This week, we're rolling out our now-annual survey of the best new-ish band in each state in our great nation (The first year we did it, we also named the best band and solo artist of all time in each state, but we are presuming all such matters to be closed, so we don't want to hear about it). And even though it's not really the goal of this exercise, we still like to think of ourselves as predicting big things for the artists we anoint as the best. So let's look back at some of our choices to see how we've done. And the bands whose names don't get mentioned . . . there's still time, frankly. It's only been two years; these things take time.
2008 Okay, so we did cheat a bit here by discussing some bands whose breakouts were already in progress at the time - it didn't take much genius to see that big things would happen for MGMT, Bon Iver, Yeasayer, Santogold, Fleet Foxes, and Okkervil River (although I guess we did the same thing this year with Sleigh Bells and Best Coast), plus it took a Grammys-ian stretch of the term "new artist" to apply that description to the Gossip or DeVotchKa - but we did still manage to predict the upswings of quite a few bands whose names you now know. Consider:
Jay Reatard (Tennessee): Let's get the sad one out of the way first. As you may know, Reatard passed away at the beginning of this year. But before that, he had made a pretty good career for himself. He leaves behind two pretty great albums and a ton of excellent singles.
Deer Tick (Rhode Island): John McCauley wasn't too well-known beyond New England in 2008, but the release of Born on Flag Day launched him and his band into some lofty territory fueled in part by a nod of recognition from NBC news anchor Brian Williams of all people. Now they're at the point where they can do things like play Letterman and co-headline the Paradise with Dr. Dog.
Torche (Florida): This one may fall into the "cheating" category also, but they've now reached "kind of a big deal" status in certain circles on the strength of Meanderthal. They've at least attained the kind of status that should enable lead singer Steve Brooks to quit his job at a pizza place.
Portugal. The Man (Alaska): Have developed a pretty solid following; that whole "actually being from Wasilla" thing probably didn't hurt.
Wye Oak (Maryland): Even though Devotion came out earlier that year, we didn't pick Beach House for reasons unknown. That would have made us look brilliant. As it is, we only look "very smart" for picking Wye Oak, who've released two outstanding albums since then, particularly 2009's The Knot. They'll be at the Middle East in September with Lou Barlow.
Menomena (Oregon): They haven't become more popular since 2008 necessarily, but they're a good band with a new album coming out this summer, so there's a good chance we'll be hearing a lot about them quite soon.
2009We made an effort to focus more on younger and younger bands, so the results may not quite be there yet for some of these entrants. But at the same time, we did still catch a few at the right time:
The Low Anthem (Rhode Island): Two for Two with Ocean Staters! The Low Anthem made some serious in-roads with the NPR/Starbucks crowd, and, just like Deer Tick, also played Letterman.
Maps and Atlases (Illinois): Released their debut, Perch Patchwork, to some nice notices. Will play the Middle East in August with Cults. (No, not The Cult).
Screaming Females (New Jersey): Initially controversial (as in "how could you not have picked Titus Andronicus!?"), Screaming Females have proceeded to impress the shit out of everyone with their general awesomeness, including Ted Leo, who brought them out on tour. Lead singer Marisa Paternoster recently released a solo album as "Noun."
Stardeath and White Dwarfs (Oklahoma): Teamed up with the Flaming Lips (one of the guys is the nephew of Wayne Coyne) to perform Dark Side of the Moon live at Bonnaroo this year. That's possibly the best thing an Oklahoma band could ever hope for.