In my first six-odd months in St. Louis, the most common sentiment expressed to me can roughly be summed up as: "Boy, it's a good thing you came to town when you did. Things are finally starting to pick up around here in the music scene." While I can't judge the accuracy of that statement (although there's certainly no shortage of artists poised to make noise in 2006; watch this space in coming weeks for the scoop), in a sense 2005 was a year of beginnings for St. Louis.
New music festivals namely, the outdoor LOMA Fest at Laumeier Sculpture Park in September and upstart labels such as Big Muddy and Noize City injected new life into the scene even in the face of endings (the Gearbox closing, the for-sale signs at Frederick's Music Lounge, the absence of River Splash). So in the spirit of giving closure to the year, here are a few local '05 (and early-'06) releases that came across my desk.
Adeline is the type of rock band you can bring home to your mom. The road warriors play tranquil indie-emo featuring Donald Roberts' sympathetic vocals and sugary chords that are as comforting as a hug from your best friend and as sensitive as a Jimmy Eat World-to-Mae-to-Rocket Summer iPod playlist. Adeline starts off the year with a CD release party at the Creepy Crawl (412 North Tucker Boulevard; 314-621-9333) on January 3. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are a mere $6 for those over 21, $8 under.
Like the brothers Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, the members of the Bureau are fond of sporting natty suits whether playing live or posing for photographs, as on the back cover of their debut EP, You Are Number Six (which was produced by RFT art director Tom Carlson). Appropriately, the quartet's sleek, synth-driven rock evokes the Roxy Music- and Bowie-inspired glam darkness of the Furs' earliest albums, as vocalist Michael Cracchiolo mutters like Joy Division's Ian Curtis crooning in a smoky hotel lounge. A few songs become weighed down by their murky moodiness, but most like the Chameleons-reminiscent "Cold Day" are delightfully brooding.
Tobi Kai and the Strays
St. Louis-via-Singapore singer Tobi Kai eats faux-rockers like Ashlee Simpson for lunch with her nicotine-spotted voice, while her backing band the Strays unleashes hot licks taken from the AC/DC school of hard rocks and nights informed by Jager-bombs and bar tabs bigger than your rent. Her debut, Gutter Kitten, conjures snot-punks like the Muffs (especially "Pretty When You're Dead") or the Runaways; the snarling riff hurricane "Flat On The Floor" comes highly recommended.
With the area's thousands of college students, it's surprising that there aren't more acoustic singer-songwriters honing their craft in local coffee shops. Leave it to Geoff Koch the only singer-songwriter from Missouri selected to perform at 2005's Midwest Music Summit in Indianapolis whose Throwing Rocks at Your Ghost EP can be filed beside artists like Howie Day, thanks to fluttery riffs and heart-grabbing tunes. Although Ghost's sentiments tend to lean toward the overly sappy and are nothing we haven't heard before, for any college kid going through the pains and joys of first love, it's the ideal soundtrack.
Minutes to Midnight
The hard-rocking local quintet Minutes to Midnight thankfully turns the Whine-O-Meter down to zero and the amps up to eleven on their new EP, I Wish You Well. The album's five tunes resemble the thrashing rock of Incubus (singer James Palmer's vocals bear a striking resemblance to those of the latter band's singer, Brandon Boyd) and the distinctly metallic-punk edge of radio-ready bands such as Thrice. What the EP lacks in originality, though, is made up for by Minutes to Midnight's adrenaline-fueled live experience. Check 'em out at their CD release party, a headlining gig at Mississippi Nights (914 North First Street; 314-421-3853) on Friday, December 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8.
On Tracy Lane
If you're on MySpace or on any St. Louis-centric mailing list, chances are you've seen announcements about shows from On Tracy Lane, a.k.a. Darryn Yates. An LA transplant, Yates has Hollywood pedigree actress Lacey Chabert appeared in his "Back to Maybe" video and equally California-sounding songs sun-kissed with power-pop harmonies and slick new-wave chords and synths. His five-song, self-titled EP has its moments (the clever "Walk Like DeNiro") but often sounds and feels like a packet of Equal: overly sweet and totally non-caloric.
Sure, they're from Columbia but Lou-based label Collective released Warhammer 48K's self-titled EP (and they're a favorite of the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center), so A to Z's claiming them for this column. A recent live set by the band was a mind-melting experience, full of viscous rhythms, hypnotic metal grooves and clattering sheets of noise. The EP is just as punishing and enjoyable; think the experimental side of Sonic Youth meets the early finger paint-messy outbursts of Smashing Pumpkins, with sides of screaming banshee wailing, stoner sludge and precise post-punk daymares.
This just in: Frederick's Music Lounge's New Year's Eve entertainment will be Two Cow Garage. Tickets will be $15, and available pre-paid in advance, if you're so inclined.