Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Best New(ish) Bands

As a music fan, there aren't many experiences that come close to matching the excitement felt when you find a great new band. The problem with that, I have found, is few of those bands that make a great first impression are able to keep that feeling going for very long. There have been many bands I have encountered who made a great album, only to then drift away from whatever it was I found so appealing. Take, for instance, Blues Pills. Their debut record was a fantastic effort of vintage rock and roll, but last year they followed that up with a retro soul album that I didn't understand in the slightest. I would consider that a wasted opportunity. But for every bad story, there is a good one to balance it out. Today I present five of my favorite new bands.

To qualify, they need to have formed recently, and have two or fewer albums under their belts. We aren't far enough along down the road to say for sure these bands will endure, but these are the ones I have the most faith in.

The Spider Accomplice - Having made the best EP in each of the last two years, they sit at the top of the list of bands I can't wait to hear more from. The first two pieces of the "Los Angeles" puzzle are fantastic examples of how to be artistic and adventurous while retaining the direct songwriting and melodic immediacy that eludes many bands with higher aspirations. And having material from two batches that both climbed so high in my esteem sets The Spider Accomplice up as a shining star of promise. When the third installment of their EP series drops, I will be at the front of the line waiting with baited breath to hear what comes next. Combined as one conceptual piece, "Los Angeles" has the potential to be one of the best musical experiences of the last couple years.

Shiverburn - This young band from The Netherlands basically lost a coin flip to place as the second best album of 2016 on my list. I don't remember the last time I heard a debut record that good, nor a pop record from a new act that captures the sound that made me such a music fan in the late 90s/early '00s. As I listen to the pop charts become worse and worse every year, Shiverburn gave me a momentary belief that pop and rock can still coexist in the way I want it to. With another album of similar quality, they can establish themselves as a vital and necessary part of the musical landscape.

Forever Still - Another group that made my list of favorites from 2016, Forever Still has proven to me that they aren't a flash in the pan. From EP to EP, to their debut album, they have only gotten better with each turn. That trajectory tells me that there is still room for growth, which would elevate them into one of the best modern, mainstream rock bands out there. My faith is not alone, as the re-release of "Tied Down" on Nuclear Blast shows that the industry is catching on. I can say I was there early, and in their case, that's a badge of pride.

Lunden Reign - Classic rock is a hard thing for modern bands to recreate, and few do it better than Lunden Reign. Nikki and Laura have reached into the past, and created a sound for themselves that recalls the best of Heart and Led Zeppelin. I was a great fan of "American Stranger", and with "Red Wagon" previewing what is soon to come, I have no doubt that they are going to continue to make great music that has an authenticity and spirit sorely lacking in other places.

And for the last spot, I couldn't choose. There are two more bands I'm extremely hopeful for, but with a slight bit more hesitation:

Incura & Bad Salad - These two bands have both made music that I quite loved. Incura's debut album was the best example of theatrically-inclined rock that I remember hearing, but I do wonder how easily that weird yet sticky sound can be carried over from album to album. I am optimistic, for sure, but I realize the possibility of a let-down is higher. As for Bad Salad, I find them to be the most promising progressive metal band of the last few years. Their debut album was derivative, but extremely good. Then their "Puzzled" EP shifted into a more unique sound, and was so good it made my year-end list when it came out. What worries me is that they are at work on a new concept album, and I have a questionable history with those. Concepts are hard to pull off, and as good as I think Bad Salad are, it would be easy for the album to fall victim to the issues plagued by the format.

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