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Indie Music Map

Lizzy Schroff | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Welcome to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and the next stop on our Indie Music Map. As a Phillie Phanatic, I have a special place in my heart for Philadelphia. The city is full of rich history, having once been our nation’s temporary capital and the site of many an important meeting on the road to independence and events soon after. It is also home to other wonderful things like the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and “Rocky.” But let’s hone in on the thriving indie music scene in this bustling city.
I have a soft spot for the ethereal and dreamy; I love getting wrapped up in lingering, echo-y vocals and synth beats and just forgetting about the 5 billion things that are going on around me. That’s where Sun Airway comes in. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Tom Barthmus (formerly of another Philly band, the A-Sides) and drummer Patrick Marsciell (also of the A-Sides), the band delivers a healthy dose of electronic pop for avid effects lovers. They released their sophomore album “Soft Palms” just this year, adding to their budding repertoire.
If you’re looking for a more eclectic style, than Dr. Dog is the right band for you. Toby Leaman (bass guitar), Scott McMicken (lead guitar), Frank McElroy (rhythm guitar), Zach Miller (keyboard) and Eric Slick (drums) compose the band, with Leaman and McMicken alternating on lead vocals. Dr. Dog’s style is highly influenced by 1960s pop, weaving in elements such as lo-fi and sounds reminiscent of 1990s era indie-pop. The band has two EPs and seven full-length albums under its belt, having released its most recent album, “Be the Void,” in February of this year. Their prominence in the indie music world was kick-started when they toured as the opening band for My Morning Jacket in 2004. Dr. Dog provides listeners with a great mix of the retro, the psychedelic and the quirky with a well-rounded catalog of catchy and groovy tunes.
One of my personal Philadelphia favorites is Matt Pond PA. I first heard the band when they came to Legends here at Notre Dame in 2010 (I remember being super jealous of how effortlessly cool the female guitarist was). Since then, I can’t get enough of their music. Matt Pond (lead vocals/guitar) has really been the consistent member throughout the many transitions the band has gone through, though Chris Hansen (guitar/vocals/keyboards) is also regarded as another core member. Matt Pond PA has released eight studio length albums and eight EPs. It seems of late, singers enjoy locking themselves up in remote cabins in the wilderness for musical inspiration (a la Bon Iver in his beloved Wisconsin woods). Matt Pond did the same for his 2010 release “The Dark Leaves.” This idea must really be working, because the album is fantastic. It personifies Matt Pond PA’s expansive sound that has featured everything from cellos to keyboard effects, with the right touch of backwoods flair that you would expect from an album conceived in the solitude of a country cabin. (I’m just waiting for Kanye’s wilderness experience with a new release: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Forest Oak Tree.”)
Everyone loves a comeback story, and Wanderlust has the potential to be one of those comeback stories. The band originally formed and recorded in the mid-1990s but was dropped from its record label in the midst of recording its sophomore album. However, they reformed in 2011 and released their album, “Record Time” this year. The power pop/alt rock group is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Scot Sax, guitarist Rob Bonfiglio, bassist Mark Levin and drummer Jim Cavanaugh. Wanderlust had achieved an avid following during their time in the 1990s, but will they do so again?
The War on Drugs is Sonic Youth meets Bob Dylan. Vocalist Adam Granduciel and former guitarist Kurt Vile (who now plays his own solo act) happened to meet at a party where they bonded over their love of Dylan’s music. The band currently consists of Granduciel (vocals/guitar), David Hartley (bass/guitar), Robbie Bennett (keyboards/guitar) and Steven Urgo (drums/percussion), and has released two albums and two EPs to date. Their sound combines elements of shoegaze, alt rock, and touches of Americana, particularly in their earlier EPs. Dylan influences are evident in Granduciel’s vocals and contemplative lyrics.
And for those who like candid, uncomplicated alternative rock, there’s Blood Feathers. Formed in 2005, the group is comprised of founders Ben Dickey (vocals/guitar/piano) and Drew Mills (vocals/guitar), as well as Clay Simmons (bass), Patrick Marsciell (drums and also of above band Sun Airway), Sam Murphy (guitar) and Tracy Stanton (saxophone/percussion/keyboard). They have released two albums thus far, showcasing their rock-and-roll sound featuring bluesy guitar and touches of twangy folk.
On the playlist I have also included a few “bonus tracks”: Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” and “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”. “Punk Rock Girl” is a MTV hit that is just a great, upbeat, satiric post-punk song to jam out to and sing off-key. As far as “Gonna Fly Now” goes, if this song doesn’t make you want to find a staircase to run up and make you feel like you could take on Apollo Creed, Mr. T and Ivan Drago at the same time, there is something seriously wrong (“Rocky” fans, you catch my drift).
And so we reach the end of our music tour of the City of Brotherly Love. If you ever happen to find yourself in Philadelphia, delve into the city’s rich history, cheer on a Philly sports team and grab a soft pretzel while you explore a fantastic city. On to the next stop on our Music Map …
Contact Lizzy Schroff at eschro01@saintmarys.edu
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
 

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Indie Music Map

Lizzy Schroff | Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Welcome to Baltimore, home of the Ravens, Duff Goldman from “Ace of Cakes” (why did they have to cancel that show?) and Old Bay seasoning – our first stop on our Music Map journey. Charm City is home to a vibrant indie music scene; the trending Baltimore music world is characterized by an experimental, psychedelic folk style. There are numerous bands that fall into this far-reaching category, many of which are primarily locally known. I want to highlight several that really stand out from the crowd.

First, I’m going to be a little biased and talk about my favorites. Beach House was my summer love story. No, this is not some really bad pun. I first heard “Norway,” from Beach House’s album “Teen Dream,” when I was home in Arnold, Md., over last winter break. For some reason, I didn’t look much into their music until their most recent album “Bloom” was released in May of this year. From the moment I listened to “Myth,” I knew it was meant to be. Beach House’s dream-pop style draws you in and envelops you in an atmospheric, ethereal music world. The duo is composed of alto singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Scally. They have released four full-length studio albums since their formation in 2005 and are currently on tour to promote “Bloom.” If you love reverberating guitar lines, synth keyboards and otherworldly effects, then Beach House is the band for you. But really, you should listen to them. Like, right now.

I am an ardent radio lover. Some may call me outdated (just like my obsession with buying CDs – I tell you, one day my CD collection will be worth something), but I have discovered more great music on the radio than through any other medium. Annapolis, Md.-based station 103.1 WRNR is radio music gold. It doesn’t play songs to death, it throws in a healthy mix of classics like U2 and R.E.M. and it features local and indie music regularly. Wye Oak is another Baltimore-based indie band that I got hooked on after hearing their track “For Prayer” on WRNR. The band is named after an iconic 460 year-old oak tree in Wye Mills, Md. (Sadly, the massive tree was destroyed by a thunderstorm in 2002.) Wye Oak is comprised of singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stacks (who, interestingly, plays the drums with only his right hand and foot, and the bass line on a keyboard with his left hand). Formed in 2006, the band has three albums and an EP under their belt. Though classified as an indie-rock band, they have touches of a little bit of everything – folk, nu-gaze and dream pop. Wasner’s mesmerizing vocals and the introspective lyrics are enchanting, and it isn’t long before you’ve realized that you just listened to every song in their repertoire when tuning in on Spotify.

Other local names to check out include Lower Dens. The group is a “freak folk” band composed of singer Jana Hunter, guitarist Will Adams, bassist Geoff Graham, drummer Nate Nelson and keyboardist/guitarist Carter Tanton. They released their sophomore album “Nootropics” this year, featuring more experimental effects than their debut “Twin-Hand Movement.” Their songs have an echo-y quality that rings throughout and give the listener the feeling of experiencing their albums in an acoustic concert hall.

Cass McCombs, though not originally from Maryland, finally settled down in Baltimore after a period of drifting throughout the United States. His style incorporates qualities of folk, featuring acoustic guitars and prominent bass, weaved with moody keyboard lines.
If you are looking for good, solid, pure, no-frills indie rock, look no further than The Seldon Plan. The band’s founding members are singer/guitarist/keyboardist Michael Nestor and bassist David Hirner, with Frank Corl and Chris Ehrich joining the group for their most recent album, 2011’s “Coalizione Del Volere.”

And no one can forget Animal Collective, whose 2009 album “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (an outdoor concert venue in Columbia, Md.) inspired a fellow Scene writer’s excellent article, “Music For Everyday.” Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist make up this highly experimental, psychedelic band that seamlessly weaves penetrating synths, melodic harmonies and intense drumbeats that makes any album listening session an experience in itself.

You will soon notice that a Counting Crows song is included on the playlist below. Yes, I know that Counting Crows is not an indie band but my reasoning is as follows: 1) The song is called “Raining in Baltimore.” Self-explanatory. 2) Adam Duritz is from Baltimore. He writes some of those most enigmatic, thought-provoking and painfully beautiful lyrics that I would give my right kidney to be able to come up with. Thus, the song had to have a spot on the list.

That concludes our stop on the Music Map. If you ever actually find yourself in Charm City, make sure to fill up on some Maryland blue crabs, perhaps catch an Orioles game, swing by Ram’s Head Live or visit Merriweather Post Pavilion for a Baltimorean concert experience.

Contact LIzzy Schroff at eschro01@saintmarys.edu