During the first day of the College Music Journalism Marathon in New York City, Music Times is camping out at Piano's for the What Blog? showcase. Stay tuned to hear about every band that takes the stage.
New Jersey/New York City's Owel (pronounced more like "oh well" than "owl") has been labelled part of the "emo revival" movement, for better or for worse. The good news is that the five-piece band's vibe is far more Tim Burton-emo than Hawthorne Heights-emo. Arpeggiated riffs and ambient chords have gathered the group comparisons to Sigur Rós, and frontman Jay Sakang keeps his voice between a falsetto and a whisper. Lyrics such as "please pull me under" during "Float," the set's highlight, don't hide the dark nature of Owel's message, but you won't leave crying. The song's creepy-circus opening theme allows an opportunity for violinist/pianist Jane Park to make a distinctive contribution.
Many bands during CMJ will play venues much smaller than what they're used to. Traumahelikopter, out of the Netherlands, seemed to have too much space during its set at Piano's. The three-piece, two guitars and a drum "set," fit into the loosely defined "punk blues" genre, emphasizing the punk more so than the blues. Mark Lada shouted vocals dedicated (sarcastically, we presume) to the music industry and the band's "favorite thing to do," working. Daan van Dalen might not be the guitarist he sounds like, but he drilled through the raucous rock with tremo-loaded solos as drummer Roel van Merlot stood at his set (one snare, one tom, one high-hat), legs spread as if he were the third guitarist, making the most of his minimal setup. Too wild for 2 p.m…in a good way.
Conjjjecture, an alternative band from Portland (Maine), advertised itself as experimental, but we somewhat doubt that they meant it in the sense like an Einstürzende-Neubauten-solo experimental. A fan modestly suggested to guitarist Jacob Lowry that he turn his guitar down. "We're not professionals in Maine he said," keeping his head up. It might've helped; between his guitar and Stefan Hanson's bass, the viewers could hardly pick up the vocals of James Paul Cooper, the trumpet of Justin Klajbor, nor the MPC500 producing beats, all elements that could have redeemed the cacophony that was this set. Music Times will check out the band's Bandcamp later, but no luck here.
3:40 The Box Tiger
The Box Tiger is indie in terms of its label-label only. For all of the indie persona the Toronto group displayed on stage, there's a healthy dose of heavy lurking in this tiger's box. Vocalist/guitarist Sonia Sturino and guitarist/vocalist Jordan Stowell trade melodic lines on their instruments and the latter's harmonies add a layer to Sturino's already worthwhile voice. The band isn't afraid of dropping into breakdowns as heavy as most hard-rock radio however. The Sturino/Stowell combo hits its high during "Hospital Choir," the highlight of the band's set. Bassist Ben Tran shouldn't be slept on either.
4:20 Beach Day
It shouldn't be any surprise that a band titled Beach Day would play beach rock. Of course, the group also lists itself as being from "Hollyweird, FL," so it also shouldn't be surprising if they're a little off-kilter. Indeed, Beach Day gathers most of its influence from '60s surf rock and girl groups. Vocalist and guitarist Kimmy's approach to vocals is dead-on the nasally, big-room approach favored by producers for the female vocalists of the era, although the lyrics bounce between traditional surf-rock fare (although none is actually about the beach) and the "weird" referenced in their own bio. Drummer Skyler may not have the most complicated role, but lengthy hair and constant head-banging make for an entertaining live act.
5:05 Ghost Wave
There's nothing particularly eccentric about Ghost Wave (from Auckland, New Zealand), and the band takes advantage of its uniformity to establish the tightest performance Music Times has seen yet today. Bassist Mike Paul and maraca/tambourine player (don't laugh…it goes a long way) Andy Frost generate an indefatigable groove, and the same retro vibe practiced by the Allah-Las. Guitarist/primary vocalist Matthew Paul adds the flair when the mood calls for it, playing strictly a 12-string guitar, adding jangle to an average riff and making his solos sound like an electric mandolin. This band's developing a reputation in the States and rightly so.
"I wanna know what you see in me," sang Kyle Wilson, guitarist and vocalist for Brooklyn-based Milagres during its unscheduled encore. As it would happen, there's plenty to see in the band. Start with Wilson's lullaby of a voice, and add that to whatever layers keyboardist Chris Brazee is playing at the moment. During Milagres' five-song set, the group seemed to wander through the fields of fairytales to an '80s synth anthem. Drummer Paul Payabyab isn't content unless he's hammering home on the skins, but it never breaks the band's ethereal pull. All of the tracks performed were new, and will be featured on Milagres's new February LP, according to the band.