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.
ARTS & CRAFTS MUSIC
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.
Park The Van
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.