On ICYC Live 2005, there's a track by the Iowa City world-music ensemble Euforquestra called "Tramba" that illustrates what's so great about live recordings: In a live setting, anything can happen, and strange things often do.

The Winter Blanket is one of those bands that the more you listen to them, the more you want to know.

My first experience with the group, which originally hailed from the Quad Cities but is now based in Minneapolis, came when I stumbled across its sophomore effort, Actors & Actresses (see "Building a Better Sedative," River Cities' Reader Issue 358, January 23-29, 2002).

I first caught Pocket Dwellers live at Hornucopia 2002. I was immediately taken by the band's musicianship, cohesiveness, originality, and of tons of energy - each of which was unrivaled by any band there, and touring favorites Liquid Soul headlined, if that helps make my point.

A Sound Business

On practically any given day or night in the Quad Cities, there's bound to be a band playing, an open-mic jam, or some musicians cranking it out in some way, shape, or form. One of the most important aspects, if not the most important aspect, of making music is the sound, and if you're making it around here, chances are you know who Frank Holst is.

As I was walking past our managing editor’s desk, the first thing I noticed about Quad Cities veteran players Driver of the Year’s latest EP, Some Girls Would Say … , was the artwork. It’s a plain black cover with a stylized green illustration of a nude woman lying with her head resting on the stomach of another nude woman.

Portland, Oregon, is creating some unique breeds these days. The Epoxies are the resurgence of an inescapably pleasurable combination of punk and new wave, and the result on the band's self-titled debut is really short and upbeat songs, flashy hooks, very competent musicianship, and damn smart, simple lyrics.

On its forth studio effort, Evolution, Liquid Soul delivers about what you'd expect: unbelievably tight arrangements, wizardry in soloing, and funky beats to boot. What you might not expect are the newest influences launched into the ever-changing stylistic universe of the Chicago-based septet, including a welcome infusion of world music, R&B-heavy grooves, and a surprising venture into the world of techno.

The raking guitar and pounding double bass drums might hurt your mom’s ears, but when the lyrical content contains everything from Jungian and Melchezekian philosophy to a disturbing sexual metaphor for social numbness, it’s worth a listen.

I must preface this by stating that I knew little of Galactic not long ago. I’d heard them recommended during innocent eavesdropping. I’d heard the ravings among the best of the ragtag new-wave wannabe hippies. I’d even heard some cuts off of one of the band’s albums (don’t ask me which), and I really liked them.

Take a fairly intelligent three-chord progression and pair it with minimalist vocal melodies executed at a snail’s pace, and you’ve accomplished 90 percent of what decent “slo-core” music requires. The other 10 percent isn’t so easy to pull off, but smart lyrics, musicianship, and the power to evoke an emotional response bring the package to completion.