This week: A couple of bright Orlando debuts, some rock en français and the next thing in punk fashion.
On a bill that sounded like the cutest animal parade ever with Kitty Tsunami, Dumberbunnies and Buffy, the Chickenhawks stole the night in their Orlando premiere (Aug. 1, Will's Pub). Despite wardrobe that can be a little comedic (unless the leisure-rocker pairing of sandals and sleeveless denim has become a legit thing while I wasn't looking), the North Carolina band actually have some pretty serious chops and fire when you get right down to it. They ball up early rock & roll jump, the golden vintage hues of surf and rockabilly octane and pitch it with raw punk sling. Together, it's an undeniable union of old sounds, new attitude and high camp that equals a lot of ridiculous fun.
Kay Odyssey (Aug. 6, Will's Pub) are a locally connected Austin band that does the psychedelic thing with a little indie glamour, which is the only thing to call it when your drummer plays in a torn-up Bowie tee with a fan up-blowing her hair in seeming slo-mo. Yeah, they've got style but, luckily, they're more than just that. They manage to stack psych rock, post-punk and glam into a convincingly lush mountain of sound.
The blend gets a little trickier with Orlando band Transcendental Telecom, however. They've got some intriguing elements that, in their best moments, interplay like the wool and shimmer of neo-Teenage Fanclub bands like Yuck and Pity Sex. But in their dream-pop cloud-hopping, they have some meandering tendencies that sometimes land them on desultory ground where shoegaze textures make strange bedfellows with soft rock vibes. A little more decision and incision, perhaps, and they could be on to something. Any band that makes an overt Lush reference in one of their song titles ("Miki Berenyi," off their brand-new album, Etherise) is worth holding out hope for.
And finally, there was Harsh Radish, the curious and unlikely solo act of Russell Parker that mashes together guitars and electronics with almost no regard to their tribal lines, which is enough to root for the guy. For this local, there is no divide between producer and rocker. Nothing's more modern than that. It's a tack that turns his sweetly honest songs into little things of quirk and wonder.
Although Sweet Crude sounds like something that just rolled off the tongue of a Texas oilman, it's actually a band from next door in Louisiana. But they're not just Louisianians, they're Louisianais – Cajuns in both blood and intent. Dispel any notions of BeauSoleil or anything like that, however, because their gaze is beyond the bayou. This young group is looking to bring their heritage forward into full pop modernity.
They're not widely known yet but they've garnered some acclaim in their native New Orleans, recently winning "Best Rock Band" at the Big Easy Awards given by that city's alt-weekly, Gambit. In their Orlando debut (Aug. 4, Will's Pub), they came six-strong, pumped and ready to show out with an ample and sundry arsenal of keyboards, bass, fiddle, brass, three percussionists and two forceful lead singers (especially Alexis Marceaux). With those voices, they sang proudly in the French patois of their birthright but set it in the indie-pop shine of today's landscape. Even though some traditional threads of their indigenous heritage were present – like folk fiddle, freewheeling spirit, the rhythmic roll and pomp of the brass bands and even a traditional Cajun song on the set list – their sound is much more defined by sharp pop luster and fresh-faced exuberance à la Run River North, the Lumineers and other such fashionable contemporaries.
The cultural thrust of Sweet Crude's expression isn't devoutly purist, but they're talented kids with a vibrant pulse that could serve as a sparkling entrée into a rich and beautiful American culture. As a splashy convergence of effervescence, accessibility and angle, they're one of those bands that sound like their big break is just around the next corner. For fans of immaculate and well-crafted indie pop, this is your next crush.