It's not often one encounters exciting, experimental folk-rock from Prembrokeshire, Wales, but that's just what one discovers in the band Little Arrow and the dense, sound-shifting "Medicine Moon."
You can have your Pandoras, Spotifies and Pirate Bays: St. Louis rock band Bruiser Queen, based in the duo of Morgan Nusbaum and Jason Potter, still believes in the power of good, old, analog frequency modulation to thrill and inspire -- and there's nothing quite like hearing a song like "On the Radio" on, yes, the radio. But a download is pretty sweet too.
It takes more than gumption to cover one of the most perfect of all rock 'n' roll records. Tucson, Arizona-based musician Brian Lopez doesn't overdo it on his version of Phil Spector and the Roneettes' "Be My Baby"; he lets his expressive voice and personal vision of the wall of sound make this baby his own.
With layers of acoustic and electric guitars, Boston's Sleepyhead invokes classic guitar-chime bands like R.E.M. and twee-pop groups like Camera Obscura, but with a distinctively arch tone. "Liberation Theology" testifies to the band's melodic ambitions and lightly-worn influences.
If you didn't know better, you'd think "No One Is Lost," the title track to the new album by Canadian band Stars, was cut in a closed-down gay discotheque in Montreal. Turns out you really didn't know better, and the song (like the album) was in fact recorded just above said disco. It's a state-of-the-art, dance-pop track from a band that still has some surprises up its glitter-covered sleeves.
With an unstoppable synth hook, hard-charging guitars and a refreshingly vulnerable portrait of romantic bliss -- "When I come home from the day's end with nothing but a dream/She's telling me she loves, she says I've been so sweet" -- "Never Afraid" by Bo and the Locomotive is as good as the St. Louis band has ever sounded.
In band years, 16 orbits of the sun is an eternity. Formidable and formative alternative-country group 6 String Drag is finally back with new music, notably the guitar-surfing "Drive Around Town," a representative slice of twangy cruising life from the Raleigh, North Carolina veterans.
On the new album "Sugar Sugar Whomp Whomp," St. Louis' favorite funk-jazz brass band broadens its palette to spread hip-hop, Latin, rock, country and gospel tones across its always colorful style. The title track, featuring a nice guest spot by Dave Grelle of the Feed on organ, is classic Funky Butt Brass Band: plenty of jazz chops, buckets of soul and truckloads of funk.
The complex, in-your-face art rock of Cleveland's Mr. Gnome belies just how fun it can be. "Melted Rainbow" isn't just artsy; it's a gloriously poppy, simply thrilling, slightly psychedelic anthem.
The Lowest Pair has a timeless old-time sound. Promo photos aside, Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee make no pretensions to authenticity. On a track like "Moving On," the beauty of their harmonies and intricate banjo-and-fiddle arrangements speaks for itself.