In Dee Mail, Vol. IX – Secret Knives, Lisa Savidge, Charlie Khan, Indie Folker, Michael Silversmith, Jangula

Over the years, IRC’s In Dee Mail series has become one of the most popular regular playlist series with readers and visitors. In Dee Mail, which is a play on “in the mail,” is a special feature on IRC in which we spotlight the best artists and bands who submit their music directly to us unsolicited.  Some of our favorite artists and bands of the past few years have come to us by way of our mailbox, and in turn we package it all up and post it for our readers to enjoy. Of course, we’re also very interested to see what people think of these artists, and therefore, strongly encourage posting comments on what you think of a particular band or song.

So, to kick-off this special 2011 series of In Dee Mail, we are spotlighting some of our favorite artists out of the hundreds who have sent their music to us over the past few months. None of these artists have been previously featured on IRC, and many have never been profiled on a popular indie blog.  For those artists, we’re changing that today. And, in the coming weeks and months, we’ll be publishing some of the best music (in our opinion) you’ve never heard.

Hopefully, many of the highlighted artists in this series will begin to build upon their exposure on IRC (as various other bands have in the past) and attract more fans, and blog and press coverage. All of the bands that are featured in this series are bright blips on our music radars, and many of them are, by default, bands to watch in 2011. We’re also introducing a new and permanent feature to band profiles that we’ve never had previously – at the end of each profile, there is a website, label information (where applicable), music genre(s), artists that bands have opened for or shared the stage with and finally, each band’s musical influences. All of this information comes directly from the submission forms that bands fill out on our About page.

Finally, we are going to record which of the artists our readers and visitors like the most (based on number of streams and downloads of songs, Hype hearts, comments, etc.). For the most popular bands, we’ll be asking them to send in new songs as they become available.  We are really interested to hear what you guys think of the artists and bands in this first installment of a special edition of In Dee Mail.

Secret Knives – Wellington, New Zealand

The band we are kicking off this special 2011 edition of In Dee Mail with is New Zealand‘s magical shoegaze outfit, Secret Knives. As with many of the artists we feature throughout the year, Secret Knives are, somehow, still relatively unknown in the U.S.  But for a band as talented as they are, it’s still surprising. So, let’s see if we can change that.

Formed in 2008, Secret Knives found success quickly in Wellington following the release of their debut EP, The Wolves. In New Zealand, when a good band pops up, they are pretty much well known quickly throughout the small country. And no wonder Secret Knives became popular in New Zealand, even signing to A Low Hum records.  The band’s sound is probably best described as shoegaze mixed with pop.

After listening to their debut album, Affection, we knew immediately the band needed to be heard by more people.  In no way related to, or resembling, the famous Stanley Kubrick horror movie of the same name, the sah-weet track, “The Shining,” starts out mellow, and slowly builds up into an epic, atmospheric pop song that you just want to play again, and again. On the other featured track here, titled “The Garden,” the members of Secret Knives, demonstrate their talent with another gorgeous song that fits the whole shoegaze atmosphere, right up to the airy guitar licks,  steady, amplified percussion and layered choruses.

“The Shining”Secret Knives from Affection

Affection is steeped deep in magical tracks brimming with mystery and intrigue – music that you truly can get lost in because it is so atmospheric. From song to song there are  gorgeous rhythms and sweet melodies that weave together beautifully throughout Affection and The Wolves EP.  Luckily, the band has made both their debut album and debut EP available as a free download via A Low Hum’s label website (if that link doesn’t work, click on the album title to download from BandCamp instead).

“The Garden” – Secret Knives from Affection

Website: Secret Knives on MySpace
Label: Black Cactus Records
Genre: Shoegaze, pop, alternative rock
Opened For: The Chills, Daedalus, Die!Die!Die!
Influences: Slowdive, The Chameleons, Why?, Burial, Wolf Parade

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Lisa Savidge – Phoenix, Arizona

With the unlikely name, Lisa Savidge, former military serviceman, Dan Somers, returned to Phoenix, Arizona after years of deployment in the Middle East with “cynical, and hopeful eyes.” Somers’ experiences overseas were an inspiration for his songwriting. He then set out and recruited local musicians to “push the boundaries of what can be done with rock music,” bringing together Ellery Keller, James Krehbiel, Nick Gortari, and Patrick Lamaide. And the results are remarkable as evidenced on the band’s September 2010 eponymous sophomore LP, Elk Cloner. From start to finish, Elk Cloner is a fascinating, genre-bending mix of raw power pop, post-rock and shoegaze; a thrill ride from start to finish.

The band have attracted quite a bit of praise from Phoenix area press and beyond. In fact, Bruce Repologle, the former publicist of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, said that Lisa Savidge’s music “rains down in a minimalism revved up again with a neo-Echo & The Bunnymen chorus.”

Website: Lisa Savidge on MySpace
Label: Black Cactus Records
Genre: Indie Rock, Noise Pop, Prog, Post Rock
Opened For: Kinch, What Laura Says, Black Carl , Kirkwood Dellinger, Peachcake
Influences: Pink Floyd, The Pixies, Explosions in the Sky, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead

Charlie Khan – London, England

Musician Charlie Khan from London definitely stood out among hundreds of submissions we’ve received in recent months. Backed by a clattering cacophony of weird and wonderful instruments, including his trusty two-string stick bass (which handily doubles as a weapon), and a host of decrepit guitars and vintage keyboard instruments, his brand of demented skiffle-esque diatribes are a truly unique proposition.

The first track Khan sent, “The Mortal Coil Shuffle,” is such a fun and engaging song; we can totally imagine it being on the soundtrack of some Johnny Depp movie because of it’s quirky, carnivalesque style and Tom Waits-on-speed flare – a musical vaudeville and dark cabaret that takes the listener on a rambunctious audio thrill ride. The only thing that is missing is the lion’s roar.

Label: Villainous Records
Genre: Dark Cabaret, Carnivalesque
Opened for: None
Influences: Amanda Palmer, Can, Captain Beefheart, EELS, Frank Zappa, Nick Cave, Tom Waits

Indie Folker – Cluj, Transylvania, Romania

With nasally, Dylanesque vocals, and a stripped down acoustic guitar playing along to the refrain, “I see monsters in Rome,” are some of the reasons we love  “Monsters In Rome,” one of the best indie folk songs we’ve heard so far this year.  Interestingly, Indie Folker, are a band are from Cluj, Transylvania in Romania

Last May, the band released their debut album, Monsters in Rome. In the band bio box on the IRC submission form, Indie Folker claims to be “very much like Iron & Wine, without the iron, or Noah And The Whale, without the whale…Tom Waits on high heels, a more scrupulous and much younger Bob Dylan, a low-tuned Elliot Smith with an aching throat, a less-British Damien Rice – but longing to be more like David Gray on a regular day.”

“Monsters In RomeIndie Folker from Monsters in Rome

“Afraid Not Sacred”Indie Folker from Monsters in Rome

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Label: Unsigned/DIY
Genre: Indie Folk Rock
Opened for: None
Influences: David Gray, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Iron & Wine, Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen, M. Ward, Alexi Murdoch

Micheal Silversmith – Riverside, California

This next song sent to us by Riverside, California singer/songwriter Michael Silversmith. Again, another artist that we’d never heard of previously, and who turns out to be wonderfully talented. 

This is a grower song, and it definitely has a catchy title. Silversmith is a new-to-us addition to the Americana and folk end of the musical spectrum. Not surprisingly to us, Silversmith has opened for bands like Crystal Antlers and Delta Spirit. His album, Life is Beautiful, was originally released last November.

Label: Unsigned/DIY
Genre: Singer/Songwriter Americana
Opened for: Crystal Antlers, Delta Spirit, Jay Buchanan, Richard Swift
Influences: Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Iron and Wine

Jangula – New York, New York

For a band that we’ve never hear of before, New York band Jangula have a matured indie rock sound as evidenced on “Genji Glove.” With it’s driving beat, jangling guitars, thick melodies and bold vocals, the track seems to have all of the ingredients of a college radio hit. We know that band comparisons can be tricky, sometimes risky, but we think Jangular sounds a little like Spoon, and a bit more like the Editors. Combining Joy Division’s driving skeletal rhythms, Brian Eno’s colorful harmonics and Bowie’s imaginative lyrics, their dynamic, genre-bending style is powerful enough to get people dancing and singing along.

“Genji Glove” Jangula from Jangula EP

“Pachinko” –  Jangula from Jangula EP

Website: Jangula on MySpace
Label: Unsigned/DIY
Genre: Dance Rock, Electro, Experimental, Post punk
Opened for: Didi of Brazilian Girls, The Postelles, Free Blood
Influences: Joy Division, Roxy Music, The Beach Boys

The Hollow – Rockaway, New Jersey

Of all of the bands featured in this post, The Hollow are probably the most polished-sounding. But, in their case, it’s not a bad thing; although their songs, at least the two tracks featured here, are more likely to be played on college radio alongside bands like My Morning Jacket and 3 Doors Down.

That said, The Hollow are an unsigned band; whether they progress more towards the modern rock sound, and away from alternative or indie rock, remains to be seen. Of course, they didn’t do themselves any favors as far as the band name, when you consider that there are numerous bands with the same or similar name. Luckily, it was easier to find them in a Google search then it is for other bands with common names – especially over-used favorites like bear, deer, shark, and so on.

The Hollow’s first single, “Run Away,” with it’s opening atmospheric guitar lick (which sounds remarkably like the intro on U2‘s “Where The Streets Have No Name”) has the makings of a college radio hit, even though it could benefit from a little better mixing on the percussion. 

The second single, “Move On Past,” is another solid modern rock track, elevated by high-octane guitar licks (and a not too shabby solo) and soulful lead vocals. The band have received numerous accolades on rock radio in New Jersey and in the local media. Apparently, they have only opened for one band, The Marshall Tucker Band. We’re not sure how an alternative rock band in the 2000s got paired up with a classic southern rock band from the 1970’s; but, you know, strange bedfellows and all that.

“Run Away”The Hollow from The Hollow

“Move On Past”The Hollow from The Hollow

Label: Unsigned/DIY
Genre: Alternative Rock
Opened for: The Marshall Tucker Band
Influences: Perpetual Groove, 311, My Morning Jacket, Incubus, Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, MuteMath, Phish, The Grateful Dead, Stone Temple Pilots

Did you dig one or more of these virtually unknown bands? If so, you’ll definitely want to keep checking back for the subsequent installments of this special series that will put the spotlight on a whole bunch of other super talented artists and bands who somehow, and for the most part, remain under the spotlight.

In the meantime, we recommend these popular posts and playlist mix series featuring thousands of free and legal MP3s for your computer, mobile phone or MP3 player.

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