SXSW Overflow: Day Eight/Nine (Katie Grace, Ghost & Gobin, Teen Girl Scientist Monthly, Hillfolk Noir, Moonlight Bride, & More)
I’m going to be away from the laptop for a while this weekend, so this is going to have to be a twofer for the ongoing writeups of the ever-cool SXSW Overflow Fest up at Super Happy Fun Land.
First up, here’s tonight, Friday, March 16th, aka Day Eight of this whole mess:
SCREAMIN EAGLE: This one’s better than I’d initially thought, honestly; Screamin Eagle‘s jangly political folk made me cringe a bit at first, but heck, he makes it work, against all odds, especially on “The Jesus Song” (which also features tourmate Katie Grace Helow; see below for more on her). His voice is nicely whiskey-roughened and countrified, and just when you think you know where’s he headed, he derails things, like the let’s-get-this-party-started bit in “Jesus Song.”
Check out the tracks on full-length Hurricane, below:
KATIE GRACE HELOW: And then there’s fellow Jacksonville-dweller Katie Grace Helow, who’s similarly folky and jangly, albeit with less of an overtly protest/political bent. Her songs drift and float along, delicate but determined, and the structures and chords skip around the traditional indie-folky clichés, especially on the excellent, haunting, vaguely menacing “Tall Trees,” and her voice is husky and warm throughout.
She’s only got a handful of songs up online, unfortunately, but I find myself listening to ‘em over & over again:
GREAT VALLEY: Whoo, boy. This is a strange one. Not musically, really — although it’s messy as hell and sprawling all over the damn place, bouncing manically from noisy pseudo-punk to airy electro-pop and beyond — but more in terms of the lyrics to the songs. Titles like “Holy Ghost Abduction” and “All the Devil’s Babies” should kind of clue you in as to how cracked two-person “pretend pop” band Great Valley happen to be. Interesting stuff, although it kind of makes my head hurt.
Here’s the player for 2010 album In the Silver Dream, if you’re curious:
GHOST & GOBLIN: Yes, Ghost & Goblin is yet another duo, this time from NY. Rather than another guitar-and-drums pair, though, G&G is a keyboard-and-drums outfit, playing strange, dark, paranoiac pop songs that come off like a cross between carnival music and Gary Numan, with occasional hip-hop bits thrown in for the fuck of it.
And holy crap, I’m liking it, particularly “New Experiments/Old Machine” and “Shaken,” the latter of which features some awesomely soulful, Cat Power-esque vocals courtesy of Morgan Lynch. I can’t find anything to share by the band, sadly, so you’ll have to go to their FB page to hear for yourself.
STARLIGHT GIRLS: Brooklynites Starlight Girls are alluring and strange at the same time, rolling nonchalantly through a tight, minimalist set of retro-pop tunes that owe a fair debt both to ’60s girl groups and trippy psych, with a touch of early-’80s pop romanticism thrown in. They’re jazzy and sly and murky and slinky, and, well, it’s pretty great.
Here’s latest single “The Hunch”; check it out:
TEEN GIRL SCIENTIST MONTHLY: Probably my favorite of the night, Teen Girl Scientist Monthly reminds me of pretty much every cheery, jangly indie-pop band I adored back in my 20-something years; they’re speedy and fun, never taking themselves too seriously, but at the same time, the music they make is insanely catchy, compelling you to sing/headbob along.
The vocals are nicely everyman/woman-ish, making the band sound less like a bunch of Idol contestants and more like, hey, your best pals from down the block who just happen to play in a band. I keep thinking of The Wild Moccasins or — far, far further afield — Great Lakes Myth Society, and the main thing that ties those two outfits together is their general down-to-earth brilliance (which, yes, TGSM also has in spades).
Take a listen to their Hear Boys Talk EP, the title track of which rules, right here:
HYENA: What Maine-bred trio Hyena sounds like seems to depend on when/where they are and who’s nearby, going by the varied stuff on the Bandcamp page of their label (which I think they run), Laughable Recordings. Some of their stuff is shambling, lo-fi-scratchy slocore, almost, with jangly strings and broken, Conor Oberst-esque vocals, but then there’s the noisier/messier stuff, which has lots of overdistorted stomping and string-mangling.
Most recently, though, with Gehuegen, they resemble nothing more than a half-drunk marching band, with sleepy gang vocals, slowly-swaying rhythms, and lots of odd noises filtering in around the edges. Listen here:
Then, on to tomorrow, Saturday, March 17th (Day Nine, to you):
NOVUM: Said it before, and I’ll say it again: people from Atlanta are weird. And Novum (which might actually be called “Nomen Novum,” I can’t tell for sure) are no exception. Even with the strangeness, though, the music these people (this person?) makes is still amazingly compelling — Novum creates these insanely layered, ridiculously lush-sounding slabs of pastoral electro-pop, with thumping beats, plucked guitars, gentle swooshes of sound, and matter-of-fact, in-your-ears vocals singing nearly nonsensical lyrics. Think Four Tet, or maybe Houston/Austin crew Ghost Mountain, and you’ll be in the ballpark.
And yes, I’m enjoying it. You can, too:
HILLFOLK NOIR: Apparently Idaho band Hillfolk Noir plays their own unique brand of rural folk music they’ve dubbed “Junkerdash,” whatever the fuck that means (something about swamp shacks, per their FB page).
Eh, they can call it what they want, though, so long as they keep cranking out this eerie, out-of-time, backwoodsy music, complete with lonesome wind whistling through the trees (okay, it’s a singing saw), washboard, stand-up bass, and kazoo, not to mention great, great, Waits-ian stories of downtrodden, desperate people in hard times. Here’s full-length Radio Hour:
KALI MUTSA: Um. What the fuck? Okay, imagine if MIA weren’t bred in London but in rural Chile, and came up rap-singing in crazily-accented, strained Spanish over a mishmash of deftly-played Latin guitars, horns, and timbales, bumping/funky beats, Carnival-like whistles, and weirdly gypsy-/klezmer-sounding orchestral stuff. That’s pretty much what this sounds like, although it works better than what I’ve written above.
Oh, and a quick check of the bio posted on Kali Mutsa‘s Website reveals that, um, I’m not totally off, at least not about the gypsy part — apparently there are gypsies down in Chile, too (who knew?), and she’s one of them. Have a listen:
MOONLIGHT BRIDE: Back over on the planet the rest of us call home, we’ve got Moonlight Bride, out of Chattanooga, TN., a band that blazes their way through some awesomely driving, Arcade Fire-sounding rock that throws high-fives to The Killers and The Libertines along the way to some destination all their own. I’ve only heard “Young Guns” once now, and the damn thing’s already lodged solidly in my skull.
It’s damn-near impossible not to get feverishly addicted to these guys’ propulsive, warbly-voiced, danceable-yet-rocking sound, I swear. And hey, you can listen for yourself:
THE PRESCRIPTION: I know I’ve heard of this band before, although I can’t for the life of me figure out where… They’re definitely the most straight-up punk band I’ve heard yet at the ‘fest, grabbing hold of old-school, Cali-style yell-along punk and grafting sci-fi synths and some early Riverboat Gamblers party-down boogie to its frame. And hey, it’s not bad; I’m liking it.
No Bandcamp page that I can find, unfortunately, but you can head over to their ReverbNation profile to check ‘em out.
CAUSTIC CASANOVA: Closing out Day Nine, there’s Caustic Casanova, whose horrible name (sorry, y’all) obscures a pretty darn cool bluesy, sludgy rock band that merges classic-rock sensibilities with vocals that are occasionally oddly Robert Smith-like (yes, as in The Cure), some limber funk basslines, and stoner-rock’s spaceward-pointing lyrics. Things sometimes get away from ‘em, and I can’t claim this is my favorite thing ever, but hell, it’s still fun.
Gah. And again, my head hurts. Only four(?) days to go, y’all…get on up to SHFL while you can.