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24 great Chicago bands, according to Friko

From the birthplace of house to the experimental jazz of International Anthem, Chicago remains a mecca for creativity. Some of the most promising, and thrilling, emerging bands in recent memory have roots in the city, as its music scene remains one of the country’s most vibrant spaces, encompassing countless genres and continuously nodding to its past. Friko, the duo of vocalist/guitarist Niko Kapetan and drummer Bailey Minzenberger, are making their own mark within its indie-rock scene — one that’s seen bands like Dehd, Lifeguard, and Horsegirl shuffle from basements to larger venues. That’s most apparent on their debut album, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here (out Feb. 16 via ATO), which sees the band employ a mix of varying genres, just like their native city, that swerve between tempos and moods, to great effect.

Read more: 10 songs that influenced Chelsea Wolfe’s She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

To ring in the release, Friko named several of the best bands from the city’s sprawling scene.

The Courts

The Courts are a ripping, “melt your face off” kind of rock band. Korgan, Nick, and Shravan are some of the nicest guys on the scene as well. They recently released their EP is a place, and it’s one of our fave Chicago rock records right now.


Chaepter is a cathartic/ethereal art-rock artist that recently moved to Chicago but is releasing some of the most emotional music in Chicago right now. Their latest single “Post-Touch'' is also a great new turn for them into a more krautrock-y space.


Tenci’s debut record, My Heart Is An Open Field, was released when we had just started on the scene, and it became one of our first Chicago favorites. Tenci’s voice is so beautiful, and we’re big fans of Julee Cruise’s Floating Into The Night, and this has that same feel for us. 

Kara Jackson

Kara Jackson’s latest record, Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love?, is an example of someone with a singular voice and something to say. The arrangements and production provide a perfect bed of jazz instrumentation and folk songwriting for Kara’s amazing lyricism.

Neptune’s Core

We played with Neptune’s Core in Chicago in 2019 when they were only like 14. They were already great, but recently they’ve really come into their own on their latest EP, Called Upon. And I must say we’ve heard some music that is soon to come, and it really rocks. They’re also playing our release show at Metro March 1!

Sick Day

Olivia from Sick Day is one of the sweetest people on the scene, and they do the later era of Elliott Smith unlike anyone else and completely in their own way. Their latest single “Overexposure” keeps the beauty and delicate nature of their earlier material but takes on a much bigger and noisier sound. Big Sick Day fans over here.

Godly the Ruler

We recently came across Godly the Ruler at a show at Schubas, and we were blown away. Godly makes really cool, high-energy yet very pretty art pop/hip-hop. Their latest release the world is big, get over it is a perfect example of this eclectic combination.

V.V. Lightbody

My introduction to V.V. Lightbody was through Make a Shrine or Burn It, released in 2020. Vivian McConnell’s writing is playful and honest. Her music truly allows/invites you to float within it. At a party sometime last year “If It’s Not Me” came on, which caused my conversation with a friend to pause. She said, “This is a song you just can’t talk over,” and I couldn’t agree more. On top of being an amazing songwriter and performer, Vivian is also an incredibly kind and humorous person, two elements that her music beautifully reflects. 


Carolina Chauffe of hemlock recently moved out of Chicago, but released a number of amazing records while living here. Their music delivers a special meeting of intimacy and power. Carolina is a prolific, eclectic, and inviting songwriter. There is something for everyone across their records, with only more magic coming soon.

Squirrel Flower

Squirrel Flower’s newest release, Tomorrow’s Fire, is a powerful and moving collection. I have tried a few times to have this record on while reading or working, but each time I have to instantly stop what I am doing and just listen. It demands your attention, in a very welcoming way, and takes you on a journey all throughout. 

More great Chicago bands…




Modern Nun

Free Range




Red PK

Minor Moon




Olive Avenue