Bands To Keep An Eye On

Band: The Neighbourhood
Nickname: The NBHD
Label: Columbia Records, The Revolve Group
Genre: Alternative, Indie, Hip Hop, R&B
Sounds like: A moody and tattooed boy band from the wrong side of the tracks
They hail from: Newbury Park, California
What to expect: Atmospheric and angsty rock with Hip Hop and R&B influences. These songs have the sun drenched quality that comes with living in suburbia amongst palm trees and eternal sunshine, but with enough attitude to turn it all on its head.
Fun Fact: The band describes their genre as “black and white”. Their demo was initially written with rap verses, but the lead singer, Jesse Rutherford, decided he’d rather sing and they were removed.
Standout Tracks: Sweater Weather, Female Robbery
Lyrics ”The goosebumps start to raise/ The minute that my left hand meets your waist/ And then I watch your face/ Put my finger on your tongue/ ‘Cause you love the taste.”

Bands To Keep An Eye On

Band: The Head And The Heart

Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Indie-Folk
Sounds like: Ryan Adams, Fanfarlo, Mumford & Sons
They hail from: Seattle, Washington
What to expect: Strong vocal harmonies with Americana roots, perfect percussion with strains of violin and surprise girlie vocals
Fun Fact: They sold out of self-burned CDs in stitched denim sleeves that they brought to concerts and local record stores, earning them the title of Seattle’s Best New Band by City Arts Magazine.
Standout Tracks: Rivers and Roads, Cats and Dogs
Lyrics: “Down in the valley with whiskey rivers, These are the places you’ll find me hidin’”

Bands To Keep An Eye On

Band: Walk the Moon
Label: RCA Records
Genre: Indie Rock
Sounds like: The Talking Heads, The Killers, and Ra Ra Riot, with a hint of Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectors
They hail from: Cincinnati, Ohio
What to expect: You will be kept on your toes as the sound shifts from synth rock to catchy pop. The hormonally charged lyrics send you straight back to those lusty days of high school crushes, as do the occasional yelps of falsetto. It’s fresh, it’s youthful, and it’s fun. 
Fun Fact: “Anna Sun”, Esquire’s 2011 song of the summer was named after lead singer, Petricca’s professor, Anna Xiao Dong Sun.
Standout Tracks: Anna Sun, Quesadilla, I Want! I Want! and William Blake, the sped up chipmunk version of I Want!, I Want!. Some things just sound better chipmunked.
 ”My eyes are on the road/ But my mind is on your body.”

Eureka! Drug Rug

Drug Rug was formed by a darling duo of musicians who merged artistically and romantically to bring us some truly charming acid-folk. Although, Sarah Cronin and Tommy Allen shy away from the cute-couple image, it is apparent in the music, interlaced between their harmonizing voices and hazy guitar riffs. In fact, the Cambridge, Massachusetts youngsters began playing together on their very first date as they sat in Tommy’s bed drinking whiskey. Young love! They have since added more band members and producers, Carter Tanton and Julian Cassanetti have helped to put a bit more rock into the equation. Let’s hope they’ve since found a new rehearsal space!

Things took a turn for Drug Rug when they where signed by Apollo Sunshine’s Jeremy Black to his Black and Greene label after catching their show. They have since played at The Bowery Ballroom during the CMJ Festival of 2007 and after their self-titled debut was released, they spent the month entertaining the young crowds holding court at Mercury Lounge. They recently returned to open for Dr. Dog.

The fuzzed out opener, “For The Rest of Your Life,” eases along like an old collectors car with enough pep to keep on going. “Winter Time” keeps it simple, and cheerfully chirps to a tune that is somewhat reminiscent of the childhood favorite, “Down By the Bay”. Raffi anyone? “Lie Lie Lie” offers an extra helping of folk served up with some scratchy and screechy vocals courtesy of Cronin, and “Walden” picks up the pace on the comparatively lo-fi album. Drug Rug is definitely a band to keep your eyes on.

Walden mp3
The Sound Alone mp3

For more information, check out Drug Rug’s myspace page.

A Synth Masterpiece: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is an example of a band with a very intriguing name, so intriguing that I decided to check out their self-titled album on a whim. Without any preconceived notions to what the band sounded like, who their influences were, or where they were from, I waited 15 minutes for the album to download to my hard drive and then spent the rest of day listening to all 10 songs on this lovely album.

The Pains are a New York-band with a sort of low-fi, 80s rock sound. The name of the band came from an unpublished children’s’ story written by a friend of front-man Kip Berman (according to their wikipedia page). They have been hailed by Stereogum as a band to watch. They have become a staple of KEXP and are currently playing at South by Southwest. By utilizing both female and male vocals and a variety of instruments – including synthesizer keyboards, the band is reminiscent of such groups as New Order and My Bloody Valentine, but with a bit more modernity.

They released their debut album in 2009 to Slumberland Records. It has been hailed by critics, including Pitchfork. “Come Saturday,” the second track on their self-titled debut album, reminded me of 80s Brit Rock, like The Smiths without Morrissey’s stand-out vocals. Other songs, like “Young Adult Fiction,” have a happy-go-lucky synth-infused melody. “A Teenager in Love” is their most dance-tastic track. Its clap-along drum beat is easily recognizable over the boy/girl vocal styling. “Gentle Sons,” the closing track, has a generous guitar solo and leaves a sense of desire in the ear of the listener.

When I told Jenna I was going to blog about this band, she said, “That band sounds emo! Is it?” That is a fair question. I respond, “No. Not really. Although the name does suggest a certain degree of ’emo-ness’.” But the fact that their influences are placed largely in the 1980s make them a desirable band for anyone who appreciates a low-fi synth masterpiece, which is what I believe this album, and this band, evokes.

Check out the glory of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart for yourself with these mp3s…

Eureka! Passion Pit

So what if Passion Pit is also the name of an old hardcore porno? The actual story behind the birth of this band is surprisingly… endearing. Michael Angelakos was a student at Emerson College who wanted to surprise his girlfriend with something nice for Valentines Day. Being that he was a day or two late, he ended up going all out and giving her an EP, now entitled Chunk of Change. I’ve gotta say, it makes those chocolates I received seem kind of bland, and by bland, I mean really thoughtful. Thanks!

After adding four more members to the mix, namely, Ian Hultquist, Ayad Al Adhamy, Jeff Apruzzese and Nate Donmoyer, the group was all the rage at the CMJ festival last October. Some of the tracks are a bit lacking. “Better Things” is hardly impressive but catchy dance tracks like, “I’ve Got Your Number” saves the day with some always infectious synthetic hand clapping and Angelakos’ lilting falsetto.

“Sleepyhead” is by far the standout track in my opinion. Backed by a strong beat, this song practically explodes with Alvin and the Chipmunk-esque vocal loops and shimmering synthtasticness. I just made up two words to describe it. That’s how crazy it is. The song was immediately a blog hit. We didn’t report on it in the midst of its success because we didn’t have a blog back then. Sorry about that. Consider this a belated Valentines Day present?

*Bonus points to them for touring with Ra Ra Riot!

Sleepyhead mp3
I’ve Got Your Number mp3

For more information check out Passion Pit’s myspace page.

Eureka! Human Highway

Nick Thorburn and Jim Guthrie have teamed up again, this time bringing us the gentle and dreamy creation known as Human Highway. The two are well accustomed to working together, seeing as Guthrie was formerly a guitarist in Thorburn’s band, Islands.

The album, Moody Motorcycle, is a direct result of one week spent on Guthrie’s couch in his Toronto home and it has a sleepy, lullaby-like quality to match. Comprised of folksy low-key melodies, and channeling a little Simon & Garfunkel here and some Everly Brothers there, these songs make for perfect beach music, preferably when the sun is beginning to set and the crowd has left.

Throughout the album, Thorburn and Guthrie’s voices weave in and out of thick blanketing harmonies. The title track has a darker sound to it but retains a hopeful quality with lyrics, “Remain in the lane I travel in/ I won’t spin out of control again/ The city shrinks, carefully shedding skin”.

“My Beach” came to be at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona, when the two were touring with Islands and began to play in front of a recorder. The result is a song of peaceful and endless dedication. Anxious to please, they sing, ” I built you a castle/ But the tide took it away/ And now you think I’m an asshole/ So I try to make it okay.”

The album finishes off with a less urgent cover of Billy Taylor’s, “Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” and appropriately so. It ties up all the loose ends of the album with the simple desire to “say all the things I should say” and signs off with the optimistic sound of birds chirping and a motorcycle driving off into the distance.

  • Moody Motorcycle mp3
  • Pretty Hair mp3

For more information check out Human Highway’s myspace page.