It’s hard to ignore the classics, but it’s worse to overlook the rising stars. Each month, we pick five artists worth lending your ears to. September highlights a few up-and-coming acts changing rock n’ roll and R&B/hip-hop.
NOTES: Though there are claims the Long Beach group lack a sense of originality, We Barbarians play copycat (in a good way) and play with different sounds that ultimately make inflated egos surrender. With sharp guitar riffs, they emulate The Strokes’ sensual side (“There’s This There’s That”), find themselves kicking out dance tracks in the vein of Arcade Fire (“Headspace”) and even tip toe towards more modern adult tones (“Chambray”). The variations may have the power to lead you askew, but guitarist David Quon’s voice and depth will have you hooked like any other alternative star would.
NOW PLAYING: Headspace EP (2011 – Dine Alone Records)
NOTES: As hardcore music is slowly reforming into the beast it used to be, Retox – a Southern California act conceived by Justin Pearson (The Locust, Head Wound City) and drummer Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Holy Molar) – reaffirms the genre doesn’t have the desire to lose it’s intensity. The band’s primal attitude, that stems from vintage punk rock and experimental bits that seem torn from Glassjaw and Daughters demos, strikes a rather loud chord, especially with Ugly Animals boasting rhythms that feel as if they can carve bones. And when Pearson interjects, what you hear becomes a delightful type of hysteria.
NOW PLAYING: Ugly Animals (2011 – Ipecac)
NOTES: While North America is hooked on writers such as Conor Oberst, Ben Gibbard and Dallas Green, Suffolk’s own Ed Sheeran is causing a cathartic stir in the United Kingdom. The 20-year-old songwriter who’s openly shared his interest in Van Morrison and Damien Rice since he was a kid differentiates himself from other lyricists in his class by his musical focus that draws from his personal side. His voice on the other hand is delicate but powerful enough, making simplistic guitar numbers and covers of Bon Iver haunting to hear and proving not all radio pop is completely unnatural or emotionally fake.
NOW PLAYING: + (September 2011 – Atlantic Records)
NOTES: “That track Nature Feels is way too good,”. Hip-hop collective Odd Future may have been the talk of Austin during South By Southwest but member/vocal crooner Frank Ocean was burning up the ears of artists from various genres, some of which called him a “pure talent”. In reality, there really isn’t a case to prove Ocean isn’t just that. The New Orleans singer has a tone that emphasizes menacing rap anthems (The Throne’s “No Church In The Wild”), awkward love jams (Tyler The Creator’s “She”) and his tripped-out contemporary R&B singles (“Novacane”). Add in his liking for words – “Been trying to film pleasure with my eyes wide shut but it keeps moving” – and it’s rather hard not to anticipate new material from such a charismatic composer.
NOW PLAYING: Nostalgia, Ultra (2011 – Self-Released)
NOTES: Louis Jones could be mistaken for yet another vintage indie corpse begging to belong to the ranks of Wavves, Ty Segall and anyone who likes lo-fi riffs with daydream lyricism, but he’s not. Jones, the face behind UK rockers Spectrals, is an irresistible force, what with his love-drunk slur that swirls around retro pop bliss (“Keep Your Magic Out Of My House”) and fuzzed-out romance (“Rot With Me”) that’s one part Best Coast and one part Jim Morrison. In today’s world where everyone who wears a pair of Ray-Bans and can a hold a pen is a critic, Jones is pictured as just another artist with a guitar; but to those who actually lived off rock music and British pop in the 60s’ and 70s’ (parents and grandmothers alike), he’s in fact considered a rising virtuoso.
NOW PLAYING: Bad Penny (October 2011 – Wichita Recordings)