Things are back to full swing around here after the holidays, so the submissions are coming in thick and fast. We’re excited to bring you some really talented rising stars with this week’s list. There are definitely more than a few deserving of the victory here. So who’s going to get it? YOU DECIDE!
L.A. Spring – “Heart and Soul”
-If you’re a fan of indie rock with some interesting glowing sounds and high lead vocals, you’ll get a charge out of L.A. Spring. There’s something about the sound that feels like it could have come from the 80s. It’s a cool style full of energy and excitement. The lyrics are an interesting cultural critique of modern society, written with a wit and cool transparency. Fans of George Michael will enjoy this one.
Canyon City – “Paper Airplanes”
-I’m not going to lie, I am a huge fan of Canyon City. There’s something about this pop folk band that just strikes a chord with me (see what I did there?). The melody feels right and the vocal is quaintly delivered. The acoustic guitar highlights the lead vocal perfectly. As the full sound builds, you can’t help but connect with the optimistic sound. They’re a touch Lumineers, a touch Head and the Heart, and maybe most like a group called Brvnches that we covered a few years ago. Just delightful stuff.
Nightair – “Jamie”
-The style of jam rock that Nightair play gets your head bobbing. I can just imagine the roar of a crowd hearing this live. The opening guitar lick leads nicely into some quintessential indie rock vocals. Honestly when I think of indie rock, this is the sound I have in mind. It’s hard to put into technical terms why I like this track, I just find it addictively good. I love the image, “close your eyes and get to the weekend.” A different kind of working class heroes, these guys!
My Native Tongue – “Traffic”
-Set a chill groove, add guitars, add horns, then bring in a unique vocal… welcome to the My Native Tongue sound. There’s a quirkiness to this band that I really like, sort of like a summery jam band, but really good. I mean, I don’t say that as a dig in any way. I mean they come across like they’re having a ton of fun singing about the complications of life. “I’m better off when I’m lost” has this really fascinating philosophical element to it, all while jamming out with an “impossible not to bob your head” kind of groove. Dig it, fans. Oh, and for good measure, if the harmonies sound especially good, it’s because they’re 16-year-old triplets!
Thoughtdream – “Death is a myth”
-I’m not sure I can get on board with the message of immortality here, but the male-female folk duo style is one that always gets our attention. The mix, the blending of the voices, and the overall style is quite appealing. There’s a dark serenity to the style of Thoughtdream that keeps me interested. The easy comparison would be the Civil Wars, but I think that does a disservice to both bands. In reality, Thoughtdream are a bit more like Jenny and Tyler. That is to say they are good in their own dark, yet sweet folk music.
Will Tenney and the Music Business – “Timeless”
-I call this band “vintage pop” music and it’s just delicious. Seriously, if you were a fan of the track “That Thing You Do” from the film by the same name, you’ll get a real kick out of this track. It’s so sweet it almost gives you a cavity just listening to it. The beginning uses a sample from an old newscast, leading nicely into the vintage vibe. What’s interesting is the music is pure 60s, but the vocal sounds like something from the mid 90s (like Matchbox 20) with that modern pop sound. It’s a curious and effect blend.
Allman Brown – “Sweetest Thing”
-It’s probably very “music blogger” of me to say this, but this Allman Brown track is what I wanted the Bon Iver album to sound like. It has the sincerity, the quality vocal, and the sense of transcendence that makes for great crossover folk music. I love the way the guitar and the vocal work together, rather than against each other. Even the high harmonies put me in mind of Bon Iver. That said, this track stands on its own. It’s one of the highest quality pure songs I’ve heard so far in 2017 and I’ll be keeping an eye on Brown for sure.
Mt. Joy – “Sheep”
-You could call this indie rock or maybe indie pop rock, but what I like about Mt. Joy is the earnestness that drips from the vocal. The sense of “tell me it haunts you too” is such a yearning feeling. Given the commentary on the red, white, and blue, I wonder if it’s not a bit of social commentary (not that musicians ever do that). As you focus on the message of urban Baltimore and other elements of contemporary society, it’s easy to hear the pain and anguish. It might not be a “happy” topic, but it’s meaningful. It puts me in mind of the activism of folks like Sam Cooke during the Civil Rights Movement. May Mt. Joy rise to that level for the movements taking shape right now.
August – “G H O S T S”
-Matt calls this track “cool, power electro pop” and I’m inclined to agree with him. It’s a driving rhythm that inspires the listener. There’s a full-throated energy to the sound that transcends the electro elements. That said, the artist does an incredible job of connecting the electro production with a visceral sense of building. At times it feels a bit like U2, while other times more of a club electro style. It works in interesting ways.
Matt Hylom – “I Won’t Forget”
-If you like electronic singer songwriters, Matt Hylom is a class act. His music comes across as really chill, with a perfectly enjoyable vibe. The message of the lyrics, though, is about rising up despite what others say. I can really appreciate the DJ distortion/scratch elements of the production. Although this may not be the typical folk style of ETTG, the heart of the track is melodic, sincere, and satisfying.