If 2012 left consumers of local music a little hungry, these upstart acts suggest a more fulfilling 2013. From electronic to hardcore, punk-pop to prog instrumental, hip-hop to jazz, the following six bands point to an expanding diversity of sounds in the valley -- as well as the growing promise of a truly metropolitan soundscape. But most importantly: They're good, too.
Shame about what happened to Afghan Raiders. Luckily, vocalist Mikey Francis kept the creative ball rolling and aligned with Pedi Amiri, aka DJ Lightknife, forming a new electronic act. The duo already signed to electronic dance music titan Ultra Records (Tiesto, Deadmau5, Armin van Buuren), released a single ("Rebels in the Night") and, as of December, played two DJ sets that incorporated live performances. Last week's afterhours set at Body English included four original numbers that recall the melodic EDM sound promoted heavily by megaclubs XS, Surrender and Marquee. We foresee the two headlining one of those locations -- and elsewhere -- in the coming year. (www.blackbootsx.com)
We stumbled upon this Hendersonian trio while getting dinner at Yayo Taco. First impressions: loud and weird. Thrashy and experimental, no real lyrics, super proggy — like the sound of animals fighting (both the household occurrence and the band). It’s as much an art project as it is a working band, delving into dark, time-morphing tangents that often feel more for the benefit of the band than the audience. But that’s what made it so fun to watch: Marsana’s live show is like watching an artist working his way through a new painting — only showing the finished product in blips and teases. (www.marsana.us)
Bear With Me
We aren’t strangers to this underage quartet, but while our October coverage was the introduction, this is the endorsement. We already had a crush on the earnest, simple, sometimes-sticky pop of the Sand Dollar EP, BWM set apart from its peers by going light-hearted instead of, well, metal. With the new EP, Stratagem, recently out, we think they’ll have the momentum to break into the downtown music community. Check “I Am a Fiesta,” a passionate battering ram leading the charge, featuring a more serious, emotional set of lyrics by a maturing band. (www.facebook.com/bearwithmeband)
Play on Words
Local rap collective Flo Deep definitely has a type when it comes to its lineup of backpack raps. Oftentimes the jazzier, verbally verbose versions of the current rap climate (A$AP Rocky, Tinie Kendrick Lamar, et al). New signee Play On Words (Nick Crucial and Nate Quest) is no different, and we’re stoked on that. A little bit Lupe, a little Q-Tip and even a little Twista, backed by an arsenal of talented producers, all with epic-sounding, saturated beats, heavy on sequenced keys and jazz-sampled drum kits. Think Chicago’s Cool Kids, but hornier. (www.soundcloud.com/pow-dta)
Last summer, local talents Julian Tanaka (clarinet, tenor sax), Mike Gonzales (flugelhorn), Justin Peterson (bass) and Eric Schauer (drums) began a Monday night residency at the Bunkhouse called Jazz Workshop. A few months later, the venue ditched the night. The quartet, however, kept the name. It currently performs its originals and covers at Ferraro's (still on Monday nights). We're talking capital-J jazz, four hours of masterfully played and improvised music that compliments its late-night time slot. And the only thing more old school than the jazz is the host venue. "An Italian restaurant with a jazz concert -- that's tradition," KUNV and NPR producer/engineer Ginger Bruner told us at the first Ferraro's/Jazz Workshop gig. "That's why you hear clinking silverware on a thousand live jazz recordings." We'd vouch for a Jazz Workshop gig on disc if watching it play live wasn't so stimulating.
First thing we heard about Alaska: “Think Caravels’ little brothers.” And, well, yeah: dead on. It’s a little brighter, like you might not associate it with Curl Up and Die the way you would with Caravels. But it has the leave-it-all-out-there vocals, math-y rhythmic breaks and fistfuls of energy, emotional but not whiny, powerful but not overbearing. It doesn’t hurt that it's part of a hardcore community that networks closely on a national level, or that it's already releasing on Portland-based Never Lost Records (including a four-track split with fellow locals Oranges). Great for a playlist designed for thrashing around your apartment. (www.alaskanv.bandcamp.com)