Sometimes itâ€™s good to live in the metro area of a big city.Â Sure, you have to deal with heavy traffic, the lack of parking, crowds, high prices for goods, and the all the other less-than-attractive trappings of urban life — but those pale in comparison to the plethora of musical acts who come to your neck of the woods as a destination and not a place to fill up as they make their way â€œsomewhere else.â€
Such is the case with the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco. The mix of local, national, and international indie acts from the world of music, film and art is one of those events thatâ€™s gotten bigger and bigger since its inception in 1993, when Overwhelming Colorfast (a band that Iâ€™m familiar with, since I went to high school with two of its members — yeah, I just name-dropped like a gushing celebrity groupie) was featured.
And now? Well, have a listen to six of this yearâ€™s featured bands and/or singers.
â€œLove is a Stranger,â€ Martha Wainwright (download)
Last year I did a mix featuring scions of famous musical acts and I believe it was David Medsker who wondered why I didnâ€™t have Rufus Wainwright in the mix.Â When I told him I just couldnâ€™t stand his music, he may have grumbled a more profane version of â€œphilistineâ€ under his breath and went on with his day.Â However! I have to say that the smokey vocals of Rufusâ€™ sister had me hooked right away.Â Marthaâ€™s cover of â€œLove Is a Strangerâ€ by Eurythymics has made something abundantly clear to those who just kind of forgot: this song is by far the best track on Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).Â Now itâ€™s not necessarily the best track on Marthaâ€™s album, but it sure was a pleasant surprise when I first heard it.
â€œMr. Pitiful,â€ Matt Costa (download)
Costaâ€™s music is not what I would expect from a pro, um, â€œSk8erâ€ guy, but maybe thatâ€™s what Costa is about:Â defying expectationsÂ This jaunty tune is from his first full length album that had more than a little help from Tom Dumont from No Doubt.
â€œPerfect Fit,â€ Clues (download)
They are being touted as a Canadian indie super group because their members come from Unicorn, the Arcade Fire, and Shanghai Triad. Their new CD isnâ€™t out yet, but through a little hunting in the wilds of the Internet, I found â€œPerfect Fitâ€ — whose dreamy vibe has a disturbing undercurrent because of Alden Pennerâ€™s vocals, which gets close to the precipice of keening.
â€œTrouble,â€ French Kicks (download)
It wasnâ€™t my intention to spike in two covers in this mix, but I must be in a nostalgic mood â€˜cause when I heard French Kicksâ€™ cover of a Lindsey Buckingham song, I just couldnâ€™t resist. The bandâ€™s original material is not as overtly pop as â€œTrouble,â€ but if thereâ€™s such a thing as â€œethereal pop,â€ Iâ€™m pretty sure French Kicks would be the poster boys.
â€œWaiting for a War,â€ the Morning Benders (download)
Despite the fact that their name implies being blitzed in the AM, their music is anything but a collection of boozy songs sung in the key of bourbon. â€œWaiting for a Warâ€ can certainly stand on itâ€™s own merit as a wonderful pop song, but after checking out the bandâ€™s My Space page, I have to wonder: whatâ€™s with all these indie bands covering hit songs?
â€œDreams Before People,â€ Sholi (download)
Donâ€™t get sucked into the â€œChicken or the eggâ€ puzzle of the songâ€™s title, because youâ€™ll have a difficult time enjoying this rather pleasant tune.Â It happened to me. I mean, I started wondering: â€œWell, do dreams exist independent of the dreamer?â€ And once you start down this road, the next thing you know youâ€™re sitting there listening to silence (mostly because the song has been over for about five minutes) and youâ€™re wondering if youâ€™ve just fallen for some kind of joke by the band.