Paste magazine recently launched its 50 States Project, which seeks to compile lists of worthy bands in every state in the country, an ambitious and laudable undertaking. Their Massachusetts list, though, is disappointing.
All 10 of the bands writer Katie King chose are from the greater Boston area, which ignores a wealth of musical talent on the other side of the I-95 loop around the Hub. Here, then, for her next list, are five western Mass. bands to consider, even without factoring in all the local indie-rock luminaries (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Frank Black), the supremely talented Erin McKeown or the dismaying surfeit of turgid metal:
1. Winterpills. The Northampton-area group plays elegant folk-pop songs that unfold slowly around around hushed vocal harmonies and impressionistic lyrics. The band this year released its fourth, and best, LP, the gorgeous “All My Lovely Goners.” Bonus: Guitarist Dennis Crommett, bassist Brian Akey and drummer Dave Hower play together in another band, Spanish for Hitchhiking.
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2. The Sun Parade. Also from Northampton, the core duo of Chris Jennings and Jefferson Lewis just released “Yossis,” a full-length debut of rootsy rock songs.
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3. Bobby. Comprising graduates of Bennington College in Vermont and Hampshire College in Amherst, members of Bobby settled in Montague, Mass., to make experimental music laced with elements of psychedelia, avant-folk and dreamy, reverb-soaked pop. The band released a self-titled debut in 2011 on Paritsan Records.
4. Zebu! Speaking of experimental, the duo Zebu!, founded at Hampshire College in 2003, describes its music as “improvisational surf noise punk that defies the logic of rational musical creation.” Bonus: singer, etc., Ted Lee runs Feeding Tube, the best, weirdest record store in western Massachusetts.
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5. Rusty Belle. A trio from Amherst that describes itself as “roots-rock junk-folk,” Rusty Belle plays understated, whispery songs that slip right into your soul and linger there.
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Other acts worth hearing: Haunt (though leader Matthew Hebert has apparently moved to Austin), Jamie Kent (who in 2010 planted his latest CD in every Starbucks location in Manhattan), Henning Ohlenbusch (whose latest, “Henning Goes to the Movies,” features nine songs based on movies) or any of Matt Silberstein’s various projects, from the Salvation Alley String Band to Trucks.
Have other suggestions? Add them in the comments!