The Band: Future Islands
The Buzz: Baltimore continues to be ground zero for boundary-breaking musical enterprises. By all surface indications, Future Islands should be a synthpop band, but their songs are far too dinky, and vocalist Sam Herrings brawny, blustering voice and manic stage presence injects healthy doses of danger. For the last three years, they've set about the task of adding punishing heft to simple pop melodies, making blippy electropop sound oddly confrontational.
Listen If: The Internet does not contain nearly enough New Order/Danzig mashups to satisfy you.
Key Track: The steadily chugging "Pinnochio," where a coiled bassline and thudding drum machine manage to restrain Herrings' vocal theatrics — barely.
The Band: Howl
The Buzz: Restlessness defines this Providence quartet; after a year of endless touring, the group is releasing a three-song EP as a teaser for their first full-length, to be released later this year. Luckily, their music is also tough-to-pin-down: songs start as brutal, grinding, angry fits and then gradually transform into something darker and more expansive, stretching out into lugubrious, doomy passages.
Listen If: You like a break from the mosh pit every few minutes, and like your songs to incorporate space for time outs.
Key Track: "Oma," which opens like old-school thrash and gradually transforms into a thundering, angry requiem for the damned.
The Band: Real Estate
The Buzz: Does New Jersey have room for any more favorite sons? The Garden State's other exports might favor huge choruses and heart-on-sleeve dynamism, but Real Estate prefer to keep it small, writing tiny, guitar-based songs that pirouette instead of pliet.
Listen If: You've always had a fondness for lullabyes and are looking for bands that can write 'em right.
Key Track: The gently swaying "Fake Blues," where a simple guitar figure leaves plenty of room for vocalist Martin Courtney's pleading tenor.