Sound Choices

Alex Schaaf

This week I’m hoping to shine a light on a few bands that are the not the most well known, but that I think deserve a close look. Three of these bands are basically completely unknown, one is moderately known, and one is well known but almost none of my friends know of her or like her, so she’s on the list.
By creating this list, I hope to gain as many “obscure indie fan” points as possible. Because, really, what’s the point in listening to something if all of your friends have already heard of it and you can’t patronizingly tell them what they are missing?
1. Young Man
Young Man is Colin Caulfield, a 20-year-old from Chicago who is on the verge of releasing his first “mini-album,” titled “Boy.” Caulfield has been gaining in buzz lately: Pitchfork posted one of his songs, and soon after he opened for Deacon, of Animal Collective, at a show in Paris, where he is currently studying abroad.
The music of Young Man is hard to pin down, but it belongs in the same vein as Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, Panda Bear, and other similar bands. Caulfield’s voice is the main event, lending easy comparisons to Daniel Rossen and Noah Lennox, but with enough uniqueness to stand out among those artists. The songs of “Boy” focus on a nostalgic look back at childhood, in a delightfully charming way.
Must-listen track: “Five”
2. Oberhofer
Oberhofer is the music of Brad Oberhofer, currently living in New York. I would describe the music of Oberhofer as the experimental vocals of Animal Collective meeting with the energy of Passion Pit, in a good way. He’s got the potential to reach a wide audience, as his music is edgy enough to be loved by the blog crowd, but accessible enough to reach that crucial 14-year-old female audience.
Must-listen track: “Away FRM U”
3. Yawn
Yawn is from Chicago, and they are actually quite similar to Oberhofer, now that I think of it. They’ve got a nice mix of electronics and floor tom beats, and their upbeat songs are sure to reach a bigger audience soon. They just released a new EP, and I’m sure a full-length is on the way.
Must-listen track: “Kind of Guy”
4. The Tallest Man on Earth
Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan. There. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can continue. Yes, Kristian Matsson shares many traits with the legendary Dylan, but the comparison barely does him justice, as flattering as it is. The music of the Tallest Man on Earth is bare and simple; accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Matsson spews well thought-out lyrics over inventive strumming. I usually get bored with artists like this, the “a guy and his guitar” kind of musician, but a song from his upcoming new album got me hooked, and going back to listen to his debut album sealed the deal.
Must-listen track: “King of Spain”
5. Joanna Newsom
Alright, so I know Joanna Newsom is not exactly “obscure.” Her last album, “Ys” garnered her near-universal acclaim and was near the top of many year-end lists. However, not many people I know share my love of all things Joanna, so I though it fitting to include her on the list. Newsom has one of the most distinctive musical styles at work in music today. For one, her main instrument is the harp. Secondly, her vocals are very divisive, her shrill enunciations making it hard sometimes to decide whether she is 8 years old or 80. On top of that, her last album consisted of five songs, all around the 10-minute mark. But once you’re hooked, you’re hooked for good. She has a new album coming out this year, and it’s over two hours long. A triple-album. That’s right. The three new songs that have come out so far have been outstanding, so this is sure to be another big year for Ms. Newsom.
Must-listen track: “Emily