Last year receded its long drawn out pandiculation, the lifting fog, a settling realization, clear and sharp, the fire has been rebuilding, it remains wildly alive. Most of the world looks for giants, only wanting to see the shape of a band once the collective whole has deemed it fitting for acceptance. The days of giants are over, never in a world with so much information to pick any spirit, specter, mythos to pieces will we ever see another Stones or Queen. Everything must fit neatly to one side or the other of whatever mercurial line we carve in the sand between the inherently evil “them” and the cynically subjugated “us.” So our search for giants breeds bitterness and a shoulder shrug to existence simply out of this stern denial that none of us will ever be gods, we are condemned to our place in each of our simple cells as collective wholes. That is the way art shaped by noise has been all the way back to the days of Use Your Illusion and Nevermind, that last death rattle of bridging a gap between those who sell out and those of us who buy in.

 

So year after year the voices rise in these offensively uneducated statements about how “music is dead;” apparently every band coming out now is merely some carbon copy of some band we’ve never heard of who played three shows and broke up before conquering the world or whatever. Personally it seems this hate-filled denial of upcoming talent stems from the fact these monotone faceless nothings spent six months of their lives going out to shows every night and for once found something their cold hearts could feel but they grew tired by some sense of the entire thing losing its mystique, they found some dull lame sunup to sundown grind to lose their soul to and now they only go out once every three months to the same places they use to know the doorguy by name at to now be treated as nonexistent, believing since they aren’t a part of it, it must no longer exist, as if they were actually an integral part to that which they were mere tourists all along.

 

“This new model is plastic… these people obviously don’t have any sense of art or value,” they say to anyone (which is no one) who cares to listen to them and I’m stuck trying to have coffee at my favorite spot in town a table over from some dude with a post-Brooklyn handlebar mustache and a Peaky Blinders Mumford and Sons vest on and two of his disaffected button-up business-casual friends all loudly proclaiming in this half-empty room what amounts to; since they aren’t cool, nothing is cool, not music and certainly not “scenes” ( a term I’ve heard them use at least five times since they began ruining my good day).

 

Part of me wants to walk over and hand them a list of bands to restore their faith in humanity. I start working out the list in my head, who I would say and how to portray it with a precise unquestioning manner, I daydream about the conversation for a second and then it dawns on me… honestly I like the line drawn between them and us, I’d much rather buy into you than I would them and the dull sheep existence they have resigned themselves to, where complaining about the trends of those five years younger than themselves is their chosen path of dialog to go over in some dive coffee shop at midnight.

 

I refuse to throw pearls to swine, I’m in no hurry to watch yet another of my favorite bands in the world get destroyed by success garnered by mediocre fans, so for a moment let us pretend you are in this coffee shop instead and I just so happen to overhear you saying that you wished there were more bands in your peripheral to get you stoked to focus attention on. Looking over I obviously recognize the kindred nature to both of our spirits. Let’s imagine the following is a note I would slip in front of your latte on my way out of the door:

 

The Mystery Lights

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New York’s The Mystery Lights put out what was quite possibly the best album last year with their self-released cassette At Home, the initial pressing of which ran out long before the dust of the seven songs had a chance to settle. They manage to stand out not so much for the neutral alignment of influences we collectively are drawn in by but instead for being that rare anomaly of a band walking the seventies psyche line with some actual grit instead of some faux-grasp at what it means to be a rock ‘n’ roll band influenced by San Francisco and synthetic drugs.

 

 

The Manhattan Love Suicides

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Mark my words, especially with the passing of Bowie, Glam and New-Wave are the direction the coming years are going to be overwhelmed by. The glory days when punk got dancy and the whole world remembered that art doesn’t always have to be pissed off to be a legitimate reflection to escape through have returned. The Manhattan Love Suicides manage to pay homage to X, Johnny Thunders and The Boys through a disaffected Beach House lens, really the only step these Leeds natives have left to do is land stateside to conquer the world.

 

 

Sheer Mag

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Sheer Mag transcend pretension, play looser than any garage band around, vocals confident, presence brilliant. They remind us that music once was fun and so were we. They soundtrack this sort of play where we pretend we are still those wildly electric optimistic eyed kids we remember ourselves as having been back when we were alive. They are tough but loveable, like when your kid brother buys his first leather jacket. Sheer Mag can’t lose.

 

 

Betrayers

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It is like we all are stuck in this place together, lost in our heads, trapped in the repetition, mostly unaware, mostly disenfranchised from the all, and then four am comes along and you’ve got Betrayers playing over some post-last-call hang and for a brief moment all the distractions that destroy existence disappear and we remember for one of those tiny breathes that we are all in this together. Betrayers songs make the world stop being dark and ominous, reminding us to look around from time to time, a gentle whisper in our ear that we are a collective of people with real emotions and genuine value that gets disregarded in the bogus capitalistic process we more often than not feel buried beneath. They are a band progressing year by year beyond their own possibilities, their songs going from ideal on Let The Good Times Die to their latest singles showing art transcending the artist, seeing a band flirt this well with perfection is something we usually only experience in hindsight, watching it go down right before our lives is incredibly fulfilling even from the sidelines.

 

 

The Bad Lovers

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The best band in Texas, a group of dudes as legit as they are talented, The Bad Lovers, where to start with these guys? Whenever someone visits Austin there are two things I feel responsible to make happen; whoever they are needs to eat at Tyson’s Tacos and they must see The Bad Lovers play. It is a testament to how hard these guys work that we are more likely to find Tyson’s closed than to not see them listed headlining a bill at some sketchy lit spot with easily accessible drugs. They have just begun recording their third full-length, which going off the trend of the first two will be the greatest thing we hear all year. The Bad Lovers are the tie binding our entire ethos of existence together, you realize it instantly, they snuff any form of genre loyalty combining the presence of Terror Visions, the energy of The Spaceshits, all with some Texas sort of Willie Nelson loyalty that makes them as equally frustrating to pigeonhole by genre as it is magnetizing to hear. My gut tells me this will be the year they go from managing to continuously scuzz their way under the radar to showing the world what Austin figured out a long time ago, The Bad Lovers aren’t a Rock n Roll band, they ARE Rock N Roll.

 

 

Night Beats

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No other band comes to mind this side of The Brian Jonestown Massacre who have managed to influence a thousand bands without getting more than the slightest amount of respect from it. Dudes in bands love Night Beats, people who write about music, photographers, venues, labels, they all see the intrinsic value of Night Beats yet outside of that introverted circle they remain the “I think I’ve heard of them” guys.This world is depressing.
Night Beats recently put out the first single “Power Child” from their upcoming Who Sold My Generation (Heavenly Records) and it is better than we could have even expected. I have no prediction for these guys, it confuses me how they manage to tour constantly, make great records, and have everyone who should influence people talking about them yet are still playing cramped bars for drink tickets and gas money. It is alright for us though, the experience never feins and the band seems to be cool with it so at the very least we will get to see them come through town two or three times this year and get a new record to get stoked about out out of the deal.

 

 

The Dizzease

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On the surface The Dizzease lyrics feel too simple, another band with teen-pop sentiments refusing to push themselves academically, the second you are in front of them live though it becomes vivid how they draw strength from those lyrics adding to the experience rather than allowing them to become an Achilles heal.
The Dizzease are my favorite band to see live. Before that it was Natural Child, before them The Spits. It’s inherently uncool to love a band so easily labeled as pop, I’m fully aware of the rules of rock n roll yet to label these guys and use that as evidence against how great they are would be a complete fallacy. They ramble between every boundary that the other bands on this list call home, they do it with more skill and tact than any two of them combined. The Dizzease are a humble, optimistic, experience, not just another handful of minutes to moderately fill the void in our lives.
I mean it with my entire being when I say you have got to see these guys in the wild, don’t show up ten minutes into their set, don’t get distracted ordering drinks at the bar, stand for thirty minutes before them and find yourself leaving with complete unadulterated appreciation. There still are great people in this world and from time to time they manage to form faultless flawless bands…. The Dizzease are one of those bands.

 

 

The Bolos

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San Antonio has been getting cultivated slowly but surely over the last five years into what we are now seeing come into fruition with one incredible band after another surfacing to steal our attention and stake claim on our hearts; at the very top of the list of bands doing just that are The Bolos.
These dudes manage to keep a nearly impossible balance between the disaffected charm of psych and the angst driven snarl of garage without coming across as disingenuous. Their first album Booze Blues showed a band capable of crafting a complete experience rather than just two great songs in the midst of a wash while last year’s Mercy EP was a conflicting experience of incredible songs without a sense of a single direction, confusion is great from time to time, especially for a band so far from realizing who they are, so the experience listening over the later is actually elevated by their aggressive yet timid embrace of their own limitations.
Most bands, some of which we fully enjoy, are always trying to sell us, hiding in the tiny box they believe they belong to and hope it keeps the criticism towards their ambitions at bay, The Bolos come at it from a totally different approach, they are a band screaming for criticism, willing to challenge whatever instinctual biased or appreciation you may have towards any one of their songs to really call us where we stand on whether we are willing to accept them as individuals or will continue on as single-serving friends as with every other experience we would love if not for being too wrapped up in our own expectations of self-elevation through it. The Bolos aren’t a band willing to lay idly in the shadows, they refuse to be the soundtrack to our good time, they are a band aware of their self-worth who refuse to be accessed in any way short of fully. The Bolos aren’t a band we ask ourselves of what they are going to accomplish or if they will rise to meet that fate before giving up as most do, they are a band we ask WHEN, even if we didn’t fully dig what they are putting out, and we do, that is more than enough to make us cool with cheering them on.