New Granada owner Keith Ulrey and wife Susie have not only cultivated an artist roster that features some of the area’s most promising break-out talent, they've extended their label’s reach beyond our town to encompass high-quality regional and national talent as well. This past year has seen one notable triumph after another: the label signed Seattle-based singer-songwriter Jen Wood and played a critical role in the nationwide release of her 2010 album, Finds You In Love; produced two excellent 2011 albums, A Cautionary Tale by The Pauses and Sleepy Vikings’ They Will Find You Here, and organized support tours for both; hosted its second official showcase at SXSW; and most recently, added two more artists to the talent pool, Jacksonville psyche-pop outfit Sunbears! and local roots-pop act, Alexander & the Grapes.
Cabaret and burlesque have been all the rage this year, but no locals tickled our fancy with their showgirl feathers — until now. Along comes the cutie-pie miscreants in Coco & Homo, a “dynamic duo of trash and hedonism” who have created a “post-modern religious experience for the 21st Century.” Coco, the female half, belts out with pipes that rival the late, great Amy Winehouse, whom she covers, and together the duo performs an eclectic mix, from Kurt Weill to Tom Waits to Ke$ha. Their act includes interactive, playful and “sometimes naughty” games. cocoandhomo.com.
Easybreezy, who’s working on its first full-length, busts out a random triptych of styles. It’s impossible to capture all the snippets of genres coming at you when they play. Their music is like a soundtrack to your waking dreams — a subconscious repository of the last three decades, from metal to indie to demento stuff to garage rock. Josh Greenberg (guitar and vocals), Chase Leonard (drums) and Charlie Curtis (bass) package the madness quite nicely. myspace.com/easybreezymusic.
No need to fly to New York for professionalism when the spectacularly talented Fanni Green is on stage in Tampa. A member of USF’s theater faculty with extensive stage, film and TV credits (and great stories about working with the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Joe Papp), she made her area professional debut this season in Jobsite’s Yellowman. In a wrenchingly authentic performance, she showed us how a girl becomes a woman, a country mouse becomes a city mouse, and a self-hating Southerner becomes a self-confident Northerner. Here’s hoping this teacher gets lots more opportunities to teach us what good acting’s all about. (She’s also a writer and director; see Best Dance Performance)
The winners of last year’s “Best Prog Fusion” award have earned another BOTB for their self-titled sophomore LP and first album in their current lineup. Auto!Automatic!! (Brokenmold Records) is a consistent, seamlessly produced, well-mixed album that captures each individual musician’s instrumental prowess, tight interplay, and expert fusion of post, prog, math and experimental rock. facebook.com/autoautomatic.
In his new alphabet of creatures, Alphabhetto, Tampa artist Josh Pearson ingeniously uses humor and urban street rhymes to explore how limited we can be in our perceptions of everyday things. Akin to the A-B-C books we read to children, the book shows us a zebra with parking meters for legs, a hippo with a mouth outstretched by a shopping cart and other cool creature oddities. myspace.com/joshuatpearsonart, alphabhetto.com.
Tampa’s Marksmen alt-rocks with a Southern charm on their debut full-length Sister Of Mine. Few bands can successfully merge powerful lyrics delivered by a unique voice and accompanied by emotive music without sounding heavy-handed. For that, the band was awarded a four-star review in February — and every live performance we catch only cements our opinion of them as one of Tampa’s best. facebook.com/MarksmenBand.
Funded on a shoestring and housed in a converted garage in Seminole Heights, Tempus Projects remains unflagging in its commitment to art by contemporary artists from Tampa Bay and beyond. Opening receptions are a magnet for hipsters, artists and arts community movers-and-shakers, who head around the corner to The Independent to keep the party going. tempus-projects.com.
Hey film geeks, can we get an oy vey! In February, The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival brought to Tampa Theatre (and other local screens) films that were thought-provoking, funny and international in scope. Offerings included The Matchmaker, nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards, and director Evgeny Afineevsky introduced the screening of Oy Vey! My Son is Gay! starring Lainie Kazan and Carmen Electra. Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu appeared at a screening of Gut Shabbes Vietnam, and discussion forums on caring for people with special needs corresponded with the touching film Anita. tbjff.org.
The Bricks' art parties curated by Kick Start My Art give up-and-coming artists, many of them college students, the opportunity to display and sell their all-original works at reasonable prices — often less than $300. The contemporary and often playful themes have offered fun twists on pop culture such as its popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. 1327 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813 247 1785, thebricksofybor.com.