Brooklyn – what the hell is in the water south of the East River that has made it THE melting pot for new creative musical minds in the past 5 years? As history would have it, all of the musicians who used to live in New York City in the 70’s - when clubs like CBGBs were fostering exciting new bands - were pushed over the bridge as cost of living started to rise. Much like Sydney when you think about it... except you’ll just find musicians making you coffee in the morning and pouring their own riders after their gigs just to stay in the city.
When we last spoke to the Jonny and Jacob from The Drums, they had this to say about the Brooklyn scene…
Annoyingly for musicians (fantastic for consumers), poverty can be one of the great catalysts for creativity; you’re forced to push boundaries just to survive! Despite Brooklyn being home to the world renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music, the indie music scene, hand in hand with art and design, seems to have cultivated itself in the streets; where the success of emerging bands and lives music venues are interdependent. A notion that we all know is a constant battle for here in Australia for a number of reasons... Why people move into the middle of city for peace and serenity I’ll never know!
A thriving arts community is always bound to spew out a few empty elitist wankers: and Brooklyn is now one of the places often badged with that stereotype. But considering the area is still responsible for fleshing out some of the world’s most interesting new sounds by artists that inspired the compilation of this list, it seems an unwarranted generalisation.
Some of these artists have been ramming venues and trafficking blogs for years now and yet are still pushing boundaries... and some are as fresh faced as Jonny and Jacob appear in that video (despite the fact they'd had a massive night prior - well done boys).
Either way, get involved in these bands, you might find a new favourite...
A quintet of multi-instrumentalists fronted by the enigmatic Samantha Urbani and Lesley Hann (friends since 2nd grade interestingly enough) bringing a sound touted as “post-disco”. Sounds like music-journo wank right… until you hear the influences threaded through their music: thick bass-lines and Blondie-style breathy vocal lines - it actually makes sense!
Similar Artists: Blondie, New Young Pony Club, Cults
Their forthcoming debut album Manifest! Is set to drop in June.
An experimental pop duo: Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm have this unique way of combining Caribbean style beats and bongo percussion with arm-waving layers of synth: think Depeche Mode, drunk on pina colada’s floating around in space…. Okay so even I made myself laugh with that description – but it’s as if they stripped the best bits of 80’s pop and spun them into a totally new sound – it’s hard to nutshell!
Similar Artists: Delorean,Cut Copy, Memory Tapes
Mixed Emotions (2012) - “All of Me”
Bear in Heaven
They’re a 4 piece founded by Jon Philpot, who create this dark kind of pop; the tone derived from a combination synth-driven melodies, and real, experimental drumming – it’s like a new psychedelic version of electro! Whatever their sound is, they really know how to make it come alive on stage (they were out here for Laneway Festival in 2011) & their 2010 release Beast Rest Forth Mouth had to be one of my fave’s of 2010 (and Pitchfork’s).
Similar Artists: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, White Rabbits, New Order
I love You, It’s Cool (2012) – “Sinful Nature”
Here We Go Magic
The driving force behind this outfit is a dude called Luke Temple. He’s taken his original indie-folk style and layered it with loops of hazy electronic and vocal samples; it’s music that makes you daydream and softly sway your body without even knowing it.
Similar Artists: Broken Social Scene, Andrew Bird, Sun Kil Moon
Latest Release: A Different Ship (2012) – “How Do I Know”
Chairlift are essentially a duo Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly, who make this organic form of pop music that can move from brooding to vibrant in that space of one song. I use the term organic as Caroline’s vocals just flow so naturally like warm honey - there's not a sharp edge in earshot…. And the pair write such beautiful, beautiful melodies to compliment her breathy tone.
Similar Artists: School of Seven Bells, Bat for Lashes, Porcelain Raft
Latest Release: Something – “Met Before”
Twin Shadow aka George Lewis reprises all the best bits of the 80’s (styles his hair like the coolest kids from the 50’s) and meshes it into his own, emotionally charged version of “new wave”. Considering how varied his influences are (his 2010 release Forget was produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear) his style is really succinct & cuts through the rest.
Similar artists: Neon Indian, Cut Copy, even INXS (his vocals are similar to Michael Hutchence)
Latest Release: Confess (due out July 2012) – “Five Seconds”
Who hasn’t heard of Grizzly Bear – I know, I know. I had to include them though as the Brooklyn four are overflowing with so many new ideas; they’re all involved in various side-projects or producing solo releases as an aside. Chris Taylor (Terrible Records founder) is also CANT, and Daniel Rossen just released his own solo EP Silent Hour / Golden Mile (steam it in full here). They have a new album out this year that they’re “Almost halfway done mixing” according to facebook. VERY exciting. They’re also touring Australia. In 2012.
Similar Artists: Fleet Foxes, The Middle East, Deerhunter
Latest Release: TBA this year. Veckatimist (2009) - this is my favourite track off it:
These guys, fronted by singer/songwriter Sean Kilfoyle were a bit of a buzz band back in 2010 when they released their debut 7inch featuring that real strung out lo-fi summery jam “Funeral Song” (sounds like a contradiction in terms right). Their latest LP By the Hedge (January 011) I simply adore… such a beautiful mix of gloom and melancholy-pop. Despite not hearing much from the band since (I'm guessing they're on tour), I thought I’d include them, as they’re not well known here in Australia, and they were one of the first bands to reinvent that dirty hazy “goth-pop” sound.
Similar Artists: Real Estate, The Radio Dept, The Cure, Twerps
Latest releases: New album TBA. By the Hedge (2011) - “Funeral Song”
How to Dress Well
He, aka Tom Krell is an experimental producer who floats between Brooklyn & Cologne and has pretty much been touring since his 2010 release Love Remains, so we haven’t heard much from him since (bar the odd remix/cover surfacing on soundcloud). It took one track of his to prick my ears – “Decisions” (Feat. Yuksel Arslan) so sparse and yet, so emotive. I can’t wait to hear his new material.
Similar Artists: Holy Other, Nicolas Jaar, Mount Kimbie
Latest Release: Love Remains (2010)
This indie-rock 6 piece are only Brooklyn based (originally from Columbia) but I chose to pop the in as their latest release Milk Famous (2012) as their sound has evolved - influenced by the new crop of bands gigging around the city? Who can say. Frontmen Stephen & Greg’s vocals have had their gritty edges smoothed out of them at the mixing desk, as have the keys. You know what though, I love this new LP just as much as I did 2009’s It’s Frightening. Its proof they have the creative girth to try something different.
Similar Artists: Handsome Furs, Mutemath, Cloud Nothings
Latest Release: Milk Famous (2012) - "Temporary"
Other Old Favourites To Check Out:
Some of these bands we may not hear from again (RIP LCD) or we haven’t heard from in a while.
Some are just about to release new albums though: Passion Pit and Yeasayer are two... so stay tuned.
I've linked off to all of their websites so you can check them out for yourself.
TV On The Radio
Interpol (New York City)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs (New York City)
Battles (New York City)
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (New York City)
Gang Gang Dance (New York City)
Cults (Now based in Manhatten)
The Drums (Now based in Manhatten)