By Victoria Wasylak
There’s nothing like receiving the gift of music. Here’s our annual roundup of amazing local bands for the audiophiles on your nice list. Happy listening.
Born of Allston’s always-on-point garage scene, Birthing Hips thrusts weirdo-punk forwards with No Sorry, a nine-track sampler of noisy chaos. Blending deliberately off-key vocals with instrumental discord, the foursome produce exactly what basement shows should sound like: anomalous but head-banging jams.
“Miss Chameleon” by Telelectrix may be about blending in, but the real goal of the electric Massachusetts band couldn’t be more different. The track from their Move EP – aptly named, as that’s what you ought to be doing after you press play – shimmies and revels in the group’s synth-y glory, seeming to interpret Blondie had she veered towards flashy new wave and not glam power rock.
Nothing sums up 2016 like a song called “New Phone, Who Dis.” Boston lo-fi outsiders Hallelujah The Hills crank out memorable prog-rock on their latest opus, A Band is Something to Figure Out, by far one of the year’s best musical yields. If you don’t take our word for it, take Rolling Stone’s and Pitchfork’s.
After a thoroughly exhausting election season, rapper Dutch Rebelle released “Not Sleeping,” a mashup of Ellie Gouling’s “Lights” and her own rapping virtuoso. Since the song’s release on November 9, it’s garnered significant attention, and for good reason; it turns a sparkly pop track into an R&B thumper.
Weakened Friends may be from Portland, Maine, but their sound easily translates to the grunge movement that spanned from Portland, Oregon to Olympia, Washington. The way lead vocalist Sonia Sturino’s cackle warbles over the fuzzed-out guitar licks on every track from Crushed is proof enough that these sad kids are ready to dominate both coasts.
Chris Moreno reawakens the golden era of John-Mayer-esque pop guitar with his eight-track debut Into The Sun, a warm and cozy introduction to the Charlestown singer/songwriter. Both intimate and snug, the album lives up to its heartwarming name in the golden strums or Moreno’s guitar.
The interests of Connecticut solo artist The Ghost of Electricity have never been conventional, but psychedelic guru Ray McNamara takes an especially cult-like plunge on Bones, his daring six-track EP. Even with themes like cannibalism, there’s a fair amount of Zen and revelation packed into the tight EP. Save this release for your yogi friend who chills at Sutra Studies far too much.
Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys –otherwise known as Massachusetts’ embodiment of Something Wicked This Way Comes – unleash spells on Come Black Magic, a carny experiment in rock ‘n’ roll noir. From references to The Shining on “Dull Boy,” to accompaniments from every instrument imaginable, Sickert and Co. are the kind of musical freaks ‘n’ geeks you want to pass time with.
Perhaps you know of Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band from Grand Point North, the Burlington Vermont music festival curated by none other than Grace Potter herself. Or perhaps you know of the soul outfit because they’re hard to miss, the whole clan totaling eight members. Either way, the slick tunes from their November release By My Side will bring back the booming soul of the ‘50s.
Dressed for the Occasion frontman Addison Chase kickstarts his solo project on Pine Tree Riot, delving into authentic backcountry folk. When the campfire crackles and crickets hum on opening track “Olympic Sprinter,” Chase sets the rugged New-Hampshire style Americana tone before he even touches the fret of his guitar – just wait until he does.
The avant-garde chamber pop crusaders of Jaggery return for another daring stab at darkwave jazz on Crux, their first release since the live album For The Record. From the brash and haunting vocals by Mali Sastri on “War Cry,” to the thundering madness of “Nijinski’s Diaries,” Jaggery once again proves themselves to be one of Boston’s most intellectual acts.
On their new single, Western Education do the impossible; they speed up their already furiously fast dance rock, and with heart-pounding, adrenaline-in-your-veins results. On “Skin Deep,” the second track on their 2016 EP Restless Dreams, the Lowell group shows their dedication to the sweeping synths of the ‘80s and the frenzy of early 2000s rock in a song nothing less than show-stopping.
For The Lights Out, the proof is in the Pabst Blue Ribbon – more or less. Boston’s only band that lights up any room – literally – dishes out the hard rock with Aeronaut Brewing Company via T.R.I.P., their beer-can only album. Buy a can of Imperial Season IPA, crack the seal, follow the instructions on the label, and space out with the intergalactic rock adventurers.
Doom industrial outfit Transdusk brings the goth-y rage on Terra Ultra, a ten-track introduction thrash-wave by multi-instrumentalist T.S. Moth. Over meaty bass slides and intergalactic synths, Moth spits esoteric poetry that dabblers in the occult will fawn over. Bring on the black nail polish!
Let it be known that when Ruby Rose Fox wins a Grammy, you heard her here first. On Domestic, Fox flexes her brawny vocals like it ain’t no thang, all while touching upon feminist issues to the beat of modern blues. Backed by her band “The Gloria Steinams,” Fox is the whole masterful package.
If there were ever an ode to late-teenage hormones, “Make Out,” by Lady Pills would be the frontrunner. The brief malaise-laden limerick represents just a sliver of the “sad music you can dance to” the Boston garage rock trio offer on Despite.
Even in the first few notes of Honeysuckle’s new self-titled debut, it’s clear that this Boston threesome offers the crispest progressive folk in the scene. The banjo’s twang snaps like fresh fruit from the branch, and lead singer Holly McGarry’s vocals sweep over the quick pickin’ like a breeze.
Strong females come in all shapes and sizes, but some are more brazen than others; PowerSlut remains on the louder side. The wisecracking Sommerville alt-rock foursome spin naughty tracks on their sophomore album The Second Coming with potty-mouthed songs like “Leopard Print Butt Plug” and “Sad Waste of Your 20s.”