Sleepwalking”

Tour dates after the jump…

Continue reading Cool Band: The Jaguar Club

Cool Band: Adam and Darcie

MP3: Adam and Darcie – “Hands/ Mind” from California Trail, out July 24 on Village Ten, and July 20 overseas on Indiecater Records.

Lovely, orchestral pop by a husband/wife duo from Utah. What’s not to like? I hear a lot of middle-period Elliott Smith in “Hands/ Mind,” which makes me both happy and sad, like a good song should. “I am waiting for my hands to catch up with my mind / I’m running out of time / I’m running out of time…”

One more: Adam and Darcie – “National Forest”

Adam and Darcie: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, YouTube, MySpace.