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The 20 Best New Bands of 2010

December 20, 2010  |  7:00am
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15. Givers
Hometown: Lafayette, La.
Album: Givers EP
Band Members: Kirby Campbell (drums, vocals), Taylor Guarisco (vocals, guitar), Will Henderson (keyboards, samples, saxophone, flute, vocals), Tiffany “Teddy” Lamson (vocals, percussion, ukulele, guitar), Josh LeBlanc (bass, trumpet),
For Fans Of: Dirty Projectors, Mates of State, Vampire Weekend

Givers came into 2010 with lots of momentum. Late last year, the feel-good Louisiana quintet was drafted to tour with arty darlings Dirty Projectors; that coup was followed shortly by the release of Givers’ self-titled debut EP, which zydeco label Valcour Records broke genre-ranks to distribute.

It’s easy to see why: the face-painted, feather-bedecked band of multi-instrumentalists make delightfully breezy, lucid-dream pop, Will Henderson’s keyboard whirling away while Josh LeBlanc’s Dixieland horns rough up Kirby Campbell’s steady Afro-pop drums. Standout EP track “Ceiling of Plankton” recalls the oddball sugar of The Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips and proves the young band knows how to experiment without abandoning danceable melodies or life-affirming lyrics.

“And when you notice that your heart is bleeding, mine is bleeding, too,” lead vocalists Tiffany “Teddy” Lamson and Taylor Gaurisco sing over an echo of xylophone plinks and warm cymbal rushes. Whether trading leads with Gaurisco or blending back into the harmonic haze, Lamson sounds both achingly distant and incredibly close, like Leslie Feist’s kid sister after an all-nighter has left her smoky tenor cracked and courageous in all the right places.

Expect the glittery, communal, magic-schoolbus spirit of the Givers EP to remain intact on the band’s full-length debut, due this summer. In the coming months, they’ll take the heart-warming, booty-shaking show on the road, offering up their catchy cures for the recession blues throughout Louisiana and Texas (including a stop at SXSW). Labels are circling, but for now the band is happily independent. “We’re just keeping our hearts open and letting opportunities come to us,” says Lamson. “Touring with these guys and the energy of being on the road with them—I realized I could do this the rest of my life and be happy.”—Jeff Roedel

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14. CoCoComa
Hometown: Chicago
Album: Things are Not All Right
Members: Bill Roe (drums, lead vocals), Lisa Roe (guitar, backup vocals), Tyler J. Brock (bass, backup vocals), Anthony Cozzi (guitar, organ, backup vocals)
For Fans Of: Elvis Costello, Thin Lizzy, The Troggs

“It’s that finding a balance between all those things,” a frazzled-sounding Bill Roe says when asked how he juggles his band CoCoComa, his year-old record label Trouble in Mind and another one-year-old named Ronnie. “I don’t want to only focus on the label or the band and not pay attention to my daughter.” Much like his life, the music of CoCoComa (which also includes Roe’s wife, Lisa, on guitar) is fast-paced and exciting. It’s all hooks piled atop melodic garage rock and over before you know it.

In addition to playing San Francisco’s Budget Rock Festival in late October, Roe recently designed the cover for an LP from the band Nobunny. Meanwhile, he says, “We owe a single to this guy in Germany who put out our compilation [Spectrum of Sounds] LP. We were thinking of maybe doing a 12-inch EP.”—Austin L. Ray

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13. Warpaint
Hometown: Los Angeles
Album: Exquisite Corpse EP
Band Members: Emily Kokal (vocals, guitar), Jenny Lee Lindberg (vocals, bass), Theresa Wayman (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
For Fans Of: Bat for Lashes, Björk, Cat Power

“Girls tend to not take seriously the talents they could have,” says Theresa Wayman, one of Warpaint’s three frontwomen. “Maybe they sing or maybe they play guitar a little bit, but there aren’t many that want to become like Jimi Hendrix.”

There’s not much shredding in Warpaint’s electric ladyland, but there’s plenty of rock ’n’ roll aspiration. The trio’s dreamy shoegaze melodies are paired with post-punk dissonance and fueled by the bandmates’ pure magnetism and instrumental chops. Warpaint released its six-song debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, last October, then signed with Rough Trade mere days after the CMJ Music Marathon. Produced by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, the EP is rife with tension and intrigue, with vocals held back for minutes at a time as the band builds walls of tension rivaling The Cure’s Disintegration. “Beetles” captivates with Wayman’s rap-singing wrung through an effects pedal, and “Billie Holiday” sets the sassy soul of Mary Wells’ “My Guy” adrift in a slow churn of three-part harmony and Mellotron, with pathos enough to rip open tear ducts.

It remains to be heard how Warpaint’s full-length debut, due this spring, will compare. After three different guys filled in for founding drummer and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg’s actress sister Shannyn Sossamon, Australian percussionist Stella Mozgawa will take to the kit for recording sessions in Portland this winter. The band also plans to try out drum machines, strings, piano and acoustic guitar—elements that don’t usually figure into Warpaint’s live show.

A few more rock legends will join Hendrix in their pantheon of inspiration, too. “We’re going to have Wilson-Phillips harmonies,” axewoman Emily Kokal jokes. “George Harrison’s ghost is going to tell me how to play guitar.”—Reed Fischer

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12. The Middle East
Hometown: Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Album: The Recordings of the Middle East EP
Band Members: Mike Haydon (drums, accordion), Jordan Ireland (guitar, lead vocals), Rohin Jones (guitar, lead vocals), Jack Saltmiras (bass), Mark Myers, Bree Tranter, Joseph Ireland (all multi-instrumentalists)
For Fans Of: Bon Iver, Doves, The Antlers
Photo by Jordan Ireland

The history of The Middle East is decidedly less conflicted than the band’s name might suggest. The seven-piece formed in 2005 and played gigs around Townsville, a remote shore town in northeastern Australia, then disbanded when guitarist Jordan Ireland decamped to Germany. Now that he’s back, the band is up to its old tricks, creating densely layered songs that reside somewhere in the volatile territory between folk and post-rock. Their debut EP, released last October, at first seems to be all quiet moments and rich, delicate harmonies, but it’s sporadically interrupted by bursts of enthusiastic horns, drums, glockenspiel and squealing electric guitar.

Though the band has had a bit of fun with its name (the EP is titled The Recordings of the Middle East, and their MySpace handle is “visitthemiddleeast”) co-frontman Rohin Jones insists it doesn’t have any profound political meaning. “When we first started, we just needed a name for a poster for a show that we were doing. And I was watching a documentary on Yasir Arafat, and was like, ‘Why don’t we call the band The Middle East?’” he says. “I don’t think we’re trying to ‘say’ anything—though I guess it could seem like a controversial name, at the moment.”

The band is green enough that it doesn’t even have proper press photos, though all of the members recently quit their day jobs for their current spring tour. The route won’t land the band anywhere near southwestern Asia, but will take them across Australia and to the U.S., including stops at SXSW and Coachella. “We’re definitely not the most let’s-go-crazy kind of band,” Jones says. “Nothing really dramatic has hap- pened on this tour. Oh, actually, I broke my collarbone … I’m still kind of healing and it’s still kind of painful, but I’m fine. Doing great!”—Alexandria Symonds

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11. Lost in the Trees
Hometown: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Album: All Alone in an Empty House
Band Members: Ari Picker (vocals, guitar), Drew Anagnost (cello), Mark Daumen (tuba, bass), Leah Gibson (cello), Emma Nadeau (French horn, bells, accordion, vocals), Jenavieve Varga (violin), Yan Westerlund (drums)
For Fans Of: Arcade Fire, Mark Mothersbaugh, Antonio Vivaldi

As a budding high-school musician, Ari Picker didn’t know how to read or write music until he’d already started jamming with a bunch of string players, and he’d never listened to classical music before enrolling at Berklee to study film scoring. He took to it fast, though. “It was almost a kind of religious experience for me to go to class and learn about these different [composers],” he says, “because—and I don’t know what the right word is—but they’re just very magical people.”

Soon after, Picker abandoned film scoring and assembled Lost in the Trees, a band that fused his newfound love of classical music with the uninhibited honesty of beloved folkies like Joni Mitchell. Picker eventually decamped from Boston to his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C., and he estimates that more than two dozen members—many with similar backgrounds—have since cycled in and out of the band. “It’s been a really weird experience,” he says, “bringing [in] kids that have been in a conservatory—or certainly not on a rock club stage.”

After putting out a few albums on local imprint Trekky Records, Lost in the Trees signed to Anti- and recorded its LP All Alone in an Empty House with producer Scott Solter (St. Vincent, The Mountain Goats, Okkervil River). It’s mountaintop chamber music, a happy marriage of old folk traditions and even older orchestral ones. And Picker hasn’t forgotten where he first caught the music bug; his Project Symphony takes Lost in the Trees into high-school classrooms, working with students to perform Picker’s and other artists’ original symphonic compositions alongside professional musicians in a concert hall. “It’s just kind of a really warm feeling when I heard any sort of piece from that era,” he says. It’s a feeling he’s doing his best to spread.—Josh Jackson

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