This article is in response to NJ.com’s list of “35 Bands You Need to Hear in 2015”, which somehow left out a ton of bands we really love from this state.
We do want to note that NJ.com did name some incredible, but well established bands e.g. Dillinger Escape Plan, Screaming Females, The Front Bottoms, and Titus Andronicus. If you like music and haven’t heard of any of these bands, please crawl out from the rock you’ve been hiding under.
Anyway… Here’s some other music to check out.
Ricardo Lorenzo – Purple
Conor Meara – Green
1. Sink Tapes [New Brunswick]
When Steve Sachs (Guitarist/Singer for YJY) introduced me to the band Teenage Fanclub back when we were in college I fell in love with their sound instantly. I haven’t heard any other band today emulate one of my favorite bands as well as Sink Tapes. Nobody in New Brunswick is playing pop music that beautifully. They just premiered their single “Blow Me A Kiss” – Check it out!
Before I continue I do have to say, most of the time, I like comparing locals band to bands I love. There’s nothing unoriginal about borrowing an influence’s sound and making it your own!
2. Osaka [New Brunswick]
Osaka is another New Brunswick band that I find extremely catchy. I have a soft spot in my heart for the band. YJY and I saved them from being molested by some obnoxious drunk dancer in Philly once. And come on! David Pressler’s vocals on “Soft Eyes” sound very similar to Paul Banks of Interpol. Get these guys in a pro studio and I’m sure they’ll release GOLD, JERRY, GOLD!
3. Glycerine Queens [Asbury Park]
I know Conor’s got this one, but these girls are absolutely mesmerizing!
Glycerine Queens are awesome and have so so so much promise. Cynthia’s voice is so downright cool that I stole her to sing on my own music and now we’re starting a band together. Kayla Smith’s guitar leads are great and she really kills it live. Their debut EP Sleep Deprivation was produced by Nicole Atkins, and that’s one a hell of an endorsement.
I mention Chris because I believe he’s the sole writer of Tribal Days, right? Anyway, Chris is something special. He’s got an interesting melodic ear for what he writes and he’s a great guitarist. He’s amazing.
The guys in Tribal Days definitely collaborate but Chris just has songs and songs out the wazoo. His other band Winnebago (with drummer Steve Sandler from Party Cops) just came out with a record called Turbine Lounge that I mixed. It wasn’t recorded very well so it was an interesting opportunity for me to get really creative on the mix side of things. Chris is constantly writing songs (I get a lot in the form of texted Voice Memos) and I’m trying to get him to start heading towards legitimate studios instead of bedroom and basement recordings because I think his songs could really benefit from some more fi than lo-fi. Tribal Days are working on a new album right now that I can’t wait to hear and Chris has some other projects in the works simultaneously. He just can’t quit.
5. Perennial Reel [Jersey City]
SOLID DUDES! Evan’s a MONSTER!
We played a show with these guys in Philly and there was a point where Evan broke a string and Tim (bass/vocals) and Rory (drums) just kept playing through the song and didn’t miss a beat. Evan got a new one on and tuned before the next song and if you weren’t watching you never would’ve noticed that something went wrong. They crashed at my place afterwards and were really grateful. Good people. Tim used to book at an underground spot in Union City called Lincoln Continental. It was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to but it got shut down by the cops. When LC went under Perennial Reel just hit the road and toured for months, all the way down south, to new england, and to the midwest. That’s really good for a band if you don’t wind up killing each other. Their music is lyrically articulate, folky and hooky, but balanced with atmospheric synths too.
6. Dentist [Asbury Park]
I like to think they’re a MUCH more advanced Best Coast or Vivian Girls. A modern day The Sundays. Maybe they’ll be our new Rilo Kiley! I saw them open for Television at the Stone Pony and it was unfortunate because it was an acoustic act and you know how I feel about acoustic shows… ZZZZZzzzzZZZ… Regardless, they were pretty good, but I’m anxious to see them as a full band – full throttle!
7. CA$H THE DEADMAN [Newark]
I met CA$H THE DEADMAN at our Roy Orbitron show at the Life Lab in Newark. He actually resides in the venue. My girlfriend Missy and I were the first ones there and were instantly drawn into his bedroom where he, his girlfriend, and a friend were blasting his newest song. Dude hadn’t put anything out since November 2013 but over this past weekend he graced us with an amazing New Years gift – a video for a new song called “Rock X Roll”. Listening to “Rock X Roll” actually made me feel like I was a part of the process of creating that song. When he was telling Missy and me about the song, he stopped playing the recorded version and started playing the song live with a mini-synth/sampler he had that was the size of his palm. He’s got crazy energy and has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. I definitely can’t wait to see what else he puts out this year.
I watched that video the other day, I thought I recognized that guy! Yeah, “Rock X Roll” is nuts.
8. Black Collar Biz [Trenton]
He’s a our homeboy. I go way back with Black Collar. I watched him grow as rapper; from doing open mics at Rider to leading an entire scene in a city as part of Sage Coalition. Black Collar is someone the world needs to hear about!
This guy… He works so damn hard and stays so damn positive without glossing over the shitty situation Trenton is in in terms of poverty, heroin, crime, and homicide. He put out “High Grade Artistry” when he headlined Trenton Art All Night this past summer (with a huge live band behind him) and there was a sea of people with his t-shirt on. That record has 19 tracks and every – single – one – is on point. I know he’s always in the studio working so I’m antsy anticipating anything he releases this year.
9. Mad Feather Group [Jackson]
I’ve always joked that Jackson is filled with hicks, but I know some really good people out there and they’ve brought my attention to indie pop locals Mad Feather Group. This band is dope as hell. Dave Colon’s voice is both melodic and beautiful. Puts Nate Ruess to SHAME!
10. Dollys [New Brunswick]
Dollys are former members of Green Paper. When I first saw Green Paper play “Gold Stars”, I almost cried. Such beautiful melodies are going on in that song. Anyway, their newer project, Dollys, is still pretty dope; melodic, catchy, and sparkly. When I grow up, I hope this is what rock music on the radio sounds like!
I never really liked Green Paper, but this is better. way better. I like this.
11. Grand Mariner [Howell]
I thoroughly enjoy this band. Their beachy sounds are the only thing that make me feel warm and fuzzy about the Jersey Shore.
12. Gypsy Wig [Northern NJ]
With Gypsy Wig you’re going to get 6 or 7 very talented musicians on stage putting on one hell of a tight show. They can rock, they can jam, and they play an entirely original set that will have the whole place moving, guaranteed. Linda Everswick, one of their sax players, leads a side project with other members of Gypsy Wig – that’s worth checking out too.
It’s a shame that I just heard about Gypsy Wig. They’re pretty fantastic. I do remember opening for them at The Life Lab in Newark. I never thought a local band could pull off something close to Elvis Costello so well.
New Jersey’s full of surprises.
13. The Cryptkeeper Five [Trenton]
When I was a freshman in high school I saw these guys play at Trinity Church in Trenton as a 7 piece. They all wore gas station attendant shirts with sewn on name-tags and had greasy pomade-filled hair. It was a pure loud onslaught of rock and roll. Since then Johnny, the singer and main songwriter, has toned down his Glenn Danzig impression, upped his Roy Orbison influence, and really come into his own as an original singer. The band’s stripped members, become an even tighter and ruthless machine, and they’re about to come out with their fifth full-length studio album. I got to scream some gang vocals for it which was a hell of a good time.
You know, I didn’t get into the CK5 until after college. I used to listen to so much metal, most of the local bands just faded to back of my mind. But it’s awesome to see they’re still going strong. Obviously, I’m into them NOW! Especially after playing two shows with them. Totally right about how much tighter they are stripped down – and they’ve got monstrous energy on stage. Not a fan of his Danzig impersonation, but boy, does Johnny have a beautiful singing voice now!
14. Honah Lee [Trenton]
Honah Lee, like CK5, are another Trenton-based band with roots in punk rock. They sound more like Weezer though. If you can’t shake your fist along to “I Hate My Job”, the water cooler has won.
Like Black Collar, I go way back with these Trentonians! Hah! More like Weezer meets The Replacements with their drunken antics! These dudes are really rad. I’m happy you thought to add them, Conor!
15. Ruby The Hatchet
They say they’re from Philly and they play there a lot but I’m pretty sure they live in south Jersey somewhere. Probably in a wood-paneled basement in the middle of a foggy mossy mushroom-filled woods. They’re something like a party version of Black Sabbath with a female lead singer. They’re absolutely intoxicating and undeniably badass in the most heavy riffing rock and roll dirty joint-toking way. Denim. Pentagrams. Black t-shirts. Beautiful girls in open fields with big smiles and turqoise jewelry. I only discovered this band recently and man, they kick ass.
Conor, THIS is what I’ve been looking for. Holy s—!
16. The Dirty Cut [Pittsgrove]
I saw these guys in a New Brunswick basement and it was probably my favorite thing I’ve ever seen in a New Brunswick basement. I’ve seen a lot of things in New Brunswick basements.
I think I saw these guys play with Dry Feet, but I may be wrong. I really dig em! But it’s getting so hard to type while my mucus drips on my keyboard. A statement like that is very fitting with a song entitled, “My Biological Cock is Dicking.”
Ricky, take some Nyquil and go to sleep.
17. Lake Effect [Montclair]
I love seeing these guys play live but they always play too long. Not that they’re ever bad but they’ve got so much conviction and misery stuffed into their catchy guitar-heavy pop songs that I get all anxious and overwhelmed and need to step out for a cigarette.
18. The Heavies [Toms River]
This is a new duo with Skitch Walsh on drums. Skitch played with James Reilly in Ba Babes and runs the DIY cassette tape label Panther People. Panther People usually does runs of 25 or so cassettes and Skitch hand-dubs each one. They spraypaint the tapes and screen-print the J-cards. Ba Babes, both as people and as performers, taught me a hell of a lot about rock and roll and country music. I’m really excited to see what The Heavies put out this year.
19. Hot Blood [Asbury Park]
Straight up punk from Asbury Park, where Hot Blood seem to reign as kings of the scene. I don’t even like punk most of the time but these guys are everything I want punk to be in 2015.
20. Party Cops [Pennington]
I’ve known Officer Kim (vocals) and Officer Steve (drums) a long time and when they joined up with Party Cops founders Officer Dash (guitar) and Officer James (bass), I was really psyched on it. Party Cops are “sweat rock” – very punk, very sweaty, and they like to play in your basement and make you smile. My favorite part of their live show is the inevitable moment James grabs a mic and tells the audience “WE JUST WANT YOU TO BE YOURSELF”.
21. Huge Pupils [Leonia]
I’ve been saying for almost 5 years now that Huge Pupils are the best band in New Jersey and I stand by it.
Huge Pupils are quite possibly my favorite local band and it’s unfortunate because I haven’t seen them live. Smack me! I know! It’s pathetic. I didn’t add them because I figured Conor would. I would stay up way past my bed time to listen to Grilled Mind and Don’t Die, both released in October 2014. Awesome! These guys are much heavier and catchier than Husker Dü. Sorry, Bob Mould! And Sean’s lyrics are so hysterical and depressing… best kind of dark humor you’ll ever hear! I’ll be waiting anxiously for the next release.
22. Francie Moon [Montague Township]
Melissa (a.k.a. Francie) is a ferocious live performer. She’s a great combination of folk, blues, and rock and roll with a unique voice and really great guitar chops. She’ll play acoustic, she’ll play electric, she’ll play alone or with a band, she’ll play your bonfire, your living room, your college campus, your favorite bar, your basement – just book her if you’ve got a space. You’ll never be disappointed (… unless you don’t like good music!). She recently had a fundraiser show for her next album held on the top of a mountain somewhere in North Jersey with a coffee/hot tea vendor, a glass pipe vendor, a hawaiian/american food truck, and a big fire. That was one of the coolest shows I think we’ve played, and while all the bands who played were impressive (except for maybe us, I can’t judge that) Francie Moon put everybody to shame.
23. Thee Trebleros [Hopatcong]
This is the male half of Makeout Vertigo since M.V. broke up. They’ve dropped some of the cleaner twee aspects they had going on and have resorted to a loud mess of dirty lo-fi power pop. I haven’t heard anything from Brielle and Danielle musically yet but I hope they put something out this year too.
24. Birthwater [Asbury Park]
These guys are craftsmen of electric guitar atmosphere. They announced this past summer that they’d be coming out with a sophomore LP and I can’t wait – their hypnotic 2011 release “Wet Water” sounds like a dream. This is perfect overnight driving road trip music.
25. Morus Alba [Union City]
These are some more guys I met at Lincoln Continental in Union City. Guitarist Marcel Rudin is an incredible musician who makes playing guitar look like complete second nature. Check them out on the first episode of Alex Mercuri’s Internet Variety Beatdown. I really really hope there’s a second episode of Alex Mercuri’s Internet Variety Beatdown. And soon.
26. Toasted Plastic [Ridgewood]
A young and talented trio of outstanding musicians who shift time signatures and tempos effortlessly and remarkably in sync with each other. They’re all the things I like about math rock without all the things I don’t like about math rock. They tour a lot too. I hope they’re at least breaking even out there.
27. Omegalith [Bayonne/Cranford]
I just don’t understand how two guys can make all those noises. They’ve only got one release, Zero, and it only has 3 songs on it but they’re perfect. Hyper, digital, with chopped and screwed live drums, Omegalith are powerful and decadent. This is some really heady post-apocalyptic future music. I haven’t seen them live yet though, they’ve had trouble finding venues to play.
28. Soft Dov [New Brunswick]
The most D-beat punk I listened to growing up was Discharge and Skitsystem. It’s not a wide catalog, but I feel that’s all you need to really get where Soft Dov is coming from. I own DeathBlaster on cassette which was released in 2011. I was hooked. It’s so aggressive, loud, and fast. Then I recently listened to Abhornasëksia EP which was released this year. It’s even thrashier, louder, and heavier! I want more!
29. Sea Creature [Asbury Park]
It’s kind of difficult to express how much I love this band. They put me in a DEEP trance every time I blast their EP Electric Creatures. I find it incredible that the guitar is so mesmerizing with minimal reverb. It took the band a while to release a formal EP, but it was well worth the wait. I heard they’ll be playing more shows in 2015 so keep a lookout for them.
30. Loser Year [Long Branch]
I think Loser Year may be the hardest working local band in high school. At 16, they’re releasing so much material I’m almost scared that they may be overdoing it, although it does pay off. Their EP Bummed is really catchy, dreamy, and quite gloomy. It was written and recorded entirely by singer/guitarist Matt Whitley. Whitley told me they’ve been finding it hard to play shows. Check ‘em out! Book ‘em! I sure as hell didn’t know anybody who made music this catchy when I was in high school.
31. Julian Fulton and the Zombie Gospel [Asbury Park]
I really like this band, I like the visual artwork they pair with the sound, I like the name “Zombie Gospel” and I love the songs. The arrangements are great, the sound of the recordings is great, and this guy’s got a lot of heart.
Conor is really opening my eyes to the bluesy rock music in the area. I’m learning that rock and roll is very much alive; grown up, and living in Asbury Park. At the start of Paris, Idaho, I certainly heard some Brian Jonestown Massacre influence. Do we have a BJM fan in the house? But seriously, Paris, Idaho is extremely haunting and beautiful! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this before!
32. I Have Been Floated [Ewing]
I’m pretty upset that I Have Been Floated didn’t make it out to the Mill Hill show last weekend. I would’ve loved to hear this sound live. It’s Psychedelic as heck! It’s a sound that many try to emulate but these guys pull it off perfectly! I don’t trip, but I would while blasting their record. I hope to hear more from these dudes this year!
33. Amy Malkoff and The Moonshines [Asbury Park]
My biggest concern with so many rock bands in the area is that their music is so souless! It’s extremely one dimensional. But I feel the soul in this band. The dimensions in the Amy Malkoff and The Moonshines EP rip right through me. I feel so heart-broken listening to them. It’s beautiful! This is rock music we should be hearing on the radio! Can we hear more, Amy?
Their 4 song EP came out in the spring of 2013, I’m really hoping they’re brewing something up for a 2015 release.
34. Nicole Atkins [Asbury Park]
So Nicole was on NJ.com’s list – and on this one, I completely agree. It might be a whole lot of personal taste but Nicole’s “Pop Noir” styling and three full length albums are the peak of current New Jersey music for me. I haven’t been so proud of an artist from this state since, I don’t know, Springsteen? She covers a hell of a lot of ground genre-wise, she’s a critical darling, and her voice is at the same time otherworldly and unique and somehow sounds like someone you’ve known forever. I’ve seen her play with a full band, I’ve seen her on Letterman with that band plus a string section, I’ve seen her play completely acoustically with not even a microphone or any other kind of amplification, and I’ve seen her play super loud with just a guitarist and drummer behind her. Every single time I’ve been starstruck. She’s one of those artists who makes you want to give up never play music again but simultaneously drives you to want to work a hundred times harder and figure out how she got so good.
It’s such a shame that I constantly miss her shows. I think Atkins is the most important musician in New Jersey’s music scene right now. She’s extremely talented; and it’s quite obvious with her performances as noted above. Conor got me hooked on Slow Phaser, but my favorite will always be “Brooklyn’s On Fire” off of Neptune City, but let’s see what she does in 2015!
For transparency’s sake, these are the bands your narrators play in. We think we’re pretty cool, but we’ll only take up one spot on the list.
There are, fortunately, a ton of very talented musicians and bands putting out music in New Jersey. If you don’t see one of your favorites on this list, please leave a comment below – we’d love to hear them!
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