May 112010

If you are into British electropop (or listen to American Top-40 radio), you have probably heard the song “Bulletproof” by La Roux.  It’s become a bit of a dance anthem, simple but catchy.

Interestingly, understanding who La Roux is can be a study in itself. La Roux is not frontwoman-redhead Elly Jackson (even though the moniker might suggest it). La Roux is a duo–a band.  However, the other half of La Roux, Ben Langmaid, doesn’t play live with the band; three other supporting musicians take that role.   So…La Roux is a duo, but you won’t see them play together, because one half of La Roux goes on tour with three other musicians, while the other half stays home.  Get it? :)

Another anomaly: Elly Jackson’s roots are in folk music.  Go figure.

Anyhow, today La Roux is releasing The Gold EP, a set of remixes and a live performance of Bulletproof.  It’s only available by download. Also, La Roux has announced summer tour dates in the US, including a stop in Denver.  Check it out below, and check out the video montage from Coachella.

5/30     Houston, TX                     House Of Blues
6/01      Austin, TX                         La Zona Rosa
6/02     Dallas, TX                           House of Blues
6/5        Denver, CO                        Ogden Theatre
6/7        New York, NY                  Terminal 5
7/14      San Diego, CA                    4th & B
7/15      Los Angeles, CA               Nokia Theatre
7/17     Chicago, IL                         Lilith Fair
7/18      Minneapolis, MN            Lilith Fair
7/20     Indianapolis, IN              Lilith Fair
7/21      Detroit, MI                         Lilith Fair
7/22     Montreal, QB CAN           Lilith Fair
7/24     Toronto, ON CAN            Lilith Fair
7/27     Washington D.C.              9:30 Club
7/28     Baltimore, MD                  Rams Head
7/29     Philadelphia, PA              Trocadero
7/31      Atlanta, GA                        Variety
8/1         Orlando, FL                        Social
8/3        Tampa, FL                          Czar
8/4        Ft.Lauderdale, FL           Culture Room
8/6        Miami Beach, FL              Mansion

Buy “The Gold EP” on Amazon

May 062010

Hailing from San Francisco, Music for Animals has been gaining traction on the west coast for the past few years. Their hooky, danceable pop/rock vibe has drawn comparisons to The Killers. As a songwriter, I’m always looking for the “hook” in songs or in a sound.  I also look for the balance between creativity and accessibility.

I don’t know how original the sound is, but I think this song off the band’s EP is pretty catchy. But don’t take my word for it–see what you think.

Music for Animals: “Nervous in NY”

May 012010

In the fall of 2007, Fox TV’s year-of-trying-out-every-different-talent-show-they-can-think-of, I particularly enjoyed The Next Great American Band, sort of a battle-of-the-bands version of Idol.  It only lasted one season, but the absolute standout band was The Clark Brothers, three brothers named Jones (kidding) who wowed the audience–and the judges–by playing the crap out of a dobro, violin and guitar week after week, with no other backup players.  They were playing rock with bluegrass instruments before everyone else started doing it. Their sound was captivating, their passion real, and their talent unmistakable.  When The Clark Brothers won the competition, I couldn’t wait for their record to come out.

I waited three years.  The show didn’t come back.  No one said anything.  I wondered if maybe the bros. got screwed by label politics or something.  They were preachers kids, and they allowed their faith to come out a bit in their music; I wondered if someone shut ’em down over it.

Finally, a few months ago, Carrie Underwood did a television special, and introduced three members of her backup band as “Sons of Sylvia” to do a song on their own.  It was the Clark Brothers.  Turns out they’d spent some time re-working things (including the name change) and were working on a record.  Hope was restored.

This week, their record, Revelation, came out.  You have to buy it.  This is not optional.

I was a bit worried that 19 Records would “pop down” their sound, like they’ve done with so many of the Idol contestants over the years, trying to formulize them for record sales instead of letting them be who they are.  And yeah, there’s a little of that.  But only a little.  In the opening track, “John Wayne,” the trademark dobro sound, screeching violin, and Ashley Clark’s stratospheric vocals immediately inform you that this is, undoubtedly, The Clark Brothers–a matured and focused version.  And the song will stay in your head for days. 

And it keeps getting better from there. 

I wish I could put up a track for you here, but you can currently download the track “John Wayne” for free from the Sons of Sylvia website.  It probably won’t stay there, so do it now.  It will make you want to buy the CD.

Or you can download the whole dad-gum thing right now from Amazon for real cheap by clicking the link below:
Download Sons of Sylvia-“Revelation” from Amazon

Or, of course, you can buy it on itunes for regular price here:
Sons of Sylvia - Revelation

But get it–listen to it.


(By the way, if you’re in the Denver area, Sons of Sylvia will be playing at 1st Bank Center on June 6.  Oh, and Carrie will be there, too. :)  Can’t wait!)

Apr 272010

To hear them describe themselves, Paean (pronounced, “PAY-in”) is more of a collective than a band–a cooperative community of friends and family. The central rendezvous point seems to be the Maddocks Family Barn, just up the road from here in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  It was here that the creative madness of Dave Maddocks eventually grew into a circle of talented multi-instrumentalists and other creative types, culminating in the band’s latest DIY project, Songs for Us to Sing.

Paean has definitely developed an eclectic sound; actually, it sounds a bit like Appalachian bluegrass got on the wrong bus and wound up at Woodstock.  Filled with moments of intense melencholy, I guess you could also think of it as acoustic emo. But whatever you call it, it seems to work.  Songs for Us to Sing strikes that difficult balance between a consistent thread on the record and diversity in the songs.  In fact, I had a hard time selecting one or two songs that give a clear reflection of what the band sounds like, because each is distinct.  It really is a sit-down-and-listen-to-the-whole-thing kind of record, and the songwriting and overall musicianship are both quite strong.

That said, there’s just one element to the record that made me go, “HUH?”…the lead vocals of Dave Maddocks.  In the mix, the vocals sit under the music quite often, but when they come to the front, it sounds like something akin to panicked hyperventilating.  I literally was asking myself, Does he MEAN to sound like that? Dave’s voice has been described as a “sad voice;” I guess that covers it.  But the interesting thing is that his voice didn’t make me want to turn off the music; instead, it made me want to keep listening, if only to satisfy my curiosity. :)  Oh, well…Bob Dylan can’t sing to save his life, and look where he wound up.

If you’re in the Denver area, Paean is celebrating its CD release at the Hi-Dive Friday night, along with Bad Weather California and Mehko and Ocean Birds. Go check ’em out for yourself.  Meanwhile, here are a couple of the tracks from the record; you can purchase the record at the band’s MySpace, if you like it.  Either way…tell me what you think about the music.

Paean: “Cut Open”
Paean: “Floyd Brown”

Apr 242010

Open Hand, an indie rock band from LA, is exploring new territory with their album Honey. While their previous work tends toward straight out jam-band rock, this record seems to venture into a more atmospheric, progressive, experimental vibe–even incorporating some hip hop elements. Additional contributors to the record are Matt Talbot of Hum and Christopher “Kid” Reid from Kid ‘n’ Play.

Below is a song from the record, “Cool.” Feel free to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down in the comments. Say what you think.

Open Hand: “Cool”

Download “Honey” on Amazon

Apr 082010

I don’t know why sometimes the electronic, new-wave, Brit-pop type sound appeals to me, but it does.  Maybe it’s a reminder to me of the 80’s.  (Should I have written that??)


Deluka has been stirring it up in the UK for awhile, but with their newly-released self-titled EP they are getting attention here in the US as well. What’s really interesting is that with the tracks I posted below, I actually heard the acoustic version first, and that’s what caught my attention.  It wasn’t till I listened to the second, electro-Brit version that I realized what kind of band they actually are.  Obviously, I still like ’em. :) Try it yourself; listen to the acoustic version first. See whatcha think.

Deluka: “Cascade” (acoustic)
Deluka: “Cascade”

Download the Deluka EP on Amazon

Mar 312010


Artwork by Amy Moyer.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Churchill.  I’ve been watching their progress here in Denver with great interest ever since I first saw them play.  In less than a year’s time as a band, they have put out a great first EP, earned a Top 3 slot in Channel 93.3’s Hometown for the Holidays, and a couple of weeks ago, joined some of Denver’s best local bands at SXSW.

Last week, I finally got a chance to have an extended conversation with the band–well, two-thirds of them, anyhow: Tim Bruns, Mike Morter, Amy Moyer and Tyler Rima. (Bandmates Bethany Kelley and Joe Richmond, were  performing with Meese on the road as they did some shows with Switchfoot.) We gathered in Tim and Mike’s living room to talk about Churchill’s unique sound, their influences, their friendship with Meese (with whom Tim and Mike share a duplex), and their direction as a band.  A good portion of the conversation is transcribed below. Fans who have been looking for the next EP from Churchill may find a surprise toward the end of the interview…

OOMPH: One thing that’s particularly striking about you as a band is the sound that you have.  I’m curious to know how you came about it. How did you arrive at your particular sound, and what made you choose the instruments that go into it?

TIM: Mike and I have been playing together for years, and it was always me on guitar, and him on mandolin…the first EP was sort of like Mike’s and my direction, and not a lot of people doing what they do…especially like with Tyler on bass…

TYLER: I recorded my bass parts after knowing you guys for a week…

TIM: …so we basically had to tell him what to play, and that was how it started. But the more we’ve been playing together, we’ve kind of fallen into the sound we have now.

AMY: Yeah, I don’t think it was ever–we never came up with a formula of what bands we wanted to take from and sound like…we wanted everything to be as natural as possible, so that’s kind of how it happened.  And now that’s why people are like, “You don’t sound like any other band.”

OOMPH: What does the songwriting process look like for you? What sorts of things inspire you to write?

TIM: Well, with the stuff we’ve been writing, a lot of it’s like, I’ll write a song or an idea, or a chorus, and bring it down in the basement, and we just kind of build around it, and everyone kind of writes their part.

TYLER: I mean, a lot of times you’ve brought a full song to us, and the song that we end up with is not what it started off as.  Like “Miles”, that drivey rock song [we do] started off as a full bluegrass song.

TIM: Everything I write is like country…

TYLER: And then Joe and I come from a rock background.  And the two girls have their sort of direction, and [Tim and Mike] have their sort of direction, and it’s one of these things where it might be a [finished] song, but once everyone gets their hands on it, it usually ends up different…

AMY:  I never realized that before, because [Tim and Mike] had that sound like bluegrass, and [Joe and Tyler] were rock, and Bethany and I are more like–I grew up with classical and orchestra [background] since the third grade, and Bethany being in chorale…

TYLER: It’s been really awesome…we’re kind of like a big family for being so randomly assembled.

OOMPH: It sounds like almost like a confluence of three types of backgrounds.  Is there any kind of a collective influence?  Are there any bands that particularly inspire you more than others?

TIM:  As a whole, it’s like what we’re kind of listening to at the time, like one of us will pass it around…

TYLER:  As a band, we have few records that we all listen to together, I mean, anything by Radiohead…Phoenix was kind of our band’s record last year…right now I think it’s probably Margo and the Nuclear So and Sos, that’s the band we’ve all been listening to…

MIKE: Tim and I have been on kick with Switchfoot…

TIM: Which the other two members of the band [Bethany and Joe] are playing shows with right now…

TYLER: That’s why this place is so quiet–the Meese guys live right there [in the other side of the duplex]…

TIM: Yeah, it’s like a ghost town… [laughter]

TYLER: We’ve sort of adapted to each other’s musical tastes a little bit.  Being on the road has helped with that. We’ve all gotten to hear what each other would listen to, because we have a lot of time to kill. 

OOMPH: I’m curious as to how the friendship/partnership with Meese has come about.  How did that all happen?

TIM: It goes back a little…I came out [to Denver in 2006] to do a record with Joe, and I met Pat and Nate (Meese) and Mike Ayers…and when we moved out here…we were all going to the Wing Stop, and for the first few months we barely knew each other, and then they came to our show…and I don’t know, somehow…

MIKE: They became like “biggest fans” of us, which was really cool, before we were really even friends.

TYLER: Before I moved out here, I didn’t know any of these guys, and I had the Meese record, and I loved it.

AMY:  Yeah, same with me…

TYLER:  We’ve all been fans of theirs forever, so to have any sort of compliment coming from their direction was huge to me.  And then moving down here…

TIM: Well, that happened because Mike and I were living in Thornton, and we were all gonna move down here [to Denver], and I was talking to Tiffany, Pat’s wife, and she says, “Well, I found this place, it’s good rent, and we would like totally be in a duplex together.  And I was like, “I don’t even care what it looks like.” [laughter]…and now that they’ve not been on tour as much, we’re hanging out all the time, writing songs…we’ve had a lot of late-night chats with those guys, and Pat and Nate have given Mike and me a lot of advice on how to do certain things…

MIKE: Businesswise–I’ve never really thought of a band as a business…so Joe and I are kind of the acting managers right now…and Pat helps out a lot and gives us a lot of good stuff to think about.

TIM: So much of where we are right now [as a band] is because of those guys.

OOMPH: How did you guys like SXSW?


TIM: I think we all decided it was one of the craziest weekends in our whole lives.

OOMPH: Crazy in a good way?

TYLER: Yeah…I mean, Joe and I went down there last year, but what I was doing, I was hired [for]…so for me, getting to come down, and first of all, since no one else had ever been, it was kind of like this eye opener, but then to just realize that this was with my band and this was my thing, it just felt really good…and there was just so many people and so many shows…

MIKE: It’s like Mardi Gras for bands…

TYLER: …And every place is a venue whether it’s an alley or a restaurant or a bar.

OOMPH: You guys have been a band almost a year, yet you were in the top 3 bands this year for Hometown for the Holidays, along with 2 other veteran local bands who had been in the Top 3 before.  How has the established music community around you responded to the attention you’ve been getting?  Do you find that they are supportive, or do you find that there’s some resistance?  What do you feel?

TYLER: I think everyone has been really, really supportive…and I think that’s basically the Denver music scene in general, I think there’s no sense of competition, it’s more a sense of everyone is for everyone, which is great.

OOMPH:  I think it’s an amazing dynamic, to tell you the truth, and you’re not the first band to tell me that. I’m just curious, because if anyone’s gonna get a rough time of it, it’s gonna be the newcomers that are taking off…so I think if it existed it would be targeted [to you].  But it seems like it really is a strong community.

MIKE: Yeah, it’s pretty supportive.  I’d say the Denver music scene is kind of like skateboarding, like the X-Games, like whenever they do a really sweet trick, and everyone’s all, “YEAH!” [laughter]

TYLER: Everybody pushes each other, and bands always tell their friends about other bands.

TIM: Even the bigger bands, like The Fray…[Isaac Slade] saw me in the drive-thru at Starbucks the other day, and he was like, “Hey, how’s your band doing?” and “We should get together and talk…”

TYLER: The fact that he could still want to support local bands…they genuinely still care.  Once you’ve made it “out”, I feel like it’s not always your responsibility to stay so invested because you’re so busy.  But they still do.

OOMPH: Pretend I’m someone hearing you play for the first time.  What do you hope I come away with after your show?

(For fun, Tim suggested each bandmate answer in one or two words…)

TYLER: Have fun.

TIM: Feeling good.

MIKE: Be a part.

AMY: Positivity, hope.

OOMPH: Any hints about the upcoming EP?

TYLER:  It’s gonna be a full length…

ME:  Oh, it’s not an EP…

TYLER: That’s a recent [development]…we’ve written too much, and we’ve developed a lot, and as much as maybe an EP is the sensible thing to do, we really want to push ourselves….

AMY: I’m really stoked about it…

TYLER: Yeah, the demos are cool…we’re gonna do it in The Fray’s studio, Candyland…

TIM: Ideally….

AMY: Cross your fingers…

ME: Any idea when it’s coming?

TIM:  July, that’s the goal.

TYLER:  We were gonna do an EP and we were gonna do it this month…and something clicked when we were out on the road, and we realized that we’ve got too much stuff that we really believe in.

Churchill is playing at the Hi-Dive with The Northern Way this Friday night, April 2.  Show starts at 8:00 PM.  Go check them out for yourself.
Churchill is:
Tim Bruns, guitar/lead vocals
Bethany Kelly, keyboard/vocals
Mike Morter, mandolin
Amy Moyer, cello
Joe Richmond, drums
Tyler Rima, bass

Mar 282010

When LnZ Kade of A Melodic Daydream sent me their latest project, A Little Weird, I wasn’t quite sure how to describe what I was hearing.

Oh, I can’t help it.  The pun is just sitting there waiting to be used. It was a little weird. :)

Not that the music itself is weird, or the record, or even LnZ Kade and Chris Newton, the duo-couple who call themselves A Melodic Daydream.  It was weird because I’m used to indie music being a different sort of vibe–esoteric, postmodern, experimental, coffeehouse, that kind of thing.  Instead, while this record probably fits into the adult-alternative genre, it also has this almost ’70s pop/rock sensibility that reminds me vaguely of classic Fleetwood Mac-meets-Olivia Newton John.  Not the dated kind of 70’s rock; the timeless kind.  (People still listen to Fleetwood Mac, in case you didn’t know.)

And yet, A Melodic Daydream is decidedly indie by all accounts. Kade and Newton are self-published, releasing their own material with their own publishing company and label, along with several other creative efforts. Definitely indie spirits–but their vibe and sound are their own, and based on their own influences.  They are being who they are–and that’s what being indie is all about.  And the music itself?  Quality.  Hook-laden songs, solid arrangements, and Kade’s memorable girl-rock voice over the top of it all.

So after finally having time to give their record a decent spin, the phrase that came to me is “indie for grownups”–a style, a vibe that will appeal to more than just the younger coffeehouse crowd.

A Melodic Daydream: “In The Middle”

Mar 062010

I saw these guys for the first time during their debut performance on David Letterman, and I was immediately captivated.  Four guys from London doing their own unique take on folk/bluegrass?  London’s gotta be, what, 4000 miles from the Appalachians? :)  But they make it work.  Here’s the clip below:  listen for yourself.  (And does anyone know what that instrument is that the third guy from the left is playing?  It looks like a guitar and sounds like a banjo.  A banjitar? A guitarjo?)

Download Mumford & Sons from Amazon

Feb 012010
Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra--one of the bands I'd like to hear more from

I’ve probably said this before (I’m not looking back in the posts to see if I have)…but I’m a lifetime student of music. I’m the kind of guy who listens intently to music, who prefers it in the foreground rather than the background. I’m also the more reflective type at concerts. I don’t do the stage diving thing. I do the sit-in-the-back-and-watch-intently thing. Because I’m studying when the band is playing.

I hear a lot of stuff that shows promise, and stuff I like personally; but these days, honestly, it’s rare that I go to a gig and really like every band on the lineup. So Saturday night, when I went to the Fillmore Auditorium and saw Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, and Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, I was given a real treat. It was my first time to see any of them play, and every band knocked it out of the park for me in one way or the other.

Take the opening act, for example: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. (No, the wrestler didn’t turn musician–that’s another Dusty.) From the first few lines of the opening song, I was hooked; I literally couldn’t stop smiling. Their quirky blend of rock, folk and soul, headed up by a guy with an 70’s afro and leisure suit to match, just won me over.

I’d heard Manchester Orchestra before, but I don’t think I understood their vibe, or why they call themselves an orchestra.  Not a violin among them (heck, even Dusty Rhodes had a violin).  But I understand now. They play rock & roll “symphony” style.  I loved it.  At times they have two guys playing drums, but during one particular song, I turned my eyes away, and when I looked back, there were four drummers.  (I do not need glasses, and no one conked me on the head. I think it was the percussion section from Brand New–they joined Manchester for one of the songs.)  Pretty freakin’ cool.

Brand New I loved for their combination of energy and passion, even when doing their slower, softer stuff.  And obviously the crowd loved them, too.  At times I could hear the crowd singing louder than Jesse Lacey.

Like I said, it wasn’t just one band that stood out for me; it was all of them, for a variety of reasons.  But there were a few common threads that tied the bands together that made me love the whole experience:

  1. Stage presence. I once heard a guy say that performers either demand attention from an audience, or they command it.  There’s a fine line between the two, but when a band commands the stage instead of just doing a bunch of antics to attract attention, that’s what makes them professional.  Every band, in my opinion, commanded rather than demanded–even the quirky antics of Dusty Rhodes seemed honest and believable.
  2. Dynamic range. So often bands think there is no other setting but “10” on their amplifiers, and they play everything loud.  Don’t get me wrong–I like loud–but when loud is all you get in a performance, that’s not true musicianship.  (In fact, it ties in with the point above–some bands demand attention by playing it loud all the time.) You need a dynamic range in music, to provide contrast, so things stay interesting.  That’s part of what makes it music, not just noise–and that goes for every genre.  All three bands used a wide dynamic range; sometimes they were loud, other times soft–often in the same song.  And because they were commanding the stage, they had as much clout with the audience either way.  This is why Brand New could open their set with Jesse Lacey alone on the stage, playing their entire first song alone, quietly, with a guitar–and the audience totally bought it.
  3. Above the other two things, though…the one common thread that completely hooked me about this concert was passion.  Every band gave it their all. Every band meant what they were doing, and I believed them. That’s what hooks me about a performance more than anything else–passion. They all had heart.  They didn’t let me down.

I hadn’t seen any of these bands play live before Saturday night. But every one of them left me wanting to hear more from them.

So…what bands leave you wanting more? (Don’t be shy…talk to me.)

Sample and buy Dusty Rhodes And The River Band on
Sample and buy Manchester Orchestra on
Sample and buy Brand New on

Dusty Rhodes on Dusty Rhodes and the River Band

Manchester Orchestra on Manchester Orchestra

Brand New on Brand New