By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
There's a fine line between reporting events after they happen and breaking news before anybody else. Being nosy and asking questions, of course, helps immensely in the latter category (and in generating a music section, for that matter).
In fact, keep checking the new Local Motion section on the Critics' Picks page for updates on what area bands are up to. Waterloo (November 30), 7 Shot Screamers (December 23) and Harkonin (this week) recently earned some ink. Also don't be shy to e-mail A to Z c/o email@example.com (or find myspace.com/hndinglove) to let us know where and when you're playing, what you're recording or even just to say hello. (We also accept album recommendations, tips on good restaurants and tasty recipes.)
Without further ado, here's just a hint of what to expect this year:
After an anemic turnout at last March's SXSW music festival, St. Louis is poised to make more of an impression in Austin in 2006. So far 2005 vets Magnolia Summer were accepted for a return engagement, alongside their local Undertow labelmates Waterloo and the Love Experts. And four more Undertow artists (Milton Mapes, Jay Bennett, Amazing Pilotsand Steve Dawson) were also accepted matching the busy year label partner-creative director/Waterloo vocalist-guitarist Mark Ray promises. Undertow's release schedule includes discs from rustic rockers Glossary, Philadelphia's the Artificial Hearts (Ray describes it as "a very cool folk/electronica record") and East Coasters the Cush (whose record he describes as "amazingly beautiful").
On the local side, Magnolia Summer's Chris Grabau reports that the band's upcoming Undertow album, From Driveways Lost View, "feels a bit more like a band record. The basic tracks were recorded together as a band, which I suppose lends itself to that concept. I think it's a great representation of Magnolia Summer as of now." Look for View to be released March 7.
Undertow will be releasing Waterloo's Out of the Woods, which Ray is mixing with Centro-matic's Matt Pence in late spring or early summer. (Mark your calendars: Centro-matic's booked at Off Broadway April 10.)
In other news, the Fishpaws, a side project of Brain Regiment bassist Casey Babb, are tracking their first record. Babb says the Fishpaws identify with influences such as Wilco, Sebadoh, Pink Floyd and the Replacements all accurate, judging from the samples at www.fishpawmusic.com, which range from blissed-out space rock to brisk bar-band rock glossy with twang.
Four years after 2002's Go Steady, the sunny power-popsters of the Maxtone Four plan to release their follow-up, Hey Hey Do It Anyway, in early February. (Find demos at myspace.com/themaxtone4.) Vocalist Brian McClelland reports the band had some success in Japan with Steady but will stick to regional haunts such as Kansas City, Chicago and Indianapolis after Anyway's release. McClelland is also playing guitar and contributing vocals to the effervescent, dBs-meets-Shoes pop group Tight Pants Syndrome, which will release its full-length early this year although without vocalist Marcia Pandolfi, who has moved to Chicago for art school.
The jet-setters in Ludo have an appropriately hectic first quarter: demoing tracks, a tour with like-minded Minneapolis pop-punks Quietdrive, spring-break concert plans in Jamaica and opening for Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill January 18.
F5 records president DJ Crucial snagged an impressive cadre of underground hip-hop luminaries to contribute to his upcoming disc, Test Presses and Dub Plates: MF Doom, Atmosphere's Slug, MC Eiht, Hi Fidel, Serengeti, Company Flow's J-Treds and freestyler J.U.I.C.E. Look for it mid-March.
Bunnygrunt will be busy indie-popsters in 2006. Guitarist Matt Harnish promises two seven-inch singles with "as many as four" possibly released and an East Coast tour in March, plus appearances at PopFests in Athens, Georgia, and in New England.
This Is How We Understand is the name of the debut full-length from stlpunk.com faves Westcott, who've been recording the disc with producer Jason McEntire at Sonic Temple out in Union. Check myspace.com/westcott for updates and details.
Ghost in Light holed up at Smith Lee Productions in Maplewood in December to start recording another full-length, which drummer Shae Moseley promises will eventually have "pianos, organ and trumpet (that's right, I said trumpet)." Moseley hopes to finished by spring; whatever the case, GiL intends "to keep the perpetual music machine humming along at an intense 3500 RPMs from here to who knows when."
Mea culpa: Owing to holiday insanity, A to Z misprinted the name of the band playing Frederick's Music Lounge on New Year's Eve. Sorry, Two Cow Garage, we really did know your name had nothing to do with automobiles.