The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is a month away. And if that is our own St. Louis Music holiday, then consider this the season: Over the next month, we'll be making our cases for all 125 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year. Each weekday between now and the showcase on June 2, we'll introduce the nominees from one or more of our 25 categories. For each artist you will find a photo, a streaming track to sample and a few words from the staff at RFT Music.
Beth Bombara At this point, the "singer-songwriter" label has become just about as cliché as this St. Louisan is not. Wise beyond her years with range beyond her genre, the young, confident crooner has proven a formidable solo force through two EPs and a full-length, as well as stints pairing her light, lovely vocals with Old Lights and Cassie Morgan. Bombara's earnest and occasionally eerie blend of folk, country and the softer side of rock provides a spot-on soundtrack to the city's summers and grocery stores, where her good nature and good tunes make for a solid, if unconventional show. Outside of her clear vocals, Bombara's subtle strengths lie in her backing instrumentation, which follows the same organic, unrushed pattern of arrangement as her intro and outrospective lyrics. --Kelsey Whipple
Caleb Travers Good songwriters possess the ability to wear their hearts on their sleeve without being labeled as sensitive; Caleb Travers has that gift. His music is indie folk with various undertones of country, rock and a dash of pop to fill the cracks. He released a seven-song EP titled Ain't No Jukebox last fall, a couple years after appearing on the scene. Often performing solo with an acoustic guitar, Travers has a rich tenor that dips and soars as he sings the heartbreaking lyrics of his relaxed songs. Beauty is contained in the space that surrounds his music. His arrangements breathe -- a tactic that grabs the listener and doesn't let go. --Scott Allen
Ellen the Felon & the Mattronome Ellen the Felon fills a noticeable void in the St. Louis music scene with her dramatic piano pop. Sometimes campy, sometimes brooding but always brimming with feeling, Ellen's music twists and turns with knotty progressions and skilled jazzy runs that are often matched by her frequent partner in crime, busy drummer the Mattronome. She can also lay off and deliver straightforward, sincere ballads. Comparisons to Amanda Palmer and Fiona Apple are not unmerited, but Ellen possesses an airier voice and more playful demeanor than those stern artists, and that makes her more fun. (Can you imagine either of them writing a boogie rock song from the perspective of a cat?) The mood might be sad when she sings about only being thought of as one, but as a performer, Ellen the Felon really is a good-time go-to party girl. --Bob McMahon
Langen Neubacher & the Defeated County Langen Neubacher's songs, through their subject matter and delivery, feel something like a hug from a friend. Until recently, she co-hosted one of the city's best open-mics at Foam, and her generosity of spirit served her as well there, making all calibers of musician feel welcome, as it does in her own work. These days she's playing with Kate Peterson (also of the Spot Ons) under the moniker Langen Neubacher & the Defeated County. But it isn't all warm and fuzzy. Neubacher is keenly aware of the crappy hands dealt to so many, and her lyrics capture simple, honest moments in the struggle. --Kiernan Maletsky
Tim Gebauer Tim Gebauer has never met a stage and microphone that he won't abandon in favor of a chair on a venue's floor. What he lacks in amplification, Gebauer makes up for in big-hearted ballads that are played on an epic scope. He only needs a guitar and his dynamic voice to bring to life his evocative lyrics about falling in love with genies and dreaming of love. Unlike many other singer/songwriters, who also traffic in folk ballads, Gebauer uses words sparingly but makes sure each one counts. Unfortunately, Gebauer doesn't play out often because he doesn't want to make his personal music too much like work, an understandable sentiment given that his day job is composing music for radio commercials. Your best bet is to catch him at Foam's Wednesday night open-mic. --Bob McMahon