Today we’re happy to bring you part two of our “In the Spotlight” feature. We’ve got another group of artists that we think are worthy of your time and ears. Our contributors have made their picks, put together blurbs, and pulled out recommended songs.
If you missed part one, you can find that here.
Lost in Society
by Deanna Chapman
The first time I heard Lost In Society, I knew I’d be listening to them again. There aren’t too many current punk bands that I really get into, but this trio is good. “Creature” is the first song that they’ve released from their upcoming EP, Eager Hearts, which is due out on May 25th. They’re a band that you won’t want to miss out on. I can’t wait to hear the EP in full.
Recommended Track: “Creature”
RIYL: The Menzingers, Green Day, Hot Water Music
by Jason Tate
Tape Waves have this laid back breathy vibe that I find the perfect compliment to cold nights. These are songs with vocals that blend into their surroundings and feel light and airy but with an ominously haunted texture. The band released Here to Fade in 2016 and are gearing up to release their new album, Distant Light, on June 6th.
Recommended Track: Nowhere
RIYL: Field Mouse, Day Wave, Copeland
Courtney Marie Andrews
by Craig Manning
If you read Chorus.fm, you probably know Courtney Marie Andrews best as the female backing vocalist on Jimmy Eat World’s Invented. In the years since, though, Courtney has been gradually garnering attention for her own music, culminating with the release of her latest album, May Your Kindness Remain, earlier this year. It’s a remarkably well-sung LP, giving ample showcase to Courtney’s big, empathetic voice. From the gospel-laced title track to the Counting Crows-esque “Kindness of Strangers,” the album feels like a vintage folk classic from first listen. Sneak Kindness into a stack of records between Carole King and Joni Mitchell and you can probably fool people into thinking it’s a forgotten gem from 1971.
Recommended Track: “May Your Kindness Remain”
RIYL: Joni Mitchell, Carole King, First Aid Kit
by Anna Acosta
In the current climate (musical, political, or otherwise) a bit of levity can go a long way. LA based singer-songwriter Madeline Rosene’s acerbic wit and honest storytelling takes everyday situations and tales and translates them to song in the most delightful way imaginable – this listener challenges anyone listening to hear “Drunk Text” not to cringe in lighthearted shared embarrassment over the predicament posed – such the better if you get a chance to see it live. Rosene is a refreshing change of pace: the music is relatable and approachable in all the right ways. Expect to see more from this songwriter in the coming months, and check out her new music video in the meantime.
Recommended Track: “Drunk Text”
RIYL: Pink, Sizzy Rocket, The Summer Set
by Jake Jenkins
Hailing from Finland, Hooded Menace perfectly and precisely blend the genres of death metal and doom metal with such force it threatens to knock you off your feet. Their latest effort, this year’s Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, is the strongest offering of their career. Further expanding their sound to incorporate tinges of post and sludge metal, Hooded Menace create massive, walloping songs that pack a huge punch in all the right places. The riffs are technical but not overtly so, the pacing of the album never leaves a dull moment, and they switch from death metal riffage to doom metal dread effortlessly, often blending the two in a smear of thick guitars and heavy distortion. They came out swinging early on in the year with the best album the genre has to offer so far; as such the rest of the metal world has a lot to live up to with Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed.
Recommended Track: “Cascades of Ash”
RIYL: Spectral Voice, Gatecreeper
by Jason Tate
Amy Shark has found some early internet buzz with her song “Adore,” but from what I’ve heard of her upcoming debut album, Love Monster, she’s got the chops to write songs that could make her a household name. They’re the kinda songs that feel perfectly suited to find their way into a scene in the latest hit TV show while also sliding into an infectious summer playlist.
Recommended Track: “I Said Hi”
RIYL: Vera Blue, Broods
by Drew Beringer
Sure, the first thing you might notice about Sarah Tudzin’s band is the wild band name Illuminati Hotties. But once you hear how incredibly infectious the music, you’ll understand that only a wild moniker like Illuminati Hotties is suitable. Releasing their debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, this spring via Tiny Engines (the most eclectic indie label alive in 2018), Illuminati Hotties offer cutting takes on debt, anxiety, and relationships beneath chipper bops and fuzzed-out dissonant rock in the vein of Mitski. So yeah, the name is a little goofy but Tudzin has the charisma and more importantly the songs to back it all up – underneath these breezy anthems is a lot of simmering growing pains and real talk. So don’t sleep on Illuminati Hotties because Frenemies has the potential to be one of the very best albums released out of Tiny Engines’ storied discography.
Recommended Track: “Cuff”
by Aaron Mook
Kraus is a bedroom project, which is impressive for a number of reasons – the first of which being the project’s production quality. His most recent album, this year’s curious Path, is abrasive, but in a way that sounds meticulous and intentional. The project seems equally as smooth when it wants, as if somebody threw Sigur Ros and Deftones into a blender with a few pedalboards for good measure. At its most expansive, the songs of Path sound as though the world around them is burning down, paired with breathy vocals just above a whisper and only occasionally soothed by cool, ocean-like reprieves. Whichever path the project takes, it’s clear that sole songwriter Will Kraus has a completed vision for each new prickly shoegaze release under his name.
Recommended Track: “Bum”
by Jason Tate
Now, Now have been around for a while now and we’ve posted about them for years. However, it’s been six years since they last released an album and their new album, Saved, almost feels like an entirely new band. It’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It’s incredible. So, for that reason I think it’s more than fair to call attention to them once again and make sure they’re on your radar. If, for whatever reason, you’ve been sleeping on this band, you’ve got time to go check out their spectacular back catalog. And if you’re already a fan, it’s time to start getting very excited for their new album. The album combines smooth pop-melodies with hauntingly personal introspection. The songs explore growing up, mid-adulthood, sexuality, and mix the ridiculously catchy with various forms of electronic experimentation. This combination of heartbreakingly sad and poignant moments over catchy music reminds me so many times of Jim Adkins and Jimmy Eat World. There’s just something about simple words telling grand stories that that draws me in.
Recommended Track: “SGL”
RIYL: Tegan and Sara, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World
City Calm Down
by Mary Varvaris
Australian 4-piece City Calm Down are here with their stellar sophomore album Echoes In Blue, which opens with the soaring, heartbreaking “Joan, I’m Disappearing”, where vocalist Jack Bourke laments lost love and is immediately captivating. City Calm Down then turns up the dial with the spectacular “In This Modern Land”. The band employs horns, and the light use of synths complement Bourke’s rich baritone voice. Album highlight “Distraction/Losing Sleep” follows, and is easily my favourite track. Drummer Lee Armstrong takes things up a notch, and the warm guitar tone creates striking, melancholy melody. “Distraction/Losing Sleep” is incredibly relatable, as Bourke joins the rest of us adults who are “bored to death and only 29”. Echoes In Blue seems top-heavy upon early listens, but with time, songs like the gorgeous, Trouble Will Find Me-lite “Kingdom” grow on you. “Kingdom” is the perfect indie rock song. Bourke continues to tell stories we all connect to, crying, “you said I should have opened my eyes / I was terrified of what I might find”. Triumphant, massive single “Blood” follows, and while it’s a very catchy song, it falls on the too repetitive side. But, where the album has small weak spots such as blending together and some songs being too repetitive, it certainly ends on a high. Album closer “Echoes In Blue” is eerie, strange and dramatic. The song slowly builds, beginning with creepy electronics, then introducing gentle keys as Bourke serenades us. Electronic drums and double tracked vocals lift the song even more in the second verse. “Echoes In Blue” is a mournful note to end on, with Bourke defeated, weak and grieving; “all I hope is that you will make it through the night / better that you’re leaving now / you’re better in the light”. The title track is the most experimental song here, and an incredibly strong album closer. I look forward to where City Calm Down go next – this is an album that sees a band who have hit their stride already, and they’re booming with confidence.
Recommended Track: “Echoes in Blue”
RIYL: The National, Joy Division, The Cure
by Craig Manning
What’s the best way to start a record? Most artists go for something big, barnstorming, and catchy. The opener is the “don’t bore us; get to the chorus” of the album format. If you don’t grab listeners right away, you are going to lose them. But one of the things that makes Ashley McBryde’s debut LP Girl Going Nowhere such a magnetic listen is that she trusts her fans to be patient. Make no mistake: McBryde is perfectly capable of writing big singalong hooks. Her first album is full of them, from the fittingly titled “Radioland” to the lovelorn “American Scandal.” On the album’s first song and title track, though, McBryde strips things down. More than half of the song is just her voice and an acoustic guitar, and it cuts through you like a heartbreak song can cut through a half-empty bar at 1:00 a.m. It’s a song about chasing your dreams, even when everyone tells you that you’re going to fall on your face. And it’s a song about how good it feels to prove the naysayers wrong. “I hear the crowd, I look around/And I can’t find an empty chair,” McBryde sings in the chorus. “Not bad for a girl going nowhere.” It’s a perfect opener not only because of its patience and restraint, but also because it makes you feel like you’ve been rooting for McBryde’s underdog story for years. Not many artists can fool you into thinking you’ve been listening to them for 15 years when you’ve only been listening to them for 15 seconds.
Recommended Track: “Girl Going Nowhere”
RIYL: Miranda Lambert, Janis Joplin, Lydia Loveless
by Adam Grundy
The Longshot are a 4-piece punk band fronted by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. On their debut LP Love is for Losers, Billie Joe has crafted an easy to digest 70’s pop-punk sound with polished production.
Recommended Track: “Chasing a Ghost”
RIYL: Foxboro Hottubs, The Ataris, Against Me!
by Trevor Graham
Lucy Dacus is a treasure. She’s been making waves in the indie rock pool since her debut release on Matador in 2016 — a deceptively weighty beacon of warm, southern-tinged charm that might have you think she’d already been in the game for years. Her eagerly anticipated sophomore effort, Historian, is an expansive, powerful exhibit of a multifaceted twenty-something with a heart fixed to leave a mark on yours. Revealing a more refined textural template to paint herself into, Lucy explores themes of passionate rebellion, the tenderness of heartbreak, the struggles of creativity, and the unexpected catharsis in confronting mortality. And while even the most somber melodies often drip from her mouth like honey, the sweetness in delivery never detracts from the emotional sincerity permeating every line. The musical backdrops notably accentuate this notion at every turn, as Lucy’s masterful songwriting ensures her lyrics a home that match their intensity at any level. As a result, we have playful string arrangements, crushing distorted climaxes, spacious ambient stillness, and straightforward indie pop songs all occupying the same space. Lead single “Addictions” is claimed by the latter of those categories, as a bubbly track about repeating mistakes and owning up to it — but not before declaring the blame to be shared. Toss this one on on a sunny afternoon and take the ride.
Recommended Track: “Addictions”
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Margaret Glaspy, Laura Stevenson
Not on Tour
by Jason Tate
Not on Tour have a sound that harkens back to the day when pop-punk bands played as fast as they could and let the melodies try and catch up with the instrumentation. None of the songs on their last album, Bad Habits, crack two minutes, but they’re full of hooks, guitar riffs, and a sound that makes me think about summers spent on skateboards.
Recommended Track: “Write it Down”
RIYL: Mute, A Wilhelm Scream, Lagwagon
by Craig Manning
Listening to Jon Latham’s music is like being hypnotized. Most of his songs are lengthy slow-burners. On his 2017 LP Lifers, there are only eight songs, but five of them go on for more than five minutes. Where less talented songwriters really make you feel the runtime of those longer songs, though, Latham makes them go down like a shot of the smoothest whiskey you’ve ever tasted. His songs are potent and emotionally hard-hitting, but there’s also something intensely comforting about them. Lifers plays like a long and lonely road trip through heartland America. Songs like “Learning Now” and “Tennessee Dime” seem to stretch on for miles, as far as the highway shooting out of sight. But Latham’s talents coalesce most clearly on “Yearbook Signatures,” a track about how the right song can bring back people who exited your life so long ago you almost forgot about them. Pour yourself a drink, play the song loud, and take a trip back to your past.
Recommended Track: “Yearbook Signatures”
RIYL: John Moreland, Noah Gundersen, Tom Petty
by Adam Grundy
The Aces are an 4-piece all-female band from Provo, Utah with a sound that immediately grabs your ears and attention. On their debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, they showcase incredible musicianship with pop sensibilities. These steady climbers have toured with COIN and X Ambassadors and are making a name ofor themselves faster than the hooks can hit you.
Recommended Track: “Volcanic Love”
RIYL: The 1975, HAIM, Paramore
by Jason Tate
POP, ETC. have been making music under this moniker since around 2012. Most recently they’ve been releasing what they call “infinite singles” and just putting music out when the inspiration strikes. These songs continue the tradition of the ridiculously well-crafted pop-rock music the band explored on 2016’s Souvenir. This is the kind of rock-tinged-pop-music that I wish we saw more of these days. It’s well-crafted and catchy, but there’s also a weight behind the songs.
Recommended Track: “Your Heart is a Weapon”
RIYL: Ra Ra Riot, Coin, Bad Suns
by Craig Manning
As a fan of “high-brow” country music by the likes of Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, I think I’m supposed to roll my eyes at LANCO. That’s certainly what the country purists would do. But I can’t, because LANCO writes the kind of hooks that send wrecking balls through my cynical defenses. I tend to think of this band as the Boys Like Girls of modern country music. Just like Boys Like Girls, LANCO write verses and pre-choruses that are catchier than most bands’ choruses. And just like Boys Like Girls, LANCO have the innate ability to conjure up the spirit and freedom of a perfect summer night. It says something that “So Long (I Do)” is my single most-played song of the year so far when it’s not even summer yet. If you crafted a pop-country song in a laboratory, I’m pretty convinced you couldn’t come up with something as flawlessly catchy as that one. No wonder a few LANCO songs popped up on Taylor Swift’s most recent Spotify playlist. If anyone knows great pop-country, it’s Taylor.
Recommended Track: “So Long (I Do)”
RIYL: The Killers, if they made a pop-country record
A playlist of all the recommended songs on Apple Music and Spotify can be found here.