Jan 4, 2012
The second half of our 20 to watch in 2012. Each of these artists have impressed me in 2011 and I think they are likely to attract significant attention in 2012. They certainly deserve it.
There have been somne lovely moonsets this week and, when it isn’t pouring with rain, and some great coloured skies.
They're Here - The Esoteric Gender (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Four members, four different countries: England, France, Denmark, Canada. This explains the vast scope of genres their music touches, from dance to triphop, from rock to electronica.
They have won the support of legendary producer/engineer Tony Platt (Bob Marley, AC/DC, Sparks) describing them as “a favorite of [his] for quite a long time now”, and adding “they deserve their music to be heard far and wide”, and of British magazine, who picked them as one of their favorite acts of the 2010 Iceland Airwaves music festival, as well as other newspapers and music industry figures from Iceland.
Last February, they released their first EP, “Prelude”, which remained among the top selling albums of fair-trade website gogoyoko.com for four weeks without any promotion.
Take a look a their videos on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/theesotericgender
Surrender - Ólöf Arnalds (Reykjavik, Iceland)
I had the great pleasure of catching Ólöf Arnalds on my first night of CMJ last year. After a pretty stressful journey from JFK into the city.
Music publicist Ariel Hyatt had called me to say get to the show because it was stunning. In that respect, as in so many others, she was dead right.
Ólöf was playing Googie’s Lounge (upstairs at The Living Room) on Ludlow Street in the heart of the LES and was the perfect antidote to a day of pressure and deadlines.
There is such a lot of remarkable, creative and, above all, beautifully crafted music coming out of Iceland these days. Perhaps it’s something to do with the long dark nights. I have a theory that music takes time to ferment and mature a rushed song is like home-brew beer, created and finished too fast, overheated and not at all palatable. Is it just me or can you feel the space and depth here in what is after all a fairly stright-forward song.
Southbound - Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers (Halifax, NS, Canada)
Rugged, raspy, and roaring with charisma, Halifax's Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers is to folklore what smoke is to bourbon. Perfectly coupled. Ben's songwriting is as bold in range as it is in ferocity. Fuelled by a quality of melodrama and powerful lyricism, it's the romance and the manhood crashing with his voice that gives Caplan a truly innovative and experimental artistry. A sound that bridges the gap between controlled composition and unruly passion.
Breaking between guitar, banjo, piano, and melodica, Caplan's stage show is almost reminiscent of a burly and bearded Freddy Mercury; a raging, strong, and exploratory songwriter, it's the blues in his soul, and the heart in your chest pounding as one that makes Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers an act not to be missed.
Lemon Tree - Pree (Washington D.C.)
After touring for two years with Le Loup, guitarist May Tabol returned home to launch a new project with a close group of friends converging in the DC arts scene. Now playing as a four-piece, Pree combines a wide variety of folk instrumentation with electric and digital elements to create a unique sound brimming with layered melodies and contagious energy.
Folly was written and recorded over the course of several heat waves and snow storms by May and her cohorts in a rotating cast of bedrooms, basements, and attics across the District, bearing witness to two foreclosures, a bit of squatting, a larger bit of eviction, and a subsequent life shuffle that would rival that of a wind-addled gypsy moth. This patchwork, guerilla style recording, which grew out of necessity, ultimately served to instil a sense of tension throughout the record leaving one hanging on despite the imminence of something so delicate falling apart.
Pree’s new album, Folly, via the wonderfully eccentric Paper Garden Records.
The Jazz Lawyer
Cog in the Machine - Will Knox (Brooklyn, New York)
One of my favourite songsmiths and a great performer. Will is an Englishman based in New York although he’s over here on this side of the Atlantic for a few dates:
Jan 4 - London, Noman Chef
Jan 5 - London, 12 Bar
Jan 12 - Nottingham, Guitar Bar
Jan 13 - Liverpool, Mello Mello
Jan 14 - Dublin, The Cobblestone
Do check out Will’s site for a great video of this song and a fabulous performance of The Ship & The Storm.
Rio - Hey Marseilles (Seattle, WA, USA)
“Built on the solid foundation of Matt Bishop’s songsmithery– [...] the band creates lush propulsion that is far less assuming and rowdy than the sheer mass of musicians on stage would have you believe.”
–Tyson Lynn, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Bulletproof - Franco and the Dreadnaught (Manchester, UK)
Although the name Franco & The Dreadnought suggests the project is a full band effort, Franco actually plays all of the instruments on his recordings; the Dreadnought being his Martin DXME Dreadnought acoustic guitar.
Since going solo, Franco has been creating a name for himself on the festival circuit resulting in a number of other opportunities coming his way which is enabling his music to be heard by more people. His biggest achievement to date though, has been being personally asked by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu to write a song celebrating the life of Nelson Mandella which was presented to him as a gift on his 90th birthday.
Further information on Franco & The Dreadnoughts including information on how you can download his new 6 track EP for free can be found on his Facebook site and executed at Soundcloud.
It seems only a few weeks since CMJ 2011 - oh, it is only a few weeks since CMJ2011. Already, preparations for CMJ 2012 are well underway. The music and film marathon runs from October 16-20 in New York City.
You can buy your badge to access all the showcase events and film screenings and if you’re an artist and would like to play CMJ, submissions process is already open.
Check it all out at www.cmj.com/marathon
That’s Right I’m Good - Gangstagrass featuring T.O.N.E-z (Brooklyn, NYC, USA)
I met Gangstagrass mastermind Rench in the exhibition lounge at CMJ’s main location in NYU.
Love what they’re doing or hate it, they don’t leave many listeners unaffected. Their highly accomplished rural bluegrass playing is combined with an urban sound to quite extraordinary effect.
Bear - Grace Woodroofe (Perth, Australia)
Grace Woodroffe made a big impression at CMJ in October. It was my first expereince of her amazing range of styles and expertise in each. Certainly an artist to watch this year.
This is an intriguing and enticing combination of almost introspective close up singing and out and out rock. From her current album Always Want.
Slight interruption to normal AMP service last week- the site is apparently getting too popular.
Dan has been ready and waiting to present 316, and he’s still there for you at
Ro Cutler at Dark Compass will be up with AMPed 217 from Monday.
Got 2 Me - Ten Year Vamp (Albany, New York, USA)
Ten Year Vamp’s latest release is called Lust, a 5 track, high energy pop/rock collection with a unique perspective on love and lust. “Every night we’re playing in some club or concert hall watching the audience. We’ve seen every possible permutation of love and lust… the stories unfold right in front of us every night.” says front-woman Debbie Gabrione.
They are one hard working band, playing multiple gigs every week.
Happy - Jimmie Bratcher (Missouri, USA)
Jimmy gave me permission to use his track as the sig tune for Suffolk’n’Cool around six years ago - I bet he didn’t expect it to still be going strong this far down the line!