10 Bands to See at NYC’s 2020 New Colossus FestivalPhotos by Padrian McLeod, Cat Stevens & Okay Ogut Music Lists New Colossus Festival
The second edition of New York City’s New Colossus Festival will take place March 11-15. This Lower East Side fest offers showcases with up-and-coming bands, many of which are on their way to SXSW, plus an accompanying industry conference with panels featuring music industry vets. This year’s artist lineup has over 100 bands, many of whom are international acts or prominent NYC groups. Paste Magazine is hosting a showcase at this year’s festival, which features a curated lineup of some of our favorite on-the-rise bands, plus longtime indie favorite Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. If you live in New York and are looking for a taste of this exciting new crop of musicians, New Colossus is the festival for you.
Below, we’ve listed 10 artists we’re excited to check out at this year’s event, five of which are playing our sponsored showcase at Berlin on March 13 (lineup poster below) and three of which are filming live sessions in our Manhattan studio (Ali Barter, Honey Lung and Ducks Unlimited). Click here to purchase a festival badge, which gives you access to all the festival events, or click here to purchase tickets for Paste’s showcase—just $10!
1. Kiwi Jr.
You may not know Kiwi Jr., but you’re probably more than familiar with the sensations their music brings about. They might sound like all your favorite 1990s and 2010s indie bands, but you really can’t beat guitar-pop if they’ve got the gratifying hooks—and Kiwi Jr. deliver those goods and more. Their debut album, Football Money, is lyrically amusing and melodically euphoric—what more could you want from a band like this?
2. Ducks Unlimited
Jangle-pop just hits different than other genres. Its sweet innocence and tuneful guitars are hard to compete with when it’s done right, and Ducks Unlimited definitely fall into that camp. The band’s debut EP, Get Bleak, makes doom and gloom sound happy-go-lucky, and frankly, that’s something we can’t get enough of right now. Their chiming guitar ditties prompt jolly jigs and goofy smiles, and if you tune into the lyrics, you’re also in good hands for a productive sulk.
3. Honey Lung
For the past few years, London four-piece Honey Lung have quietly been making some of the most satisfyingly melodic guitar music available. The band recently signed to Big Scary Monsters (American Football, Beach Slang) for the release of a forthcoming EP, the follow-up to their singles and demos collection, Memory, which landed on our list of best EPs of 2019. There’s something vaguely classic and deeply meaningful about their lo-fi rock songs. File Honey Lung under heartfelt, yearning lyrics and eccentric, dynamic instrumentals.
4. Tim Burgess
As frontman of The Charlatans (or The Charlatans UK here in the states) for decades, Tim Burgess has become an alternative rock statesman. Arising in the early ’90s during the thriving Madchester and Britpop crazes, The Charlatans have dipped their toes in a lot of styles over the years, but Burgess has remained an interesting figure and compelling songwriter all these years later. Burgess is also an author of several books and an adept solo musician, and his fourth solo album, I Love The New Sky, which was announced with playful lead single “Empathy for the Devil,” is due out May 22 on Bella Union.
5. Ali Barter
Australian singer/songwriter Ali Barter is easy to believe in, even if she doesn’t believe in herself. The musician’s 2017 debut album, A Suitable Girl, received critical acclaim, but Barter still couldn’t shake her self-critiques of it. After taking a few months off, she realized she needed music to move forward, and that emotional progress can be heard on her 2019 follow-up Hello, I’m Doing My Best, where she arrives at the realization that there’s no shame in working on yourself. It’s an album of self-reflective indie-pop, and it’s marked by her wonderful combination of dainty vocals and fiery riffs.
6. Catholic Action
Scottish rockers Catholic Action released their debut album, In Memory Of, back in 2017, and had it dropped in the ’00s when bouncy, vaguely garage rock was all the rage, they could’ve made a big splash. Their sound rests on perfectly distorted guitars, distinctly genial and commanding vocals and jumpy bass lines that are almost too good to be true. Their forthcoming second album, Celebrated By Strangers, is due out on March 27 via Texas label Palo Santo Records, and despite its political bent, they can still write the hell out of a pop song.
London singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sophie Ellison has released a steady stream of particularly distinctive dream pop singles as HUSSY, and it’s hard not to be intrigued by what she’ll drop next. In 2018, she released “Slayer,” a warped, gauzy shoegaze track with an unforgettable slacker rock chorus. Then came “Forever,” a spooky rock track with stoner metal undertones, followed by her latest single “YLMD,” her poppiest song to date, but still equipped with dirty guitars. Consider us fascinated.
8. Knife Wife
Washington, D.C. three-piece Knife Wife don’t seem like the kind of band that’s easily fazed. Their debut EP Family Party, which came out on Priests-run label Sister Polygon, is radically minimal and unbelievably cool. Their occasionally shocking lyrics might sound off-putting if this was a band of dudes, but when delivered with the disinterested snarls of high school girls, it’s positively electrifying. Punk is in good hands as long as bands like these are still around.
9. Peel Dream Magazine
Peel Dream Magazine, the musical project of NYC musician Joe Stevens, sound like they were born to make shoegaze and avant-garde pop music. With their 2018 debut album Modern Meta Physic and another LP—Agitprop Alterna (out on April 3 via Slumberland Records)—on the way, Peel Dream Magazine have cemented themselves as reliably strong pop purveyors. They’re reminiscent of classic shoegaze, but still keen on stretching sonic boundaries and perplexing listeners.
10. Public Practice
Brooklyn post-punk outfit Public Practice built up a wave of buzz with their debut EP, Distance is a Mirror, back in 2018, and for good reason—its New Wave-infused post-punk was as sharp as it was funky. The band, which features members of WALL and Beverly, recently announced their debut album Gentle Grip is out on May 15 via Wharf Cat Records, and the news arrived with one of their best tracks yet, “Compromised”—a motoring punk-pop romp.