Who doesn’t love a music festival, right? It’s all the best parts of a concert–music, friends, alcohol and drugs…just lots and lots more of them! Each year, more and more of them are popping up all over the place. No matter how bad the U.S. economy might be doing, there are always certain things you can depend on. We will always spend money on food, electronics, vacations, and music. And you can certainly count on the festival scene to not only continue, but to expand and grow.
One of the best reasons to go is to discover new music! Anyone who has ever been or considered going to experience a massive event like this knows what it feels like when looking towards the bottom of the schedule. It can almost feel like reading a foreign language, seeing bands listed that you have never heard of. That’s where we come in to help. This can be used as a planning guide for deciding who to catch for those of you lucky enough to be able to attend. For everyone else, this is intended to be used as a primer for armchair quarterback fans. In our best and on going effort to cover the best in indie music, we present our Top 20 Indie Picks of the 35 Denton Fest, in no specific order. We will post part 2 soon.
The Brooklyn trio is preparing to return for their 2nd appearance at SXSW. Lead vocalist Elizabeth Harper, a former drama major from Los Angeles, describes Class Actress as “dance pop for deep thought. Blunt, playful, lascivious…a bit denser and a bit weirder than the stuff you would hear on Top 40 radio… generally stuff that sounds interesting and a tad more adventurous.” Harper and her collaborators Mark Richardson and Scott Rosenthal released Rapprocher (French for “to come close to”) to positive reviews last fall on Carpark Records. Elizabeth had been writing delicate, wistful songs of longing and detachment for several years when she met musician & psychoanalyst-in-training Mark Richardson in 2009 and asked him to remix one of her tracks. Their creative chemistry was instantaneous and along with multi-instrumentalist/engineer Scott Rosenthal, the two formed Class Actress and recorded the debut EP Journal of Ardency, which was released to much acclaim by Chris Taylor’s (of Grizzly Bear) Terrible Records in 2010.
In the year since, Class Actress toured the US, Europe and South America, Mark worked towards attaining his PHD, and the band completed a new full-length record, entitled Rapprocher, which is French for “to come close to.” The pleasure and sorrow of romantic connection are inescapably entwined in Harper’s lyrics, while the smooth, cool surfaces of Richardson’s production conjure an eternal after-hours nightlife that Harper inhabits fearlessly, displaying a provocative, wounded raw sexuality that some reviewers have compared to early Madonna.
Class Actress is: Guilty Pleasure. NSA dance music. Casual Encounters. Stalker Pop. Depeche Mode meets early Madonna, ance floors, backseat makeouts, and drama queens. Class Actress is not: Acting Class.
For fans of: Beach Fossils, Twin Sister, Blouse
This young 20 something is an up and coming artist who moved from Tacoma to Brooklyn. 2012 is shaping up to be a big year for Oberhofer, who is hitting soon in support of the fantastic new LP Time Capsules II out on March 26th on Glassnote. What a record, what a performer, what a star in the making. The record was produced by Steve Lillywhite in Brooklyn and the quality and experience of such a producer shines through, that combined with Brad’s youthful energy and clever songwriting makes for a record which young and old, boys and girls, and everyone else in the middle will enjoy and relate to.
He has already received attention from Spin, Stereogum, and Pitchfork, and should be on your radar by now. Oberhofer will be playing at Bowery Ballroom, SXSW,and making an appearance at Coachella as well. He will also be performing on the David Letterman show.
For fans of: Baths, Craft Spells, Guards, Matt & Kim
6. Mikal Cronin
Playing garage-accented pop that reveals more than a passing influence of indie rock of the 1980s and ’90s, Mikal Cronin was raised in Laguna Beach, California, where as a teenager he developed a passion for both surfing and rock & roll. While attending Laguna Beach High School, he fell in with a handful of like-minded music fans, and formed a band that played local parties. Cronin left California for a few years to attend Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, but he returned to continue his education at the California Institute of the Arts. While attending CIA, Cronin joined the surf-influenced garage band Charlie & the Moonhearts as bassist; they became simply the Moonhearts after the departure of drummer Charlie Mootheart, and in 2010 the band released a self-titled album through Tic Tac Totally Records. Cronin also began collaborating regularly with Ty Segall, releasing a collaborative album, Reverse Shark Attack, in 2009 and playing in Segall’s road band. According to Cronin, his first solo album began as therapy after finally completing college and making his way into the real world; full of noisy pop and garage influences, the self-titled LP (featuring guest appearances by Segall, Mootheart, and John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees) was issued by Trouble in Mind Records in September 2011.
For fans of: Ty Segall, Kurt Vile, Jeff The Brotherhood
7. Gardens & Villa
We have been following the band since last summer when seeing them open for Foster The People. Gardens & Villa is the project of five college friends from Santa Barbara, formed following the collapse of a noisier post-punk band and a hitch-hiking journey up the west coast. Members Chris Lynch, Adam Rasmussen, Levi Hayden, Shane McKillop began playing in earnest as Gardens & Villa in 2008. The name is pulled from the location of their house on Villa Street, and the property’s lovely garden to which they tend. The music they make is very much connected to coastal city they call home — the stoney bike rides, dance parties, a scene free of judgment. The band refers to this Santa Barbara feeling as “coco vibes.” For two weeks in the summer of 2010, the band camped behind visionary and now-labelmate Richard Swift’s Oregon studio. No shower, no kitchen, but all the magic you could ask for. After taking a band oath to always play all parts live — a la Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense — the band added member Dusty Ineman to supremely execute the live incarnation of the band.
In a matter of days, Gardens & Villa will embark on a North American tour, sharing dates with both The Shins and Fanfarlo. Not only will be you be able to see the boys in various venues across the country, but also at some of the major festivals happening this year. After a stint at the Snowball Music Festival, the boys will head to perform at SXSW, Coachella, and finally end their tour with Sasquatch! Holed up in Portland, OR for the last month, Gardens & Villa just finished recording their new EP with label-mate, Richard Swift.
For fans of: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Geographer
8. Thee Oh Sees
That restlessness extends to everything from the towering, 13-minute title track of 2010’s Warm Smile LP to the mercurial moods of 2008’s The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In. And then there’s the Bay Area band’s recent track record, as Thee Oh Sees chased the home-brewed symphonies of Castlemania with the scrappy high wire hooks of Carrion Crawler/The Dream. Originally envisioned as two EPs, it was cut live to tape in less than a week at Chris Woodhouse’s Sacramento studio in June, reflecting the battering ram bent of the band’s live show better than any bootleg ever could.
“As I’m sure most would agree,” explains Dwyer, “Castlemania was more of a vocal tirade. This one’s meant to pummel and throb.”
That it does, whether you blast the slow, speaker-bruising build of “The Dream,” the sunburnt organs and dovetailing guitars of “Crack In Your Eye,” or the interstellar instrumental that is “Chem-Farmer,” a perfect example of what happens when you take a well-oiled machine—a gang of rabid road warriors, really—and add a second, groove-locked drum set to the mix. To listen is to realize that Dwyer’s music is as manic as the underground comic inclinations of his artwork; colorful and confusing in a way that’s more than welcome. It’s downright refreshing, like a slap in the face at 5 in the morning. Or as Dwyer puts it, “You have to leave a mark somehow.”
The band’s much-awaited debut album was recorded at Black Iris, a studio in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, by Lewis Pesacov of the bands Fool’s Gold and Foreign Born. The result is a collection of maudlin and magical songs that approach relationships with a pure heart, a cloudy mind and pair of gas station sunglasses.
For fans of: Wavves, Warpaint, The Drums, Sleigh Bells
10. Wet Hair
Wet Hair is Shawn Reed, Justin Thye, and Ryan Garbes, the two remaining members of Raccoo-oo-oon that stayed in Iowa City after the band’s end. Reed also runs Night-People Records, which Garbes often contributes to. Wet Hair began as a solo outing for Reed in late 2007 during the final months of Raccoo-oo-oon, and after the release of a 12” EP and the Irifi Cassette Garbes was added on organ and live drums. Wet Hair has evolved over time shifting the bands sound steadily towards a more refined pop sensibility. An experimental attitude and psychedelic atmosphere still prevails in Wet Hair’s music and the core instrumentation of the band has largey stayed consitent throughout with Reed on vocals, synth, drum machine, + tapes and Garbes on live drums, + synth/organ.
To date Wet Hair has released a 12” EP on Night-People, three cassettes on Night-People, the LP’s Dream and Glass Fountain on Not Not Fun, a split 7” with Peaking Lights on Not Not Fun, a split 7” with Rene Hell on Bathetic, and a split LP with Naked on the Vague on Night-People. In late 2010 Wet Hair added third member Matt Fenner to the group on bass and synth. Their third full length album, In Vogue Spirit, came out on De Stijl Records in May 2011.
For fans of: Psychedelic Horseshit, Purling Hiss, Black Moth Super Rainbow