UNDERGROUND USA: 10 of the most exciting emerging American artists that need to be on your radar!
First up is Middle Youth, the late night solo project of Harper James, producer, mixer and member of Taylor Swift endorsed duo Eighty Ninety. Harper has just released his debut Middle Youth album that tackles themes of growing up, trying to be true to the people you love, becoming disenchanted with some things you used to believe in, and seeing the magic in other things; feeling old, hating your phone, getting it wrong, getting it right, becoming acquainted with mortality and experiencing love in many forms.
The record, titled 'Not Just Me', drifts between heart-warming natural acoustics, nostalgic electronic landscapes and coming of age Indie anthems. 'Chocolates' was the first single off the album and it is quite an escapist sound, dragging you out of your current surroundings into a rolling dream state of Indietronica. 'Love Ain't Enough' has a more high-tempo and expressive style. The thick bassline has quite carefree surfer vibes while the vocals are super crisp and carry a smooth and high pitch tone making for a sunny atmosphere similar to the likes of Aaron Taos or Fuller. Throughout the record Harper manages to demonstrate his wide skillset of songwriting and producing and takes you on a winding 16-track journey, encountering many different emotive states and sonic styles so there is plenty to enjoy whatever your tastes.
The daughter of Guns N Roses guitarist Duff Mckagan has adopted her dad's love for big riffs and Rock n Roll showmanship and has poured it into her own solo work becoming one of the most talked about new acts from the states. Her succession of vintage tinged singles last year were drenched in a dirty Garage Rock tone reminiscent of The Black Keys yet they were elevated by Grace's own audible swagger. In UK terms, you could put her alongside the likes of Black Honey for her empowered aggression and balance of both retro and modern aesthetics.
Her latest single confesses this admiration for the genre and plays out as an open love letter to Rock n Roll. Appropriately title 'Baby That's Rock N Roll' the track rolls along with a sinister smile. Gravely guitar tones are peppered by a shuffling drum rhythm whilst Grace's vocals attack the title line with a straight faced arrogance. It has dark undertones comparable to The Mysterines yet, due to the perpetual Garage guitar lines, stirs up a primal need to dance.
Out of Sacremento, California, comes the digital singer/songwriter JMSEY. Also a member of Hobo Johnson's outfit, he has had plenty of experience riding at the top of the alternative Indie scene in the US. Yet, his solo project remains in its infancy. In terms of style it does offer many of the same urban flows of Hobo Johnson and so it is easy to see why he works so well in the band but there is a little more aggression and liveliness to his solo output.
His latest track 'Lil While' opens with a slick Indie Hop vibe similar to Easy Life. Dreamy bedroom guitars wind around his quick vocal flow that manages to be simultaneously manages to be laid back and in-your-face. The delivery comes effortlessly yet the odd word is delivered with a thrust of energy that teases what is to come. When it begins to approach two minutes of cool serenity it dives into a Punky outburst. The instrumentals crash together in sonic waves forming a thick wall of sound while you can almost hear JMSEY jump around the room as he delivers the huge vocal punches. This track is a 'must-see' live!
Daphne's Couch instantly shot to the top of the underground scene last year with their debut release 'Fallout'. It was everything you would want from a first single, upbeat, packed full of energy and radiating an audible love for making music. It's crisp riffs and sunny vocal back and forths have earned it over 300,000 Spotify streams. Their follow up track 'The Judge' followed in the same vain in terms of style. Now, they are back with their first release of 2022, 'Strawberries'.
It instantly produces a fuzzier, Strokes esc lo-fi Rock feel. The atmosphere is a laid back one with a simplistic yet playful drum beat and scratchy guitar rumble that allows the vocals to shine on top of. It is a care free track full of Indie nostalgia but with a shining Summer chorus that reflects the sweetness of the song's title. The more distant, pained vocals later on in the song provide a bit of contrast and tease a more aggressive explosion, yet this tone clears and makes for one final chorus full of 'doos' and joyful melodies. Another fantastic addition to their track list that is quickly making them one of America's most promising new Indie acts.
Vibrant Queer pop artist RESTRICK is pretty new on the scene with only a couple of original tracks to his name yet they have already shown the range of dynamics that he can provide. His last single 'Care' was a hugely cinematic offering, with long drawn out vocal lines and dreamy electronic soundscapes making the track swell while his debut release 'FEED THE BEAST' wrapped a loose vocal flow around light acoustics and injected an eclectic fusion of instrumentation to create a very groovy artistic piece. However, his latest work has really showcased the abstract musical brain that he possesses.
'In Dreams' is a cover of the beautiful Roy Orbison lullaby, yet RESTRICK completely transforms it. The electronic instrumentation is instantly deep and resonant, a world away from the stripped back charm of Roy Orbison. In some ways in captures the atmosphere of the lyrics more than the original as the smooth layered vocal textures and heavy production has an engulfing feel, transporting you into the dreamy landscape at once. The blend of his vocal tone and bassy beats is reminiscent of the latest Alt-J record and fantastically demonstrates his understanding for songwriting and creative imagination.
Powerhouse duo Child Seat made up of Madeleine Mathews and Josiah Mazzaschi formed last year and recorded their debut album remotely. The record is now completed and set for release this Autumn. They have just blessed us with the first taste of what is to come with their first ever single 'Fever Dream'.
The track is driven by Madeline's bold vocal style that could easily have accompanied a retro Rock anthem with its breathy, dramatised delivery and crisp, catchy melody. However, Josiah's instrumentation completely flips this idea on its head. Instead, her captivating voice is met with echoed 80s drums, thick grooves and expansive synth textures. For our UK audience the bittersweet tones and well layered blend of honest vocals and electronic subtleties is reminiscent of Johnny Lloyd. The instrumentation only builds bigger and brighter as the song progresses. The brass solo that floods into the mix adds a more erratic party feel while the synth stabs work together with the punchy drum tone to create a stadium filling sound. Meanwhile, Madeline belts out an infectious vocal line that acts as an anchor while those instrumentals swirl around her. A really fun and uplifting track that shows really promising signs for the debut album.
Glass House Point
With close to 10 years experience together as a band, Florida's Glass House Point have developed a really cohesive and mature intelligence for song writing. Their biggest hit came in 2017 with the single 'Creatures' which focused on sentimental vocal output and a soft, winding Indie soundscape that was provided a mellow Summer soundtrack.
However, their latest release digs deeper into sonic layers and best showcases this songwriting maturity. It begins with a groove led sound as the bold drum tone provides a solid base for more subtle electronics and funky guitar sounds to swirl in The 1975 style. The strange syllabic vocal flow is captivating and comes alive in the chorus as a dense dancy rhythm takes hold. As the track progresses it explores the band's Alt-Rock roots as it occasionally jumps into a pool of heavy Rock drums and an electrifying guitar line. This blend of slick electro pop and heavier rock intensity makes for a fascinating sonic journey and should be the first sign of great things to come in 2022.
I Am Strikes
Although I Am Strikes has been releasing music very sporadically she has demonstrated a talent for generating unfiltered emotion with each track she has produced. She caused a stir in the underground USA scene with her cinematic electro ballad 'Love Is Just a Way to Die' in 2015 and most recently left us with the optimistic, intimate acoustics of 'The Truth' back in 2020. The project went pretty quiet over most of lockdown but now we have our first music of 2022 to feast upon, the brand new single 'Paper Tiger'.
The track is the most high octane release of the I Am Strikes yet. The verses set a dark and tense setting, packed full of a dangerous yet tempting vocal arrogance. Then the chorus explodes with an anthemic riff that instantly infuses the song with an angsty Rock energy. Like Grace Mckagan it rings of The Mysterines with the darkness and swagger that it radiates. Overall it has a thumping energy but it is that riff that will take hold of you and demand your attention. Hopefully, it won't be too long before we can hear more.
Formed in the basement of a dive bar, Pamphlets may be pretty fresh to the scene, but they have already caused quite a stir. The trio lean on elements from all the best eras of underground American music from years gone by. Their music is filled with dirty Garage Rock riffs and packs an energy influenced by the more Punk leaning Post-Punk acts like Gang Of Four. If this doesn't sound like the perfect concoction for a small town trio then what does?
Their latest single 'Shut Tight' is a frantic, tumbling series of vocal shouts, drum rhythms and gritty guitar stabs that combine to form a high-octane mosh-pit inducer. The instrumentals are ever changing while the vocals are somewhat erratic which creates an audible chaos. However, the three members certainly know what they are doing as they overlap rhythms with full musical proficiency. There sound fits perfectly within the UK Post-Punk revival and this new track rings especially of Leeds outfit Eades so if you're a fan our blog then your will certainly be a fan of these guys.
With their sun dripped lo-fi Indie sound there aren't many better than Loose Buttons at replicating the understated charm of fellow New Yorkers The Strokes. Their sophomore album 'What's On Outside' is packed full of intentionally laborious basslines and crackly vocal effects as well as more colorful tracks that replicate the bright yellow spiral that makes the album cover. 'Minor Leaguer' is littered with small moments of vocal intensity and the pleasant laid back atmosphere in the early verses only brings more joy to the subtly uplifting chorus. The vocals and guitars blend perfectly mirroring the warm melody together. It is the perfect introduction to their sound.
The title track drives forward with a shaky drum sound and then tangles layers of guitars around it in a surf-toned style that is reminiscent of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Although their sound is pretty laid back and basks in the sunny side of Indie-Rock with the washing chords, that is not to say that there are no energetic moments on the record. 'First To Know, Last To Understand' provides a high point as the drums lead the charge once more whilst the blissful vocal harmonies provide a soft landing ground for the cymbals to crash down on as the band spit out a catchy and poignant line "Sure I've got a life I love, but it don't feel like mine". Whether its beach roadtrips, underground gigs or just a soundtrack to the daily grind Loose Buttons have provided a really warm and strangely comforting record suited for all occasions.