It’s hard to ignore the classics, but it’s worse to overlook the rising stars. Each month, we pick five artists worth lending your ears to. April’s picks highlight up-and-coming acts changing indie rock, pop and alternative.
WHALES IN CUBICLES
NOTES: If you ask any diehard Ryan Adams fan, they’ll say there’s a severe lack of honesty in the singer-songwriter genre. Though they’ve yet to invade North American record stores, Londoners Whales In Cubicles give you a taste of that missing trait, something artists like Neil Young, Yim Yames and Adams himself helped craft into an important aspect of being a musician. Overlook their primary influences or the fact the name Whales In Cubicles comes from an Andrew Bird track, and all you hear is a rustic flooring of aging Americana mixed with desperation, sweat and human tears. It’s won’t produce catchy singles but the attrition of emotion holds enough weight to move you.
NOTES: While Pitchfork and most of the music universe were up in arms after some track went “missing” from their mixtape, they overlooked one thing: the Brooklyn duo make talent look like an attribute you just stamp on a resume. Moving on from last year’s Meet Your Ghost, production creatives Alex Fitts and Matt Penttila have continued on with their rap/rock project The Kickdrums and their latest offspring – tape Follow The Leaders – is more of a hybrid than you think. On a commercial and underground level, it floats between drowsy hip-hop (“My Life”, “Come Come”), ear-scratching indie rock (“Want My Blood”) and even melancholy hip hop joints (“Lights”) and retrospective confessions (“Traces”). The mixed bag technique works – especially since each surprise is a cause to fall first into infatuation – and with multiple collaborators on tap, the results are potent. Like new guitar/drum kit smell potent.
THE FRONT BOTTOMS
NOTES: Since crawling out of the depths of New Jersey, indie punk rockers The Front Bottoms have made it clear that their uncharacteristic tendencies – no matter how far they stretch from speedy, dance rock tempos and blissful acoustic pieces – will always act like a picture, speaking a thousand words. There’s telling stories and then there’s realism, something Brian Sella pitches far too often in songs that discuss memories, heartache and the mental issues that come with letting go, and when you really listen, it’s easy to notice it’s wrapped up in a sense of youthfulness that’s lyrically brilliant. If you don’t believe us, listen to “Swimming Pool”.
SHADOWS ON STARS
NOTES: In music, people like change, but hate being labeled. The humorous thing about it is the two are oddly similar and despite genres becoming cliques and cults by the second (we’re waiting on Smiths pop to arrive), Portland duo Brian Vincent and Randa Smith find themselves in the thick of it. And they honestly could not care. As Vincent put it, “Shadows On Stars is driven by an utter disregard for categorization”, which has propelled their debut release to not be a genre-pushing record, but rather a nostalgic and innovative find that studies new wave (“Now You’re Mine”), guitar pop (“Sweat Pant Bandits”), punk (“Punk Kids”) and hip hop (“Out Of My Head”). The styles don’t exactly melt but like Complex said, “With songs this good, who really cares what we call it?”.
NOTES: The chemistry between frontwoman Emily Armstrong, guitarist Siouxsie Medley, bassist Chris Null and drummer Sean Friday has become so explosive, it’s really impossible to not notice what the Los Angeles quartet are doing under the moniker Dead Sara. They specialize in passionately loud blues rock, that sits somewhere between enraged punk, classic rock and grim emotional pop (think Alanis Morisette’s alt days), and provokes an unstable live set that’s immediately caught the attention of Grace Slick and Courtney Love and even landed them a spot on this year’s Vans Warped Tour, all before the release of their debut this month. Their career’s been quite the rush, but the whole enigma that is Dead Sara, not to mention their endless amount of energy, shows they’re not some Stepford-made band that’s trying to resuscitate radio-ready alternative. They’re far from it.