A Boston indie-rock watch list
Considering what a stellar year 2012 was in local music, it feels almost
unfaithful to be scanning the horizon for new musical fortunes so soon. But the new year upon us is already shaping up to be a rich one. For starters, here are few local noisemakers to keep an eye on.
Pop songsmith Brian E. King (of Oranjuly) has been cultivating a secret arsenal of thorny tunes over the last two years. King has always had an uncanny knack for Beach Boys harmonies and layered chord progressions, and Parks brings the added promise of a full-time band at his back. The five-piece includes members of some of this town’s more dependable groups (Spirit Kid, the Motion Sick, and This Blue Heaven), so that interaction will be a welcome new experiment. Parks dropped its first single, “Sweater Weather,” in November as a teaser for the full-length that’s on its way later this year. It’s a crisp, precise take on garage pop, eschewing production red herrings like muddy reverbs and digital echoes, and shaping thoughtful, retro songcraft into a sleek, modern delivery. King’s icy vocals glide over the top like a breeze. Parks open for Hospitality at Great Scott on Tuesday.
Potty Mouth was one of a few great Western Mass. punk/indie bands that made 2012 seem amazing and makes 2013 seem full of promise (see also: the raucous Bunny’s a Swine and the perfectly dissonant ’90s throwbacks of Speedy Ortiz). The all-girl four-piece combines a bouncing-off-the-walls energy with a creeping, over-it energy that seeps in through the sighing guitar leads and the shrugging, cynical vocals. Potty Mouth sounds like Kim Gordon fronting Bratmobile — it’s the kind of band that doesn’t mind injecting one of the catchier parts of last year’s EP with a bummer refrain like “This is my town . . . it’s one big sleeping pill.” And maybe the group likes it that way. Look out for a proper full-length on the way this year.
Lexington-born duo You Won’t made waves last year with a pristine debut full-length on Old Flame records and a series of inventive shows throughout the year that put the spotlight on their restless creativity. The pair pulled out accordions and waltzed through the audience, standing on stools like Vampire Weekend gone busker. Its brand of acoustic pop is equal parts Violent Femmes, Paul Simon, and the busted old home recordings Beck used to peddle in his street rat days. Josh Arnoudse spins class-conscious threads about growing up in the glow of giant televisions and looking ahead to middle age and buying a minivan or two. The group killed it at CMJ last fall and has built on waves of support after a big tour and write-ups in everything from Paste to The New Yorker. Big year ahead? No doubt. Escape this band? You won’t.
The city has also seen a renaissance of out-and-out weirdo noise-rock from the darkest corners of Jamaica Plain and Allston. Guerilla Toss fuses extremes of several different oddball elements at once — ugly skronk, unhinged vocals, and hypnotic drum grooves that tumble like shoes in a dryer. It’s not for the faint of heart, but even uptight fans should appreciate the sneakily lock-step guitar and synths that fly through jigsaw puzzle melodic lines. Check the 2012 LP “Jeffery Johnson” for a taste of the madness, but this spring promises the band’s first full-length release on John Zorn’s way-out vanguard label, Tzadik Records (home to everyone from downtown New York stalwarts Anthony Coleman and Marc Ribot to Japanese noise legend Merzbow).
Boston indie linchpin Hilken Mancini’s garage crew gets a reboot with a brand-new release in February. “I’m Saving Myself for Shepherdess” drops courtesy of Western Mass.-based label TinyRadars (home of Home Body, Mail the Horse, and the aforementioned Bunny’s a Swine) and gives us the first recorded glimpse of the trio lineup. Mancini’s contributions to local music are mighty, but the rest of the band (Emily Arkin and Alison Murray) is responsible for a lot of the year-round organizing that goes into Boston’s chapter of Girls Rock Camp, which Mancini happens to have founded. None of that should overshadow the music here, though — Shepherdess blasts out a speaker-melting mix of stoner-pop and slacker-psych that shifts gears at the drop of the hat. On top of all that, the new disc boasts guest spots from the always beloved Mary Lou Lord and Tunnel of Love’s Andy McBain.
The Primordial Sounds promotions gang gets 2013 started off weird on Friday night at the Middle East Upstairs, with a kitchen sink show that includes some sharp punk rock (the essential trio White Pages), some slick hip-hop (the long-unstoppable Cathy Cathodic), some dizzying old-school hardcore (St. Ripper), and a basket of moldy swamp rock in the form of Rotten Apples. More topsy-turvy bills like this from now on, please. . . . A whole crew of Allston Rock City compatriots gathers at the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday night in a benefit for Stingray Body Art’s Brenda Wynne, a victim of a hit-and-run last Halloween night on Commonwealth Avenue and who’s been healing a whole bunch of broken bones since. The list of bands showing up in support includes Matalon, Raging Teens, Razors in the Night, Cradle to the Grave, and many more. . . . Somervillian noise-mongers Gondoliers have gradually amassed a harrowing record of rowdy basement shows and demented performances over the last year, pummeling audiences with powerhouse drums and unearthly guitar and keyboard squalls. They’re on at PA’s Lounge on Jan. 19 with the ’90s-Jesus Lizard sounds of Leagues, a new project from the guys in Skimask called True Cross, and Detroit’s princes of spazz-punk, Child Bite.