Withered Hand – Black Tambourine
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
Jenny Lewis – Just One Of The Guys
Joanna Gruesome – Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers
Patrick Park – Love Like Swords
Warpaint – The Chauffeur
Conor Oberst – Ziggzagging Towards The Light
Parquet Courts – Black and White
Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Nikki Lane – Right Time
Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore
Gold-Bears – Hey Sophie
Withered Hand – Black Tambourine
The Söderberg sisters go for the gold on their third full length “Stay Gold”.
It can’t be easy going from Youtube sensation to festival stages in five short years. But that is just what the Swedish duo First Aid Kit have done. Against all odds, talented Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg have delivered on the promise of their 2008 teen Youtube debut. An acoustic cover version of the Fleet Foxes “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” that caught the indie world by storm and captured the attention of Conor Oberst and Jack White.
With a strong sophomore effort in 2012’s The Lion’s Roar, First Aid Kit could rest assured that they were headed in the right direction. They had successfully warmed our hearts with their synced harmonies and jangly americana signature sound. Stay Gold picks up where The Lion’s Roar left off. Perhaps due to better command of the English language or just added confidence, youngest sister and lead singer Klara dominates the stage with a strong, hefty vocal style. Klara is balanced by Johanna’s in-the-shadows stage presence and softened her harmonies. On stage and in recording, the sisters merge into a single vocal force.
“Silver Lining” is a great opening track, with it’s nice little rambling beat, and a soft string section. The vocals are pure Appalachia and will instantly make you forget these girls are from Sweden. The second track, “Master Pretender” is another warm track that would play well with radio, if it were not for the four letter embellishment. After this, the girls lull me into a harmonic trance for several songs, only to be woken by “Heaven Knows” and it’s raucous yell ‘Straight to Hell’ lyric. The highlights are few, but it’s hard not to like this album.
First Aid Kit has stumbled on a sound unique as their heritage. Akin to duos of the past, such as Simon and Garfunkle or Olson and Louris, many will try, but few will succeed at the magic that Klara and Joanna create. There are a few winners on Stay Gold, but in the end, I would have to give the gold medal to Lion’s Roar and look forward to their next album to see where First Aid Kit will take their listeners. By no means have we heard everything there is to hear from these two. For gods sake they are barely into their 20’s.
More than just a throwback, The Strypes breath new life into gritty blues rock of the late 60’s.
I have to say, I didn’t see this one coming. I half expected a 90’s grunge revival and I had given up on an 80’s new wave comeback. Come on, a flashback to the 60’s… hasn’t that been done already? Maybe so, but not with the fury and authenticity of The Strypes. My first inclination is to dismiss this band as another boy band from the UK. They are barely old enough to enter the pubs, with the oldest being 18, and they have the looks that come across as more “boy band” than rock band. Pre-fab, maybe, but closer to the Beatles than One Direction.
While the debut album Snapshot sounds as if it was born in 1964, it actually borrows more from the gritty rhythm and blues of early 70’s Dr Feelgood, the pub rock of Rockpile or blues of the Yardbirds. The record kicks off with a dynamite barn burner called “Mystery Man” a tune that introduces vocalist Ross Farrelly aggressive “attack the mic” vocal style. This song unleashes an energetic string of party songs that don’t let up until the closing track “Rollin and Tumblin”.
Standout tracks on this album are “Blue Collar Jane”, “What The People Don’t See” and “Heart Of The City” all of which where featured on their debut EP. This is not to say the other 11 songs are filler, that is definitely not the case. With killer guitar licks, rippin’ harmonica and gritty vocals, Strypes takes the listener on a retro-fueled journey loaded with powerful original blues-rock tracks.
Let the haters, hate. After seeing this band live, I’m convinced they are the real deal. These kids are talented, they play their instruments and do so with a conviction and ability beyond their ages. Snapshot is not only a great record, it could be the catalyst that introduces a new generation to hard driving blues rock. All that said, the pessimist in me continues asking, “where do they go from here.”
Skaters take street punk and give it the full 180° treatment with a little influence from 80’s alternative rock.
The Skaters story is a quick one. The NYC quartet formed in early 2012, by March of 2013, they had released their first EP, Schemers, and were packing the van for SXSW. One year later they returned the Austin on the heals of a Warner Brothers deal and a new album titled Manhattan. Skaters are a straight up indie rock powerhouse band that incorporates a heavy dose of melody. They rely on a strong and steady downbeat, driving guitars and the snarly vocals of Michael Cummings. Not unlike the approach many post-Strokes bands have taken over the past few years.
My first thought was to compare Skaters to The Clash. There is an initial strum that opens Manhattan reminiscent of a sped up “London Calling” intro. This, however, is where the comparisons end, at least until later on in the album. Manhattan is chock full of catchy tunes and layered guitars. The second and third tracks “Miss Teen Massachusetts” and “Deadbolt” respectively are pure sing-alongs. Try getting those out of your head after a few listens. “Band Breaker” and “Fear of the Knife” bring back hints of The Clash. Not so much a direct comparison, but in the fact that the band is tapping their dub/reggae influences and it works, just as it did for the Clash.
Manhattan by Skaters is a solid win that sounds both fresh and familiar from the get-go, perhaps a result of their self-proclaimed 80’s influences. The songs are solid and have just enough change-ups to keep you guessing without sounding disjointed. This is most evident on the transition from “Nice Hat” a pure punk grinder, to the albums closer “This Much I Care” a synth laced, guitar driven tune.
Having graduated quickly from the streets to the half-pipe, I just hope Skaters are wearing a helmet, because their future looks gnarly.