Being the managing editor of a website devoted to up-and-coming indie bands has its downsides — tons of unsolicited emails and way too many bad live shows an hour and a half away from my apartment, to name a few — but it's all worth it for the thrill of finding a great unknown band. I feel like it’s a similar feeling to hip hop producers who spend hours digging through stacks of record stores to find that one break beat lost to time. I exhibit that same kind of geeky enthusiasm when I hear a band that's begging to be heard by a wider audience. The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on my favorite tracks from the best bands you've never heard of. Here are 9 of those tracks.
1. “Unconsolable” by Ambassadors
“Unconsolable” somehow blends horns, synth, and falsetto into the ballsiest, catchiest track I’ve heard in a while. If that's not enough for you, Zosia Mamet (aka Shoshanna from Girls) stars in the what might be the creepiest video of the year.
2. “Lies” by RACES
The video for “Lies,” in which lead singer Wade Ryff spends 4 minutes trying (and failing) not to get the shit beaten out of him, epitomizes the band’s cohesive, energetic sound. This track is my favorite from their phenomenal debut LP, Year of the Witch, which in my opinion is one of the best albums of the year.
3. “Don't Go Away” by Fanno Creek
I don’t know how they did it, but these three Portland hippies somehow constructed the catchiest song of the year. Soaring harmonies and a lot of sweat drive this tweaked out live version of my favorite jam of 2012.
4. “Knewyouwell” by Cultfever
I cheated a little bit with this one (it was released in November of 2011), but the Brooklyn duo deserves to have the rules bent for them. If you’re a super devotee of MTV’s Awkward, you heard these guys during the episode where Ming gets her back turned on her by the Asian Mafia. Don’t remember that one? Refresh your memory with this video.
5. “Go Straightaway” by Julia Easterlin
Julia Easterlin joins the likes tUnE-yArDs and Kimbra as a phenomenally talented artist using a looping pedal. Easterlin follows in the tradition, but sets herself apart with her astounding creativity and her amazing voice. If you have a chance to see her perform live, just go. You can thank me later.
6. “Heatstroke” by Brick + Mortar
Brick + Mortar are the definition of an up-and-coming band. They’re two supremely talented guys who just work their asses off and write really good songs. This acoustic version of “Heatsroke” features virtuosic drummer John Tacone playing a suitcase that looks like it was smuggled out of the USSR in 1982.
7. “Get Gone” by White Arrows
Another MTV connection (their music has been all over Jersey Shore this season). This crazy psychedelic music video for “Get Gone” matches the band’s quirky style.
8. “Palace Garden, 4am” by Beat Connection
This Seattle quartet barnstormed through the country earlier in the year with White Arrows, and their exploits were captured in a forthcoming documentary. Until then, peep the super creative video that was made in their spare time on tour.
9. “Let It Go” by Frank + Derol
Pure, sugary pop. I have no idea how a band featuring Miley Cyrus’s older sister has slipped so under the radar.