Pop: Meet the 2014 RFT Music Award Nominees
The 2014 Riverfront Times Music Showcase will be held this year on June 7 in the Grove! Think of it as St. Louis music's own official holiday and consider this the season. Throughout May we at RFT Music will be making our cases for all 140 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, so that you will be able to make a fully informed decision with regards to your vote. Read on and get yourself acquainted, and we'll see you at the showcase!
See also: Vote Now For the 2014 RFT Music Awards
If successful marriages are built around love, respect and a division of labor, Sunyatta and Kevin McDermott's union bears fruit every time CaveofswordS takes the stage. She sings with entrancing verve and laser-direct clarity; he creates atmosphere with a mix of trippy samples and visceral musicianship. Since the release of its debut Silverwalks (and its remix companion Skillwavers), the band has grown to include a living, breathing rhythm section that has added both industrial and jazz-like colors to the palette. That only makes CaveofswordS harder to pin down, genre-wise -- we can think of at least five other suitable categories in this local-music horse race -- and that's what makes us hungry for the band's forthcoming release, due out later this year.
It's been a breakout year for Middle Class Fashion. With the August 2013 release of Jungle, this quartet took its place as one of the area's best bands. Lead singer/pianist Jenn Malzone, already an impressive songwriter, outdid herself, wrapping lyrical sentiments of loneliness and cynicism in increasingly streamlined, hook-laden compositions. MCF has done some touring, shot a few videos and had its song "Stuck" featured on the public-radio series This American Life. Most recently, the band contributed "Focus" to a split seven-inch single (with Sleepy Kitty) on Tower Groove Records. Malzone's most recent songs suggest further ambition and experimentation. Live, its shows are engaging and fun.
It's no small feat that Kristin Dennis has imbued her synth-pop outfit Née with as much substance as there is style. Her thrift-store glam image is both futuristic and retro, and the care she put into the video for "Pretty Girls" is a lesson in both art direction and subtle feminist theory. But taken on its own, the music she and her bandmates make across two fine EPs reveals the rich textures of analog synthesizers and, increasingly, the importance of a more human element. Dennis' husband, producer and erstwhile Old Lights majordomo David Beeman, fills in on keys and guitar, and long-time drummer Mic Boshans recruited his Humdrum partner Dan Meehan to fill in on guitar as well. It's an organic growth for a frequently synthetic group.
Syna So Pro
Dancing isn't technically part of Syrhea Conaway's job description as Syna So Pro. But when Conaway juggles guitars, violins and keyboard while singing and striking loop and effect pedals, it's hard to think of a Syna So Pro performance as anything less than a ballet. Newer songs typically spin out from a simple major-key riff into either atmospheric webs of melodies or stormy fuzzed-out rockers. Conaway then cuts through these dense sound clouds with a sonorous voice that possesses incredible range. The combined effect of all these elements is a feeling of both liberating release and a soothing sense of calm.
Given that the Vanilla Beans has its origins in an obsession with Daniel Johnston (or so the Beans claim), you might expect the feigned primitivism of yet another hipster jerk-off band. Not so. The Beans always sound just as excited about bubble-gum pop as with lo-fi no-wave. The band builds on a strummy foundation with algebraic guitar lines, funky little synthetic drum splats, twee harmonies and petabytes of fuzz, creating something that's danceable, cheery and just a little artsy at times.