Each week, dozens of songs and albums from up-and-coming (or just plain unknown) bands debut on the world’s music charts. Some of these bands will never be heard from again; some may become the next little thing. That’s why every two weeks Chuck Eddy will be exploring the world beyond the Billboard 200, where he’ll look for diamonds in the MySpace rough. This week, his roster of up-and-comers includes a trio of country-singing sisters from California, Europe’s self-proclaimed “Hottest Guitar Player,” some unlikely beneficiaries of Jay-Z’s press, Viking metal from the Indiana tundra, a mysterious London 8-bit musician, and an Arizona outfit that actually wants to be known as “Internet famous.”
It’s long day living in Reseda, Tom Petty told us once, and that’s the Los Angeles ‘burb that housed the ranch these three pretty sisters grew up in; their parents, pals of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, were in the outlaw country biz. Now Becky, Emily, and Joanna Robertson are signed to Toby Keith’s excellent but not particularly successful label Show Dog Nashville, and their self-titled debut album–not due out in physical form for many moons–entered the Country Album chart at No. 59 this week as a digital exclusive. Web-savvy tweens made Taylor Swift a star, Nashville believes, and here’s more fodder for ‘em. Anyway, real nice harmonizing on each of the four snippets-not-songs on the Carter’s Chord MySpace page. “When We Get There” opens shimmering not far from “All The Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople, and the single “Different Breed,” available for free at iTunes and about being jealous of stable girls who promptly send out thank-you notes, starts with dark blues guitars. Here’s how the girls explain the latter song on their MySpace blog: “One of us had run into an ex-boyfriend with their ‘perfect’ new girlfriend and we were venting about how we are SO NOT THAT GIRL! We try but we are far from the girls who have everything together all the time.” Makes sense, but an even more stellar blog entry is dated March 29: “I feel like talking about Soulja Boy. If you haven’t seen the video of me doing the Soulja Boy dance, it’s on our YouTube channel and our Myspace. Still not quite sure what ‘crank that soulja boy’ means, but I’m pretty sure it’s something inappropriate. I have to give a shout out to my friend Maria for teaching it to me. Without you, I, a skinny girl wearing leggings and ‘Robin Hood Boots’ as my friends call them, would not be all over YouTube and Myspace doing this glorious dance.” In a different video, the girls also dance to Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thang” and Kool & the Gang’s “Ladies Night” on their tour bus. Which makes the eight-minute “This Is Carter’s Chord” promo vid–where they insist they grew up listening to Ricky Skaggs and George Strait, as opposed to the Counting Crows and Lauryn Hill and Jimmy Eat World albums listed all over their Amazon album-recommendation page–even funnier. And the vintage home videos are pretty cute, too.
Yugoslav-born before Communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe helped change that mailing address to Serbia, but long based in Amsterdam, “Europe’s Hottest Guitar Player” (her MySpace claims) enters the Blues Album chart at No. 9 this week with her fifth album, Still Making History, even though I bet you never knew she made history before. Though some folks insist she’s “the female Hendrix,” the tunes on her MySpace sound pretty stodgy–well, the riff in “Hungry” is kinda chunky, maybe. But she’s said to incorporate funk, reggae, fusion, and Latin too, and she’s covered Steely Dan and Tom Waits while liking Stevie Ray Vaughan too much. On YouTube you can marvel as she jams with a blues band from Russia; her solo lasts from 2:26 to 6:43, and the Russians play like 55-year-old white guys at the local billiard hall in any Stateside suburb’s strip mall. Her Myspace page lists her booking agents as influences.
ZAC BROWN BAND
When Live Nation finalized its 360 deal with Jay-Z in April, these fiddle-proficient Georgia Southern-rock road dogs got nationwide off-the-record press, in The New York Times on down, as an example of a developing act the touring giant might also be negotiating with. Not sure where that stands now, but Zac and band checked into Hot Country Songs at No. 59 last week with a jaunty midtempo choogler called “Chicken Fried,” about what tastes real good with beer on Friday nights, and why soldiers overseas might miss it. The song on their MySpace that rhymes “cocaine” with “Spokane” sounds like Jackson Browne; the one sung from the point of view of a divorced dad riding Highway 20 back to his kid sounds like Jim Croce. All of which suggests their self-stated “hybrid of rock, soul, country, bluegrass and reggae” adds up to ’70s singer-songwriter music.
Genuine Viking non-hipster weightlifter power-opera metal in ’70s denim and facial hair from the frozen tundras of Indiana, bizarrely entering the physical-disc-oriented Hot Singles Sales chart at a whopping No. 3 last week for “I Walk Alone,” cool! A rundown of what some of their countless record covers look like: Iced Earth (1991)–angel falling from heaven; Night of the Stormrider (1992)–scary dude with hatchet riding horse of the apocalypse; Burnt Offerings (1995)–reclining demon surveying molten lava of Hades; Days of Purgatory (1997)–buxom dragon lady having an argument with an even more buxom bat lady; Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)–fake Iron Maiden mascot unleashes two hellhounds while brandishing branding iron; The Reckoning (2004)– zombie Revolutionary War heroes wave reptiled Don’t Tread On Me flag; The Glorious Burden (2004)–kickass Civil War battlefield scene with blues and greys killing and dying in equal measure; Gettysburg (1863) DVD (2005)–tasteful montage of historic white men in beards and mustaches; I Walk Among You EP (2008)–concentric circle thingamajig bounded by pyramid doo-hickeys in the corner. Iced Earth are also fond of Gregorian chants, and they’ve shared members with Judas Priest and Howard Stern.
BOY 8 BIT
I’m not sure whether this South London-based “young man who makes his records on a computer” technically plays so-called “8 Bit Music” (“a style of electronic music inspired by old computer consoles from the 8 bit era of video games,” according to Wikipedia). But if he does, does that make him the first 8-bitter to chart in the U.S., now that his “The Suspense is Killing Me”–which mainly sounds like, er, blips and bleeps and stuff–entered the (again, physical-product-geared) Hot Singles Sales chart at No. 39 last week? No idea, and either way, there is no picture of him on his MySpace. But oh yeah, along with Daft Punk (which is moderately audible) and Ennio Morricone and Wu Tang and a zillion other people (including lots of metal bands), he does indeed list “’80s arcade game music” as an influence. What a loser! Just kidding. I’m sure he’s just fine. Especially since his page also links to classic videos for ’80s hits by Rainbow, Mr. Mister, Moody Blues, Foreigner, and Chicago, at least a couple of which songs aren’t horrible. And because of this smart tidbit on his page as well: “Also in the News: Our Neanderthal ancestors may have been redheads.” A clue to Boy 8 Bit’s own appearance, perhaps?
THE MEDIC DROID
You go to their MySpace and there’s this giant picture of some anorexic girl who also seems to be the one on the cover of What’s Your Medium, an album that made a one-week-only appearance on last week’s Heatseekers chart at No. 33–an opening owed at least in part, one suspects, to its availability for $6.99 on iTunes. Included in that price, we’re told, is an “exclusive bonus track” called “Sho-Fer,” not to be confused with the streamable MySpace track “Fer Sure,” which sounds pretty much the same as the other electro-goth hermaphrocore tracks on the page except it’s got a little nasal geek-robot rap at the start that goes “fer sure maybe/fer sure not/fer sure eh/fer sher bomb.” Whatever the heck that means; the opening to the Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” 33 years ago was just as fruity and about a million times more clever. But a couple different vids on YouTube, including a slightly entertaining one from some long-haired and short-haired guy who seem to be fans, precede even the rap with a voice lisping over the phone: “Hey Boo how are you? Oh my God, I miss you so much! How’d you been? We should hang out sometime. MySpace me fer sher….” And then stuff that may or may not be libelous about a drag-queenish “Internet celebrity” named Jeffree Star, then stuff about drugs on the dashboard and instructions to “kick off your stilettos and fuck me in the backseat,” and stuff about the dropping of both beats and panties. Anyway, the under-nourished girl apparently isn’t in the band, which comprises three guys from Phoenix. Who pretty much stink, though maybe less so in the self-promotion department.