The New Year means new possibilities, and new possibilities means new music. With the New Year rapidly approaching, up and coming and established bands alike are releasing albums and EPs with vibrant tunes, while offering modern outlooks on life. These are the top five bands in the indie/folk rock genre to have on your radar for 2016.
Countless bands have bid different variations of up-tempo grunge-pop in hopes of emulating the crunchy, angsty tones of Green Day and the Pixies. If you listen casually enough, you may not be able to decipher which band you’re listening to. That is not the case when it comes to Rob Grote, Connor Jacobus, Braden Lawrence, and Pat Cassidy of The Districts. The immediate strum of the guitar and deep-rooted grittiness of the vocals in their song “Funeral Beds” aids in outlining the bands narrative of: We’re left in this disastrous turmoil of a broken relationship. One of us has been wronged. Promises were empty. Wounds are deep and fresh. Where can we go from here? These guys bring indie rock back up to the surface by balancing their broken past with prospective beginnings.
If you’re familiar with The War on Drugs and their psychedelically enhanced country-rock, you should know a little something about former member Kurt Vile. If you’re still profoundly unacquainted, Vile maintains an old soul in the age of everything digitally enhanced and modern. His upcoming album b’lieve i’m goin down emulates a vulnerable, candid man, writing and noodling on his torn-up couch with no sense of direction, which is especially evident on song “Pretty Pimpin”. With honest words and resonant guitar licks, this record is a nearly broken down truck, traveling across the country and beside it, a narration of experiences past and present. As we grow up, we go through phases, and that’s exactly what Kurt Vile’s album goes through: confusion, strange epiphanies, acceptance of what can and can’t be altered; all through the inherent naïveté of a man who is nowhere near perfect, but inconceivably compelling.
Though most bands feel the need to stick to a constant sound, while only having their lyrics mature as they do, that is not the case for Wolf Alice. The four-piece English group mess about with various genres in their albums and single songs alike. Back in 2012, one of their earlier tracks, “Leaving You,” welcomes you with warm harmonies and guitar twangs, making you feel as though you’re sitting in the middle of a deserted farm, in the heart of a rainstorm. With their most recent album My Love is Cool released in May 2015, Wolf Alice decided to inhabit a grungy, yet, coming of age style as their lyrics, conveyed through lead singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell’s voice, portrays her refusal to settle within a single identity as she, herself is still growing. The sense of vulnerability that bleeds through her voice and lyrics alike, welcome their listeners with open arms and ears, as her stories are personal, tragic, and yet, strangely comforting. It’s as if she’s reminding us that it’s okay to feel every emotion to its fullest capacity.
Somehow finding the perfect blend of dreamy psychedelia and even dreamier 80’s “background to your life” music, DIIV has fused together 4 like-minded musicians with the ability to craft music that keeps the underground scene alive. Listening to songs of their past and new albums alike, love is the drug that has driven DIIV’s compositions. Listeners are taken on a trip, musically infused with past and present experiences of love in its purest and most primal form. While most artists convey their emotions through lyrics, DIIV takes the road less traveled and leaves the emotional impact to be carried out and conveyed through sound waves of the guitar. This makes listening to their albums more of a sensory experience than an emotional one. There is this malleable, yet congealed interweaving between the guitar and the bass that was woven in their 2012 album, Oshin that they managed to maintain in their 2015 single, “Dopamine”. DIIV may not rock, but they will take you on the ride of a lifetime.
It’s not everyday that right after you graduate college, you start working with producers to get your voice sampled into one of Drake’s albums, but that was the case for 2011 Berklee College of Music alumni, Tommy Paxton-Beesley, better known as River Tiber. While the name is universally unfamiliar, there’s a solid chance that you’ve heard samples of his distinct yet, subtly powerful vocals on collaborations with Drake, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Ghostface Killah. This singer/songwriter works alone in both his artistry and his production. Back in February 2014, River Tiber released his album Field Trip, which includes the willowy track, “Atlantis” that boasts similar guitar arpeggios to past Radiohead songs. Taking a different route in September 2015, River Tiber released “Let You Go”, an R&B and indie rock/slow-jam blend. The chief ingredient for this R&B wave that flows throughout his complex polyrhythms, are their synthesized production, but listening to his delicate harmonies stemming from his earnest core is a raw experience in and of itself when witnessed live with only an acoustic guitar.