Sometimes it’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 “somewhere else.”
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 that’s gotten bigger and bigger since its inception in 1993, when Overwhelming Colorfast (a band that I’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 year’s featured bands and/or singers.
“Love is a Stranger,” 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 didn’t have Rufus Wainwright in the mix.Â When I told him I just couldn’t stand his music, he may have grumbled a more profane version of “philistine” under his breath and went on with his day.Â However! I have to say that the smokey vocals of Rufus’ sister had me hooked right away.Â Martha’s cover of “Love Is a Stranger” 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 it’s not necessarily the best track on Martha’s album, but it sure was a pleasant surprise when I first heard it.
“Mr. Pitiful,” Matt Costa (download)
Costa’s music is not what I would expect from a pro, um, “Sk8er” guy, but maybe that’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.
“Perfect Fit,” 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 isn’t out yet, but through a little hunting in the wilds of the Internet, I found “Perfect Fit” — whose dreamy vibe has a disturbing undercurrent because of Alden Penner’s vocals, which gets close to the precipice of keening.
“Trouble,” French Kicks (download)
It wasn’t my intention to spike in two covers in this mix, but I must be in a nostalgic mood ‘cause when I heard French Kicks’ cover of a Lindsey Buckingham song, I just couldn’t resist. The band’s original material is not as overtly pop as “Trouble,” but if there’s such a thing as “ethereal pop,” I’m pretty sure French Kicks would be the poster boys.
“Waiting for a War,” 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. “Waiting for a War” can certainly stand on it’s own merit as a wonderful pop song, but after checking out the band’s My Space page, I have to wonder: what’s with all these indie bands covering hit songs?
“Dreams Before People,” Sholi (download)
Don’t get sucked into the “Chicken or the egg” puzzle of the song’s title, because you’ll have a difficult time enjoying this rather pleasant tune.Â It happened to me. I mean, I started wondering: “Well, do dreams exist independent of the dreamer?” And once you start down this road, the next thing you know you’re sitting there listening to silence (mostly because the song has been over for about five minutes) and you’re wondering if you’ve just fallen for some kind of joke by the band.