The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is two weeks away. And if that is our own St. Louis Music holiday, then consider this the season: Throughout May, we've been making our cases for all 125 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, introducing 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.
Celia Celia Shacklett finds the child in all her audiences, whether they're eight or thirty years old. It's partly the type of music - her Big Rock Band and other performing ensembles featuring, among others, Love-O-Rama collective cohort Mark Pagano, are one instantaneously hummable melody after another. But Celia's capacity for wonder isn't just about major chords and a smile. Hers is a youthfulness that comes not from naivete but from wisdom. She's well aware of all the world's bullshit and, with her music, offers an anecdote. --Kiernan Maletsky
Jump Starts A possible downside of taking a spot in the lineup of the Firebird's yearly airing of homage, An Under Cover Weekend, is that your band will forever endure comparisons to whomever you cover in the local press. So, uh, it is with some trepidation that we direct you to the Jump Starts' 2011 performance as the Violent Femmes. That's just a starting point for the duo of Justin Johnson (of Pretty Little Empire) and Sarah Ross (of Paper Dolls [R.I.P.]), but it's a pretty good one & particularly in reference to the band's bouncy, punky pop. If PLE finds Johnson in his (powerful) diary, the Jump Starts finds him at a party. After a recent trip to SXSW and a string of highly lauded live shows, he and Ross have found their way onto the tip of many a music-fan's tongue. --Kiernan Maletsky
Middle Class Fashion Middle Class Fashion pianist and lead singer Jenn Malzone often spends her songs brooding in dark moods and minor keys, so it's to her credit that her songs never feel self-indulgent. Part of this is due to Fashion's catchy hooks, which are big enough to hang your entire wardrobe on. But it's also because Malzone, bassist Brian McClelland and drummer Brad Vaughn keep their arrangements punchy and brisk. The trio gives the piano-driven songs enough room to breathe and let crescendos gain momentum, but no tune overstays its welcome. It helps that McClelland contributes inventive bass lines and the occasional great song to the mix and that all three player combine for gorgeous harmonies when the song calls for it. Middle Class Fashion's tight chemistry and clever song construction ensures that their pop songs really pop. --Bob McMahon
Née Synth-pop gets a bad rap for being all plastic and no heart, as if no one has ever lost their shit to "True Faith" or "Tainted Love." Sure enough, Née's Kristin Dennis shakes plenty of glitter and pomp over her pop-savvy tunes - pulse-quickening drum machine rhythms keep time for buzzy arpeggios and swooping glissandos that dart around her like neon lightning bugs. But it doesn't take much to tell that Dennis wears her heart on her chiffon sleeve; last year's The Hands of Thieves EP grounded its pop confections with themes of heartbreak and hope. This year has brought the excellent, radio-ready "Pretty Girls" single as well as a solidified four-person line-up featuring longtime drummer Mic Boshans (Humdrum) alongside synthesist Lex Herbert and Old Lights' David Beeman on guitar and keys. As Dennis turns her one-woman project into a full-fledged band, the payoffs increase with the personnel. --Christian Schaeffer
Tight Pants Syndrome After having roughly half of St. Louis' musicians shuffle through its lineup over the years, Tight Pants Syndrome seems to have finally settled into a consistent lineup. Predominant songwriter Tom Stephens has two excellent surrogates in bassist Brian McClelland and keyboardist Jenn Malzone, both of who belt out and harmonize Stephens' deliciously absurd lyrics over the bands' '60s and '70s leaning power-pop. Stephens and Paul Bordeaux weave jangly guitar riffs and power chords into the quintet's attack while Jeff Hess keeps it all together with his rock steady drumming. The sum is a pop-rock sugar rush sure to please rock nerds of all stripes. --Bob McMahon