Here’s part two of my latest band roundup, featuring Soft Cat, Tallest Trees, The Drums, The State Arcades, The Wild Complete, Vincent Minor, War Tapes, and Wartime Blues. This time, we have several states represented: Maryland, Tennessee, New York, Arizona, California, and even (Missoula) Montana. Plus London, England (The State Arcades). And yes, there are two bands with the word “war” in their name. It’s been that kind of year. Maybe next time I’ll do a feature with only war bands. Please send in your requests.
Listening to Soft Cat‘s music is like drifting through a pleasant summer daydream. Their music centers around Neil Sanzgiri’s songwriting (his prior bands include Dallas-based Voot Cha Index and Talking Tiger Mountain), and is both folky and classical – acoustic guitar and banjo; strings, flute, and saxophone. Amazingly, they’ve only been performing together since last year, and will be releasing their debut album on Friends Records this autumn. They also have two East Coast shows coming up – Glasslands in Brooklyn, NY on Sept. 2, and a Friends Records Showcase at the Ox in Philadelphia on Sept. 18. As stated in the press release, “The ideas in this album are a collection of themes and explanations growing to a symphonic conclusion. As Neil explains it, ‘Any concentration of wilderness, growth, or life contained in a surviving ecosystem located in an urban setting is known as Wild Space. It is a non-domesticated area existing and dwelling as arcane emptiness. Wild Space creates fear from the unknown yet gives context to conformability. Organisms grow and cultivate while going unnoticed. Wild Space serves as the in between spaces in our lives.'” Heady stuff, but what first caught my ear is that they just sound so pretty.
An interesting mix of acoustic-psychedelic folk and quirky electronics, Tallest Trees is the project of two guys who came out of Nashville’s Tommy and the Whale, Thomas Samuel and Dabney Morris. They combine sophisticated synth arrangements with dreamlike lyrics of children and family (“I’ve seen the one, the only mother, ancient mother, in my dreams…” – Learn). They just recently released The Ostrich or the Lark on Other Electricities.
With an indie rock background and 50’s pop sensibility (naming bands as seemingly diverse as The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Shangri-Las as influences), The Drums have a cool, unique sound. Originally formed in 2008, inspired by mid-80s band The Wake, they developed an interest in the straightforward pop songs of the 1950s, and out of that, their sound was born. Their debut album was released digitally back in June, with the CD release due out in September (Moshi Moshi Records/Downtown Records). They’re playing all over the place, including the Paradise Rock Club on October 18.
The State Arcades
A very new band, The State Arcades have a sophisticated sound, and they definitely sound like a British band (I mean that in a really good way). They’ve just completed their debut CraftKnife E.P. (as in, I think they uploaded the songs a few days ago), and will be performing (around London, I’m guessing?) this autumn. I couldn’t figure out how to embed anything here, but if you’re fond of those English bands from the ’80s (I won’t name names), head over to MyFace or Spacebook and give them a listen. Nice. Very nice.
The Wild Complete
The Wild Complete is a six-piece indie folk band that includes Ryan Burian on vocals/guitar and Kate Hinojosa on accordion. They have a cool, folk-pop, playful and quirky sound. Their debut 7-track EP came out in February, followed by Sun Soaked in June of this year. I guess they just finished touring and are writing and recording again, so have a listen and stay tuned.
Los Angeles, CA
Vincent Minor (a.k.a. Michael Mangia) is an interesting guy on many levels. Musically, there’s a crazy mix of piano, horns, synth, upright bass, a quirky delivery, and the oddest of lyrics (“I knock myself out, I always do that, my luck is never learned, and it pulls the wisdom out of my teeth. He’s indoctrinated with a pregnant point of view. He’s constipated on a treadmill. On the late night, late night show.” – Late Night Show). Indie pop meets Tin Pan Alley, but with some compelling slightly dark and sinister storytelling, it’s way more than novelty music.
He has a curious “upbringing” as well – from being a child actor, to starting his own label, Social Science Recordings, to founding LA Lords, a gay speed-dating company. In fact, as he visits a handful of cities across the U.S. in support of his debut album (out September 21), LA Lords will be hosting gay speed-dating nights in each city on the tour. His Boston show is at PA’s Lounge in Somerville on September 10, with the Gay Speed Dating Night the previous evening, Sept. 9, at District. And what’s more, if this is to be believed, he’ll apparently be recruiting musicians in each city using Craigslist.
Los Angeles, CA
Currently working on their second full length album, War Tapes includes brother and sister Bostonians Neil and Becca Popkin (vocals/guitar and bass) and their music is both moody and expansive. Their latest release, the Turtles EP (available from Amazon and iTunes), was recorded as a charity project for PETA, and features four alternate experimental versions of their songs (especially lovely is “Dreaming of You”).
A terrific sounding Americana folk-rock ‘octet’ with rich instrumentation of guitars, organ, piano, mandolin, banjo, cello, violin, percussion, bass… rich harmonies and gritty lead vocals from Nate Hegyi. Substantial, soul-satisfying. I can’t quite figure out if their debut album Doves and Drums was just released, or if its release is imminent. For now, have a listen to a single from it, “Robert Ford and Jesse James.”