Back in the first week of January I put up a list of some bands I thought you should keep your eye on for breakouts this year. Some of them were educated guesses, others hopes, and quite a few longshots. Now we’re about halfway through the year, and many of these bands have already delivered some good stuff. Not all of them, mind you, but a good amount. Let’s go over some of them in the order in which I originally listed them.
1. Dastardly-I put them at the top of the list for a couple reasons, chief among them being that I know they have the talent to be something special. At the beginning of the year they released an EP called Bury Me In The Country which featured “Brief Thoughts On Death,” one of my favorite songs of the year so far. In August they’re releasing another EP, Ballads In Blue. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear it already, and it is completely different from what I expected. I tried to describe it a few days ago, and I don’t think I made much sense. Basically I think it sounds like Rodgers & Hammerstein filtered through David Lynch…if that tells you anything.
2. Bhi Bhiman-The biggest success on the list by a large margin. When Bhiman, Bhi’s second album, came out it was met with great reviews by The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, NPR, and Paste among others. I called it the second he opened his mouth last year at SxSw that he was gonna make it. So far this year he’s opened for Josh Ritter, John Prine, Martin Sexton, Joe Pug, and Rosie Thomas and played headlining gigs at some well-known venues around the country. Next week he stops in Chicago for the fourth time since January.
3. Adam Arcuragi-Also garnering much critical acclaim was Like a fire that consumes all before it…Adam Arcuragi’s latest album that came at the end of January. This was my introduction to his style, which he refers to as “Death Gospel.” He toured the US in support of the album, then headed over to Europe for a streak of dates. He also put out a great Daytrotter session back in May that you can check out.
4. Sons Of An Illustrious Father-In 2011 they delivered the album of the year, One Body. They took a bit of a break for a while and now they’ve headed out on their first big tour. They’re hitting Chicago on July 20th with The Canoes and The Buddies, so I’m eagerly awaiting that. They are down a member, as Sofia Albam left to play with her new band Thorn & Shout.
5. Fanfarlo-I took a chance on this one, and I’m sorry to say it was a big whiff. The album they released this year, Rooms Filled With Light, wasn’t very good in my mind. Not as good as their last album, anyway. They hit the US for a quick tour before returning back to the UK. I thought that maybe they would catch on here, but I think that was misguided.
6. Young Jesus-Put out a really good album called Home earlier this year and put on one hell of a show at Lincoln Hall. They just returned from a tour of the east coast and have a few shows already on the books around the Chicago area. They released a video for their song “Falling For You,” which is a great song.
7. Oh! My Blackbird–Dare Me, the band’s debut album, shot into my top ten fast and furious, but has tailed off into the top 20 after a couple of months of good releases. I’m waiting for them to announce a east coast and midwest tour so I can see them play live, but I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. They’ve been fairly quiet since the release, playing shows sporadically in NYC and DC. If you haven’t checked out their album you should.
8. Cloud Nothings-This one was a mixed bag. They did put out a record, Attack On Memory, that got great reviews and they’ve been heralded as a great band. The problem is, I didn’t think the album was all that great. It was good, but not what I needed. So chalk this one up to a moral victory.
9. Tennis–Young & Old was a really strong second album from these guys. Patrick Carney of the Black Keys produced it, and did a really good job. There’s a lot going on, but it’s never convoluted or messy. They’ve gone on a long tour in support already, and they’re hitting the road again shortly. They have an amazing repeatability on their records, so you can just listen over and over.
10. I cheated on this one and listed three bands from Chicago that I wanted people to check out. Since January here’s what has happened with them:
Molehill won the regional Battle Of The Bands for Hard Rock Cafe’s Hard Rock Rising. They were placed in an online vote with a bunch of other bands around the world. They made the top ten and moved on to the final round that was picked by judges. They lost, and the band that got picked was kind of awful. Oh well. In March they released Equinox, which is a stellar record and remains in my top 20.
Fort Frances has been releasing a series of covers under the title “As Told By.” This year they’ve done Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York,” Daniel Johnston’s “Mind Movies,” and most recently DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime.” They’ve lined up a couple festival dates, including The Taste Of Chicago and Wicker Park Fest, as well as some dates in Colorado and Indiana. You can check out their debut LP, The Atlas, on their website.
Chaperone has been both my biggest joy in music and my biggest disappointment. They’re a great band that not enough people have listened to, and I hope that changes soon. They’re also a joy in that they’ve taken us on as friends allowed us to see a side of them that not every fan gets to see. This year they’ve been rehearsing some songs for a record they’re hoping to make soon, Shaun and Shaylah got married (and VERY recently had a son), and they’ve also played a bunch of shows. Somehow over the last year and a half I’ve seen Chaperone more than any band in my lifetime, and I haven’t regretted a second of it. If you have the chance please make it out to a show. They’re always a great time and if you’re lucky Miles will jump off the stage and run into you while he plays bass utterly unaware of his surroundings.