SXSW Local Rundown
There's no worse feeling as a music writer than having a local band blow up right under your nose and gain national acclaim without your hearing a word about them. It's not a common occurrence, but when it happens, all you can do is dust yourself off, swallow that lump of pride, and get brought up to speed as fast as possible. To an extent, that's what Miami Beach rockers the Monas have done to the local press in South Florida. Although they're still based in the area, they snagged lots of attention last year from Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Univision, and it's hard to understand how they flew below the local radar for so long. With a progressive, four-to-the-floor, hard-driving sound and lyrics sung in English and Spanish, the Monas represent the essence of a global rock 'n' roll done properly. Part of the Monas' niche is their ability to crank out bilingual, '70s-style rock that fits so well in the new century. Their latest single, "Cae La Noche," has strong instrumentation and a driving bass line that echoes the Rolling Stones or the Australian band Jet. And the strong Latin vibe should go over well when they hit Central Texas this week.
Bleubird is a rapper who has taken an unusual path to success. His style is a combination of the heady white-boy rhymes of Aesop Rock and the rapid-fire spoken-word style of Saul Williams. Hell, call him Allen Ginsberg with shelltoes on if you want to, because he can fit that role as well. He's been rapping on the South Florida scene for a while and isn't afraid to speak his mind, especially if it helps him stand out from all the other bling-bling rappers going left as he goes right. The beats to some of his material are a bit mundane, but the lyrics are strong enough, and he delivers them clearly, so you don't miss a word. Besides his b-boy swagger, there's a touch of guitar and folk music that's a nice change. His newest album, RIP U$A, (Birdfleu) takes a few swipes at the Bush regime and commercialism, but what stands out about the LP is that each song feels like its own minimovie. You feel the emotion in Bleubird's songs, and everything flows well, even though no two songs sound the same. SXSW fans may not know whether to break-dance or hold hands when he takes the stage, but predictability is not in this bird's nest.
Broward County's the Postmarks have the music industry paying attention to their sugary sounds in a big way. It may have taken two years to put out their debut, self-titled album, but now that it's on shelves, everyone from Spin to the New Pornographers seems to want a piece of them. The reason they draw so much attention is because of the Brian Wilson-like rock that they churn out with the stellar songwriting of band member Christopher Moll. That's made them the new emo darlings of college radio, and it doesn't hurt that lead singer Tim Yehezkely is as dreamy as they come. Her melodic voice (yes, Tim is a she) and baby-soft tone is potent enough to make a grown man cry. The Postmarks sing of love lost and of heartache, not a subject that's underrepresented in the pop universe. But they do it so much better than most.
Indie-rock fans (and the parents who borrow their Ipods) who got excited about the slow-tempo, Garden State soundtrack will find a new champion in Lake Worth's own John Ralston. He's been known around the local scene for years opening for, and occasionally headlining with, other local-but-then-exploded acts like Dashboard Confessional and Legends of Rodeo. But now Ralston has honed in on a sound and style of his own: one that blends four-track-style harmonies with background violins and slow-charging beats. He's mastered the role of full-frontal indie icon, and his last album, Needle Bed, even included a downloadable box of chocolates so that everyone who cares enough to support him knows that he loves them. And let's face it: You can't get more indie than that. So in a sense, he's your high school boyfriend (except that Ralston grew up, cut a hit record with Vagrant Records, and then went on tour with Ben Lee, while yours is still living at his mom's house scribbling in his journal).
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