1. Summer People – Fish Fry #1 (from the album Teamwork)
The drunken indie punk of upstate New York’s Summer People is raw, grainy, and inescapably catchy. The band released their sophomore album Teamwork earlier this year, and has already followed it up on a terrific full length split with Cleveland’s HotChaCha. Their music is downright addictive, combining the ragged indie rock of the Pixies with an expansive post-rock sound that drifts between gorgeous atmospheres to swampy punk tinged Americana and jittery blues. Duel male/female vocal harmonies and the explosive Latin infused rhythms are consistently captivating. With an experimental nature that is constantly shifting, Summer People effortlessly move from one brilliant sound to the next while keeping things perfectly cohesive.
2. Ume – Captive (from the album Phantoms)
If you’ve ever seen Ume live then you already know they are destined for greatness. For those that haven’t, go see them as soon as possible. The beautiful Laura Larson is short and innocent looking, that is until the band begins and she starts thrashing out shimmering and jaw dropping math rock influenced licks at extreme volumes, throwing her body across the stage in the process. Her vocals aren’t too shabby either. There truly is nothing like it, and it’s obvious that Ume believe in what they’re doing. The Austin, TX based trio just released their latest effort Phantoms, their first for Modern Outsider, and are on tour… always. It seems they’ve been on the road straight for a few years now (touring with the likes of Kylesa, Meat Puppets, and Marnie Stern), and luckily for us they’re showing no signs of slowing down. It’s only a matter of time before Ume is touring every major festival in the country, headbanging their way through sultry grunge tunes to the top.
3. Hella – Headless (from the album Tripper)
A band that really needs no introduction, Hella have returned from a four year absence, once again blowing minds into millions of jagged pieces. After expanding to a quintet for There’s No 666 In Outer Space, the original line-up of Zach Hill and Spencer Seim are at it again on their fifth album and Sargent House debut, Tripper. Instrumental noise rock with a never ending creative spark, music is rarely made with this level of precision and chaos. There’s no doubt that Zach Hill is one of the absolute best drummers of his generation (not to mention hardest working), but Seim’s guitar work is never “second banana,” dashing in and out of riffs in a dizzying fury. The duo constantly feed off each other with an explosive tightness that many bands would kill for.
4. Blacklisters – Swords (from their upcoming full length debut)
The seemingly never ending list of great post-hardcore/post-punk bands coming out of the UK over the past few years has yet another contender for the crown, Leeds based Blacklisters. Hailing from the same city that brought the world Pulled Apart By Horses and Hawk Eyes, the young and ferocious quartet capture an unapologetically brutal sound that doesn’t know the meaning of tame. The guys recently signed with Brew Records (Kong, Hawk Eyes), one of Exploding In Sound’s favorite UK establishments to release their full length debut due out early 2012. Garnering comparisons to The Jesus Lizard and These Arms Are Snakes, they are most certainly a band for those who like their punk rock loud, aggressive, and exceedingly filthy.
5. Broken Water – Heart Strings (from the EP Peripheral Star)
It seems there are a lot of bands gaining full blown notoriety these days thanks to a strong early 90s indie rock influence, but perhaps none more deserving than Broken Water. The trio hails from the once fertile Olympia, WA scene, staying true to their indie/shoegaze roots with a pure reimagining that doesn’t concern itself with trends. Walls of distorted guitars are impossibly noisy and fans of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Dinosaur Jr. will be quick to fall in love with their utterly raw and blown out sound. Vocals are shared by all three members while they bash away into a cloud of dreamy fuzz bliss. The band released Peripheral Star earlier this year, a scathingly loud yet melodic indie rock statement, and follow up the phenomenal Whet.
6. United Fruit – Dust to Light (from the album Fault Lines)
It was only a couple months ago that Exploding In Sound was introduced to the music of Glasgow’s United Fruits (thanks to our friends at Phantom Channel) and in that time, their full length debut Fault Lines has become an unexpected favorite of 2011. Ferocious, catchy, and spewing with a never ending energetic force, the sheer indie/art rock noise conjured up throughout the record is reason enough for obsession. The band’s guitars surge with monstrous force, stunning chord progressions, and a blissed out tonal quality reminiscent of …And You Will Know us by the Trail of Dead. Combine that with stampeding polyrhythmic shifts and oft-shouted vocals containing a triumphantly thick Scottish accent and you have what feels like a band on the verge of a masterpiece.
7. Low – Especially Me (from the album C’mon)
There’s no question that Duluth, MN’s Low are a legendary band. Since 1993 they have stood at the forefront of slowcore, making music that hypnotically crawls forward at a snails pace, creating as much importance to the empty spaces as the lusciously full. Nearly twenty years into their careers, Low continue to make beautifully haunting music that is in a league of its own on 2011’s entrancing C’mon. Singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk and singer/drummer Mimi Parker have pushed their sound in new directions in recent years with glowing results, and C’mon may just be their best record in a decade. The vocals are gorgeous, the song writing is chilling, cinematic and delicately epic with additional instrumentation as Low continue to incorporate new elements to their sound without losing sight of what truly makes the band so incredible.
8. The Globes – Stay Awake (from the album Future Self)
The Globes are a band that defies categorization thanks to their complex structures, pop tinged melodies, and a rhythm section that consistently demands your attention. We suppose you could call them indie-prog, but does that genre really exist? It should, and The Globes’ Barsuk Records debut Future Self is all the evidence you need. Forming back when members were all still in high school, the guys have created a muscular and intelligent blend of intricate math rock, swooning indie vocals, textural guitar work, and dazzling drums that are carefully constructed together in perfect harmony. Our love for The Globes drummer Marcus Ourada knows no bounds… seriously, this guy is amazing (not to take anything away from the rest of the band).
9. Widowspeak – Harsh Realm (from the album Widowspeak)
Our first Widowspeak experience came earlier this summer when the young Brooklyn band provided support for White Denim and Mazes. The trio were more than impressive, leaving me blown away and instantly teetering on the brink of obsession and addiction. Lead by the impossibly cute Molly Hamilton, their music is sparse and dreamy, floating between slowcore, lo-fi indie pop, surf rock, and grunge stripped down to its bare minimum. Her vocals are haunting and expansive, and Hamilton’s voice is just about the sexiest thing we’ve ever heard. Comparisons to Mazzy Star are unavoidable, but Widowspeak have created a sound that is still very much their own thanks to their infectious interest in surf rock guitars that breeze through their gentle pop sludge. Their self-titled debut album was released by Captured Tracks Records in August, and we can’t stop listening. We even recommend getting the extended digital version for the mesmerizing “Brain Freeze” if you can find it.
10. Declan de Barra – Blossom Tree (from the album Fragments, Footprints, and the Forgotten)
Declan de Barra’s voice is without a doubt one of our favorites of the past decade, yet has managed to remain in the shadows all these years. In 2003, his former band Clann Zu released their debut album Rua, a record that changed the way EIS perceived what is possible in rock music. After another triumphant album, the band split and Declan de Barra began releasing solo records that captured his thick Irish brogue in a haunting folk setting. Mixing traditional Irish folk, Celtic music, and gorgeous expansive atmospheres, de Barra’s honest and sincere song writing, introspective lyrics, and larger than life vocals sound more alive than ever before. His third solo record Fragments, Footprints, and the Forgotten, one of 2011’s must hear albums, was released in April.
11. Hymns – A Punch to the Temple (from the upcoming album Cardinal Sins/Contrary Virtues)
Hymns are a visceral post-punk duo hailing from the UK, specializing in orchestral flourishes and structures through a guitar/drums/vocal approach. Steeped in quasi-religious imagery and lyrics, Hymns, a self-described “atheist rock band” feature former Blakfish singer/guitarist Sam Manville and Peter Reisner, a young explosive drummer. The songs comprising their debut album’s sampler are apocalyptic with a sense of humor and tense angular guitar tones. Guitars are rigged through multiple bass and guitar amps to provide a full blown texture and sonic envelope for the rhythm and vocals to guide into supremely catchy territory. Hymns full length debut Cardinal Sins/Contrary Virtues will see a release later this year on Big Scary Monsters Records.
12. The Nighty Nite – In My Hospital Gown (from the album Dimples)
John Congleton has been making incredible music for some time now. As the creative force behind the phenomenal Dallas band, The Paper Chase, I was crushed when I heard he was moving on just after releasing the exceptional Someday This Could All Be Yours Vol. 1. Congleton has become a constantly in demand producer (The Polyphonic Spree, Modest Mouse, Explosions in the Sky), but has resurfaced with his own infectious noise via The Nighty Nite. On their Graveface Records debut Dimples, Congleton and company strike up an ominous racket of psychedelic mayhem and quirky twitches of guitars, deep pounding rhythmic grooves, and anthemic post rock washes of sound. The Nighty Nite create a type of music easy to get lost in and before you even know it their kaleidoscopic drugged out aura has you transfixed.
13. MonstrO – Anchors Up! (from the album MonstrO)
Exploding In Sound has been excited about MonstrO since the very day the band was announced a couple years back, thanks to the participation of former Torche guitarist Juan Montoya. The skyscraping riffs of Montoya have a sound all their own, bright yet crushing, like a massive tidal wave crashing down on a sun soaked beach. Charlie Suarez’s vocals are stunning, utterly refreshing, overflowing with gorgeous melodies that soar over the carnage below in a dreamy psychedelic haze. Joined by former Bloodsimple members Kyle Sanders (bass/vocals) and Bevin Davies (drums), MonstrO’s Vagrant Records debut (arriving next week, September 6th) is one of our most anticipated of the year. Catch the band on their must see tour with Kyuss Lives! and The Sword.
14. Absolute Monarchs – Consider the Odds (from their debut Demo EP)
The Absolute Monarchs were recently featured on SPIN.com’s “6 Northwest Bands You Need to Know,” and they were right… you need to know them. The Seattle quartet have earned comparisons to The Jesus Lizard and Murder City Devils, fitting choices for their technically abrasive post-punk sound that will slam you into the ground with chaotic melodies of brute force. The guitars are booming and soaked with pop friendly melodic hooks while the shouted vocals are dirty and unforgiving in the best sort of way. Clever time signatures run rampant through the rhythmically heavy blasts of intelligently delivered sonic devastation. Look for the band’s full length debut in early 2012 on Good To Die Records.
15. Ringo Deathstarr – Tambourine Girl (from the album Colour Trip)
Ringo Deathstarr is a band you must see live. The Austin shoegaze trio’s thudding bass and howling guitars blur into a giant whirl of noise, and that’s only the beginning. The band explodes like a bomb live, and not just in volume. All too many shoegaze/dream-pop bands (even some of the legends) stand motionless the entire show, but Ringo Deathstarr rip into their set with an aggressive grunge attitude. Gentle floating vocals with cheerful melodies are joined by the walls of lo-fi fuzz and blistering riffs on the stunning Colour Trip, released this past March. Heavily influenced by The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, Ringo Deathstarr have contorted and mangled their sounds into something unique.
16. Ovlov – I Got Well (from the EP What’s So Great About The City?)
Ovlov, a young band from New Haven, CT understand guitar tone better than most of the 90s influenced pack. Their line-up has shifted several times since their formation, but Ovlov mastermind Steve Hartlett hasn’t let that slow him down. With two infectious EPs of hazy grunge and catchy “slacker” anthems, Hartlett’s distorted guitars ring with a heavenly brightness and overblown fuzz reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr., early Weezer, Pavement, a touch of Polvo and a bit of Disco Doom. The vocals are clear and melodic, memorable and filled with hooks, riding in perfect unison with the thunderstorm rhythms and seemingly elastic string bends. The band recorded their latest EP What’s So Great About The City? with Quilty’s Julian Fader, and is available as a “pay-what-you-want” download on their Bandcamp page.
17. My Goodness – C’mon Doll (from the album My Goodness)
Featured in SPIN’s “6 Northwest Bands You Need to Know” alongside The Absolute Monarchs, the connections between the two bands only begin there, as they feature the same vocalist Joel Schneider. The similarities pretty much end there however, as My Goodness are a blues duo that has more in common with The Black Keys than The Jesus Lizard (though an underlying noise punk vibe resides just beneath the majority of their debut). Their smoked out blues rock and bare bones structures are massive, and My Goodness can only remain Seattle’s best kept secret for so long. Dense grooves and hard hitting drums make their fried swamp blues all the more remarkable.
18. Neur – Start Saving (from the EP Untitled)
New Brunswick, NJ’s Neur have created an infinitely interesting debut with Untitled, a roaring beast of math rock technicality, indie charm, and an honest soul. The quartet aren’t looking to crack you over the head at all times, varying their pace and patiently exploding at all the right moments. Punk rock aggression and jazzy rhythmic contusions complement each other while lead vocalist Tom Baumann’s yelp, much like the guitars, have a manic and hurtling appeal. Unpredictable and expansive, the band’s debut keeps the listener on their toes, jaggedly soaring from one tangled blast to serene textural beauty and back again without notice.
19. 400 Blows – We Killed Like Champions (from the album Sickness and Health)
Los Angeles noise rock trio 400 Blows have been around for the better part of a decade. After a six year absence, the band has returned with a tweaked line-up and a brand new album. The album is gritty, raw, and constantly in your face with massive walls of scathing noise. Total devastation is par for the course, as vocals are chanted out with a casual shout, nearly buried by the sonic distortion and pummeling drums. The band has incorporated a fair share of industrial influences since their last record, providing that much more noise to please your ears. For those on the West Coast, be sure to catch 400 Blows on tour with Butthole Surfers now until September 11th.
20. Your Skull My Closet – William Brought His Angel Kit (from the EP We Find One Another)
The punk rage running through Your Skull My Closet’s veins is pulsating with pure rock and roll fury. The Brooklyn trio’s latest offering is filled with deep grooves, catchy vocals, and stinging guitars, forging a sound often reminiscent of the legendary Hot Snakes. Creating post-punk music that sounds as good on the dance floor as it does while head banging in a grungy club, YSMC are never pinned down with one sound. There is an undeniable desert rock quality blowing through the dense abrasiveness, the type of sound that drifts in hazy clouds of smoke before running headfirst into an eventual brick wall.
21. Eatenbybears – Vanderhoof (from the EP The Bear Pack Downloads)
Barely a year old, Belfast’s Eatenbybears have developed an enormous sound and everyone is beginning to take notice. The quartet play a mostly instrumental blend of experimental math rock, and the results are fairly jaw dropping. Their line-up is comprised of guitar, bass, drums, and the key ingredient to their mayhem, violin. The violin plays a huge part in their chaotic complexity, an aspect that adds unbelievably stunning texture and range, putting the band in their own creative territory. The occasional vocal lines are a welcome surprise, with thick accents and engaging melodies. After being hand selected to tour with the mighty And So I Watch You From Afar, the band have continued to tour through the summer with their debut EP coming later this year.
22. We’ll Go Machete – So Long Flatfoot (from the album Strong Drunk Hands)
Austin, TX has done it again. The city known for its live music scene never has a shortage of great underground bands, but few can match the power and intensity of We’ll Go Machete, a glistening contender for the post-hardcore crown. The band just released their debut album Strong Drunk Hands a few weeks ago, and we’re hooked like worms. Brash and dense at one moment while melodic and dizzying the next, the guys flex their collective muscle side by side with their intelligence. Reminiscent of the rough yet mature sound explored on Fugazi classic “The Argument,” We’ll Go Machete’s guitar tones blister against thick unrelenting rhythmic grooves and triumphantly shouted vocal melodies.