Chris Collier (Newport, Ky.)
For the past decade and a half, Chris Collier has been one of the area's premiere Folk artists, putting out four acclaimed releases (particularly 2006's double disc, Over Twenty) and earning her numerous Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and CAMMY nominations and awards, including last year's CEA win for best Singer/Songwriter. Since her 1992 debut, Collier has been a welcomed fixture on local stages and a consistent fan favorite.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Introspection and beauty in words and music. (Brian Baker)
Dave Hawkins (Cincinnati)
Nathan Holscher (Cincinnati)
Utilizing Country, Folk and Rock influences in sparse and expansive ways, Nathan Holscher has become a bigger sensation in parts of Europe as he's been here at home. His 2004 debut, Pray for Rain, found receptive radio audiences in England, Belgium and the Netherlands and earned him "Best of '04" picks there in the bargain. Holscher's just-released sophomore album, Even the Hills, promises to raise his profile even farther.
Dig It: Lyle Lovett and Mark Knofler at a Greenpeace benefit. (BB)
Laura McGhee (Glasgow, Scotland)
"Crossover Celtic Folk Rock -- with a hook" is how singer/songwriter Laura McGhee describes her own music, and who are we to argue? McGhee weaves traditional Irish flourishes into her solid Folk Rock foundation. She's collaborated with Echo and the Bunnymen and The Pogues' Shane MacGowan, who described McGhee as "Loretta Lynn's Celtic Soul sister." Again, how can we argue with that?
Dig It: Dolly Parton backed by Black 47. (Mike Breen)
Tula (Lexington, Ky.)
Tula is a solid Americana Pop six-piece that has been involved in some very cool musical adventures in their Kentucky hometown. They were pivotal in a live event featuring a song-by-song re-creation of The Band's Last Waltz (with Tula playing the role of The Band) and they also organized a tribute to Gram Parsons, where they faithfully re-created the Country Rock legend's early '70s albums, GP and Grievous Angel. The group's own music show those influences prominently, but Tula lands on a sound all their own, spinning the Roots sound with a slightly more modern vibe and a Pop kick.
Dig It: The Band, Gram Parsons. (MB)
Leerone (Los Angeles)
In the space of three albums, Leerone has shown not just stylistic diversity, but also that she can create cohesive works that evoke specific emotions. Her debut had sort of a grown-up Fiona Apple-meets-Karen Carpenter feel with soft vibrato and lilting melodies. The following EP was stripped to the essence, just a girl and her piano, yet the songwriting became more profound, culminating in "Mutha Land," a pensive ode to her place of birth. On this year's Imaginary Biographies, she experiments with instrumentation and song structure and the results are truly magnificent. The lyrics are personal, topical and always poetic. The music is increasingly non-linear, but still accessible even at its darkest moments. Taken as a whole, her catalog paints a picture of a natural talent who is more interested in creating and sharing her art than trend-chasing or niche-carving. Her last few visits to Cincy have been solo outings, which are always moving.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kate Bush, Rasputina, Beth Orton. (Ezra Waller)
Noush Skaugen (Los Angeles)
Born in the UK and having lived in France, New York and Los Angeles, singer/songwriter/guitarist Noush Skaugen brings an international flair to her acoustic/electric Pop Rock tunes. A sensation in the podcasting/satellite radio/Internet realm, Skaugen made a big impression at this year's South By Southwest festival and the subsequent Austin Women's Music Festival, and has earned beaucoup accolades for her debut solo CD, Palomino.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Joni Mitchell's cool, Stevie Nicks' passion, Mick Jagger's kineticism. (BB)
The Beau Alquizola Band (Cincinnati)
Alquizola moved to Cincinnati in the early '00s from Florida and quickly ingratiated himself into the local music scene, collaborating with numerous fellow artists. His newfound friends helped on his solo album, Please Keep the Door Closed, which came out last year, right around the time Alquizola began assembling a band. Unbalanced, his most recent release, finds that talented band firmly in place and they prove to be a perfect, tasteful complement for the singer/songwriter's acoustic-based Pop Rock. The focal point remains Alquizola's magnetic voice, a versatile, rhythmic and distinct instrument that resonates like a distant cousin of Cat Stevens.
Dig It: Sam Cooke, Cat Stevens and Seal at a summertime backyard BBQ party. (MB)
Kaitee Page (United Kingdon)
Listen to Kaitee Page's dense, classical arrangements and her angelic yet dynamic voice and it's hard to believe it's only been three years since she launched her all-out assault on pedestrian Pop Rock armed with her piano, violin and hitherto unknown songwriting chops. What's not hard to believe is that she has been classically trained since the age of 7 and she's quite the globetrotter, originally from New York and currently residing in London (via LA, Nashville, etc.). She must have sucked the musical soul from these locales via osmosis, and now she channels them through her incisive and gorgeously arranged songs. Page wowed a local crowd at the Chicks Rock Fest earlier this year and this MPMF performance will mark the climax of her "Midpoint Mini-Tour," backed by an A-list group of Cincy Rock vets.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Tori Amos, Dresden Dolls, Amy Winehouse's "good" sister. (EW)
This Dallas-based fivesome got their first big break when a video production company heard one of their songs and created an award-winning high-definition video for it. The exposure must have been good -- after that the band performed at a gaming competition and took an offer to write a theme song for an upcoming video game. The band released its debut, By All Means, in 2005 and are currently working on a new album, having just completed a bout of summer touring.
Dig It: Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson, Gwen Stefani goes the Evanescence route. (MB)
Fickle (Covington, Ky.)
Fickle has made the most of their three-year history, attracting a loyal local audience while expanding their base throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast. Opening gigs for Lovedrug, Porcupine Tree, Seether and Ra have both cemented their reputation and proven their versatility, and their recent debut, The Natural Order of Things, is the hint of excellence to come.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The passion, the majesty, the expanse and the glory of The Rock (not the wrestler, the genre). (BB)
Zenyth (Cardiff, Wales)
Alternative Classic Rock
So far, Welsh quintet Zenyth has released only a pair of EPs since forming in 2004, but the band has notched plenty of accomplishments since then, including final four of the Vodafone Live Music Awards as "Best Unsigned Act" last year and selection as one of the top four University bands in the UK by XFM. Hailed around Cardiff and throughout England as a live band not to be missed, Zenyth seems poised to live up to their name.
Dig It: Oasis as steered by Led Zeppelin or maybe the other way around. (BB)
Backseat Virtue (Cincinnati)
Sharp riffs, rumbling rhythms and feisty ingenue vocals are found in abundance on BV's self-titled debut. While their sound is rooted in the '80s New Wave explosion in a holistic sense, '90s guitar Rock literacy is not lost on them. Nor is the bliss of a perfectly crafted Pop Song.
Dig It: Sleeper, The Go-Gos produced by Britt Daniel, Sunny Day Real Estate. (EW)
Oxygen (Omaha, Neb.)
While one could be excused for thinking a band named Oxygen might be more in line with the New Age musings of Jean Michel Jarre, this Omaha-based quartet actually makes Pop music with a smooth, Adult Contemporary glide. The band put sales of their debut CD at around 90,000 and they're currently working on a new album, due late this year.
Dig It: Jack Johnson doing Beach Boys covers, chillin', multi-part harmonies. (MB)
Krescent 4 (Detroit)
These Motown metallers have almost put out a CD a year (save 2006) since 2001, having worked with producers who have manned the boards for Kid Rock and The Detroit Cobras. The group strives to meld AltRock with progressive Metal, resulting in a heavy mix full of gnarls and sparks-inducing guitar riffage.
Dig It: 3 Doors Down, '90s radio-friendly Metal. (MB)
The Underhills (Philadelphia)
Making jaunty, jangly Pop Rock laced with tranquil melodies and precise harmonies, Philly's The Underhills are a brotherly act, featuring a pair of twins on vocals and guitars. Born on a diary farm, the two moved around the country looking for their niche in the music biz. They both ended up going on spiritual quests, dabbling in freedom fighting and NRA spokesperson-ing. OK, so all that's a lie, but that's what it says on their MySpace bio. Very funny, guys. And I guess you'll tell me now that you are not really 101 years old?
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The Everly Brothers raised on Toad the Wet Sprocket. (MB)
Buzz Meade (Madison, Wisc.)
Texas native Buzz Meade began playing music in a Rock band when he was 16. In 2001, he relocated to Hollywood and played with a variety of L.A.-area acts. Landing in Wisconsin, Meade recorded his solo CD, Reflect the Light, in 2005. Meade's straightforward Pop/Rock style occasionally touches on Jazz, Country and Blues influences.
Dig It: Dudes named "Buzz," The Calling. (MB)
The Libertines US (Cincinnati)
The Libertines (not those Brit guys, thus the "US") were one of the leading bands to come out of Cincinnati in the '80s, scoring a local radio hit with their proto-R.E.M. anthem, "Everybody Wants to Be My Sister." As most bands do, the group decided to call it quits after a lengthy tour of duty. But many years after their dissolution, the group decided to give it another go and drew much attention with their return (most notably from rabid underground music journalist, Jack Rabid). The group has been doing regional shows and they recently released a "best of" package, Greatest Hits.
Dig It: Early Violent Femmes, early R.E.M., Let's Active (but 10 shades darker). (MB)
The Hotwalls (Detroit)
There's a lot of "Pop" in this year's MidPoint, but this Detroit quartet might just be the poppermost of the toppermost. Drawing on a wellspring of classic '60s Pop, The Hotwalls' music is loaded with harmonies, "ba ba ba's," handclaps and tambourines. It's enough to make Phil Spector kill someone (ooops, sorry, bad choice of words). The band's eponymous debut came out early this year.
Dig It: The Posies, The Raspberries, Jellyfish. (MB)
Gold Streets (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
With chugging guitars and dreamy harmonies, this Brooklyn trio makes silk-sweet, atmospheric Indie Pop that occasionally shows its teeth. Cute but hardly vapid, the group's label debut for 8x8 Recordings, Looks Like Fireflies, was released early this year.
Dig It: Mates of State with less keys, more guitars. (MB)
Stereophile (Los Angeles)
This (originally) Aussie trio hits with the Funk fists of the Chilli Peppers at their early-'90s peak, but instead of Keidis' signature gnarl, substitute a more polished Rock croon. The band played with a bunch of major touring acts while they were still Down Under and are currently working on an album with acclaimed engineer Andrew Scheps.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Army of Anyone, Incubus minus the turntable. (EW)
Ferdinand Fox (Chicago)
A quintet from Chicago made up of two sets of brothers (we'll give you one guess at their surnames), ferdinand fox draw on influences both experimental and foundational, from The Beatles and Radiohead to the Beastie Boys and Shins. Utilizing three-part harmonies and razor-sharp showmanship, ferdinand fox are out to rock the dance floor.
Dig It: Indie Rock with harmonies, Hip Hop groove and perhaps choreography. (BB)
The Turnbull AC's (Cincinnati)
Fantastic singer/songwriter Dan Mecher first established The Turnbull AC's as a solo acoustic act, perhaps a clever way of getting club patrons familiar with the songs before unleashing the full band on everyone. Indeed, when Mecher added guitar, bass, drums and keys, the group's sound took on a whole new, wonderful dimension. Last year, the band released a great self-titled album as its debut.
Dig It: Dirty Pretty Things, Costello, Phantom Planet. (MB)
Hotpipes (Nashville, Tenn.)
Jangly guitars, rollicking organ and acerbic wit invite comparisons to a number of great Alt Rock and Folk/Americana-leaning bands, but what Hotpipes have over all of these musical peers is their unbridled energy. So much so that sometimes you'd think even the band themselves can't restrict it. There are songs on this year's eponymous LP and 2005's The Deadly Poison that really sounded like they wanted to be ballads, but the 'Pipes invisible and unstoppable flywheel wouldn't let it happen. Boasting two members from Dayton and a pair from Alexandria, Ky., Hotpipes almost could have been a local Greater Cincinnati band. But for some reason, the flavor of the thrill ride they construct only happens south of the Blue Grass Parkway. Selling nothing less than front row seats to a musical meltdown, Hotpipes might become one of the most important, cherished and inspirational outfits of this decade. That is if they can survive their own cacophony.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Red Red Meat, Rogue Wave, Grandaddy, all set on "high." (EW)
One of Cincinnati's longest-running, most decorated and unique acts, Buckra gleefully evades classification
Dig It: Bands whose albums sound like compilations ... really, really good ones. (EW)
The Wannabee Hasbeens (Minneapolis)
From the scene that produced the triangulated range of Prince, Husker Du and The Replacements comes the whip-smart Rock of the Wannabee Hasbeens. The Minneapolis quartet has warmed up the audiences of Mike Doughty, The Fray, Guster and Ike Reilly and their recent EP, Former Trans Future -- Volume 1, is generating a lot of buzz for what they refer to as "dumb Rock for smart people."
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The edgy Pop of Fountains of Wayne and the double-barreled Indie Rock attack of Jimmy Eats World and the Foo Fighters. (BB)
Exit the Ordinary (Detroit)
Exit the Ordinary is a three piece with an affinity for melancholic Brit Pop played with insistent energy, dramatic urgency and an expansive intimacy. The Detroit power trio had the title track from its 2005 EP The Place You Are used in the independent film Butterfly Effect 2 last year and is currently working on a new studio release.
Dig It: Oasis as an American Pop band, the Gin Blossoms as a British Pop band. (BB)
Miranda Sound (Columbus, Ohio)
Lush, passionate Indie Rock with a strong melodic sense, traversing an expansive playing field, Miranda Sound's music can soar with the best of them, chiming like an interstellar alarm clock on the International Space Station. Despite some setbacks over the years (van demolition, multi-instrumentalist bike wreck), the band emerged with their most powerful album yet, Western Reserve, which came out last year to rave reviews.
Dig It: Superdrag and The Strokes playing GBV songs on the moon. (MB)
Unlike many local success stories, Fizzgig did not have to get famous somewhere else to merit real consideration in their hometown. But they did anyway. Always a favorite in front of local crowds, they also created a huge splash in the UK. Albums and accolades are piling up on both sides of the pond as we speak.
Dig It: Weezer, Superdrag, payback for the British Invasion. (EW)
Joe Hedges (Cincinnati)
Originally known as frontman for almost-famous locals July for Kings, Hedges has put together a compelling collection of songs that highlight his penchant for melding elements of Brit Pop and Emo while keeping his distance from the pitfalls of either. Instead, Curvature is simply stirring and original.
Dig It: Palo Alto, Travis, U2. (EW)
Anton Mink (Louisville, Ky.)
Funky grooves and big beats lay the foundation for the sultry and sometimes sinister vocals of Chloa M. Bassist Anton Z.'s catchy low-end licks take up a good portion of their bandwidth. In fact, they played as a guitar-less trio for some time, which also gave Chloa the opportunity to get used to being in the melodic driver's seat.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Elastica, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, PJ Harvey. (EW)
Lonesome Tumblers (Dayton/Cincinnati)
Originally formed around a love for rootsier sounds, Billy Catfish's Lonseome Tumblers have evolved into a unique and diverse Rock band with a little earthiness still creeping into their increasingly psychedelic and experimental assault. Catfish -- who recently moved back to Cincinnati after time in Chicago and Dayton -- is currently at work on a new album.
Dig It: Brian Jonestown Massacre playing Galaxie 500 and Hasil Adkins covers ... at the same time. (MB)
Church of the Red Museum (Columbus, Ohio)
Church of the Red Museum frontman Brian Travis is clearly influenced by the darker side of music and life, as he and the Columbus sextet concoct a roadhouse/murder ballad soundtrack to a hypothetical David Lynch movie about love lost and twisted and the disturbing desires of the bruised human condition. The Church of the Red Museum's debut album was named Best Local Album of 2006 by Columbus Alive.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and the Murder City Devils conduct a séance to raise the spirit of (insert name of creepy dead rocker here ... I'll say Bryan Gregory). (BB)
Imagine a sound that encompasses sheets of glammy, psychedelic noise and an acre of homegrown Roots Rock lying on a bed of Folk nails. You could call it Glamicana/Folkadelica. Or you could call it Wussy. The Cincinnati quartet's 2005 debut, Funeral Dress, was cited by no less than Robert Christgau as one of the best albums of the year and their new one, Left For Dead, amplifies every great quality of its predecessor to indescribably awesome levels. Long may they Wuss.
Dig It: R.E.M. guided by the psychotronic voices of Crazy Horse and Velvet Underground. (BB)
Illustrious Louise (Cincinnati)
Illustrious Louise makes synth/loop-happy Techno Pop with an avant-garde slant. The one-woman-show of musician Abby Rocker, IL draws influence from current and classic practitioners of Electronic music and comes up with something mischievous, danceable and devoid of the overdone production that takes the guts out of so much Electro music.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Ladytron, The Faint, The Knife. (MB)
Caveman (Hollywood, Calif.)
An Israeli supergroup of sorts, Caveman has a huge Guitar Rock sound with Blues roots but also shards of AltMetal here and there. It will resonate immediately with Hard Rock fans, especially the stretched-note vocal delivery and guitar solos. But the Electronica flourishes are what will sear it into your memory.
Dig It: Jet, Gravity Kills, Coal Chamber. (EW)
Sub-Urban Situation (Louisville, Ky.)
Silky melodies dance with deep grooves in the sound of Alternative R&B band Sub-Urban Situation. Jammy but never meandering, the band's music has been featured on Sirius satellite radio (on Bubba the Love Sponge's show, no less) and they've done shows with artists like Kentucky Hip Hop crew Nappy Roots.
Dig It: George Benson and Usher team up and start touring the Jam band circuit. (MB)
Stephanie's Id (Asheville, N.C.)
Stephanie Morgan's spellbinding voice covers a spectrum all the way from Bjork to Aretha. Even better, her passion and range are matched by the rest of the band, who assemble an almost psychedelic, piano-driven soundscape for her to wander across. Their latest album, Grus americanus, offers both serenity and catharsis.
Dig It: A Scandinavian Pop princess gets lost in the American South and is rescued by a Jazz quartet. (EW)
Diet Audio (Cincinnati)
Although they perpetually seem pulled back and forth between Trip Hop programming and precise New Wave pummeling, Diet Audio has no trouble maintaining a consistent persona thanks to Amy Whitaker's dour vocals. Whichever stylistic turn the song takes, her breathless performances are the band's centerpiece.
Dig It: Olive, Au Pairs, Morcheeba. (EW)
Kitty Rose (Hopland, Calif.)
Talk about multi-tasking -- vintage Country chanteuse Kitty Rose doubles as a rancher, riding, roping and running her own California spread. Rose will be leaving saddles and branding irons back at the ranch, concentrating on her sterling Country songs and drawing another great performance from her all-cowgirl revue.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Patsy Cline and Hank Williams angel-ing about in the rafters of the Grand Ol' Opry, doing high harmonies with the house band. (BB)
Michael O'Neill (Tacoma, Wash.)
Michael O'Neill takes his long years as a guitarist in SoCal Rock bands (and a longer standing image as something of a roustabout and outlaw) and filters that experience through his love of Country and early Rock. O'Neill's latest album, Who's Bad Now, channels it all into its ten elemental tracks.
Dig It: Hank Williams and Lowell George comparing songs and dented halos on a cloud over Nashville. (BB)
Dave Golden (New Orleans)
Like everyone in New Orleans, Dave Golden's life was heavily impacted by the devastation of Katrina in 2005. Working on his debut album at the time the hurricane struck, Golden's master tapes were wiped out. Probably needing to create even more than ever, Golden started over, releasing How To Breathe, a collection of one-take recordings he did in the back of a van. The CD caught attention fast (it landed at No. 2 on the CD Street charts), leading to well-attended shows in New York and Philly, a show with Rufus Wainwright, a showcase at SXSW and tour dates across the country.
Dig It: Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, John Hiatt. (MB)
Princes of Hollywood (Athens, Ohio)
Starting somewhere in the general vicinity of Bluegrass, PoH sprint directly towards Jangle Pop and then, sensing they've won the race, stop to write a few slow-burning ballads. Next they try their hands at Ragtime. Then some Oldies. Now an authentic Country tune. Will they ever find the finish line? Let's hope not.
Dig It: Broken Social Scene hiking the Appalachian Trail, a combination of Nickel Creek and Rilo Kelly (with no girls). (EW)
Drexel (Dayton, Ohio)
If you're searching for the feel-good hit of the summer, don't look here. But if unbearable showers of truth delivered via a keyboard and stream-of-semi-consciousness sermons that rival Zappa's best impromptu monologues are your thing, then come witness Drexel and buy a copy of River of Chowder. And maybe a bedpan, too.
Dig It: Ween, a very drunk Trans Am fronted by an even drunker Mojo Nixon. (EW)
Members of Graze hail from Italy, Canada, the U.S. and the Netherlands (they've settled on settling down in the Netherlands), but their sound is a cohesive brand of melodic, emotive AltRock. The group built a solid rep for its live show in their homeland and has scored airplay on Dutch radio. The band recently released the four-track EP, Hesitate.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Evanescence meets Pat Benatar meets U2. (MB)
EveNi (Amsterdam/New York City)
Their strange moniker isn't so strange when you're told its origin -- it's simply a compact version of "Eve 'n I," named for lead singer Eva Starr and guitarist Pepe (the "I," presumably). The group moved to New York to work for a year and was so taken with the city that they ultimately relocated to the Big Apple this year.
Dig It: Nelly Furtado fronting a Rock band but keeping her fascination with "Urban" music. (MB)
Van Katoen (Netherlands)
It would appear that Van Katoen is Punk as all hell, on the basis of their hyperactive Web site. You can download their latest album, the palindromatic Doorrood, for absolutely no Euros there. Beyond that, I'd have to learn Dutch to tell you more and it took me two years of Spanish 101 just to figure out the naughty words, so take a chance.
Dig It: "Van Katoen is een Nederlandse punkband met veel metal invloeden. De teksten gaan meestal over 'politieke incorrectie' of over onzin in de wereld" (straight from Dutch Wikipedia -- young, loud and politically snotty, I'm guessing). (BB)
Bagga Bownz (Netherlands)
Currently in Greater Cincinnati recording with Erwin Musper in his Northern Kentucky studios, this Dutch crew mixes MC rhymes, Hip Hop beats, Hard Rock guitar, noisy atmospherics and majestic Neo Soul-meets-Modern Rock vocals.
Dig It: Gym Class Heroes, Urban Dance Squad, Faith No More. (MB)
KNOW THEATRE UNDERGROUND
Breaking Laces (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
"Quirky" is the only word to describe a band that reminds you of in rapid succession: Weezer, Failure, Van Morrison, Arcade Fire, Kid Rock, Filter, Rick Springfield, Better Than Ezra, Genesis, Oleander, Remy Zero, Keith Urban, Radiohead and The Goo Goo Dolls. Plus, they know how to write one hell of a chorus.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: All of the above plus Conor Oberst, Nada Surf and Meat Puppets. (EW)
Ag Silver (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
This driving Rock quartet from Michigan used sparse but interesting arrangements to highlight their considerable songwriting talents on last year's debut Wake Up and Smell Reality. With heavy sections that aren't bludgeoning and soft parts aren't too wimpy, they're radio friendly without imitation or pandering.
Dig It: What would have happened if Muse ripped off Night Ranger instead of Radiohead. (EW)
40 East (Cincinnati)
40 East was formed by the "remnants" of a couple of Cincy area acts, but 40 East's material and execution outshine both of them. While the songs on their EP, Fall In Love or Fall Apart, have a Roots aftertaste, this is more soulful, melodic Rock than AltCountry. Singer Josh Muddiman has a perfect Rock & Roll voice, which is bathed in a smoky rasp, giving the melodies and lyrics an extra "lived-in" depth.
Dig It: Ryan Adams, rootsy Afghan Whigs, Paul Westerberg. (MB)
Twin Cam (Columbus, Ohio)
Indie Pop Rock
Columbus' Power Pop champs Twin Cam played as a trio for six years before adding new drummer Matt Cross, allowing Mike Sammons to switch to guitar and move up front. MidPoint special guests Superdrag will be honored to know they're a big Twin Cam influence (listed ahead of The Police, The Who and AC/DC, so there).
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Superdrag, ahead of The Police, The Who and AC/DC. (BB)
The OffRamps (Plymouth, Mich.)
With their feet in Minnesota AltPop and their heads in Chapel Hill Indie Rock, well ... they must be over 1,200 miles tall. But more importantly, this puts their hearts somewhere close to Nashville. So even if they don't play Country music, per se, they channel it through every twangy lick and mouthful of heartbreak.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Son Volt, Superchunk, Keith Richards and Paul Westerberg sitting in with The Heartbreakers. (EW)
Girls Guns and Glory (Boston)
A lot of early Rock & Roll was based on Country, so it's no surprise that Girls Guns and Glory winds up being pegged both ways, with comparisons to Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison coming as frequently as Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett. GG&G has opened for Silversun Pickups, the Bravery, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Bloc Party, so call it what you will -- it all works fine for Girls Guns and Glory.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The wild abandon of '50s Country, the unbridled passion of early Rock & Roll, the contemporary focus of Americana. (BB)
Catalog Cowboys (Cincinnati)
Fans of a certain age remember well the outrageous stage antics of the Warsaw Falcons, which might be a big draw for Catalog Cowboys, which features all three original Falcons -- guitarist/vocalist David Rhodes Brown, stand-up bassist John Schmidt and drummer Doug Waggoner. Add in all-purpose Brian Ewing (from Messerly and Ewing) and mandolinist Scott Risner from the Comet Bluegrass Allstars and you've got one of the area's most eclectic and compelling new outfits.
Dig It: A Rootsabilly/Folkgrass/ Popternative hootenanny. Go! (BB)
Moonshine Sway (Milwaukee)
After a long stint with St. Louis' Hart Crane, guitarist Tom Vollman hoofed it up to Milwaukee and put together the Americana whisper scream of Moonshine Sway, named for a Goshen, Ohio, rural tract renowned for its still output, resulting in the title condition. Moonshine Sway's 2004 debut, seven years, has been spun on woxy.com locally and earned the band a Wisconsin Area Music Association Award nomination for Rock Band of the Year.
Dig It: The raucous racket of the Bottle Rockets, the sweet Country harmonies of the Derailers, the raw nerve of Kevn Kinney. (BB)
500 Miles to Memphis (Cincinnati)
They mix Country and Punk, but not in a "Cow Punk" kind of way. In fact, not many have managed to mesh the two styles together as elegantly as frontman Ryan Mallot and his crew. Deep Elm Records released the band's stunning debut, Sunshine in a Shot Glass, earlier this year and they've spent much of the year on the road supporting it.
Dig It: The Young 97s, Johnny Cash doing Green Day covers. (MB)
NEW STAGE COLLECTIVE
Otter Petter (Chicago)
Obsessed-over vocal melodies float on a sea of simple, staccato grooves and angular accents. The recorded stuff is as sweet and endearing as their plush mascot, but on stage they let the frisky little marine mammal bare its webbed claws and dig for a more intense Pop Rock energy.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The Thrills, The Postal Service jamming on Carly Simon tunes. (EW)
Bel Auburn (Ashland, Ohio)
We can brag that we knew (or at least gushed about) them back before Popmatters, Stylus and dozens of others were fawning over BA's chiming, unpretentious take on Shoegaze. Their organic practitioning of this medium still far outshines the common, sterile, bedroom recorders. Despite the accolades, their disarming "aw, shucks" gratitude remains.
Dig It: Interpol, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Jets to Brazil. (EW)
The Addiction (Nashville, Tenn.)
The weekly paper Nashville Scene called these guys the Best Up & Coming Local Band and we will take our altweekly brethren's word for it. The band's funky Pop sound has some of the seductive strut of Prince, with the radio-friendly accessibility of Jason Mraz and Maroon 5.
Dig It: Maroon 5 doing Steely Dan covers in a "Modern Rock" vein. (MB)
Revolver Modele (Minneapolis)
Take the best of early Goth Rock, toss out the keyboards and crank up the pace to frenetic and you've got the foundation of RM. The razor guitars, undulating bass, thunderous beats and Glam overtones create all the right conditions for a packed dance floor, and the band members themselves are certainly not known for standing still.
Dig It: Wire, The Smiths, Gang of Four. (EW)
Tresor Hugo (Atlanta)
Tresor (say "Treasure") Hugo is a world traveler, born in Angola, Africa, raised in New York and based in Atlanta. That global perspective informs his Hip Hop/Indie Rock style on his debut album, According to My Flow. Embracing Hip Hop's power, Rock's visceral impact and R&B's heart, Tresor Hugo mines a deep musical vein and strikes it rich.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The cutting-edge groove of Jay-Z, the social conscience and exquisite Soul of Marvin Gaye, shot full of Indie Rock abandon. (BB)
MicLordz (Windsor, Canada)
With a lively stage presence, this Hip Hop band has earned a solid reputation with their energetic blend of Funk, Rap and Rock. The Lordz have opened for legends and current hitmakers alike, including KRS-One, Jadakiss and Obie Trice.
Dig It: Dancing at live-band shows, Chili Peppers with a better rapper. (MB)
Broadcast Live (Albany, N.Y.)
Like Saul Williams, this group of funky-smart New Yorkers give a musical voice to spoken word poetry, mixing in more classic Rap styles, an almost jazzy, fluid backdrop (with pumping Funk and Rock forays) and intelligent lyrics about life and social justice. The group has a new LP ready to roll, following their successful previous album, Underground, which scored a Top 40 entry on the CMJ Hip Hop charts.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Arrested Development, Spearhead, Gil-Scott Heron, Fugees. (MB)
da mutts (Cincinnati)
One of Cincinnati's most creative Hip Hop groups, da muttss make a funky noise with their imaginative soundscapes and superb lyricism and vocal deliveries. Unlike a lot of Hip Hop artists, da muttss don't just find a sound that they can sell and stay with it -- they experiment with a broad range of styles. The group's Conversations Over Blacks, Blunts, Sodas & Brews is one of the best Hip Hop albums to come out of Cincinnati.
Dig It: The Roots, Nappy Roots, El P. (MB)
Animate Objects (Chicago)
Animate Objects pushes the envelope of Hip Hop by folding in soulful elements of R&B and Rock while breakout MCs Czar Absolute and Wondur rock the mics up front. The seven-piece remains true to traditional Hip Hop but brings a fresh new spin to the genre at the same time. Extra points for the title of their debut album, Riding In Fast Cars With Your Momma.
Dig It: The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest in a Soul showdown where everybody wins. (BB)
Gabriel James (Minneapolis)
Guitarist/vocalist Gabriel James populates his sets with a Funk-tinged acoustic Jazz that swings like crazy and pushes envelopes like a Staples stock boy. He has been referred to as a male Ani DiFranco, he has not been referred to as a male John Mayer and he's been hailed as a gifted stylist at home and beyond for his three albums, Fits to Pitch, In the Hands of Fools and Dance Songs for the Narcoleptic.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Acoustic Jazz with a Pop twist and a Funk chaser. (BB)
Andra Suchy (Minneapolis)
Andra Suchy was raised in North Dakota by her Folk musician parents and her upbringing is the foundation for her career and her debut solo CD, Patchwork Story. Suchy has performed and recorded with a number of friends and artists around her Minneapolis base, including the Honeydogs, Lola and the Red Hots and Dave Pirner and the Volunteers. Suchy moonlights as a successful commercial jingle writer and has been nominated for the Minnesota Music Academy's award for best female vocalist of the year for the past three years.
Dig It: Traditional Folk with a contemporary Roots Rock twist, delivered in a crystalline voice. (BB)
Jenn Franklin (Lebanon, Tenn.)
Restraint is one of the keys to Franklin's moving songs (well, that and her painfully beautiful voice). Her tunes shine brightest for what's not there; instead of a rollicking backing band or tape-loop madness, she relies on her natural gifts to uplift the performances and in the process strikes a balance between tranquil and edgy.
Dig It: Paula Cole, Sinead O'Connor, Patty Griffin. (EW)
Stephen Moore (Cincinnati)
Now based in Cincinnati, honey-voiced singer/songwriter Stephen Moore was born in Connecticut where, as a teenager, he began writing songs, influenced by his mother's love of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Moore's songs are acoustic based yet lush and silky, like a perfectly formed, fuzzy leaf falling from a tree on the first day of autumn.
Dig It: Doves, soulful, sparse Pop with substance. (MB)
Shotgun Honeymoon (Los Angeles)
Out this month, the debut album from SH, Foregone Conclusion, is packed with heart-on-sleeves songwriting and gentle instrumentation. Any of the lusciously arranged ruminations could accompany a climactic scene in your favorite TV drama or be the soundtrack to more personal awakenings. Either way, consider yourself possessed.
Dig It: Bright Eyes, the subtlety of Death Cab for Cutie and the charisma of Jeff Buckley. (EW)
POISON ROOM: POISON STAGE
Yellow Delicious (Cleveland)
Power Pop and Classic Rock collide in the music of Cleveland's Yellow Delicious, which has performed all over the eastern half of the U.S., hitting many music conferences along the way. The band has played with an impressive list of Rock dignitaries, including Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. YD's new CD, with the inviting title Get Some!, is out now. Apples in stereo, indeed.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Graham Parker, old Costello, Cheap Trick. (MB)
Man in Gray (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Bouncing between Post Punk experimentation and retro dance beats, the bipolar men of MiG keep it together thanks to a strong woman. Tina DaCosta is part Kim Gordon and part Wendy O. Williams. It's easy to tell where the art ends and the Punk begins, but it's hard to know when it's going to happen.
Dig It: Pavement fronted by Karen O, Fiery Furnaces, Viva La Foxx. (EW)
This powerful Cincinnati band played the major-label sweepstakes and put one album out on Virgin before reinventing themselves on the indie circuit and hitting the road with steady consistency. Always a MidPoint highlight, the energized foursome will likely be playing many songs from their most recent album, Immune to Gravity.
Dig It: Fountains of Wayne, wild-eyed, incredibly catchy Pop Rock with Punk gas and New Wave weirdness. (MB)
The Dirty Royals (Oxford, England)
One of last year's MidPoint highlights (seen by nowhere near enough people), The Dirty Royals hail from Oxford, U.K., wear smart, military-themed uniforms and make vivacious Power Pop that'll get to you within the first few seconds of listening. A great, fun live presence as well -- here's hoping there's a better turn out this year!
Dig It: Dirty Pretty Things, BritPop with bite. (MB)
Orange Willard (Dayton, Ohio)
If you miss (or totally missed) the Grunge days of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, discovering this young Dayton five-piece will have you digging in the back of your closet for the old flannel shirt. The band is works hard, both online and in real life -- they get about 70,000 hits a month on their Web site and average about 150 shows a year.
Dig It: Soundgarden, Audioslave, Chris Cornell solo. (MB)
Red Edmund (St. Louis)
Power Pop/Indie Rock
St. Louis Power Pop trio Red Edmund (formerly based in the Indie hotbed Bloomington, Ind.) claims influences as broad as Miles Davis and Radiohead and have opened shows for an equally broad range of artists, from Neil Young and Ben Folds Five to Primus and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Red Edmund puts the Indie in Indie Rock, self-recording, self-producing and self-releasing their self-titled debut album.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Billy Corgan fronting Toad the Wet Supergrasspumpkinhead. (BB)
Paper Airplane (Cincinnati/Columbus, Ohio)
Laced with late '60s Psychedelia and Beatlesque goodness, PA's palette has grown from Jangle Pop to something pretty close to full-on Rock, but it has maintained the elegance that songwriter/frontman Ryan Horns infuses into all of his creations. Middlemarch is a satisfying snapshot of a band still finding new directions to grow.
Dig It: The Dandy Warhols, Jeff Lynne, Wings (Wild Life-era). (EW)
The Feed (St. Louis)
This guitar-less power trio takes a lineup (bass, drums, keys) that could get bogged down in its own Funk and instead crafts soulful little Pop Rock ditties that are uniformly irresistible. The tempos range from Jazz to Punk, but the vocals are consistently upbeat and catchy with humorously lewd content. In other words, the perfect party band.
Dig It: A Darediablo/Stray Cats hybrid, Morphine. (EW)
The Seedy Seeds (Cincinnati)
Electronic Dance Pop
Don't look for a lofty mission statement from the Seedy Seeds. Mike Ingram and Margaret Weiner began their rootsy ElectroPop duo more than a year ago in an effort to learn how to play instruments that they owned but had never attempted to play. How disarmingly cool is that? Accordion, banjo, slide whistle, cello, iPod and toy keyboard rhythms are all part of the Seedy Seeds' weapons of mass instruction.
Dig It: A Decemberistic and dancable blend of Electro-Pop and Americana. (BB)
Hey Champ (Chicago)
Folk-tinged Brit Pop with Synth flourishes doesn't quite capture this versatile outfit's ability to add an unexpected sound or creative musical passage to what is already a memorable song. You could throw an Art Rock label at them, but they'd dodge it, as they are free of contrivance and full of organic dimensions.
Dig It: French Kicks, British Sea Power, Dogs Die in Hot Cars. (EW)