Folks don’t necessarily look to Rhode Island as a place where great music is born. Something about being the smallest state in the union tends to leave that impression in the less curious minds of the world. Yet, the bands and artists that were born in the Ocean State are some of the most amazing and forward-thinking acts around: Black Dice, Arab on Radar, The Body, Throwing Muses, Six Finger Satellite, The Low Anthem and Sage Francis, to name just a few. So, it should come as little surprise that the up-and-comers of Rhode Island ca. 2014 represent a wide array of sounds and styles, ranging from ornate UK-style folk to herky-jerky pop made with circuit bent Game Boys. As part of the 50 States Project, here, then, are the 10 bands that should be on your radar right now.
Members: Shannon Le Corre, Chris Carrera, Derrick Garforth, Neil King
Current Album: Traum (2014)
The band likes to refer to their sound as “doom folk,” which is a decent enough descriptor, but only seems to scratch the surface of this dark, brooding soup this quartet cooks up. There’s a lot of goth garage mayhem a la Gun Club and Nick Cave and a splash sludge metal swirling in the mix. And there are moments where shafts of light cut through the murk, courtesy to the occasionally dulcet vocals of Shannon Le Corre. It’s a heavy and thick sound but it goes down so smooth.
Current Album: Mumblin’ Sue (2013)
When she’s not singing with the sumptuous group Haunt The House, Allysen Callery is bringing back to life the delicate and soul-stirring sounds of the folk revival that swept through the UK in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In fact, her lilting voice and heartfelt lyrics are eerily close to the work of the late British songstress Sandy Denny, the highest compliment I could hand down to this brilliant artist. It’s little wonder then that she has gained a welcome audience in Europe, where she will be touring this coming fall. Now it’s time for folks in her home country to sit up and take notice.
Current Album: Cape Verdean in America (2014)
Though he came up in the Rhode Island music scene as a rapper—and a very good one at that—in recent months, Chachi Carvalho has been embracing his heritage as a former native of the island nation of Cape Verde. On his latest EP that comes out in the form of morna-inspired club bangers and some silken ballads that mesh his street savvy rhymes with a modern slow coladeira.
Current Album: Don’t Expect Nothin’ mixtape (forthcoming)
All of 20 years old, this Rhode Island-based rapper (real name: Eufradis Rodriguez) was brought under the wing of the Young Money crew and wound up in the studio with such pop titans as Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber. Though he hasn’t really presented his own work in any large way (the finishing touches are being put on a mixtape as you read this), his verses on the Young Money: Rise of an Empire release have revealed a rapper that boasts an indelible flow and a deep love of language.
Haunt The House
Members: Will Houlihan, Bessie Bessin, Allysen Callery, Ryan Smith, Meg Bayley, David Henry Passaflume, Amato Zinno, Stephen Lloyd Law
Current Album: Jack Rabbit Jones (2014)
Originally the solo acoustic project of Will Houlihan, Haunt The House has recently expanded to something much bigger and bolder. On the recently released Jack Rabbit Jones, the full spectrum of folk instrumentation has joined in, with rapturous mandolin and accordion adding a spacious backdrop for Houlihan and a chorus of singers to cry, moan, plead and delight. This is the kind of music that the genre tag of Americana was custom-made for.
Members: Vincent Hausman, Jonathan Hall, Josh Durocher-Jones, Jesse Riley, Nick Kasten
Current Album: Bloodlines (2013)
Though this doom metal outfit has been around since around 2006, their star has been on the rise over the last few years, after getting snapped up by heavy music tastemakers Relapse Records. It’s not hard to hear what the label heard in this quintet; they bring progressive rock dynamics to the pummeling beats and triple guitar attack of their chosen genre. And when they do shove the gas pedal to the floor and really cut loose, it’s all you can do to not find your body getting blown asunder in their wake.
Math The Band
Members: Kevin Steinhauser, Justine Mainville
Current Album: Stupid and Weird (2014)
8-bit synth punk has no better American ambassadors than this hyperactive duo. Recorded almost entirely using janky synthesizers, old drum machines, and jerry-rigged video game systems, this pair refuses to slow down for one second. Their songs speed past like a Formula-1 racer, and the band has traded partying tips on the road with Andrew WK and fellow dance punks Peelander-Z. Leave your love of ballads at the door and get ready to sweat.
Roz and the Rice Cakes
Members: Roz Raskin, Casey Belisle, Justin Foster
Current Album: Need To Feed (2014)
Until the math rock revival comes along to nudge aside all this emo talk, bands like Roz and the Rice Cakes will have to carry the torch for this oft-maligned sub-genre. This trio does it right, though, matching up non-standard time signatures with their blustery, keyboard-heavy pop and goose-flesh-inducing vocal harmonies. The band is being edged along towards worldwide renown thanks to Conor Oberst’s label Team Love who, this year, released RATRC’s most recent album.
The Suicide Magnets
Members: Wendy Jane Hyatt, Chris Urany
Current Album: Demo to Franco (2014)
There’s something slightly off about every bit of music that Wendy Jane Hyatt has thus far released online. Her acoustic demos fight to be heard underneath a thick wash of tape hiss, and on live recordings, where she performs with drummer Chris Urany, her vocals are processed to sound slightly robotic. What comes through in both cases is the haunted emotion baked into every one of her compositions, a slightly bluesy punch that cuts through the murk and cuts right to the core of anyone within earshot.
A Troop of Echoes
Members: Peter Gilli, Harrison Hartley, Nick Cooper, Dan Moriarty
Current Album: The Longest Year on Record (2014)
Instrumental outfits like A Troop of Echoes used to litter the indie/post-rock scene, but are becoming harder and harder to find. Which is what puts this quartet in a unique position to really stake their collective claim in the current music world. They do an amazing job of working the rather spacious and calm work of saxophonist Peter Gilli into the rest of the band’s Slint-inspired monolithic approach. It gets even more dynamic on their latest album with the addition of string players and a 13-person strong percussion ensemble on a few tracks.