Category Archives: 2017

Little Stranger (Charleston, SC)

Little Stranger - Bag Full of Money

“On their debut album, Buddha the Beast, Little Stranger uses hip-hop beats as a foundation for a kaleidoscopic array of sounds. Channeling everyone from the Gorillaz to Beck to the Beta Band, the duo, John and Kevin Shields, layers disembodied vocal samples, laid-back synth pop, Coldplay-style wide-screen grandeur, and, yes, the occasional blast of swaggering rap over tight, funky beats.”

— Vincent Harris, Charleston City Paper

Born and raised in Philly and crash-landed in Charleston, John and Kevin Shields are the core members of the quirky indie hip-hop group Little Stranger. Performing live as a duo, Little Stranger is a fresh hybrid of John’s singer-songwriter magnetism and Kevin’s hard hitting, in-your-face delivery. Stylistically reminiscent of Gorillaz and Twenty One Pilots, Little Stranger inhabits a relatively unexplored niche at this point in time. They’re all about originality, every song is a separate work unto itself with all the strangeness that their name implies.

Though the band is relatively new, John and Kevin Shields bring years of experience to the table. With previous bands, they’ve played with names like Slightly Stoopid, Del the Funky Homosapien, Grace Potter, Papadosio, The Heavy Pets, and John Brown’s Body. Little Stranger was quickly recognized at home, named “Hip-Hop Act of the Year” in the 2016 Charleston City Paper Music Awards and listed jointly as one of “17 People to Watch in 2017” in the Charleston Indie blog, Out of the Wood-work. They’ve toured up and down the East Coast and recently released a string of eclectic music videos to their fans. With an ever-increasing arsenal of new tunes, Little Stranger is poised and ready to make 2017 a big year.

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Timber (Birmingham, AL)

Timber - Sunstroke

“The listening experience is like the moment when you finally stop to breathe, to appreciate the chill and calm of an inhale, and for a few seconds, all that is an uproar and all that is in motion is at rest.”

— Lockeland Springsteen

Timber is a collaboration between Janet Simpson and Will Stewart — two veteran musicians who came together in that most natural of ways: In a pinch.

Stewart, an Alabama native currently based in Nashville along with the rest of the band, Willie and the Giant, was working on his Coosa EP when it was suggested that Simpson — a multi-faceted, Birmingham, Alabama based musician known for her work in Wooden Wand, Delicate Cutters, and Teen Getaway — to lend her talents to the proceedings. Pressed for time, Simpson came to the studio that day, spent an hour adding keys and her sumptuous voice to a few of Stewart’s songs, and left to catch a plane for a European tour with Wooden Wand.

Last summer, out of the blue, Stewart e-mailed Simpson about writing together. Impressed by Stewart’s melodic gifts and easy demeanor, Simpson accepted the offer. Soon they began trading songs via e-mail, giving each other notes along the way. Once a small batch of similarly-themed compositions made itself apparent, the two met at 2734 Central Recording Studio in Birmingham, AL — working, once again, with producer Lester Nuby — to record their self-titled debut.

Though the two had been exchanging songs online, Simpson and Stewart did not know much about each other, much less how to go about recording their new compositions. Over coffee they talked about productions they were currently enamored with, including albums by Teenage Fanclub, Yo La Tengo, D’Angelo, and Neil Young — particularly After The Gold Rush. Caffeinated and invigorated, the two began crafting the album — splitting the instrumental duties, keeping things simple, and embracing spontaneous moments. Per Stewart’s suggestion, they drafted Nashville musician Scott Murray to add pedal steel, utilizing the instrument’s gorgeous washes of sound for atmosphere rather than staid, Americana twang.

After releasing their self-titled EP in in late 2015, Timber are set to release the single “Sunstroke” on November 19th. “Sunstroke” is a composition that is sonically lush with meditative lyrics; invoking hazy imagery that coaxes the listener to join in on the gauzy daydream. Timber issues the warning, “Got to get you outta my head / before it’s too late” – leaving an open-ended sense of anxiety, which culminates in a frenetic guitar break to end the song with a cathartic release. Timber are currently working to finalize their debut full-length album, which is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.

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River Kittens (St. Louis, MO)

Photo by Philip Hamer

River Kittens - Dressin' on the Side

“They’re sweet. They’re a wreck. They’ve got something really cool, great energy, and the songs are so good.”

— STL Magazine

With soaring three-piece harmonies, and lyrics that can make you cry or make you blush, the River Kittens’ unique St. Louis sound is sure to melt your heart.

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DieAlps! (Tampa, FL)

Photo by Sarah Modene

DieAlps! - I Can See It Now

“Hints of 90s rock nostalgia mingle with effervescent pop enthusiasm, making for a fizzy, rather enjoyable listen.”

— Fuzzy Logic

Austrian born and raised Cornelia (“Connie”) Calcaterra and husband/guitarist Frank, lead Tampa, FL’s DieAlps! (translated: The Alps!). Formed in 2012 and quickly becoming one of Central Florida’s more beloved acts, the band’s self-titled debut EP (Fall 2014) gave us swaying waltzy baroque-pop with lyrics reflecting Connie’s growing up abroad and her life changes in the States.

With a couple line-up tweaks and guitarist Frank now sharing lead vocal duties with Connie, DieAlps! are currently in the studio exploring new sonic territory heavily influenced by 90’s indie rock. Their debut full length, Our City, will be out Summer 2017.

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Tristen (Nashville, TN)

Photo by Danielle Holbert

Tristen - Glass Jar

“She flaunts a philosophy major’s palette amidst echoes of vintage rockabilly and girl group pop: Gods battle, queens bid their rule, girlfriends enable druggy lovers.”

— Rolling Stone

A native of the south side of Chicago turned longtime Nashville songwriter, Tristen has released two critically acclaimed solo records — 2011’s Charlatans at the Garden Gate and 2013’s CAVES — and toured extensively as a member of Jenny Lewis’ backing band. The folk-oriented Charlatans at the Garden Gate earned her praise as “Nashville’s best-kept secret” (The Boston Globe), and the more synth-pop-oriented CAVES featured “tales of greed, alienation and heartache, made poignant but never saccharine by their electronically enhanced surroundings” (Nashville Scene).

With finely tuned chops and a knack for lashing exceptional melodies to her singularly poetic lyrics, she travels with a practiced backing trio of top-notch Nashville sidemen. Together, they bring Tristen’s lush, expertly crafted arrangements and outsized vocals to life—with performances that channel the rock ’n’ roll eclecticism of David Bowie and the creative prowess of Dolly Parton.

Her third album, Sneaker Waves, will be released 7-7-17 via Modern Outsider Records.

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swarming branch

Swarming Branch (Columbus, OH / Boone, NC)

swarming branch

Photo by Ryan Miller

Swarming Branch - Laid Back and Practical

“There are traces of ’70s studio-pop, quirky psych a la Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tin Pan Alley, new wave, folk-rock, disco, lo-fi skuzz and so much more. And although Graham’s oblique lyrics and Dylanesque delivery remain Swarming Branch’s center of gravity, the passage of years and the band’s ever-shifting personnel ensure Surreal Number is a step out into the great unknown for band and listener alike.”

— Chris DeVille, Stereogum

Swarming Branch is a band engaged in three seemingly disparate pursuits: elaborating folk music’s four-chord strum with complex extensions and substitutions, winking at the theater of glam rock from dive bar stages around the country without causing the cynics to spray beer out of their nostrils, and inviting the droning, unbridled tendencies of modal jazz to gradually displace rock and roll’s typical pentatonic shapes. You could say they aspire to become the modern Midwestern Steely Dan, even if they’ve only demonstrated a portion of the elder group’s range thus far.

On Surreal Number, Swarming Branch’s newest LP on SofaBurn Records, the group has temporarily suspended some of its formal experimentation to create a straightforward collection of ten songs. The album was conceived with the help of a Los Angeles team comprised of engineer Drew Fischer and producer Rob Barbato (Drinks, Kevin Morby, Peaking Lights, et al) and shows the Branch finding a thicker, synthesized, and more neatly arranged sound while keeping a playful yet assertive spirit that makes every song seem both unlikely and inevitable.

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The Anthony Pirog Trio (Washington, DC)

the anthony pirog trio

The Anthony Pirog Trio - The Great Northern

“Anthony Pirog: Palo Colorado Dream (Cuneiform) An instrumental guitar trio recording here that’s a bit more than usual: Pirog, an American guitarist with taste, skills, and a creative drive that takes him from jazz to rock to prog to covering Terry Riley’s “In C” with 29 other people, is all over the place but in a good way here. Meaning: This is a fine album, lush, diverse and filled with texture–but notably grounded in musicality, structured as an album, and a continuous piece of content. It’s very good, and it sounds like the work of one highly skilled player whose muse is taking him to that special place where genre classifications have no meaning. You’ll like it if you hear it, so maybe you should.”

— Dave DiMartino, Rolling Stone

Seemingly able to master any convention he chooses to adopt and more than capable of developing and adapting his own, Anthony Pirog challenges our preconceived notions about genre and guitar sound. As he comes further into his own as an artist, he continues to shape, tear down and reshape his unique conceptions of what guitar can be. Anthony’s style is studied, yet unorthodox; avant-garde, yet accessible; faintly familiar, yet conspicuously original.

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camacho

Camacho (Decatur, AL)

camacho

Camacho - Wrong

Camacho pulls inspirations from a wide variety of genres. From Billy Joel to Coheed and Cambria, Camacho will strike a chord with anyone looking for an older sound with a very new touch. The Alabama natives from Decatur look to push their creativity in many different ways from chord structures to the vocal melodies.

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Brad Armstrong (Rhinebeck, NY)

brad armstrong

Brad Armstrong - No Vain Apology

​”Brad Armstrong sings like Richard Buckner at a closed-casket viewing and favors intensely Book of Revelations imagery. 13ghosts continue to reinvent themselves with every song, trying on new sounds and styles to see what fits…The Strangest Colored Lights is a persistently somber, mostly humorless album, but it’s so musically vigorous that you wouldn’t mind if they dwelt on death for the rest of their lives.”

— Pitchfork

Brad Armstrong was a principal songwriter and producer of the critically successful and financially disastrous band 13ghosts, which released 6 full length albums between 2002 and 2012 with Birmingham-based Skybucket Records and Atlanta-based This Is American Music.After the other songwriter quit the band in 2008, Armstrong became the only writer in the band, and released two more albums of material before leaving the South in 2014. He moved his family to the Hudson Valley, in upstate New York, and finished mixing the record he had written and tracked in Birmingham. Jason Lucia (13ghosts, Heath Green and the Makeshifters) plays drums and Maria Taylor (Azure Ray, solo artist) sings harmonies and one lead vocal track. The rest of the album is performed by Armstrong, with the exception of Jason Taylor on double bass and Sue Nuckols on fiddle. The new album is called Empire. It is a diverse and experimental record, in keeping with the work that he did in 13ghosts, and was released January 26, 2016 on Cornelius Chapel Records. It has sync placements on ABC’s Nashville and DirecTv’s Kingdom.

Armstrong has also been a contributing member of the Dexateens since 2008.

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western medication

Western Medication (Nashville, TN)

western medication

Photo by Emily Quark

Western Medication - Chins

“They play like they could easily open for either Oasis or The Verve. You pick.”

— Paste Magazine

For an alternative to what ails you musically, try Western Medication. The Nashville rock group’s bleeding post-punk sound goes straight for the heart, while their raw hardcore energy takes over the spirit and their poptimismlodges right in the brain. Led by singer/guitarist Justin Landis, Western Medication’s debut album, The Entertainers’ Secret, is the culmination of a consistent vision across four years of constant change. Nine seamless tracks that explore what it means to always move forward with gauzy guitars, a dynamic rhythm section, honesty and a touch of humor.

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