It’s time to do another of my “band roundups.” Here’s part one, featuring Apache Beat, Gram Rabbit, Kaiser Cartel, Nice Purse, not an Airplane, Phantom Power, Sebastian Blanck, and Setting Sun. That’s a whopping five New York bands, two Californian, and one Minneapolis (something of an unintended geographical focus; we’ll have to see about mixing it up a bit more next time). Stylistically, there’s tribal stew, sinister cowpoke, upbeat pop, folky lo-fi & traditional, atmospheric ambience, and a modern take on ’60s psychedelia.
For Apache Beat, it’s a thick stew of guitars, synth drone and tribal beats, out of which Ilirjana Alusha’s powerful vocals barrel through and soar. Out of the musical complexity, some fine melodies poke through (as on the recently released “Another Day”). In the past few years, they’ve toured with School of Seven Bells and Crystal Castles, and are now set to release their debut album Last Chants on October 5. Originally from Australia before she moved to New York, Ilirjana is also founder and editor of The Pop Manifesto, which focuses on both music and fashion (a sensibility which she brings to live performances).
Joshua Tree, CA
From dark and sinister cowboy music (“Dirty Horse”), compelling and creepy with religious references and eerie duets courtesy of Jesika von Rabbit and Tod Rutherford; to the twisted electro-pop-occultism of “Candy Flip” and “Off With Your Head”; to the psychedelic rock of “Wheels In Motion” – these guys are really strange. And really good, too. They have various albums and EPs out, with Miracles & Metaphors due out October 12 (Cobraside Distribution). For now, they’ve released The Desert Sound EP digitally, with two new tracks (“Candy Flip” and “Falling Debris”), “Her Secret Power” and a remix of “Something Fuzzy” from 2007’s RadioAngel and The RobotBeat. Originally from Joshua Tree, California, their first album was titled Music to Start a Cult To, and their fans call themselves The Royal Order of Rabbits. It all makes perfect sense.
It’s about listener-friendly harmonies and upbeat pop melodies for Kaiser Cartel (Courtney Kaiser – vocals, guitar, xylophone, keys and Benjamin Cartel – vocals, guitar, drums, xylophone). Their latest album Secret Transit (following their March Forth debut) is about life on the road, and is somewhat darker and more introspective. They recorded a Daytrotter Session back in December of last year, and are each involved in other projects as well – Benjamin with his own (self-titled) band, and Courtney occasionally performing with Sean Lennon’s band and contributing vocals on the upcoming Sufjan Stevens’ album.
They recently released a new video of a song from their debut album, “Favorite Things”. The video is directed by Courtney’s brother, Matt.
Wistful lyrics and folky, lo-fi melodies give Nice Purse a real charm. What began with singer/songwriter France Camp playing covers around Minneapolis for spare change has – with the addition of a few friends – turned into a real band who just released their debut album Black Medal (on Minneapolis label So Tm). If you happen to live around Mpls, you can check them out live. Their CD Release Party is September 5 at First Avenue.
not an Airplane
not an Airplane is folky/traditional quartet with country and bluegrass influences and clever, thoughtful, at times melancholy lyrics and warm vocals courtesy of Nick Shattell. Slide guitar, banjo, dobro, upright bass, drums and 3-part harmonies contribute to a nice down-home, personal feel. “Trains” is especially lovely. Their released Things and People back in the Spring. They have a handful of California shows scheduled this month and next.
New York, NY
Phantom Power is the project of New York-based Eric Littman, with all music composed by him, mixed on his laptop. Dreamy, atmospheric guitars and sampling with “disembodied” vocals floating pleasantly around. His new ep Spacetime is available for free download (as are all his other recordings), and are definitely worth checking out. He plans on doing some NYC-area shows, so keep an eye out for him.
New York, NY
Listen to some highly personal and introspective folk-pop ballads from singer, songwriter and painter Sebastian Blanck. He recently released Alibi Coast on Rare Book Room Records, a label run by producer Nicolas Vernhes, who has produced/engineered recordings by Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, Cat Power, The Silver Jews, Deerhunter, Spoon, Versus, and others.
Brooklyn & upstate NY
Psychedelic hippie-hipster pop, upbeat and orchestral with spritely trumpet, strings; hushed sort of vocals from singer-songwriter Gary Levitt, with Erica Quitzow adding cello, violin, drums and backing vocals. Their most recent album is Fantasurreal