Courtship Ritual can do more with a bass, synth, and drum machine than a lot of bands can do with twice as much gear. The Brooklyn duo of Monica Salazar and Jared Olmstead takes simplicity and minimalism to dizzying heights on its debut album, Pith. Recalling like-minded acts such as Beach House or the xx, Courtship Ritual makes dark, dreamy pop, but in their hands, there’s something even more contagious about their songs. Pith is a quick record, skipping past in a mere half-hour. The songs deliver their hooks and get out, constantly leaving you wanting more. The album’s co-producer Nick Sylvester summed it up best when he told NME, “There’s very little to these songs but somehow they each feel like their own world.” One of these worlds is the arresting “Kingdom of Beauty,” which rides a bubbling bass line as its melodic center before shifting into a full-on summer party song almost halfway through its short running time. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s easy to keep coming back to Courtship Ritual again and again.
Photo by Jaret Ferratusco
It took a few years for Broncho’s debut album Can’t Get Past The Lips to catch on, but not for any lack of catchiness in the songs. It was simply a matter of distribution, because once songs like “Try Me Out Sometime” got lodged in your head, it didn’t matter when the album was released. The band started as a one-off recording project for Ryan Lindsey in 2010, who also plays keyboards in fellow Norman, OK outfit the Starlight Mints. The Mints’ rambling psychedelia is a far-cry from Broncho’s rapid-fire power-pop, played with an ear towards ’70s production but a modern urgency.
On September 16, the quartet returns with its second album, Just Enough Hip To Be Woman. If the double entendres didn’t tip you off, Broncho has their collective tongue firmly in-cheek, yet they’re committed to writing great songs. First single “Class Historian” turns stuttering “duh duhs” into a pretty memorable hook, sounding like the Cars on a punk rock budget.
Acoustic guitars and spare, brushed drums were the hallmarks early in the Rosebuds’ career, but the longtime North Carolina duo has ventured far from those limiting boundaries. There was the band’s surprising synth-led disco album in 2007, and just in the past few years, the Rosebuds have released an album of Christmas originals, a couple of Halloween-themed songs, plus a reinterpretation of Sade’s 1992 album Love Deluxe.
It makes a certain amount of sense then that the Rosebuds share a big connection to Justin Vernon, whose own band Bon Iver has also explored the intersection between folk and R&B. Vernon has shared bands with the Rosebuds’ Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp in the past, but besides that, he’s just a big fan of their songwriting. Teaming up at Vernon’s own recording studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the Rosebuds set out to create their sixth album with an anything-goes mentality. Bon Iver’s drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn also helped out, all old friends committed to putting their creative energy to tape.
Sand + Silence, out August 5, manages to distill the Rosebuds’ career into a single cohesive statement, and what a statement it is. These songs hit harder than any in the band’s big discography, shifting effortlessly from Beatles-esque pop to darker folk-rock. Album standout “Blue Eyes” bops along a jangly melody, sounding immediately classic even on first listen. And if you like what you hear, the Rosebuds will return to Austin in October for both weekends of ACL Fest.
Not to be confused with Austin’s own country-rockers Crooks, the Crookes hail from Sheffield, England, yet they do have a local connection. After a week of sweaty shows and surviving on pizza at SXSW this past year, the U.S. label Modern Outsider came calling, impressed by the Crookes’ hook-filled energy. A deal resulted, but it came after six years of hard work in their native country.
Critical and commercial buzz followed the Crookes almost immediately after forming in 2008, thanks to the band’s near-constant touring and luminous sound. The Smiths and Belle And Sebastian are obvious influences, but there’s a certain darkness and attitude lurking in frontman George Waite’s delivery. The group recently stopped by our Studio 1A while touring with Young Buffalo (another recent 1A guest and Song of the Day veteran) to play a few songs from their third album, this year’s Soapbox. The live version of “Don’t Put Your Faith In Me” shows off what the Crookes do best: pack their songs with hooks and charm, while simultaneously twisting the emotional knife.
Photo by Dusdin Condren
Brooklyn’s Bear In Heaven found a novel way of building some buzz for their last album, 2012′s I Love You, It’s Cool: they created an alternate version of the record by slowing it down 400,000% and streamed the whole thing once via their website (which took about four months). It was an interesting (and funny) stunt, highlighting the band’s melding of the high-minded with their love of the sheer texture of sounds. Each of their three albums has paired moments of electronic beauty with complex, pounding rhythms, like dance music crafted in a laboratory instead of a club.
Album number four, Time Is Over One Day Old (out August 5), doesn’t come with any stunts, but it’s still plenty experimental. The songs have a serpentine quality to them, beginning in one place before ending in another place altogether. The title and artwork hints at a love of all things cosmic, and throughout Time the band reaches for the stars, both lyrically and musically. Album opener “Autumn” rides waves of synths and sound effects while frontman Jon Philpot sings of autumn, drones, Lazarus, pleasure, and pressure–and abruptly, the song comes to an end. It’s a scene-setter, paving the way for a unique sound to follow.
Catch Bear In Heaven at the Parish on Thursday, August 28.