Up and Coming: Vundabar

It all started plainly enough—a high school buddy inviting me to some concert in Brooklyn. “Vundabar is playing!” he excitedly typed. I had heard the name somewhere, so I agreed. We found ourselves on the second floor of a run-down warehouse, with the lighting punctuated with Christmas lights. After a mediocre opening band Vundabar stormed on stage. They smiled and danced with each other, cracking inside-jokes, and smiling. They seemed to be having a blast. Then, they started playing.
We first have to talk about Brandon Hagen’s voice. Those familiar with the Born Ruffians will easily find the similarity between Hagen and Luke Lalonde. At points, he’s haunting, like the beginning of “Holy Toledo,” off their 2013 record Antics, but soon he jolts alive, filling the entire space with his cry. The backing tracks range from punk to surf-rock, like a cracked-out Best Coast. The best example is the track “Greenland” off the self-titled EP. The guitar is chaotic, yet melodic, a repetitive drive towards playful insanity. Almost instantly, it reminded me of being a 15-year-old jumping around to old Say Anything records in a bedroom.

This child-like attitude might have something to do with how young the band is—most are still college-aged. However, it’s clear by listening to them that they have a future in a similar niche as Voxtrot or Tokyo Police Club. Regardless of where their music goes, they are a band not worth missing.

Ten Artists You Need To Know

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Every year, I listen to thousands of new artists. Most are good, but I wouldn’t call them memorable. Some new acts are truly atrocious. But let’s not waste any time talking about them.

Let’s focus on 10 artists who are about to change the musical landscape as we know it. Want an example? Think Hozier in 2014. As you scour the festival line-ups this summer, keep an eye out for these artists. They will give you hope for the future of music. Here are names you need to know:

1) Tobias Jesso Jr.

The shaggy-headed indie folk pianist hails from Canada, but don’t hold that against him. He’s great. His album Goon is one of the most underrated of the year.

2) James Bay

The British singer-songwriter is the artist that inspired this post. After seeing him at Austin City Limits last year and watching him open for Hozier at Irving Plaza, I made sure to catch his headlining gig at the Bowery Ballroom a few weeks ago. I was so impressed that I’ve been listening to his first full-length album Chaos and the Calm non-stop for weeks.

PS: check out his cover of Alicia Keys’ classic “If I Ain’t Got You” – powerful stuff.

3) Leon Bridges

If you close your eyes while listening to Leon Bridges, your mind will conjure up an image of Sam Cooke or Otis Redding singing in an old school bar. Do I need to say any more?

4) Pickwick

The Seattle-based rock band is going to be huge. Listen to the tracks in the playlist, and you’ll understand why. What a voice. What a sound. So much passion.

5) Houndmouth

Good news – they’re awesome.

Bad news – you’re late to the game. The New York Times wrote about them last week and they’re performing on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight.

Final Verdict: Shut up and listen.

6) Josiah Leming

As a 17 year old, Josiah dropped out of high school to travel the country to play shows while living out of his car (which obviously reminds me of the SNL “Living in a van down by the river” Chris Farley sketch). A few years later, it seems to be paying off. He has the make-up of a raw Bob Dylan (I hate to throw that comparison out but it’s undeniable). Here’s to you, Mr. Leming.


I know what you’re thinking. What is that band name? I had the same question. Then I listened to some of his tracks and the rest was history.

8) Hyde & Beast

Comprised of two drummers, H&B create a sound that is simply undeniable. I’ve listened to their track “Keep Moving” about 20 times this week. And it’s only Tuesday.

9) Curtis Harding

Soul music at it’s best. In 2015. Who would have thought?

His album is one of the best of 2015. Better yet, one of the best albums in recent memory. You’ll be listening to this guy for weeks.

10) Benjamin Booker

Watching BB perform, I couldn’t help myself but envision shades of Gary Clark, Jr. Not too shabby.


“Got It” – Marian Hill

Marian Hill

Marian Hill is an up-and-coming indie duo, hailing from Philadelphia, PA. Consisting of singer, Samantha Gongol and producer, Jeremy Lloyd, the duo recently released their debut project, “Sway”, on February 17th.

Gongol and Lloyd label their music as “Sax-ual”, a clear pun, and it’s easy to see why. With a classic blend of jazzy blues, mixed together with a Lloyd’s contemporary 808 production and Samantha’s silky smooth voice, Marian Hill is destined for stardom.

Listen to the standout track “Got It” below.