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Who doesn’t love a music festival, right? It’s all the best parts of a concert–music, friends, alcohol and drugs…just lots and lots more of them! Each year, more and more of them are popping up all over the place, over 60 happen in the U.S. each year alone. As you probably already know, one of the biggest and baddest is always the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The 13th annual fest is to be one of the most incredible line ups this year. We’re talking about Elton John, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Skrillex, Cage The Elephant, Wiz Khalifa, Chromeo, Zedd, Neutral Milk Hotel, Broken Bells,  and tons more! Is it just us, or does it seem like the year that each fest is trying to out do and top each other? You can see the entire lineup here.

A few larger music websites will publish guides which present a good summary to the impressive bill, but who doesn’t already know about most of these celebrity performers? Yet one of the best reasons to go is to discover new music! For each of these well known artists, there are a ton of massively talented, vastly underrated ones they don’t get the attention they deserve. Anyone who has ever been or considered going to experience a massive event like this knows what it feels like when looking towards the bottom of the schedule. It can almost feel like reading a foreign language, seeing bands listed that you have never heard of. Almost everyone will want to watch performers like The Flaming Lips, Frank Ocean, Damon Albarn, Janelle Monae, Die Antwoord, Lauryn Hill, Danny Brown and Disclosure. That’s why we want to draw your attention to this list.

That’s where we come in to help. Live music festivals are still, despite all the advanced technology of 2014, one of the best methods of discovering new music. What happens if you don’t have time to catch an artist you wanted to see, or if it’s too crowded? And everyone loves an underdog! Besides, these some artists that could very well be at the top of the lineup next year or the year after.

These are artists that are already turning up everywhere this year, and others we expect to follow them very soon. The list includes everything from pop to hip-hop to EDM to metal to folk. So in our best and on going effort to cover the best in up and coming music, we present our picks for The Top 20 Most Underrated Artists Of Bonnaroo 2014. The list is not presented in any logical or sequential order whatsoever.

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1. The Weeks

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For Fans Of: Cold War Kids, The Features, Little Green Cars, The Whigs, Local Natives, The Lonely Forest

The sound of wind through the pines, bare feet brushing through leaves, snapping sticks like the spines of the weak. When we started we were small and strong at heart, five southern souls damned to speak the truth. But with this responsibility comes pain and loss. And as the years passed our numbers grew smaller, and there were four. This did not stop these brave soldiers of thought, keepers of truth. They were older now and their soft footsteps through the forest had grown louder and stronger. Like the dust filled hoof beats of a thousand wild horses, they layer sound like musket fire, their melodies bend and twist like train-tracks. A music shaped from the calloused hands and wrinkled faces of their fathers. They have walked through the fire wide-eyed and crazy, and came out enlightened. You cannot stop these men, your armies can’t cease their hands, dampen this thunder, or silence their tongues. We have trudged through the muddy swamps to freedom.

Our shoes are tattered and torn, but our feet are dry. As for our places in history, we will run naked through your streets before we sit decorated in your halls.

“If my Southern heart’s still pumping blood/I’ll bury my money in the mighty Mississippi mud,” sings The Weeks’ Cyle Barnes on Dear Bo Jackson’s “Brother In The Night.” “If my Southern lungs won’t let me breathe/I’ll wait for the cicadas and I’ll let ‘em push it out for me.”

With that powerful verse, The Weeks staked a claim as heirs to the timeless tradition of Southern rock. In 2013, the band released their label debut album, Dear Bo Jackson, on Serpents and Snakes Records, spent the year on their “Thick As Thieves Tour” and were included in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Hottest Live Photos of 2013” feature after a raucous set at NYC’s Mercury Lounge. (www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/the-hottest-live-photos-of-2013-20121212/the-weeks-0322913). During the summer, the band hopped over the pond for a UK/European Arena tour with Kings of Leon and then they came home to play at the Voodoo and Austin City Limits festivals.

Since then, the band headlined the Communion Tour, which was handpicked by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett, played direct support to Jake Bugg at The Ryman, sold out the Mercy Lounge in Nashville twice, and have barely left the road with no plans to do so soon. Headed now into the festival circuit, they have already confirmed Shaky Knees, Mountain Jam, Wakarusa, Firefly, Spring Jam and Middle of the Map.

The Weeks are about to release an EP to celebrate the 7th anniversary of the band (formed when they were 15). The highlight of this EP will be a re-recording of the first song they ever wrote, “Buttons.” To this day, it is a fan favorite and their most-requested song. It was never properly captured on tape til now. The follow up to Dear Bo Jackson will be recorded over this spring and summer.

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, The Weeks (Cyle Barnes – vocals; Sam Williams – guitar; Damien Bone – bass; Cain Barnes – drums; Alex Admiral Collier – keyboards) came together in 2006 and instantly came to define the sound of Southern Rock in the 21st Century – their grunge-powered, high-octane anthems rich with a bottomless Delta soul far deeper than the boys’ teenage years would suggest. Like any great rock ‘n’ roll outfit worth its salt, The Weeks played as often as humanly possible, with countless club dates across the Southeast and tours alongside such like-minded acts as Local H, North Mississippi Allstars, and the one and only Meat Puppets. Their extraordinary energy and outsized performances – not to mention a series of well-received independently issued releases – earned them a fervent fan following and ultimately, a deal with the like-minded Serpents and Snakes Records, who reissued the band’s second full-length outing, Gutter Gaunt Gangster.

By summer 2010, it had become clear that sleepy Jackson could no longer contain the mighty Weeks. The band left their old Mississippi home for the bright lights of Nashville, and, as Williams says, “it’s been non-stop ever since.”

Where GGG – like all The Weeks’ previous recordings – was recorded fast and on the cheap, the band opted to take a more leisurely tack in making Dear Bo Jackson. They spent six months at pre-production, resulting the most fully articulated demos of their career. When time came to record the album proper, their search for a producer led them to Paul Moak, a Grammy Award-nominated producer/engineer/mixer and perhaps most importantly, a fellow Jacksonian.

The Weeks set to work at Moak’s Music City studio, The Smoakstack, determined to push themselves further than ever before. Drawing inspiration from such iconic works of Americana as The Band’s Music From Big Pink, the band’s first goal was to incorporate new musical elements into their own inimitable take on Americana.

Much of Dear Bo Jackson’s all-inclusive sound can be credited to The Weeks’ very own Garth Hudson, Collier, whose compositional background and proficiency on an array of instruments enabled the band to build their inventive arrangements from within. Adding color to such standouts as “King Sized Death Bed” and “Gobi Blues” are legendary pedal steel guitarist Bucky Baxter – “the most unbelievable musician I’ve ever seen in person,” says Williams – as well as their buddy Carl Gatti on trombone and faux French Horn. What’s more, friends from throughout the new Nashville rock scene – including Jonny “Corndawg” Fritz – dropped into The Smoakstack to lend backing vocals and a collective stamp to the proceedings.

With Dear Bo Jackson, The Weeks enriched their already well-seasoned sonic stew with the classic flavors of soul, R&B, funk, and heavy boogie to fashion a forward-facing sound all their own. Big brass, lush strings, and twangy pedal steel fused into their distinctive sludge pop, with Williams’ greasy guitars and the highly charged engine room of Bone and Cain as well as the ever-distinctive Collier. Throughout the album, Cyle rends his throat raw as he testifies dramatic and truthful tales of modern Southern lives, always full of hope despite often punishing circumstances.

The press on the record was filled with deserving accolades. Rolling Stone said, “The Weeks’ nervy, careening jangle and scraggily, Southern-stoner look immediately bring to mind Youth and Young Manhood-era Kings of Leon comparisons,” while the Associated Press hailed, “Here’s more proof Nashville, TN, is saving rock ‘n’ roll one band at a time.” Relix claimed, “The Weeks’ breakout album, Dear Bo Jackson, is a big-hearted rock stew – a delicious blend of Southern rock riffs, soulful horns and punk attitude,” and American Songwriter said, “The Weeks groove and grunt their way through this tribute to Mississippi, the band’s home state.” Blurt exclaimed, “Dear Bo Jackson is a remarkable collection of blazing southern rock, soul, funk, alt country and just about anything else that is still good about music today,” while Paste said, “The band’s sound blends classic Southern rock influences with a grungy yet soulful twist to give the band a sound all their own.”

As The Weeks barrel into the future without a net or a rulebook, they are not looking backwards for a second as they continue to explore their Mississippi roots and current place in the world, with all the profound joy and unfathomable sadness that entails.

 

 

2. Diarrhea Planet

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For Fans Of: Pujol, Parquet Courts, Turbo Fruits, Speedy Ortiz, Bass Drum Of Death, Broncho

Diarrhea Planet is a six-piece rock and roll band from Nashville, TN.  Their sound has often been described as The Ramones holding Van Halen hostage with an arsenal of fireworks and explosives.  Diarrhea Planet’s four guitarists provide enough riffs to make Jack Black squeal like a schoolgirl, while lead singer Hodan delivers enough hooks to straighten the curl out of Justin Timberlake’s hair.  In a world of unintelligible lo-fi recording, reverb drenched vocals, and tuneless guitars, Diarrhea Planet aims to put the backbone back into rock and roll. We placed them in our list of picks for The Top 50 Best Bets of SXSW 2014 (see here).

The band initially formed in the Spring of 2009 with drummer Casey, and two guitarists Jordan Smith and Evan P. Donohue.  That fall the band decided to flesh out their sound with bass and a third guitar, adding Mike Boyle and Brent Toler.  They self-released the five song EP, Aloha, in November.  The album sounded like a mix between an uncontrollable college party and a gut-wrenching Tae Bo workout.  With the Mediafire link popping up on a variety of blogs, Aloha became a sleeper online sensation.  Perhaps due to the unusual band name, the EP garnered around 1,500 downloads in its first week online.  By the time the band took down the Mediafire link early the next year, The EP had collected over 10,000 downloads.

In the summer of 2010, Evan P. Donohue decided to focus on his own music and left Diarrhea Planet.  The band quickly adopted shredders Evan Bird and Emmett Miller, generating Diarrhea Planet’s most empowering line-up.  The band shifted some of their focus from delinquent party rock to slightly more sophisticated songwriting and guitar theatrics that will make every living guitar hero cry out of joy and/or despair.  After this change-up, the band played an exhausting amount of local shows.  They have opened for acts such as Wavves, Fucked Up, Jeff the Brotherhood, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Defiance OH, Jacuzzi Boys, The Spits, and The Coathangers.  They have also played a variety of basements, warehouses, frat bars, and dorm rooms.  The overwhelming volume and sheer brutality of their live onslaught satiates those who crave power and thunder, while the meek grovel on the beer-soaked floor.  The wall of heavy riffage and intricate shredding infuses audiences with enough electrical energy to stave off sleep for the rest of the weekend.  Despite their leanings towards punk and heavy metal, Diarrhea Planet swears by the Bible of pop.  With a distinct emphasis on vocal hooks and harmonies, their shows often morph into massive, drunken sing-alongs.

3. Royal Canoe

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For Fans Of: On An On, Superhumanoids, GRMLN, People Get Ready, Majical Cloudz, Youth Lagoon

The six-piece, eclectic indie-pop ensemble Royal Canoe from Canada, first garnered interest when they released two EPs in 2012 and their debut album has since landed them on the “Best Of” lists for The New York Times, KCRW and Consequence of Sound.  The musicians proudly proclaim not to use any backing tracks during their live shows, electing to drag extra pedals, mixers, and keyboards along with them on tour.  The music video for their single, “Bathtubs,” emerges listeners into a visual frenzy of instrumentation and reveals the vital contribution each member has on the sextet’s unique sound. They just completed a tour opening for Bombay Bicycle Club, and their album Today We’re Believers is out now.

4. Streets Of Laredo

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For Fans Of: Bad Suns, Desert Noises, Dresses, Ivan & Alyosha, Bleachers, Kopecky Family Band

It’s always hard to put your finger on the exact moment a band began, but it’s safe to say that Streets of Laredo probably started in a beach-house on the wild Coromandel coast of New Zealand back in the summer of 2012. A handful of Gibsons (Dave, Dan & Sarah) started throwing some songs at some long-time musical collaborators (including Si Moore), an old-fashioned hoe-down ensued, someone shouted out a band name and it all became a fact before anyone could catch their breath.

Inspired by the evangelical fervor of the 70’s folk circuit that spawned modern day re-incarnations like Alex Ebert, Joshua Tilman and Arcade Fire, Streets of Laredo quickly gelled around the idea of a traveling family band playing unruly sing-along tunes with whatever instruments were at hand. Add in a few timely demos and the growing desire to take on a new challenge and before you know it the Streets family played one show in their home town and then packed up their New Zealand lives and transplanted themselves halfway round the world to Brooklyn, NY. “In the fall of 2012 we found ourselves a rehearsal space in an industrial building in Bushwick, just off the Morgan stop, and started playing one of our first songs, ‘Girlfriend’ over and over for hours on end. Just trying to figure out our sound, who we were, and how we were possibly gonna survive in this town. The only thing we knew was that we’d finally made it to New York and we sure as hell weren’t about to leave.”

Pretty quickly the four-piece met some remarkable people from Bushwick’s vibrant music scene and gathered around them a wider family of players who would eventually form a tight-knit seven-piece band that’d well and truly find their place in the local scene.

A quick trip back to New Zealand in early 2013 saw the band track the bones of EP ‘Volume I & II’. Calling in years of friendships and owed favours, those ten songs, which would turn into their debut release, the double sessions in an old converted Auckland theatre proved to be landmark in locking down that distinctive Streets of Laredo sound. “A bunch of blogs started calling Girlfriend ‘Twisty Psychedelic Folk’, which seemed fairly appropriate. We definitely all have a passion for rock solid songs and arrangements built around a bizarre sonic palette. Kinda like if Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor produced Paul Simon’s songs being sung by Sharon van Etten. Or something.” However you describe it, the resulting songs and sound of ‘Volume I & II’ have had an instant effect on fans and critics alike, with widely hailed comparisons to Arcade Fire, Edward Sharpe and even ‘The Lumineers on Acid’ being mentioned. Add to that sound a mesmerizing stage show featuring multiple stand-up drummers, horn players, guitars in every corner of the stage, weird home-made instruments and five-part harmonies, and it’s easy to see why Streets of Laredo won the AAAcategory of the world-wide Unsigned Artists competition and were feted as a must-see band at 2013’s CMJ Music Marathon in NYC. Streets of Laredo are: Daniel Gibson, Dave Gibson, Sarah Gibson, Si Moore, Tom Darlow, Sean McMahon, and Andrew McGovern.

5. Speedy Ortiz

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For Fans Of: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Parquet Courts, Diarrhea Planet, Allah-Las, Milk Music, Ringo Deathstarr

Speedy Ortiz is a four piece indie rock act from Massachusetts. On Speedy Ortiz’s Real Hair, the band sets a course between the knotty discord of debut album Major Arcana and the pop bonafides of the preceding Sports EP, while subtly adding new techniques to their songbook. Guitarists Sadie Dupuis and Matt Robidoux brought on additional guitar effects to color the roundabout feel of  “Oxygal,” and bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone hit hard to deliver the jump-in-the-pit urgency of “American Horror.” From the vocal melodies to the no-nonsense guitar turns, this is Speedy’s catchiest outing yet, drawing inspiration  from contemporary Top 40 and R&B radio in addition to their regular arsenal of guitar rock. Dupuis’ lyrics continue to address concerns about identity, representation, and their misalignment, this time from a new angle: “While the  last album was kind of a breakup jam, these songs are a lot more introspective—myself dealing with and talking to and making sense of myself,” she says. With Real Hair, Speedy Ortiz once again taps into the four-part chemistry that brought their prior outings praise.

They’re still equal parts noisy and poetic, and now merge those channels more seamlessly than ever.

6. HAERTS

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For Fans Of: Blue Hawaii, Duologue, holychild, The Colourist, Pure Bathing Culture, Haim

Haerts is a band from New York hailing from Germany, England, and the United States. The group consists of Nini Fabi, Ben Gebert, Garrett Ienner, Derek McWilliams, and Jonathan Schmidt. The band’s first single, Wings, was produced in collaboration with Jean-Philip Grobler (aka St. Lucia). HAERTS’ debut album is due in 2013. They have released an EP entitled Hemiplegia, and have performed at the Gorilla Vs Bear Festival. They have also toured as opening support for Washed Out. We also placed the band is our list of picks for the Top 50 Best Bets of CMJ 2013 . 

7. Royal Teeth

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For Fans Of: The Last Royals, Givers, Blondfire, Hunter Hunted, Youngblood Hawke, American Authors

Royal Teeth‘s six members come from three cities across Southern Louisiana, a state known for its colossal musical output over the centuries.  Now residing in New Orleans, their beat-centric sound is a technicolor addition to the legacy of Louisiana.  After performances at CMJ, SXSW, Austin City Limits, Voodoo, and Jazzfest, the band made their television debut on Last Call with Carson Daly.  Royal Teeth have been recently featured as a “Bubbling Under” artist to watch by Billboard and their breakout single “Wild” remains a staple on Sirius XM’s AltNation while it continues to convert new fans at radio across the country.  “Wild” can be heard in film, TV, and advertising including syncs on ESPN College Game day, in State Farm ads, a United Nations digital promo and EA Sports’ FIFA 13 video game.  The band released their debut album Glow last summer on Dangerbird Records.  They were on our list of picks for the Top 50 Best Bets of CMJ 2013.

If all music tells a story, then Royal Teeth’s joyous, inspired songs spin an exuberant tale of possibility, each note conveying the youthful excitement of venturing out into the great wide world. The songs on the band’s debut album, Glow, were penned around the idea of exploration and spirited adventures into the unknown, and its 12 tracks lay out a kaleidoscopic narrative of discovery.

The group came together in 2010 with Gary, Josh W, Poe, Josh H and Stevie, friends from all across Louisiana who’d gravitated to one another during their early days playing out in New Orleans. It was with the discovery of Nora, the last piece of the puzzle, that the band began to truly hone in on what would become their sound. The aim was to have fun, with no master plan for the music at the outset. As they began to experiment, it became clear that the synthesizers they’d been playing around with elevated their effusive indie pop songs and best conveyed the buoyance and levity of being young and anxious for the world to open up for you.

“The album is really about finding yourself,” said Nora who, as the visual artist in the group, conveys that cheerful enthusiasm both through the music and the band’s striking artwork and graphics.

“We started playing more folk-driven stuff,” Gary says. “But once we added the electronic sounds, it changed everything. The music evolved from there and as it did, our vision for the songs became clear.”

The group’s 5-song debut, Act Naturally, was recorded in Charleston, S.C. in 2011 and was their first foray into the studio. EP in hand, the band set out to tour outside Louisiana, eventually going all-in, quitting their jobs in May of 2012 and hitting the road. These shows, which included CMJ and SXSW and tours with bands as diverse as Fitz and the Tantrums, 2 Skinnee J’s and Gold Fields, had a tremendous impact in forming the debut album, Glow.

“We take a lot of pride in our live show,” Gary says. “We put everything into it and that’s where we make the strongest connections with people. I think when it came to making the record, knew we wanted it to be more raw and capture that live energy. We had been on the road, testing out these new songs, figuring out what’s working and what’s not working. When you’re trying out new songs every night for people that don’t know you it plays a big role in shaping the band’s vision and our confidence in what makes our music special. That played a huge factor into what we songs we knew we had to put on the record.

The songs on the album, including the single “Wild,” were penned over a two year span, some emerging in a burst of activity and inspiration just before the band headed into the studio in Toronto with producer Gavin Brown in February 2013. Nearly 30 song ideas were eventually culled down to an album’s worth of material, and the studio time was focused and quick, concluding in only a few weeks. The idea was to harness the band’s positive energy into the recordings, ensuring that the vigor the musicians radiate onstage was showcased on the tracks.

“Once we were in the studio, it was a real common energy driving what we wanted,” Gary says. “It really does show in the music. Whether the song’s a little slower or a little darker, I think there’s a common thread in all of them – capturing a moment. I think the music really represents that.”

The resulting album is a shimmering collection of indie pop numbers that revel in that idea of being young and wild. The songs vary in tone and aesthetic, but it all ties back to that overarching theme. “Vagabonds,” is a soaring, hook-laden tale of escapism, while the prancing “Hold Me” captures that moment before the end of the world. “Wild,” the band’s current single, contrasts with “We Can Glow,” a moody anthem revealing the flipside of the band’s live-in-the-now sensibility.

The 6 piece, who have been featured on Last Call with Carson Daly and seen several songs placed in various TV spots, are really only embarking on their adventure now, with the release of this debut album. Joining forces with the team at Dangerbird Records has enabled them to more fully realize their vision of touring extensively and broadening their own inspired journey. The first chapters of that story are heard in the music, a soundtrack for exploration and discovery, of bursting into a world teeming with possibilities.

“We’ve learned so much from being on the road,” Gary says. “And I think there’s so much more to learn. We want to deliver every night, no matter what. We’re really just excited for the album to finally come out. We’re very excited to offer more than five songs to all of our fans and see where we can go from here.”

8. Monster Truck

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For Fans Of: The Sheepdogs, Priestess, Clutch, Kill Devil Hill, Nashville Pussy, Buckcherry

The term Rock n’ Roll gets thrown around pretty haphazardly. One can go as far as stating it’s been bastardized to the point of being unrecognizable, ironically shouted on stages worldwide, and classified dead or MIA by the very musicians that once upheld its standard.

Enter Monster Truck. There’s something comforting about a band name that delivers exactly what you expect to hear. Born in 2008 from the ashes of various Canadian Indie bands, Monster Truck began as a sonic affront to the very industry its members were bred from. After feeling more like cogs in the music industry machine, Jon Harvey (bass & lead vocals), Jeremy Widerman (guitar & vocals), Brandon Bliss (organ & vocals) and Steve Kiely (drums & vocals) broke free to forge their own path, answering only to themselves. “It was admittedly a bit selfish from the get-go as we only were looking to please ourselves,” laughs Widerman. Their unabashed approach to making and performing music became infectious. “We just wanted to mix all of our favorite hard rock, punk and classic rock favourites into something raw and basic,” states Widerman, almost as if to suggest that no one had done it to his liking yet. The band was doing something right. A ground swell of regional fans quickly began rushing to any local venue to see the band perform live. Rock n’ Roll is clearly not dead.

Offers began to pile up for Hamilton, Ontario’s prodigious sons, and the band soon realized they had to make a decision to jump in hip deep and take the record label and tour offers more seriously. “The decision was probably easier than I’d like to admit,” adds Widerman, suggesting they were probably all kidding themselves thinking they weren’t willing to make sacrifices once again in an attempt to make music for a living.

What started as a fun and albeit ‘selfish’ musical side-project, quickly gained momentum and took on a life of its own. Monster Truck self-released a self-titled EP produced by Gus Van Go & Werner F (The Stills, Preistess, Hollerado) in 2010 and followed up with The Brown EP (2011) produced by Eric Ratz (Billy Talent, Cancer Bats, Three Days Grace) on Indie powerhouse Dine Alone Records. The Brown EP aggressively showcased the band’s ability to keep a firm grasp in the classic roots that enabled them, while staying contemporary and true to their vast influences. Singles “Seven Seas Blues” and “Righteous Smoke” became runaway hits reaching Top 10 on Canadian Rock radio and true to their notorious maxim “Don’t F*ck With The Truck”, the band hit the road with a vengeance. Tours included a 2011 cross-Canada sold-out run with The Sheepdogs. Additional tours followed in 2012 when Monster Truck was handpicked to open for Slash on his North American tour, as well as sold-out dates in support of legends Deep Purple.

After an unexpected, yet highly successful year of relentless touring, Monster Truck returned home hell bent to record a full-length album. Over the course of 2 months, the guys put together 12 original songs showcasing not only their determination to continue churning out heart-pounding rock tracks, but that also highlighted another dimension to the band’s songwriting and performance. The result is their debut full-length LP aptly titled Furiosity.

Produced once again by JUNO-nominated Eric Ratz at Vespa Studios in Toronto and Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Furiosity showcases Monster Truck’s ability to seamlessly integrate influences from grunge and punk era greats that they love so dearly with alt-sounding vintage rock. The resulting album remains anchored in grooves, yet propulsive and volcanic, fueled by frontman Jon Harvey’s colossal vocal delivery.

The album impressingly runs the gamut from crushing first single “Sweet Mountain River” which features a highly infectious chorus juxtaposed against a killer riff, to tracks like “The Lion” and its definitive old-school, boogie-rock vibe. “While the bulk of songs were written and executed in fairly quick fashion, tailoring the pace and fine tuning the transitions took longer than usual,” says Widerman of the writing process. “We really wanted the songs to take the listener on an exciting journey.” Gems like “Old Train” featuring epic gang vocals were in fact kept under wraps from the producer and the label until the band reworked them to their liking while “Power of the People” — a Rage Against The Machine inspired track — is a commentary on a society in turmoil and an anthem for those who wish to band together and make a difference.

The band intentionally challenged themselves with “For The Sun”, spending more than a year playing the song live in order to perfect it. Slower-paced and with thought to ensuring every moment was well-crafted and building in intensity, Widerman spent 2 days in the studio just recording the intro and solos leaving other members of the band to wonder whether he would ever be satisfied with the end result. Finally, last minute addition “My Love Is True” shows a more soulful side of Monster Truck, and is another shining example of how even a down tempo song can shake you to your core.

The constant show regiment and recording process is sharpening the band’s delivery and there’s no doubt that anyone still interested in original and authentic rock music will be compelled to pay attention. Monster Truck will continue doing what they do best, steamrolling from town to town leaving legions of fans in their wake.

9. Allah-Las

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For Fans Of: The War On Drugs, Mac Demarco, Foxygen, Jamaican Queens, The Black Angels, Washed Out

Allah-Las met while working at the biggest of all the L.A. Record stores, but they became a band in an even more rare and special space—a California basement, dug out somewhere between the mountains and the beach. They began gigging shortly after their conception in and around Los Angeles in the later part of 2008. It wasn’t until three years later that they would find the proper environment to record their first single “Long Journey” which now bookends their self-titled release. These were the kind of songs that bounced between London and Los Angeles, the kind of thing that could have come from Mick Jagger or Arthur Lee or both at once, with crystalline guitar and slow-mo drums that recalled the way the waves take big bites of the beach at night. This was mystery music from the strange and ancient-modern California fringe, more Night Tide than Easy Rider. Allah-Las were a reflection of a reflection, an echo of an echo, a band that was psychedelic not because of reverb or shredding through pedals but for the simple way their songs seem to extend to infinity.

Greil Marcus liked to refer back to “The Old, Weird America” when discussing a certain famous set of recordings that emanated from a Woodstock cabin basement. ALLAH-LAS sound like the Old, Weird Los Angeles: Strains of true surfing music, American harmonies, Sunset Strip backbeat, desert ramble filtered through Goldstar Sessioneers; That pre-fuzz pedal ‘electrified folk’ music and pop groups hitting that California sound with the tambourine on just the right beat. When you hear it, you see things — Venice’s arches lit at night with the ocean in the distance; mid-century hamburger stands and slow-moving main drags in residential nights; Teen-age revues at 400 person ballrooms; Ferus Gallery beatniks; bungalows in canyons; hidden deco stairsteps peeking from leafy hillsides; kustom kars and dovetails and chicks in OP shorts with long, long hair. Like a Dennis Hopper photo come to life. You look at their well worn Fender guitars, their real surfer tans, their dusty suede boots – and you see it’s a sound natural to them; This isn’t an act.

10. The Wild Feathers

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For Fans Of: The Mowgli’s, Bleachers, The Lone Bellow, Lucius, Dawes, Desert Noises

“They’re like if Led Zeppelin & The Band had a baby in Joshua Tree that grew up listening to Ryan Adams covering the Stones 70’s country influenced songs”

Long before it got broken up into a million sub-genres, rock & roll was just rock & roll. Pure, true, organic. Six strings, booming harmonies and the call of the open road. It’s a singularly American tradition that Nashville’s The Wild Feathers are full-force dedicated to not only preserving but also – more importantly – evolving. Their sound melds the five unique voices of Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly, and Ben Dumas, taking inspiration from across the musical spectrum – country, blues, folk and rock – and spinning it into a roaring web of warm, cosmic melodies with vintage roots and modern tones. The Wild Feathers are a rock band that feels impossibly fresh with the air of having been here all along.

Ricky, Joel, Taylor and Preston were all lead singers before they came together as The Wild Feathers, fronting their own bands and writing songs with their own distinct sounds. All hailing from Texas with the exception of Joel (Oklahoma), each member grew up with a deep sense of southern musical traditions, while at the same time being raised on records like Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and Tom Petty. As kids, their moms played them the Rolling Stones instead of lullabies, literally and figuratively rocking them to sleep.

Eventually Ricky and Joel both migrated to Nashville, where they connected in 2010. Occasionally, they’d get together to write music and play: Stones songs, riffs they’d written, ideas here and there. “Ricky and I wanted to do something with a bunch of singers, not just one lead,” Joel says. Their vision was of a group where each member is as indispensible as the next; a solid set of four, not just a front man backed by session players. Of course, finding the proper matches for something like this is no easy task. With strong voices can come stronger egos – just the thing to rip a fledgling band apart. Somehow, The Wild Feathers found their missing pieces, leading them to become what Joel calls a “four-headed monster,” not four separate monsters, butting heads.

Mutual friends suggested a man by the name of Taylor Burns with a strong electric-guitar rip and bluesy growl. He seemed the perfect thing to complement Ricky’s smooth, folk tone and Joel’s rock & roll bellow. Next came Preston Wimberly, who rounded out the loose, bright harmonies and added an occasional country twang through some masterful pedal steel. The four gathered to play music in Austin, and it clicked nearly instantly. Instead of a battle of wills, it was effortless. The Wild Feathers was born that day. “It was a match made in heaven,” says Joel. “Or hell,” he adds with a smirk.

“I wanted to do something greater than I could on my own,” Ricky says, but every member of the band could easily echo the same sentiment. “To create something bigger than any one of us individually, and write great songs that last the test of time.” While some of their influences come from deep in the 60’s and 70’s, they’re still thoroughly modern, fusing and evolving their pedal steel and Laurel Canyon harmonies rather than regurgitating and repackaging what’s already in existence. So it’s no surprise that they’re more likely to simply call themselves American than Americana. “We like folk music, but we’re going to have a distortion pedal on when we do it,” laughs Preston.

For their 2013 debut, The Wild Feathers, the band enlisted Jay Joyce (Cage the Elephant, the Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris) as producer, who encouraged the band to tap into their innate sense of harmony and true rock & roll sound. Their days in his Nashville studio were full and tiring (“like we’d been waterskiing and drinking beer in the sun all day,” says Ricky, “but so inspiring”), recording most tracks live, one at a time. “It was kind of like the old days with Elvis at RCA,” says Joel, “recording one song per day, really living in each one.”

The resulting record is a display of four unique talents effortlessly unified: bluesy, hard rock tunes like “Backwoods Company” live effortlessly next to harmonic stunners like “Hard Wind” and slow, folky love songs like “Tall Boots.” “When Rick Danko (of The Band) would sing harmonies, it was like he was singing lead,” says Ricky. “That’s what we try to do.” And it shows. Songs like “Left My Woman,” allow Ricky, Joel and Taylor to sing a few solo bars each in the opening, before joining with Preston on the chorus. Visually, they are united, too – playing shows standing in a line straight across the stage, as one.

“We make songs that I could never write on my own,” says Ricky, “even if I worked from now until I die. But with these guys and what they bring, it’s easy.” Adds Taylor, “we’re making something better than we could have ever done by ourselves.” What they make is modern rock & roll, laced with nostalgia, built for the new millennium. What they are is The Wild Feathers.

11. The Orwells

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For Fans Of: Bleached, FIDLAR, Mikal Cronin, Bass Drum Of Death, King Tuff, Jeff The Brotherhood

“I’m not that old but I’m getting pretty wise” — a sentiment within the early seconds of The Orwells‘ new album, Disgraceland, that pretty much sums up the eleven tracks that follow it. Two years have passed since the band emerged from their boring Chicago suburb as five high schoolers hellbent on reminding the world that American rock & roll is still alive. A lot has happened since then for The Orwells. They’ve slain and sweated on audiences around the world, recorded with their favorite contemporary producers, shared the stage with childhood heroes, raked in accolades from distinguished publications and even had David Letterman begging them for more. And now, as they release their irresistibly raucous yet masterfully architected Disgraceland on Canvasback Music, The Orwells are getting pretty wise.

The story of Disgraceland — recorded last fall at studios in London, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Woodstock, NY — is the story of The Orwells escaping the confines of their hometown and of their own expectations for themselves. Back when they made their 2012 debut album, Remember When, they were recording by themselves in guitarist Matt O’Keefe’s parents’ basement. O’Keefe, bassist Grant Brinner, his brother, drummer Henry Brinner, guitarist Dominic Corso and his cousin, singer Mario Cuomo, had been playing together since 9th grade. “We were hoping eventually something would happen and it would become serious,” says O’Keefe. “We were like, ‘We love writing songs, so let’s just keep doing it.’ When we were writing those early songs, the goal was just to make all the other bands in our high school jealous.” Maybe one day, they thought, they’d get to be as beloved as their heroes The Black Lips. “You make good music, say what you wanna say and have a good time — that was what we were shooting for,” O’Keefe continues. “But now that we’re a little older, the goal is bringing rock & roll back to everybody’s car speakers. Sometimes you get afraid to go to the highest point you can, at the price of being called sell-outs or whatever. But we say fuck that, if we can get every single kid playing rock and roll music in their parents’ car stereos, that’s what we wanna do.”

Though they eventually teamed with producers Dave Sitek (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold, TV On the Radio), Chris Coady (Smith Westerns, Beach House) and Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys), they started writing the new album before the first one was even released. “We were still in high school when we wrote the early songs for this album,” says O’Keefe. “So we expected that we would be handing the first few songs we were making out on a CD to kids in the hallways, just like we had before. But as time went on and we got signed to Canvasback, we figured this might be the last album we write while still living in Elmhurst. We wanted to capture what the last 18-20 years of our lives were like, in this anywhere USA suburb.” Songs like “Dirty Sheets,” “Southern Comfort” and “Let It Burn” detail debauched nights, sloppy hook-ups and the kind of trouble you let yourself get into when you’re bored, broke and barely legal.

Recorded in Los Angeles with Sitek last summer, “Who Needs You?” was actually written back in October 2011. Says O’Keefe: “It was the day Obama announced we’d be pulling all of the troops out of Iraq, and we thought, ‘let’s write a kind of 60’s Vietnam thing’ celebrating these kids coming home. As it developed, in my basement writing it, the song became more like, ‘it’s fucked up that we were there in the first place,’ and it was basically a bunch of ignorant teenagers trying to comment on something political.” Released as a single last fall, the tune earned praise from the Chicago Sun-Times, which described it as “ring[ing] with big, chiming guitars, a giant stomping beat straight out of Motown and Cuomo, bellowing societal disgust through a microphone that sounds like it is plugged into a muddy lake bottom: ‘You better save the country/you better pass the flask/you better join the army/I say no thank you dear old Uncle Sam!'”

Cuomo says that songs like the Jim Abbiss-produced “Dirty Sheets” and album-closer “North Ave” are “pretty autobiographical,” detailing “feelings bundled up from high school shit.” Writing about those experiences, he says, is his way of burying them. The rest of The Orwells — all a year younger than the singer — had been playing together for awhile when they finally got Cuomo to join them. “Mario was always that kid all of us knew about,” says Grant. “Not just because he was cousins with Dominic, either. He was that one dude a grade above us who would flick off a teacher or that kind of thing. You’d always hear stories about something crazy that Mario had done. He was definitely that kid everyone knew about and either hated or loved.”

Up until that point, Cuomo had been singing along to CDs in his room, “trying to hit notes and shit.” He cites frontmen like Glenn Danzig and Odd Future‘s Tyler, The Creator, as inspiration, as well as Iggy Pop’s menacing, self-destructive presence. Though The Orwells’ live show has become the stuff of legend in the past year, inspiring Consequence Of Sound to write, “frontman Mario Cuomo has tapped into something special, carnal, and almost evil,” Cuomo admits that it took him a minute to unleash his own inner wildman on stage: “I was super uncomfortable just standing there and it made me feel really bad and not satisfied with shows, using a mike stand and being boring,” he says. “Little by little as I started moving around more, it started feeling better. It took maybe 50 shows to really get it down and get super comfortable and know what I was doing. I still don’t know but kind of.”

Doing whatever comes naturally seems to be paying off for The Orwells. Their television appearances on Later With Jools Holland and The Late Show With David Letterman in the past year gave audiences around the world a taste of what concertgoers have seen during the band’s recent tours with Arctic Monkeys, FIDLAR and Palma Violets. Footage of the performances instantly made the rounds. “I thought we did it right,” says Cuomo. “I fucked up a bunch, but in retrospect, it’s how rock music should be played: No matter what venue and where you are and who you’re playing for, it’s not going to be perfect. Even if you’re on TV, it’s ok to fuck it up sometimes.”

“The Orwells tap into [a] primal energy… in which youthful abandon and sloppiness are touchstones — and know their way around a nuttily repetitive hook.” – SPIN

“The best new live band in America” – NME

“…a mixture of back-breaking intensity, youthful tomfoolery and the utterly unhinged… With their brattish sensibility and near endless displays of energy, The Orwells seem to tap into that perennial youthful outcast in all of us – the kid who is forever being dragged to detention on reputation alone.” –Clash Music

12. Hunter Hunted

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For Fans Of: Wild Cat Wild Cat, The Mowgli’s, Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, Fun., Matt & Kim, Tegan & Sara

To say that Hunter Hunted accomplished a lot in a short amount of time would be an understatement. Since the bands inception in January of 2013, they’ve been included in MTV’s Artists To Watch, Nylon’s “Bands to look out for”, Starbucks “Pick of The Week”, Teen Vogue’s “Jam’s of the year”, Billboard Magazines “Scouting Report”, and KCRW’s “Bands we Love”.

With standout track “Keep Together” making the rounds on TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Real World, and Pretty Little Liars, the band has performed everywhere from The Conan O’Brien show to The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. A few months since their Billboard charting debut EP, the band is keeping busy, doing a U.S. tour with Fitz and the Tantrums, a Midwest tour with the Mowgli’s, dates with Weezer, and a fall run with FUN. This Spring they head out on a two month tour with Twenty One Pilots followed by stops at Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, Governors Ball, Firefly, and a number of other major festivals.

13. A$AP Ferg

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For Fans Of: Dom Kennedy, A$AP Rocky, ScHoolboy Q, Juicy J, Pusha T, Trinidad James

A$AP Ferg may hail from a block in Harlem notoriously known as “Hungry Ham (Hamilton Heights),” but that never completely defined him. Whether it be launching clothing and jewelry lines or attending art school, he constantly bobbed and weaved past expectations. As a rapper, unpredictability remains his only calling card. The next member of the A$AP Mob collective to have a solo project, he can slip from gruff, gritty rhymes to soaring singing, and he does so seamlessly. On his A$AP Worldwide released album, Trap Lord, he’s got his own musical domain on lock.

“Ferg’s debut [mixtape] will not sound like anything that’s out in the music industry right now,” assures A$AP Worldwide co-owner, A$AP Yams.

Hip-hop surrounded Ferg from childhood. His father Darold Ferguson owned a Harlem boutique and printed shirts and logos for record labels including Bad Boy Records and luminaries such as Teddy Riley, Heavy D, Bell Biv DeVoe, and more. Even though he immersed himself in music, the younger Ferg pursued fashion at first. Launching Devoni Clothing in 2005, he designed and distributed high-end belts worn by the likes of Chris Brown, Swizz Beatz, and Diggy Simmons. Eventually, his hustle, creativity, and business acumen extended to music.

“Trapping means hustling,” he explains. “I went from painting to making clothes to rapping. I always put myself into everything I do one hundred percent. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on. I want to perfect everything I do. Success is the only option. They call me ‘Trap Lord’ because my hustle game is impeccable.”

Friends since high school, A$AP Rocky recognized that “impeccable hustle game” and pushed Ferg to get behind the mic as much as possible. In 2010, they teamed up for the viral hits “Get High,” “Kissin’ Pink,” and explosive “Ghetto Symphony” from Rocky’s chart-topping major label 2013 debut LONG.LIVE.A$AP.

“Rocky is a major reason I’m rapping,” he reveals. “He believes in me and really challenges me. We look up to each other, and I consider him a brother.”

The world got its formal introduction to Ferg on the inimitable and irresistible “Work.” His first single resounds with gutter-fabulous production from Chinza & Fly—who he actually found on tumblr while touring with Rocky on Drake’s Club Paradise Tour. His impenetrable flow charges through a smoky synth haze, rising to the forefront. Upon its release, the music video quickly racked up over 2 million online views and was dubbed one of the “50 Best Songs of 2012″ by tastemaker Complex.com.

About “Work,” Ferg goes on, “Lyrically, it’s truth. It’s a motivational song. I speak where I come from. I wanted talk about real life shit, and that’s what it does. You’ve got to put in that work.”

Also in his arsenal is the sharp and slick “Dump Dump.” “That was inspired by a night in a NYC club,” he laughs. “We’re going to leave it at that. I was there dodging glasses and stuff.”

Then, he offers a soulful rumination on life and death, “100 Million Roses.” After seeing the film Selena, he became infatuated with the legendary Latina icon and he researched her legacy, learning as much as he possibly could about her. Dedicating the song to Selena and everyone else he’s lost personally, Ferg’s honesty hits hard.

“She’s had such an inspiring story. I dedicated ’100 Million Roses’ to her and my dad. I wonder how people would look at my life when I die, and that’s what the verse is about. How would people feel? I know I’d want a 100 million roses.”

Ultimately, Ferg is beginning to leave his own legacy with Trap Lord. “I hope people take the good and the bad from what I’ve got to say,” he concludes. “I’ve seen so much shit in my life. There were times I ducked bullets at a basketball game, and then I went to a fashion show. I’ve experienced depression. I’ve experienced triumph. I’ve experienced hate. I’ve experienced love. You can’t hide from this shit though. It builds your character. I learned how to be independent. I made it out of the hood, and now I want go to the top.”

He has performed at SXSW, has opened on tour for Juicy J, and just performed at Coachella for the first time.

14. St. Paul & the Broken Bones

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For Fans Of: Alabama Shakes, Shovels & Rope, Jason Isbell, The Lone Bellow, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Ivan & Alyosha

Grit, elemental rhythm, tight-as-a-drumhead playing, and a profound depth of feeling: these are the promises of a great soul band. And St. Paul & The Broken Bones deliver on those promises.

Half The City is the compelling full-length Single Lock/Thirty Tigers debut of the Birmingham, Alabama-based sextet, who have already created a maelstrom of interest with their roof-raising live shows and self-released four-song 2012 EP. Produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, and recorded and mixed in the storied R&B mecca of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album harkens back to the region’s classic soul roots while extending the form with electrifying potency.

Front man Paul Janeway’s handle “St. Paul” is a wry allusion to the vocalist’s grounding in the church. Like many a legendary soul singer, Janeway, a native of the small town of Chelsea, Alabama, was raised on the gospel side, in a non-denominational, Pentecostal-leaning local church. Virtually no non-religious music could be heard in his devout household. Janeway says, “The only secular music that I heard at all was a ‘70s group called the Stylistics, and Sam Cooke. That was about it. The rest of it was all gospel music. When I was about 10 years old, I was groomed to be a minister. My goal in life until I was about 18 years old was to be a preacher.”

He adds, “My pastor was the reason that I learned to play guitar. They would let me play guitar and sing in church. What was weird was that he would never let me sing lead – I’d sing background vocals. I always thought, ‘Well, maybe I’m just a good background vocalist.’ So I never thought I could really, really sing, at all. I never thought it would be a living, ever.”

Though his time in the church exposed Janeway to key influences in gospel music – the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Alex Bradford, Clay Evans – he began moving away from his youthful path in his late teens. He began attending open mic nights in Birmingham’s clubs and diversified his listening, excited by some decidedly left-of-center talents. “Tom Waits and Nick Cave were the really big attractions,” he says. “They have that passion. They’ve built this aura. They’re showmen to the teeth. And that’s what got me – it’s like going to church, in a weird way. At about the same time, I began listening to the great soul singers like Otis Redding, James Carr, and O.V. Wright. I was trying to find something that made my earbuds tingle.”

Seeking his musical comfort zone, Janeway had an incongruous stint in a band that played Led Zeppelin covers, but, he confesses today, “That’s not what I do.” However, his early work in the rock vein brought him together with bassist Jesse Phillips. The pair became close friends and were soon writing together; “Sugar Dyed,” “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” and “That Glow,” all heard on Half The City, were among the first fruits of their collaboration.

The other members of the Broken Bones are all drawn from Alabama’s deep talent pool. Guitarist Browan Lollar, from the Muscle Shoals area about 100 miles north of Birmingham, previously played with Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit. “We never thought Browan would ever be interested in this band – he was too big-time for us,” says Janeway. “Jesse had met him while he was on tour with another band out of Birmingham. He asked Browan to come to the studio, and he showed up. I think we caught him at the right time. He wasn’t busy, and he said, ‘Man, I really want to be a part of this.’”

Jasper, Alabama, native Andrew Lee signed on via his acquaintance with Phillips. “We just picked him up on the way to the studio,” Janeway recalls. “Jesse said, ‘I know this guy, why don’t I just call him.’ And 30 minutes later, he’s sitting there playing drums on ‘Sugar Dyed.’ Andrew’s just a hell of a drummer.” Brass players Allen Bransetter and Ben Griner are both graduates of the music program at Birmingham’s Samford University. Janeway says his vision of the band always called for a two-man horn section, a la the celebrated Memphis Horns, and he approached Griner, although the latter’s main instrument was tuba. “I told Ben, ‘Man, I’ve got to have horns. Do you think you can play trombone?’ He said, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’ And he brought Allen with him.”

All six members share writing credit on 10 of the songs on Half The City, with Janeway contributing lyrics. “We firmly believe in a shared, communal writing process,” the singer says. “These guys are extremely talented. The drummer wrote horn parts. Browan threw something in. It’s very collective. We just get in a room. Sometimes we’ll have the scales for a song, or sometimes we’ll have this little riff. That’s how we do it.”

In Tanner — who logged time at Muscle Shoals’ aptly named FAME Studios, where scores of memorable soul records were cut — St. Paul and the Broken Bones found a like-minded producer and label boss. Half The City is among the first releases on Single Lock Records, the imprint co-founded by Tanner, John Paul White of the Civil Wars, and Will Trapp

“When we started getting cranked up and nobody really knew who the hell we were, we got Ben to mix our original four-song EP,” says Janeway. “We just hit it off. He said, ‘Hey, guys, I’m in the process of starting this label. Obviously you can say no, but we’d love for you to be a part of it.’ And we said, ‘Hell, yeah.’”

Reaching back nearly 50 years to methods employed the great epoch of deep Southern soul, Tanner and the group eschewed studio trickery for an in-the-moment approach during sessions at the Nutthouse in Muscle Shoals, AL. Fittingly, the album was mixed at FAME. Janeway explains, “We said, ‘We’re doing this as old-school as we can.’ We did it to tape. We did it live. What you hear is taken from about three takes, and we took the best take. I love it. It’s raw. You hear all the scrapes.” Special guests include Al Gamble on piano, organ and wurlitzer, Daniel Stoddard on pedal steel, Jamie Harper on baritone sax and Tanner on piano, organ and background vocals.

Half The City – vital, direct, emotionally affecting – presents the same engaged, high-voltage, in-the-pocket sound that St. Paul & The Broken Bones produce at their live dates, where Janeway’s extroverted performing style enraptures his audiences.

“I’m going to be dancing, getting in the aisles, climbing on tables,” he says. “That’s just the way we do it. It really takes me back to church. There’s not a lot of difference. When I get on stage, it’s, ‘All right, it’s time to pour it on.’”

15. King Khan & the Shrines

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For Fans Of: Jay Reatard, King Tuff, The Dirtbombs, Mikal Cronin, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall

Imagine Roky Erickson backed by the Sun Ra Arkestra or Wilson Pickett and The Velvet Underground, or picture the love child of Anubis and Kali. King Khan & The Shrines is more than a psychedelic soul band with a spectacle of a stage show. They are a cult musical phenomenon with more than 10 years of international touring, multiple studio records and a fan base of fervent punk, soul, free jazz and garage rock heads.

King Khan, the spiritual guru and front man, cobbled together a fierce line-up of musicians while in Berlin in between reading Tarot cards and raising a family. What he ended up with in 1999 is one of the most entertaining groups the world has seen and heard since the days of Ike & Tina. The line-up includes Chicago-born, Ron Streeter (veteran percussionist for Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder), a horn section consisting of trumpeter Simon Wojan (member of Kranky Records recording artists Cloudland Canyon), tenor sax man Torben Wesche (Germany’s John Coltrane), and famous French rockabilly baritone saxophonist Frederic Brissaud. The rhythm section of the Sensational Shrines has been called a German/French version of the Freak Brothers – Till Timm on guitar, organist Frederic Bourdil, Jens Redemann on bass and drummer Mirko Wenzl.

Their first album Three Hairs & You’re Mine was produced by Liam Watson, recorded in the legendary Toe Rag Studios in London and released in 2002. A second full-length, Mr. Supernatural, followed in 2004. King Khan & The Shrines soon became an all-star international movement. Numerous gigs followed all across Europe with The Black Lips, Enon, Demolition Doll Rods, Mr. Quintron and Ms. Pussycat, an after-party for 50 Cent in Norway. They headlined Toronto’s NXNE festival 2006 playing three nights in a row and even had a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra join their brass section.

In 2007, King Khan made the soundtrack and film score for Schwarze Schafe, a major motion picture in Germany. The soundtrack included music from The Black Lips, The Spits, Gris Gris, Quintron and other greats. They also had a song placed in the movie Chiko, produced by Academy Award Winner Fatih Akin.

King Khan then released What Is?!, receiving critical acclaim from all over the world. It landed at #33 on Pitchfork’s Top Albums of 2007, while their track “Welfare Bread” landed at #66 on Pitchfork’s Top 100 Songs of 2007.

Their greatest hits, aptly titled The Supreme Genius of King Khan & The Shrines, came out in 2008 and for the first time their music was widely available in the U.S. The entire psychedelic-soul big band then graced stages for the first time in North America, leaving behind them a colorful spell of amazement and wonder.

In the years since, King Khan & The Shrines have added several notable festivals to their resume, including Coachella, Sasquatch, Pitchfork, South By Southwest and Sudoste. Their music has also been heard in popular TV programs (NBC’s Chuck, HBO’s Entourage, HBO’s Eastbound & Down), TV commercials (V8 juice, Mother Energy Drink), and video games (Saints Row).

They kicked off 2012 on a high note as they headlined the Bruise Cruise Festival and also performed at the Plissken and B-Sides festivals. King Khan & The Shrines have released the song and video for “Bite My Tongue,” a sweat-drenched, ass shaking, groovy psyched out number, complete with rip roaring horn lines, southern fried guitar riffs and lysergic melodies. They will be touring the U.S and parts of Europe and the UK throughout the summer as they put the finishing touches on a new full-length album. They will be opening for the Black Lips in the fall.

16. The Griswolds

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Photo by Jory Lee Cordy

For Fans Of: Little Green Cars, Cloud Control, The Trouble with Templeton, Jagwar Ma, Gold Fields, Dune Rats

Sydney-based indie-pop outfit, The Griswolds, have applied the finishing touches to their debut album under the guidance of American producer Tony Hoffer (The Kooks, Beck, M83, Ladyhawke). The band have now released the album’s leading single ‘Beware The Dog’ – which was added immediately to high roation on triple j radio last week.

Frontman Chris Whitehall on the track…

“This is the first song Dan and I ever wrote together. It’s about losing someone we were really close with to heavy drug use. ‘Beware the Dog’ is about that journey – the good and the bad times.”

Second single, ‘Heart of a Lion’, was immediately added to high rotation in Australia on triple j radio, ending 2012 as one of the station’s most played tracks of the year. The international airwaves were quick to take notice, with HOAL attracting airplay in over 20 countries worldwide, achieving #3 on the radio airplay charts in The Netherlands via tastemaker station 3FM and an iTunes single of the week in the region.

The Griswolds’ Heart of a Lion EP was released into the USA last year via Wind-Up Records. Stateside, the EP release had critics and fans buzzing, with a number of noteworthy features from sites including CMJ, MTV Buzzworthy, Neon Gold, Paper Magazine and Vice Noisey.

The Griswolds showed no signs of slowing down in 2013 by taking worldwide audiences by storm with acclaimed shows at MUSEXPO, NARM, Brooklyn Bowl, The Viper Room, Mercury Lounge and a sold-out Neon Gold popshop in NYC, along with key international festival performances at CMJ Festival in New York, The Great Escape festival in the United Kingdom, and a headline slot at the ‘London Calling’ festival in Amsterdam.

The Griswolds are at the top of their game after recently wrapping up a swag of exceptional showcases to packed venues at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX in March. The band picked up a number of rave reviews and inclusions on many best of lists including:

50 SXSW Acts You Need To Hear – Buzzfeed
30 SXSW Acts About To Break – Huffington Post
18 Highlights From SXSW – The Atlantic
Best Australian Artist At SXSW 2014 – The AU Review

Having previously performed alongside the likes of Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Django Django and St. Lucia, The Griswolds will return to North America in June to perform at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Firefly Music Festival, alongside international heavyweights including Outkast, Band of Horses, Local Natives, Broken Bells and Girl Talk to name a few.

“…put on an incredible support set that could have easily been redefined as a co-headline spot. The quintet oozed tropical flamboyance and Aussie ambience, and brought with them a euphoric lasso that hooked audiences from the get-go…‘Beware Of The Dog’, showcased the band’s impressive harmonies and raw heavy percussion, giving the song an infectious live presence that, in hindsight, rivaled many of the headliner’s moments.” – Tone Deaf

“Their euphoric slice of indie pop brings to mind the youthful exuberance of Vampire Weekend with the nonchalant cool of The Strokes and percussive intensity of Friendly Fires…”- Neon Gold (US)

“Between the clean guitar rhythms, the memorable drums, and excited vocal parts, “Mississippi” sounds like an incredibly colorful and upbeat cut that practically embodies the summer season in its upbeat feel” – The Music Ninja (USA)

“A big bash of near perfect pop. Your seemingly endless reserves of energy just kill me. [The Griswolds] have got an iron like grip on how to make pop music the right way (oh shit, those falsettos!). Count me in. 4 Stars.” – Dave Ruby Howe – triple j

17. Deafheaven

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For Fans Of: Metz, Whirr, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Wolves in the Throne Room, Iceage, Chelsea Wolfe

Deafheaven was formed in February 2010 in San Francisco, California by vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, who had previously been in a band together. The two members recorded a demo in April 2010 at Atomic Garden Studios. Originally, Deafheaven didn’t intend to release the material publicly, but they later sent it out to a few of their favorite blogs where it had been positively received. Demo was then printed up on a limited number of cassettes and put online. Clarke and McCoy then recruited three additional musicians and would go on to tour as a five-piece group, their first show was in July 2010. (Demo has since then been remastered and was released by Sargent House on vinyl and digitally in 2012).

In December 2010, Deafheaven signed to Deathwish Inc. and released their debut album,Roads to Judah on April 26, 2011. The title of the album is a reference to the N Judah light rail that provides transportation in Deafheaven’s hometown, and lyrically the album is about Clarke’s “year of substance abuse and debauchery.” Roads to Judah received positive reviews and was placed on several year-end lists including NPR, Pitchfork and The A.V. Club. MSN Music also named Deafheaven one of the best new artists of 2011. To promote the album, Deafheaven toured extensively debuting at SXSW festival in March 2011 then in June embarking on their first US dates with KEN Mode and again in November 2011 doing a full U.S. tour supporting Russian Circles who introduced Deafheaven to their manager Cathy Pellow, who then went on to sign them to the prestigous management roster of Sargent House. In 2012 Deafheaven headlined their first European Tour, they played SXSW again and met up with France’s Alcest for US shows before heading back to Europe in April and May of 2012 where they did a six week long tour as direct support to Russian Circles.

On June 11, 2013 Deathwish released Deafheaven’s second full length entitled Sunbather. Joining Clarke and McCoy would be their new drummer and band member Daniel Tracy.Sunbather was recorded and engineered by Jack Shirley at Atomic Gardens with the album package designed by long time friend Nick Steinhardt.

2013 now sees Deafheaven as a headlining band who will continue to tour the US and Europe with their strongest line up to date made up of George Clarke on vocals, Kerry McCoy lead guitar, Daniel Tracy on drums, Shiv Mehra guitar and Stephen Lee Clarke on Bass.

18. Cayucas

CayucasseephotocreditPhoto by Shervin Lainez

For Fans Of: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Caveman, Pacific Air, Surfer Blood, The Generationals, Here We Go Magic

Cayucas: Pronounced “ky-yook-us”, is the monikered homage to a sleepy little seaside town in San Luis Obispo County, California. That town, Cayucos, has hardly changed in the last 50 years, a far cry from the gentrified tourist traps parading showily down the nearby coastline. In the early 1960s, the surfing craze hit. There was one bar around which local kids congregated back then, the site of helpless crushes and fights and games of pool, a place whose jukebox soundtracked innumerable teenage years as breezy summers rolled into mild winters and back around again. The bar has since disappeared, but as Zach Yudin, the man behind the name, will tell you, the place still holds on tight to its propensity for dreamy, lazy, bonfire-lit nights worth getting moony-eyed about.

No one knows summer like Santa Monica’s Zach Yudin, a man of leisure who recognizes “the epic” in something as simple as a twilight bicycle ride or a short drive up the coast. As Cayucas, Yudin has set about creating an impressionistic portrait of summer’s long, bittersweet dazzle.

An avid bird-watcher, Yudin majored in both Music Theory/Production and Japanese. He spent a post-grad year living and teaching in Tokyo, then taking the past couple of years to hone the sound of Cayucas. He posted a couple of songs online, picking up a lot of love and attention, but it was only when he entered the studio with producer/multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift last year that Cayucas was truly defined — sun-inspired jams that touch upon The Animals, Harry Belafonte and the surfer-folk mysticism of the Northwest. They opened on tour for Young The Giant earlier this year.

19. Roadkill Ghost Choir

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For Fans Of: Desert Noises, Field Report, Kopecky Family Band, Seryn, Fruit Bats, Heartless Bastards

Roadkill Ghost Choir is an indie folk-rock band from DeLand, Florida.

Brothers Andrew (vocals, guitar), Maxx (drums) and Zach (bass) Shepard make up half the band while Kiffy Meyers (pedal steel, banjo, guitar),  Joey Davoli (keys, trumpet) and Stephen Garza (lead guitar) complete the band’s sound.  It wasn’t until Andrew was offered his first solo gig in 2010 that he decided to form a band to fill out the songs he recently started writing for a live setting. After the band went through several name changes in the early stages of its creation, Roadkill Ghost Choir was formed.

While the member’s major influences include Wilco, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, and Fleetwood Mac, there are also undercurrents of Radiohead and Nirvana, lending the band an impish edge with broad appeal.

In 2012 Roadkill Ghost Choir finished recording their debut E.P. , Quiet Light, with producer Dave Plakon and engineer Mark Mason at North Avenue Studio. It was mastered in Omaha, Nebraska by Doug Van Sloun (Bright Eyes, She and Him). Quiet Light was released on September 25, 2012.

20. Cherub

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For Fans Of: Moon Taxi, Ghost Beach, The Bright Light Social Hour, Reptar, Dan Croll, St. Lucia

Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber take their fun very, very seriously. The pair behind the ambitious and emphatic Nashville duo Cherub craft hooky electro-pop that lyrically captures the risque, pleasure-seeking impulses of their youth, while their studio expertise results in grooves so alluring, even your parents can dance to them. Which is their exact goal on Antipasto EP, the precursor to their highly anticipated Year of the Caprese debut LP.

The duo met while pursuing music business degrees at Middle Tennessee State, a large public university just outside of Nashville. Prior to meeting up at a dorm party, the two were figuring out how to become their own local legends. Huber was fronting a psychedelic folk-rock band, whereas Kelley was something of a mainstay in the Nashville hip-hop scene. Well, sort of. “I was making beats for this hip-hop duo and we got to open for GZA, but I didn’t know how to DJ my own stuff.” After meeting Huber, “I just asked ‘can you turn my beats into a live show?’” Soon thereafter, Kelley sent Huber his self-composed Man of the Hour EP and the two realized the potential in their partnership. Cherub began in earnest, with Huber’s live production embellishing Kelley’s clever songcraft.

Kelley’s lyrics of relatable hedonism come from everyday experiences – “nonsense on my iPhone notepad,” zoning out during long plane rides or meeting a local yahoo who got an unintentional writing credit on “Doses and Mimosas.”

Above all else, Cherub are men of the people, dudes of the dancefloor, aficionados of the after hours. From the countless house parties they’ve played in Tennessee to their Age of Reason tour with Gramatik to their prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheater gig with STS9, they’ve always made it a point to engage with their fans. “People always think it’s weird when we ask during the show if there’s an after party,” Kelley says with a laugh. Antipasto starts the party, what happens from there on out is anyone’s guess.