Category Archives: Rock

If you like Blink-182, then you’ll like MxPx

Blink-182 -

Blink-182 –

Blink-182 is a rock band made up of three members: Travis Barker, Tom DeLonge, and Mark Hoppus. The band formed in 1992 in California. While all of the members have side projects – some extremely successful ones, such as +44 and Angels & Airwaves – Blink-182 has been and will continue to be their most successful endeavor. The group broke up in 2005 after arguments about their future direction, but after Barker was severely injured in a plane crash the band came together again in 2008. The next year, they played a hugely successful reunion tour.

Their style ranges from a rough alternative rock sound to a more polished pop-punk sound – there is a clear progression from their first album to their most recent album. Blink-182’s first album since their reunion, “Neighborhoods”, peaked at number two on the Billboard charts. They just released an EP called “Dogs Eating Dogs” in December 2012.

MxPx -

MxPx –

MxPx sounds quite similar to Blink-182. They formed in Washington in 1992 and have released nine albums plus several EPs and singles. Their lineup, like Blink-182’s, consists of three members. The band’s sound is reminiscent of earlier Blink-182; they have maintained a grungier, punk rock style. Their songs are comparable to those heard on Blink-182’s albums “Cheshire Cat” and “Dude Ranch”. They sing about anti-conformity, challenging authority, and not wanting to grow up.

One thing that definitely separates MxPx from Blink-182 is that MxPx has called themselves a Christian band. While they say they are not trying to preach to anyone, subtle religious themes can be found in their music. The band’s latest album, “Plans Within Plans”, was released in April 2012.

Check out “Responsibility”:

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If you like Phoenix, then you’ll like Friendly Fires

Phoenix is an alternative rock band from France that, in recent years, has become wildly popular in the US. Their breakthrough album was “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”, released in May 2009. Their single from that album, “1901”, was featured in a Green Bay Packers montage during the Super Bowl the following year. This immediately launched the band to a new level of popularity.

Phoenix -

Phoenix –

While the band has many ties to traditional rock ‘n’ roll, Phoenix puts a unique twist on their music. Their style has become more defined and consistent with each album they have released. The latest, “Bankrupt!”, is set to be released later this month.

Similar to Phoenix is the band Friendly Fires. The band is based in England and released their debut album in 2009. “Pala”, their second album, came out in May 2011. Sadly, the band’s trumpet player passed away unexpectedly just a few months after “Pala” was released. Friendly Fires bounced back and played their biggest tour ever at the end of 2011.

Friendly Fires -

Friendly Fires –

While Phoenix and Friendly Fires have several similar characteristics (check out their web addresses!), Friendly Fires has a less consistent style. They range from traditional alternative rock to a dancier pop sound. However, the band has said that they do not intend to stick to the poppy style heard in “Pala”. Instead, singer Ed MacFarlane says they want to do something completely different. He has been quoted saying they are “still learning how to write music” and that the next album will likely contain “more drawn-out, psychedelic jams”.

Check out “Hurting”:

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If you like The Cure, then you’ll like The Chameleons

The Cure, an English rock band formed in 1976, was just announced as a headliner for this year’s Lollapalooza (see the full lineup here). Throughout the many years the band has existed, frontman Robert Smith has remained the only constant member. The Cure played a major role in the United Kingdom’s post-punk era and new wave movement. In the 1980s, they made contributions to the then-new gothic rock genre, and they grew to become one of the most popular alternative rock bands in the world.

The Cure -

The Cure –

“Friday I’m in Love”, “Lovesong”, and “Just Like Heaven” are perhaps the most recognizable songs by The Cure today. They incorporate dance rhythms and have a generally happy feel to them. A band that has successfully emulated this style that has prolonged The Cure’s fame is called The Chameleons. The Chameleons, also from England, began recording in 1981. They broke up after the sudden death of their manager in 1985, re-formed in 2000, and then disbanded once more in 2003.

The Chameleons -

The Chameleons –

The Chameleons have a dance-y, new wave sound much like that of The Cure. Since the bands were recording around the same time, it is clear that they were both influenced by the same post-punk and gothic rock fads. The Chameleons sometimes have a darker tone to their songs than The Cure does; the vocals are more somber and the guitar is subdued instead of upbeat and loud.

Percussion also plays a heavy role in both bands. Strong beats and echoing crashes are characteristic of the post-punk era, with the drums almost acting as sound effects instead of a supplemental music element.

Check out my favorite song by The Chameleons, “Up the Down Escalator”:

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If you like Arcade Fire, then you’ll like Beach House

Arcade Fire formed in Canada in 2003. The group is a unique blend of indie-rock and orchestral music. They garnered major attention in 2004 with the release of their debut album, “Funeral”, and have continued to gain popularity ever since. In addition, they are the only band to have won their first and only Grammy in the “Album of the Year” category.

Arcade Fire -

Arcade Fire –

With seven members, Arcade Fire is a large group. Their genius blend of instruments results in a very full, diverse sound. Violin, cello, and accordion are just some of the instruments featured alongside the traditional blend of guitar, bass, and drums. The band also has both female and male vocalists.

While Arcade Fire is certainly a unique venture, their sound has clearly inspired several groups. One of these groups is called Beach House. Beach House formed in 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland. Unlike Arcade Fire, Beach House is composed of just two members, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. They have a style that is quite similar to that of Arcade Fire and has been characterized as “dream pop“.

Beach House -

Beach House –

The band attracted attention with its third album, “Teen Dream”. The album was released in 2010 and received great reviews. Stars such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé were even seen at one of the band’s shows. Like Arcade Fire, Beach House has both a female and male vocalist, although Victoria sings lead on most of their tracks. She also plays the organ, which gives the group a vaguely orchestral feel akin to that of Arcade Fire. The vocal style of both groups is echoing and almost haunting – the singers have a far-off feel to their voices that perfectly complements the full, smooth instrumental backing.

“Bloom”, Beach House’s latest album, was released in May 2012. Since then, the band has performed on various late night talk shows and at several music festivals.

Check out “Myth”, by Beach House:

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If you like Sufjan Stevens, then you’ll like Local Natives

Sufjan Stevens -

Sufjan Stevens –

Sufjan Stevens is an indie folk/rock artist from Michigan. He has been recording since 2000 and has released 11 albums thus far, including two Christmas albums. He often writes lyrics centered on his faith and beliefs, as well as traditional values such as family.

All of Sufjan’s albums have been released on Asthmatic Kitty, a label he cofounded with his stepfather. He wrote and recorded his first album, “A Sun Came”, while he was in college. Prior to this, Sufjan played in a band called Marzuki. He can play several instruments, including guitar, banjo, bass, and piano.

Akin to Sufjan’s full, mystic, sometimes instrument-heavy sound are the stylings of indie folk/rock band Local Natives. The Local Natives add unique elements of percussion to Sufjan’s signature sound, often relying on clapping and stomping. In addition, their vocal style is similar to that of Sufjan’s, though the Local Natives incorporate a distinctive howling in many of their songs.

Local Natives -

Local Natives –

The Los Angeles-based Local Natives released their first album, “Gorilla Manor”, in 2010. The album was named after the house the group shared in Orange County. Interestingly enough, everything the band releases to the public is a collaboration between its members; music, artwork, etc.

The band’s latest album, “Hummingbird”, was released in January of this year. It is a noticeably darker album – the songs are less wild and more somber, the instrumental parts have been thinned. However, it highlights another side of the band without compromising the success achieved with their first album.

This is my favorite Local Natives song:

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If you like The Black Keys, then you’ll like Alabama Shakes

The Black Keys is a rock duo comprised of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. They formed the band in 2001 in Ohio and have risen to international fame in the past three years. Their breakthrough album was “Brothers”, released in 2010. The album and its accompanying single, “Tighten Up”, won a combined three Grammy Awards. The band’s latest album, “El Camino”, won this year’s Grammy for “Best Rock Album”.

The Black Keys -

The Black Keys –

Fame came a little more quickly to Alabama Shakes, a rock band formed in Alabama in 2009. Alabama Shakes was nominated for the 2013 Grammy Award for “Best New Artist”. In 2012, the band played at the Newport Folk Festival as well as Bonnaroo. Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have a similar sound, both vocally and instrumentally.

Alabama Shakes -

Alabama Shakes –

Both bands have a distinct and traditional rock sound, reminiscent of the many projects of Jack White. Both Auerbach and Brittany Howard, the lead vocalist for Alabama Shakes, have brooding, throaty voices. They both emulate the raspy quality that is so prevalent in the voices of many passionate rock singers. The one major difference between the two? Howard is a woman! Jon Pareles, a New York Times reporter, compared her unique and soulful voice to Janis Joplin’s.

Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys rely heavily on percussion, as many rock bands do. Their screaming electric guitars define each individual song. Since the release of their album “Boys & Girls”, Alabama Shakes has appeared on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Saturday Night Live, and even David Letterman’s birthday version of The Late Show with David Letterman.

Here is Alabama Shakes’ single, “Hold On”:

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If you like Mumford & Sons, then you’ll like The Head and the Heart

No matter how old you are or what type of music you like, you have heard of Mumford & Sons. They’ve put a refreshing spin on mainstream music and have proved that not all hope has been lost to auto-tune and Rebecca Black. The London natives recently won the Grammy for “Album of the Year” for their latest release, “Babel”.

Mumford & Sons performing at this year's Grammy Awards -

Mumford & Sons performing at this year’s Grammy Awards –

Mumford & Sons has a distinctive sound. Their folksy, almost bluegrass-like rock is full of lively guitar and banjo, layered vocals, and passion. Their music ranges from foot-stomping anthems like “I Will Wait” to slow, heartfelt tunes like “White Blank Page”.  Their vocal harmonies are perfect and haunting.

The Head and the Heart, a group from Seattle, has a similar set of qualities with one major difference – their vocal harmonies are comprised of both male and female voices. The band’s sound is more reliant on piano than guitar, but the feel of their music is akin to that of Mumford & Sons.  Both groups have an incredible amount of soul.  They sing about love, loss, and longing, and they do so in a way that makes you feel what they are feeling.

The Head and the Heart -

The Head and the Heart –

Having self-released their album “The Head and the Heart” in 2009, The Head and the Heart should have had a slow start. However, since the album’s release, they have opened for artists like Dave Matthews and The Decemberists as well as appeared at music festivals like Lollapalooza. The band has a pop-folk sound, relying heavily on the vocals of Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell, and Charity Rose Thielen. All three sing separately as well as together, giving the group a dynamic sound and a lot of room for variation in their songs.

Check out my favorite The Head and the Heart song below:

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If you like Fleet Foxes, then you’ll like Real Estate

When you hear the term “indie”, not many mainstream or popular artists come to mind.  While the genre has remained fairly underground, Fleet Foxes have risen to prominence over the past few years.  The catalyst was the release of their album “Fleet Foxes” in 2008, which was named “Album of the Year” by Billboard’s Critic’s Choice.  The group performed on Saturday Night Live and embarked on a worldwide tour as a result of the album’s fantastic impact on the public.

Fleet Foxes is known for their lilting, almost haunting melodies and vocal progressions.  Real Estate, a band from New Jersey, has a very similar sound.  Both bands utilize vocal harmonies and have a distinct “indie” sound.  In addition, twangy guitar riffs are often the center of their songs.

Real Estate's album "Real Estate"

Real Estate’s album “Real Estate” –

Real Estate is what I would call a “surf rock” band. They are Bon Iver mixed with the Beach Boys. They are the type of band you would listen to in a convertible while cruising down the California coast.  Real Estate has released one EP, “Reality”, and two albums, “Real Estate” and “Days”. They have performed at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on two separate occasions.  Most recently, Real Estate played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the summer of 2012.

Fleet Foxes has a more commercialized sound than Real Estate, which is to be expected.  Real Estate is not signed to a major label and has not made many big-time public appearances other than Coachella and Pitchfork.  However, I think their independence is what makes them able to have such a unique sound.  Lazy guitar picking and echoing melodies define Real Estate’s songs. While I wish nothing but success for the band, I hope they maintain their style.  Check them out below:

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If you like Bob Dylan, then you’ll like Joe Pug


Bob Dylan –

I am a gigantic fan of Bob Dylan.  Whether or not you can stand the sound of his voice, you have to admit that the man can write a song.  Furthermore, he’s made a colossal impact on the music community.  While I feel no artist can quite live up to the greatness that is Bob Dylan, I’ve come across a man who emulates him quite well.

Joe Pug

Joe Pug –

Joe Pug began his career in Chicago.  He has released two EPs and two studio albums thus far.  While he is not necessarily “new” to the music scene, Pug is underrated and underrepresented.  I like to refer to him as “a contemporary Bob Dylan”.

Pug’s voice is gravelly yet crooning; similar to Dylan’s, but far more pleasing to the ear.  He plays guitar and harmonica on most tracks. Oddly enough, his music has progressed in a similar way to Dylan’s.  Pug’s first EP, “Nation of Heat”, is composed solely of acoustic tracks.  However, his studio albums both feature full bands and electric guitar in many of the tracks.  The only difference is that Joe Pug was not met with the opposition faced by Dylan in ’65 when he broke out his electric guitar – but that’s another story.

While Dylan is known mostly for his protest songs, Joe Pug’s lyrics do not reflect that style or subject matter.  In fact, Pug’s lyrics are more comparable to those Dylan wrote for his albums “Blood on the Tracks” and “Blonde on Blonde”.  “Blood on the Tracks” includes songs about heartbreak, longing, and loss, while “Blonde on Blonde” is more of a quintessential rock album.  A meandering, riddle-like style is something the two artists’ lyrics certainly have in common.  Check out my favorite Joe Pug song below:

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Fun. Wins “Best New Artist” at the Grammys

The 55th annual Grammy Awards aired this past Sunday, showcasing great artists spanning multiple generations and genres.  One of the most coveted awards, “Best New Artist”, was given to the band Fun.  Fun. burst onto the scene this year with hits like “We Are Young” and “Some Nights”, catching the attention of listeners with their unique style and catchy tunes.  The group’s songs appeal to a wide audience and their instant classics have an eternally happy, anthem-like feel.


Fun. at the Grammy Awards –

Fun. was up against Frank Ocean, Alabama Shakes, Hunter Hayes, and The Lumineers for the Grammy.  While all of the nominees made a significant impact on the musical community this past year, Fun. prevailed.  “I totally agree with the results,” said Danny Yocius, 20.  The University of Iowa sophomore continued, “I’ve been a fan of Fun. for a while now and I think they deserved it.  They got crazy popular crazy fast.”

Making it as a new artist has never been easy; being named the “best” new artist is even harder.  Many fans believe Fun.’s one-of-a-kind nature is what helped them come out on top.  The band is a cheery blend of Queen-inspired harmonies and chant-like singing.  Their lilting, memorable melodies are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and The Beach Boys.  Fun. frontman Nate Ruess told Spin Magazine that his other major influences include Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Smashing Pumpkins, and Kanye West.


Fun. performing live –

Although being unique can be an advantage, trailblazing is not always easy for a new artist.  “It’s the fans that make it work,” said Michael Hilger, a talent scout at Mighty Toad Studios. “The artist just needs to get the music to the right people.”  Jennifer Vaile, 19, was not happy with Fun.’s win at the Grammy Awards.  “I guess I’m just more old-fashioned,” the University of Iowa sophomore said, “But I would have liked to see The Lumineers or Alabama Shakes win it.  They just seem more raw to me and more of what the music industry needs right now.”

Hilger, having worked with new artists, described how gratifying it is to finally see all of the nominees enjoy success after inevitably difficult beginnings: “You don’t have a lot of capital to work with [when you first start out] but you will do whatever you can to get your music out into a public space.  You will have your die-hard fans, who are amazing and will support you with everything you do.  But it’s the rest of the public you want behind you.  It’s not easy, but when you finally get there, it’s amazing.”

What do YOU think of Fun.’s win at the Grammy Awards?

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