The Great Unknowns: A Parent's Guide to Cool, New Bands

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 16:20

By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor,

With the kids home for winter break most of this month, chances are parents have been hearing some unfamiliar music blaring through the walls, but their teens and 20-somethings will have it memorized from start to finish. Instead of sounding out of the loop or insisting the oldies were better, take's crash course on five red hot bands that may be unknown to anyone born before the 1990s, but are tearing up today’s charts and are amongst the most talented in the current crop of their respective genres. And with several of them sporting retro influences, chances are the gap between generations isn’t so wide after all with plenty of common ground regardless of age or primary listening interests.

The band: August Burns Red
The sound: metalcore
The scoop: Since 2005, August Burns Red released three albums on Solid State Records, one of the heaviest but most wholesome labels to ever hit stores. Along the way, the group’s chiseled its progressive metal meets metalcore motives with plenty of touring, including the rounds on summer’s annual Vans Warped Tour soiree (the same event that gave groups like Fall Out Boy and Katy Perry their starts). Yet what separates this suburban Pennsylvania five piece from the mainstream masses is a commitment to living out their faith throughout the bellowing lyrics, which may seem hard to decipher upon casual observation, but are nonetheless an essential component over the crashing cymbals and jarring guitars. Thus far, the group’s performed all across America and several cities in Europe (including Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Sweden), though this winter’s co-headlining of the Alternative Press Tour (sponsored by the influential magazine of the same name) is sure to expand its fan base even wider than before.

The band: Anberlin
The sound: alternative rock
The scoop: Anyone who’s truly in the know remembers Anberlin’s days on alternative rock label Tooth & Nail during the mid-2000s when Aaron Sprinkle (Jeremy Camp, Kutless) served as its primary producer and audiences were small but mighty. These days, the Florida favorites inked a deal with Universal Republic, teaming with GRAMMY-winning producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine) on its latest album Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, becoming one of the most sought after headliners on the club circuit, in addition to touring alongside scenesters like The Academy Is..., Taking Back Sunday and Bayside. While the group’s spiritual euphemisms remain in tact, there are plenty of covers in the group’s catalogue sure to bring parents back to their youth, including nods to New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths and even Bob Dylan, all wrapped around a surging emo/alt-rock soundscape.

The band: Owl City
The sound: piano pop/electronic rock
The scoop: Just three years ago Adam Young, leader of the one man band Owl City, was making music in his parents’ Minnesota basement and posting the results on MySpace. Between the unabashed believers’ magnetic messages and his infectious blend of pianos and electronic pop, he scored a record deal with Universal Republic and literally became a teen favorite overnight. He may only be 24-years-old, but Young is plugged into ‘90s favorites like Ben Folds Five or Fountains of Wayne when it comes to song craftsmanship, though his most overt influence appears to be emo favorites Death Cab For Cutie. Either way, the fresh face is tearing up the charts and selling out shows coast to coast, while serving as a textbook illustration of just how influential the internet’s become in establishing unlikely but still deserving singer/songwriter superstars.

The band: Paramore
The sound: pop/punk rock
The scoop: Music City is usually known for either country or contemporary Christian music, but Franklin, Tenn.'s Paramore are clearly an anomaly. Adapting a pop/punk aura, the trio of 20-somethings is fronted by Hayley Williams, who rather than getting all glammed up, sports a tomboy-styled wardrobe, long redish/blonde locks and a self-affirming spirit that hasn’t been shown since Gwen Stefani steered No Doubt to fame. In fact, Paramore earned kudos from those very veterans by scoring a slot on its 2009 summer reunion tour, though 2010 marked the group’s graduation to headlining the Honda Civic Tour. In addition to the obvious No Doubt comparisons, the spunky rockers recall shades of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, The Go-Gos and Pat Benatar, pumped up on punk steroids.

The band: Underoath
The sound: hard rock
The scoop: Out of all the bands in the hardcore movement, none are more respected and relevant than Underoath, a group that’s actually been around just over a decade, but has shuffled through many members across its history. Even with the personnel shifts, the Tampa-based band’s stayed focused on some of the most bone crunching beats the scene has ever heard, though the seeker-friendly lyrical screams have led countless listeners to the Lord. In fact, the band regularly lets it light shine in secular settings as diverse as The Vans Warped Tour to the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour (alongside Slipknot and Disturbed), in addition to major festivals like Bamboozle and Purple Door.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, and He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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