The Boston indie rock music scene is underrated.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in our time split between our hometown of Boston, the much-heralded New York City Music Scene and in music communities elsewhere, it’s that indie rock and pop music from the country’s 21st largest city (and largest college town) often isn’t taken seriously.
To a certain extent, we do understand. Boston is nationally known more for Cheers and its obnoxious sports fans than it is for its storied rock music scene or alt-leaning artist hubs. It’s also true that two of our biggest musical exports are Aerosmith and The Cars; a countless number of musicians often migrate to New York to “get discovered;” and there are innumerable town-and-gown disputes (most famously, this one on DIY show-lovin’ cops).
But we also know there’s a thriving music scene in Boston — and it’s not just the two-weekend a year “Boston Calling” festival. It’s a surprisingly dense scene, and one with more divisions and competition than you’d expect from the city of half a million. If you want proof, ask a musician in Somerville what they think of Allston. Or talk to the music students at Berklee (who sometimes may as well be living in a different city). Or the local music promoters, who regularly sift through hundreds of bands from the Greater Boston area.
We hope that alt-leaning acts gaining and sustaining speed on the national circuit like Speedy Ortiz, Magic Man and Eli “Paperboy” Reed spread the word of Boston’s ever-thriving music community. In the meantime, here are five indie rock groups to get you acquainted with what’s next in Boston’s rock clubs.
This Boston band has been creating ’90s alt rock since 2006, have four records to their name and regularly haunt Boston’s best rock clubs. They’re a barroom band, sure, but their desperate, emotion-on-your-sleeve type of rock stands up to the best of what you look for in an energetic guitar rock group. Mean Creek self-proclaimed themselves “Local Losers” (the name of their latest LP), but we’re just waiting for the right connections to click.
For fans of: The Pixies, The Lemonheads and melodic rock
This group could be characterized as ‘folk rock,’ but don’t confuse yourself into thinking they fit into the Mumford and Sons-ification of genre’s recent past. Kingsley Flood make the listener remember that folk and punk come from similar roots, intermingling the two in rough ‘n tumble cuts like “Pick Your Battles” but also occasionally sobering up for harmony-rich fireside jams ala “Waiting On the River to Rise” and “Sigh A While.” They caught their initial burst last year with a breakout record (“Battles”) and a spot on the main stage at Newport Folk Festival, but the indie rock group are still working the business themselves. And they do a good job: they’re in the midst of an epic crowd sourcing project over the course of the next year.
For fans of: The Last Bison, Fleet Foxes, Frontier Ruckus
The troughs, ridges and peaks of this punk rock group are almost as tangible as their slow ascent through the ranks of the national DIY music scene has been. With brusque, angly guitars and lead singer Jonah Furman’s bristly voice, Krill aren’t for the faint of heart (or hearing). But the group of young 20-somes are quickly gathering fans inside and outside of the state with lyrics appreciating the toils of life and love. Listen to “Peanut Butter” above for a sample of their quirky take on indie rock.
For fans of: Speedy Ortiz, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pavement
Locally Amped will always have a soft spot for dance-y, jangly pop and Bent Shapes do that with the best. Ever since (and honestly, even before) we spoke with members of the catchy trio (sometimes duo), we’ve kept their quirky pop on our digital jukebox. While sometimes falling just short of punk pop that could get radio air (“Panel of Experts”), and other times veering into borderline shoegaze (“Hex Maneuvers”), their 2013 LP “Feels Weird” was a gem. Thankfully, the indie rock group still regularly hit the local stages, but their songs do have the staying power that could push them to bigger ones.
For fans of: R.E.M. and The Feelies
SLEEPER PICK: PALE HANDS
In case you wondered whether the Hub only sprouts rock bands, here’s a rising introspective electro group to assuage your fears. In Pale Hands, Jen Johnson (also of the shoegazy Velah) puts her melancholic voice alongside minimal electronic beats to create elaborate synth-y tracks. With the help of her husband Mike Latulippe, cuts worthy of a sensuous slow dance ala “Fanatic” and “Under Over” have the capability of pushing the freshly formed group to a space Velah hasn’t yet hit. For Johnson, a veteran in the local indie rock scene (also of the now defunct indie pop group Static of the Gods), we’ve got our fingers crossed.
For fans of: M83, Phantogram, Sylvan Esso
This story is part of a Metro Boston and New York music column called Locally Amped. Follow us on Twitterand Facebook.