Outasight doubles down on the high energy of Fun’s “We Are Young” via his latest single “I’ll Drink To That,” an ode to clearing one’s head in the city that never sleeps. “Times are hard so let’s drink to what we’ve got,” he sings on the instantly joinable chorus, more than earning the praise he’s already received for Nights Like These since its release November 27. The Yonkers native has more than a single hit up his sleeve, however, blending rap, pop and rock on “Tonight’s The Night” as well, an equally ear-bending twist of pop refreshment which already has achieved platinum status. For a casual pop listen with enough emphasis on solid hooks to keep you grooving through the entire listen, it’s worth considering Outasight as we head toward the new year.
My Arcadia, particularly on their single “Sail On,” brings to the table a particularly fresh blend of alternative pop which bridges the gap expertly between melodic punk and vocal elements as far-flung as rock and alt-country. In short, this is an EP which will surprise first, then convert instant fans.
My Arcadia – “Stay EP” (2012, Independent)
New York’s My Arcadia hasn’t wasted a lot of time fighting for major-label deals or other outside bullshit. Their latest EP, Stay, establishes the band as one focused fully on the music itself, dedicated to pushing their sound in a direction few of their peers have attempted. Led by the fearless, peerless vocals of Jacqui Sandell, the band merges hard-hitting melodies with vocals of surprising depth and variance. My Arcadia, particularly on their single “Sail On,” brings to the table a particularly fresh blend of alternative pop which bridges the gap expertly between melodic punk and vocal elements as far-flung as rock and alt-country.
In short, this an EP which will surprise first, then convert instant fans. “Sail On” is the immediate highlight, but the title track allows the band, and Sandell in particular, to put an immediate stamp on what their music can be when everything comes together at one place and time. “Dreamer, keep on dreaming,” she sings. “I swear we’ll press on.” This is music for a generation weaned on alternative rock, still looking for bands willing to take a risk and write music they believe in rather than playing to current trends. When the band finally gets the exposure they deserve, it’ll be for this anthem. Here’s hoping Stay is just a glimpse of what My Arcadia still has up its sleeve.
Year of the Album — #063 This Old Ghost – “Island of Violent Lovers EP” (2011, Independent)
This unholy alliance between the pop smarts of Death Cab for Cutie and the indie-folk depth of Blitzen Trapper, Ian McGuinness of This Old Ghost launches a full-on assault with a mere six song EP, ensuring that fans will soon be clamoring loudly for more. “This Lifeboat is for Gold, Not People,” the EP’s opening track, sets the stage with acoustic guitar, bass and a solid wall of harmonized vocals which lure you into a false sense of security before pulsating percussion pushes the song into overdrive.
It’s a comfortable sound for the group, and they clearly have the chops to make this music pop even when it lacks traditional “hooks.” The quality of the music in this case is the hook, and these are songs which definitely stand up to repeated listening. If you enjoyed Death Cab’s Codes and Keys or The Lonely Forest’s Arrows earlier this year, this is music perfectly tailored to your tastes. And songs like “Tiger Man of the Matto Grasso” hint that the band is capable of creating melodies as deftly catchy as Auld Lang Syne, another New York band playing music that pushes the boundaries of modern folk cool. Island of Violent Lovers is a perfect way to spend half an hour immersed in folk music with a pop sensibility, proving there’s defintely plenty to love about music still as 2011 draws to a close.
If you think there aren’t guys out there who can handle Adele’s powerful “Rolling In The Deep” with equal aplomb, I submit for your consideration this cover by New York rockers The All Ways. This isn’t a dramatic reworking of the song, by any means, but the band definitely has put their stamp on it. And Austin Massirman has some serious pipes, and the vocal control to handle this mighty song.
The band’s got a number of solid covers up on YouTube, but the jury’s still out on whether they’ve got enough material of their own to be more than just a solid cover band. With a voice like that, Massirman and company need to find material worthy of the voice, and they could go places.
Year of the Album — #037 Randi Russo – “Fragile Animal” (2011, Hidden Target Recordings)
From the opening strains of “Get Me Over” I knew that Randi Russo’s Fragile Animal was going to be a welcome oasis of 90s-era nostalgic alternative. With smooth vocals that immediately conjure thoughts of Patti Smith and Natalie Merchant, it doesn’t take long to realize Russo is one talented performer. And Fragile Animal is one of those indie gems you’ll immediately want to spread the word about.
She’s also smart to surround herself with talented musicians who have the chops to pull off her subtle blend of indie pop and alternative. These are songs which build their melodies the right way, focusing on balance and structure, each track a subtle blending of instruments and voice. The result is a decidedly three-dimensional sound, one which is distinctively hers even as she pays homage to artists who have clearly influenced her.
Even on songs with more of a punk edge – “Alienation” is a strong example – Russo avoids becoming overindulgent, choosing to keep her vocals controlled and in focus. “I have trouble making amends and I can’t break the isolation,” she sings. “I’m feeling the weight of expectations; alienation is my protection.” She’s backed here by moody bass and a frenetic guitar solo which juxtapose her seemingly calm vocals with the outward aural turmoil.
In the end, there’s nothing fragile about this excellent effort. The weight of expectations hasn’t kept Russo from creating a third album which proves she’s got the talent to make her own way in the genre. She builds on her influences to stake a claim all her own, and the album shines for it. It definitely comes with my full recommendation.
According to its website, New York’s Pearl and the Beard is three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums, one accordian, ninety-six teeth and one soul. Oh, and they love us the way we’ve always been. Quite frankly, we love them right back, and probably more than they know, because goddamn it, this is one of the most uplifting, hand-clapping, mindblowing pop ensembles you’ve not yet stumbled upon. “Sweetness,” their latest single, is so infectious you’ll be stumbling home while snapping your fingers and singing along while the uninitiated public thinks you’ve fully lost your mind.
Join the fun! Sing along while “Sweetness” plays below:
If you too are hooked, consider keeping an ear to the ground for Killing the Darlings, their upcoming sophomore album, due on May 10th via Family Records. To learn more, visit the band’s official website!