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Top DIY Rock Songs & Albums of 2014, Vol. II – A Clearing, Baby Baby, Traits, Falcon Hood, Saints of Bliss, Nishe, Jack Denvir

saints-of-bliss

South African trio Saints of Bliss dropped its latest album in January

One of the things that we’ve definitely found over all these years of reviewing DIY, and even small label, artists and bands who submit their music to us, is that we need a good chunk of time, over a period of weeks, even months, to listen again and again to our draft playlists. Read more about our submission review process that results in post playlists like this one.

This second installment of the Top DIY Rock Songs & Albums of 2014 offers a rich anthology of indie rock music styles and diversity of bands from across the United States and around the world. In this post playlist, you’ll learn about, and hear genres and bands, that fall under the umbrella of indie rock, such as A Clearing, Baby Baby, Traits, Falcon Hood, Saints of Bliss, Nishe, Jack Denvir, Gardens and others. Don’t miss Volume One of the top DIY music of 2014 – it was a hugely popular playlist with listeners.

But first, we’re opening this DIY playlist of new releases with a band to watch in 2014 – Philly’s A Clearing.

aclearing

A Clearing From Philadelphia Drop Splendid Debut Album

Sometimes there are bands like just sound like other bands, whether by design or by circumstance, or more often, a mix of the two. Such is the case with the Philadelphia electro-shoegaze band, A Clearing. The uncanny likeliness is evident in their debut single, “The God Cell, Part I,” from the band’s debut album, The Cell, released in January by Azteca Records. The song has a soaring, repetitious, somewhat minimalistic, riff that could be called ambient, shoegaze-y, and esoteric, which is fitting for what has been officially promoted as “a concept album exploring the solar system as a fundamental unit for life, with the coalescing and ultimate fusion of a star creating a life support system for the surrounding matter” while also reflecting “the relative hostility of space.” While the latter is less obvious, we certainly took notice of the two tracks featured below.

While it’s not entirely clear, it appears that A Clearing is the work of a “Benjamin Endling,” the quotations duly noted as that is how the artist presented his “name,” which we’re going to assume is actually a moniker. “Endling” is the “primary member,” and therefore, we presume, not the only member. And yet there is no information provided on any other band member(s). He (“Endling”) is responsible for all songwriting, singing and instrumentation, including “dense, textured (though often heavily electronic) swells” with “late 1970s-era post-punk and electronic” influences, often “incorporating vintage synthesizers and instruments” from the era. The band’s top musical influences include New Order, The Smiths, Macha, Serge Gainsbourg, and The Velvet Underground.

“The God Cell, Part One”A Clearing from The Cell – January 1st

“The Seeds of Life and War”A Clearing from The Cell

A Clearing Official Website

babybabychicago

Chicago DIY Garage Pop Band Baby Baby’s Debut Slips Under The Radar

Another band with a recently released, and impressive, debut album that got our notice is Chicago‘s indie pop rock duo Baby Baby. We don’t know much about these guys other than they’re college students heavily influenced by The Strokes, The Kinks and The Zombies, and who self-released a collection of riveting power garage pop, and heavily melodic, songs on their self-titled debut, Baby Baby, officially released on January 25th. In addition to the afore-mentioned, the two DIY musicians also dig a diversity of artists from The Ronnettes to Tame Impala, and from Balkans to The Beatles. All in all, they sound like a great band mainly influenced by The Strokes, and to some extent, The Walkmen (even though they didn’t list them as a top influence), but who also have enough of their own style and skill that allows them to be respected as an original band of their own making. We hope there’s more to come from these Chicago DIY musicians.

“Cheap Style”Baby Baby from Baby Baby – Jan. 25th

“(Don’t) Hold Me Down”Baby Baby from Baby Baby

traits-traits

Emerging New Band to Watch, Detroit Indie Rockers, Traits’, Debut

Another 2014 debut band that is definitely influenced – and says so, as does Baby Baby – by The Strokes, and yet maintains their own identity and musical signature, is the Detroit self-described indie rock band Traits. As with Baby Baby, Traits is also a new band, formed during the past year, who dropped their self-titled debut in January. Every unsigned band that puts out a reasonably strong, or otherwise decent, debut gets our attention because it shows they have great potential and talent. We think this about Traits as well, and we’ll be interested to see how listeners of IRC’s playlists and profile series, respond to Traits, as well as other artists and bands in this particular post.

One of the clear influences of the band is The Smiths – any fan of the latter will be able to spot it, and the great thing is that Traits respectably uses that influence to also be as original otherwise as possible, which is another smart characteristic of a talented band because ultimately every band borrows, consciously or not, from what they’ve heard and liked from other musicians, who in turn have been influenced by even more artists, and ultimately, that’s what makes this whole indie rock thing so remarkable as a musical genre that is so distinctly better, more creative, and non-cookie cutter-esque compared to the popular commercial top 40 radio playlists. Indie rock is a safe haven for talented artists to incorporate all kinds of styles from the past half century to make their own music – and we love it because so much of it is good. Traits should be a band that becomes popular, a band to watch in 2014. Traits’ members include Sean Shea on vocals; bassist Domenic Cam; synth player Megan Marcoux; drummer Sam Arment, and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael Seeger.

“Ready to Love”Traits from Traits – Jan. 17th

“Personal Space”Traits from Traits

“Wolf Haze”Traits from Traits

Traits’ Official Website

saints of bliss album

Latest Releases from Overseas Bands Saints of Bliss and Falcon Hood

From South Africa, Dr. Groove and the Saints of Bliss, with a decade of releases and performances under their belts, mix together a sweet combination of pop, rock and emo on their new single, “Don’t Hide Your Love.” The band has been popular in South Africa and to some degree as well in Europe and Australia. The list among their top influences Blink-182, The Police, Goo Goo Dolls, Placebo, Foo Fighters, and Coldplay.

“Don’t Hide Your Love”Saints of Bliss from Don’t Hide Your Love Away single – Jan. 30th

Saints of Bliss Official Website

With the London band Falcon Hood, the vocals need some work and the drums sound far away and understated. The drums are the basis for timing that leads a song, and which, once improved, and remixed, could make the track, “Fool” better than it is. A good producer would work on the vocals, drums and other instruments, and push the band closer to perfection of what that producer can determine is what the band wants, and the sound the producer thinks will most likely fit the vision. We still like the song, but can hear how better it would be with more work. The band released their debut single on January 21st in the U.K., and originally formed last summer.

“Fool” – Falcon Hood from single – January 21st

London Indie Rock Trio, Nishe, Drop Eclectic Debut Album

Nishe is a three-piece alternative rock band from London, who like many others in this post playlist, are only about a year old and released their self-titled debut album – This Is Niche – in January. The young group of musicians barely out of their teens, featuring members Giovanni Zappa (lead vocals, guitar), Harold Wilson (bass, backing vocals) and Thomas Romer-Smith (drums, backing vocals) knock out highly energetic and infectious melodic hooks with excited guitar riffs and perfectly synched bass and drums. Nishe sounds surprisingly fresh and exhibit a great fondness for creating songs that personify an eclectic array of styles and influences. Among their musical influences, the band listed Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, and The Kooks.

“You Got Me Blind”Nishe from This is Nishe – Jan. 22nd

“In Between”Nishe from This is Nishe

Nishe Band on Facebook

teenagedreams

Shoegaze DIY Anchorage Artist Teenage Daydreams’ Surprisingly Vocals

The sounds of shoegaze alternative dream pop and gritty alternative rock spiked with heavily distorted, chunky chords and sharp-edged, treble-dripping notes, hard-hitting base and drums, topped with glitzy blitzy synths and the whispery ‘female’ vocals make-up the track, “Emotional Lightning Girl” and “Hearts Touching,” two often intense songs – and not everyone’s cup of tea either – from the sophomore album, False Hope Syndrome, by Anchorage musician Aidan Christopher Haughey. You rightfully think you hear a female singing, but it’s a guy. His moniker, Teenage Daydreams, was formed in 2010, and is modeled after the music of My Bloody Valentine, The Wu Tang Clan, Sonic Youth, Beach House, Nas and even Chopin. Haughey says the love of art and beauty drives him; plus, he taught himself everything he knows about music. He not only writes and sings, he also records all of the instruments, which makes him a candidate for One-Man Band series. But the biggest surprise about the music is that it is Haughey vocals, and he sounds convincingly like a female. Unusual indeed, but the music stands on its own.

“Emotional Lightning Girl”Teenage Daydreams from False Hope Syndrome – Jan. 12th

“Hearts Touching”Teenage Daydreams from False Hope Syndrome

Raleigh DIY Alt. Rockers, The Record, Plus San Diego Bedroom Teen Artist 8th&M

The North Carolina DIY alternative rock band, The Record, have dropped four releases in the past four years, but have largely remained under the radar. After listening to two singles, from the five-song EP, A Verdict Wouldn’t Matter, self-released on January 28th, a number of times, it was evident that the Raleigh-based band’s credibility as an alternative rock band were completely valid. The EP’s stand-out single, “Come Back To Earth,” is terrifically written and performed from start to finish. While it has pop elements, it remains a rock ballad with fairly good lead vocals and harmonies, all packaged together nicely but with the rawness edge we love about DIY releases. But with that said, the second single, “Keep Your Head Up,” is a longer song that jams spectacularly throughout the seven minutes or so the track runs. The band members of The Record include Sean Spollen on guitar and vocals; Will Hendrick on keys and vocals; Tyler Drake on bass and Robbie Duncan on drums. The band has opened for artists like John Nolan, Augustana, Mr. Gnome, and Unifier, and count among their major musical influences The Beatles, Stone Temple Pilots, and Butch Walker.

“Come Back To Earth”The Record from A Verdict Wouldn’t Matter – Jan. 28th

“Keep Your Head Up”The Record from A Verdict Wouldn’t Matter

The Record Official Website

8thandM-something-proper
Situated in the awesome city of San Diego, California, bedroom artist Michael Alvarez painstakingly mixes elements of electro, dance, R&B and indie pop together, resulting in fairly impressive songs like “Slow Down A Bit” and “Fly Over to Sweden.” Alvarez, who adopted the 8th&M moniker last year, obviously has talents for creating rich songs that don’t get old with multiple spins. Alvarez also recently got his business license to operate as an independent label, 8th&M Music. His top musical influences include an eclectic mix of Jeff Buckley, The Mars Volta, Phantogram, Miike Snow, The Doors and Boyz II Men.

“Slow Down a Bit”8th&M from Something Proper – Jan. 28th

“Fly Over to Sweden”8th&M from Something Proper

jackdenvir

Teen Singer/Songwriter Jack Denvir’s Debut EP, ‘Teen Love, Sick Vanity’

The first thing we thought of when we heard of singer/songwriter Jack Denvir was why had we not heard of him before. As it turns out, the 18-year-old Washington, D.C. bedroom artist self-released his debut solo EP, Teen Love, Sick Vanity , on January 1st. Two of the indie, lo-fi folk rock singles, “The Walls” and “After Sister’s Accident,” are excellent songs coming from an unsigned artist. Denvir says that he first comes up with his songs during “periods of insomnia” and starts out on acoustic guitar, slowly transforming his ideas to multiple instruments that he plays and records himself, and then mixes into full songs.

“The Walls”Jack Denvir from Teen Love, Sick Vanity – Jan. 1st

“After Sister’s Accident (Ten Years Old)”Jack Devir from Teen Love, Sick Vanity

Jack Denvir Bandcamp page

gardensband

Chicago Band Gardens Release Debut EP With A Hard Alt. Emo Pop Edge

The next band to drop a DIY debut in January is Chicago ‘s own Gardens. On January 7th, Gardens self-released the EP, Everything Looks Different in the Daylight, their first official release. As the two singles below demonstrate, Gardens draw from alternative rock, emo, pop and post hardcore music. Not surprisingly, the band’s major influences include Balance and Composure, Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Daylight, and Citizen. The band members include JR Glyman on guitar and vocals, Jordan Brasko on lead guitar, Jackson Mills on bass and backing vocals, and drummer Aaron Foster. They’ve opened for bands like First Things First, Letithappen, and Envoi. Gardens is the second Chicago artist featured in this latest volume of the top DIY releases.

“Haze”Gardens from Everything Looks Different in the Daylight – Jan. 7th

“Softly, in a Whisper”Gardens from Everything Looks Different in the Daylight


IRC’s Submission Review Process – Step By Step

Basically, we go through the submissions and filter first by whether or not the artists submitted streaming MP3s (since that’s the format base for our playlists, podcasts, feeds – and since MP3 streams work on every device and browser) and were otherwise compliant. Next, we listen to their first song submission, and if it generally sounds good to us, we’ll listen to their second song (if applicable). If the first listen passes the initial ear test, we put their tracks into one huge draft playlist that can contain up to 100 songs. Over the course of weeks, we’ll listen to the draft playlist songs – usually without looking at who the artist is – in one long, uninterrupted stream (like they’re presented on all of our published posts).

Over time, one and two star bands will be removed from the playlist, while three and four (four being the highest) star rated songs will stay. Then we continue to listen and may decide against some three-star ratings, but generally by the time we’ve gotten to the point of reconfirming the star ratings, we’ve listened to the playlist six, seven, eight or more songs. Therefore, by the time the final playlist is determined, we feel like it’s a solid playlist of great songs from talented artists and bands that most people – even indie lovers – have never heard of before (that changes for many bands after being featured on IRC). Then we begin the long process of writing profiles and introductions about the music and the artists, checking facts, coding and labeling, formatting, adding photos, editing and so on. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but it feels great to give earned credit to artists and bands that for whatever reason have so far flown under the radar.

For many artists and bands featured on IRC over the years, they’re no longer under the radar once our listeners have heard them, and why you’ll see so many archived profiles and playlists (we keep the song links alive!) with big numbers of Likes, Tweets, and so on. And then of course, there are actually numbers of page visits, which run into the tens of the thousands for big post playlists like this one, and especially for the DIY and under the radar series, because again, so many of these artists are getting their first, or first big, exposure on IRC. And eventually, we create Top 10 lists (have to catch up on creating the new ones for 2014 – coming soon) based on how many times you guys streamed and downloaded the songs we post.

If you’re looking for really ‘new’ music, that is often also exclusive to IRC, by yet undiscovered artists and bands, this is the place. There simply is no other site like this on the web – we bring you the best only of both DIY, under-the-radar and popular indie rock.

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