(Photo credit: Bryan Allen Lamb)
2017 has been a big year for Chicago indie rock quartet, NE-HI (pictured above). They released their second studio album, Offers, in February and they just came off a Pitchfork Music Festival appearance and a support slot with The Drums. Offers is a clear step up from their 2014 self-titled debut album and it sounds even better live. The fact is: there’s something about their spirit when they play live that’s just so authentic and likable and you can’t help but feed off their energy. The DIY-minded band’s indie rock sound is sprinkled with a bit of garage rock and loads of reverb and 80’s and 90’s nostalgia, but it doesn’t feel tired or dated. They’re due to support fellow Chicago band, Whitney, later in the year and NE-HI’s new album and upcoming live shows are more than worthy of both your attention and your money.
2. C.G. Roxanne and the Nightmares
C.G. Roxanne and the Nightmares are a rock trio from LA whose latest single, “R.A.T.S.” is a fast, sassy punk tune with letters that apparently stand for “Reckless and Terrible Solution.” The band began as a side project band for LA singer-songwriter Marlon Rabenreither (also of Gold Star), but the band has now put out three records on Bandcamp (albeit five songs a piece) in the last few years. Since then, they’ve released “R.A.T.S.”, were featured in London men’s fashion magazine, FOXES, and they’ve played live with other groups like LA Witch, Night Beats, and Warbly Jets. These three guys are some of the most interesting, grimy rock ‘n’ rollers out there at the moment.
Six-piece avant-garde, glam punk South Londoners, HMLTD, don’t look or sound like any other band on the planet. As soon as I heard the deranged, Wild West thrill of their single, “To The Door”, I knew it was going to be one of the best tracks of the year. Their other releases include “Stained”, “Is This What You Wanted?”, and “Music!”, all of which have outrageous, accompanying visuals, particularly the latter, which you should only watch if you have a strong stomach. Just like their colorful, left-field, cross-dressing image, the band’s sound is a mixed bag of art pop, surf rock, punk, glam, EDM, and more and once you get over the initial shock of their strange music and appearance, you’ll enjoy their songs or at the very least, appreciate their artistry.
Brooklyn four-piece punk pop band, Cende, (which includes members from Porches and LVL UP) released one of the best albums of the year so far, #1 Hit Single. While I admittedly laughed and thought “seriously?” when I read the album title, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the songwriting on the album more than adequately lives up to hype of the title. The band’s frontman, Cameron Wisch, previously named Brian Wilson as a hero and it’s no wonder why because the band sounds like a punk version of The Beach Boys. Highlights range from catchy pop tunes like “Bed” and “What I Want” (featuring vocals from Frankie Cosmos) to the punkier sound of “Don’t Want To” or “Good Crime”, but it’s those nasal, harmonious vocals throughout the album that will instantly hook you in and leave you wanting more.
5. Wild Daughter
Wild Daughter are a rock duo from East London whose debut single, “Get Gone” / “Drive” came out last November. Like HMLTD (but not nearly as outrageous), the look of this gender-bending two-piece will turn some heads, but their music will appeal to anyone who’s into classic rock ‘n’ roll or glam. “Get Gone” is a ballsy 60’s rock tune with Liam Gallagher-sized attitude and swagger, a dark, thumping bass line, and riffs that sound like blazing sirens.
Trios are a five-piece bluesy garage rock band from Cleveland. I recently saw them support Foxygen on their Hang tour and I was blown away by their live set and repertoire. The band released their debut LP in November of last year called For The Kids and I must say, if any kid is into this album, odds are they’re pretty damn cool for having such good taste in music. My favorite cut off the album is “Sirens”, the slick blues tune that’s just an instant earworm due to those soulful vocals and 70’s keyboards. Another favorite has to be the album’s opener “Eins Zwei Drei”, which is a bit of 60’s rhythm and blues that’s just too good to resist. Do yourself a big favor and give this record a spin.
This South London punk band are another group to keep on your radar and along with HMLTD, they were also surprise nominees for Q Magazine’s “Best Breakthrough Act” award. I heard the band’s name a lot due to all the recent press surrounding the South London guitar scene and I figured I had to check them out. As soon as I heard the slow, sleazy bass and the opening lyrics of “The Lick” (“this is how it starts”), I knew I was in for something special. There are so many great lyrical moments on here, particularly frontman Charlie Steen’s cheeky, sarcastic delivery of the line, “So why don’t you sit in the corner of your room and download the next greatest track to your MP3 device, so sincerely recommended to you by the New Musical Express.” The band’s latest track, “Tasteless” is proof that the band has the musical chops to back up their clever lyrics and validate all their hype.
8. Violet Youth
Violet Youth are a psych pop quartet from Blackburn, England whose debut EP, Primary Nature will be released by Modern Sky on September 8th. I recently featured “Lucid Dreams” on my latest playlist, but I had to give this young band another shout because after listening to the rest of their EP, I realized that they’re the real deal. While “Lucid Dreams” is a beautifully, hazy trip, “She Said” displays a band that also knows how to write a solid, jangly pop tune. “Dystopia” and “Reliable Sources”, on the other hand, can go toe-to-toe with any of those dream pop classics from the 90’s.
9. The Sulks
The Sulks are a four-piece pop/rock band from Swindon, UK. I recently heard the band’s first single, “Told Ya” for the first time and was immediately taken back by the sheer strength of the band’s intertwining lead and backing vocals. I’m an absolute sucker for vocal harmonies and this band’s layered pop vocals are hard to resist. The band’s next track, “Days Are Gone”, definitely proves that the band are capable of more than just one great tune. With The Sulks, while you come for the vocals, you’ll stay for the tight, melodic musical performances and solid, interesting lyrics. In a world of too many landfill guitar bands, The Sulks are refreshing, talented musicians and songwriters with a very bright future.
Paves are a four-piece rock band from London whose debut single, “Take Me While I’m Here” is just good, plain and simple rock and roll that’s best suited to a big, outdoor, summer music festival with all your friends. While their new single, “Baby” doesn’t necessarily display any poetic lyrical prowess (that’s clearly not the aim here), the band definitely makes up for it with frontman Luke Shield’s slick, catchy vocals and lead guitarist Mike Whitaker’s enticing guitar solo. The young group has already supported bands like The Kills and Starsailor and has been touring on the This Feeling circuit for a while now, plus they’ve got a new EP slated for release later in the year, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears out for these four Londoners.
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