The Orange Peels
Glitter Rock. Opulent '80s Pop. Glammy Prog. Bearded, backwoods Elk Rock. Who gives a rat's ass if there's no melody at the heart of it; no soul.
Not that The Orange Peels don't dabble in these styles. They just don't have the time to waste on cute, genre-based music that cuddles up to a pre-existing audience. Defiant, dramatic and probably a little bit of a showboat, bandleader Allen Clapp tells it like it is on "Shining Like Stars," a glammed-up rocker from the band's album, 2020: "If making melodies is a crime, I'm guilty as charged."
As the album's title suggests, 2020 deals with perceptions. Released on the precipice of a new decade, it is as much about looking back on 10 years gone awry as it is about looking forward to the promises of the future. Sometimes life comes at us in crystal clear geometry and hard numbers, and sometimes details reveal themselves only in the soft-focus of memory.
Moving in and out of focus through these 10 songs, the band has achieved its own vision on its own terms. Recording the album at its modernistic Eichler headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, the band took its time to decorate each track (or in some cases, de-decorate) for maximum emotional impact.
Featuring Clapp on vocals, piano guitar and drums, Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue) on lead guitars, electric sitar and vibes, Jill Pries on bass guitars, Bob Vickers (The Incredible Vickers Bros.) on drums and guitars, John Moremen (Jad Fair, the Roy Loney Band) on guitars, all the itinerant members of the band are represented. Even original lead guitarist Larry Winther took off his reunion-era Mummies bandages for a few minutes to grace the album's lead track with a chickeny guitar solo.
For Clapp, the subtitle of the album may as well be "What I did on My Recession." Out of work for 10 months in the worst economy of his lifetime, Clapp poured his anxiety, neuroses and plethora of available time into pushing the album to completion. Hibernating in the studio with the heartbreak and uncertainty of the times, the band uses words and melodies to make sense of it all. 2020 is their answer.
Keep your eyes Peeled for a tour this spring.
"The Orange Peels stand tall against the tide of musical darkness, raging against the dying of the light with a nice line in clever pop hookery, wielding warm summery harmonies with the most delicate of touches."
"The sweet secret of The Orange Peels is that this guitar-bass-drums and occasional-keyboard combo has somehow created sublime Orch-Pop with out any actual orchestra."
--TIME OUT NEW YORK
Antenna Farm Records
Social Studies crafts intricate songs that combine angular indie rock and classic twee-pop. What distingishes the San Francsico-based group is their ecclectic, complex song writing: unusual structures and mathy beats are tempered by soft edges and danceable casio hooks. Moody, defiant and hopeful, the lyrics celebrate duality through themes of discontent, violence, innocence, renewal, nostalgia, regret and joy. All these elements take shape in unpredictable, catchy songs that burrow into your consciousness and demand repeat listening and a critical reading between the lines. Combine this imaginative songwriting with a consistently high energy live show, and it is no surprise that Social Studies has generated a loyal fanbase and strong buzz in the SF Bay Area and beyond.
For legendary emcee Aceyalone, being out of the norm has paradoxically always been the norm. The Los Angeles rapper and founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D'Etat and Project Blowed returns with Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones, an album that draws on Phil Spector, 60s girl groups, the J.B.s and a slew of raw, dirty funk for sonic inspiration.
We Are The Arsenal
We Are The Arsenal is a 4-piece rock band based out of southern California Formed in 2006, the band has self-released 4 EP's and 1 full-length album. Most recently, the group released their most focused and mature album to date. "American Folklore," released on 3/26/13, explodes with seven tracks of guitar-driven, down-home rock & roll. Storytelling lyrics, shredding guitar solos, and powerful hooks collide to shape what has become the definitive We Are The Arsenal record.
Following in the footsteps of so many other iconic Orange County rock acts, WATA continues to carve their own niche in an ever-changing musical landscape. Over the last 7 years, this steadfast group of musicians has taken the state of being an unsigned band and turned it into an art form. Without label backing or funding, We Are The Arsenal has watched dozens of their peers fall by the wayside, while continuing to tour, release new music, and headline southern California's most prestigious venues.
Chief songwriter & vocalist Ryan Terrigno and Kansas City-bred Lead Guitarist Caleb Blacksher round out WATA's string section, while Bassist Alex Seielstad, and heavy-handed drummer Kris Dufour complete the rhythm section.
Better Looking Records
Tristeza's unique perspective will earn the respect of open ears. Entrancing post-punk instrumentals infuse elements of Latin percussion and atmospheric guitars. One of the founding members was born in Tijuana, perhaps owing to the concept behind their name: life and death in the nimble waltz of Mexican calaveras, the joy and the sadness, la tristeza, the impossibility of one without the other. Like the old maríachís, ni de allí, ni de acá, they are between worlds, and eternally fighting the good fight.
The Math Team
We All Have Hooks for Hands
Originally starting in a downtown Sioux Falls apartment as a simple project to create crappy pop tunes, "Hold on, c'mon" was recorded first with minimal talent and without a name for the project. A six piece first set off for a short west coast tour screaming through the mountains in a green tin lizzy.
After growing from the experience, a full-length album was put into production. A self-built/self-pittying recording studio resulted in the addition of multiple amiable pals hailing from as far as Freeman, SD, home of the Mennonites. The result is a full band with a radiant sound, which includes dueling drummers, a violinist, three guitars, two horn/keyboard players, and a lonely ass.
The size of band and collective feel is a means to experiment with sound and dynamics. The influences that shaped the upcoming album are as colorful as they were plentiful. The party lifestyle in a rural city fuels the music.
Grain Belt Records
Seeing the Minneapolis duo, Red Pens, is like witnessing a demonstration, a demonstration in raw sonic bliss. Howard Hamilton III is a string-bending master who knows how to make feedback work to his advantage. His confident vocal stylings, coupled with drummer Laura Bennett's all or nothing kit pounding, are about as uniquely refreshing as it gets these days. The stage is littered with junk shop amps and guitars Hamilton seems to almost get tangled up in while he and Bennett exchange doses of laser beam eye contact revealing a seemingly deeper connection between the two of them than your average indie rock outfit.
Hamilton and Bennett met in the arena of visual arts and started Red Pens as a way to express their deep love for rock and roll. Howard's old project, The Busy Signals, toured with The Shins and its beat and loop based jams proved to be an underdog favorite in the early 2000's. Laura is well known as a painter, but is best known for her painting on guitar effects boxes. She even has her own signature fuzz pedal, not bad for a drummer.
Their debut album Reasons on Grain Belt Records is a mid-fi bonanza of fuzzy reverb drenched art rock. The wiggly winding guitars, slap back vocals and killer backbeats are sure to give you that silly grin you've been starving for.
Zeus was born from the musical friendship of Mike O'Brien and Carlin Nicholson. The two Toronto-based musicians have been living on the road for the past few years as the backing band for singer/songwriter and Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett. With a lineup rounded out by longtime friends and musical compatriots Rob Drake and Neil Quin, Zeus draws upon classic influences to craft timeless songs, complete with fuzzed out guitars and shimmering three-part harmonies; classic rock n'roll with a touch of twang. An EP, entitled Sounds Like Zeus, was released this past summer to widespread critical acclaim, garnering near-perfect reviews and creating a stir with the band's brilliant recreation of the Genesis hit, "That's All." Say Us expands upon the ideas put forth with Sounds Like Zeus, showing even greater range and diversity. The first single, "Marching Through Your Head" has already been declared "a strong contender for pop song of the year" by Exclaim Magazine. Say Us was recorded and produced by Mike O'Brien and Carlin Nicholson in their Toronto studio and mixed by Robbie Lackritz (Feist). As astute students of the history of rock n' roll and purveyors of a sound that cross-references the British Invasion with '70s southern U.S. rock, Zeus' debut album demonstrates a band with an innate ability to create powerful and infectious music and do so as though it's an entirely natural process. Say Us is an album for the ages.
Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer struck up a friendship as high school freshmen in New Orleans, La. While attending Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, the two formed The Eames Era with three classmates in 2003.
The dissolution of that group in 2007 led to a return to New Orleans where Joyner and Widmer started writing songs as Generationals.
Baton Rouge-native and Eames Era producer Daniel Black (The Oranges Band) invited them to record their debut Con Law at his Washington, D.C. studio Bent Black in 2008, where incessant coverage of the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain, and the issues dividing the candidates' viewpoints, gave rise to the band's name.
New Orleans-based label Park The Van (Dr. Dog, The Spinto Band) released Con Law in 2009. Its retro vibe clearly bore the infuence of Phil Spector's mid-century pop, but Generationals' infuences always ran the gamut, with pieces of britpop, dance and electronic poking through the trumpet stabs and Abbey Road compression on their analog 24-track recordings.
The band maintained their obsession with tape recording on 2010's Trust EP, produced in Austin, Tx. by freak-folk mastermind Bill Baird (Sunset, Sound Team). Trust saw the band drift away from the Brill Building origins of Con Law in favor of a new wave sound that owed more to The Sugarcubes and The Stone Roses than the Ronettes.
2011's sophomore LP Actor-Caster revealed a band zeroing in on their strong suit: effcient pop songwriting. All ten of its taut, bright songs found their way into the band's setlists as they hit their stride with a live confidence earned by relentless touring.
In 2012 a renewed and refreshed Generationals completed work on Heza, their debut LP for Polyvinyl Records, in their hometown of New Orleans.
On Heza, Generationals aren't so much shedding their old skin as growing more comfortable in the one they've always inhabited.