Zoos of Berlin -
Detroit quartet Zoos of Berlin may only have one full-length album under their belt - Taxis - but they have the sound of a band with much more maturity and experience. Their brand of indie rock has an almost elegant, stately feel to it - incorporating elements of jazz, soul, and classic pop - though the band is more than willing to up the tempo and volume when the occasion calls for it. The boys have a solid debut on their hands that they recorded, produced and released themselves this year - from which I recommend the driving "Black In the Sun Room," the lengthy, multifaceted "Juan Matus" and the disco-esque "Electrical Way" to start. The smooth blend of influences and ideas on Taxis results in an album that's often subtle but quite dynamic and consistently intriguing, with plenty to be discovered upon multiple listens. Definitely give these guys a shot.
Also new on the scene are Chicago psych-pop trio Netherfriends, whose new EP, Calling You Out, was released earlier this year. It's difficult to really describe or classify the group, though they touch on elements of freak-folk, noise-pop, and even a little of the Caribbean vibe that's been going around recently. Their six-song EP shows an ambitious and energetic band with the talent to pull off their almost casually experimental sound stuffed with various guitars, percussion and synth under singer Shawn Rosenblatt's off-kilter tenor voice. There are a generous amount of excellent pop moments on the album, including the anti-pervert song "Really?," which bounces between busy guitar and drum attacks and moments relative calm with little more than vocals to propel the song forward (think early Animal Collective). My other recommendations would be the messy, tribal "Nunya" and the especially melodic closer "Don't Invite Me."
Daytrotter Sessions Concert (highly recommended!)
Nancy Elizabeth -
British singer/songwriter Nancy Elizabeth might not be on your radar yet, but I'm thinking it's only a matter of time before we all start hearing much more about her. Her strong, emotional voice and songwriting style put her somewhere between Natasha Khan and Joanna Newsom, though she's certainly got a sound all her own. Her sophomore album, Wrought Iron, was released recently and has given me a welcome introduction to this talented songstress. First single "Feet of Courage" is probably the best showcase of her talent and appeal - a slowly building number that features soft tribal percussion and Elizabeth's haunting voice as the primary instruments while other subtle establishments work their way into the gentle climax. Most of the album follows a similarly restrained pattern that rarely gets loud or complex, but even on the most delicate and sparse of songs ("Ruins," for example), Elizabeth manages to captivate.