To wrap up the very popular BOTG Mailbox series (/sarcasm), I'm going to highlight four bands whose submissions impressed beyond the usual, the kind of submissions that will have me actually following these folks to see if they can manage to get somewhere bigger and better. This isn't necessarily the same as me saying I love the bands. Rather, they just seem somehow more accessible, or maybe they've kicked it up a notch, musically, or maybe they just hit a different groove, enough to raise a curious eyebrow.
So, without further adieu, here's your four Best Bands in the BOTG Mailbox.
1. School of Seven Bells
I L U (mp3)
Three days after I took advantage of this band's kind offer to test drive their album, I saw promos for it plastered all over eMusic, and I thought, Damn, I'm gonna be late to the promotion party. Trust me, if you like the songs above, you'll love their album. A mix of electronica and inspired by a variety of '80s and early '90s sounds -- My Bloody Valentine comes immediately to mind -- this band will find plenty of sullen teens and misty adults eager to embrace them. Their leadoff song, "Windstorm," is just damn good by any standard.
2. The Belles
Time Flies When You're Losing Your Mind (mp3)
The Burning Questions (mp3)
"Lo-fi." For such a simple concept, I can't ever quite seem to get it. Regardless, if The Belles are "Lo-Fi," then they're damn good at being "Lo-Fi." They're a little bit mopey, a little bit shoe-gazey. They play a simple and tight set, know how to craft a decent earworm, and wear their hearts on their sleeves. That guitar riff that carries through in "The Burning Questions" is the kind of thing that makes for great John Hughes movie moments.
Bands like this one don't do it to play in arenas, but rather because there's this poison in their souls that has to bleed onto a page. All the great artists have it -- even if not all of them make it -- and I'd love to see these cats play a live set, because I bet it would be intense and splendid.
Their second album, released in June, is titled Time Flies When You're Losing Your Mind. Consider losing your mind with them and buy a few of their songs. Their older stuff is available on eMusic, but the new album is on Amazon.com.
3. Detox Retox
This band comes across as a little bit Weezer, a little bit Phoenix. Poppy jangly guitar music with just enough of a nerdy alternative edge to keep things interesting. While "Caroline" is my favorite from the EP they sent, their other songs are certainly worth a spin if this one catches your ear.
Their album is entitled Movement and is available now at eMusic and other online retailers.
4. Neil Nathan
Do Ya (mp3)
Rosario Dawson. Electric Light Orchestra. Matthew Sweet. If you can get the first into your video, and you have the audacity to craft a stripped-down acoustic version of the second, and if your sound is guaranteed to earn comparisons to the third, then you're guaranteed to get my attention and interests.
Neil Nathan isn't Matthew Sweet, but that's hardly a crime. Nathan has a little more old-time Lenny Kravitz in him as well. Some of his songs are a little out of my interest range, but there's no questioning his talents and production qualities.
His album is The Distance Calls and is available now at eMusic and other online retailers.