Sunday, January 15, 2012

Local Artist Spotlight: The River Monks

The River Monks are a splendidly multi-talented indie-folk collective, hailing from the capital city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, after all, is French for "The Monks" (or perhaps, "The Moines", if you ask a local). The city gets its name from the Des Moines River which flows through its downtown. In the 18th century, a group of Trappist monks built huts and used the mouth of the river for catching fish, which led French explorers to name it Le Riviere des Moines.

This interest in the origins of the state's rich history speaks to the local pride of The River Monks. This is a young group of locally-grown musicians who've found a pull to make their mark on their own city's musical landscape. With every grassroots performance, the band has gathered a loving fan base.

These performances are warm, humble and inviting. Delicate 5-part harmonies resonate over layers of guitar, ukulele, banjo and glockenspiel. Percussion crescendos into triumphant fits of passion and jubilant trumpeting, then instantaneously backs down to reveal an even deeper sensibility beneath.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know these artists a little bit better over the past few months and after seeing them play again last night, feel confident that they deserve to be heard beyond their home state. Which is great, because they are just about to embark on a month-long tour both South and West.

For details on where you can catch The River Monks on the road and to purchase music from their terrific debut album, Jovials, visit the band's Facebook page or Bandcamp page.

Listen below to samples of the songs, "Pelica" and "Fall Hard" by The River Monks:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

He's My Brother, She's My Sister

He's My Brother, She's My Sister is the odd, yet aptly named musical collaboration of brother and sister Rob and Rachel Kolar.

The group's energetic folk-a-billy lifted the crowd at The Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Iowa last night.

Rob and Rachel share vocal duties with a rich, soulful kinship. Rob's on guitar and kick-drum. Rachel's on tambourine. The songwriting is strong and the harmonies are vibrant and very catchy, but it's the rhythm section that truly rounds out this band.

Aaron Robinson and Oliver Newell fill the air with slide guitar and upright bass, respectively. Oliver is especially lively - dancing and smiling jubilantly from behind his hand-painted bass.

But it's percussionist Lauren Brown who could be vying for the title of Hardest Working Lady in Showbiz. She thunders on drums, sure. She also tap-dances the majority of their live performance. On top of a bass drum. You get tired just watching her, but it's fabulously entertaining.

As I watched the performance last night, I thought, "This is happy music." I could see it on the band's faces. As I watched them careening through jangly melodies like a band of glammed-out gypsies, it was awfully hard not to smile, myself.

Fans of acts such as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Tilly and the Wall should most definitely give He's My Brother, She's My Sister a deeper listen, particularly at one of their great live shows.

He's My Brother, She's My Sister is currently on tour. For dates and more info on where to find their music, visit:

Watch a performance of "Tales That I Tell" by He's My Brother, She's My Sister below:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lana Del Rey - 'Born to Die'

After years performing in clubs in New York City for crowds of ten or less, Lana Del Rey is finally receiving the exposure she deserves.  Indeed, she is slated to perform this Saturday on SNL.

The sixties-inspired vocal siren is scheduled to drop her major label debut later this month.  And one of my favorite singles from the forthcoming album is 'Born to Die.'

You can watch the official video to 'Born to Die' below: