Honorable Mentions 

8 Bands You Need to Hear: 2009

There’s no shortage of bands in this city: small ones, big ones, pretty ones, ugly ones, bad ones, and lots and lots of good ones. Time and again, this proves to be one of our favorite things about New York — except on one day. The day we decide to designate eight as “must hear,” there’s panic, second-guessing, and the overwhelming sense that dozens are worthy of distinction. And so we’d like to pinpoint a few others deserving of your attention, if only so we can sleep tonight.

The first song posted on Sisters’ MySpace page begins with a chugging guitar and childlike keyboard melody; Aaron Pfannebecker’s speak-sung vocals sound so earnest, they could’ve been lifted from a Sixteen Candles voiceover. And then all hell breaks loose. Matt Conboy goes crazy on the drums, and the guitar and keyboard get tunneled through heavy effects, positioning the band to receive countless comparisons to No Age and Wavves. From song to song, Pfannebecker’s vocals jump ship, going from boyish to screechy to screamy, separating Sisters from the other guitar-drum duos of the times.

Dinosaur Feathers
Incessant pop hooks and immaculate vocals, recalling Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, are paired with a drum machine that points in the direction of Animal Collective. Animal Collective meets Squeeze. We never thought it would happen. With tribal drum patterns and intricate dance rhythms at their forefront, Dinosaur Feathers manage to take a sound typically tagged “experimental” and turn it into something warm and accessible.

Noah Stitelman’s world-weary lyrics (“Suck it up kid, life’s a mixed, mixed bag at best”) and deadpan delivery (Doug Martsch comes to mind) leads you to think he’s pretty much over it, whatever “it” may be, but the backing instrumentation implies otherwise. Primarily a solo project, even Neighbors’ slower tracks are alive and full-sounding, with layers crashing and tumbling all over each other like a psychedelic Arcade Fire. Stitelman spends the majority of his time playing guitar for NY-based Jacksonknife, but we’re salivating for some solo shows.

A throwback to the three-chord punk titans of yesteryear, Browns have a particular fondness for plodding drums, distortion-free guitars and unrushed tempos. It’s easy to lump them in with the Muslims (er, the Soft Pack), especially considering frontman Ryan McReynolds owns 1928 Recordings, the label that introduced the Muslims to the world, but Browns aren’t big on tightly wound hooks. They tend to sneak in a huge riff, ever so casually — McReynolds’ voice will even raise a few octaves — and then goes right back to shrugging things off.

Hospitality cultivates an aesthetic that doesn’t sound like it comes from this city, much less this century. It’s much too quaint and sweet-cheeked. The quartet, featuring “8 NYC Band” alum Brian Betancourt of Frances, delicately treads piano and sparse guitars over such innocently titled songs as “Half an Apple” and “Liberal Arts.” There’s a pronounced attention to the production style, one that tiptoes into lo-fi and douses everything in old-world warmth.

Knight School
Knight School plays wimpy songs about Oprah and crybabies, but in the context of a pop band, this is a very good thing. Sounding vulnerable makes Kevin Alvir’s lyrics (he of the now-defunct and morbidly underrated Lil’ Hospital) hilarious and relatable. Hooks clearly informed by all the 60s classics shuffle underneath clouds of feedback and fuzz, evoking nostalgic feelings of grade-school crushes and love letters. Just ‘cause the Pains of Being Pure at Heart kicked off the current fuzz-pop revival doesn’t mean they’re the only ones doing it well.

A few well on their way…
There’s a handful of other bands we left out of our top eight, based on the notion that they are already well on their way to success, fame and world domination and in no need of whatever help we could give them. While Woods’ vintage-sounding psych-pop, Creaky Boards’ urban beach anthems (we heard Coldplay’s a fan) and Real Estate’s hallucinogenic drone-pop have officially elevated them to buzz-band status, we’re also aware that many of you don’t read blogs at an obsessive rate, on account of having a life and all. Consider this a plea to check these guys out too, if you haven’t already.

Main | pow wow! | Savoir Adore | The Albertans | The Beets | Xylos | Darlings | Anamanaguchi | Emanuel & the Fear | Photoshoot Outtakes | Where Are They Now? The Class of 2008

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