Druscilla Cloud, 2013
Though frontman Pete Jordan might be the Cloud Person, Monochrome Places uses six people total and just as many instruments, and succeeds in blending indie-folk, ’70s rock and even psyche moments. Far from mono anything, the warm sounds are varied and constantly shuffling. Broaching classic rock as well as modern indie-rock, and adding some sounds that wouldn’t be out of place at Sunday mass, there’s a great contrast between quiet and loud, busy and stripped back.
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A six-piece self-described ‘chamber pop’ outfit, Seattle’s Exohxo (pronounced X-O-X-O) are selling themselves short on that description. A stacked EP of hooks, melodies, riffs and instantly lovable choruses, while the orchestral moments and violins certainly lend themselves to the chamber tag, there’s just as much indie-pop, folk and gritty rock leanings included. While Stories And Fictions is undeniably sophisticated, it’s also playful, quirky and often upbeat, which is a refreshing change from the usual bummer songs endemic to like minded outfits. At 20 minutes this one is over too quick – always a good sign.
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Borstal Beat Records, 2012
Californian indie-folk ruffians The Drowning Men seem to be fans of the freakish – just take a look at the Moreauvian beasts on the album artwork. Hear also the unsettling minor-key funfair themes of “Bored in a Belly” and “A Better Place”, and feel the infernal desires aroused by “I am the Beggar Man”. Sounding at times like a carney version of Arcade Fire, All of the Unknown is a wounded giant of a record: big and damaged and angry and confused, roaring its indignation at the world.
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Paper Bag, 2012
Approaching complex themes with warmth and humour in a similar manner to The Decemberists, Canadian folk-rockers Cuff the Duke combine roots-rock with pop-like melodies to create an accessible and engaging record – the first part of a two-part concept album. Though not entirely free from cliché, it is at the same time varied yet coherent; each track hints at an underlying emotion that carries the listener through highs and bittersweet lows. A highlight is the eight-minute epic “Bound To Your Own Vices” – worth an EP release in its own right.
Sophisticated and introspective New York based indie-rock with sweet male/female harmonies and an almost classical feel via the emphasis on delicate piano work. Even though the subject matter often details personal turmoil and heartbreak, the music is often upbeat with hooks buried deep in the carefully calculated instrumentation. Ideal for admirers of pensive, moody songcraft – apparently even Leonard Cohen is a fan.
The title track of singer-songwriter Joe Coleman’s EP opens things in dramatic style, the mournful folk wringing every morsel of intensity from his voice. The three remaining songs are left to put you back together with a gentler tack, homely harmonica in tow. Well worth bending an ear if you’re partial to The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel, et al.