So Many Dynamos, El Ten Eleven and Bleeding Rainbow this month in Iowa City

Kristian Dunn of El Ten Eleven
Kristian Dunn of El Ten Eleven

There are few things more enjoyable in the summer than putting on a pop album, rolling the windows down and going for a cruise—even if you aren’t going anywhere. Here are some pop albums that rolled through my world this summer.

The first is the debut album from Bleached, Ride Your Heart, released earlier this year. Bleached is made up of Jessica and Jennifer Clavin of Mika Miko, one of the best bands to come from the new wave of Los Angeles underground music. The Clavin sisters took the frenetic energy of their first band and fit it into a ‘60s girl-group format. The result: a lot of swagger, sister harmonies and coolness. Imagine the Shangri-Las if they had grown up with Siouxsie Sioux and Exene Cervenka instead of doo-wop.

Another album to listen to over a summer breeze is The Secret History’s Americans Singing in the Dark, released in June. The band picks right up from their strong 2010 debut album, The World That Never Was, a peerless collection of beautifully melancholic indie pop songs influenced by the drama of both new wave and glam. The new album shows their further cohesion as a band, and defines a sound that can handle both ballads and uptempo rockers with great ease.

In addition to these great recent releases, there are some quality shows coming to town.

So Many Dynamos

The Mill – August 6 at 9:00 p.m. ($8)

Hailing from St. Louis, So Many Dynamos creates music that will make you dance. The band’s mashing of angular post-punk guitar riffs, heavy percussive elements, math-rock time changes and chilly, electro style has gained them a dedicated following since their formation in 2002. While their songs sometimes start off slow, they always pick up the speed and make people move. Fans of Mansions on the Moon, The Dismemberment Plan and The Juan MacLean will certainly find something they like here.

El Ten Eleven

Iowa City Yacht Club – August 29 at 9:00 p.m. ($10 in advance, $12 Day of Show)

Sometimes, there are concerts that have an effect on you within moments of opening; afterwards they linger in the back of your mind as something that was very enjoyable. El Ten Eleven provided one such experience. I caught them during Mission Creek 2012 at the Yacht Club, and two things immediately stuck out about them: The first was Kristian Dunn’s double-neck bass, because really, how often do you see one of those? The second was seeing how they made the music. The albums sound like full bands are playing, but there are only two musicians. It is truly impressive to see them play their high-speed, fun, instrumental rock live. I remember this show because, like their music, it was really, really fun and had everyone in the room dancing.

Bleeding Rainbow w/ Heavy Times and Huge Lewis

The Mill – August 30 at 9:00 p.m. ($8)

It’s always hard for a band to step their name game up, but Philadelphia’s Reading Rainbow did that. There is little question that Bleeding Rainbow is a better name, but I digress: It is the music that makes the band, and theirs is stripped down, noisy indie pop. Their songs are full of effects-laden guitars, simple rhythms and sweet boy-girl vocals. Their 2010 album Prism Eyes has been a personal favorite of mine for a while now—I love it because it is very cheery. The duo, Rob Garcia and Sarah Everton, sound upbeat and sincere on every song.

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Their 2013 album Yeah Right took a darker turn. The guitars are heavier and the songs are creepier than in their prior form. While this would not work for all bands, it suits Bleeding Rainbow. They make it work to their benefit and created another album that helps them stand out from the rest in an increasingly crowded indie pop field. I think that this band has a great future, so check out Bleeding Rainbow while they are still young.

A.C. Hawley’s five favorite underappreciated bands are The Vulgar Boatmen, The Go-Betweens, Pylon, Eleventh Dream Day and My Favorite. When it isn’t summer, A.C. runs The Chrysanthemum Sound System on KRUI, Thursdays from 10 p.m. to midnight.