Never Heard of ‘Em #1

by Matt Meade

There are few things more exciting than coming across a band no one else knows about.  There is something intimate and personal about the relationship you form with a little known artist.  There is a thrill associated with watching the ascent of a new talent.  Watching a young musician become who they were meant to be is one of the great pleasures pop music offers.  However, it can be grueling to have to sift through so much trash before you find that hidden treasure.  The internet has a lot of chafe and not much wheat, after all.  Local clubs have a lot of goats and not many G.O.A.T.s.  Life has a lot of shit, and not much sandwich.

This weekly column is meant to help you with these problems.  Every Thursday, for the foreseeable future I’ll present to you an obscure band who has not yet had their songs featured over the post-climax montage sequence on Person of Interest, or been featured in a Chili’s advertisement.  Some of these bands might not even be signed to a label.  Some of these bands aren’t even bands, they’re groups of drunk kids, accidentally recording really great songs.  Not every band I write about in this column will be the next Van Morrison, but they will offer something interesting, and provide some hope for ways in which their music could one day evolve.

They are the artists who are buried deep in the annals of Spotify, Bandcamp, and Hype Machine.  They appear on blogs and in the foldout of free local papers.  They play open mics and open for The Dirty Projectors at Schubas.  They live halfway down the roster of tiny independent record labels with names like Gonner, and Mint and Frenchkiss Records.  But they shouldn’t.  And you’ll soon see why.

I have tried to make it easy for you by collecting them all in one place.  As if this were not already the best of news, all of the bands I plan to feature stream their full catalog somewhere, and a good chunk of them even often their music in a “pay what you want” format.  They are just begging you to listen, and I assert that it is worth your time to do so.  Who knows, your new favorite band might be in here.

This week I will start off with three bands who may be close to hitting it big.  I won’t usually write about three bands at a time, but I want to be the first one to tell you about them.  I’m like that.  Also a couple of them are on tour, so I want to make sure that I let you know about upcoming shows, so if they are coming to your area, you can go see them, if that is the kind of thing you do.

1.            Them Savages –                No.  Not The Savages, that neo-post-punk Sunny Day Real Estate with a chick singer.  Them Savages.  That spiritually conflicted duo from Flagstaff, AZ.  These chaps manage to create the bucket stomping Americana noise so many bands four times their size struggle to generate.   The vocals are rich and knowing, and the riffs are hooky.  Check them out and shout aloud to the catchy melodies.

THEMSavages-600x400

Website:  themsavages.bandcamp.com/

Twitter:  @THMSVGS

Label: I don’t think they are on any label.  Do you want to sign them?

Shows: Feb 15, Orpheum Theater, Flagstaff, AZ

Best Track: “God’s Hands”

 

2.            Jungle –               This UK duo has a knack for inserting catchy hooks into their, endlessly danceable tracks.  Each tune is fun and harkens back an era of 70s Bee Gees-esque, KC and the Sunshine band scented, song making that I thought was over with until I heard these cats. The music they make is fun, but don’t worry, there is a somber color (colour for you Brits) that streaks the bright dancebeats, so you don’t even have to feel guilty for liking it.

Jungle-The-Heat

Website:  http://b3scirecords.bandcamp.com/album/jungle-the-heat-ep

Twitter:  @b3science

Label: B3SCI Records / Blah Blah Blah Science

Best Track: “The Heat”

 

3.            Saintsenaca –          I have this theory that one day, history will look back kindly on all the easily accessible, shouty folk bands who dress up like they are taking one of those old timey photographs at an amusement park.  In this day of future past there will be a documentary that will look back safely on Mumford and Sons, and Of Monsters and Men and celebrate what is good about them, instead of attacking what is pat or derivative about them.  This film will invite the kids of 2065 to look back on these bands and to take them seriously in a way we cannot right now.  If that future exists, Saintsenaca will be talked about like the Big Star of those bands, like the most authentic example of the sub-genre, like a perfect, little dinghy in a sea of ocean liners.

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Website:  http://saintseneca.com/

Twitter:  @saintseneca

Label: Anti-

Upcoming Show: Mar 05, Grog Shop Cleveland Heights, OH

Best Track: “Visions”

 

That’s it for now.  Dope right? Check back next Thursday for more.

6 thoughts on “Never Heard of ‘Em #1

  1. Nice Matt. I definitely dig the dreamy, almost psychedelic qualities of “The Heat”. Also, excellent use of dynamics from Saintseneca to build tension and release it at the perfect points. I surely wish they were shoved to the forefront instead of fucking Mumford and Sons. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Glad you like them. I think their EP is really great and I am glad I was finally able to share them. Also, I am glad I can finally have this debate about Mumford and Sons. Now, I get that they are easily accessible and a little hokey, and if they were universally embraced I feel like I would be the first one to point this out. I think the fact that they put the f word into the chorus of their first single is a little bit of a phony “we are bad boys,” kind of move coming from a band that is obviously marketed to 35-45 year olds. Also, when Mark E Smith threw a bottle at them I thought that was the funnies story of 2010 (http://www.uncut.co.uk/the-fall/the-falls-mark-e-smith-i-threw-a-bottle-at-mumford-sons-news), but I just can’t find a reason to hate this band. I like their melodies, their songcraft, their harmonies. They are harmless phonies and maybe I should hate that about them, but I can’t help it. I dig it. Maybe that makes them guilty pleasures of mine, but I have the same feeling about all those other bands. For the Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men (although I hate “Little Talks.” The horns are shmaltzy and the whispery vocals remind me of The Swell Season. ewwww.) I am really not sure why The Fleet Foxes get a pass and these other bands don’t. Also, how am I supposed to feel about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes? Cuz I like them just fine. Can anyone set me straight and tell me the difference between these bands and why some of them are cool to listen to and others are not?

  2. Remember the days before Panera and Chipotle? Before the local supermarket sold fifteen kinds of Kashi cereal and there was a whole cooler just for Greek yogurt? And when I say “the days” I mean, like 2003. Back then, if you wanted a decent burrito, you’d have to make it yourself, or live in a city with a critical mass of Mexicans with capital. Otherwise it was Taco Bell or some frozen mass you nuked on a paper towel. Now entire generations of suburban pimple-poppers know what pico de gallo is. And to me, that’s mostly fine. But I don’t know if it will translate to a future full of better food, or if the widespread abundance of the merely acceptable will mash us into gelatinous pools of complacency.

    To me, groups like Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and some others (The Head and the Heart?) are just that: merely acceptable. Don’t you think 35-45s twenty years ago would have killed for some Mumford and Sons? But instead, they got Bryan-Adams-Rod-Stewart-and-Sting supergroups. We are surrounded, for sure, by disposable culture — but not necessarily more disposable than in the past, and maybe in some ways a little better. But I also think the game has changed, and now people like us are holding the Swell Season to a higher standard — we’re saying, “You have the Beatles, Dylan, the White Stripes, Dr. Dre, and the GODDAMN INTERNET at your disposal. Come up with something really good. No excuses.”

    That said, I think Fleet Foxes are really good. And I love the first Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes record. The Alexander solo album has moments of brilliance too. I’d really have to think in order to clearly parse what makes these acts different from those others. But I guess that’s what makes aesthetic taste interesting — there will always be the question of how-come-these-not-those? And in answering, you will always, always, be wrong.

    1. So, I think that your metaphor about the relentless creep of foodieism onto television, bookshelves and even our precious fast food is an apt one. And I guess I do get a bit smug when someone confuses Mumford and Sons for real music the way I would if someone referred to Chipotle in earnest as “cuisine.” But I guess I have the urge to jump to their defense for the same reason I have (on a few occasions) jumped to the defense of the Dave Matthews band.

      No one actually listens to the music of that band anymore. The battle lines have been drawn long ago. People just hear the name of the band and automatically make a knee jerk reaction based on a decision they made in college about whether or not they were going to like said band. Some people refer to Dave Matthews by his first name, as if he is a buddy who they went to school with, and is now an international pop star, but who is still down to earth and chill. And some people talk about how they make the worst music known to man.

      But let’s be honest. They don’t make the worst music ever made. Justin Bieber does that. Kenny Bolton does that. Lenny Kravitz does that. Dave Matthews Band is just kind of average.

      What pisses everyone off about Dave Matthews and Nickelback and the Dave Matthews Band and Nickelback of stompy folk music, Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers, is the fact that fans don’t treat them like they are average. Fans of these mediocre bands pretend those bands can fuck with Otis Redding and Biggie Smalls and Elmore James and Leonard Cohen and other actual artists. And they can’t. And we (people like you and me who are smart, articulate, sensitive, self-evaluating mad poets) all know they can’t. So we over-react. We tell them: The Lumineers are the most vile awful band in the world!!!!

      But come on. They are fine. They are certainly not a band to get upset about. Don’t confuse your condescension toward their meat headed fans with the band’s ability to write songs and play music. They do that just fine. And if you can’ find anything else on the radio, or you are in line at a coffee shop, just enjoy it. It could be worse. You could be stuck listening to CSNY’s “Our House.”

      1. Exactly man. As Jesus said, “Ye will always have your backlash against the overrated and mediocre.” But I was also trying to say, I think we are in a time of abundant musical quality, and that rising tide begets 2 opposing truths. On one hand, what’s mediocre now (Lumineers, say) would have been pretty damn refreshing in 1984 or 1996. On the other hand, it’s not 1984 or 1996, it’s 2014, and not only are there a trillion good bands to listen to that formed like last month, but I can now get Elmore James’ entire career output on my phone in the next 7 seconds. It makes it hard to settle for anything not-great.

  3. That makes sense. I certainly feel that way about average books. Fuck average books. Sam Lipsyte can take The Ask and shove it up his ass. There are too many good books and that one is wasting my time.

    For some reason though I never feel like music is occupying me the way a book or a film does. I never think, “I could be listening to Mogwai right now, but I am stuck listening to Smash Mouth.” But I do feel that way about films. I feel like Saw 4 is somehow keeping me from watching Upstream Color (which, by the way, I still have not seen for some reason. What am I waiting for?) I do feel like Jonathan Letham’s Dissident Gardens (which may be the worst book I’ve ever read) kept me from reading Thomas Pynchon’s new book. I wonder why that works that way.

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