Japanese Rooms (Institution)
It's such a wonderful thing when a new band pops up that is so exciting, so impossible to ignore, that not only do they stand out from the pack, they positively leap out of it and hang off of your ears. Atlanta's Starbenders did exactly that.
"Starbenders are the halfway home for misunderstood misfits, fringers and glam punks," reads a press release accompanying Japanese Rooms, the new six-track EP from the band formed in 2014. And Christ on a cracker, we need exactly that right now. The big festivals have gone pop, so where do those existing on the outskirts go? Right here.
The EP is magnificent. The press release plays up justifiable comparisons to David Bowie and Debbie Harry — the band revel in that androgynous, sassy rock & roll playground. But the clearest reference point for us is the Nymphs. Singer Kimi Shelter shares an agro-croon with the '90s band's frontwoman Inger Lorre, a beautiful and scary unpredictability that results in a sound that is in turn ethereal and hard. But, above all that, the melodies stand out. Reliably infectious, any of the six tracks could be a single.
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Two of them have been — new wave ballad "Never Lie 2 Me," and the glam punk of "21st Century Orphan." But the opening slam of "Death by Amplifier" and the epic sweep of "Far From Heaven" are equally impressive.
Starbenders just went on tour with Alice In Chains and they're about to go out with Palaye Royale, both fascinating bills. They'll then hopefully be thinking about a full-length follow-up to 2016's Heavy Petting, because this band is at the top of its game right now.