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The Lone Wolf

Michael Tolcher

Michael Tolcher’s music career had an inauspicious start: busking on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street and hawking tapes recorded on a jambox in his bathroom. Years later, Tolcher’s upgraded his game just a little. After a five-year relationship with A&M/Octone Records, the singer-songwriter is now free to fully explore his art. His music is a reflection of these broadened horizons, and ranges from rootsy rock to synth-driven pop. “Fine” layers synths and drums for a mid-tempo groove that’s got hooks to spare. On “Give Me Your Hand” Tolcher slows things down for an acoustic, soulful love-song, made for slow dancing. Likewise, “Wishing Well” is sweet, maybe even saccharine, acoustic balladry. Tolcher can keep his songs sparse, but he also knows how to flesh them out. On “Sooner or Later” he brings in organ, guitar and drums for a syncopated rocker. Tolcher’s doing it his way, and the results are one-of-a-kind. But we’d still like to see the jambox make a comeback.

Voices Carry

Natalie Major

Natalie Major is, if anything, well traveled. Raised in Chicago, the singer-songwriter moved to New York at nineteen, and currently resides in Los Angeles. But not all roads lead to major metropolitan areas. In “Good Intentions” she warns that the ones paved with good intentions can sometimes lead to hell. The song is a nice introduction to Major’s powerful vocals. Pared-down instrumentation—just quiet synths and drums—puts her torchy, soulful voice front and center. On “Beautiful Life,” Major could be Natasha Bedingfield, singing strident, feel-good mantras against shuffling, acoustic-laden pop. But on “Monster” she shows her bad side. Chunky, distorted guitars set an aggressive tone without eroding the song’s mainstream pop sheen. “I’ve never really seen this side of me / Don’t know how to make it stop,” she sings. Our opinion? Don’t.

Going the Long Distance

 

Ringer T

The members of Ringer T began playing together in middle school, before life led each member to different corners of the country. But diaspora hasn’t slowed them down. With four full-lengths under their belt, the band is holding steady. And the fruits of their long distance relationship are pretty impressive. “Walk It Straight” is an easy, approachable melody that has a weary sweetness a la Wilco, Grandaddy or Nada Surf. It’s mellow stuff, but still packs an emotional wallop. In “The Easy Road” the band carefully layers sparse piano and acoustic guitar for a purist approach to longing. “Let Me Be Your Man” is more plugged in, but not by much. With electric guitars, drums and a male back-up chorus, the band engineers a rousing love song that will rattle your heart. If anything, Ringer T shows that wearing your emotions on your sleeve can be pretty badass.

 

The Young and The Reckless

Darling Parade

When Darling Parade couldn’t find a genre that described their sound to their liking, they took matters into their own hands and invented one. It’s called popcore, and for the uninitiated, it sounds a lot like emo-pop—the kind of music you’d expect to find on Fueled By Ramen. And although they may not appreciate the comparison, Darling Parade has a lot in common with acts like Paramore and Flyleaf. Each band softens their aggression with soaring female vocals. On “Never Wrong,” guitars run wild, alternating from chunky, buzzsaw riffs to urgent peals while singer Kristin Kearns powers through with her impressive pipes. You’ll find this dichotomy of ferocity and femininity throughout all the band’s songs, from the polyrhythmic “What You Want” to the galvanizing “Take This City.” Popcore, emo, rock—the label doesn’t really matter. Just crank it up and you just might feel young and reckless again.

 

Move It or Lose It

D.V.N.O.

Like the French duo Justice, whose single “DVNO” seems to serve as the inspiration for their name, D.V.N.O. want you to dance. But unlike Justice, the Floridian band isn’t going to lure you to the floor with big disco-electro beats. They do it the old fashioned way, with guitars, drums, and energy that’s off the Richter. “You & I Together” is a manic jitterbug of gritty guitars, rock steady drums, and adenoidal vocals (think Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat). Stylistically, D.V.N.O. walks the line between gutsy dance rock and emotionally charged pop-punk, a combination of Taking Back Sunday, The Strokes, and The Black Kids. On the emo end of the scale you have tracks like the turbulent “One Last Time.” But with “Dance With Me” it’s back to what the band does best: frantic, percussive rock with a lot of heart. Lovelorn spazzes, manic dreamers—this one’s for you.

Rolling In The Deep Cuts

The Feens

Whatever it is about the late ‘60s era of rock and roll, we just can’t seem to shake it out of our collective psyche. Bands like Cream and Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath have endured beyond their years, inspiring endless bands in their wake. The Feens, from Hamburg, Pennsylvania, are one of such bands. Their bluesy, psychedelic rock is bottom heavy with reverb-drenched harmonies to give it lift. Potent stuff. “Space Van” lures the listener into a heady brew of guttural guitars and psychedelic vocals. “Strange” kicks off with ropy guitars, settling into a bluesy groove, while “Find Another Love” adds a funk element into the mix. The Feen’s most ambitious track is probably the dark and stormy “Nebula,” where guitars gallop helter skelter over scales. It’s RUSH meets Cream—groove-centric prog that takes you someplace you’ve never known. That is, unless you lived through the ‘60s.

Brotherly Rage

Automatic Fire hails from Philadelphia, but don’t expect them to dole out brotherly love willy-nilly. As a matter of fact, the four-piece rock band is more inclined to rip you a new one. On the sexy and stylish “Cuts Both Ways” singer Walt Lafty roars “I tried to meet you half way but you shoved it back in my face” over a crescendo of guitars and the low glug of bass. “The World” is no less forgiving. A blistering caveat, the track hones its metal edge on spooky guitar effects. Lafty can loosen a delicious croon from his pipes, but more often he uses them to belt out his ire. On “Whipping Boy” he sneers, “I’m not your Gandhi, here to save the land / I’m more like Pilate, watch me wash you from my hands.” And you probably can guess what happens to the title characters of the hair-metalish rocker, “Snitches.” Yup, stitches. With instruments that cut gashes and lyrics that pour in the salt, Automatic Fire may sting like a bitch, but the pain is worth the pleasure.

Waking Up The Windsors

Slydigs

With the exception of Pete Doherty, the English are generally considered to be a proper, buttoned-up folk. Fair or not, that’s the pigeonhole. But, if we’re going to categorize Northern England’s Slydigs, we’ll need to move them closer to Doherty than the Windsors, if only for their shared love of the raw and rambunctious side of Britpop. Put on “Electric Love” and it’s there in full force: the feral yawp of guitars, the thrashing drums, the low-throttle growl of the bass. It’s music that walks the line between jubilation and hysteria—the same line that bands like Jet, The Strokes and Mooney Suzuki have walked with success in the past. On “If You Only Live Once,” singer Dean Fairhurst suggests, “If you only live once / let’s get on with living” against a bopping beat and the scribble of guitars. Our favorite track is “The World Waits (For No One)”, a driving melody with a triumphant chorus that tugs at the heart strings. Put it on the stereo on your next road trip and get on with living.

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.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Decemberists debut at Number 1 on Billboard

For the first time in their career, Portland folk rockers The Decemberists debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 with their latest offering “The King Is Dead.” Hitting the top of the charts is always a big deal for an independent band, but their sales figure—94,000 copies—is underwhelming. Still, it was enough to keep “Kidz Bop 19” from nabbing the Number 1 spot. And for that, we are eternally grateful.

Jeff Buckley biopic in the works

It’s been almost fourteen years since singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley drowned in the Mississippi River. In the years since his tragic death, his mother, Mary Guibert, refused to release his music for any of the hundreds of screenplays she saw. Now it seems like the right treatment has finally arrived. A Buckley biopic is in the works, with Robert Pattinson, James Franco, Jared Leto and James Mardsen all competing to play the iconic crooner. Guibert’s a tough cookie—we can’t wait to see who wins her approval.

The Bad

Nicki Minaj’s fans get her kicked out of London hotel

Nicki Minaj returned from a long day of press in London to find out she had been kicked out of her room at the Dorchester Hotel. The reason? Her fans, or as Minaj calls them, her “barbz.” Apparently a gaggle of barbz clashed with the paps, fights broke out and an ambulance was called. Nicki took to Twitter to thank her tenacious fans for their support, saying, “It got a bit CRAZY … hopefully the next hotel will be nicer.” And maybe undisclosed?

Charlie Louvin dead at 83

Charlie Louvin, one half of the legendary Louvin Brothers duo, passed away in Nashville after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Louvin and his brother Ira are widely recognized as the originators of the pure, honest harmonies that permeate and define country music to this day. Ira Lovin died in an automobile accident in 1965. R.I.P. Charlie.

The Ugly

Cher pissed over Oscar snub

The sweet nectar of her Golden Globe win for “Best Song” turned to sour grapes as soon as Cher realized her song, “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” for the movie “Burlesque” was passed over for an Oscar. She tweeted thusly: “We didn’t get a nomination 4 best song! That sucks! Diane’s song is so beautiful! It’s hard to understand how u win the Golden Globe 4 BEST SONG & not even get nominated by the OSCARS?” Cher, Cher, Cher …. SNAP OUTTA IT!

Ryan Murphy pissed over KoL snub

Oy vey. Here’s another bitter tale of rejection. When Kings of Leon passed up the opportunity to have their songs featured on Glee, the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, reacted in a way that was less than age appropriate. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter he seethed, “F**** you, Kings of Leon. They’re self-centered a**holes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument.” Chill, dude. A 7-year-old not hearing a rousing rendition of “Sex on Fire” is hardly the end of the world.

Miscellany

 


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