Few organizations are as invested in the advancement of good Orlando music as promoter Norsekorea. Their latest gospel-spreading campaign is Orlando Is Tight, a colorful compilation featuring top delegates like False Punk, American Party Machine, Moonmen from Mars, Waxed and the Areolas that's a primer on what's happening here right now. It's free on Bandcamp, with physical copies coming soon.
It's too early to be talking "post-prime" about respected indie-pop balladeer Matt Pond PA (Oct. 19, the Social). But his latest drift has been a major pivot, and it's not necessarily a surefooted step.
Pond's melodicism has always been centrist. His last two albums (2015's The State of Gold and 2013's The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand), however, have taken a palpably commercial turn. Unfortunately, this slick direction often robs him of the heart that's historically angled his tenderness in affecting ways. That should alarm longtime fans because heart is what his music's always been about. Now, Pond's balance is precarious. The guy already specializes in sentimental pop songs as it is, so buffing down his emotional grain too easily forces him onto generic adult-alternative ground.
In concert, the contrast was even sharper when new songs were juxtaposed with vintage ones in a set list heavy on the classics. The guy's a craftsman, and his body of work proves he's got reliable songwriting aptitude. In what employ he decides to use it, well, that's what'll sum up everything in the end.
New York opener Laura Stevenson, on the other hand, is an artist finally hitting real stride. Though pleasant, her musical footprint has been somewhat indistinct. But she's got a new album, Cocksure, that's about to drop Oct. 30 on Don Giovanni Records that will change that. Like a modern-day Tanya Donelly, Stevenson leaves the whimsical folk and pop detours behind on this '90s-channeling record and really digs in with a direct indie-rock sound that's muscular, melodic and classic. A mixture of sweetness, crooked charm and sharpening marksmanship, this simultaneously beaming and driving album is easily her most definitive work yet. Those assured songs have already galvanized her live presence in a marked way, leaving an impressed crowd hollering for more after the band left the stage.
In case you didn't pick up on the drug reference in their moniker, new Orlando act Timothy Eerie (Oct. 18, Will's Pub) is a psychedelic band. And though they're fun, this is the kind of garage psych that has a bit of an edge that can trip heavy or rise up punk, all pretty convincingly. When a freshman band emerges from practically nowhere with this kind of skill, size and aesthetic, it's sign of something potentially very special. From what I saw on stage, this is a local worth keeping an eye on.
But the evening's biggest attack was Oakland's the Atom Age, a maximalist wrecking crew that piles sax and transistor organ onto the usual rock arsenal. As original rock & roll as they are modern punk, they dig deep into the roots of the wild American soul and pull up a fistful of live wires. Surging with the kind of '60s abandon that forecasted punk, their sound is hot, raw and uncontained. And live, they're total animals.
Emily Kopp has been playing around Orlando for a few years now but has been easy to overlook. Although certainly competent, she's one of those artists who is full of heart and earnestness but whose square pop-rock sensibility is so pedestrian as to be lost in the crowd.
Early this year, however, I was given a sneak peek of her new, soon-to-be-released EP, Making Sense Of. It's not a huge sea change or epiphany, but it's the work of a notably more confident artist who's dialing it in with bigger, more crafted strokes. Though her latest show (Oct. 23, Backbooth) didn't quite capture all that new promise on stage, hints of the improvements in taste, songwriting and presence were there. But she's got that EP loaded and ready for release Dec. 4, so let's see what her next steps bring.