MMM Top Ten: 10 Bands That Should Be Bigger

Sure, one could argue that being a household name within the music industry in any way should disqualify you from complaining. Still, there are plenty of groups out there that deserve way more appreciation than they get. Here is a list of ten groups – new and old – that we think should be talked about and more importantly – listened to.

#10. The Band

Photo Credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot

Though their discography includes seven Gold records and two Platinum records (one with Bob Dylan), and though their self-titled second album ended up as high as #57 on Rolling Stone’s updated 2020 list of the ‘Greatest Albums of All Time,’ this Canadian/American group is often underappreciated by music fans with limited knowledge of the late-‘60s and early-‘70s Americana scene. Everyone knows their big hit – “The Weight” – and some might have heard “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek” as well. But just how many have heard Garth Hudson’s Deep Purple-outperforming organ on “Chest Fever”? Just how many have heard the intricate rhythms of “Jawbone,” and why is Levon Helm’s excellent drumming-while-singing performance of Marvin Gaye’s soul classic “Don’t Do It” not admired as an important moment in rock and soul history?

#9. The Beths

Photo Credit: Frances Carter

Fresh off with their timeless, dashing indie rock injection Expert in a Dying Field, this New Zealand group deserves way more than less than 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Formed in 2014, the Beths were already fully formed on their 2018 debut, Future Me Hates Me. Their 2020 follow-up Jump Rope Gazers further established their sparkling, crunchy indie sound and placed high on several albums-of-the-year-lists. Listen to “Expert in a Dying Field” and “Knees Deep.”

#8. Horsegirl

Photo Credit: Brian Cassella

Visiting Horsegirl’s Spotify profile while writing this to discover that their debut single “Ballroom Dance Scene” has finally reached beyond the million streams mark satisfied me. But they deserve so much more. The three best friends from Chicago debuted with their full-length album, Visions of Modern Performance, earlier in 2022, and after seeing them live at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, I am convinced that Gen Z’s take on shoegaze, grunge, and Sonic Youth is more youthful and charismatic than ever before.

#7. Kiwi Jr.

Photo Credit: Padrian McLeod

Even though their latest release, 2022’s Chopper, left me without a strong impression, the Canadian group’s first two records deserve your attention. “Salary Man” from their first record, 2020’s Football Money, is their greatest song yet. It’s a jangling, playful piece of excellent indie rock that even incorporates a snippet of the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B” (kind of, at least). The following Cooler Returns saw a maturing of the group’s sound, and both records should be heard by fans of uncomplicated but effective indie rock filled with attitude and charisma.

#6. Silver Jews

Photo Credit: Brent Stewart

Formed by David Berman and Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich in New York, in 1989, this band’s name was often a matter of discussion. Sure, David Berman was Jewish, and silver is a nice color indeed, but just before his tragic death in 2019, he revealed what it meant in an interview with Vish Khanna: “A Jew that was Jewish down through patrilineal descent, which would be a Jew that’s not really a Jew, really. It’s the outsiders to the outsiders.” That reflects a lot of what Silver Jews’ music often was all about. 1998’s American Water and 2001’s Bright Flight (as well as David’s 2019 solo project Purple Mountains) are prime examples of David’s ability to reflect pain through lethally ironic lyrics, such as the iconic opening phrase of career highlight “Random Rules”: “In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.”

#5. Sparks

Photo Credit: Edgar Wright

Having released as many as 24 studio albums (!) since their 1966 formation, the two brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks aren’t exactly new to the game. Despite that, they remain relatively unknown to the broad audience considering their vast influence on various genres, from the Smiths and Joy Division to Depeche Mode and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mid- ‘70s albums such as 1974’s Kimono My House and Propaganda gave them their greatest commercial success, especially with the insane hit single “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us.” But it wouldn’t take long until Sparks left their early glam rock days behind and with albums such as 1979’s No. 1 in Heaven, 1994’s Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, and 2009’s the Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, they can, without doubt, contend for the “Most Versatile Band in the World” award. 

#4. Spoon  

Photo Credit: Matador Records

They might be veterans in the game, but truth is that the Britt Daniel-led band from Texas should be a lot bigger than they are. Where most other alternative rock bands formed during the mid- ‘90s have either become too big for themselves or disappeared in other ways, Spoon has remained a reliable source for fans of gritty, swaggering, classic rock music, most recently with 2022’s Lucifer on the Sofa.

#3. Teenage Fanclub

Photo Credit: Donald Milne

Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub was formed in 1989 and achieved international acclaim during the 1990s with the excellent fusion of jangle rock and noise rock. Albums such as 1991’s Bandwagonesque and 1995’s Grand Prix are classics, but despite the departure of co-founder Gerard Love in 2018, the group maintains a high level of quality. Their eleventh and most recent album, Endless Arcade, made it to my personal year-ending list, with songs such as the Byrds-inspired “The Sun Won’t Shine on Me” and the ELO-reminiscent “I’m More Inclined.”

#2. Wolf Alice

Photo Credit: Alex Lake

It is almost impossible to write a list like this without including Wolf Alice. While monthly Spotify streams reach way beyond the one-million mark, Ellie Rowsell’s band from London has spent the last twelve years recording some of the finest indie rock there is, from their 2015 full-length debut My Love is Cool, to their 2017 follow-up Visions of a Life – an album that made NMW call them “The best band in Britain” – and most recently, 2021’s Blue Weekend. It’s a wonderful tour de force of indie rock, from the sweeping Hollywood melodrama of “Delicious Thing” to the synth-infused “How Can I Make It OK?” and the Smashing Pumpkins reminiscent “Smile.”

#1. Wooden Shjips & Rose City Band

Photo Credit: Jason Quigley

One of the most well-kept secrets of Grateful Dead and the Byrdsey’s 60s-inspired psychedelic folk/blues is Ripley Johnson’s criminally underappreciated Wooden Shjips and his one-man band project Rose City Band. Summerlong, released by the latter, is a career highlight, praised by publications all over the world and ending up on year-end lists from renowned publications such as Uncut and Mojo.

Written by: Douglas Dahlström

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