This Little Underground

Man, are you watching this Here Comes Honey Boo Boo shit? It pains me on many levels to watch, but … can't … look … away. Anyway, on to the music.

The beat

Local-ish Florida artist Levek (Aug. 30, Will's Pub) has been blipping on national radars of late and generating some impressive hype for the release of his upcoming album on noteworthy national indie Lefse Records (Look a Little Closer, releasing Sept. 25). His talent, ideas and distinction were always evident. But for a while there, I wasn't sure where he was going with it all. Well, it looks like he's settled on dream-pop that's a balance between cloud-drifting atmosphere and anchored, detailed musicianship. But more on him soon. Much more.

Since I first encountered them at this year's Total Bummer Fest, experimental Orlando guitar-and-drums twosome Trails have come along nicely. Now that I've seen them a second time, let me tell you: these guys are special. Despite lean personnel, they cast a big presence through ample and effective use of effects and loop-layering. But their forward-thinking instrumental rock is technically and melodically interesting. With a sonic palette that dares to touch on the expansive spectrum typically ascribed more to a synthesizer than a guitar, they stretch beyond rock and scramble into pop, jazz, dance, even tropical waters. They cover extraordinary ground with a crystalline exuberance. They can vibe, they can shimmer and they can freak. Most importantly, they chase their mercurial muse with fearlessness while sticking most of their landings. And the results are pretty stunning.

They're not always perfect in terms of playing along to the regularity of the loops but they make up for it in raw energy and a dazzling display of patterns, textures and guitar dynamics. Already in shining place is the vision and ambition to be one of the more brilliant acts to come out of Orlando. Keep an eye on these guys.

Los Angeles band Chasing Kings (Aug. 31, Will's Pub) executed a very likeable set of the kind of tight, bright indie pop that of course features lots of bouncy piano. They ain't rewriting the rules but they're working very well within them.

Following up with an even more exceptional performance was Athens, Ga.'s Easter Island. As a dynamic dance of opposites, their impressively unusual brand of indie pop is in many ways deceptive and unlikely. Their melodic sensibility is soft and coaxing on the top, but underneath there's an unexpected depth, force and conviction in their playing. And those forces often swap prominence, taking them from almost twee loveliness one moment to cliff-scaling drama the next. Furthermore, they pack the full, gazey atmosphere of post-rock without compromising an ounce of their snap and definition. It's an interesting duality that somehow ends up as a thing that's surprisingly effective (and effectively surprising) instead of willfully hybridized. That's not an easy thing to do.

We've already been over how fun and cool Sock Hop Mondays are. But the classic oldies event has added a very welcome live element every other week with the Continentals (Aug. 27, Peacock Room), a local band that renders those oldies but goodies – from early rock & roll to doo-wop – right on stage. Besides members who are notable scene players like Andy Matchett (the Minks), the trio features some real specialists. In addition to being a good solo artist and member of Matt Butcher & the Revolvers, Matthew Mendel's amazing aptitude for musical impersonation is well-known enough to land him work in early rock & roll cover bands at the theme parks (Universal and Disney) and pretty much makes him the perfect candidate for this act. And upright bassist Shawn Bryant has actually done time touring and as a studio player for the likes of classic acts such as Jan and Dean, Chubby Checker, the Crests, Roger McGuinn and Ral Donner – he's even performed with the elite Wrecking Crew (!!!).

Together, they pop, they bop and they dress the part in a show that packs a nice bit of presentation and a whole lotta rock & roll. A high-functioning combo, these cats really own it, and they give an already swinging throwback event even more energy, dimension and life. If you still haven't been to this weekly dance party, the Continentals are even greater incentive for you. Honey Boo Boo Child would want you to.

About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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