January 8, 2013
The retromania of outdoor music festivals —boasting cash-grab reunions and '90s nostalgia as far as the eye can see— could confuse some into thinking the indie music world is reaching a nostalgic phase, looking band on 1991 (The Year Punk Broke
) as Baby Boomers have been forever stuck on 1969. Yet, the indie blogosphere is a place consumed, just as much, by neophilia, and every year a host of 'new' bands make the breakout leap. Peering into my crystal ball, it's time to make some prognostications for those on-the-rise in lucky '13.
© Cara Robbins
Cayucas were previously known as Oregon Bike Trails, and previously the solo project of Zach Yudin. But, in 2012, the Santa Monica-based songsmith chose a name closer to home; naming themselves after Cayucos, a coastal town outside San Luis Obispo. The name change came after Yudin wrote an ode to "Cayucos
," seemingly dreamt up whilst out on the surf. If all these signifiers didn't tip you off —and the video for "Cayucos"
didn't make it explicit enough— Yudin and his now-four-piece band are reveling in an eternal musical California, chasing endless waves and elusive babes under ever-shining sun. Signed to Secretly Canadian (who turned out their debut single "Swimsuit
" late in 2012), the band's Richard Swift-produced debut LP is due sometime in 2013; surely in time for summer.
at the beginning of 2013 look a lot like Purity Ring did at the beginning of 2012: a killer first-up single (in this case, "The Mother We Share
," which, after countless spins, I'm starting to suspect is actually about Scottish nationalism) creating crazy expectations —and, in turn, eager anticipation
— for an album still looming in the future. There's musical comparisons between Chvrches and Purity Ring to be made, too; each clearly informed by The Knife, and peddling a band of bright electro-pop. Yet, where Purity Ring's music is filled with darkness, dread, and body-horror imagery, Chvrches, thus far, have hewed more towards an effervescent, neon-lit brand of synth-pop. Of course, plenty could change by the time their debut LP drops; but, whenever it does, it's going to be huge.
The long-running side-project of Real Estate's Matt Mondanile
undergoes a radical change on The Flower Lane
. No longer Mondanile alone in his bedroom making washed-out, chillwave
y tunes, Ducktails are now Mondanile backed by the members of New Jersey power-pop outfit Big Troubles. And the sound is something else entirely: The Flower Lane
drawing on the slick early-'80s pop of Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, and Orange Juice, with all manner of glowing synths, funky guitars, faux-piano plink, and saxophone. The LP also features contributions from Software nerds Ford & Lopatin and vocals from Cults' Madeline Follin. Single "Letter of Intent
," a sauntering synth-pop duet between Future Shuttle's Jessa Farkas and Big Trouble's Ian Drennan, is a sign o' the times, and it points the way to a bona fide Ducktails breakout.
The History of Apple Pie's haircuts suggest their obsessed with Brit-pop era Blur, but their jams draw from a noisier brand of early-'90s sound: with squalling, noisy guitars influenced by six-string heroes like Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. But their sound hews more towards the cloudy, effects-blasted modes of shoegaze
, with the contrast between the waves of noise guitar and the sweet, dreamy vox of Stephanie Min recalling the early-'90s sound of bands like My Bloody Valentine
, and even early His Name Is Alive. London's been turning out bands in thrall to the Alternative Nation era in recent years —Male Bonding, Yuck, Fanzine, Echo Lake— and (the awesomely named) The History of Apple Pie look like the latest in line.
The latest signing to indie powerhouse 4AD
, Indians —AKA Copenhagen-based one-man-band Søren Løkke Juul— sounds a lot like another artist who records for the label: Bon Iver
. Like Justin Vernon, Juul is essentially taking the sounds of outsider Americana —lonesome acoustic guitar strums, sober vocals, cabin-in-the-woods vibe— and turning them into a secretly-slick studio concoction. Across Somewhere Else
, he burnishes the central songs in layers of multi-tracked vocals, wafting effects, electronic flickers, smeared organs, and atmospheric reverb. A few years ago, the thought of music this hesitant and hazy as harboring crossover potential would've seemed strange; but with Vernon banking crazy coin and folk music staking out an ever-increasing commercial clout, Indians' ascent feels imminent.
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
Fans of Sharon Van Etten
and Little Scream
will instantly love Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, the performative guise of Maine-raised, Brooklyn-based songwriter Aly Spaltro. Spaltro writes stark, sad, passionate, often-very-long songs that veer from whisper-quiet to fearsomely screamed, and she isn't afraid of framing them in moments of occasional musical grandeur. After a cottage-industry of home-made CDRs, the first proper Lady Lamb the Beekeper album, Ripely Pine
, comes out February 19 on Ba-Da-Bing!, the label that issued Van Etten's breakout record, Epic
. And, given the accessibility (check the ecstatic clank of giddy single "Rooftop
") and emotionality of the LLTB LP, Spaltro could be headed for her own breakout in 2013.
Fans of all things fast and fuzzy will flip over Parquet Courts. Founded by Andrew Savage of Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo, the Brooklyn-based outfit crank out ragged, punky, garagey jams at a swift clip, with dog-eras on every corner. Oh so symbolically, single "Light Up Gold II
" barely makes it past a minute. After releasing the way-underground cassette, American Specialties
, in 2011, the band stirred up a bunch of blog buzz when they turned out their first vinyl LP, Light Up Gold
, in 2012. Now, officially re-released by What's Your Rupture? in January, it's looking like an album inching towards crossover; with the acclaim for singles like the Modern Lovers
y "Stoned and Starving
" priming the band for a best-new-music-ish breakout in 2013.
I already hailed Portland's Pure Bathing Culture as one of indie music's best new bands in 2012
, but, thus far, the duo remain a fairly underground, borderline-unknown operation. Well, at least at home. In the UK, where Memphis Industries put out their debut, self-titled EP, Pure Bathing Culture have definitely drummed up some press attention; especially for their suitably-decadent-and-slurred cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams"
for dad-rock glossy Mojo
. For fans of hazy boy/girl duos ranging from Beach House
to Tennis, there's plenty to love in Pure Bathing Culture's lovely, languorous take on dream-pop and soft-rock. With their debut album mooted for an arrival later on in '13, it seems likely to catch a lot more ears, especially on American shores.
Savages were already one of 2012's biggest buzz-bands
, but in 2013 that buzz could grow into a deafening din. Though they've only turned out a solitary single thus far, the London quartet has built their widely-billed reputation on the back of ferocious, fearsome live performances; reversing a decades-long trend towards indie bands breaking out on the back of bedroom recordings. With the ever-salivating UK press ready to hype them to infinity, Savages' in-the-works debut album has the feeling, already, of a genuine event. And, if the Savages LP is anywhere near as good as the band are on stage, you can already get the feeling it's going to be one of the biggest indie debuts of 2013.
Their self-titled 2011 debut introduced Widowspeak
as one of 2011's best new bands
, with its dangling, reverb-riddled take on narcotic country-psych earning near-constant comparisons to Mazzy Star
and Cat Power
. But their second record, Almanac
, brings up a better comparison: Beach House
. Both bands feature female vocalists with thick, smokey voices flanked by handsome men with mustaches, and the music similarities aren't too far off, even if they're not particular poignant. But where Beach House seem like spiritual forebears are the way they quietly went about making their quiet music, never veered from their artistic path, yet found genuine crossover success. It's an upward-mobility that Widowspeak, now, have in their sights.