LA artist Amy Kuney makes emotional pop music that comes from an extremely nontraditional upbringing. Her life was uprooted just as she entered her teens, when her father became a missionary and took the family to live in Honduras. She dealt with poverty, violence, death, and even kidnapping. These are all things she channels into her songs, which promise hope in the face of everything dark. Her song “Gasoline Rainbows” is dedicated to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The David Mayfield Parade Nashville, TN
The older brother of rising Americana star Jessica Lea Mayfield, David Mayfield is a noted performer in Music City, counting the Avett Brothers among his friends and fans (and guests on his album). The former Cadillac Sky man struck out on his own with the David Mayfield Parade, combining alt-country, folk, and rockabilly with echoes of everyone from Neil Young to Elvis.
Grand & Noble Chicago, IL
Named after a busy Chicago intersection, Grand & Noble is actually two guys named Jonathan Elling and Scott Kane Stukel. Incorporating piano, strings, and thoughtful arrangements into their country-tinged indie rock, the duo recall everyone from Cold War Kids to a more serious Weezer on their self-titled album, which you can download for free (or name your own price) on Bandcamp.
Grand & Noble by Grand & Noble
Dominant Legs San Francisco, CA
SF’s Dominant Legs is one of those projects that springs from a single person’s mind then keeps expanding until it takes a whole band to contain it. The person in this case is frontman Ryan Lynch, who roped in keyboardist and co-star Hannah Hunt before recruiting additional musicians. With a heavy debt to ’80s pop, the group adds an edge of MGMT to its sunny sound, reflected in the equally sunny video for “Hoop of Love.” Warning: this one will stick in your head.
The Rap Pack New Orleans, LA
Choosing the name as a tribute to the original Rat Pack, the Rap Pack is the coming together of four of New Orleans’ most-loved local emcees, K. Gates, Y. Luck, the Show & Dappa. Commendable hip-hop forces on their own, the quartet’s combined talents make it a group to watch, especially for its extremely compelling choices of backing tracks and samples, which evoke sounds of long ago (like the 1920s) along with the contemporary. For more music, download the Rap Pack’s free mixtape, Suit Music Vol. 1.
Intake Dallas, TX
Intake could be the first band we’ve ever seen describe one of their songs as “Muse meets Carlos Santana,” but somehow it fits. Mixing Latino influences with high-energy modern prog-rock tendencies, the Dallas-based band finds an energetic, aggressive, and atmospheric sound that skirts cultural touchstones. However, it’s the soulful, soaring “Chasing Love” (featuring Josephine Grace) that really won us over. Get that track on the A Band Apart Dallas mixtape, then check out “Hostile Nostalgia” below for a more straightforward view of the band’s debut album, Moments + Definition.
Blue Kid New York, NY
NYC’s Blue Kid, aka Lydia Benecke (and also the name of her band), is easily the quirkiest act in this bunch, but we couldn’t help falling for her piano and acoustic guitar-based compositions, which evoke such luminaries as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Nellie McKay. Calling on classic jazz along with contemporary cabaret and pop, she’s able to make even horror stories seem fun, as you’ll hear on “The Dismemberment Song” on the New York mixtape. Her explanation for it’s exceptionally morbid lyrics? “I was watching a lot of Dexter at the time.”
Stockholm Orlando, FL
Taking their cues from arena-rock titans like the Killers and Incubus, Florida quintet Stockholm are bringing big sounds to the Southern scene. The name aside, there’s nothing evocative of Scandinavia in the songs on the band’s debut EP, Don’t Stop Now, whose title track is featured on the Miami mixtape and in the video below. It’s quintessentially modern American rock that stands out from a sea of house music and emo bands in the area, giving Stockholm a real shot at growing beyond their surroundings.
So what do you think of our picks from the mixes? Are there other artists you’d like to see land the final prize? Vote for any of the 70 remaining acts in the A Band Apart competition presented by Stoli, and let your voice be heard. Also feel free to leave your comments right here! We’ll be revealing the final ten contenders soon, so stay tuned.