Feb 272013

Sometimes the best opportunities come from the oddest circumstances.

While major news outlets were obsessing over Morrissey’s recent snub of Jimmy Kimmel because he didn’t want to share the show with Duck Dynasty, only a few were paying attention to the band quietly tapped to fill the opening slot on Kimmel’s show last night: Denver’s own Churchill.

Recently signed to A&M Octone Records, Churchill had been spending the past few weeks in Los Angeles recording their new full-length record with producers Brendan O’Brien and Ryan Tedder. As a result of Morrissey’s refusal to appear, the band got to spend their last evening in Los Angeles making their national television debut as the musical guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was just the latest in a string of fortunate events for a band for whom things have been going very, very well lately. Take a look at their performance below.

Churchill arrived back in Denver today for a few days in advance of their headlining show at the Ogden Theatre March 8. Besides their much-anticipated record release this spring, the band are slated to tour with Phillip Phillips, and overseas with Pink on her European tour. Meanwhile, Churchill has also remade their official video for their chart-climing single “Change.” Take a look!

Sep 132012

Denver indie-rock outfit Science Partner is, by definition, a Denver supergroup, in the sense that it is composed of band mates who are part of other Denver bands. Lead vocalist/guitarist Tyler Despres and bassist Charley Hine, for example, were from The Dualistics; guitarist Luke Mossman plays in Achille Lauro; vocalist Jess DiNicola sings with John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light; Maria Kohler is better known around town as rapper Kitty Crimes; and drummer Carl Sorenson plays with–well, just about everyone else.

But while Science Partner started out as basically a fun side project, it’s become apparent during their few-but-impactful live performances over the past couple of years that they are actually a force to be reckoned with on their own. Never was this more apparent than during their show-stopping performance at the Underground Music Showcase in July, which practically stopped traffic with the crowds that gathered outside the open window of the venue.

In between their various other projects, the band has been gradually laying down tracks, putting together a record. Over time, Rocky Mountain News grew from an EP to a respectable full-length record–and is now set to be officially released with a special release show this Friday at the Larimer Lounge in Denver. If you’re in the Denver area, it would be worth your time to come out to the show. If you’re not–take a listen to the single below, “Animal,” and go pick up the record from Science Partner’s Bandcamp site.

May 062012

Hailing from Cincinnati, OH, indie-rock duo Bad Veins is one of those acts that doesn’t necessarily sound like you’d expect them to. Perhaps part of the reason is that this “duo” is more like a “trio”: there’s lead vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Benjamin Davis; there’s drummer Sebastien Schultz; and then there’s “Irene,” a reel-to-reel tape recorder the band uses for extra tracking, both in the studio and on stage. The end result is a richer, fuller, more diverse sound that blends indie rock with pop and electronic influences reminiscent of one of several British invasions.

The Mess We’ve Made is a bit of an ironic title for Bad Veins’ sophomore LP, because the record itself is anything but messy. In song after song, the band blends multiple layers into an overall sound that is quite easy on the ears, with Davis’ Brand0n Flowers-esque voice overlaying it all.

That said, the band does have a bit of tweaking to do. The primary flaw I see with the record is basically that once you’ve heard the first three songs, you’ve pretty much got the band figured out, and there’s not much more to keep your interest. Yeah, nice layers, nice sound, nice voice–Bad Veins has that part down. Now they need better songs–songs with hooks that make you want to hit “repeat.” Bridge that gap, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.

The opening track of The Mess We’ve Made (“Dont’ Run,” streamable below) gives you a good idea of what to expect from the band, but I have a feeling the record itself doesn’t do justice to a live performance. Word on the street is that Bad Veins is outstanding as a live band, so I’ve also put some upcoming tour dates down below. (If you’re in the Denver area, they’re due to swing by the Hi-Dive on May 19.)

Bad Veins: “Don’t Run”


05/18 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
05/19 – Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
05/20 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
05/22 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
05/23 – Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
05/24 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
05/25 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Crepe Place
05/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
05/27 – San Diego, CA @ Bar Pink
05/29 – Tempe, AZ @ The Sail Inn

Oct 112011

Okay, I’m gonna be honest: I wasn’t too big on reviewing Sleeper Agent‘s debut record Celebrasion. I first heard this indie-rock act when they came through town on tour last spring with Cage the Elephant. Their set was energetic, but really sloppy, like they had just came out of the garage. I remembered wondering how in the WORLD they got an opening tour slot with a hot band like Cage.  When I found out they were from Bowling Green, KY, I put two and two together: they prob’ly got the gig because the two bands are friends. But I heard nothing in their music to make me think this band actually deserved this kind of tour.

So a few weeks ago, Sleeper Agent came through town again, this time on their own, playing a much tinier venue. Against my better judgment, I went to see them play–and they had definitely improved. At the very least, it felt like this smaller venue fit them, rather than swallowing them up.

And THEN I spun their record Celebrasion, and that completely turned my opinion in their favor. I’m now a fan.

Except for recognizing some of the tunes, I’d never know this was the same band I heard a few months ago. The production value is excellent, their melodies are totally singable, and their sound is raw but well put together–high energy, catchy alt-rock with a touch of retro. The tracklist is consistent throughout, a great selection of tunes that defines the band’s sound but also shows off its range.

It’s also interesting to note that Sleeper Agent has only been around since 2010, and that puts things a little bit more in perspective. When I consider that a band less than two years old has made this much progress–and I can personally tell the difference within the past few months–this band is growing rapidly, and is well on their way. I’d say Sleeper Agent has plenty of cause to celebrate.

Sleeper Agent: “Get It Daddy”

Sleeper Agent: “Some White Blinds”

Buy Celebrasion on itunes:
Celabrasion - Sleeper Agent

Sep 212011

When I took a listen to “Needle,” the opening track of Notes from Needle (Part 1) from L.A. indie-rock outfit Zweng, the first few notes instantly arrested my attention. (That’s a good sign.)

The thing about indie-rock is not even that it comes in so many styles, but also that it comes on so many levels of experimentation. That’s something to celebrate, but the down side is that there are so many bands who are so busy experimenting that a lot of the music is coming out muddled, inaccessible to most people. Too many indie bands just aren’t “hitting the pocket,” as I like to put it.

Make no mistake–Zweng hits the pocket. Dead on.

The musical arrangements on this three-song EP are diverse and highly creative, but still very accessible and interesting to listen to. Ryan Zweng’s voice, the dominant feature on the EP, reminds me a lot of Brian Gibb of Death Cab for Cutie; but the lyrics are a bit darker, more direct and poignant, and the music itself is more raw. Every one of the three songs sounds quite different from the others, but it’s obvious the same band is playing them. With strong songwriting, solid musicianship and melodies that stick in your head, Zweng really hits the mark with this effort.

I get that the whole indie thing is supposed to break from the norms and not have any real “rules” to it–but listening to this record, I can’t help but think that this sets some sort of standard. If indie-rock is “supposed” to be anything in particular, I’d think it would be this.

As the title of the EP suggests, Notes from Needle (Part 1) is the first of three upcoming EP releases that are intended to comprise a full-length record when taken together. In the meantime, while you’re waiting for the rest of it to come out, for the time being you can download the EP for free from Zweng’s Bandcamp site.

Zweng “Needle”

Aug 152011

I know it’s probably stupid, but sometimes I feel a bit of apprehension in reviewing a solo artist posing as a band. I dunno, maybe I feel like it’s cheating if one guy played all the instruments on the record–because how the heck is he gonna play all of them LIVE?

And why can’t the guy get a band in the first place?

But the fact is, you can’t argue with talent. And besides, you shouldn’t judge. (After all, maybe someday I’ll be a solo artist with a pretend band name, and how would I like it?) Tongue out of cheek, the fact is, when I took a listen to The Sister Ruby Band (a.k.a., Johnny Ruby), I was honestly impressed. The debut CD In Cold Blood (which drops tomorrow) presents an interesting blend of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, resulting in a buzzy-retro kind of sound. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s got that sort of indescribable “oomph” that this blog is all about.  It’s more than the sum of its parts. Johnny done good.

I’m sorry. Sister Ruby. Sister Ruby done good.

That’s pretty much all I can say about it. The music sort of speaks for itself. Take a listen and see what you think.

The Sister Ruby Band “Straight Into Your Heart”

Jun 182011

Indie-rock band Achille Lauro has been a staple in the Denver music scene for several  years, probably better known for their tongue-and-cheekness and their willingness to explore musically than for a particular sound. I (sort of) got to hear them play live once, and the live audio was so terrible, unfortunately (not their fault), that it wouldn’t have been fair to form an opinion of them one way or the other. The only thing I could pick up was that they were solid musicians and showed some sense of promise.

These days, Achille Lauro is continuing to experiment, this time by releasing new songs for their fans a few at a time as opposed to putting out a full-length. Their latest single, “Low Cha Cha,” has put to rest any doubts I might have had about the band’s musicality. Over ninety percent of this five-minute song is a repetition of two chords, but everything over the top of those two chords is nothing short of compelling for me. The vocals by frontman Matt Close are passionate, expressive, almost cinematic, perhaps similar to Brandon Flowers of The Killers in style, if not in tone. Instrumentation, production value–all of it is top-notch.  If you haven’t heard Achille Lauro yet, they deserve a listen. So do it.

Achille Lauro: “Low Cha Cha”

Jun 022011

After a bit of waiting, I finally got my hands on Changing Color, the debut full-length from Denver alt-rockers My Body Sings Electric. This is a band that has been playing a lot around town and gaining a lot of momentum and attention with their high-energy, indie-punk sound.

I had the chance to talk with these guys a few months ago (you can see the article I wrote here), and the impression I got from talking to them was that they are very purposeful, passionate, hard-working and focused. They want to get their music to a wider audience, and they are working a plan to get there.

Listening to their record, I’d say My Body Sings Electric is ready for the larger audience they are seeking. Recorded at Interlace Audio in Portland, Oregon, the record’s production value is outstanding, with quality audio and near-flawless execution. Tight, complex rhythms and riffs played with searing accuracy, overlaid with hooky, singable vocals, make this a great listen all around. The hard work is showing–these guys play extremely well together.

My Body Sings Electric

Take a listen to the record’s single (and my personal favorite), “Step Into the Light,” and if you like their vibe, the whole record is available pretty cheap from their website. Listen for the wailing guitar solo near the end of the track–gives me chills.

My Body Sings Electric: “Step Into The Light”

Feb 162011

Okay, so I’m a sucker for a great hook.  I admit it.  Don’t judge.

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors is an up-and-coming indie-rock band, and hailing from Nashville, you can definitely hear the country sensibilities in their sound. But that’s not what won me over.  The opening track on their brand-new record Chasing Someday had me at the first few bars. “Fire and Dynamite is a simple love song, very catchy–the kind of song that makes you want to drive with the top down. And definitely the best song they could have opened with–a powerful first impression. Take my word for it–this song is a hit in the making.

The rest of the record ain’t bad, either. :) Produced by Andy Hunt, with additional production credits by veteran Nashville producer Brown Bannister, Chasing Someday has great production value and plenty more catchy hooks. But don’t confuse “hooky” for shallow.  While the record does suffer once in awhile from overly simplistic lyrics, there are also some really deep and moving moments. Besides “Fire and Dynamite”, personal faves of mine are “Live Forever” and the last song, “Weight of the World.”

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors has been around for a few years and seen a bit of success, having their music appear on TV shows like “Parenthood” and “Oprah,” and currently touring with Marc Broussard. But this record is a marking point for them. They might be chasing someday, but IMHO, “someday” has already arrived for this band. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of us catch up.

Buy Chasing Someday on iTunes:

Chasing Someday - Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Feb 132011

Indie music fans might actually find something familiar in the sound of modern rock band Take to the Oars and their recent January 2011 release American Volume. Especially fans of Vonnegut.

Because it is Vonnegut.

In June of last year, Vonnegut officially changed its name to Take to the Oars, essentially saying that their sound and mission had evolved to the point that the old name no longer fit. Unlike Meese morphing into The Centennial, however, TttO’s name change doesn’t represent a completely new direction for the band–just growth.  Kind of like outgrowing your old clothes as a kid and having to get new ones.

However you describe it, I like this record a lot. The songs on American Volume carry a raw and honest sense of melancholy, and a good diversity of sound. The record ranges from driving beats and chunky guitars (“Learning to Breathe”, “Vanishing Act”) to more reflective grooves (“Why I’m Not Where You Are”, below) without losing its continuity. There are a few moments on the recording where the arrangements feel just a bit sloppy, but considering the emotion coming through, the sloppiness is forgivable, even appropriate–like it wouldn’t really be the same vibe if they’d cleaned it up.

That said, Take to the Oars has done more than just change their name–they’ve given themselves growing room with this record. It’s the same band, only more so.  The group of guys formerly known as Vonnegut have set out on the open waters, and…well…

This is my personal fave on the record. Take a listen and see what you think.

Take to the Oars: “Why I’m Not Where You Are”

Buy American Volume on iTunes:

American Volume - Take To The Oars