From legends like Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen to indie stalwarts like Yo La Tengo and Ted Leo, New Jersey is home to some of the most sincere and earnest music ever produced. Recent albums by bands like the Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus and Screaming Females have kept the kept the Jersey pride alive and these 12 up-and-coming artists are poised to continue that righteous geographic tradition.
Members: Neal Day, Ben Petty, John Ludas, Dylan Richardson
Current Release: Apparus EP
Bouncy, harmony-laden piano pop isn’t exactly the kind of music you necessarily associate with New Jersey. But with their catchy debut EP, Apparus are out to change that perception.
2. Cakes da Killa
Members: Rashard Bradshaw
Current Release: “Whistle (Beat it Up)”
Like many hip-hop artists, Cakes da Killa (aka New Jersey college student Rashard Bradshaw) sometimes raps about sex. Unlike most hip-hop artists, he’s open about his homosexuality. It’s a bold move especially in a pre-Frank Ocean world (his latest EP was recorded before Ocean’s outing). However regardless of your sexual preferences, his latest single “Whistle (Beat it Up)” is a party anthem of the highest order.
3. The Everymen
Members: Mike V, Scott Zillitto, Stephen Chopek, Geoff Morrissey, Catherine Herrick, Jamie Zillitto, Jake Fiedler, Thomas Barrett
Current Release: Seconds As An English Language (Live From Asbury Park)
This rolicking collective of Jersey boys (and girl) makes the kind of earnest rock that put New Jersey on the musical map, sounding something like a punked-out Bruce Springsteen (with a dash of the Replacements and Rocket from the Crypt thrown in for good measure.). Pal Kurt Vile even makes a guest appearance on their Hello, Nice Evening EP.
4. The Front Bottoms
Members: Brian Sella, Mathew Uychich
Current Release: The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms make power pop of the highest order. The buoyant keyboards, clap-along melodies and “whoa whoa whoa” choruses rage on with an effervescent naturalness made only possible by the chemistry of childhood friendship—the duo have known each other since elementary school. It’s enough to have garnered the attention of Bar/None records who released their self-titled album last fall.
5. Full of Fancy
Hometown: Monmoth/Middlesex County
Members: Erin Fancy, Evan Fancy, Miranda Fancy, Brian Fancy
Current Release: Liquid Nature and the Singles
Each song by Full of Fancy is a quick grenade of twee-punk awesomeness. Fiery guitar blasts are coated in honeyed vocal harmonies, making for a perfect summer album, whether you’re rocking out at a New Brunswick basement show or simply relaxing down by the shore.
Hometown: New Brunswick
Members: Joseph Black, Raymond “Ray” Schwab, Erik ‘Dougal’ Sandberg, Marc ‘Klein-Goldblatt’ Esterow
Current Release: “Stranger Calls” 7” / Do U Party? EP
Honeydrum’s prolific ability to release a new single or EP every month puts the Amish—or at least Robert Pollard’s—work ethic to shame. Considering most of these releases were in cassette-only format, these guys are lo-fi analog fetishists of the highest order. However Their latest EP is sure to expand their audience with dark atmospherics and blurry blasts of synths.
Members: Aviva Stampfer, Blake Luley, Carl Creighton, Miles Waltuck, Neil Acharya
Current Release: Newkirk
While most of the members of Howth met at their New Jersey high school, they’ve individually lived all over the world—from Palestine to Minnesota. This influence is clearly seen in their worldly (and often otherworldly) ambient folk music. There’s a warm intimacy at work in their Fleet Foxes-esque sound, and their latest album Newkirk is a gorgeous example of the quieter side of the Garden State’s music scene.
8. Julian Lynch
Members: Julian Lynch
Current Release: Terra
In the past Julian Lynch has collaborated with fellow New Jersey natives Real Estate and Ducktails, but his solo efforts are just as notable. Over the course of three albums, he’s developed a real sense of mood and melody in his woozy, lo-fi bedroom pop. But that really shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering he has a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicography and has even worked for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Lynch knows his history and is clearly following it to the future.
9. Memory Tapes
Hometown: Wharton State Forrest area
Members: Davye Hawk
Current Release: Player Piano
Formerly of the band Hail Social, Davye Hawke is a veteran of the New Jersey/Philadelphia scene. He’s finally managed to garner national attention with his latest project Memory Tapes. His ambient dream pop transcends the cloying “chillwave” label, as he combines electronica, girl-group pop and psychedelia in a gorgeous blend that deserves a moniker of its very own.
10. Spook Houses
Members: Colin Alexander, Dave Benton, Alkis Meimaris, Nick Corbo.
Current Release: Trying
A certain rawness permeates Spook Houses’ music. Like many of its New Jersey musical brethren, the band straddles the line between shambolic lo-fi noise rock and poppy punk melody. Plus it can never hurt to use a photo of a cute dog as your album art.
11. The Ugly Club
Hometown: Union County
Members: Ryan Egan, Joseph Stasio, Taylor Mandel, Rick Sue-Poi, Ryan Mcnulty
Current Release: You Belong To The Minutes
The Ugly Club make music that’s much more attractive than their name. Over the course of multiple self-produced and released EPs and extensive East Coast touring, the Union County-based band has excelled at crafting psych-pop melodies with a punchy funk bent. Bonus points for titling a song “David Foster Wallace.” (photo by @shaygoestowork)
12. Waking Lights
Members: Matthew Maroulakos, Dana LaMarca, Tommy Maroulakos, Nicole Scorsone
Current Release: The Rabbit Hole
Talk about Jersey pride, Waking Lights are actually named after the glowing illumination of the Jersey skyline seen on the Lincoln Tunnel. And their music is just as bright. Waking Lights specialize in crafting urgent rock songs punctuated by orchestral blasts, complete with sprightly violin and cello.