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Top 20 Indie Picks of 35 Denton 2012 Part 1

posted March 6, 2012, 6:20 pm by Ben Oliver | Filed Under Editorial, Festivals, General Interest | comment Leave a Comment

Tags: Best Coast, Wet Hair, Class Actress, Gardens & Villa, 35 denton, 35 Denton Fest, 35 Denton 2012

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.

1. Bleached 

Back to basics. Take your time. Guitars and golden noise. Meet Bleached, two sisters from LA creating rough-hewed, high-collared, melodic Rock & Roll. Formerly part of Mika Miko, Jessica and Jennifer Clavin were best known for their freewheeling ’77 punk and riot girl lawlessness. In Bleached, they share the same slant towards the hard-edged, but instead veer towards a more vintage ensemble of Ramones bubble-gum, Merle Haggard country, and 60’s psychedelic rock.  We first discovered the band last October, when researching CMJ. They have already received attention from Spin, Rolling Stone, and Brooklyn Vegan.
Raised up deep in the San Fernando Valley, their suburban isolation nurtured the girls’ creativity, as they started making their own music at a young age. Sneaking into punk shows over the hill in Hollywood, they grew up to become teenaged underground staples at the all-ages Downtown DIY venue, The Smell. Signed to Kill Rock Stars and Post Present Medium, their all-girl punk band Mika Miko drew international acclaim and won them slots on tours with No Age, Black Lips, and The Gossip. They have since gone on and toured with with Smith Westerns, Porcelain Raft, Black Belles, Veronica Falls, and with San Diego surf rockers, Heavy Hawaii.
For fans of: Big Troubles, Blouse,  Hunx & His Punx
2. Danny Brown
In an era of industry-obsessed MCs, interchangeable hashtag raps, and “viral” everything, it has become increasingly difficult to find a true original in the rap game. Yet ask anyone who’s been paying attention and they’ll tell you: Danny Brown is that dude. In 2011 the Motor City MC teamed up with Fool’s Gold Records and released XXX, a tour-de-force concept record about hedonism, growing up, and Detroit, which took listeners on a profane and psychedelic journey through his own uncensored id. After a year of universal critical acclaim – from Spin naming XXX Rap Album Of The Year to Danny covering the Metro Times and Real Detroit in the same week as their Artist Of The Year – Danny continues to spread his irreverent gospel worldwide with extensive touring and even more unrestrained, unstoppable rhymes.  Having already been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, for 2012, he was at the Cyprus Hill Smoke Out Fest, and will be at Bonnaroo and SXSW, in addition to touring as opening support for Childish Gambino. He was also just name to the XXL Freshman list 2012, as well as landing a cover for The Fader.
For fans of: Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, Bun B, Kendrick Lamar
3. Zorch
Zorch is an experimental/noise rock duo from Austin, TX. Composed of Zac Traeger (keyboards, omnichord, vocals) and Shmu (drums, omnichord, vocals), the two hail from Wisconsin and Canada respectively. The duo met in Boston and began recording dozens of improvisational mixtapes, which, after moving to Austin in 2009, would help lay the foundation for Zorch. Since that pivotal move, they’ve quickly made a home for themselves in the city’s illustrious avant-garde DIY scene, building a reputation on their deafening live shows and fan interaction. Rumor is they have handed out tambourines to entire audiences before.
For fans of: Born Gold, Neon Indian, Starfucker, Wet Hair
4. Class Actress

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

5. Oberhofer

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

One of the bands that I am most excited about seeing are Thee Oh Sees from San Francisco.  They play brand new, psychedelic throwback music. They have a reputation for putting out a ton of material, and for staging incredible, lively performances.
What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Thee Oh Sees? Probably their riot-sparking live show, right? Visions of a guitar-chewing, melody-maiming John Dwyer careening across your cranium, rounded out by a wild-eyed wrecking crew that drives every last hook home like it’s a nail in the coffin of what you thought it meant to make 21st century rock ’n’ roll? Yeah, that sounds about right. But it misses a more important point—how impossible Thee Oh Sees have been been to pin down since Dwyer launched it in the late ‘90s as a solo break from such sorely missed underground bands as Pink and Brown and Coachwhips. (While Dwyer still records songs on his own, Thee Oh Sees is now a five-piece featuring keyboardist/singer Brigid Dawson, guitarist Petey Dammit, drummer Mike Shoun, and multi-instrumentalist/singer Lars Finberg.)

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.”

For fans of: Ty Segall, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vivian Girls
9. Best Coast
New details are emerging about the upcoming record release of indie music favorites Best CoastThe Only Place, their sophomore release,  is due to be released May 15th by Mexican Summer. They will be touring with another drummer.  Bethany was in the news last week for announcing a new fashion line she helped design with Urban Outfitters.
California’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, aka Best Coast share their debut album–a 12-track, twenty-nine minute collection of genuinely romantic sandy jams. Hazy, dreamy and genre-defining, Crazy For You proves that the impressive amount of press hype for Best Coast is more than warranted, especially coming off of her previous sold out singles on Group Tightener, Atelier Cuseaux, Art Fag, Black Iris, PPM and Eskuche.

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



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