Being a music junkie, I’m constantly looking to expand my library. I’ve been on the hunt for new, intriguing music for as long as I can remember, and chances are you’re probably on the lookout for something new and different too. Whether it’s for the extended work day, the casual walk or bus ride to campus or to simply relax on your balcony, music is central to our everyday lives. I know I can’t survive the 8+ hour work day without having my headphones in for at least part of the day.
With the introduction of tools like Spotify and Hype Machine, discovering new music has never been easier. My go-to is Spotify’s “Related Artists” option that pops up when viewing an individual artist’s profile – I use it to window shop for bands that might sound similar to an artist I’ve been enjoying lately. Although this method is purely based on judging a book by its cover, it allows me to narrow my search using the ensuing pictures that pop up. For instance, I adore female vocals and complex bands, so I only click on images of bands consisting of at least four members, one of whom is female.
Since adopting these tools, my music collection has expanded immensely, reaching the far corners of the world. Who knew there were so many great bands hailing from the U.K., Australia and other English-speaking countries? I never realized my music library was almost exclusively confined to the Midwest and Northeast United States until discovering these other artists.
Without further ado, I present five overseas bands that I’ve discovered over the years that you need to add to your music library. I hope you like female vocals.
Our friends Down Under have been producing great bands for a long time that are just now gaining appeal in the U.S. as a result of the widespread use of music sharing (see The Naked and Famous and Tame Impala). The next big thing from Australia is the Melbourne-based sextet, Alpine, which combines airy vocals with catchy guitar rhythms and dreamy synths. Lately, I find myself listening to them on a weekly basis, best experienced while wearing a great set of headphones (may I recommend these). Headed by a pair of female vocalists who layer sexy lyrics on top of a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs,” the band has been on the rise since forming in 2009. They were recently showcased on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and have made stops at SXSW for the past couple of years. This fall, the band is embarking on a U.S. tour with Empire of the Sun, so be sure to check them out while you can.
This Scottish ensemble has been together for over 17 years, but rarely receives the credit they rightfully deserve. Currently composed of five members, Camera Obscura brilliantly blends soft romantic vocals with a vintage sound consisting of string and brass instruments and sprinkles of piano and keyboards. When I listen to the group, I can easily imagine being at a Speakeasy in the mid-1900s, quietly sipping a gin and tonic while completely immersed in the band’s music. Camera Obscura recently released their fifth album, Desire Lines, but I find it difficult to pry myself away from their fourth record, My Maudlin Career. Unfortunately, the band is currently on a brief hiatus because the lead vocalist had her first baby (congrats!).
Forget the old school music and fast forward to 2013, where keyboards, synthesizers and electropop have become mainstream sound. Chances are you’ve heard of the trio from Glasgow known as Chvrches, which formed in 2011 and has seen a meteoric rise in fame since dropping their single “The Mother We Share” in September 2012. Laced with dancey synth hooks and catchy beats, the group has already toured with the likes of Passion Pit, Two Door Cinema Club and Depeche Mode (!). I had the chance to catch them live earlier in the summer and was amazed at the size of the crowd that crammed in early for the show. With a combination of catchy sounds, flashy lights, and lasers, they certainly did not disappoint. Chvrches is headed back on a U.S. tour this fall to complement their forthcoming debut album release, The Bones of What You Believe.
Technically, Rah Rah shouldn’t be considered an overseas band, but you can thank me later for bringing them to your attention. From Saskatchewan, Canada, this six-member indie folk group is a hidden gem that was brought to my attention by a former co-worker and friend who shares a similar taste in music (thanks Kristen!). With both male and female lead vocals (they tend to trade off lead vocals for songs), Rah Rah makes damn good indie folk music that’s mostly guitar-driven, but dressed with keyboards, violins and tambourines. The band seldom tours the U.S., so make sure to catch them if they happen to stop by your city.
The Jezabels are my newest addiction. Calling Sydney home, the four-piece alt indie rock group is driven by a powerful female vocalist who uses a mix of strong, deep tones and high-pitched falsetto to power their intense songs. While not necessarily as catchy as the other bands on this list, there’s something about the dark and powerful music The Jezabels produce that has me completely enamored. The group claims they are predominantly a live act and tour the Australian and European circuits regularly – unfortunately for us in the U.S., they don’t swing by often.
Interested in listening to a sample of music from all five bands listed above? See below for a short playlist I’ve put together showcasing each band’s best work:
Do you know of a great, up-and-coming band that you think I should listen to? Tweet me your suggestions @rafiqelarculli for inclusion in the next list!