3 Bands You Should Be Listening To: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Florence and the Machine, and Band of Skulls

LIKE MOST MEN, I love women with T&A.  And yes, like most men, the more T&A, the better.

Sexist? Maybe, but there’s something about a woman with Talent and Attitude that drives men wild.  So, this month let’s focus our attention on several sassy songstresses who are revolutionizing rock and roll a la Janis, Joan and Stevie.  Oh, and be sure to click on some of the links and videos – these gals may make you, er, stand to attention as well.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Ever since I read that rock star hottie Grace Potter wears two pairs of panties when she performs, I haven’t been able to stop myself from wondering if she’s ever given some poor dude the ultimate tease.

Just imagine – you’re rocking out at the front of one of her shows when she finishes her encore, catches your eye and pulls you backstage with her. One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re hooking up on the back of her tour bus. You slide one pair of leather thongs (my dream, not yours) off only to find another pair guarding the goal line like Ndamukong Suh. As you call for the fullback plunge, she smiles, thanks you for your time and escorts you off the bus like a Snickers bar without the crunch – chocolate, caramel, but no nut.

Given that Potter openly embraces her sexuality in a refreshingly open, honest way – I sort of doubt it. But, if so, it’s the only thing about her recent career that hasn’t taken off as she’s lead her Nocturnal groupmates to rising star status.

Hailing from the syrupy sweet state of Vermont, the Nocturnals formed in 2002 as Potter was joined by Scott Tournet on guitar, Matthew Burr on drums, Cather Popper on bass and Benny Yurco pitching in on the electric guitar and vocals. After thousands of hours in the studio, on-tour, playing the festival circuit and dropping a couple solid Indie albums, the Nocturnals reached mainstream culture in 2010 when their third studio recording, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, debuted at #5 on iTunes. Give the opening track, “Paris” (Ooh La La) a listen – it’s hotter than slap bracelets in ‘92.  If you’re not feeling well, check out number four – “…she’s got the Medicine that everybody wants.”

The band’s newest effort, The Lion The Beast The Beat, was released in June and signals some interesting choices by the band. Most notably, listeners will hear more electronic vibes than Potter and crew are known for, as well as some bluesy funk. Given that the album was influenced by everyone from Willie Nelson to Kenny Chesney to Dan Auerbach, the eclectic nature really isn’t that surprising.

If you’re a fan of the sensual sound Potter is known for, “Never Go Back,” will be right up your alley.  Looking for something different? Check out “Turntable,” a weird, but likeable track featuring a record player’s needle grinding against vinyl. And any song by Potter that includes grinding is okay by me.

Friend her, follow her or let her rock your face off.

Florence and the Machine

There are a lot amazing things that can be done in the bathroom of a dingy pub – the cute blonde two bar stools over, a piss Jimmy Dugan would be proud of or snow skiing with Lindsey Lohan. And if you’re international singing sensation Florence Welch, you can add “being discovered while singing to a stranger” to this illustrious list of awesome restroom activities.

The story goes she was at the Soho Revue Bar in central London for a party organized by hot shot  DJ’s and event organizers including Mairead Nash who happened to visit the loo at the same time. After swapping pleasantries, an “exuberant” Florence began belting her rendition of blues singer Etta James 1961 song “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” (I’m guessing Something = Jager). Weeks later, Florence was on Nash’s client roster and the rest is history.

To say that Florence is eclectic would be way too politically correct for this site. The chick is weird.  But damn, can she sing – a perplexing mix of operatic pop where she gets higher than Michael Phelps and lower than James Earl Jones. The band (Machine is actually another gal in the group) launched their debut album, Lungs, in August, 2009. By January, 2010 the record reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and it stayed there for 28 weeks. Interesting enough, the whole album focused around a recent breakup that really chapped her ass – inspiring hits like “Kiss with a Fist” and “The Dog Days are Over Now.”  Angry texts from your ex don’t seem so bad now, huh?

Last October, the group followed up their record setting first effort with Ceremonials, an equally brilliant, but slightly less angry album highlighted by “Spectrum” which just released as a single earlier this month. The tune begins with awkward undertones of tension that really make you want to skip to the next track. But then, out of nowhere Florence explodes with a chorus that just flat out makes you grin as she demands that listeners “Say My Name.” The song has already taken off in the UK and success in the U.S. is bound to follow as it blends a sure-fire sing along pop feel with her typical kooky lyrics.

Oh, and if you liked Black Swan (and who didn’t), check out the music video – ballerinas (18+ you creeps), a blinding disco ball between her legs and a mini-me version of Florence make this a must watch.

Friend her, follow her or let her rock your face off.

Band of Skulls

Generally speaking, I’m a big believer that if people stick to what they’re good at, things work out better. Adherence to this principle would have prevented Arnold from destroying California’s economy, kept Jordan from striking out on the Diamond and ensured Shaq focused on rebounds instead of raps. But, every once in a while, there’s a diamond in the rough so incredibly freakin’ talented they are able to command two spotlights at once. Emma Richardson, bass player and vocalist for the kick ass British rock group, Band of Skulls, is one of those people – playing  and painting her way to stardom one day at a time.

If you get a chance to see the Skulls, you’ll love how they rotate vocalists throughout the show – keeping things fresh and varying the sound in an authentic and natural way.  But, while band mates Russell Marsden and Matt Hayward are no slouches on the mic, it’s impossible to ignore Richardson when she takes the mic as her gravely voice is imbued with the uncanny ability to be sweet and powerful at the same time.

One look at her paintings, debuted at a public show in London earlier this year, indicates that skill transfers from her crooning to her canvas with remarkable ease.  She describes her exhibit, aptly entitled ‘Cruisin for a Bruisin’ as similar to Rorschach ink blot tests, but the large scale abstract oils are way more than that.  Bleeding colors and merging shapes scream sex and chaos more intensely than a Jersey Shore re-run marathon.

Oddly, so does her music. The Band of Skulls’ sound is refreshing because it’s not “new age rock,” “urban rock” or any other weird prefix. It’s just good old fashioned rock and roll.  If you want something cute or hippstery, this is not your jam. But, if you want a group that will get your head bobbing (Aerosmith, not Bibi Jones), pick up their first album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey and listen to “Light of the Morning,” “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” and “Patterns.”  Their newly released Sweet Sour is also worthy of purchase because the title track is just sick – put it on during a workout and add another 10 pounds to the bar.

Like the album artwork? Thank Emma – the world is apparently her canvas.

Friend them, follow them or let them rock your face off.