Next in Line: 3 Bands on the Riseby krista kurisaki on Sep, 28 2012
“Well push me honey to the up and right / We’ve been waiting but we’re next in line,” croons Nicholas Petricca, lead singer of WALK THE MOON. And isn’t that the hidden desire of every indie band? I mean, the hipster cred must get old eventually. But the truth is, the journey to becoming the next “it” group more often leads to failure than fame. Even the most promising self-released EPs and intimate shows can prove fruitless when attempting to attract major-label attention. Case in point: it took six years, multiple lineup changes, and hundreds of club gigs for The Beatles to be discovered and signed to EMI’s Parlophone label. And they’re The Beatles.
But even if a band somehow manages to sign a record deal, their struggles are far from over. A major label debut can make or break them. The band has to produce material that attracts new listeners while keeping original fans satisfied. It has to navigate the treacherous divide between radio-friendly hits and artistic integrity. It has to completely redefine itself without really changing at all. Add the pressure of crazy label execs and record sales and it’s easy to see why most indie bands just aren’t cut out for the big leagues.
But as always, there are exceptions. After years of tireless writing, independent releases, and opening shows for other artists, these bands are finally emerging from the underground and gaining major buzz. They’ve signed to some of the biggest modern labels, but have each found a unique way to produce the type of “indie record” that even Taylor Swift wouldn’t scoff at.
What You’ve Heard: It’s Time
Standout Tracks: Radioactive, On Top of the World, Hear Me
Since the beginning of time (or more likely the publication of The Perks of Being a Wallflower), people have pondered what it means to be “infinite.” Does this sensation come with a person, a thought, a moment… a song? This question may not have any definite answers, but according to the movie version of the novel, Imagine Dragons is a good starting point for the search. In one of the trailers, their anthem to teenage optimism, “It’s Time,” was played over some of the film’s most pivotal moments, including Charlie’s timeless revelation of youth. Propelled to recognition by the success of the single, Imagine Dragons soon released their debut album Night Visions under hip-hop producer Alex da Kid (Nicki Minaj, Eminem). This unusual partnership ends up being one of the strongest aspects of the record, as the distinct blend of genres gives Imagine Dragons a definite edge over other alternative bands. Tracks like “Radioactive” and “Bleeding Out” start off simple but quickly explode into the kind of dub-step inspired choruses you can’t wait to burst your eardrums to live. And in that moment, with the bass reverberating through the speakers and the screaming crowd amplified in your ear, I swear you’d be infinite.
What You’ve Heard: Anna Sun
Standout Tracks: Next in Line, Tightrope, Shiver Shiver
If I ever wrote a song (and trust me, there have been several inspired, but ultimately pointless attempts), the last thing I’d want it to be about is school. But maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong. After all, lead singer Nicholas Petricca’s tip to songwriters is “Don’t be afraid to play.” And he’s definitely been taking his own advice. WALK THE MOON’s most recognized song is a sunny tribute to the freedom and spontaneity of summer, but is interestingly named after one of Petricca’s Kenyon College professors (Don’t believe me? Check this out). But aside from this salute to their alma mater, WALK THE MOON’s self-titled release carries itself on dreamy guitar licks, beach-worthy melodies, and lots of lyrics about… body parts (just something random I noticed). No doubt about it, this band has mastered the perfect blend of alternative rock with a pop twist, especially evident on the opening synths of “Quesadilla” and infectious indie stomp of “Shiver Shiver.” And if that isn’t enough to convince you to give them a listen, Darren Criss himself cites WALK THE MOON as one of his favorite groups of the moment.
What You’ve Heard: Cough Syrup
Standout Tracks: Apartment, Your Side, Garands
Okay, so I might be a little late on this one, since the album technically came out in 2010. And two years is a century in the music business. (In that same amount of time, Nicki Minaj concocted five more alter egos and One Direction brought about a British Reinvasion.) But seeing as this LP has more to offer than an assurance to crazed fangirls that they’re beautiful, I thought it was worth mentioning. As its very name implies, Young the Giant is a band of juxtaposition. Its lineup is an ethnic kaleidoscope of members who range from Indian to French-Canadian, and its mellow sound seems misplaced on a label best known for metal, hard rock, and, for better or for worse, Nickelback. It’s no surprise, then, that their first effort is also fixated on contrast. Lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia remarks that the album has a recurring theme of “the feeling of isolation and almost surreal happiness with a lover,” two emotions as different as day and night. Yet somehow, Young the Giant finds harmony in all of its contradiction, successfully pairing its wistful lyrics with lush instrumentation and bringing to life “a dark world” that “aches for a splash of the sun.” They’ve even earned the approval of Morrissey (lead singer of the ultimate indie band, The Smiths – remember (500) Days of Summer?), who stated that “once every three thousand years, a band comes along who restores that precious component of faith” in “new music.” Clearly, Young the Giant is that band.