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Guys and Doll

Hello Dollface

Hello Dollface hails from a small town called Durango, tucked into the southwest corner of Colorado. But they haven’t stayed put, racking up miles playing shows across Colorado, Mexico, and Arizona. Their music has the same vagabond soul — meandering between blues, jazz, and folk pop and even making its way over to Scandanavia for a tune. “Den Svenska Laten” translates to “The Swedish Song,” and, true to its name, is a Baltic waltz sung entirely in Swedish. Violin, soft percussion, and plucked strings are braided with Ashley Edwards’ husky, silky vocals. “Capital Me” is more percussive, jazzier fare with reverberating guitars, xylophone, and a strutting bass. But it’s “Great Wall” that really picks up the pace, galloping along while the violin whinnies and the xylophone twinkles. It’s a sad and hopeful little melody from a band of restless romantics. Check ‘em out.

Easy Breezy

Jamie Nicole

A skeleton key, so named for its skeletal design, can unlock virtually anything. Jamie Nichole, a singer-songwriter out of Indiana, wears one around her neck at all times. Symbolically, it’s a fitting totem. Nichole’s music is simple and accessible — down-tempo songs comprised mostly of acoustic guitar, keys, soft percussion, and the lilting twang of her voice. “This Time Around” is laced with dreamy imagery — burning incense and gentle breezes — swaddled in shimmering organs and pangs of electric guitar. Most of Nichole’s music is languorous, taking its time to tell the story. From the bending guitars and treacly vocals of “All I Ask” to the elegiac “Out of Sight,” where Nichole says adieu to a bad relationship, listeners are lulled into a serene state of mind. You may want to light some incense.

Love and War

EarlyRise

“There’s nothing wrong with being different,” Orly Lari sings on “Wasteland” over a torrent of guitars and drums. And being different, to EarlyRise, means raging against the powers that seek to tear us down. Lari, along with co-conspirator/guitarist Raz Klinghoffer has created a leitmotif of unrest that carries over from one punishing track to the next. On “Wasteland” the bass gurgles, guitars shriek, drums thrash, and Lari’s climbing vocals offer the only succor from the storm. Every song is a battlefield. From the sinister slouch of “Become Mad” to the stuttering, crashing “Face Me,” EarlyRise delivers hard rock that’s as angsty as it is melodic. On the latter, Lari sings, “I’m not afraid anymore as I declare war.” You may as well surrender.

Wake Up

The City Never Sleeps

Though the members of The City Never Sleeps hail from all corners of New York state—Albany, Middletown, and Oneonta—none live in the city to which their name refers. The irony ends there, however. Musically, TCNS is all about earnestness delivered via tight, stylized songs with snap. On “Mr. Hide” a percussive bass, jutting guitars, and glossy boy-girl harmonies create a taut little rocker buffed to a shine, with a gnarly guitar solo to boot. “Return to Sender” features an exhaustive revue of guitars that stretch, scribble, grunt, and thrust all over the pop rock melody. But on “Crumble At The Fault,” the band switches things up, sewing a bit of jazz into the blissed-out ballad. Glistening guitars nip and synths sigh as singer John Glenn admits, “Sometimes I feel just fine.” We know the feeling, dude.

Divided We Fall

June Divided

The genesis story of June Divided isn’t that different from the vast majority of bands. Boy meets girl at college. Boy and girl write songs in dorm rooms. Boy and girl find drummer through Craigstlist; recruit college buddy on bass. But not every band immediately goes on to gigs at SXSW, Warped Tour, and mtvU. The velocity of June Divided’s career can be attributed to the band’s potent pop rock. Think Jimmy Eats world meets Thrice meets Paramore. On “Bullet” jagged guitars intersect with the candy-coated barb of singer Melissa Menago’s vocals. It’s a joyride through distortion and melody, meant to be cranked up and rocked out to. The adrenaline levels don’t dip in “Perfect Storm” where guitars are braided together, drums crash, and Menago’s plaintive voice reaches up into the firmament. “I think this might be the calm before the storm,” she sings. So do we.

Devil in the Details

Stateside

Stateside isn’t a band for the faint of heart. Made up of Mike Tarry, Chip Su, Jeff Meiers, Phil Zepeda, and Jeff Zager, the group crafts explosive hardcore that raises the hackles. “Bridges Worth Burning” combines serrated guitars, thunderous drums, and the guttural heaving of Tarry for polyrhythmic, bipolar screamo you can feel in your solar plexus. Like singers Mike Patton and Chester Bennington, Tarry tempers his barbaric bellows with melodic, plaintive singing. On “The Eve” surging guitars and drums create a tempest over which Tarry moans, “I’m wasting away.” But things aren’t always so bleak. “Make Your Move” is a motivational anthem about the city that never sleeps wrapped up in roiling guitars and semiautomatic drums. Maybe lyrics like “Broadway’s alive and calling me home” and hardcore make strange bedfellows, but even the devil gets to take a day off.

Early Risers

AM to AM

AM to AM is led by Will Tendy, a guitarist/songwriter/producer/engineer who’s manned the sound board for indie luminaries like Melissa Auf der Maur and Morningwood. But his skills at the console are just one of the many reasons AM to AM sounds so good. Tendy—along with bandmates Sarah Goldstone, Jonathan Schmidt, Peter Recine, and Derek McWilliams—builds dynamic, swaggering rockers layer by layer. “Spot of Light,” with its rhythmic lashings and high falsetto soul, makes for a jagged dance party. There’s a lot going on here—stomping drums, bluesy guitars, choppy keys, and big digital swaths of fuzz. But Tendy’s production chops bring all the elements working together for the common good. “Sew” and “Outline” set forth gunfire guitars, pummeling drums, and polyrhythms for intense, stylized melees. But if you want a kinder kind of lashing, skip to “Pop As Science” and see how one of their bubblier melodies can still hurt so good.

Wild Things

Nemes

It’s no easy thing to be an original these days, but despite the bounty of artists out there, Nemes has managed to do just that. The Brighton, MA quintet has created a sound that takes listeners off the rails for a manic ride through blues, grass, and punk. On the swampy, junkyard environs of “Blues,” singers Dave Anthony and Josh Knowles bellow and bray over a squealing fiddle, declaring “Robert Johnson’s back and he walks in my shoes.” Even if their insidious blues mojo doesn’t literally raise the dead, it most definitely raises hackles. As guitars grind up clouds of distortion on “Beam in the Track,” a ukulele nimbly picks its way through. It’s that interplay between post-punk dissonance and old time music that makes Nemes akin to nothing else out there. But if you have to have a signpost, think of the band as a cross between Avett Brothers and Say Anything—a troupe of roughshod, wild-hearted melody makers with some serious amps.

Gettin’ Noisy in Boise

Niño Lobos

Not too long ago, Niño Lobos (translation: Wolf Boys) were just two guys, delivering tortillas by night and taking college courses by day. But then they decided to start a band. Now, like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, they’ve become something fierce. The Boise band’s youthful blend of hip hop and electro pop claws into your brain with hooks upon hooks. “Hey Girl” has got a fat funk bass line, stabs of reverb guitars and some serious girl problems. “She got me like Stiffler in ‘American Pie’ / Scratch me up like Wolverine.” But it’s “Taking Over Stereos” that could be and should be a monster hit. Part dance rock, part hip hop, the track is a free-flowing, adrenaline-fueled blowout. Over a compressed, percolating beat the duo name-checks anyone from Cypress Hill and Jonah Hill to Lupe Fiasco, Mr. T, Gorillaz, Run-DMC and more. If Niño Lobos keep dropping tracks like this one, some of those dudes will be name-checking them.

Rhythm & Cool

Brittany Campbell

You want untapped, gutsy, street cool? You go to Brooklyn. And if you’re lucky, you just might find an artist half as interesting as Brittany Campbell. The singer-songwriter/producer/guitarist cross-pollinates doo-wop, Motown, new wave and pop rock for a completely fresh and revelatory sound. Like Amy Winehouse, Debbie Harry and Santigold, Campbell’s an original. On “Call Me Baby,” vintage guitars strut against a beat while Campbell summons the soulful angst of a 1950s teen, singing “There’ll be no mercy now / Wherever you are is where I’ll be.” “Nerd,” with its handclaps, 8-bit synths and bouncing beat is instantly infectious even as the singer delivers dubious lines like, “Guess you haven’t heard / God, I’m such a nerd.” As if. “Goody Goody” is the track you’ll want to put on repeat. New wave synths, surf guitars and Campbell’s powerful voice make for a smart and sexy rocker with a vintage edge. Have mercy.

 


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