Genre is a peculiar thing. We often recognize elements of our favorites when we hear them, drawing comparisons to notable artists of their respective scenes. And what’s better than when our ideal styles intersect to form something that’s unique, albeit beautifully reminiscent of its roots? In celebrating the art of “genre-bending,” we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of our favorite up-and-coming bands who are hybridizing music in the best ways.
Somewhere between the bounds of Chicago-specific emo nostalgia and modern pop lies the essence of Tiny Kingdoms. Inspired by popular favorites such as Circa Survive and the Dangerous Summer, this quartet mix traditional melodic riffs with energetic beats to create cuts that will stick in your head and keep a smile on your face. Their latest single, “Daydream,” is the perfect example, with its warm flavor and lyrics that beg for a summer road trip singalong. Call it sunny side punk or don’t, but do give them a listen.
A beacon of light for anyone who finds themselves at the crossroads of pop punk and folk, Australian outfit Catholic Guilt blend the two seamlessly. An assemblage of musicians hailing from different musical origins, from punk to theater and beyond, this five-piece take a prominent stance as storytellers and write music to complement their emotional state. Add prominent influences by bands as diverse as Against Me!, Thrice and the Menzingers and you’ve got sounds and styles that are as beautiful as they are varied.
If you closely follow Anarbor, Blaqk Audio or Night Riots, you may have been lucky enough to catch this spirited Californian band on tour. If not, put them at the top of your “must-see” list. Building on the alternative roots of their debut album, The Kindness Of Strangers, Silent Rival have pivoted to stand as a rock/hip-hop powerhouse with their recent release, Elevator. As if the resulting product isn’t diverse enough on its own, they’ve been steadily releasing acoustic and instrumental versions of their top tracks. Spoiler alert: Sara Coda’s voice kills, no matter the style.
Grounded in a style best described as pop punk meets indie rock, Benchmarks pair a Nashville spin with a storytelling approach inspired by the Weakerthans. The product is nothing short of moving, characterized by catchy melodies and emotive lyrics. In discussing the context of their “darker” upcoming record, Summer, Slowly— which is due for release later this August—frontman Todd Farrell Jr. cites influences as varied as AFI, the Hold Steady and Iron Maiden. “In the end, it sounds like all of these bands, and it sounds like none of these bands,” he tells Alternative Press. “I’d like to think it just sounds like Benchmarks.”
There’s no denying the punk-rock backbone of this Brooklyn-based group, but listen closely and you’ll pick up on a careful incorporation of indie, folk and power-pop elements from a collection of influences, including Jenny Lewis and the Ronettes. Though undeniably unique, their catalog remains timeless and (often painfully) relatable. Be sure to check out their 2020 album, Bad Luck, which varies tremendously across instrumentation and lyrical themes.
Mojo Bozo’s Electric Circus
Drawing on a vast array of influences from Dick Dale to Mastodon to Queens Of The Stone Age, Maryland’s Mojo Bozo’s Electric Circus blend psychedelic, surf and progressive rock into a discography that could soundtrack the wildest of fever dreams. Their album Germ City, released in April of this year, showcases their dynamic range through upbeat riffs, metal-inspired guitar solos and hauntingly hypnotic vocals. The result is a theatrical masterpiece that is sure to become your new staple for beach trips and Halloween parties alike.
Having originated as a pop-punk band geared toward relatively heavy instrumentals, Scotland’s Painting Rockets rebranded to take on more pop and electronic leanings with their 2018 release, “Exposed.” While the eras contrast heavily with one another, their foundations remain clear even in their new style, especially in terms of powerful vocals and emotional rawness. Their singles mix melodies reminiscent of 2000s pop punk with more modern synth beats, though still wonderfully cohesive from one song to the next.
If you’re in the market for music to add to your “Goth Throwback Party” playlist, look no further. Pairing deep, melancholic vocals with post-punk riffs and new-wave synth, this Sacramento-based group bring to mind ’80s nostalgia with a dark, modern twist. As fans of bands as stylistically varied as Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine and the Cure, Creux Lies coalesce such disparate influences into a cohesive sound that is distinctive and delightfully haunting.
A gem of the Toronto underground, Kozen are aiming to expand genre boundaries. Identifying themselves as a progressive-rock/melodic metal band, they draw inspiration from a variety of different cultural heritages and musical backgrounds, including gospel, R&B and jazz. They derive notable influence from the likes of Linkin Park, Fred Hammond and Incubus, as well. With a tremendous amount of fluidity from song to song, Kozen captivate through novelty, heart and unexpected danceability.
World/Inferno Friendship Society
One of the more firmly rooted bands on this list but nevertheless far from the mainstream, World/Inferno Friendship Society had their debut in 1997 and have been rotating members and subsequent influences ever since. Best known for elaborate theatricality, this Brooklyn-based group pull elements from punk, ska and gospel to create tracks well suited for a circus-themed musical (watch out, The Greatest Showman). They’re all-around creative, quirky and amazing in only the way a 20-year-old collective can be.