September 17, 2010

AwkwardSound Presents: The Best Breakthrough Artists of 2010

There is no doubt about 2010 when it comes to new music: It has been a monster of a year. However, if there is one criticism to be made, it's that the level of new blood on the scene hasn't surpassed that of recent years. Granted, the conclusion of 2010 is still a few months away, any new talent on the rise will have already been found out. Instead of taking a look at the year's best "new" bands, AwkwardSound presents to you it's top breakthrough artists. Some include debuts while others are merely musicians who have been flying under the radar for quite some time, but with little or no recognition until this year. This is our future...


Hailing from Rohnert Park, CA, this five-piece hardcore act is splitting heads open with their third and best effort to date, the hometown homage titled, Rohnert Park. Not only is it the best hardcore album of the year, but one the best albums of the year all around. The hardcore resurgence in recent years has been spearheaded by awesome releases from the likes of Fucked Up, Pissed Jeans and Paint It Black. In 2010, it's Ceremony who are drawing from '80s hardcore's incredibly pure, raw and best influences while injecting a layer of experimental art rock into the fold (As evidenced by tracks like "The Doldrums" and the "Into the Wayside" trilogy,) making for something tried, true and progressive.

The Drums

In a sea of lo-fi flavor of the month bands, it's NYC post-punk outfit, The Drums, who stand out among the rest. Their debut self-titled album delivers catchy pop melodies (See: "Forever and Ever Amen") with slightly sub par production quality, but it's not to the point where The Drums' sound is indistinguishable from their surf city contemporaries. Most significantly, there's also something very Brit-pop about this band, which may explain why they've managed to create a bigger splash across the pond first before making their mark here in the United States.

Foxes In Fiction

Foxes In Fiction is essentially the mastermind of Toronto, Ontario bedroom pop innovator, Warren Hildebrand. His debut, Swung From the Branches, caught the world by surprise with its refreshing take on experimental tape loops, atmospheric ambiance and hazy guitar melodies. You can hear a lot of Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound project in Hildebrand's work but the difference between the two is that Foxes In Fiction stretches out each song for longer periods of time, allowing listeners to lose themselves emotionally in his music if they want to.

Joie De Vivre

Making the word "emo" anything but a dirty word and reclaiming it back to its rightful form is Joie De Vivre. This Illinois collective draws strong comparisons to influential genre-makers Mineral, Christie Front Drive and American Football, but their youthful exuberance makes them a band looking forward instead of getting lost in nostalgia. Their first full length, The North End is filled with twinkly guitars and soaring build ups amid moments where Joie De Vivre really seek out their own sound through horns, trumpets and organs. AwkwardSound's first post ever took a look at this new found emo purist revivalism, but in 2010, it's Joie De Vivre whose star shines brighter than the rest.

Male Bonding

If The Drums someday choose to switch residences to the UK, then perhaps Male Bonding should take their place here in the States. This London noise pop trio have drawn comparisons to the likes of American acts such as No Age, Wavves and Vivian Girls and their very enjoyable debut, Nothing Hurts shows why. Again, while the entire lo-fi scene is becoming overwhelmingly played out at this stage, Male Bonding are a step above with better production and fresher, smart, tightly-written pop punk tracks -- So well written that even Weezer frontman, Rivers Cuomo, reached out to these Brits for assistance recently.

Past Lives

From the break-up of Seattle millennial post-hardcore band, The Blood Brothers, rises Past Lives. Unlike their ex-bandmates who split off to form the watered-down, nasally-voiced disco punk outfit, Jaguar Love, Past Lives shows promise to have the longest shelf life out of any Blood Brothers-related project. Lead singer Jordan Billie possesses the more bearable vocals between he and former bandmate, Johnny Whitney, while everyone else who stayed by his side has matured their penchant for art punk jams on their intriguingly experimental debut, Tapestry of Webs.

PS I Love You

Like their Canadian counterparts, Japandroids, Vancouver's PS I Love You is a duo with a knack for reinventing fuzzed out alt-rockers. Originally the solo project of lead singer, Paul Saulnier, drummer Benjamin Jordan joined the project to further flesh out their sound. Their long awaited debut, Meet Me at the Muster Station, shows a wide range of pull from 90s grunge, indie rock, post-hardcore and sludgy metal riffs. Saulnier may appear to look like a towering brute, but his angsty, emotive lyrics and whimpering voice have him channeling the influence of Jeff Mangum and creating a straight-up style of indie rock that has long since been bastardized over the past decade.


SALEM unfortunately have become the cross bearers of a genre they had no idea they were even creating until the trendy hypemakers at Pitchfork Media decided to label it "witch house," due to their characteristically spooky sound combined with elements of dubstep and hip-hop. Their debut album King Night meets any sort of expectations set forth for a fledgling band, but what's most important to acknowledge is that for all the buzz made about SALEM's sound, they're rather undefinable. King Night is equal parts heavily distorted shoegaze, celestial electronica and yes, at moments a dark take on Southern hip-hop rears its head. In the end, they're really just a band who've made the gutsy decision to transcend and connect polarizing genres with so much ease that it must be driving critics crazy.

Trash Talk

Yet another hardcore act out of California, Sacramento's Trash Talk is also making a bold statement in the hardcore revival this year. Unlike the above mentioned Ceremony, Trash Talk's aggression and intensity is amped up by the tenfold through sludgy guitars and loud, crushing rhythms. In their past releases, the quartet had worked with the likes of noise auteur, Steve Albini, and Keith Morris of Black Flag / The Circle Jerks. However, it's Eyes and Nines that finds Trash Talk getting their firmest grip on its studio sound, making for one hell of an 18 minute ride.

Zola Jesus

She is the voice of a new wave in gothic pop stars. While Nika Roza Danilova's formal debut arrived last year, 2010 has made the dark chanteuse more visible thanks to her relentless touring, collaborations with Fucked Up, LA Vampires, the cold wave supergroup, Fleurs, and a string of new EPs. All this has allowed us to hear Danilova's powerful voice progressively find itself while her songs become increasingly more beautiful the deeper she steps into the darkness.

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