Give the gift of local music:
Vick’s picks for the audiophiles on your “Nice List”
By Victoria Wasylak
Without rock bands like Roll the Tanks, how would kids these days learn about life on the mean streets of Lowell? With lyrics like “you’re gonna feel the wrath of this Mick” the band produces exactly the kind of music you’d expect from a garage rock and roll band – and a tad more. The group uprooted from Lowell and landed in California in 2007. Their music harkens back to a time when ‘90s grunge rock shifted to punk, before all the poppy tunes got involved. “You can’t police me!” singer Dan Carney chants on “Police Me.” No, and we don’t intend to.
Forget newfangled genres. The Jessica Prouty band serves rock and roll straight-up, no chaser. The band itself is an accumulation of the best national rock talent, after the mem- bers met at a School Jam USA competition. The group’s latest album, Set Me Free, is hard rock at its finest. From Prouty’s killer vocals to Jon Suh’s intense shredding the band is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit in the making.
Nemes is the melting pot of the local mu-
sic scene. Their Boston blends include rock, folk, and blues with lead singer Dave Anthony’s raw vocals and their secret weapon, Josh Knowles on violin, who adds a new dimension to the group’s music. Their new album I Carry Your Heart features “Black Streak,” a badass bluesy turn for the band. And once you listen to their new single, “Butterfly,” it’s game over. The violin hooks and quirky refrain will never leave your head.
Western Education is home-schooled rock, raised in Lowell and fleshed out in downtown Boston. Fronted by self-described “new wave princess” Greg Alexandropolous, the band is sturdy proof that The Killers aren’t the only ones who can make the twenty teens music scene look cool. The band’s first LP, Let Your Secrets Out, is an accumulation of dance rock era remnants topped with Georgio Brofas’ Brian May-esque face melting hooks. Mixing the best of modern rock with the stuff that legends are made from, Western Education more than makes the “nice list” cut.
Country rock from Maine? There’s a band for that. The Mallett Brothers is the region’s source of folk and rustic rock that harmoniously covers activities like boozing while ice fishing and taking in the glory of Maine’s scenery from the back of a pick-up truck. Taking cues from Blackberry Smoke and .38 Special – bands that the guys have both opened for – Luke and Will Mallett and company have cultivated an Americana cult of sorts that’s as widespread in New England as Dunkin’ Donuts. Their wild romp debut album The Mallett Brothers Band, and latest album Land are campfire tunes best played in the company of friends and cold brew.
If you didn’t catch them at Boston Calling, then you missed a pivotal moment in local music. Gentlemen Hall has been clawing their way to the top of the Boston music scene since 2008, when the alt-rock quintet formed. With flute and synth in all the right places, the band’s tunes “All Our Love” and “Sail Into the Sun” have gotten love from popular New England radio jocks and have been all the rage at the region’s best music festivals. Besides, how many indie bands can successfully cover a Kendrick Lamar tune? These guys don’t kill vibes, they make them.
There are a few great singer/songwriters of every generation. Bob Dylan. Elton John. Billy Joel. Will Dailey is young, local and making his own mark thanks to being a three-time winner for best male singer-songwriter at the Boston Music Awards. Between a successful string of U.S. and European tours, and a barrage of radio airplay following his 2014 collection of indie pop gems, National Throat, Dailey is clearly a rising star who continues to win over audiences — big record label or not — with thought- ful lyrics packaged in catchy, hook-laden tunes. Single “Sunken Ship” laments a heavy heart due to a big record company break-up and change of lanes in life, yet it maintains a delightfully poppy, organ-filled rhythm. Proof that the healing words of a good tune never fail.
Sarah Borrello doesn’t just perform rock and roll, she takes you for a wild ride to Valhalla on the back of a fire breathing dragon while shredding guitar solos and electric piano cause car windows to blow out the whole way there. Or something like that. Borrello is a rare creature who’s got the dark allure of a raven, the attitude of Alanis Morissette, and the ability to switch between guitar and keys seamlessly. She does a mean cover of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” but her original music will stop you dead in your tracks with a slap and a kiss. Standout track “Stranglehold” on her album Exit smothers listeners in feisty blues and rock sensibility. Borrello’s best kept secret is that she’s a Grade-A hypnotist, and we are her willing victims.
For a band named something as timid as Paranoid Social Club, it’s kind of a surprise to see them singing lines like “Don’t make me make your momma cry / I never said I was an honest guy” on a track named “Gangster.” The Maine band’s tunes are an unexpected mix of funk and soulful rock for late night delights that are anything but awkward. “Wasted” is a party track to clink beer bottles to and then sloppily play Twister. If this is what it’s like to be a paranoid mess, then get us a membership application.
From the sound of their latest single, Love in Stockholm comes on dark and heavy like a 90s goth rocker clad in black with enough eyeliner to make Robert Smith proud. But a full listen to their album 2014 showcases this Boston band as an inventive genre-bender that sways between neo soul and dark rock. Track “Neighborhood Down” drips with drudgery, yet the light, first track “Better Man” sounds like a classic rock revival with a twist of blues. File these guys under enigmatic.
“My checks are cashed / my bags are packed / I don’t know where I’ll land” sings John Fad- den, lead singer of Lowell’s own doom band, Ichabod. Bursting with pride for their hometown, the band named their latest album Merrimack after Lowell’s mighty river, and ominous track “Two Brothers Rock” is a grungy 8-minute psychedelic trip down the river itself – as is the rest of the album. This is the kind of noise pollution that Mill City could use more of.
It takes a real talent to produce an Album-of-the-Year-worthy indie rock record, especially when the man behind the music is known more for producing award-winning hip-hop and rap albums. D-Tension’s Secret Project is a collab- oration with some of Boston’s finest indie rockers. Featured track “Can You Stand It” with Ad Frank is a Gary Numan-esque tune that calls to mind stylish guyliner and MTV’s first music videos. Nominated for Album of the Year at the 2014 BMA’s, the “secret” is out and as far as we’re concerned, there’s certainly nothing about this album that needs to be kept under wraps. Share it with someone you love.