One of my favorite things about discovering new bands is figuring out who their influences are. When I figure that out, it takes me back to the time when I was listening to those particular bands. These four bands had me mesmerized this year. I hope you appreciate them as much as I did.
This is really a favorite tracks list that I didn’t consider having a strong enough album. But the songs were too good to ignore.
Artist: Car Seat Headrest
Album: Teens of Style
Track: Something Soon
There are some great tracks like Something Soon, but I don’t think the album is as cohesive as I’d like them to be.
Album: Every Open Eye
Track: Something Soon
I was actually disappointed with this album, but this song has a great Depeche Mode Just Can’t Get Enough vibe.
Artist: Best Coast
Album: California Nights
Track: Feeling OK
I thought 2012’s The Only Place was far superior, and California Nights was a bit of a step back. Still good though.
Track: Broken Necks
Fun and catchy track — so much so that it’s much better than the rest of the album.
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: Carrie & Lowell
Track: Fourth of July
Stevens went in a completely direction with 2010’s The Age of Adz. He was off my radar but came back to form with Carrie & Lowell. Sad, beautiful, and guessing he won’t complete his 50 states in 50 albums project.
Artist: Hop Along
Album: Painted Shut
Track: Sister Cities
Philadelphia has one of the country’s most vibrant music scenes, and Hop Along seems to be on the verge of a breakout based on their recent sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom and signing to Saddle Creek (Bright Eyes). What’s most striking is front-woman Frances Quinlan’s wide-ranging scratch voice.
Quinlan really shines when she’s playing a solo acoustic song, and the remaining members of the band fill in mid-way.
Artist: San Fermin
Track: Two Scenes
Take Allen Tate’s dead-ringer Matt Berninger’s vocals from The National, add two female vocalists, some horns, strings, and the composition and songwriting skills of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, and that’s San Fermin in a nutshell — a more accessible version of The Dirty Projectors.
Album: Everything So Far
Track: Size of the Moon
When I saw that the only local show that Montclair NJ’s Pinegrove was playing was at a house party outside of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, I hesitated. Then I figured “Why not,” and experienced major college flashbacks walking to a party where the majority of the patrons were probably underaged.
The basement was how I remembered most house parties, my head touched the ceiling beams and the merchandise was set on the washer and dryer.
My self-consciousness disappeared when Evan Stephens Hall displayed his early heart-on-your-sleeve Colin Meloy-esque vulnerability.
Artist: Beach Slang
Album: The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
Track: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
If the Replacements made another album in their prime during the time or Let it Be and Tim, it would sound like this album. Front man James Alex makes no secret about Paul Westerberg being one of his heroes, and he doesn’t make apologies for it. In fact, I tweeted this to him and he responded by saying, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I’m printing it to hang in my studio. Yeah, it’s kind of everything. Thank you <3”
Artist: All Dogs
Album: Kicking Every Day
Track: That Kind of Girl or Flowers
When I was in college in the 90s, all the cool artsy women listened to Julianna Hatfield, Liz Phair, and Belly. Columbus Ohio’s All Dogs is fronted by Maryn Jones confident vocals and guitar rhythms will take you back to the days when you were wearing Doc Martens and pulling all nighters finishing that acrylic painting for art school.