Brooklyn-based indie rockers The Drums recently stopped by KCRW. While there, they played “Days”, a track from their latest release Portamento. Fun Fact: the album’s title is a 17th century Itialian term that denotes a slide between two pitches. For more on their new album check out Brett’s album review, HERE.
Written by Rob Peoni
Midpoint Music Festival celebrated its ten-year anniversary last weekend. This is Cincinnati’s ode to culture where the fringe era dimly shines through one of the Midwest’s most conservative towns. The festival provides Cincy the opportunity to return to its boomtown days. The subculture shined on Friday night. Cincinnati, OH was booming once again as people, bands and cultures united. Over-the-Rhine we all went.
I only spent one night blooming with the boom, but it was enough time for me to recognize the impact. My Friday night was occupied by three fantastic live performances by up and coming musical explorers.
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra: The New Zealand born, Portland placed trio has made a name for themselves with their debut release. Their style falls into many of the indie rock subdivisions (troublegum, experimental noise rock, neo-punk, etc.). This was my second time seeing these guys and it was worth the return. Lead singer/guitarist Ruban Nelson is extremely impressive and commands attention. Listening to their record does not give his shredding ability justice. When you see UMO live you earn many key takeaways. First, Nelson is an extremely talented guitarist. If you read nothing about UMO and just listened to their record it would be difficult to decipher where the sounds were actually coming from. After seeing UMO live, you will discover that there are only three mates on stage and Nelson is the one created the ruckus. Second, drummer Julien Ehrich is an extremely talented tween that could be mistaken for a member of Smith Westerns. Third, “Ffunny Ffriends” is on the short list for jams of the year.
- Toro y Moi is without question the king of the Chillwave movement. Chazwick Bundick has the best voice, best band, best beats, and most potential. His looping synths demand dance and his ambient electropop melodies require engagement. Counterparts, Washed Out and Neon Indian have all released follow ups this year, however, neither did so with as much effort as Toro y Moi. Bundick proves to be hungry enough to continue to progress his sound and vision. His follow up LP Underneath the Pine was released in February while Freaking Out EP was distributed a few weeks ago. To me, Bundick is not just the catalyst to keep the Chillwave movement alive, but also is the controller of its destiny. Bundick has too much talent to fade. It will interesting to see if Bundick continues to cycle through the Chillwave or head in a different direction. I think he is about to hit the crest and new direction will form. All I know is that the trough is the last place we will see Toro y Moi.
- The MOTR Pub was the venue that brought in the midnight show of Portland band Starfucker. This band has gone from their current name to PYRAMID, then to Pyramiddd, back to Starfucker, and now STRFKR when touring. Confusion and naming purposes aside, the identity is built and these guys are a party to see live. The capacity of the MOTR Pub had to be 200 and 300 sweating Hipsters were in attendance. I left the venue a few too many drinks deep with the appearance of just getting out of the pool, but what a fun evening.
Although the shows were above par, a certain comment stuck with me on my drive home. Before Toro y Moi’s set, I overheard a man sitting next to me say, “I can’t believe this many people like this live here, it is like they are all coming out of the woodwork.” Neglecting to engage I absorbed his comments and realized that independent music has power. It possesses the type of influence to connect like-minded people. The perfect formula you need to resurrect a town that has been missing a boom for decades. Thank you Cincinnati.
Written by Brett McGrath
Paula Cole begged the question “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” on her mid-90s mega hit of the same name. Apparently Paula, a few of them are hanging out in Austin, Texas.
Chris Brecht and his band Dead Flowers are responsible for one of the more underrated releases of 2011. Dead Flower Motel is a 3 AM barnstormer of a record that would prove a welcome addition to the jukebox of any West Texas honkytonk. Brecht has an artist’s eye for detail that provides the story for this smoky, whiskey-infused backdrop.
Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller wrote of Brecht, “We know it in our hearts – that we’re weak and expendable – but we also can see the beauty in that. We are brief and we are supposed to make the most of it. Brecht does this by finding the beauty in the smallest things, those toss-away details that, for many, are imperceptible, but they’re the bits that make a writer great and make a satisfied person.”
Concise, vivid songwriting is too often taken for granted in the indie scene. Blogs like Pitchfork appear willing to promote acts that fit a certain image, while the music itself plays second fiddle. (See: We Listen For You) As a result, artists like Brecht tend to slip through the cracks.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Dead Flower Motel keeps the music simple and employs Brecht’s unique perspective to elevate the songs. I don’t wish to short change Dead Flowers. Their play provides a solid foundation for Brecht to draw from. The music has a subtle, haunting quality that pairs well with his mellow angst.
Brecht appears keenly aware that his message is lost on certain crowds. On “Not Where You Are”, Brecht writes “If you think that I’m wounded/It’s my soul that bleeds/Cause you’re judging a man/By the brand of his jeans/You have everything you want/Because you’re parents were rich/And you sit around and pretend/ How hard it is.” The lyrics read like a giant middle finger to the snobs whose club Brecht has never been allowed to enter. He continues, “I don’t want you to get it/I don’t want you to end/You can’t even pretend/To know where I’ve been.”
Dead Flower Motel is a tough sell. The music is too country for indie fans, and Brecht’s delivery is too indie for traditional country fans. Regardless of which crew Brecht eventually falls in with, his story is worth hearing. Click HERE for a free stream or download of his Daytrotter session.
Written by Rob Peoni