The Hit List: More Bands You Should Know, Part AWESOME
We've received so many fantastic submissions for The Hit List that we're beside ourselves with happiness. And what better way to share that happiness than to bequeath to you a column chock-full of great bands, chosen and reviewed by Sparklers! What follows is a smorgasbord of musical reviews and recommendations from a source we trust above all others: YOU! Thanks for all of your contributions, guys, and keep up the amazing work!— Sparkitors
Band Suggestion: Neon Trees
Signed by Mercury Records in early 2009, Neon Trees has an indefinable style. Tyler Glenn (lead vocals/keyboards) adds a synthesizer-esque quality to the keyboards, and his unusual vocals tie together an open backtrack. Chris Allen (guitar) plays up transitional licks while Branden Campbell's bass balances out an otherwise top-heavy pyramid o’ sound. Their music takes you on a musical journey of tension and release, and the release ROCKS! Check out Animal off their latest album Habits—it even has a really authentic and fun music video, which is something I never say.
Band Suggestion: Slumdog Millionaire Sountrack: Whether or not you've already succumbed to peer pressure and seen the movie, if you're interested at all in music, I recommend you check out this soundtrack. It'll definitely provide you with great songs to dance to in your underwear—and if the crazy Indian music isn't enough to convince you of its greatness, MIA makes an appearance with her song Paper Planes!
Band Suggestions: Alaskan Summer: I discovered this band not too long ago through pure celebrity stalking on the internet (we all do it, don’t deny it). Those of you who are fans of the HBO show Big Love will want to listen to this band right now, because one of the singers is none other than the adorable Benny H, otherwise known as Douglas Smith. He is awkward and cute, and does charming duets with his girlfriend Aston Lunceford, the main singer. The band's songs are fun, catchy, and, in my opinion, perfect to jam to when doing some spring cleaning. My Favorites: So I’ll Wait, Machine of Love, and Waterslide.
Ben Folds: He’s probably the coolest dork out there. He's a one man band, and he does it all: he plays piano, guitar, and drums, all while providing killer vocals and lyrics. In my opinion, not nearly enough people know about Ben Folds—so get listening! My Favorites: Everything from the album Rockin’ the Suburbs.
Led Zeppelin: Yeah, they’re "old," but what could be better than a British rock band that sings about the Lord of the Rings?! Seriously Sparklers, go dig through your parents' old CDs and experience this awesomeness! My Favorites: The Battle of Evermore, Ramble On, Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, and Immigrant Song.
Matt Hires: Maybe you all know him already, but I just came out from under my rock and discovered a song of his that I like a lot. It’s cutesy, but after having it stuck in my head for weeks at a time, I can honestly say I'm sort of addicted. My Favorite: Honey Let Me Sing You A Song.
Band Suggestions: Regina Spektor: Regina Spektor is certainly one of the greats. She can play quite a few instruments (piano, guitar, chair), and all of them very well, I might add! She even uses her voice as an instrument, and let's face it: not many (so-called) musicians these days can sing without the help of auto-tune. And her unlikely mix of Russian and New York accents is quite possibly the cutest thing ever.
Elliott Smith: Out of all the people I've told about Elliott Smith, only a few have liked his music, but none could make the argument that he wasn't talented. He's sort of an acquired taste, but he's an amazing musician nonetheless. Sure, some (okay, a lot) of his songs are sad, but all are undeniably beautiful. I would like to add that Elliot is totally one of my crushes; he's not traditionally good-looking, but who cares—have you heard his music? Sadly, he isn't with us anymore, but his gorgeous lyrics live on: "I'm never gonna know you now, but I'm gonna love you anyhow."
Ra Ra Riot: They're kinda like Vampire Weekend, but less bubbly and with more violins and cellos. I'm getting the feeling that this is going to be a good year for them. Not only are they awesome recorded, but they're pretty good, dare I say even BETTER, live! I 've had the great fortune of getting to see them in concert, and they are the coolest people in existence. They even work their own merch table! I bought a shirt from their cellist—no big deal. I guess what I'm trying to say is, there should be more bands with violins and cellos, and you totally know it.
Tokyo Police Club: Sure, Canada has given us some pretty lame things (do Justin Bieber and Nickelback ring any bells?), but they've also given us awesome things, such as Degrassi and Tokyo Police Club. Not to be confused with Tokio Hotel, Tokyo Police Club is a band that has a pretty unique sound. They can go from futuristic vibes to soft and sweet acoustics. I feel like I can't do justice to their music by explaining it, so I think you should just listen.
Band Suggestion: The Shins: I am a self-proclaimed indie kid. I listen to bands most people have never heard of, such as Bright Eyes, Imogen Heap, Tegan and Sara, Her Space Holiday, and more. But one of my favorite bands is The Shins. I listen to their albums whenever I go on road trips, because their music just calms me down, no matter what. It's also great to fall asleep to—not because it's boring, but because it's soothing. They write the kinds of songs you'd want to hear as you danced with your boyfriend/girlfriend, or when you need some inspiration, or when you're just feeling thoughtful and want to escape. Some of my favorite songs of theirs are Gone For Good, Sleeping Lessons, Phantom Limb, and Those To Come. James Mercer has a beautiful voice to match his beautiful face (did I mention he's beautiful? Well, without his beard, anyway) and his music never fails to move and amaze me. All in all, The Shins are one of the most unique bands I've had the pleasure of coming across.
Band Suggestions: New York Dolls: You know that thing called “punk”? Yeah, well these guys helped invent it. While dressed like girls, no less. They also introduced drugs to the Sex Pistols, and Nancy to Sid. Oh dear. They were the forerunners of the genre’s fashion. And when they used tons of safety pins, it was out of necessity, not just for show. Without them, punk would never have been the same. And "Hair" bands in the 80s might not have existed (but, depending on your point of view, that might be a good thing. Or a “whatever” thing. Or you might be silently weeping as you read this. There, there.) Cool songs: Personality Crisis, Jet Boy, Chatterbox
The Clash: If the New York Dolls helped to invent punk, The Clash helped take it to a new level. They had political lyrics, admittedly more musical variety, and their album London Calling is arguably among the greatest of all time. Cool songs: London Calling, Guns of Brixton, Career Opportunities, Should I Stay or Should I Go
David Bowie: The most creative chameleon the music industry has ever seen! An actor, poet, guitarist, many-other-instumentalist, and all-around awesome musician. Plus, possibly the only person to ever make a mullet look all right. Cool songs: Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Time
Velvet Underground: Ahh, where to begin? They really started a movement of more experimental music. They’re also kind of a love ‘em or hate ‘em band. The huge amount of distortion in their music comes off as artistic to some and noisy rubbish to others. Andy Warhol fell into the former category: he really helped them get into the mainstream in their day. Cool songs: Heroin, Waiting For the Man, White Light/White Heat, Sister Ray
Band Suggestion: Jason Mraz: Need I say any more? Need I? Okay, I need to! First of all, Jason is just a gorgeous man of beastly beastliness, and he's got nonsensical, crazy lyrics that jump up and slap your momma in the face but then soothe her red cheek with wit and beauty. Speaking of beauty, Mraz's band has a trumpeter that makes our school's uber-talented trumpeter hate his life—and if you can make him hate his life, then you're pretty much the bomb dot com. I have no idea how Mraz comes up with his lyrics, but they always blow my socks off, and his duets with artists like Collbie Calliat make my life just a smidgen better. He is the peanut butter to my jelly, so check him out!
Band Suggestions: Kate Nash: She's British, she writes ridiculously witty songs (listen to this and this for proof), and she has an adorable sense of style—what's not to love? Plus, her voice is smooth, sassy, and strongly accented, and her songs are insanely catchy. She takes common topics and themes (like love, lust, and heartbreak) and cleverly makes them her own, and she's one of the best female signers in the industry right now.
Ingrid Michaelson: She has a refreshing voice, which sounds lovely when accompanied with guitar, ukulele, or piano. She has cute and happy-fying lyrics (just made my own word, score!) that just make you smile, and her songs are the perfect background for daydreaming. Check out Breakable and Can't Help Falling In Love With You!
Band Suggestion: Daft Punk: Daft Punk is a French house music group made up of of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. My favorite of their albums is Discovery, which contains the best of their songs, One More Time. If you've never listed to Daft Punk before, try Revolution 909, Around the World, and The Prime Time of Your Life—they're all great for dancing!
Band Suggestions: The xx: I LOVE them! They are a male-female British duo. They have such a fresh, sophisticated, cool sound. Everyone should most definitely check them out—their album is probably my favorite of 2009. They blend really interesting instrumentals with soft, sexy vocals and profound lyrics to make a wonderfully chill album. Fave Song: Basic Space
Sleigh Bells: I don't know if anybody has heard of them, but they've gotten a lot of hype on the interweb. They're basically really loud electro-pop, and they're great! Their songs are perfect for blasting all summer long. Fave Song: A/B Machines
The Soft Pack: After changing their name from the controversial "The Muslims" to "The Soft Pack" they released an album that basically (as far as I can tell) sums up 1960s California. They've got great guitar riffs, cool vocals, and even cooler lyrics. And they recently released a music video featuring the cast of Kick-Ass.
Band Suggestion: Joe Brooks: You may or may not have heard of Joe Brooks, the 23-year-old acoustic/pop singer from Southampton, England. His single, Superman, which was released April 27th, is his only song on iTunes. However, you can find many of his songs on YouTube or MySpace. Although Joe’s not well known, I have no doubt that he will become quite popular in the next year. He began his career by posting his songs on MySpace, and after awhile he was topping the UK MySpace charts. I found out about him through a friend about a month ago, and I haven't been able to stop listening to him since. His voice is beautiful and addictive—that’s the only way I can describe it. After I heard one song, I absolutely had to hear more. You can just feel the emotion and passion he puts into his songs. His vocal range is great, and he can hit all the notes, low or high. Oh, and did I mention that he’s British? Joe would probably be classified as “pop,” but not sickeningly sweet bubblegum pop. His lyrics are very cute, but they're always sincere. Most of them are romantic, but not to the point where they become repetitive, boring, or overly cliched. On top of everything else, in an age when many songs are overly synthesized and auto-tuned, Joe’s style is simple and pure. Many of his songs are just him and his guitar with very little accompanying music. Fave songs: Apple, Holes Inside, Fives Days of Summer, and Sleepwalking
Band Suggestion: Parachute: Remember those Nivea commercials that aired about a year ago, the ones with all the adorable love songs playing the background? Well, those commercials launched Parachute's two singles, She Is Love and Under Control. After hearing them, I immediately listened to the entire album Losing Sleep, and I absolutely fell in love. Every song is about a different stage in a relationship, from being completely smitten (She for Liz), to regretting a mistake (The Mess I Made), to finally letting go of a past love (The New Year). One of the things that I particularly like about this band is that their songs are about LOVE, not sex, so the lyrics are genuine and really sweet. BONUS: the lead singer Will Anderson is ADORABLE, and the other band members aren't bad looking either!
Sherwood: I just discovered this band a few months ago when my dad downloaded their album, Qu. The songs are really catchy, and the lyrics are surprisingly insightful. I can't help but sing along to every song. This album is soft rock, so it's perfect if you just want a low-key car ride or you need to relax after a tough day. I have a new favorite song every time I hear it, but I think seniors will appreciate Make It Through. I am absolutely DYING of senioritis, and this song completely illustrates my feelings towards it. If you listen, you will understand.
House of Heroes: Don't freak out when I say this, but House of Heroes is officially in the Christian music genre. However, only one song on their magnificent album The End is not the End even mentions God (don't leave me, non-Christians!). What I especially like about this CD is that every song sounds completely different, but they all have a unifying theme. I was in APUSH when I first heard the album, and we were learning about WWII—which, coincidentally, is the theme of the this album, as strange as that may sound. Every song on this CD is a completely different; I once played it six times in a row during a road trip, and I was still singing along at the end! PS.: Their new album, Suburba, came out August 3rd.
Band Suggestion: House of Heroes—continued: I’m going to go ahead and guess that many of you have not heard of this band. Even though they’re super amazingly talented, they’re kind of under the radar… for now. Their album The End is not the End is, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums to since Queen’s A Night at the Opera. The music is great, and unlike other bands, this album has an important theme: World War II. Some of my favorite songs include: Leave You Now, In the Valley of the Dying Sun, Baby’s a Red, Voices, and The Young and the Brutal.
Band Suggestion: The Heavy: I remember it well; it was a rainy day in the middle of November, and I was stuck at home, sick and feeling like I had just been trampled by a horde of screaming fangirls. Nothing could lift my spirits, until someone sent me a link to this song: How You Like Me Now? by The Heavy. It has amazing vocals, funky horns, and it manages to be completely and absolutely unique yet insanely catchy. As it turns out, most of The Heavy's songs have that ability to stick in your head like a mosquito on flypaper. A couple of my favorites are Sixteen (which gives a nod to I Put A Spell On You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins), and In The Morning. The Heavy, who hail from Noid, England (thanks Wikipedia!), not only produce amazing music but also put out really creative album covers and music videos. The Heavy is like a really good curry; spicy, unique, and unforgettable.
Band Suggestion: Mayday Parade: This northern Florida-based group has grown tremendously popular over the last couple years. They just released a new album titled Anywhere But Here, which is an amazing follow-up to their first major album, called A Lesson In Romantics. Mayday Parade has clearly avoided the so-called "sophomore slump" some bands experience when trying to match and excel their breakout album. With songs like Anywhere But Here and I Swear, This Time I Mean It, it's hard not to listen to this album over and over again. Though I loved all these songs, nothing can beat one of their previous hits, Miserable at Best; it's a piano ballad meant to pull at your heartstrings. With strong vocals, catchy guitar and piano riffs, and the rare ability to put their feelings into song, Mayday Parade is sure to go far in the music industry.
Band Suggestion: We Were Promised Jetpacks!: Most of you probably haven't heard of this band unless you are A: a huge indie-rock fan, B: Scottish, or C: in the habit of Google-ing the phrase "musical jetpacks." Well, even if none of those things apply to you, you've got to listen to them. They have super-sexy Scottish accents that make their music addictive, plus they have awesomesauce lyrics and song titles! Ships With Holes Will Sink is my favorite of their songs, and it puts such a clever twist on all the old cliches about doomed relationships. Their influences include Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, which are both awesomesauce bands in their own right! And lastly, they have the word Jetpacks in their band name. What could be better?
Got any mini-reviews to send out way? Do it to it, Sparklers! Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Related post: The Playlist to End All Playlists: Part 1