Oh, and now Leonard Cohen, too? It's official, 2016 is the abyss.
Miami's pride Jacuzzi Boys (Nov. 6, Will's Pub) have come a long way from their auspicious punk beginnings. Now, the kids are made men, Iggy Pop-endorsed national players who've found their groove on one of the most strapping and identifiable sonic signatures out there. It's next-level garage rock that takes the heart of punk, grooms it with textural sophistication and rolls it out on a more concentrated wavelength. But punks need not sweat. Though those roots have become more latent on their recordings, they're still very much alive, primary even, in concert. And their brand-new album, Ping Pong (just released on Nov. 11 on their own new label, Mag Mag Records), injects some new force into their kick.
Speaking of getting made, it looks like openers the Sh-Booms are finally getting some dues and making some moves themselves. The powerhouse Orlando soul crew have just begun working with Limited Fanfare Records & Management (Lil Daggers, Heavy Drag) in Miami for management and Rollo Grady Music (Natural Child, Pujol, Futurebirds) in L.A. for licensing, so their stars appear to be aligning in some significant ways. More on them soon in our big local music issue on Nov. 30.
Also beginning to build up some real street buzz of their own are local goth ragers Autarx, who are a very fresh voice in punk, possibly the freshest in the city right now. Their sound and mien are intriguingly theatrical and crazed, but behind it all is a deeply dimensional sound capable of considerable range – going from nervy intensity to harrowing fury to even closing with some beautiful melody. This is one to watch.
Finally, there was Ft. Lauderdale surf-punk band Octo Gato, who are a bunch of goofs. With enough campy nautical motifs to look like a cheap seafood restaurant exploded onstage, they're almost an SNL skit. Yes, of course, there was a beach ball in play. And their stage presence won't make you take them any more seriously. But it's not like this is prog-rock or anything. Fuck that. This is decent party music played with competence and humor.
For their first and only Florida date, 4AD/Glassnote band Daughter (Nov. 9, the Beacham) debuted in Orlando. And apparently, a whole legion of people has been in wait for this because the historical occasion was met with a thirsty and robust reception.
The London act identifies as a folk band, though that heritage is vague because their underpinning is really the kind of folk born only of contemporary indie abstraction. The result, especially once all their considerable hallmark embellishments come into play, is a stylish brand of drama-pop. There's a twilit minimalism at its heart that leverages mood and relief. But when the music strikes, it can be oceanic with swells of guitar, drums and electronics. Add to that the presence and serious-ass lyrics of frontwoman Elena Tonra and things get thick.
Although Daughter's music is often more atmosphere than resolution, it played effectively in a show with a professional stage production of appropriate lighting and projections that connected the dots and drove it all home. If anything, the band proved the power of monolithic restraint when done with purpose.
A similar gentle-but-big dynamic goes for young support act Vancouver Sleep Clinic, which is the vehicle of Tim Bettinson, an artist not actually from up north but rather Down Under, map be damned. Just as momentous as Daughter's, this Orlando debut was part of the band's first tour of North America.
Bettinson may ride the tender frequency in the modern tide of ether-breathing crooners with his fragile, ghostly falsetto, but he's no window-gazing whisperer. This guy's got clear widescreen pop ambition, often streaking the canvas in grand sweeps and scaling crescendos. Though his music is slow, indie-ish bedroom pop at its core, he and his full band render it with impressive scale and color it with modern flourishes of R&B and electronic. It's soft, straight and earnest but solid and epic.