New Music From Local Bands
In the latest installment of this irregular series, find out about (and listen to) new local music. This edition features Baltimore's finest roadhouse rockers, J Roddy Walston and the Business, Maryland hip-hop crew Educated Consumers and promising post-punkers Zulu Pearls.
J Roddy Walston and the Business - "Hail Mega Boys"
Next Show: Friday, July 20, Iota
There's simply too much good music coming out of Baltimore not to include at least a sample in this intermittent column. A lot of it is weird and spazzy, but that's not the case with J Roddy Walston and the Business. This quartet plays rock-and-roll. Not indie rock, not alternative rock, not pop/rock, nothing like that. Rock-and-roll. When you break it down, there are just two very simple components. First, you have the rock, which is served up in plentiful doses throughout the album's 12 tracks. Think the Hold Steady but with less of a classic rock bent. Yes, there are definite nods to the Band and Mott the Hoople, but the guitar and piano-based songs have a pretty timeless sound and constant forward momentum, especially on "Stop Rip & Roll" and "Rock & Roll The Second." Then comes the roll, which is really where the piano comes in. This may not be dance music, but it's certainly boogie music. The twinkling of the keys adds an infectious, hip-shaking element to most of these tracks. J Roddy's enthusiastic, verging-on-hoarse vocals are perfect for lines like "My sister shakes it / Her kiddies shake it / You know they shake it / They gotta, gotta make it!" Take a listen and you'll surely be shakin' too.
Educated Consumers - "Write/Hear"
Next Show: Sunday, July 22, DC9
"Write/Hear" is like a crash-course in underground hip-hop. The Maryland duo -- Seez Mics on vocals and t.e.c.k. on beats -- are clearly students of the genre and have taken the best bits and pieces to craft an album that never outstays its welcome, even at 17 tracks and nearly an hour. The beats are mostly pretty simple. That shouldn't be construed as a criticism: The simplicity keeps things from getting cluttered. Instead of the stark, sinister beats favored by the likes or GZA or the icy minimalism of the Neptunes, the Consumers opt for straightforward beats with some slightly jazzy samples -- a little flute here, some horns there -- that channel the underground scene of the '90s more than today. Lyrically the group also avoids extremes, nowhere near nerdcore but without any hard gangsta fronting either. Seez Mics fills the songs with clever wordplay -- "1 Hit Wonder" finds him getting far more mileage out of a number theme than he has any right to -- and there's a down-to-earth honesty throughout that is one of the album's strongest assets.
Zulu Pearls - "Zulu Pearls"
Next Show: Tuesday, July 24, Rock and Roll Hotel
When I put the debut EP by this local quartet into my iTunes they immediately became the last band listed in my library. Take that, Yvonne Prenosilova! Saying that a recording sounds very professional is usually a backhanded compliment, but that's not the case with Zulu Pearls. The band plays sharp and precise indie rock that would fail to make much of an impact if it wasn't at least a little dressed up. The seven-song album was recorded at two of the most venerable studios in the country -- Arlington's Inner Ear and San Francisco's Tiny Telephone -- and the benefits are apparent in the results. The songs have a familiar post-punk revival feel -- a dark, foreboding sound and lots of slight dynamic shifts. But those shifts actually sound dynamic, which can make all the difference in the world. Singer Zach Van Hoozer has a voice that's halfway between Interpol's Paul Banks and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Alec Ounsworth, thankfully taking the least annoying traits from both singers. The band is at its best when it sounds the least agitated. Songs like "Wasted," which almost swings, and the percussive "Dancing + Drinking" help Zulu Pearls break from the mold of similar sounding bands.
Next Week: More new releases from the Dance Party, Donny Hue and the Colors and Double Dagger.
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