Best of Locations

Best New Zealand Bands

New Zealand seems like an unlikely place to have an amazing indie music scene. I was shocked at how many talented bands I discovered from this tiny, obscure island. The only thing I knew about New Zealand is that they filmed The Lord of The Rings movies there and that they have those funny little kiwi birds. Many of the artists on this list have a unique, psychedelic or strange style. Because the country is tucked away in the southern hemisphere, much of the music takes from other island sounds and has Asian or African influences. Lawrence Arabia is my favorite band that I’ve found and I still think he is brilliant and has witty and hilarious lyrics with polished instrumentals. Most of you have probably heard of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and probably never knew they started in New Zealand. I hope to visit this beautiful and mysterious island country someday but until then I’ll keep listening to their amazing array of indie music.

1. Lawrence Arabia- Created in 2003 by multi-instrumentalist and composer James Milne, this project blends catchy piano pop sounds with witty and hilarious lyrics. My favorite New Zealand act, Lawrence Arabia has captivated my attention for a long time. He is a master of songwriting and a genius of song composing. He has a dark sense of humor and uses his intellect and wit in his songs to make his audience laugh and cry and feel every emotion in between.

2. Mako Road- This psychedelic reggae fusion band has a uniquely New Zealand sound. They have amazing electric guitar work and chill Island-inspired percussions that will make you feel like you’re relaxing on the beach.

3. Jonathan Bree- A producer and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan has been a major figure in New Zealand indie music for a long time. His style is a blend of new age and baroque pop and is haunting and beautiful and just the right amount of strange.

4. Yumi Zouma- This alternative dream pop group began in 2014. They blend elements from other parts of the world to create a unique and catchy sound. A great example of what great modern dream pop music should sound like. With lots of songs, they will keep you intrigued with their complex and layered synth pop beats and smooth singing style.

5. The Ruby Suns- This indie pop group, formed in 2003, blends lo-fi surf music with indie rock to create a great New Zealand sound. With a hint of psychedelic rock, they are definitely worth a listen if you are interested in the New Zealand indie scene.

6. Princess Chelsea- With her soft, whispery voice, Chelsea Nikkel, AKA Princess Chelsea, soothes your senses with her dreamy pop sound. Taking elements from classical music, she is also considered baroque pop and uses dark humor and satire to make her lyrics very unique and interesting.

7. Connan Mockasin- Fitting in with most of the New Zealand artists on this list, Connan has the right amount of strange and creative genius. He writes songs about dolphins and weird topics and has a very isolated and quiet style, using subtle sounds and guitar licks. One of the most unique artists you’ll probably ever hear, he is considered a pioneer in blending psychedelic and indie music together.

8. Ghost Wave- This New Zealand psychedelic rock group is a mix of lo-fi jangly pop, surf rock and 60’s style psychedelic pop. They have a great sound that draws from bands like The Byrds and The Rolling Stones with a unique New Zealand twist.

9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- This experimental psychedelic pop band was formed in Auckland, New Zealand by multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson. The group later moved to Portland, Oregon but I will still include them on this list as their origin is important to their unique sound and quality. They are an interesting mix of lo-fi experimental pop, with very lengthy instrumental songs that last around 15 minutes, to catchy Michael Jackson style dance songs that received a lot of radio play. One of my favorite bands and definitely one of the most unique sounds out there.

Written by Adam

Best of Locations

Best Australian Bands

Australia is home to some amazing indie artists. I compiled this list of my favorites, which happen to be mostly bands that have a psychedelic edge to them. I’m not sure why Australians love psychedelic music so much but I’m not complaining as it’s my favorite genre. It could be the warm sunny weather and party atmosphere or Australians’ love for psychedelic drugs. Most of you have probably heard of Tame Impala but hopefully you’ll discover some new bands from this list that you’ll enjoy. 

Tame Impala- Created in 2007, this psychedelic pop project is run by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker. They began as a lo-fi psychedelic rock band and over the years expanded their sound to a more synth pop and electronica style, gaining enormous commercial success world wide. Definitely my favorite group from Australia, Tame Impala has loads of great content and highly structured and fine-tuned psychedelic pop songs.

Julia Jacklin- Julia began creating music in 2013. She writes and sings emotionally driven songs with deep and heartfelt lyrics. She blends indie pop with indie folk to create a wonderful sound. She has the unique ability to give you goosebumps with the power of her voice and serious nature of her lyrics.

Marlon Williams- He has a powerful singing voice and style that resembles old time rock and roll artists like Elvis. He blends country and folk and adds a hint of gothic. I highly recommend this Australian artist no matter what music you are into, as he has a timeless classic sound with a dark modern edge.

Courtney Barnett- One of my favorite “talky” folk artists, similar to Kurt Vile. She is a master of her unique style of blending complex poetry with folk music, hardly ever singing her songs but rolling her long sentences together to create a mash of spoken word genius. She uses loads of humor and satire to create a wonderful quintessential Australian sound.

Pond- Formed in 2008, this psychedelic rock band blends trippy 60’s style rock with electronica and synth pop. Similar to Tame Impala, their style has evolved from a garage rock style to a more polished synth-driven sound.

Babe Rainbow- One of my favorite Australian bands, Babe Rainbow has a complete 60’s style psychedelic sound. They sing about surfing, sun, freedom, love and everything hippy and really bring to mind California 60’s surf rock. Their instrumentals are very polished, structured and layered and create a unique Australian sound that I really enjoy.

Bananagun- This young and emerging psychedelic group blends musical elements from around the world, including Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Islands. I’m very excited to see where they go in the future. They have a very layered and complex sound that is highly unique to their experience and to Australia.

Flyying Colours- This psychedelic band from Melbourne has a great mellow, calming shoegaze style. They rely heavily on effects and layers of sound combined with subdued vocals. A great example of Australian psychedelic rock and shoegaze with a hint of 80’s New Age.

Sunbeam Sound Machine- This Australian psychedelic pop project is led by multi-instrumentalist Nick Sowersby. He blends elements of psychedelic rock, with effect-heavy guitars, dream pop with trippy soundscapes and electro pop with a steady beat.

Moses Gunn Collective- This Australian psychedelic pop group from Brisbane mixes modern electro pop with classic psychedelic rock. They have a unique sound that relies on a trippy, strange slide guitar, background harmonies and plenty of psychedelic effects.

The Murlocs- This 60’s inspired psychedelic rock band has a great sound that mixes blues and garage rock. I prefer their earlier work as it is more raw and has more of a 60’s sound to it. Definitely another great Australian psychedelic rock band that is worth checking out.

Dope Lemon- This solo project is run by Australian singer/songwriter Angus Stone. He plays really chill, drug-inspired groovy music with a steady beat and slick guitar work. He has a slight jazz sound with a lot of layered percussion that makes you want to dance and chill on the couch at the same time.

Written by Adam

Best of Locations

Best Seattle Bands

Best Seattle Bands

Seattle has always been known as the birthplace of grunge rock and has a history of being a premier jazz city. Home to Sub Pop records who have signed some of the biggest indie rock names around including Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty, Beach House, The Shins and Nirvana. Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana and is where Ray Charles began his jazz career. Below is a list of my favorite artists that have ties to the great city of Seattle. 

Fruit Bats- Hailing from Chicago, this alternative folk rock band settled in Seattle and have been influential ever since. They have a slight 70’s folk feel but remain unique and modern. Eric D. Johnson, the lead singer, has a very distinctive voice, with a little John Denver vibe to it. Definitely one of my favorite bands of all time. They are a classic alternative rock band and have made a big impact on the genre.

Chris Staples- This low key indie folk artist has a knack for songwriting and creating catchy and impactful tunes. The album, Golden Age, is a masterpiece and is a bit more upbeat and approachable than some of his other work. He sings in a low calm voice and his lyrics are poetic and poignant.

Fleet Foxes- This influential indie folk group gained widespread success and acclaim during the mid 2000’s. They captured the sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and were part of most college record collections. They have a mellow and soothing sound and changed the way people view popular music.

Pickwick- This energetic indie rock and R&B group mixes powerful vocals with precise instrumentals. They have a nice indie soul sound and are a bit more upbeat than most of the Seattle artists on this list.

The Cave Singers- This indie folk group has a great Pacific Northwest sound. Their music almost sounds like they are recording in a cave which is a unique quality. They use simple and early folk techniques, like harmonicas and bass drums, to give off that campfire vibe.

Rose Windows- This psychedelic rock band is highly influenced by 70’s style rock. They have created a nice layered subdued sound without being too loud or busy. They made some great songs before disbanding in 2015.

Nirvana- One of the most famous and influential rock groups of all time, Nirvana changed rock music forever. Kurt Cobain was a genius in creating a whole new genre, grunge rock. They played hard and created a loud sound that shocked the old establishment and gave life to the youth of the 90’s.

Jimi Hendrix- The greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix changed how electric guitars were played. He used heavy distortion and effect pedals to create a new sound that even today is impossible to replicate completely. He is one of my personal heroes and one of my main influences for electric guitar.

Julia Shapiro- A former member of the Seattle bands Chastity Belt and Childbirth, Julia’s solo work is remarkable and has a lot of heart. Her songs are sad at times and deal with loss and health problems. Her music is full of hazy guitars, calm vocals and lo-fi tenderness.

La Luz- This Seattle band began in 2012 and plays surf rock with a hint of psychedelia and doo wop. I have been a big fan of this band for many years and really enjoy their clean instrumentals and layered vocal harmonies. They always seem to cam my nerves and bring me peace.

Written by Adam

Best of Locations

Best Canadian Bands

Canada has produced some amazing bands over the years. They have a thriving artsy indie music scene with bands like Arcade Fire, Chad VanGaalen and Andy Shauf and a stable more mainstream sound with groups like The Sadies and The Band. Based on the time I have spent in Canada, the country is very pleasant and full of very nice and polite people. Most of the music on this list reflects Canada’s chill, easy going vibe and overall artistic creativity. 

  1. Andy Shauf- This multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan blends elements of indie folk, jazz and baroque pop, making him my favorite Canadian artist. His songs are heartfelt and at times deal with dark subject matter. He likes to tell a story in his songs and creates a very intimate mood. He plays the clarinet and uses this sound often in his music, giving it this big city jazz sound that reminds me of 1970’s Paul Simon. My favorite album is The Party, which exemplifies his complete style, touch and songwriting ability. 
  2. Mac DeMarco- One of the more well known Canadian indie artists, Mac Demarco creates a unique sound that blends lo-fi indie, electronica and folk. He has made a lot of music over the years but has always stayed true to his chill laid back Canadian style that mixes synth elements and his unique off key guitar picking. 
  3. Homeshake- This indie electronica project from Montreal headed by multi-instrumentalist Peter Sagar mixes hip hop beats with smooth jazz licks. He has a sound that is very catchy and easy to listen to. Very similar to Mac Demarco in his laid back lo-fi sound, but with a bit more hip hop and less guitar. 
  4. Arcade Fire- Pioneers of the modern indie sound, this large and talented band began making music in 2001. They grew to enormous popularity with their Grammy winning album The Suburbs. Although I haven’t always agreed with their musical direction, changing to a more electronica/synth style over time, I’ll still always have love for their energy, creativity and innovation. 
  5. The Sadies- This Toronto-based country rock band began making music in the late 90’s. They are influenced by various bands including fellow Toronto-based group, The Band. Many have dubbed them the new The Band, and critics have praised them for being one of the best Canadian bands of all time. They are completely unique and blend multiple genres together including folk, country, rock, western, jangly pop, psychedelic rock, surf rock and Americana. 
  6. Chad VanGaalen- This indie folk artist has just the right amount of strangeness and darkness, while creating an approachable sound. He is not for everyone but something about his style, with his long echoing songs and creepy guitar, draws me in, making him one of the better Canadian indie folk artists. 
  7. Patrick Watson- This talented producer, composer and singer songwriter uses his knowledge of classical music to create a beautiful sound. He has a lot of passion in his songs and the arrangements he creates will make you tingle. 
  8. TOPS- Mixing dream pop with 70’s style soft pop, this group has a great sound backed by vocalist Jane Penny. They have become an influential underground group in Canada and have gained a cult following because of their style and disco swagger. 
  9. Wolf Parade- One of the more influential indie rock bands of the early 2000’s, this Montreal based group blends elements of punk revival and indie rock. Coming with a lot of youthful energy, I’ve always enjoyed their unique singing style and hard edged instrumentals. 
  10. The Barr Brothers- This indie folk group was created in 2006 by two American brothers in Montreal. They blend Delta blues with folk and use a lot of slide guitar, violins and harmonies to create a very pleasant sound. 
  11. Black Mountain- Formed in 2004, this Vancouver based psychedelic rock band blends all the best elements of the genre to create a truly remarkable sound. Their sound is a mix of 60’s style rock like Led Zeppelin, vintage metal like Black Sabbath and 60’s psychedelic pop similar to Jefferson Airplane. They bring a lot of energy and have some amazing guitar solos. Definitely one of my favorite psychedelic rock bands I’ve discovered. 
  12. Loving- This folk pop group has a very approachable and lo-fi vibe. They sound a lot like The Beatles and their layered melodic songs are highly addictive and infectious. 
  13. Men I Trust- This synth pop group from Montreal combines jazz and electronica to create a unique and amazing sound. They use sharp and clean beats with soft, warm vocals. A highly addictive sound that is hard to find fault in. 
  14. Tess Parks- Inspired by 60’s psychedelia, Tess Parks hypnotizes her audience with her deep raspy voice. She has collaborated with many famous groups including The Brian Jonestown Massacre and is an important figure in the neo-psychedelia movement. 
  15. Timber Timbre- Mixing together vintage folk pop and dark gothic folk, this group has a sound that is both unique and creepy. Definitely worth listening to if you are up for something new and bold. 
  16. Meltt- This dream pop group from Vancouver creates colorful soundscapes that are both catchy and subdued. They mix alternative electronica with psychedelic dreamy rock sounds to create a very pleasant style. 
  17. Elephant Stone- This Canadian indie rock band combines traditional Indian styles with western psychedelic rock. Together these styles create a great trippy psychedelic sound that is highly unique and smooth.
  18. Kacy & Clayton- This folk and roots duo from Saskatchewan brings a vintage folk sound with amazing harmonies and chill instrumentals. They have great tone and touch and have a great Canadian sound with a mix of American country and folk. 
  19. The Band- This pioneer folk and rock group began in the 1960’s and have been praised as one of the best Canadian bands of all time. Most of the groups’ members are from Toronto, which most people don’t know and wouldn’t assume as they have a very southern rock, American sound. They have influenced countless bands with their blend of country, rock, blues, folk and R&B. Their songs like The Weight and Up on Cripple Creek are played throughout the world and have had a lasting impact on the music industry.
  20. Blood Ceremony- Beginning in 2006, this Toronto-based hard rock band blends heavy metal, psychedelic rock, stoner rock and occult rock. They love to use the flute, similar to Jethro Tull and rely heavily on Alia O’brien’s wonderful opera-like voice. They are similar to Black Sabbath with a bit more folk inspiration and their songs deal with black magic, witches and mythology. Definitely a unique blend but they put it all together in an organized, clean and heavy package.

Written by Adam

Best of Locations

Best Austin Bands

Austin, Texas has always been known for having the best live music scene in the country. They are a melting pot of all kinds of music including country, blues and indie rock. Austin also hosts one of the country’s largest music festivals, South by Southwest (SXSW). I have compiled this list of my favorite Austin acts, including some well-known artists like Spoon and Stevie Ray Vaughan and lesser-known indie bands like Holy Wave and RF Shannon.

The Bright Light Social Hour- Created in 2010, this psychedelic rock band blends elements of space rock, funk and blues to create a truly amazing sound. The guitar work by Curtis Roush is remarkable and elevates your senses into new realms with his use of trippy effect pedals. They mix many genres together, like dream pop, blues and psychedelic rock. Definitely my favorite band from Austin, their album “Space is Still the Place” is a masterpiece and is worth a listen.

Holy Wave- Originally from El Paso, this Austin-based psychedelic band has been rocking since 2008. They mix trance-like rhythms with catchy psychedelic guitar riffs. They were an important part in creating Austin Psych Fest, now known as Levitation Festival. 

The Black Angels- Formed in 2004, this psychedelic heavy rock band is one of the premiere acts from Austin. With long, layered songs about war, death and other dark themes, they are an important group in the psychedelic rock community and one of my favorite bands. 

Star Parks- An Austin based project from Andy Bianculli that blends lo-fi dream pop with catchy Beatles-style indie pop. A hidden gem from Austin with lots of great psychedelic, layered songs. 

RF Shannon- Created by songwriter and vocalist Shane Renfro, this dreamy psychedelic band is quintessential Austin. His calm and soothing voice carries you into the hot Texas dessert. A great mix of blues, soul and psychedelic folk rock, RF Shannon is hard to categorize but makes for great easy listening. 

Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears- Created in 2007, this energetic group blends blues, soul and funk to create a unique modern sound. Heavily influenced by Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown, this group is very entertaining to listen to and one of Austin’s best. 

Shakey Graves- Formed in 2007 by guitarist, songwriter Alejandro Rose-Garcia, this Austin band mixes traditional Americana style blues, folk and country to create a soulful and tender sound. He has gathered a lot of commercial success while also retaining his indie, bare-bones bluesy sound. 

Spoon- One of the most well known Austin bands of all time, Spoon jumped onto the indie, alternative rock scene in 1993. They have had hit after hit over their many years of recording and touring. Their style is unique and has an experimental and art rock edge, making them one of the pioneers of alternative rock in the 2000’s. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan- One of the best blues guitarists of all time, Stevie Ray brought blues to a wide audience with his unique heavy sound and soulful songs. He used heavy strings and was known for his intense and jaw dropping live performances. He was my gateway artist into the world of blues and his legacy will always live on. 

Freddie King- Born in Gilmer, Texas, Freddie made a lasting impression on the Austin blues and overall music scene. A direct influence on Stevie Ray, Freddie brought a heavy and powerful sound to electric guitar blues. He is one of my favorite guitarists and his sound has been copied for many years. His live performances are very entertaining. He played with passion and had a very fast and creative sound that defines Texas blues.

The Sword- Formed in 2003, this Austin-based heavy metal band blends classic metal like Black Sabbath with more modern doom metal and stoner rock. You can definitely hear their main influence, Black Sabbath in both the vocal style and guitar playing. John D. Cronise is the main lyricist and vocalist and loves to write songs about Norse mythology and ancient literature. The Sword is a dynamic metal band that brings energy and a level of precision and touch.

Written by Adam


Best of Locations

Best Portland Bands

Portland, Oregon has attracted indie musicians for years. I’m not sure what makes this city create and attract such great indie artists. It could be the gloomy rainy weather, or vibrant young liberal art scene or its location sandwiched between grungy Seattle and glamorous sun drenched LA. Whatever it is, Portland has some amazing music ranging from blues, jazz, metal, electronica and indie rock.

Richard Swift- My favorite Portland-based artist. Swift is a multi-instrumentalist producer and songwriter who blends indie folk with classic Motown soul, rock and blues. His level of detail and production mastery is unmatched, along with his heartfelt and tragic lyrics. He died before his time and left an impression on the alternative music scene. 

M. Ward- A pioneer of the minimalist folk movement, M. Ward is a treat to hear with his low raspy voice and steady strumming of his old nylon string guitar.. His lo-if melodies will bring you peace on a cold rainy day. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- This experimental indie project composed of multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson, blends together electronica, psychedelic rock and soul. Lots of layers and catchy beats, with a hint of Michael Jackson flare. 

The Shivas- This psychedelic goth surf rock band is quintessential Portland. They mix old classic surf rock from sunny California with a dark gloomy sound of cold, rainy Portland. One of my favorite bands, this four piece has been rocking since 2006. 

Reptaliens- One of my favorite hidden gems of Portland, this indie synth pop group blends trippy sci-fi inspired beats with dreamy soundscapes. Highly addicting to listen to and definitely one of the coolest art pop bands you’ll ever hear. 

Blitzen Trapper- With a full and impressive song library, this alternative folk country band delivers beautifully composed country songs without the southern twang. 

STRFKR- A fun and creative indie synth pop group similar to LA’s Inner Wave. Loaded with catchy beats and energy, this group has developed a local cult following and is highly entertaining to listen to. 

Strawberry Guy- This bedroom pop project created by Alex Stephens is full of surreal and complex layers. His melodic and dream-like soundscapes are amazing making him one of my favorite Portland indie artists. 

Rose City Band- A side project for prolific guitarist Ripley Johnson, this band soothes and calms the nerves. A perfect sound for a rainy Portland day. Johnson blends soft and nimble guitar work with calming lyrics to create a lovely psychedelic folk sound. 

The Memories- This lo-fi indie rock group mixes humor and primitive recording styles to create a very Portland experience. They have a very impressive library of creative short psychedelic rock songs.

Frankie & The Witch Fingers- This indie hard rock group brings energy and technique and reminds me a lot of the Osees. They love to layer and build up their songs and have a cool dark Portland vibe to them.

Written by Adam