It’s hard out there for Alaskan bands. As Spin documented in a trip to the state last year, being a musician in Alaska usually includes day-long travels for gigs of unknown turnout, which brings many natives, like Paste favorites Portugal. The Man, down to Seattle or Portland. But for many residents like Meg Mackey, our 49th state is the only place to craft their tunes.
Below, we’ve counted down nine of our favorite musical discoveries from Alaska. Share some of your own favorite Alaskan bands in the comments section below.
9. Young Fangs
For Fans of: Freelance Whales, Wolf Parade
Young Fangs’ shimmering, clean guitars lead the way on their debut EP, Thanks for Caring. The band’s tracks fall on the more melodic side of the loud/soft/loud school of music, but this Fairbanks outfit engages beyond the hooky melodies with a hard-hitting backline.
8. Matt Hopper
Location: Eagle River
For Fans of: Tom Petty, The Shins, Ryan Adams
Although this songwriter recently relocated to Idaho, Matt Hopper cut his teeth in our most northern state, which would lead to the wiry, blues-flavored tracks on the 2011 album Jersey Finger. Hopper is a Tom Petty dead-ringer on “Send/Receive,” and he spends the rest of Jersey Finger drumming up nostalgia for listeners of many generations.
7. Marian Call
Photo by Brian Adams
For Fans of: Regina Spektor, Sufjan Stevens, Rosie Thomas
This pop songstress from Anchorage churns out shifting, orchestral tunes across her double-album, Something Fierce. She can be minimal and charming (“Free Bird”) or layered and commanding (“Good Morning Moon”), but the string that connects Call’s tunes is her playful personality.
6. Feeding Frenzy
For Fans of: Murder By Death, Arcade Fire
On the strength of their folk-rooted tunes, this Fairbanks five-piece has already shared the stages with the likes of mewithoutYou and Murder By Death. Their 2011 outing at Austin’s SXSW caught our attention with a harmony-heavy set that shines in a live setting.
5. Animal Eyes
For Fans of: Maps and Atlases, Grizzly Bear, Beirut
Formed in Alaska, this band has gone the way of many before them and made the trek down to Portland. Along the way, they’ve hit SXSW and played shows across the northwest, traveling on the strength of their progressive, math-tinged take on traditional songs that squeeze in accordion and horns.
4. The Sweeteners
Photo by Joel Adams
For Fans of: The Black Keys, The Features
This self-dubbed “skanky rock ‘n’ roll” trio just released its debut album last May. Leaning hard on wiry, ‘60s tones, this unit churns out high-energy blues-pop that’s bound to get the blood flowing on a cold night out.
3. The We Shared Milk
Photo by Ingrid Renan
For Fans of: Youth Lagoon, Ty Segall, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
The new/old school of reverb-drenched, garage-bred rock has made its way to Alaska, proven in the tunes of former residents The We Shared Milk. The tracks blend ‘60s grime with lo-fi favorites of today, but while the tunes recall certain places and eras, their sound is fresh enough that you’ll never be able to pinpoint exactly when or where that is. Again, Alaska’s lost these gentlemen to Portland.
2. Meg Mackey
For Fans of: Damien Rice, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple
Although Meg Mackey has shifted to pursuing music full-time, it couldn’t take her from her home state: “I’ve been in Alaska since I was 7 years old, so it is and always will be home,” she says in her online biography. And predictably, its landscapes have influenced the singer, from connecting with the wild while dog mushing at age nine to working in Juneau ice fields in 2006. And as a result of her landscape, Mackey reels the audience in with an ice-melting vocal warmth, all backed by her room-filling band.
For Fans of: Islands, Nick Cave, WU LYF
Historian just released a fantastic new EP last week. Titled Romance, the EP’s tracks can range from light, bouncy and melodic to crushingly heavy, all tied together by frontman Nate Hurst’s morose croon. Here, we see synths of the future spliced with tones of the past, and the result is something that feels fresh and familiar.