Top Five Bands Kendle Listened to For the First Time
5. Black Lips: I first heard this Atlanta, GA based garage rock band on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World soundtrack. Little did I know that “O Katrina!“, despite it’s snappy buzz, was fairly tame as compared to the drug-fueled decadence that was the rest of 500 Million Thousand. And I loved every minute of it. Good, Bad, Not Evil, their previous, more critically acclaimed album, was fueled by more of surf rock sound, though still tinged with the dirty, DIY, sound that made them authorities on the garage rock scene in “New Garage Explosion!“.
4. Black Square: Josh86 is a pillar in Chi-To culture, and his band Black Square is one of the scene’s best bands. Their solid ska-punk sound is always exciting and their wonderful stage presence makes sitting on the sidelines near impossible. Every show, they rock out like they’re playing their biggest, whether to ten people or a hundred, and that energy is damned infectious. We’ve blogged about Black Square on a few occasions, but no amount of praise can overstate their quality as musicians and performers. And, after ten mainland tours, two compilations, and four albums, that quality can only continue to bring them more well-deserved success.
3. The Black Keys: Even before their 2010 release of Brothers, this Akron, OH band was everywhere. Movies, commercials, and radio stations of every stripe have all bought into the blues rock duo. Normally, the hipster in me would want to eschew them for this rampant commercialization but, honestly, their music is just too f’in good. I picked up the aforementioned Brothers a few months ago and am constantly impressed by how pop-catchy they can make songs that are best suited for a dingy, smoke-filled bar where real men shoot whiskey and the mob has a stake. To get a taste, check out “Tighten Up” and “Next Girl“.
2. Mumford & Sons: The first band on this list not of a ‘black’ variety is also the best Americana band that isn’t American. Following their 2010 success of Sigh No More, this four person British group led by the titular Marcus Mumford were 2011’s counterpoint to the electronic domination of dubstep, making sometimes rambunctious, and always lovely, music involving accordions, mandolins, and dobros. Their songs are deep, meaningful, and, really, honest, capturing the everyman’s sense of love and pain. My personal favorite is certainly “Winter Winds”
1. (G)NARWHAL: 2011, above all else, was the year I went from a hapless young soldier wandering around Waikiki to blogging about Honolulu happenings. The catalyst? A band named Narwhal. The three-piece’s crazy shows put me on a scavenger hunt around China Town and the greater Honolulu area, introduced me to many wonderful people I now count as friends, and, most obviously, gave me something to do on almost every night of the week (Sunday’s a total wash, though).
With an original sound that has elements of surf, punk, and old school rock and roll, (G)Narwhal (I think they’re in the process of picking up the ‘G’) has had great year. They celebrated their banniversary in May, recorded and released their second EP, Phases, in November, and had a successful mini-tour in San Francisco that same month. Their performances have consistently one-upped themselves, from the original “Lies” to “Tell Me” list with a handful of us bobbing in the front to the raging moshes that now erupt on the first song of their sets. Erica has improved as a vocalist, now utilizing much more of her range, as well as her stage presence. Nick has refined his guitar work into the now recognizable ‘Nick Ayakawa‘ style, proving that he is one of the scene’s best guitarists. And Adam, a drummer who’s speed and endurance were already a thing to admire, has provided a vivid backdrop in all of their new songs for his comrades to enliven with melody.
Besides their improvements as individuals, (G)Narwhal has really come together as a band. Instead of sitting on their hands and being content to play the same Cow Belly songs every other week or so, they spent much of 2011 writing new material, practicing, and playing shows often. Their chemistry has never been better and they are truly on the up.
So, here’s to you, (G)Narwhal. You were my favorite new band of the year 2011. Let’s all hope that 2012 can see you continue your rise to the top.