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The 20 Best New Bands of 2010

December 20, 2010  |  7:00am

There’s nothing quite like the joy of discovering a new favorite band. A handful of musicians come together to see what kind of sum results from the combination of parts. They struggle to find an audience in their hometown—sometimes for years—before the word leaks out through a music site or radio station or friend of a friend, and you give it a listen. You might recognize their influences, but there’s something brand new about the way that they’ve filtered their intake of the music that’s come before and tweaked it in a way that’s uniquely their own. And sometimes immediately, you know that this is a band that you’ll be paying attention for years to come.

We obviously didn’t listen to every new band in 2010, and the idea of defining what makes a band new this year is problematic (our definition apparently differs from the Grammys). But this list is about our favorite discoveries of the last 12 months—bands that we weren’t really following in 2009 even if they’d been around for a while. All of these were named Best of What’s Next at some point during the year.

So we know your list would look different. It might include bands like Dawes that we highlighted in 2009 or bands that we simply haven’t yet discovered. And we’re saving solo artists for their own lists. But we hope that this helps you make some new discoveries of your own.

Here are our 20 favorite new bands of 2010:

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20. Cults
Hometown: New York City
Album: TBA
Members: Brian Oblivion (guitar, keys), Madeline Follin (bass, drums, vocals)
For Fans Of: Passion Pit, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dum Dum Girls

Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, both 21, have only been making music together since February, but have already converted fans with their exuberant, danceable garage rock. Their first single was released on Gorilla vs. Bear’s Forest Family label this spring, followed by a tour. “It’s hard to get out of that hype of being an Internet buzz band,” Follin said, “and to actually make a name for yourself.”

Cults hopes to release its first full-length in January 2011. As for long-term goals, Oblivion says, “On the one hand, to play Madison Square Garden. On the other hand, Maddie and I both never really planned to be musicians in our lives, we just fell into this. We didn’t see it coming so we’re just riding it and seeing how far it can go.”—Caroline Klibanoff

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19. First Aid Kit
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Album: The Black and the Blue
Members: Johanna Söderberg (autoharp, keys, vocals), Klara Söderberg (guitar, vocals)
For Fans Of: Fleet Foxes, The Weepies, Samantha Crain
Photo by Eva Edsjö

The two sisters who make up First Aid Kit had never been to the United States before this March, when they shuttled over from Sweden to play at the 2010 South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. But from the country-tinged harmonies on their debut full-length, The Black and the Blue (released in May) you’d never know it. Nineteen-year-old Johanna Söderberg says that she and her 17-year-old sister Klara are “a bit obsessed” with American culture, endlessly inspired by the stories and sounds of the States’ country-western and folk music traditions. “The stories that they tell are usually tragic, horrible stories of murder and madness and greed,” she says. “I think we’re really inspired by that combination of beautiful harmonies and beautiful melodies and really sad lyrics.”

First Aid Kit’s music has the beauty-against-carnage feel of the best dusty, antiquated country records; lyrics about death and decay are set amid warm, luminous harmonies and delicate acoustic strumming. Despite the singers’ slight ages, The Black and the Blue touches on some pretty heavy themes—take the longing of the narrator in “Winter Is All Over You,” and “Hard Believer,” which was inspired by Klara’s conversations about religion with a Jehovah’s Witness. “She almost got him to quit,” Johanna says. “But now they’re friends.”

The Söderberg sisters recorded their album at home in Stockholm over a period of eight months, during weekends and breaks from school, with their father producing. They also recorded a gorgeous rendition of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” as a tribute to one of their favorite bands, whose debut LP they “listened to the record basically every day for three months,” Johanna admits. The duo is currently wrapping up a U.S. tour before heading back to Europe and spending the summer playing festivals—familiar territory for them, and not just thanks to their recent SXSW run. Johanna recalls the time they performed at an electronica festival in Sweden: “Guys in tattoos and piercings were crying,” she says. “It was really funny.”—Lindsay Eanet

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18. Frankie Rose & the Outs
Hometown: Brooklyn
Album: Frankie Rose & the Outs
Band Members: Frankie Rose (vocals, guitar, drums), Caroline Yes! (bass), Kate Ryan (drums), Margot Bianca (guitar)
For Fans Of: Rilo Kiley, Neko Case, Husky Rescue

Frankie Rose has definitely paid her dues. She was the songwriter and drummer behind “Where Do You Run To?” on the Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut. After leaving the band, she played for Crystal Stilts. And when she left Crystal Stilts, she started drumming for Dum Dum Girls. Finally, her debut album with her band Frankie Rose & The Outs was finally released through Slumberland Records. The atmospheric, dreamy record, recorded last winter, features Rose on guitar/drums/vocals, Caroline Yes on bass, Margot Bianca on guitar, and Kate Ryan on drums. And now, with her own band, she’s doing what she wants.

“It’s really great,” Rose told Paste earlier this year. “The ladies in my band, they’re so awesome. They’re so supportive, and by no means am I totally leading the ship or anything. We all make decisions about how much we want to do something or not do something, [and] we all just want to keep it mellow. But it’s great to be playing my own music and play guitar—it’s what I’ve wanted to do for so long.”Evan Minsker

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17. Magic Kids
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Album: Memphis
Band Members: Bennett Foster (vocals, guitar), Will McElroy (keyboard), Ben Bauermeister (drums), Michael Peery (bass, vocals), Alex Gates (guitar vocals)
For Fans Of: The Beach Boys, Jens Lekman, Belle & Sebastian
Photo by Alejandra Sabillon

What is Magic Kids? Well, for starters: “A television channel in Peru or something.” “A really low-budget daycare center in Memphis.” “A children’s company that may or may not be a scam, according to Google.”

These are a few things that Will McElroy and Bennett Foster, both members of the Memphis, Tenn. quintet, have learned share their band’s name. Its actual origin is similarly non sequitur: “I had a funny movie poster that I bought like 10 years ago from a junk store for this movie called Magic Kid,” McElroy says. “I’ve never seen the movie, but I thought the name sounded better than the other hundred names that we had thought up.”

As their moniker suggests, Magic Kids make music that’s both obsessively orchestrated and simplistically childlike, filled with strings, horns and sing-along harmonies. A spinoff of Memphis punk act The Barbaras, the group has a seven-inch record (the infectious “Hey Boy” with B-side “Good To Be”) on venerable Memphis garage imprint Goner, and another seven-inch (a split with recent tourmates The Smith Westerns) out via Fat Possum. Fresh off their first proper tour with blog sensation Girls, you’ll have to excuse the Kids if they seem a bit bewildered. “When we were doing The Barbaras, we were learning how to play our instruments,” McElroy says. “We were just figuring things out. Pop music was still a novel concept to us.”

In March, Magic Kids headed into the studio with engineer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Britney Spears) to work on Memphis (out Aug. 31), their debut full-length for True Panther Sounds (the label behind Girls and Hunx and His Punx). “We like to take our time,” Foster says. “We really take it slow. We like to smell the flowers the whole way. We’ve never had to think of it as an obligation.”—Austin L. Ray

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16. Best Coast
Hometown: Los Angeles
Album: Crazy For You
Members: Bethany Cosentino, Bobb Bruno
For Fans Of: Neko Case, Vivian Girls, Rilo Kiley

Before singer/guitarist Bethany Cosentino was crafting two-minute, beach-fuzzy sonic diary entries with Best Coast, she weathered an earnest singer-songwriter stint in her teens and a more recent drone-y period with a band called Pocahaunted. Within the past year and a half, though, she and bandmate Bobb Bruno have recorded enough 7-inches for a family to eat dinner off of, all released in small batches on boutique labels Group Tightener, Art Fag, Black Iris and PPM. Cosentino (a former Fader intern) and bandmate Bobb Bruno are released their debut LP in July after a tour with the Vivian Girls.

“I don’t own a lot of 7-inches myself,” Cosentino told Paste. “However, I’m obsessed with buying girl group singles and ‘50s and ‘60s singles on 45s. ... My dad actually was a big classic rock and oldies radio kind of guy. I can remember being picked up from school and ‘Be My Baby’ was on the radio 20 times a day. I remember hearing that song and really loving it but not understanding that it was an actual sound. I was really young. When I was about 18, my best friend had a Ronettes ‘best of’ CD in her dorm room when I went to visit her. When we listened to it, it was snowing. It was the first time I had experienced a bunch of Ronettes songs. I had only heard the obvious ones. I thought it was so beautiful, like a Martin Scorsese movie.—Reed Fischer

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