From classic-inspired rock to post-punk, pop, ska and country swing, these are some of the most buzzed about local acts of 2017.
Deemed “NYC’s Coolest Young Band” by Rolling Stone in 2016, Sunflower Bean’s acclaimed full-length debut, Human Ceremony, was very much inspired by the classic rock era. The “creative rock” trio consists of Manhattan native Julia Cumming (vocalist/bassist) and Long Island natives: Nick Kivlen (vocalist/guitarist) and Jacob Faber (drummer). “I had a suburban childhood, riding my bike all over the place, and the beach was right there so it was nice,” said Faber, who grew up in Glen Head, where the band still practices. “But it was hard to find other people that were into our music. So we started taking the LIRR to the city every weekend to expand our community.” Six years later, the band has toured with the grandfather’s of alt-rock, The Pixies—which included local stops at the Space at Westbury Theater and the Capitol Theatre in September. Having spent much of the summer in the studio working on their next record, Sunflower Bean recently released the new song, “I Was a Fool,” a shimmering ballad with some groove to it. Look for a new album in 2018.
Dance/folk/pop sextet MisterWives (a gender reversal on the Mormon term “sister wife”) was greatly influenced by bands like No Doubt, The Police and Fleetwood Mac. Frontwoman Mandy Lee has all the energy and fashion sense of Gwen Stefani with vocals reminiscent of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan and a touch of Bjork. MisterWives’ second full-length, Connect the Dots, dropped in May, and the group recently released a video for the song “Oh Love,” featuring a giant golden bull representing Trump. Other creatures rise up to take him down at the end and restore democracy. The band wrapped up a tour in October with sold out shows, including one at NYC’s Terminal 5. “I’m inspired by anyone with serious spunk and soul like Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin and Kate Bush,” said Lee, a Queens native. “Other than pop rock, I think our music falls under the umbrella of soul/folk/dance with hints of reggae and funk from time to time.”
In August, Brooklyn’s honky tonk-swing sisters released King of Killing Time, their third full-length—not counting their Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular album, for which they perform sold out singalongs across the Northeast each year. Emily Miller and Zara Bode have tight “girl-on-girl” harmonies and a signature mix of wit, sass and swing. Backed by their band of brothers, their tunes recall rockabilly music from the 1950s and 60s. Their latest record is a mix of eclectic covers (George Jones, Gram Parsons) and classic country originals. The Sweetback Sisters may be the “only honky-tonk band that listens to Bartók string quartets while talking about Snoop Dogg at the breakfast table,” but they still write about universal themes. “You can’t escape heartache in this world, and certainly not in country music,” notes fiddler/guitarist Miller, “whether it’s in the songs we covered or in the ones we wrote from the well of angst left over from our twenties.”
Long Island’s emo darlings released their long-awaited fifth studio album in August. Science Fiction debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, becoming their first record to reach the top. Familiar subjects like self-reflection, religion and therapy are covered on the emo post-punk record. After celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me by playing the record in its entirety on tour last year, Brand New took their latest (and likely last) album on the road this year stopping at The Kings Theatre in Brooklyn in October for a sold out show. (The band recently postponed some European tour dates due to frontman Jesse Lacey being accused of sexual misconduct in the early 2000s.)
Nonstop To Cairo
Three months after forming, Nonstop to Cairo won first place at 2009’s Long Island Music Festival. Eight years later, the hip-hop-ska quintet released a debut full-length, Dabble Heavy, a melodic mix of gritty, funk-infused ska. The childhood friends, and Baldwin natives, were inspired by 311, Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Notorious B.I.G. Known to rock the house, Nonstop to Cairo has played with the likes of Fishbone and The Wailers, and recently opened for British ska rock legends, The English Beat at The Paramount. “The best [part] of performing live is the energy we get from the crowd. The chance to win people over and hear the crowd singing the chorus of our songs back to us, it’s indescribable.”