One Man Bands to Watch in 2010, Vol. I: Richmond’s Battle Flags and Brooklyn’s Alex Walker
On a regular basis, we receive in the mail surprisingly fantastic music from completely DIY, independent, artists and bands that just about no one has ever heard of, and in many cases, who have hardly, if ever, been written about on a music blog or online magazine.
In fact, we have featured probably hundreds (at this point) of such artists and bands, many of them reviewed in playlist mixes like Music In Dee Mail, Singer and Songwriter Spotlight Series, and Band of the Week profiles.
With 2010 nearly at full throttle, the music is piling up. But some of the submissions we’ve received already stand out from the rest – as of this date, perhaps a dozen or so that we will be featuring in the coming weeks here on IRC, and others that we’ve already featured (there are many MP3 nugs in our archive posts if you don’t mind clicking around a little).
Today we present two one-man bands from two completely different places and circumstances. Yet they both have a couple of things in common, the most notable being that they do it all – from writing and recording music, to playing all of the instruments, mixing and producing the songs, to distributing and marketing their albums. When you think about it, there is no way to not be in awe of someone who goes totally DIY – no band, producer, engineer; little to no financial backing; no fancy recording studio full of expensive equipment, and so on.
One of the finest examples of this type of totally DIY artist that has really wow’d us is the one man band, Battle Flags. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Battle Flags crafts semi-psychedelic electro-pop sounds and harmonies reminiscent of the so-called “surf-rock” resurgence that has risen to prominence in the past year or so.
With that context, it must be noted that Battle Flags really stands out as an Artist to Watch in 2010, particularly within that loosely defined genre that many trace back to bands like Animal Collective, and further back than that to the Beach Boys records of the late 1960s.
Listening to Battle Flags’ songs, you’d think this was an established synth-drum band who are already known to thousands, or millions, of music lovers, have been featured prominently on all the big blogs and music sites, toured to packed venues and so on. Not in this case; the relatively unknown Battle Flags is entirely the work of college music major Jack Budd.
While Battle Flags is not completely obscure – there have been some mentions and reviews in publications like DrownedInSound and Brick magazine – his name recognition has yet to catch up with his talent. Battle Flags’ biggest exposure to date has been opening for The Walkmen and Lake Trout.
After Budd sent us a few tracks via email from his debut LP, Color Engine, we have literally been playing thesongs again and again for the past week or so. The first track, “Siren Songs,” (watch official video above) could easily be an “indie” spring/summer hit on The Hype Machine, and the song that puts Battle Flags on the map. “Siren Songs” is one of the stand-out, surprise DIY tracks of the year. It entices the casual listener to soak in its hazy, warm sun-drenched synth pop sounds, raspsy, reverb-heavy vocals and dubbed choruses. Don’t be surprised if you end up playing this track again and again.
“Siren Songs” – Battle Flags from Color Engine (2010)
On “We Don’t Operate,” Budd employs his genius yet again with electro pop rhythms, hand-clapping, layered and looped vocal harmonies and chants, raw drum beats, and even referee whistles. The result is an amazing and irresistible affect, that like its predecessor, “Siren Songs,” is instantly enjoyable and memorable; another fantastic addition to the coolest summer mixtapes of 2010.
The seed for Battle Flags was sowed while Budd was crafting stencil graffiti in a small bedroom in Richmond in 2007. Eventually he began constructing rhythms and samples using pots, pans, shovels, living room chairs and even empty beer kegs. Budd added his high pitch, but captivating, vocals, samples and effects and other elements until he had enough tracks that he was comfortable to send them to us to share with all of you.
“We Don’t Operate” – Battle Flags from Color Engine (2010)
If there is an album that you should hear this month that you would have otherwise probably never known about, it’s Color Engine. You can listen to short samples of all the songs on Battle Flags’ official website, and buy the full album (officially released on March 8) as well.
Next up, Brooklyn’s Alex Walker is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who creates layers of sounds, campfire singalong choruses, doubled-up samples and strong back beats with injections of quirky synth notes, as evidenced on the song, “Trust The Fire.” Guest vocalists include Matt Whyte (Earl Greyhound), Brian Grosz (Dogs of Winter), Anthony Yacobellis (Nice New Outfit), Shelly Watson and Alyson Greenfield. This track has an uncanny resemblance to the sound of Iceland’s popular one-man band, Sin Fang Bous.
Walker’s experience as a writer, producer and accomplished guitarist for NYC rock band, Aloke, and bassist for chamber group, Electric Kompany, demonstrates the breath of talent and skill, not to mention his reptuation for hours and hours of practicing.
“Trust the Fire” - Alex Walker from Trust The Fire (2010)
And yet another side of Alex Walker – classical guitar
On the heavy grooves of “Caught Starin,” the listener is exposed to a different side of Walker, where his work, as he describes, “exists as an alchemic distillation of the classical guitar repetoire, the rock n’ roll cannon, a childhood in the 80s and 90s (and all the trappings of that era), a love of hip-hop, jazz and other American improvisational trends.” This song is darker, haunting, and even somewhat mechanical. The album, Trust The Fire, was officially released on March 2nd. Download Walker’s other work at Lapdance Academy.
“Caught Starin” - Alex Walker from Trust The Fire (2010)
Other Playlist Mix Series You Might Like:
- Bands to Watch (2009)
- One Man Bands
- Best New Releases
- 2009 Indie Rock Songs
- 2008 Indie Rock Songs
- Songs About New York City
- Dream Playlist
- Songs for Mom
- The Great Unknowns
- State of Music
- Best Rarely Heard Indie Songs
- Summer Indie Rock Mixes
- Songs of Winter
- Songs of Spring
- Songs About The Moon
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