Taking a break from the Central Jersey vibe, I bring you Boy Things, a five-piece eclectic indie band from Hackettstown, NJ. The female fronted band recently came on my radar after one of my Bandcamp hunts. Beth Hansen, the band’s vocalist, has an old style voice that is brought into a modern light through her bandmates energetic loops. Their debut EP, Boy Things, came out in October 2011 and already they’re starting off 2012 on the right foot by releasing Growing Up, which features three tracks that get the blood moving and the heart racing. Despite their name, Boy Things is perfect for music lovers, especially those who love to dance around and have a good time. In short, Boy Things plays sexy music for sexy people. Head over to their Bandcamp and give them a listen. Boythings.bandcamp.com.
Shake That Bear
Shake That Bear is a hardcore band, with pop elements, from the Northern New Jersey region, who have found their name through one of the internet’s great past times—porn. Although they’re a relatively new band to the music scene, the quintet has already put out their first EP, Bedsheets And Alibis, and also went on a brief tour down the East Coast. Recently, the band has been receiving support from WSOU’s Street Team and have had their single, “I Was Your Best Friend” played on the station. The five-piece recently got back from recording material in Ohio, which has yet to be released. Shake That Bear’s following has sprung rather fast and has been known to draw a rather large crowd to Architekt Music in Butler, New Jersey. Recently the band was endorsed by Arkaik Clothing, who sponsors the likes of Attack Attack and Abandon All Ships. Check them out on the web at facebook.com/ShakeThatBearNJ.
New Brunswick, NJ has been known to put out some incredible talent and Captive isn’t any different. The post-hardcore duo is out to prove that you don’t need a large ensemble to play some great tunes. The Tiny Giants members’ EP, Headtrap,is a four song collection that is one burst of energy after another. With a sound that is a cross between the newly reunited At The Drive-In and Texas Is The Reason, Captive is a treat for those who long for the sounds of the 90s in the present day. Captive strengthens the fact that you don’t need a fancy label or a lot of money to create quality music. Through them and many others, the DIY vibe in NJ still exists. Headtrap is listed as name your price on their Bandcamp. Throw the band a couple of dollars or download it for free but either way, give it a listen and be held captive by Captive. On the web at captive.bandcamp.com.
They Had Faces Then
Another New Brunswick favorite, They Had Faces Then is showing the world that you don’t need a big label to attract many listeners. Their self-released album, 1977, has landed a spot on Ground Control’s Top Albums of 2011 and it’s clear why. By blending together classic indie-rock with a hint of folk verses and punching choruses, the band provides listeners with a sound that is relaxing yet able to amp them up. Through Ken De Poto’s strong and chilled out vocal style, which is similar to Biffy Clyro’s, a friendly and warm vibe is sent out, which makes it seem like De Poto is singing to a friend or telling a story. Like many bands nowadays, They Had Faces Then is using Bandcamp to spread their music out. 1977 is up for a price that you can name, whether it’s a dollar or nothing, so check it out and keep supporting local music. Theyhadfacesthen.bandcamp.com.
Yet another Tiny Giants original, Meet Pause has found their way onto this list. The unsigned four-piece is another one of those bands from New Brunswick helping to keep the DIY scene alive. Meet Pause’s debut EP, Cluster Cascade,is available for a name your price download. Shredding guitars, slamming drums and melodic vocals is helping Meet Pause bring their harmonious power edgy rock to the masses. Much like the other bands in the Tiny Giant Collective, they are a diamond in the rough waiting to be found. Give Cluster Cascade a listen and you’ll see why. Meetpause.bandcamp.com.
Holy City Zoo
With the success of their latest EP, it doesn’t come as a surprise as to why this year’s talent is coming from Central Jersey. Holy City Zoo, a four-piece from New Brunswick, has been wooing fans with their loud post-punk sound for a while now; however, they recently came on my radar during the spring of 2011. The loud, in your face album, is bringing back the sounds from the 90s much like some of the other bands on this list. From tearing up shows at the now-defunct Court Tavern and working on releasing a new EP, 2012 holds a lot for Holy City Zoo. For now, you can check out their first EP on their Bandcamp as well as stream and download two tracks, “These Cheers Are On Me” and “Messenger’s Delight.” Both are available as a name your price download. Let Holy City Zoo melt your faces at Holycityzoo.bandcamp.com.
What’s there to say about a band that recently stole my heart other than that if you’ve never heard of Vasudeva, you’re missing out. The experimental, instrumental act with a name that can be difficult to pronounce, is spread out between New Jersey and Massachusetts. Their four-track EP, Back To The Roots, is a 17 minute trip through space, the forest and the ocean at the same time. Vasudeva plays music that you can get lost to as well as music you can find relate to. Back To The Roots is one of those releases that can fit any mood you may experience. Download their EP for free at vasudeva.bandcamp.com.
The Ugly Club
Despite their name, The Ugly Club, isn’t anything to run and hide from. In fact, one should be lining up to sign up for their posse. Their last two releases, Sing What You Want and Visions Of A Girl, has gained the band plenty of followers and buzz both on and off the internet. Recently, the five-piece indie/folk band has been in the studio recording their debut full-length album, which they’re going to need some help with and will rely on fans donations through a Kickstarter campaign. Also, the quintet will be heading down to Texas for the SXSW Festival this March. Their haunting sound is sure to sink into your heart and hook you from the first couple of notes. Check out their EPs at theuglyclub.bandcamp.com.
Switching the focus to our neighbors across the river, Diehard is a four piece indie-pop with some power-punk tendencies from Brooklyn. Their album, The Times We Didn’t Have Fun, is the complete opposite of its title; the 11 track release is hooky, upbeat and tireless. With their guitar-driven, 90s style of indie power rock, Diehard can be compared to the likes of Pavement, The Rentals, and even Superchunk. The play with male/female vocals is fun, and in a sense flirty, which adds a light, carefree vibe to the band. The Times We Didn’t Have Fun is available on the band’s Bandcamp site and is listed as name your price. Give them a few bucks and be sure to check them out live in order to capture the energy of the quartet. Diehard.bandcamp.com.
The Battle Begun
What originally started as just a jam session has turned into something great. The Battle Begun’s alternative, slightly experimental vibe is leading them to fight in the war against not bobbing one’s head to the music. Their jams make it almost impossible to keep one from nodding and jamming out to their songs. After some lineup and sound changes, The Battle Begun is now the four-piece band that they present themselves as today. Their latest EP, Shapes Like Faces, was recorded at Soundwaves Studio in Union, NJ. Though the release has some dark themes featured in it, The Battle Begun’s light alternative sound keeps the disc from being too depressing to listen to. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/thebattlebegun.
After being a band since 2003, the group of veteran musicians that make up Shapes keeps on propelling themselves forward with more intense energy. Described as gutter-glam on their Facebook page, it’s clear to see why the band chose that description for themselves—muddy vocals mixed with their upbeat dance beats automatically intoxicates you after one listen, dragging you into the gutter after a good night. Not only have Shapes provided the good people of the world with their sense of style and talent but their vocalist, Fanelli, started hosting shows to showcase some bands that are hidden gems. Check them out on the web, but most importantly, check them out live. Facebook.com/shapesband.
Ritz Riot is more than just a band playing music to lose your mind to; they also create other forms of art under the same name. With their fast, dirty beats, it’s hard not to lose yourself to the mania that is Ritz Riot. Besides wrecking (in the best possible way) venues and playing shows, the cluster that makes up Ritz Riot has been working on their highly anticipated future EP. The tough vocals provided by both Shirley Cruz and Taylor Bowen add some extra sass to the already exuberant band. Their shows are memorable, wild and will leave you in awe. Head over to their Facebook for more information. Facebook.com/ritzriot.
Beast Make Bomb
Blending swinging vocals with a retro punk feel helps make Beast Make Bomb stand out against other bands. The quartet has supported bands such as Cold War Kids on tour and has built quite a following in the metro area. Beast Make Bomb captures the essence of growing up and partying in a big city in their latest release, Sourpuss. Ceci G’s voice can easily be compared to those of Metric’s Emily Haines. Both have a sense of coolness in their voices that translates into the rest of their music. Their first EP, Skinny Legs, is available for you to purchase for however much you’d like on their Bandcamp. The infectious indie-pop albums are bright releases that are certain to hook, line and sinker you in from the start. Give Beast Make Bomb a listen right now! Beastmakebomb.com.
Strawberry Jam! Is not just something to spread on your bread! The four-piece is made up of vocalist/guitarist Sara Salermo, bassist Adrian Amador, guitarist Richard Andrew and drummer Henry Salermo. Their vibrant instrumentals range from experimental to dancey and contrast against the deep tones of Salermo’s vocals. In 2010, the band released a music video for their song “Suicide Ink,” and they have a disc with some tunes on it that is presently available at shows. Even though the band has been around since 2009, they’re still a mysterious and untouched find that you need to see for yourself to truly discover the sweetness that is Strawberry Jam! Find them on the web at facebook.com/strawberryjamx3 or Reverbnation at reverbnation.com/strawberryjamx3.
New Jersey’s Old Nick will mesh your hopes, dreams, fears and losses together to create their haunting sound. Recently, the quintet released their highly anticipated EP, I’ve Seen Colors, at the defunct Court Tavern with Vasudeva (also featured here). Their seven-track EP is light on the ears but hits heavy with passion where it counts. Old Nick has found themselves going in a similar direction as some of the other bands in the area as far as sound is concerned, however, the difference with Old Nick is that they have a bit more of an ambient feel. Check them out on Facebook at Facebook.com/oldnickmusic.