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MusicUnderFire | February 13, 2016

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Spotlight: This Week’s 10 Most Notable Artists – 10/26/12

Spotlight: This Week’s 10 Most Notable Artists – 10/26/12

Hey y’all (I swear, I’m a city girl)! It’s that time again when I blow your minds with oodles of goodies from the music realm. I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic this week and have managed to find ten artists who take me back to the good times and great sounds of every era. Some shock, some simply please, but in the end, you’ll be glad to have met them.

So if this doesn’t make your weekend awesome, you have no soul.

Or you’re just mean, or whatever…

Anyhoot, onward, my little love doves!

1. Allen Stone  – “Unaware”/Allen Stone

Ladies, let me start by saying that the velvet vocals on this man are lethal. He should come with some warning label. Surgeon General concludes that indulging yourself in Allen Stone may cause blood clots, stroke, and heart attack, especially in women who are not tone deaf. Besides the fact that he has talent, his adorable hippie-church-raised-thick-framed-glasses-wearing-beachy-blonde-locked self makes the package that much more appealing. Allen is modest, but shamelessly soulful as he belts out his heart wrenching frustration: all you do is push/pull/tear/we can’t stretch it any further…mmm, mmm, mmm… Lawd! Stone is on tour now, and although he has already graced Philly with his presence *insert frazzled scream of agony for having missed it* he is still in the US, so make a trip and support (or just turn into putty over) this young, Washington state native.


2. Alabama Shakes – “I Found You”/Boys and Girls

Alabama Shakes are from Athens, Alabama. This band had humble beginnings. A simple request of making music from lead vocalist Brittany Howard to Zac Cockrell is what shot off this indescribably extraordinary group. Howard, though only 22, sings beyond her years. It’s a cross between Etta James, Stevie Nicks, and a sprinkle of Amy Winehouse. The rasp, the strength, the passion, and the tearing of guitars speak for themselves, but their incredible lyricism doesn’t hurt either. Their Boys and Girls album was released back in April, and every track, and you can quote me on this, is sure to impress. Put on your time travel suits; this’ll take you back to the James Brown-sweatin-before-I-put-the-mike-to-my-lips days! Stream/buy on bandcamp.


3. The Stepkids – “Sweet Salvation”/Sweet Salvation

You’d never gets these masters of psychedelic funk were from Connecticut. No disrespect, but a whole lot of surprise. I guess the Brooklyn influence has something to do with the pure cosmic genius of the Stepkids’ sound. I had the esteemed pleasure of watching these guys perform via Kimbra’s concert at the TLA, and I was delighted, to say the least. You know you’re good when the audience has no idea who you are and they end up cheering for an encore. If you don’t start moving to these fellas, you’re dead. Or worst, you have terrible taste in music. Nevertheless, your life sucks. You know what doesn’t suck: the Stepkids and their ability to make you move your hips, whether you have ‘em or not. Shakira was right all along, your hips don’t lie and neither do I. Stream and download via Stones Throw Records.


4. Shovels and Rope– “Birmingham”/O’ Be Joyful

Charleston, South Carolina has graced us with the trash-drum-using-guitar-strumming-folk-rock-harmonica-gripping duo that is Shovels and Rope. Don’t let them fool you with their meek appearance; these two possess a dynamo sound of old southern heartache and joy. It’s a burning shame these two have yet to obtain their well-deserved-full out recognition. Authenticity, as always, is key to grabbing the ear of yours truly, so you can only imagine what happens when Shovels & Rope take a look at one another and start to hammer out on their rag-lined percussion, a salvaged piece of rhythmic metal, who, by the grace of some musical god, fell into the lap of this overly talented pair. “Birmingham” is a unique blend of sound, holding onto its southern, roughed up grace, while taking an urban drum break down that makes the shoulders bop as fast as the knee can hop. O’ Be Joyful is available on iTunes now.


5. Just Off Turner – “Bad Year”/Bad Year

Just Off Turner is a Los Angeles based band that has always been a favorite. Their tracks “How Much It Hurts” and “Sister” have always been charming pieces that demonstrate the strength of lead vocalist Bryan Mounce sound. He has the looks of Bruce Willis and the vocal mash-up of John Mayer and Bono, if I do say so myself. Their rock roots are clear, but there’s a touch of country and R&B as well, which makes Just Off Turner an easy choice. Their new release “Bad Year” keeps the ornate vocals with a tongue-in-cheek melody. It’s the story of a cesspool of emotional distress and self-destruction… Hey, I never said it was a happy song. But the good news? Free download via their main site! I know; I love me too.


6. Wonky Doll and the Echo – “The Cut”/Pleasant Thoughts

Wonky Doll and the Echo are more like Echo and the Bunnymen. It’s like they were literally ripped from the 80’s and synthesized to perfection. These Athens, Greece natives are a quartet led by vocalist George Lemons, who has astonishing control over his vocals as he meshes with the aural spectral sounds provided by bandmate Konstantinos Antonakoglou. “The Cut” is the perfect demonstration of their skill and ability to move a crowd. It’s always nice to find a track worth jamming or chilling to, all at the same time. Their Pleasant Thoughts LP is available on bandcamp.


7. Patrick Merrill – “Satellites”/Satellites

Patrick Merrill is a Los Angeles singer-songwriter with an acoustic edge that lies somewhere between Billie Joe Armstrong and Howie Day (with a sprinkle of Ryan Cabrera). Call me a girl, but I’m a sucker for a man with no qualms when it comes to singing with just a guitar by his side (or rather, at his fingertips). In a world of autotune, it’s refreshing to find a young voice that can hold its own with a spoken conviction that’s reminiscent of the 90’s acoustic sound. Merrill does just that, and although he is just finding his way onto the public music scene, he holds his place and is mucho swoon-worthy.


8. Brandi Carlile – “That Wasn’t Me”/Bear Creek

Let’s take a moment to sway to a choir induced spiritual haze. To those of you who aren’t particularly religious, this sound still reminds you of the (good things) about the church; the strength of a choir, the power chords of a striking piano, and that smooth harmonization of voices. Brandi Carlile is another Washington state native (maybe her and Allen were in the same Sunday school growing up). Who knew that trees and rain could grow such talent? Nevertheless, this young twenty-something leaves listeners a wee bit breathless when her voice tremors and attacks this record like the livewire she is. “That Wasn’t Me” is mix of denial, forgiveness, and mixed perceptions. I love the way she strains as if she’s pleading on her knees the entire track. Bear Creek, released back in June of this year, has earned her a great deal of praise and a heavy amount of envy (more specifically from me).


9. Flashlights – “Scarves”/Scarves

All righty, kiddies; it’s grown up time. Let’s do a little two step to this sexy mix of up-tempo-retro-synth sound. Flashlights, set to release their “Scarves” single and video on October 31st, have given listeners a stream of their new song. It’s a softer rhythm that sets a simple dance atmosphere. “Scarves” also takes you back to the good ol’ days while sustaining a prominent presence in the now. It’s seductive and slightly callous, lyrically, but it still does the trick! Founder Ethan Converse and recently acquired co-producer Alex Anderson are the masterminds behind this piece and we are eager to see what else these bad boys can craft.


10. Zak Smith – “Crawling”/Zak Smith

Zak Smith is a New Jersey native (not Philly, but close enough; WOO)! His sound is definitely a mix. An Americana sound blended with his grungy rock voice, a spicy touch of Kid Rock and a soulfulness you can’t quite put your finger on. “Crawling” is a percussion laden, guitar ripping, rock track that sympathizes and loves too much, but not quite enough all at the same time. Smith takes on the vocals with passion, but ease, and manages to hold onto the girth of his raspy manly vocals without sacrificing the strength of his background instrumentals. Lucky for you ladies and gents, Zak is streaming his self-titled album via soundcloud, but I’m streaming “Crawling” just for you. You’re welcome, times ten.