Music with band dynamics and good lyrics
September 5, 2019 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I feel like, at 49, my ear-holes are closing up. I try with new music and it just slides through me. I can't bond with filler lyrics and I like bands. Help me find a way in.

At this point, this is what I like:

— I love bands. I like the dynamics among musicians who really know how to play. It doesn't have to be technically proficient, I just like the feel of musicians who know how to stir it up. I feel like I can hear music built out of ProTools and production techniques, and it turns me off. In my ideal world music is mostly recorded live.
— I can't tune out lyrics. If you're funny, tell a good story, have a good point of view, then rad. Courtney Barnett clicks for me that way. So does Todd Snider. 97% of the lyrics I hear aren't worth repeating. Farther back: Lou Reed, John Prine, Randy Newman. Anything razor-sharp and coherent. "Poetic" lyrics that chain together random decent lines: No. There are great exceptions like Pavement and Laurie Anderson, who stake out their own surrealist or deadpan territory. But in general "creative writing" lyrics are the death of my enjoyment.
— Some melodic development. Some surprises. By the time I'm tired of a set of chord changes, the songwriter is too and has mixed it up. Really good melodic craft is a big plus.

In other words: Good bands playing well-written songs.

I guess my platonic non-ideal is this track, which sort of exemplifies everything I feel like I'm getting when I look for new music (Avey Tare, "What's the Good Side?"). Production layers, kind of inaudible filler lyrics, no real band dynamics, simple chord changes that go on and on ... I'm sorry if this is your kind of thing. I just don't get anything from it.

Other things that are an instant turn-off:

— Hooty tentative sensitive-man vocals. I can't tell if this is a piss-take or not, but it makes me want to claw my ears out.
— Neo-disco. I'm probably behind the times and indie bands aren't doing zappy disco sounds over their songs any more. But if they are, it's pretty dispositive for me.

Doesn't have to be guitar-bass-drums. Music of all kinds.

Thanks for either accommodating my crankiness or ignoring it and moving on.
posted by argybarg to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I think you might like Jason Isbell (including his Drive-By Truckers stuff) and Sturgill Simpson, and (maybe slightly less) Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves. They are all on the country/roots spectrum but as a John Prine lover that’s who I’m mostly listening to these days as far as modern music.

Maybe also My Morning Jacket. You would like them live I bet.
posted by sallybrown at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

Ned Hill solo or with his prior band Ned Van Go
posted by tman99 at 9:43 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would suggest Billy Strings. He's billed as a solo artist but he's had the same band for a few years and they are incredibly tight and have a lovely feel for one another. He's not a kid anymore, but he's close to the only example I've seen of a child prodigy growing up to be an interesting and thoughtful musician. He kills standards and has a very unique and direct writing style.

ETA: This set from last year.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:45 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cannot second Jason Isbell hard enough. His album Something More Than Free is incredible.
posted by something something at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh and Tedeschi Trucks Band. I don’t know about lyrics but that is some legit band talent.
posted by sallybrown at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I feel the same way about lyrics, and so have mainly been listening to music without lyrics. Specifically post rock. I'll link to a previous answer, so I don't have to rebuild the links.
posted by sacrifix at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2019

Seconding Jason Isbell; he's terrific. "Songs That She Sang in the Shower."

I have been listening to old pros who are still creating. Steve Earle is my favorite these days: covering Guy Clark with "Dublin Blues"; with Rodney Crowell, doing "Brown and Root."

LIZZO. Oh my God, her (nsfw) performance at the VMAs! "Truth Hurts" and "Good as Hell."

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is amazing: "Bound for Glory." A 12-piece band and some of the best guitar-playing going? Yes, please!

ETA: Jinx, sallybrown!
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

To add to Sally Brown's comment about TTB, one thing I love about watching them play is how much they all cheer each other on and how clearly (like it looks they drill this something) and intently everyone watches each other's solos. If you're into teamwork, they don't disappoint.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:51 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Jukebox the Ghost: "Don't Let Me Fall Behind" and "Schizophrenia" are good examples of their stuff. Their album Safe Travels is my favorite, lyrically.

Whitehorse: "No Glamour in the Hammer" and "Achilles' Desire" are fantastic.

If Courtney Barnett clicks for you, you might also like Alex Lahey: You Don't Think You Like People Like Me and "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself."

The Dear Hunter's The Color Specturm is a bit of an investment (36 tracks, 9 EPs) but you might dig it.

I'm also really picky about vocals and lyrics, and have had trouble getting into newer acts. If you can get into instrumental music, I have a few solid recommendations. Khruangbin are amazing, a mixture of influences including Thai funk, gospel , surf rock, psychedelic rock, classic soul, and other music from around the world.

Also - The Comet is Coming (jazz) and Theon Cross (also jazz) are fantastic. Fyah is really good, strongly recommend it.

"New" is a bit relative, we're about the same age, so I count these as new. These bands may not be "new" per se but might be newer than what you're listening to now and/or new to you at any rate.
posted by jzb at 9:51 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you can get over the need for lyrics, get into jazz. 60s blue note stuff. Why not?
posted by Ted Maul at 9:54 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

[crtl-f Mountain Goats]

Mountain Goats. John Darnielle is one of the best songwriters of a generation.

Nthing Drive-By Truckers.

You may also dig Spanish Love Songs, which, warning, is a melodic punk band.
posted by General Malaise at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

I deeply love the band Dawes. A definite band, meaningful lyrics, throwback-but-modern sound, beautifully sung.

Some favorites are:

A Little Bit of Everything
All Your Favorite Bands
Fire Away
Somewhere Along the Way
If I Wanted Someone
posted by AgentRocket at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, and the Decemberists.
posted by General Malaise at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Our ages and music tastes are similar, and I have been mainlining the incredible neo-honky-tonk of Colter Wall. Good lord, this guy is talented.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Turnpike Troubadours - they write tons of songs about the same small group of people - like a novel.

Robert Earl Keen - if you can stand his voice
JD McPherson
Josh Ritter
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I always liked the other guy in Drive By Truckers better. Primer Coat and Gravitys Gone are by far my favorites from them.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jenny Lewis in all her incarnations might fit the bill. Her new album is quite good.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, have you checked out the Hold Steady? Their lyrics are polarizing but certainly not lazy.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:04 AM on September 5, 2019

Alabama Shakes
Hiss Golden Messenger
Josh Rouse
Sondre Lerche
posted by emelenjr at 10:06 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I adore the Mountain Goats to an unreasonable degree, but a person looking for musical complexity and a strong multiperson band dynamic will...have to hold off to the most recent albums. Darnielle's pretty open about his somewhat limited/intuitive technical approach, and sometimes in early days it really is just him, the guitar, and the boombox he recorded on (!!!). He and the bassist have been working together on and off since, like, college, but I think the current four-person lineup may be the biggest the band has ever been.

Either you'll love the lyrics or you'll hate them, but if you love them, you'll love them.
posted by praemunire at 10:15 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Here are some relatively contemporary bands that may fit the bill
+ foxygen
+ parquet courts
+ the war on drugs / kurt vile
+ ultimate painting
posted by askmehow at 10:18 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Mavis Staples, "Change." (Released six months ago.) She is marvelous, generous, and deeply, deeply human.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:18 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think you'd like Half Moon Run.
posted by onebyone at 10:19 AM on September 5, 2019

Angel Olsen's got a pretty rockin' band and a way with the pen.
posted by Beardman at 10:25 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am going to recommend Muse. They're a 3 person band and they can play. Their albums tend to have a theme that the lyrics in the songs will try to follow which I think they do to keep things interesting. I think they're probably the biggest rock band around these days but radio/media being as fragmented as it is you still may not have heard their music.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:29 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know better than to suggest Phish but I will put in a plug for The Trey Anastasio Band. Really nicer percussion, horns and backup singers. Lots of guitar soloing, just in case you're not into that. I love them because, as good a musician as Trey is, he lets the rest of the band shine as well.

Here's a full set and here they are with the aforementioned Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.
posted by bondcliff at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2019

Another opportunity for me to recommend The Paper Kites. Their style is eclectic, so sample several songs to get an overall feel. Some of their songs have pretty simple chord structures, but great lyrics, production, melodies, and harmonies raise it beyond the norm.
posted by The Deej at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2019

Mountain Goats...have to hold off to the most recent albums.

This is not untrue, but may be misleading: frightening though the realisation is for many of us, the break point between boombox recordings and full band albums, between All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee, was 17 years ago...

The playing on the new Mountain Goats album (In League With Dragons) is great. The augmentation of the band with some excellent session work brings out the colour in the songs, and does emphasise that John isn't unjustified in insisting on how great the Mountain Goats' rhythm section is.
posted by howfar at 10:58 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

James McMurtry? My entry point was "Choctaw Bingo," but "Dry River" is a beautifully-written song.

I like the dynamics among musicians who really know how to play

Rhiannon Giddens. In addition to be a superlative multi-instrumentalist and singer, she always surrounds herself with an amazing band, and her original lyrics are some great storytelling (e.g., "Julie" or "Moonshiner's Daughter"). Her recent collaboration with Francisco Turrisi is really interesting.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:59 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

On further thought, you may also appreciate Frightened Rabbit (RIP).
posted by General Malaise at 11:17 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Pile - Green and Gray
posted by anoirmarie at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2019

Lots and lots to say about this!

Nthing Mountain Goats, Drive By Truckers, and Dawes. In a somewhat similar vein with very good "band dynamics" and actual interesting lyrics is Hop Along's latest album Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Hop Along is just plain old awesome all over, and you'd be crazy not to put it on your list.

And now I'm gonna go out in the weeds. But I'll tell ya, I was feeling pretty walled in until this song blew by socks off a few years ago - We Own the Night by Dance Gavin Dance. It's metalcore, it has smooth and rough vocals, and the sound is so dense and jazzy and well-coordinated, and the lyrics so funny and spot-on about drunken male bravado, that I fell in love with it, and when I realized oh wait there's a whole universe of metalcore out there producing stuff at a prodigious rate right now, I got out of my musical doldrums. Animals as Leaders, Erra, After the Burial, A Lot Like Birds, Periphery (THIS is your band dynamics and intense, unfunny but very memorable lyricism), and (people will hate me for this one because they're by far the corniest, most overproduced, and lyrically awful but) Amarrionette are all representatives of different directions that "metalcore" can go, and the styles they represent are already boiling over into mainstream music. It's a loud, aggressive genre with a lot of schlocky stuff, but also where I've found some of the best music of the last few years. Give it a go.

If you're willing to give up all previous preconceptions and crate-dig around the fringes of techno, there is also some astoundingly interesting, complex, and beautiful stuff to be found in the world of chill/liquid/"clean" drum and bass. Yes, wading into this territory will require hacking through endless badly written love-n-loss anthems and get-up-off-the-floor "jazz" vocals, and I find those almost intolerable, but when it's good it's almost sublime. Examples:
Artificial Intelligence - 1000 Souls
Mohican Sun - Untold
Atlantic Connection - Rocksteady
Satl - Everything to Me
Soultec - Good & Ready
Drum and bass in general is a crude framework that can be handled badly or well, including some true masters of the craft like Danny Byrd and Dom & Roland. It's helpful that almost no one in my circle even knows what it is, let alone cares for it, so I went in blind, and I've gained a lot from studying why certain songs catch my ear and others grate on me.

Those are the two detours that pulled me out of my last musical slump. May they serve you well.
posted by saysthis at 11:30 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe Punch Brothers

I've been digging hard on Seratones lately...
posted by Jacob G at 11:31 AM on September 5, 2019

Vic Chestnutt - flirted with you all my life
Songs: Ohia/Jason Molina
posted by anoirmarie at 11:34 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe any of the Boy Genius constellation of artists:

Boy Genius

Julien Baker
Phoebe Bridgers
Lucy Dacus

Better Oblivion Community Center (With Bridgers and Conner Oberst)
posted by octothorpe at 11:50 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Jens Lekman is a Swedish (English singing) songwriter of quirky, witty lyrics with a penchant for odd orchestrations and melody. This song reminds me a lot of Courtney Barnett, lyrics wise.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is an Australian group. They got some interesting lyrics, melody out the wazoo and 3 guitarists that really shine.
posted by rabbitsnake at 12:10 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not new, but for storytelling lyrics, perhaps Nick Cave?

The New Pornographers have erudite, if not storytelling, lyrics, and classy arrangements. I'd start with their (now almost 15 year old) album Twin Cinema.

Seconding Parquet Courts if you've got leftist inclinations.
posted by Beardman at 12:11 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

These guys are more rock (way more rock in some instances), but I'm a huge fan of the Scottish trio Biffy Clyro. Good dynamics, strong choruses (Black Chandelier), heavy when they need to be (That Golden Rule), great feel for good old Power Pop (Saturday Superhouse), and a recent foray into film soundtrack-land (Balance, Not Symmetry).

I've been banging the drum for this band for years now. Why they're not intergalactic superstars is beyond me.

And as I always end up doing on these threads, allow me to put in a rec for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls.
posted by MrKellyBlah at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2019

Okkervil River's Will Sheff is a brilliant lyricist, but I dunno how his voice will strike you. Give him a try.

I am not sure how "live" his recordings are, but I've seen him in concert and the band is definitely real musicians.
posted by selfnoise at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2019

A few more in the general "standout lyrics and band" vein before I forget. These are more conventional, some are older, you may have heard of them, but I haven't seen them mentioned and I think they deserve an audition, so here goes:

Silversun Pickups - Panic Switch - they're heavy on repetitive chords and droning lyrics, but they're on just the right side of the line and know exactly how to play that up to build snarly, meaty, foreboding rock songs off it.
Grandaddy - Crystal Lake - slightly drone-y and "indie" and surrealistic with the lyrics, but that's because they're big into sci-fi imagery and references. Their albums are concept pieces meant to be listened to together, and the songs reference each other. Though their songs are fine as catchy standalone pieces, you'll get lots more out of it hearing the whole thing.
Pinback - BBTone - this will be either love it or hate it, because Rob Crow writes dense, mumbly lyrics based on obscure short stories (but you can still figure out what's going on), and the arrangements are repetitive and mathy and proceed slowly, but the key thing is that the songs are catchy af earworms and Rob's guitar is just the framework around which the rest of the songs evolve. He's been active for 30+ years and has a massive back catalog.
Clutch - Firebirds - beefy locomotive stoner rock telling paranoid stoner fantasy stories - "Yeah, things went sour/And the girl, she got to packing/When I asked her why/She said "there are two things you are lacking/Firebirds, energy weapons/Both of these things are interesting to me/I don't care how you get them/I need them both and I need them urgently" - Yeeeeehaw! Been at it 20+ years, also huge back catalog, good times.

Memail if you want more, I got plenty.
posted by saysthis at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've also been having trouble getting into new music lately but here's an album that really caught me: "At Weddings" by Sarah Beth Tomberlin, who's been compared to everyone from Julien Baker and Sufjan Stevens to P.J. Harvey. Try "Seventeen"(live)
posted by Petersondub at 12:34 PM on September 5, 2019

Lots of post-metal really nails the band dynamic and melodic development if you're into heavier instrumental stuff. Examples: Iah, Jakob, Russian Circles.
posted by so fucking future at 1:19 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The National are solid and has the interesting interplay of having two sets of brothers, which always intrigued me.

Boygenius is a lovely project.

Lord Huron makes a solid ensemble as does Calexico.

Phosphorescent is similar to Calexico and made a lot of people's song of the year list with Song For Zula a few years ago.

First Aid Kit continues the country influenced string of recommendations.

If you want to try something a little more modern, try Alt J or early Yeasayer.
posted by Candleman at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
posted by avocet at 2:18 PM on September 5, 2019

I don't do a great job listening to new music, but I have found a lot of value in watching Todd in the Shadows - he covers pop music and does a good job of contextualizing songs and artists and has definitely pointed me at stuff I actually like. (And his One-Hit Wonderland series is a delight.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on September 5, 2019

Seconding Brandi Carlile! Also recommend the female country supergroup The Highwomen, which is Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. Their album drops tomorrow!
posted by lakemarie at 2:51 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

White Denim - technical instrument chops a-go-go and lyrics with rhythmic and narrative interest. Last year's Performance is fantastic but everything they've released in the last ten years hits your criteria so you could start at Workout Holiday and enjoy the ride.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:01 PM on September 5, 2019

Solange - I think A Seat at the Table fills your request better than When I get Home.

On the dancey R&B front, I'm really liking Sault right now, but the lyrics might not have the sufficiently straightforward linear songwriting narrative that you're craving. Same thing with Khalid, it'll break you out of the guitar-bass-drums sound but may be too poppy for your taste.

I've not had much time to explore Damon Locks' work, but it's politically anthemic and delicious in its arrangement. Try Sounds Like Now.

I'm really enjoying Aldous Harding. Try Fixture Picture. Her vibe is a little precious in the videos, but the songs are compelling. I like Big Thief's more rocking stuff, very confessional and well arranged. Their Tiny Desk Set is probably the best place to start. Also try Not, from their upcoming album Two Hands.

FWIW, if you want a good breadth of songwriters, the Tiny Desk Set YT channel is a good way to get caught up on things as they are and to skip past vibe-ages you dislike.

Orville Peck - a little oversaturated right now because of the mask gimmick, but he's a solid songwriter. Try Turn to Hate.

Alice Phoebe Lou - I find her lyrics pretty down to earth and refreshing. Try Society.

Retro updaters: Snail Mail (Pristine), The Beths (Die a Little Death)

Don't forget to catch up on artists you've ignored for a while. PJ Harvey is hit or miss for me, but I always go back to see what I missed. Suzanne Vega. Kristin Hersh.

+1 Hiss Golden Messenger. Also +1 Kurt Vile/War on Drugs. Lizzo, for sure.

In that vein, I'd look at Michael Chapman, Steve Gunn, Jesca Hoop, Sharon Van Etten. Jake Xerxes Fussell. Lizzy Mercier Descloux.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 4:55 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ctrl-F Andrew Bird. More songwriter than band, but the musical arrangements are strong and do not depend on synthesized beats.
posted by matildaben at 5:05 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Robyn Hitchcock reunited with his old mates the Soft Boys to make Nextdoorland in 2002, and it sounds like a bunch of guys jamming that don't give a shit. You should like slightly surrealistic lyrics about fucking and spatial loneliness.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Wailing Jennies might be up your alley
posted by azalea_chant at 8:02 PM on September 5, 2019

I hear you! Same age, same challenges. There isn't a whole lot of music that gives me the tingles anymore. We started doing a song of the day at the dinner table which turned into a gold mine with a 15 year girl, a 19 year old boy, two adults and various guests. I kept track of it and created a Spotify playlist that's remarkably eclectic and with a lot surprises. MeMail me if you're interested.

I'm not sure if he'll fit the bill but definitely worth a listen since he has things to say, but Amen Dunes.

Similar in style is Andy Shauf, with a strong 70's vibe. You want to check out the lyrics in this song. Full album

Rhiannon Giddens was mentioned above and she's incredible. That said, my favourite song of hers is instrumental but if you want interplay between drum, banjo and spoons, you got it. The tone on the banjo is so so rich, which isn't something you can say everyday.

Alt-J. I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned them yet. If you can get beyond his voice there's some really good music here. Art rock, rock, prog rock...who can say? They don't really fit a genre. Start with Breezeblocks.

Also mentioned above is Orville Peck. He's interesting! Try Dead of Night.

How about Mother Mother? It's Alright has some great lyrics about accepting one's mental health. The rest of their music is equally interesting.

Future Islands? I don't understand why these guys aren't better known. This song is from their album Singles and received a rare 4.5 stars from allmusic. The singer (Samuel Herring) has so much emotion in his voice. The band is tight but has a bit of a synth feel. Here's another song with Herring with BadBadNotGood.

Wanna see two guys create a whole band? This is all about how the musicians interact with each other.

The Sheepdogs. 70's southern rock that you've never heard before but that feels so familiar. They stretch the boundaries quite a bit as well.

I've given you quite a list. I hope that there's one or two bands that appeal!
posted by ashbury at 8:09 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jason Molina and his bands Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. seem to be right up your alley.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:09 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing the boygenius trio (Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker) and particularly the Phoebe Bridgers + Conor Oberst project Better Oblivion Community Center.

You may enjoy Tracyanne and Danny, the side project from the singer of Camera Obscura.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2019

Oh I can't believe I forgot my current faves, Whitney, who sadly only have two 30-minute albums - try Giving Up (from their newest album, released only a week ago) and Polly from their first album. They are Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich from The Smith Westerns, whom you may also enjoy.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:07 PM on September 7, 2019

On second thought about the Tedeschi Trucks Band, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention their excellent and too-short Tiny Desk concert. Horns! Teamwork! Big sound made and shared with joy! And this is an excellent example because they are stripped down to instruments and a mic--no fancy production, just talented musicians having a great time. I think this is a good starting point to see whether they appeal to you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:32 PM on September 7, 2019

I have so many recommendations and can't wait to try all kinds of recommendations from this thread.

I'm nthing Alex Lahey (You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me), Okkervil River (Calling and Not Calling My Ex), Hop Along (Prior Things), and Mother Mother (Wrecking Ball, Ghosting, So Down)

To that, I would add:

Manchester Orchestra (I Can Feel A Hot One) -- singer/songwriter Andy Hull is pretty amazing in this and his other projects
Amanda Shires (When You Need A Train It Never Comes, She Let Go Of The Kite, Mineral Wells) - Jason Isbell's wife; she plays the fiddle, writes beautiful songs, and kicks ass
Los Campesinos (We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed) - joyful, infectious, and unique noise pop with great lyrics
Old 97's/Rhett Miller (Designs On You, The One, Streets Of Where I’m From, Melt Show, Salome, Barrier Reef, Come Around, I Need To Know Where I Stand, Our Love, The El) - Texas cowpunk turned indie-with-a-twang; one of the most underrated groups with one of the best lyricists, and I think it's right up your alley
Camp Cope (The Opener, Keep Growing) - another Australian band doing really interesting stuff

And a couple that are more singer-songwriters than band dynamic, but I highly recommend for their lyrics:

Hayes Carll (Another Like You, Chances Are, She Left Me For Jesus, The Lovin’ Cup) - razor-sharp lyrics with a thick ol' drawl; more so his middle albums, especially KMAG YOYO and Trouble in Mind; his new stuff is a little subdued for my tastes
John-Allison Weiss (How To Be Alone, One Way Love, Say What You Mean, I Was An Island) - he is really wonderful
Mallrat (For Real, Groceries) - Australian bedroom pop, doesn't sound like a lot of things you've heard before

I'm sure if I thought about it I could come up with a couple dozen more, but I'll stop here.
posted by Gadarene at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been away from AskMe for agggessss due to raising a tiny mefite, but I'm starting to dip back in and I'll be DANGED if I can resist a music recs question.

I can think of a few bands I might suggest, but none is really begging to be listed here like Everything Everything. I'm not a total fangirl (they had this one album I didn't really like blah blah) but my word if they're not one of the most interesting bands I've come across in the last 5-10 years, and SO GOOD live to boot.

I'm pretty sure they tick all your boxes. Their music is clever and unexpected, the lyrics are many layered things of complex subject and unexpected references, and their overall style, to me, is like the most fun bits of modern rock juxtaposed with the most interesting bits of modern pop.

I'm not really sure where to suggest you start, they have so many cracking songs and I want the first one you hear to reel you in to be honest. If you are a Whole Album person, then I think you should start with Arc as, for me, it's their best full album.

If you want a song as a way in then please select accordingly according to what tends to ring your bell the most:

- Catchy Single: Kemosabe, one of the best tracks on Arc

- A bassline that by itself is worth the price of the song: Schoolin, from their debut album Man Alive

- Rock that somehow sounds like a 90s rave without being a pastiche? I don't know but it's good? - Distant Past

- Angry political rant topped off with a guitar solo that makes you remember what guitar solos used to be like: Ivory Tower

I do hope you like them, please let me know if you do, so that we can I KNOW RIGHT together
posted by greenish at 4:36 AM on September 11, 2019

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