Let's all acknowledge that the year in music will be defined on how sucky American music is currently. Compiling this list, I was stunned that the best band with a debut album was Haim, and they are pretty unspectacular. There were bands that came from obscurity with some solid second albums. Waxahatchee and Parquet Courts among them.
Thus, this year's best new acts are English, Scottish and Australian.
5. Jagwar Ma -- The Australian trio summon up the spirit of the Mad-chester scene, complete with bucket hats and jangley dance moves. Heavy on the psychedelics and the samples, the band is the embodiment of that scene that spawned the Happy Mondays. It's a sound ripe for the picking for those who want to trip out or get their groove on.
4. Palma Violets -- From 2012 gig -- Their set was thirty minutes of blistering 60s garage rock meets jangly British rock in a tightly wound ball of youthful exuberance, sweat and shouts. It was one of those gigs where it was over so fast because everyone was having a good time and the songs came quickly. They are a raucous live band, playing fast, loud and loose. Their bassist is the ringleader of their live show -- shouting at the crowd, grabbing hands, playing in the crowd or on top of them and general mayhem. By the end of the night, he was hugging everybody around him.
3. Daughter -- There's no analyzing Elena's music, there's no secret formula and she doesn't do anything different than those before and after will do. You're appreciation of the music is based on whether you like her stripped down style or her vocals. Not to sound all wishy-washy, but when I hear her music, I can sense the intimacy. I can picture her alone in a room.
2. Chvrches -- The overall package of CHVRHCES will render your favorite synth pop/techno outfit obsolute. You look at them, and they are rather understanded and unflourishy. They don't wear ellaborate costumes or resort to gimmicks (*cough*Grimes*cough*) -- they just show up, play some well-structured tunes, crack a few jokes between songs and leave everybody smiliing.
1. Savages -- Whether they will appear in record form at some point remains to be seen. In the meantime, they are a must-see band live. With a moody-fog machine cranked to toxic levels and flashes of light, the band creates an atmosphere of foreboding. It's a kind of darkness you want to revel in. When I saw Savages last year at CMJ, I loved the consistency in their tunes. This is band who knows who they are and are full-formed from the start. Yes, Joy Division comparisons are natural. When the lead singer Jehnny Beth (previously of the band John & Jehn, who sound nothing like Savages) looks and somewhat acts like Ian Curtis, you can't help but place the two side-by-side. On stage, she looks possessed when she stares at the crowd, glances at her bandmates and walks along the stage with fists beating down her sides.