A cursory look at Idaho’s musical history reveals an affiliation with Mötley Crüe, certainly, but let’s not forget the state also produced indie rock god Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, modern-day folk star Josh Ritter and the dreamy soundscapes of Trevor Powers’ Youth Lagoon. Boise may not be Brooklyn but it boasts a music scene characterized as much by conventional catchiness as it is by diversity. We took a look at the Idaho music scene and found a sea of synths and singer-songwriters alike. Part of our 50 States Project, here are 10 Idaho acts worth checking out.
Current Release: “Grow Something in the Ground”
Aaron Mark Brown may keep things mellow and classic but that doesn’t make his sound any less exciting. This is the kind of music you want to come home to. It’s got the same hospitable, old-fashioned spirit of early Delta Spirit and Dawes.
Members: Cary Judd, Jeremy Coverdale, Chelsea Pierce, Robert Timothy Devers, Jr., Bruce Maurey, Brock Bartel
Current Release: The Funeral Party (2013)
In a strange turn of events, it would seem The Blaqks ceased to be a band in the middle of writing this list. But while we’re waiting on Cary Judd’s new project, The Vacationist, as well as whatever’s sure to come from his other bandmates, there’s no reason not to enjoy this catchy-as-all-get-out group in the meantime. Conceived of as a fake family band, The Blaqks borrow from the entire history of rock to strike at the heart of what makes melodies stay in your head for days.
Members: Ruby, Jun, Peyton, Alex, Sienna, Jim (last names withheld on band’s Facebook, most likely because they’re teenagers)
Current Release:: Pull Together EP (2013)
Calico is a group of high schoolers making music far beyond their years. Their songs are quiet, folksy and rounded out with strings. For their youth, their musical maturity is impressive to say the least.
Members: Will Gillett, Peter Thomas, Brenton Viertel
Current Release: Peter Goes to Law School (2013)
It should come as no surprise a band named The Dirty Moogs specializes in synthesizers. The keyboard work here should put in you mind of dancing till you drop. If they keep coming up with stuff as groovy as this, we’re really excited for what they have in store next.
Members: Ryan, Andrew
Current Release: “Just Drive (Version 1)”
In terms of influences, Edmond Dantés’ Facebook cites “Just about everything. Even Rick Astley and Def Leppard.” This wide sonic palate pays off in their electro-pop output so far.
Members: Travis Ward, Alison Ward, Mike Waite
Current Release: Hillfolk Noir Radio Hour (2012)
John Doe, the bassist/vocalist from X and The Knitters, said, “If John Steinbeck owned a speakeasy, Hillfolk Noir would be the house band.” Within 30 seconds of listening to any of their songs, it’s easy to see why. Their rootsy talent has gotten them opening slots for bands from Built to Spill to Bonnie “Prince” Billy. If none of that gets them a spin from you, we don’t know what will.
Members: Daniel Blumenfeld
Current Release: “Riding on the Wings of the Night” feat. Cheyenne House (2014)
LadyTramp is the work of Daniel Blumenfeld, a man born and raised in California who started recording electronic music soon after moving to Idaho back in 2006. Eight years later and he’s still cranking out singles permeated by the synthpop spirit of the ’80s. Where some modern-day electronica can get lost in the pretensions of highbrow chillwave, LadyTramp keeps it simple and it really pays off.
Members: Louie Bash, David Mikkelson, Tom Racine, Nathan Hope
Current Release: Clear Motions
If you search for “Shades” on Spotify, you’ll come up with several bands sharing that same name. The album to look for is Clear Motions, this Boise band’s 2012 entry into the same musical territory as Washed Out and Toro y Moi. With a new album on the way sometime this year, it’d do you well to relax in the auras created here by Shades.
Members: Storie Grubb, Bruce Maurey, Matthew Vorhies, Dustin Jones
Current Release: Storie Grubb & The Holy Wars EP
Storie Grubb & The Holy Wars has a room key to some door in Jeff Mangum’s Neutral Milk Hotel. The vocals balance on the fragile line between a warble and a whine, sometimes backed by concussive guitars and other times by simple acoustic plucking. If a band’s lead off single asks a question as packed and provocative as “What Makes Me a Man?,” you know they mean business.
Hometown: Twin Falls
Members: Lora Harper, Cory Hentrup, Chessa Lilly, Jason Burke, Devin McComas
Current Release: “Man Down” (2013)
Toy Zoo is a band with a vocalist, a drummer, a keyboardist, two bassists and the post-punk spirit of bands like The Jesus Lizard. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise at how adept they are at cultivating a sound which sounds like rhythm confined by choice alone. This band is filled with free, expressive spirits who prefer calculation to exploration and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.