Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Top 3: "Grower" Bands

      I am a big believer in "growers," those bands that take more than one listen to truly appreciate.  To call a band a 'grower' is not a negative thing. Instead it simply means that the first impression of a band may not be the most accurate one.  
     It is like that person who, at first, you don't like.  You think they are weird. You don't get their sense of humor or their pop culture references. You keep hanging out with them, however, because you see a little bit of good in their character.  Maybe they have good taste in beer or an interesting fashion sense.  Then something strange happens.  After a few hanging-out sessions, you start to laugh at their jokes. You start to recognize their references and even add on a few of your owns.   Suddenly they are your new B.F.F.F. 
     By the same token, growers are bands that at the first listen do not soothe the sense, but with a few more spins make perfect sense...

1. The Hold Steady
     To me, The Hold Steady is the ultimate example of a grower band. The first time I listened this Minneapolis band, I was not a fan. I could not get past Craig Finn's voice or how he sing-talks. The guitars were too loud and raw. I did not get why everyone loved this band so much.  
But now, I get it.  The beauty of The Hold Steady can really be found in their lyrics.  The songs are simply stories about friends, bar nights, parties, adventures and bar nights.  The stories told in "Party Pit," "Massive Nights" and "Chillout Tent" are more of a shared-history than a rock song.  It is to the extent that their friends seem familiar - like your friends. Not all of THS's songs are loud.  The quieter and more vulnerable ballads, like "Citrus" and "Lord, I'm Discouraged," are prime examples of the ever reaching talent that this band possesses.  It only takes a few tries to recognize it.       
How Resurrection Really Feels (from "Separation Sunday") mp3
Citrus (from "Boys and Girls in America") mp3

2. Pavement
     For some reason, I always ignored Pavement as one of those bands on my "very influential yet not my taste" list. I had heard a few songs in the past but it never stuck.  Then, while creating this list, I decided to give them another try (at the suggestion of Kevin, from the-Audiobahn).  As I downloaded "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" and "Slanted and Enchanted," I did not know what to expect. I had listened to a lot of Stephen Malkmus solo stuff in the past and liked it but was not thrilled by his voice or off-kilter lyrics.  But what the hell.  Second time is the charm, right?  
     After only a few listens of each of those pivotal Pavement albums, I immediately found myself bobbing my head along with the 90s sensibilities of many of their songs, like "Cut Your Hair" and "Filmore Jive" (from "Crooked Rain").  Many of the songs on "Slanted and Enchanted" are reminiscent of Weezer's "Pinkerton."
     So my advice if you have disregarded Pavement in the past: give it another chance. This is a prime example of when a really influential band is actually good and not just incredibly overrated. 
Gold Soundz (from "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain") mp3
Zurich is Stained (from "Slanted and Enchanted") mp3

3. Bon Iver
     I love mountainy musicians, like Fleet Foxes and Ray LaMontagne. I usually develop an admiration instantly because, I think, part of me wishes I lived surrounded by sky-lines made of mountains instead of those made of sky scrapers. The instant love I expected to have with Bon Iver did not happen at first sound.  It was something about the raw nature of his voice that made me wonder, "Could anyone's voice actually sound like that naturally?"  I liked the guitars though so I kept listening to "For Emma, Forever Ago."  After 12+ listens, I grasped the true talent of Justin Vernon.  His voice is definitely an acquired taste. But I believe his unique voice and gorgeous lyrics have secured him a place in the Mount Rushmore of mountainy musicians (if there was one). 
For Emma (from "For Emma, Forever Ago") mp3
Blood Bank (from "Blood Bank EP") mp3

Honorable Mentions:  Neko Case, Martin Sexton, Regina Spektor, Vampire Weekend


  1. The same thing happened to me with The Hold Steady,they are more than a band that sounds a bit like Bruce and ESB.They really have some great songs and can rock in there own rights.

    Thanks I checked out The Pavement because of you guys and I really like Crooked Rain,Crooked Rain.
    A really fine album.

    I'll check out Bon Iver, but I don't usually get into that type of music.But I must say Fleetfoxes have grown on me.Not many bands these days are concentrating on good harmonies.

  2. The new Bon Iver EP is excellent as well and the first Hold Steady album "Almost Killed Me" has some cracking tunes. All most definitely grower bands, good choices.