ARTISTS TO WATCH: Sean Fournier

With songs that cross paths with Flobots, Chris Merritt and the poppier moments of Chris Thile’s solo work at equal measure, I have to call out Sean Fournier for being among my favorite pop discoveries. “Break My Heart” is a perfect example of his Flobots-oriented bent, the Connecticut songwriter bringing all the hooks great pop music demands while layering in dense lyrics Jason Mraz would appreciate. Having heard most of his last two albums via his page on Tradiio, I can say this song is just an example of what he can do. “Broken-Heart Red” fits in with the best of Chris Merritt’s synth-based originals, and “Origami” brings the two influences together even when it relies on lyrics flirting with cliche (“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put you together again”). He’s been recording for most of the last decade, touring colleges and honing his craft. His latest, Brace Yourself, is available on iTunes.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Marcus Valance

If you’re a fan of Damien Rice, David Gray or David Ford, there’s plenty about Marcus Valance worth cheering about. I heard him thanks to Tradiio, a music discovery site based in Europe where you literally can “invest” in artists you find there, in the form of a virtual musician stock-market. I was immediately hooked by the London-based songwriter’s “Stood In The Way of the Son,” which featured a stuttery snare-line layered under piano and bass and a bare, sincere vocal and hints of trumpet. If Bebo Norman hadn’t recently chosen to retire from music, this is what I could hear him performing in a stripped-down form.

If you enjoyed the song as much as I did, you can sign up for Tradiio’s beta via this link and then visit his page on the site. I like the concept of investing in musicians and then seeing that payoff when others discover the music you enjoy, giving “sharing” a tangible result. You can follow my investments via my profile on the site.

ALBUM REVIEW: R’lyeh – “Color out of Space”

R’LYEH INTERVIEWEDhttp://hearhearmusic.com/2014/12/13/interview-rlyeh/

Check out my review of R’lyeh in this week’s issue of NUVO Newsweekly. As you frequent readers of “Hear! Hear!” know, I am a big supporter of these local metal aficionados, who continue to push the envelope of what instrumental metal can accomplish. The album is even better than I’d expected upon first listen. From the review:

[Lead guitarist Anthony] Hampton describes R’lyeh’s music as echoing the rise and fall of mankind, building riff upon riff until everything collapses. That’s hard to miss in the pounding “Monolithic” as it leads into the more spare “November,” the album’s stunningly evocative closer. Often fans assume metal must mean domination through sonic overdrive, and R’lyeh proves the opposite; only through highs can you appreciate the lows. One moment a thunder of percussion and multiplied guitars echoes through our ears, only to be replaced by a repeating pattern of finger-picked notes, creating the ultimate monotonic riff of redemption. Played on repeat the album becomes an endless cycle: birth, death, rebirth, a closed circle.

To read the rest of the review, please support NUVO for helping give this local band a real push. Then check out their show Saturday night at the 5th Quarter Lounge, where they’ll officially debut the brand-new album along with their new three-member performance alignment! If they could do all this on the record with two members, imagine how much better Christopher Cunningham is going to make their live set!

THE LIVE WIRE: Against The Clocks – “Top Floor”

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Rockville, Ind.’s Against The Clocks perform during Birdy’s Battle Royale. They won, advancing to perform again in April. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

When you come from a small town, sometimes half the battle is explaining to fans where your band got its start without having to resort to pulling out the Google Maps app. Against The Clocks, based in tiny Rockville, Indiana, will dispose of that problem when their new album, 47872, comes out hopefully this March. With any luck the album will put them and the town squarely on the musical map, because what this band offers is an ear-catching blend of classic rock and modern pop, heavy on the keyboards and the hooks you won’t find anywhere else.

With two keyboard players sharing vocal duties, the band really hits the ground running, merging the big melodies of Journey with the rock aesthetic of the Allman Brothers, adding the hooks and production smarts of a guy like Ryan Tedder. Everything comes out in the mix to create juicy pop music you’ll want to have on repeat all summer.

The band performed their song “Top Floor” at Birdy’s Battle Royale in Indianapolis this past Friday, winning their competitive round and advancing to perform again this coming April. You’ll want to be there when they do, but you can enjoy the video below. This is the only place to hear the entire song until the band releases 47872 later this spring!

ARTISTS TO WATCH: The Venom Cure

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Indianapolis’ The Venom Cure perform at Birdy’s Live during week three of 2015’s Battle Royale. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Though we may have to wait a few weeks to know whether they’ll sneak into the next round of Birdy’s Battle Royale, due to an incredibly close score during the overall voting, there’s nothing keeping you from backing the Venom Cure, clearly a band to watch in the region. Hailing from Indianapolis, this band blends the best of 80’s glam-tinged stadium rock with the deft arrangements of symphonic metal to create a show you’ll want to see more than once. The band has been working the local scene since 2009, drawing comparisons to bands as disparate as Bon Jovi and Queensryche.

Though they had to adjust their performance on the fly due to tech elements not working within the venue’s audio parameters, the band responded admirably. Lead vocalist Steve Nicolas was the quintessential frontman, working the crowd like a pro while the entire band stepped up to the challenge by giving the strongest overall performance of the night, the close crowd vote nonwithstanding. And drummer Jimmy Whetstone’s perfectionist performance ethic was evident in an individual performance which was particularly fun to watch.

I’m told they’ll have another local gig at the Emerson Theater in March — as soon as I have more information I’ll post it here, hopefully along with an interview. Until then, enjoy videos of “Flood” and “Orphan Song” from their Birdy’s performance, both of which can be found on the band’s EP On The Other Side Pt 1. Here’s hoping they make it through to that Wild-Card Round in April!

THE VENOM CURE – “Flood”

THE VENOM CURE – “Orphan Song”

BEFORE I LOSE CONTROL: Lebanese performer Jay Wud is the best guitarist you haven’t heard

It only takes a single listen to Jay Wud’s single “Low” to know you’re listening to someone who knows his modern rock music, someone who should be better known here in the U.S. than he is. The Lebanese singer-songwriter, based in Dubai, has worked regularly with producer Howard Benson (Motorhead, My Chemical Romance) and has been influenced by the likes of Steve Vai and the Foo Fighters. He’s toured the world supporting Guns ‘n’ Roses and Aerosmith, building a reputation for being a versatile guitar presence with electrifying vocals and the stage presence to draw in even the most jaded fan. “Low” is centrally featured on an upcoming EP which he hopes will introduce him to American audiences.

Check out a live video below of “Masquerade” which features Malikah, known as the Queen of Arabic hip-hop. To learn more about Jay Wud, check out his official website and Facebook page.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: JEFF The Brotherhood

Nashville rockers JEFF The Brotherhood are ready at last to release their follow-up to 2012’s Hypnotic Nights! Whether the three-year wait was worth it remains to be heard, since as of yet the only new track I’ve heard is “What’s A Creep” (posted below). But the new album Wasted On The Dream was co-produced by Jake and Jamin Orrall with Joe Chiccarelli, who has produced many of my favorite records including the Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely and the White Stripes’ Icky Thump, as well as several classic albums from seminal Mexican garage band Cafe Tacuba. So I have high confidence that this album is going to have more than enough raw rock to get people excited about the state of 2015’s new music. As the band states in a recent press release:

Wasted on the Dream is the first JEFF The Brotherhood album to showcase the band’s recent evolution into a full-blown ROCK outfit: Jake plays six-string guitar (as opposed to his custom-made signature 3-string model), Jamin plays a full kit and Jack Lawrence (of Dead Weather and Raconteurs fame) plays bass on the entire album. The album also features guest contributions from Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, Diarrhea Planet guitarists Evan Bird and Emmett Miller, and a flute solo by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. To accommodate their bigger sound live, JEFF has expanded to a highly voluminous, balls-out twin guitar monster of a quartet.

The album drops March 10th, and will include the following tracks:

  1. Voyage Into Dream
  2. Black Cherry Pie
  3. Cosmic Visions
  4. Mystified Minds
  5. Melting Place
  6. In My Dreams
  7. In My Mouth
  8. Karaoke, TN
  9. Coat Check Girl
  10. What’s A Creep
  11. Prairie Song