Listening Party: oddStar, Jason Ross Martin and Brad Sweitzer

Opening the show this week is local “electrogothic spacerock” group oddSTAR. It’s a rare group that so openly admits their most obvious influences, yet this Asheville-based five-piece seems more than happy to own up to their love for the likes of The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and New Order. But, does oddSTAR live up to their self description of being “dark yet ethereal, beautiful yet brooding” and “sublime yet urgent”? We’ll let you decide. We suggest starting with the song “Waiting,” which is a but more rocking than some of their more ethereal tracks.

Next up, we have Jason Ross Martin, the former lead singer of the now-defunct band Poisonedarts (not to mention the man inside the controversial “Picnics’ Chicken” suit). Martin places his music somewhere between pop and jam, but on first listen it sounds more like a singer/songwriter rocking a synthesizer rather than an acoustic guitar. It’s also worth noting that Lovedarts, Martin’s debut solo album (from which most of his MySpace songs are culled), is set for release this week. We recommend starting with “January Snow.”

Closing out this week’s Listening Party, we have Brad Sweitzer and The Young Sophisticates, a group that mixes equal parts folk-rock and biting humor. Owing a heavy debt to bands like They Might Be Giants and The Dead Milkmen, Sweitzer’s songs are cynical, cleverly written narratives about dating friends’ sisters, overweight rockers examining their party-heavy lifestyles and “odes to pubic hair.” Not surprisingly, some of his songs are fairly explicit, so if you’re planning on listening to these tracks at work, consider yourself warned. We suggest starting with “Canada.”

Now, it’s your turn. Tell us your thoughts on these performers by posting into the comment fields below. This is your chance to be the music reviewer, so praise and pan as you see fit.

Also, if you’d like to suggest a band for Listening Party, or have questions about the column, visit this thread on our Mountainx.com forums.

— Steve Shanafelt, A&E editor

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10 thoughts on “Listening Party: oddStar, Jason Ross Martin and Brad Sweitzer

  1. Okay, I’ll refrain from going on and on about how wonderful oddSTAR is since I’m obviously not objective, but I’ll drop some thoughts on my fellow Ashevillains…

    My initial reaction to Jason Ross Martin’s tracks are that I wish they were recorded and/or mixed a little better. I like the basic song ideas very much and the lyrics were interesting to listen to, but I was distracted a bit by the in-your-face synth work which too closely resembled the old Casio keyboards on auto-chord at times. Some of the sounds were interesting though and if the parts had been mixed better, it could really give some more depth to the tracks. The drums were pretty basic and low in the mix…I would’ve liked them to be more crisp and maybe a bit more complex. The guitar work was nice. The vocals were a bit weak in spots, but I suspect they were recorded in a single take (no splicing, I mean) and it’s hard to be perfect singing a track start to finish. Overall, it’s a good effort which could’ve been improved by more time spent refining the sound. I know I’m being a bit anal regarding the production on JRM’s material, but for this style of music I think it’s a bit more important than for some other styles (such as the next group).

    I was surprised and well-pleased by the sounds of Brad Sweitzer and the Young Sophisticates. It’s not my standard fare, but if their live performance is as engaging and amusing as the music is on its own, they could have quite a future as a novelty act. The music is at its best when it takes advantage of several of the many band members listed at once (i.e. I enjoyed the fuller sound more than the parts with solo acoustic guitar). It’s good–I dig it! Not much more I can say about it…

  2. Jose McPlug

    If you haven’t seen them live, you’ve totally got to check out Brad Sweitzer & The Young Sophisticates @ The Root Bar on January 19th. They just played in Nashville and it was incredible!!! Keep an eye on these guys.

  3. LP

    Thanks for sharing that stuff with us! I really dig them all. But that Brad Sweitzer stuff is friggin rad!

  4. Well oddSTAR, I’m finding your band name to be rather ironic after thinking of how to respond to your feedback on my songs from my debut album LOVEDARTS………………………..

    1) Equipment List for Jason Ross Martin’s LOVEDARTS: Gateway Computer circa 95, ZOOM PS-04 Palmtop Studio, Headphones the CVS drugstore around the corner, Shure PG-58 microphone, Yamaha YPT-400 synthesizer, Epiphone Sheraton hollowbody electric guitar, Epiphone Les Paul 1956 Goldtop w/ P-90’s, Epiphone AJ Acoustic Guitar

    2) Produced by Jason Ross Martin; Lyrics by Jason Ross Martin; All music written and performed by Jason Ross Martin except “Out of This World” by Fredrik Jonsson (from the Swedish bands The Virtues and the Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra); Horn and string arrangements: Jason Ross Martin; Cover art and design layout: Jason Ross Martin; Special guest: Doug Rodgers (Rap/Spoken Word on “Everybody Makes Mistakes”.

    I’m not suggesting on any level that I am a signed, major label artist.

    But I have just finished my debut: a 65 minute concept album, and to me, this is my life’s first masterpiece………and that’s after having help found the KIPP: Asheville Youth Academy….won a $10K national teaching award through that work….watched the school quickly die out after I was fired after false allegations of sexual harrassment……and that’s also after making the front page of the Citizen-Times AND the Mountain Xpress as the Dancing Chicken (Oh yeah…that’s right….I’m the Gingerbread Man down in Woodfin now!)………all of that is child’s play compared to LOVEDARTS.

  5. Hey, Jason…my comments were not intended to slam your accomplishments, and they were most definitely not meant to shortchange your talent. As I stated in the original post, I actually like what you’re doing… Everything I said was stated with respect for your art and was only intended to provide my personal feedback on how I thought you might improve the overall sound (see, that’s good because it means I had little to critique on the songwriting or musicianship). It’s only my opinion, so you’re welcome to take anything that’s of use to you and ignore the rest. My understanding of the purpose of The Listening Party was for locals to have a chance play the reviewer and critique what they hear. As a musician, while it’s nice to hear people say rah rah rah you rock, that’s a lot less useful than having someone say they like my work but here’s how it could be better. Sorry if it came across as negative–I was only trying to be helpful. Wanna take a stab at mine?

  6. But of course… I will offer a review ASAP. I just think that between musicians, its obvious that the recording I have just completed is not of the highest caliber…. even a non-musician will hear it and know instantly that this is not a slick, professional, polished recording. So to point that out to me is kind of like suggesting that I don’t know the difference….. However, I will remind you and the audience to our exchange here that even a relatively poor fidelity recording can change the world…and can be enough to sway those holding the gold–the HQ equipment, the Gibsons instead of Epiphones, the technicians who have studied the science of recording–to take notice and decide to put resources behind a visionary talent……ever heard of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday? Not exactly ProTools level stuff…..

    I will respond to the songs on your page ASAP. Thank you for the complimentary words in both of your posts.

  7. As promised here is my review of oddSTAR’s myspace selections………

    I must admit that labeling any music is dangerous; you risk associating the unheard music with a listeners other preconceived notions. So when I read that I’m getting ready to experience “Electrogothic Spacerock” I’m already turned off. Gothic makes me think of middle school kids in black tee shirts with black boots, weird hair, lots of piercings, angst, and gloom. And none of that appeals to me as a recovering ex-middle school teacher. Personally, just calling it rock or some less pigeonholing title might have spared my notorious prejudices….

    However, I like the overall sounds created by this group. The guitar sounds, keyboard sounds, the rippling fuzz and digital bleeps and wheezes are very entrancing to me…. I also have fond memories of many of the acts oddSTAR references as influences, particularly Depeche Mode.

    However, I don’t associate a gloomy, hopeless vibe with Depeche Mode. They were (are?) a sexy band to me….. somewhat brooding, but mostly dark and sexy. But not pale white skin, Doc martens, and a bad attitude about life…..no that’s stuff that I associate with Goth…obviously I don’t understand or relate to your target audience. Or maybe I’m stereotyping again?

    Of the three tracks I listened to all the way through, it was “Waiting” that I liked the most. It reminded me of “Westend Girls” from the Pet Shop Boys, particularly the tonality of the singer’s voice. Like the other songs, it was a slow chord progression, dark, and left me a little starved for melody. I like the guitar riff at the 3:00 minute mark or so; and I think the bass line riff reminds me of the Beatles “Hey Bulldog”–which is ironic because unlike that song this one is so depressing to me. ‘Your dreams and friends have left you… reaching for the end’. Hmmmmmmmm…..yes this is a univeral theme you’ve touched upon….but is it one I’d want to reflect on enough to listen to this again? I’m not sure.

    The other two tracks I listened to were “Another Angle”, which I found to be throbbing, dark, evil, with indiscernable words, and “Strange (Live Version)” which I found to be dark and doomy……like an electrofuzz lounge in purgatory. Again, the vocals were muffled and I could barely discern any words or concepts beyond the repetitive, hypnotic progression. I could definitely feel the New Order vibe seething in this one.

    So in summary, I think oddSTAR has a cool, dark, brooding set of sounds, arrangements, and an ethos that clearly links to their idols like Nine Inch Nails. Unfortunately, my tripped out moments usually make me want to “laugh and laugh and fall apart” and then dance, rather than plunge into a percolating, glistening, black sonic abyss, however well-crafted and captured it might be. But as far as “Electrogothic Spacerock” goes, this is probably some of the best from our local scene, but I’ll probably never experience enough of the genre to confirm this because I gravitate towards happier music.

  8. and now for Brad Sweitzer and the Young Sophisticates….

    When I look back at the thread, I feel embarrassed somehow… even though I was just defending my lo-fi sensibilities and necessities, and angrily, I guess, trying to blame some dude I don’t know for making some masterfully produced dark, brooding ROCK music. Just basically fried after baking all day again since 5 am, and at my wit’s end.

    And so I decided to post about the last band on the lineup…..The Young Sophisticates. And I was mesmerized by how good I thought it was…..maybe this has just hit me at the right moment to connect to this string-laden, sort of ironically soothing lament-world they’ve captured…. I can feel a tightly wound core slowly unrolling in the prettiness of this. It makes me want to go chill at the Root Bar this weekend and check it out……

  9. While I understand the above criticisms of Jason Ross Martin’s recording techniques, I found his music to be very original and refreshigly guile-less.

    As for OddStar and Brad Sweitzer, I thought they were both very good within their respective styles. It will be interesting to see how all three artist/bands develop over time.

  10. I came back to this page today because I wanted the whole world to know that oddSTAR and I have developed a mutual appreciation since this initial digital exhcange. Turns out that there is more to their powerful chemistry and talent than I had thought, and perhaps my next project will feature the kind of tight production that they felt my material deserves.

    And so for what it’s worth, it’s another example of how this page can provide a pivotal tool for meeting like-minded peers within this percolating music scene we have.

    JRM

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