I winced when a CMJ panelist predicted guitar-based rock had just another 10 or 15 years left as the dominant strain in popular music. It was the first time I heard someone articulate the reality that, after people spent decades trying to get new sounds out of it, the instrument most central to indie rock was maybe starting to sound old. This was 2004, and rock n’ roll suddenly had an expiration date.
Guitars are far from fading into obscurity, of course, but in the face of machines’ boundless potential and a subsequent collective interest in the multitude of electro subgenres, it’s been a good few years since Brooklyn’s most exciting music has come from bands relying on the instrument without souped-up effects or being teamed with electronic components. But the guitar has been making a case for itself in the new year, no longer leaving Brooklynites to envy San Francisco with their Segalls, Dwyers and Owens. Rock music is doing just fine here on the East Coast, largely thanks to these five bands.
, the follow-up to last year’s breakthrough Open Your Heart
, begins with a casually twangy romp—“when I hear the guitars playing,” Mark Perro sings as clear as day—and ends with an 8-minute thrasher that sinks into noise. The ground covered in between is wide, varied and invigorating.
A composite of Exile in Guyville
and the non-dopey portions of The Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About
, Allison Crutchfield and band extend past nostalgia’s immediate gratification on last year's self-titled debut and make a case for the unrelenting power of a hook and guitar crunch.
Meanwhile, twin sister Katie turns 90s influences inward, mining Rilo Kiley’s catalog as a foundation for confessional story-songs where lyrics—specific to the character while also being universal to the listener—take center stage.
Stern solidifies her title as one of the borough’s best technical guitarists with her forthcoming album The Chronicles of Marnia
, using her weapon of choice to create three-dimensional worlds of exuberant squalls and swells foiled by quieter, streamlined moments.
The foursome approaches garage rock via their Texas roots, crossing vaguely Southern-fied nuances with The Mr. T Experience’s greatest hits so it twists into something not yet tirelessly rehashed in the new millennium. It's restless, fast and fun.
Catch all five bands live within the next few weeks. Swearin’ and Waxahatchee play 285 Kent as part of Indie Pop Prom on Thursday, February 28; The Men and Parquet Courts play Bowery Ballroom on Thursday, March 7; Marnie Stern plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday, April 11.
The Men Photo Courtesy Angel Ceballos
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.