Bowerbirds – Upper Air
There are many, many things to love about folk music, one of which is that it is relatively timeless. Yes, it fell out of favor with the “hip youth” for a while there (at least for the most part). But luckily there have been dozens of excellent releases in the past few years that have revived the genre and made it possible for bands like Bowerbirds to find mainstream success. The Raleigh, North Carolina three piece first caught indie/nu-folk buzz with the release of their 2007 album Songs for a Dark Horse. 2009’s Upper Air exudes the same charm with a little more energy. The album is full of the kinds of earnest yet complex instrumentals that really show the care of the people who produced them. Founding members Beth Tacular and Phil Moore used a rotating cast of support to create the delicate, yet powerful cornucopia of instruments that support their balanced vocal harmonies. Their music sounds old fashioned and special without trying too hard, paying homage to folk traditions without seeming overly referential.
Sounds Like: A more delicate Blitzen Trapper
Listen to: Northern Lights, In Our Talons
Lookbook – Wild at Heart
On the opposite end of the spectrum there is Lookbook. The Minneapolis electro-pop band has a fairly serious following locally but is poised for even more national notoriety with the release of Wild at Heart. The album celebrates all that is wonderful about synths. Lead vocalist Maggie Morrison’s voice is perfect for songs like, “True to Form” that update good 80s pop with just the right amount of grunge appeal. Even though Grant Cutler, the man behind the band’s creative electro sounds, shows off his skill set with a full range of catchy dance beats he proves his range with more markedly subtle arrangements on the latest release. The title track on the album is a more subtle, melodic take on their dynamic sound, recalling Fleetwood Mac-esq classic rock more than drum machine-heavy New Wave. These are the kind of songs that will have people dancing and swaying just as much in their living rooms and at their high-energy live shows.
Sounds Like: Synth-pop for big kids.
Listen To: True to Form, Over and Over