Video Playback Error

The Adobe Flash Player is required to watch videos on this page

Manic Nirvana

Manic Bloom

When Manic Bloom found sudden international fame after providing the soundtrack to the YouTube videos of hoopster sensations Dude Perfect, they had to rely on online translators to communicate with new fans. Their music, on the other hand, speaks a language that’s universal. Technically flawless and tremendously melodic, Manic Bloom crafts total pop-rock seduction. It’s emo on steroids—big, bold, confident but still fraught with angst. “Never Back Down” crashes down with grinding guitars, thrashing drums, symphonic keys and the powerhouse vocals of David Stevenson. It’s no wonder Dude Perfect chose the track to accompany their impossible basketball shots—few songs are more anthemic. “Push Off The Ground” is just as impeccably arranged, but darker. Eerie beats give way to a full metal grind while digital textures rain down. Manic Bloom has a lot of ideas, but each is executed beautifully. They shoot, they score—every time.

Ramble On

The Roaming Soldiers

Like a car that’s broken down on the side of a highway under a blistering desert sun, The Roaming Soldiers make the kind of music that demands some sweat and grit to get going. Guitars screech and groan like a machine that desperately needs oil; rhythms buck and start before jolting forward precariously. It’s swampy, soulful Southern rock that’s made for beer drinking and bad decisions. On “Shot Gun,” dual guitars rear up like a double-headed dragon, scorching everything around them while cymbals shimmy in the background like a rattlesnake ready to pounce. “Healing Machine” is a lurching, angular groove that has whiffs of Black Crowes’ “Remedy.” Anyone who’s ever been kicked in the teeth by life will find plenty of commiseration in the bitter blues jam “Last Cards.” If howling and licking your wounds isn’t your thing, skip to “Strange” for a Zeppelin-esque guitar lashing. Pain’s no picnic, but The Roaming Soldiers make it hurt so good.

Captains Of Hook


These are the things you’ll need to love in order to truly appreciate Osgoods: Hooks. Big, ballsy hooks. The Los Angeles-based band purveys quirky, ambitious rock that sounds like the rebellious offspring of Barenaked Ladies, Spacehog and the Flaming Lips. “Steady” is a plucky, bass-laden groove composed of electronic swirls, grungy guitars and singer Anthony Nigro’s muscular croon. Like much of Osgood’s songcraft, it’s lush, bold and catchy as hell. The band likes to top-load their arrangements with different textures and parts, which makes what would be a straightforward power ballad like “You Made It Easy” take on a Queen-like grandiosity. Moody blues are served up on “My New Excuse,” just before a crescendo of blistering guitars solos light the melody on fire. There’s definitely range within Osgood’s musicology; listen closely and you can hear anything from electro-pop to sludge. Staunch rockers, pop lovers with a tolerance for quirk—this band’s for you.

Old Timers

Bronze Radio Return

Chris Henderson grew up listening to his father’s old bronze radio, transfixed by the warm, old-time music that crackled through its speakers. So it’s easy to see the inspiration for his band, Bronze Radio Return. Blending folk, blues and jazz, the band churns out joyous music with a vintage patina. The bombastic “Down There” features a roughshod orchestra of trilling organs and twanging guitars. You’d think theirs was a purist approach to folk if not for the scorching guitars riffs and spacious percussion that make parts of “Down There” sound more like The Secret Machines than Mumford & Sons. The mood here is ecstatic and convivial—the spreading warmth of your first glass of bourbon leading you into a dizzy barroom sing-a-long. “Shake, Shake, Shake” continues the rapture with stomp-clap percussion and a sailing chorus brimming with romanticism. Henderson’s endearing croak is similar to Marcus Mumford’s, and on “Digital Love” he uses it to lacquer the dusty jazz melody with laid-back sex appeal. “I’m an analog man with a digital case of you,” he rasps. That blend of analog and digital is precisely what makes Bronze Radio Return a band worth tuning in to. That’s an order.

Metal Monday: From Russia With Metal

In the world of industrial metal there isn’t a whole lot of fresh meat—the same handful of artists have reigned supreme over the genre since the early ’90s. Now, e monstrous band from Russia called Illidiance is really hoping to change that. With the release of Damage Theory in mid 2010, Illidiance have found themselves among the legends of industrial metal like Rammstein and Fear Factory (both of which released excellent albums in the last couple years).

Like many industrial metal acts, there really aren’t any acts that can be comparde  to Illidiance. Their hybrid style falls somewhere between the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound and the heavier fringes of thrash metal with add a pinch of Nine Inch Nail for good measure—and really this description only loosely resembles what Illidiance sounds like. The band’s music features a great balance of extremely fast-paced tempos, thrashy riffs, a mix of harsh and clean vocals and spacey synth sounds. Perhaps taking a page from Fear Factory’s book, they also include a fair amount of double-kick drum bursts paired in perfect time with chugging guitar riffs.

Though their studio recordings are really solid,  Illidiance truly shines in their live performances. They’re known for playing extremely tight live and being true showmen on the stage. Complete with matching uniforms that look like something the warriors of a post-apocalyptic world might wear, Illidiance really know how to put on a live show, as their numerous YouTube videos demonstrate.

Somehow, Illidiance find the perfect balance between what you’d expect industrial metal to sound like and something unique and refreshing. So long as they continue to make albums on par with their two previous full-lengths, they’ll be poised to take over the industrial metal throne as the kings from the 1990s fade out. If you’re a fan of Sybreed, Digimortal or any other industrial metal bands, you’d be remiss to not give Illidiance a chance.

Check out the video they released for their song “New Millennium Crushers” from 2010′s Damage Theory:

Anglo Ascension

The Sketches

When it comes to vocal capabilities, to a certain extent you’re either born with them or you’re not. Charlie Bernardo was blessed with an incredible voice—one that sounds like the product of English DNA. As lead singer of DC-based band The Sketches, Bernardo brings huge Brit-pop chops to the table. “Strangers”—not to get overly hyperbolic—is perfection. Bernardo’s intoxicating croon, a Lennon-like piano line and frayed guitar lashes combine for a lush, swooning melody. Somewhere the members of Keane are gnashing their teeth in envy. “She Came & Went,” with its cello moans and shaken percussion is superlative Brit folk. “Secret Alphabets” packs the theatrical punch of Queen on its airborne chorus, but begins with a rolling bass that leans more towards Beatles’ “Come Together.” The Sketches may wear their influences on their sleeve, but don’t worry too much about it. The visceral chills their music brings are entirely of their own design.

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Crystal Stilts: Falling In Love With Oblivion

When Crystal Stilts’ first album, Alight of Night, appeared in 2008, it announced the arrival of a gang of New York City psychedelicists who owed as much to the fuzz-drenched, ‘60s-informed sounds of ‘80s bands like the Spacemen 3 and The Jesus & Mary Chain as they did to the first-generation garage-rocking wonders of the Nuggets era. And as likeminded locals Vivian Girls and Frankie Rose & The Outs emerged—Rose having played with both the Girls and the Stilts—the indie-rock blogosphere smelled a scene and went hog-wild. Two-and-a-half years down the road from Alight, Crystal Stilts have solidified their position as Brooklyn’s premier garage-psych sorcerers with their second full-length, In Love With Oblivion.

While the band hasn’t necessarily ventured far afield from the acid-soaked, reverb-happy sounds of their debut, the follow-up is a richer, fuller-sounding affair, boasting a more vivid—and just slightly wider—sonic and stylistic palette. Sure, those snake-charmer organ riffs, bottom-of-a-well guitar tones and Ian-Curtis-on-an-acid-trip vocals are still front and center, but tempo and dynamics are more varied—there’s even a touch of glam on “Through the Floor” and a visit to Velvet Underground territory on “Prometheus At Large.”

Guitarist JB Townsend, who first began the Crystal journey with singer Brad Hargett some eight years ago, feels the difference between the Stilts’ two albums is more about time thantoil. “A slight change is natural, I think,” says Townsend, “First thing that comes to mind with bands that have albums that sound alike is that they were most likely recorded very close together.” But there’s been some expansion in the ranks as well. “This is an album that is a window into the band as a five piece in 2010,” he explains, “Whereas the first one was Brad singing and me doing the music. The first one is a little more stripped sometimes.”

Pondering the scratchy guitars, minimal, Mo Tucker-ish beat, and plinking piano that evoke vintage VU on the aforementioned “Prometheus at Large,” Townsend says, “It wasn’t totally deliberate initially. We recorded that one in one take and just had a very rough sketch of it, and wanted it to be spontaneous. There are very few bands that I would have no shame in blatantly ripping off, and VU’s one of them. I don’t want to be a VU cover band though.”

While there’s little danger of anyone mistaking Crystal Stilts for any kind of cover band, they seem to feel comfortable sporting their influences on their sleeves, a trait they share with their fellow travelers Vivian Girls and Frankie Rose. “We played with them a bit when they first started out a few years ago,” he says of the former, “Frankie played drums with us for awhile too. Sweet ladies all around.” Asked if there are other current bands, inside or outside the New York scene, with whom he feels a connection, Townsend replies “Yes, definitely,” reeling off a roster of psych/stoner soldiers. “Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, Tyvek, Psychedelic Horseshit, TNV, etc., etc.”

Photo by Erika Spring

But beyond the ‘60s psych influence, there are other aspects of the Crystal Stilts’ sound that aren’t touted as often—touches of everything from post-punk to krautrock. Asked about the band’s less obvious inspirations, Townsend observes “Well no one ever nails us for sounding a bit like the Troggs, but I think we do sometimes,” adding cheekily, “We also sound a lot like Funkadelic, but no one’s picking that up, so I guess we dodged a bullet there.”

Funk Soul Brother

Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley grew up the son of a preacher man in the deep South. When he became a musician, he didn’t rebel against his upbringing and dabble in the dark side, nor did he succumb to it entirely and bring piety into play. Instead, Kelley took his love of gospel and joined it in holy union with his pop sensibilities. What you get with Kelley is soulful, catchy rock, not far off from Jason Mraz or James Morrison. “Radio” begins with a plaintive piano before breaking into a torrential chorus that lodges itself in your brain after the first listen. “Don’t Ignore” asks the question we all are wondering: Why are shows like Three’s Company no longer on? Organs, acoustic guitars, an ambling bass and Kelley’s drawled, soulful vocals make for an easy, amiable tune. For funkier, Maroon 5-ish fodder, skip to “What I Need” where a shuddering organ, wah-wah guitars and percolating bass build a monster groove. Expect big things from this artist. We do.

Lipstick On A War Pig

Victoria Faiella

Within the first few measures of “War Pigs,” you realize that Victoria Faiella is a force to be reckoned with. Taking on Black Sabbath’s perennial anthem is one thing, transporting it to the other side of the world is another. Under Faiella’s direction, “War Pigs” receives a culture shock, heavy metal turning into mysterious, Middle Eastern exoticism. But this rhythmic, witchy arrangement is sort of a non sequitur. “Love Ashes—Crack the Whip” is pure romanticism, the singer’s voice shifting from the distorted pitch of “War Pigs” to one that’s soft and lilting. Faiella is a nimble picker and percussionist, and both skills are on display on “All Fall Down”—a track that would feel like global folk if not for a string section. As a musician, Faiella’s scope is formidable, her songs transfixing each in their own way. And she can give Ozzy a run for his money. We like her.

The Rare Bird

Dolly Johnston

In the oversaturated marketplace that is the music industry, true originals can sometimes get lost in the crowd. Be glad Dolly Johnston isn’t slipping past your attention. Johnston’s songs are treasure troves of uncommon instruments and complicated arrangements. As a composer, her intellect is undeniable, but her real talent is her ability to make fun, frisky music out of the strangest of bedfellows. Like “Wind At My Back,” where a theremin, a baritone guitar, a computer and some woodwinds join together in a percussive romp that’s part surf music, part tango, part Goldfrapp. “Bang Bang,” with its tambourine shambles, electronic bleeps and ropy guitars, is garage rock go-go for the 21st century. On the subversive “Ghetto Blaster,” Johnston lends her velvety, feline alto (similar to fellow Canadian Emily Haines) to an ode to the redemptive powers of the boom box. “Take a pill, it’s only a song,” she teases. Yeah, but what a song it is.


Exclusive Interviews
Featured Artists
OurStage Updates
Reviews and Playlists
Editors Pick