Neon Native is the album which will propel Brother O’ Brother into the national spotlight

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I’ve been singing the praises of Brother O’ Brother’s stripped-down raw sound since I first heard them dominate the Birdy’s Battle Royale in 2015. With Chris Banta at the helm on vocals and guitar, frantically dominating the stage at every show with the manic energy of a punk-rock evangelist, it is impossible to see a show of theirs and not come away converted.

I was reading thatan article from a couple months ago looked to predict which long-awaited albums from national acts was likely to propel them back into the mainstream spotlight. Heavily focused on the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Spoon and Granddaddy, bands which have ridden the wave of 90s nostalgia to find new audiences in an age where the cyclical music trends are realigning with the music of two decades past, the article got me thinking. Which Indianapolis band’s new album seems most destined to propel them into the national spotlight?

bob neon nativeThe answer was easy: Brother O’ Brother’s Neon Native, which will be released this May, is already making national waves with a prime feature via the Huffington Post, and the band has been steadily working the touring circuit over the last two years, earning more than $20,000 on vinyl sales last year thanks to Banta and drummer Warner Swopes’ single-minded dedication to ensuring audiences connect with the music.

But there is something about Neon Native which goes above and beyond the expected. It is an assured follow-up to an album which already clearly defined their sound on wax. With Show Pony in the rearview, the band is capable now of expanding their sound while managing to come closer than ever to capturing the raw sound of one of their live shows on record. Three albums into their career, Brother O’ Brother is at that point where they can play a few local shows to a packed house, while spending 150+ days on the road nationally doing the same thing. And everywhere in their wake they leave an audience beaten raw by their furious sound, desperate to find a way to experience it again and again.

It is a visceral experience, and the fact that they’ve come closer than ever to capturing that effect on Neon Native leaves me feeling confident in my prediction that, by this time next year, Brother O’ Brother will be more than “a local Indianapolis band to watch.”

They’ll be pushing the envelope nationally, building buzz as a band willing to take risks and embrace challenges as they in turn drive their audiences to accept a more personal role in what it means to truly appreciate music.

*****

Stream the album preview from Huffington Post below and sound off in the comments. What band do you think is on the cusp of a national breakthrough in 2017?

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NIGHTMARES FOR NAPTOWN: Bizarre Noir Album Release at 5th Quarter, Tonight!

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Tonight I finally get to see the Bizarre Noir traveling circus extravaganza up close and personal for the first time, and it’s been a long time coming. Long overdue, in fact, something I’m ashamed to say as a local writer who has long championed this adventurous band of sonic risk-takers.

As they set out to release their latest album Pop Songs For Ugly People, which is easily the most hotly anticipated album of the year thus far here in Indianapolis’ independent scene, I found myself today listening to their sophomore album, Bedtime Stories. This is an album with whiplash-inducing powers of genre-defying greatness, which makes it as difficult to describe to the uninitiated as it is necessary to.

I have not heard a stronger, more confident album from any band. And I don’t mean local.

From the moment they invade your ears on “Welcome,” with Chris Charles’ soothingly deceptive vocals (reminding me initially of Days of the New’s Travis Meeks) taunting us: “Welcome to ever-after, the rotting corpse, stiff cadavers line the halls to your tomb as all your sins cast a shadow!” you know these are going to be bedtime stories in the Grimm tradition.

Dark. Sinister. Bizarre Noir.

But sonically they keep us on our toes, as the music is definitely NOT always dark. To call Bizarre Noir merely genre-bending is to be almost insultingly daft. Numerous local critics have tried to describe their sound and fallen woefully short, so I won’t bother to coin my own, but I’ll quote Wayne Bertsch from this week’s edition of Barfly … he came closest, in this writer’s opinion:

Picture a metal band that owes more to Klaus Nomi or Captain Beefheart than Anthrax,” Bertsch writes. “Now have Andy Warhol manage them high on ‘schrooms. Voila! Bizarre Noir!”

However you choose to describe the music, Bedtime Stories never lets up. “Wicked Black” picks up in intensity in a personal favorite, one of the heavier songs on the album that still manages to pack a melodic punch through almost surf-oriented guitar lines as Charles sings of “staring at God though the cracks of creation.”

“Loki” features thundering percussion and a brilliant bass breakdown that I always have to hit repeat to enjoy again. And the epic “Rise” features the band really stretching to show what they can do with a long build, something that hints strongly of what fans can expect with the album being released tonight.

But what they are not is a traditional rock band. Or a metal band, as they so often get pigeonholed by fans in Best of Nuvo competitions they so easily win year after year.

They are Bizarre Noir, and the music is only an entry-point to the madness.

It is a very epic entry-point, but participating in the grand circus of a live performance, where the band’s performance-art can incorporate music into the freak-show aspect of their fan-centered experience, is where everything comes together to paint a full picture.

Bedtime Stories sets the stage.

Pop Songs For Ugly People will burn it down.

And somewhere in-between, if you’re at the 5th Quarter Lounge tonight for the CD Release, you’ll gain a full appreciation for what makes these crazy motherfuckers tick.

Hoosier country songwriter Clayton Anderson hits another one out of the park with Only to Borrow EP

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When I interviewed Clayton Anderson back in January for NUVO Newsweekly, he told me his main focus was on remaining patient as an artist. “We could be on a major label but then we’d risk getting lost in the shuffle,” he told me. “There’s no guarantee, so I’d rather work hard at building our fan base. It’s been too much time and sacrifice to just give that freedom up for nothing. Then you never would hear from me.”

Ten months later he’s out with Only to Borrow, a six-track EP that clocks in briskly, under twenty minutes, but chock full of hit material that should easily put him out there on the same breath as any contemporary country hitmaker this side of Nash Vegas. You can take the boy out of Bedford but you can’t take Bedford out of the boy, and Anderson is at his best on songs like “Hometown Heart” (“She grew up where the stars and the stoplight were the only thing up all night, where everybody knows every bend in the road lets you go and brings you back home.”)

He also never devolves into bro-country “beers and trucks” mentality either, which is refreshing. The closest he comes to potentially cloying is on “All Over The Map,” which winds up falling closer to Mellencamp good-natured in the end with its small-town callouts. “She’s Indiana small-town Miami freeway top town,” he sings, criss-crossing the country in metaphor before admitting “she’s all over the map and I love her like that.”

With any luck radio audiences will love him as much as his Lawrence County fans do, putting his music just as much on the map. A hard-working songwriter like Anderson deserves to have wider recognition, and this EP should finally bring it his way.

Clayton Anderson will be in Indianapolis on December 3rd for a free concert at the Pavillion at PanAm! For details, click here.

DREAM BIG: This Album Does Not Exist proves earworms are not dead, should put DREAMERS on the map

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DREAMERS at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

clr8iolwaaabfzpWhen I saw DREAMERS perform at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis last March with the Kickback, it was the perfect storm — a show with no promotion on a sleepy Sunday night with non-stop rain and no audience other than myself and the bands. “If you ever wanted to see an entire concert just for you, this is your night!” Nick Wold joked from the stage, and while it was disappointing few saw it, the band proved from that point they were capable of putting on a great performance in any situation.

Fast-forward to the pending release of their latest album This Album Does Not Exist, due out via Fairfax Recordings on August 26th. A kinetic example of pop confections of the finest order, this album plays nonstop cool from the first notes of “Drugs,” a propulsive mix of Wombats-esque dance backdrops with vocals that echo the credible hooks of Guided By Voices, even as the overall result of the DREAMERS sound is something completely on its own plane. “Wolves (You Got Me)” is already a legitimate hit, and I’d be surprised if “Never Too Late To Dance” and “Come Down Slow” don’t soon join it on radio stations terrestrial and streaming alike.  Even having seen them live, knowing the depth of their catalog and the number of songs they already had with hooks capable of worming their way into the brain, the new album proves surprising in that there’s not a dud here.

Even in a world of single-serve pop, these songs are best consumed in quick succession with the top down and the volume at 11. Pleasure is only guilty if you make it so, and the only thing wrong with this album would be passing it up.

SLAP-HAPPY: Rockümockery delivers full unhinged Slappies experience in album form

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The Slappies may seem like they’ve been rocking their way around Indianapolis forever, but that’s only because the various members of the band have played their parts in all manner of other local punk mainstays, including Smash and Grab, Gay Black Republican, and God only knows how many others. I’ve been in the city since late 2014, and I kept hearing people say I should seek them out live, and though I haven’t yet that’s soon to be rectified after hearing this album.

Though I don’t have the official first-hand evidence to back the claim, even a cursory listen to Rockümockery makes it clear these guys all know their element, and they’re comfortable in the studio as well, laying down thirteen tracks that showcase what I can only imagine is a blisteringly fun experience. “Beer Time,” “Social Retard,” “Monster Truck” and “”My Own Way” open the album on blitz of raw energy that plays fast and loose with melody and turns of phrase, daring you to look away. You won’t. Even the choice of cover material is inspired, particularly the cover of Ellen Foley’s “Torchlight,” featuring memorable guest vocals by Toni Bennett, which had me hitting repeat as I researched her contribution to the album.

Catch yourselves a Slapplies show and then grab this from the merch table afterwards, you’re sure to be looking quickly for the follow-up. The real disappointment is that this gem has been available all year and no one’s been spreading the word … well, hop on the “Hear! Hear!” bandwagon: The Slappies rock, and this album’s a keeper!

The band’s album currently can be purchased at shows  in person
and at Indy CD and Vinyl, as well as select Karma locations in central Indiana.
If out of state, hound Rich on Facebook to build a website, already!

ALBUM REVIEW: Tracksuit Lyfestile – “E=MC Hammered”

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When I covered the finals of this year’s Battle Royale at Birdy’s, I was impressed to see that the much-vaunted Tracksuit Lyfestile lived up to all the musical hype. “An instrumental combo featuring trombone distorted through a varied set of live FX pedals, the band brought a hard rock edge to what is still a highly experimental sound,” I wrote at the time in NUVO. Combining tight metal guitar riffs with adventurous experiments in instrumental looping built upon, among other things, live trombone, makes a Tracksuit Lyfestile show something to behold.

The same holds true when listening to the band’s debut E=MC Hammered, though listeners should certainly knock their expectations up a notch as the level of musicianship is impeccable. Headphone listening at its best, Tracksuit Lyfestile encourages you to rock the fuck out at a live show, and then sit back and pick the music down to its bare elements at home, reveling in how they build these acid soundscapes.

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Tracksuit Lyfestile live at Birdy’s during the Battle Royale Finals (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

 

From the opening build of “Hurricane” the music grabs your attention, and then the band holds it through the little things; the “Hey! Hey! Hey!” choruses of “90/10,” the thundering wall-of-sound that is “Lunar Lounge,” and the crowd-pleasing “Beat It” cover being stand-outs. By the time they place us back gently on the ground with the staccato crunch and intricately melodic “A Vigorous Joe Pesci,” a return visit is a foregone conclusion. Just as soon as one can get online to find the band’s ‘Band In Town’ page, that is, because once you’re hooked you’ll want to see them live just to know for sure it isn’t just a bunch of studio trickery.

I assure you, it isn’t. Tracksuit Lyfestile is the most original band I’ve heard come out of the Indianpolis scene since I’ve moved here — call them the Cake of Naptown; they’ll inspire many, but few will be able to outright copy them. And that’s a very good thing!

The band will release the brand new album E=MC Hammered at the Melody Inn on july 15th with support from Moxxie, Coup d’Etat and Midwest State of Mind! Not many better spots to catch a live band in any city …. and for only $5!

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

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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!