August 30, 2013
Here's to the new! To the nascent. To the freshly-hatched. To the innocent daydreamers. Here's to those new bands that've shown up in 2013, bursting with new ideas and loaded with promise; that have charmed us fast and turned out some of the year's best music. In an era of retromania and instant nostalgia, it's always fun to take stock of Right Now rather than get sentimental about Back Then. So here they are, my friends, from me to you: the 30 Best New Bands of 2013.
Like Julia Holter
, Anna Meredith is a composer working with pop-music forms. Yet, musically, the Scottish artist is more comparable to Dan Deacon, marshaling massive electronic sounds into pieces both chin-scratchy and physically overwhelming. Her debut EP, 2012's Black Prince Fury
, began with the colossal "Nautilus
," which Pitchfork
posed as potential new walk-on music for Darth Vader. The terror relents on her second EP, 2013's Jet Black Raider
, in which the electronic sounds are lighter and brighter, and she adds woodwinds and percussion. And on "ALR," she even submits a bona fide pop-song —or, at least, a study thereof— that sounds like a sister song to Chvrches' "Recover
Portland, Oregon brother-act Béisbol
kinda sound like a yacht-rock Grizzly Bear
: summoning the smooooth sounds of sunshinin' AM radio yore with less a sense of studious recreationism, more joyous vocal harmonies and jazzy complexity. "Taking It All (Easy)" may sound like the Béisbol theme ("speak your mind to your brother/open up to one another"), but it's "Is It Over
" that shows the Burian brothers at their best, sounding almost like the brothers Gibb as they harmonize high (and somewhat hilarious) over a sauntering, sashaying, syrupy-sweet jam. Their debut LP enshrines such a sound as Lo-Fi Cocaine
, the non-yacht-owning siblings using home-recording tools to create their own MOR fantasyworld.
Boogarins hail from tropical Goiânia, Brazil, and draw influence from the glory years of tropicália. Their debut LP, As Plantas Que Curam
, boasts a title steeped in hippy herbalism, and their psychedelic sound is occasionally cosmic (as on "Lucifernandis
"). But, for most of the LP, Fernando Almeida, wailing in his glorious Portuguese drawl, keeps things warm and raggedy. The record's moments of inspired experimentation show they've learnt from their forebears: the cheering children and whistling breakdown on "Despreocupar" draw from Os Mutantes
; the lysergic near-a cappella "Eu Vou" from Tom Zé. It's a righteous record from a budding band out to bring Brazil back to old glories.
Cayucas entered the year as one of 2013's Bands Mostly Likely To
. Zach Yudin and his fellow beach-bums were freshly signed to the Secretly Canadian empire, boasting a sunkissed sound of pure Audio California, a wad of blog-friendly jams in their back pockets, and a debut album, Bigfoot
, produced by Richard Swift. Cayucas strut their summery stuff on songs like the ten-hangin' "Swimsuit
" and pedal-pushin' "Cayucos
," which boast insistent melodies, natty harmonies, and lyrics that rhyme "bummer" with "summer." The kinda-Vampire Weekend
-y "East Coast Girl
" is like a thesis statement for their music: across Bigfoot
, Cayucas sound like a band living out an Eternal Summer on tape for idle dreamers trapped in colder climates.
After a run of great solo records, New York's Pepi Ginsberg assembled a brand new band, Companion
, in 2012. The aim was to both expand upon and radically alter her music; going from Dylan-ish folk-rock to more complex compositions, of cascading vocal parts and interlocking guitars. Early singles like "Only
" and "20th Century Crime
" showed how good Ginsberg's new bag was; with her voice sounding more beautiful than ever. Yet, even still, when the first full-length for Companion dropped in February, it exceeded expectations; trumping anything Ginsberg had done in her career to that point. Its host of great, smart, bittersweet songs meant that it wasn't just one of the best debuts of the 2013, but one of the very best albums of the year
R. Cole Furlow has had a busy 2013. As Dead Gaze, he's turned out two full-lengths: a self-titled LP gathering the 'best' of his early recordings; and Brain Holiday
, his first 'proper' studio album. Furlow hails from the same off-the-map Oxford, Mississippi scene as Dent May and Bass Drum of Death, but isn't really comparable to either. His fuzzy, poppy, washed-out sound is steeped in no-fi garage and '90s slacker-rock, burying buoyant melodies under layers of fuzz and distortion. "Rowdy Jungle
," the first single from Brain Holiday
, ably displayed the Dead Gaze ways; its crunchy power-chords summoning both memories of 120 Minutes
past and visions of Summer Festivals future.
When Jenn Wassner from Wye Oak started making solo jams as Flock of Dimes, it wasn't hard to spot a progression, her side-project going from quiet and melancholy to sugary synth-pop across a handful of singles. Dungeonesse
, her collaboration with Jon Ehrens (of White Life, the Art Department et al), feels like a continuation of that. The Baltimore duo bonded over a love of blingin' chart-pop, and their debut, self-titled Dungeonesse LP is an exploration of such audio excess. From the club-bangin' ("Drive You Crazy
") to the slow-jammin' ("Nightlight
"), the Dungeonesse record is filled with dazzling programming, syrupy synths, sweet singing, and persistent earworms; all mastered 'hot' and ready to drop.
Lorely Rodridguez, the empress of Empress Of, is a 23-year-old living in New York, whose wonky take on synth-pop is both sweet and unique. Rodriguez takes influence from some of indie music's great audio time-travellers —Ariel Pink
— as she uses aging keyboards and decaying tape-sheen to make her tunes sounds pre-vintage; like sci-fi hits from a time that never was. At SXSW 2013
, Empress Of was a definite highlight; the promise in Rodriguez's early jams (including the windswept, romantic "Don't Tell Me
") making her an act to keep an eye on. Since then, she's released her debut EP, Systems
, which finds the Honduran native singing in both English and (on songs like "Tristeza
") Spanish, sounding great all the while.
The music Matthew Daniel Siskin makes as Gambles is utterly unvarnished: one man, one acoustic guitar, simple words, and a whole lot of pain. "The sound of a man barely holding on," Siskin sings, in "Far from Your Arms
," and it works as description of Gambles' music. Recording live-to-tape, Siskin aims to preserve the sanctity of his songs: stark confessionals and pencil-drawn character-sketches that let his voice ring out loud and true. When he sings the simple refrain of "So I Cry Out
," he does indeed. That song is the first song turned out from his debut album, Trust
, but you can't really call it a 'single' when it's five painful minutes, a bruised ballad about "kids grown up by the hardest of circumstance."
It only took Haerts one song to etch their name onto this list. The band's first-ever track, "Wings
," is one of the songs of the year: a romantic, melancholy, five-minute epic that draws from Fleetwood Mac's golden daze and the poppy sound of young Sweden. When Haerts turned it loose, no one really knew who they were; they were just a glorified Soundcloud
account with one glorious song on it. But the band was soon revealed to be a New York quintet whose members are American, German, and English. They've, since, signed to Columbia, issued a second single —"All the Days
," which, if not as great, still has one of my favorite mid-song breakdowns of the year— and promised that their debut LP will be done before the year is out.