Memorial Day marks the official start of summer — and as the weather warms up, cubicle-glazed minds may start turning towards the idea of vacation. But between the price of airline tickets and the fact that most Americans don’t even bother taking half of their vacation time, perhaps it’s time to take a different sort of around-the-world adventure.
Travel the world with these 11 bands, no passport (or money) required:
Who: September Girls
As a recent addition to Dublin’s rich musical history, September Girls draw inspiration from ‘60s girl groups, ‘70s punk riotousness and ‘80s pop. It’s a sound fitting for a band whose name was inspired by the Bangles’ cover of Big Star’s “September Gurls.” Their goth-pop vibe and gauzy guitar riffs paired with energetic beats make for an accessible sound that would be right at home on a playlist next to Dum Dum Girls and Chvrches.
Who: Petite Meller
Petite Meller is a sometime-Vogue and L’Oreal model and full-time postgraduate student studying for her masters in philosophy who crafts irresistible pop tracks in her spare time. Her tunes are inspired by the work of Dizzy Gillespie and The Isley Brothers, which is why she calls her songs “Nuvo Jazzy Pop.” The jaunty style pairs well with her sweetly breathy voice and lyrics that touch on the works of Jacques Lacan and French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. It’s an incongruous mix that makes for a winning combination.
Listen: “Backpack (Marlin Remix)”
Who: Glen Check
Where: South Korea
Seoul’s Glen Check bring an edgy ‘80s energy to their genre-spanning synth-tastic songs. The dynamic duo of singer and guitar player June-One Kim and bass and synthesizer player Hyuk-Jun Kang infuse their tracks with the recklessness of youth set to infectious electro beats and plucky guitar licks for a style that’s nearly impossible not to dance to.
Listen: “Young Generation”
Helen Croome, who performs under the name Gossling, has a voice that sounds simultaneously girlish and age-worn, with an ability to make lyrics twist and shine in her gem-like pop songs. The singer-songwriter is a musical chameleon, who can churn out hook-filled songs that sound like Lana del Rey spent a lot of time listening to Coldplay, or tracks that would fit in with Robyn and Royskopp; sometimes, it’s piano ballads with haunting melodies that will stick in your head for days.
Listen: “Harvest of Gold”
While electronic music has become almost synonymous with Skrillex, Samaris builds ethereally gorgeous electronic soundscapes that reflect their glacial surroundings. The three-piece band blends bold beats, haunting vocals and lyrics taken from nineteenth century Icelandic poetry to craft sparse and delicate electronica that’s stunningly beautiful. The three-piece band’s new album Silkidrangar (which translates as “silk cliffs”) is out now, perfect for adding atmosphere to Sunday brunch or late night drives.
Listen: “Ég Vildi Fegin Verda”
When you’re a newcomer to the music scene and Katy Perry tweets a shout-out to you, the pressure is on. Luckily, Elliphant, a.k.a. Elinor Olovosdotter, seems up for the challenge. Her dirty pop music is infectious and fun, like the music Madonna was putting out in the ‘80s, but with an M.I.A.-style toughness that has earned comparisons to Rihanna. If anyone’s up to living up to that, it’s Elliphant.
Listen: “Down On Life”
While Bflecha has been releasing music for years, the Spanish producer’s debut full-length album, βeta, came out last year, filled with massive synth hooks and huge vocals that showcased her under-the-radar talent. The album’s percussion vacillates easily between’80s-inspired beats and modern hip-hop, which shows Bflecha’s incredible ability to genre hop from blue-eyed soul sounds to synthwave to R&B, while never straying far from new wave roots.
Listen: “Mundo Bizarro feat. Arufe”
Who: Awesome City Club
While J-Pop may dominate Japan’s pop charts, Awesome City Club make pop songs that have more in common with Britpop than anything on mainstream radio in Japan. The band sounds like they’ve spent a lot of time with My Bloody Valentine, Donna Summer and Chic to great effect: find beautiful arrangements, catchy melodies and well-crafted hooks.
Rap is one of the United States’ biggest musical exports and on her debut album, Batuk Freak, Karol Conka shows how the genre thrives under Brazilian influence. Her songs are fierce, with Conka spitting out a flow that rivals all comers, but with a Brazilian inflection and samba stylings. The video for “Boa Noite” is Brazilian b-boy with images of breakdancers interspersed with pictures of religious icons and, naturally, a soccer player.
Listen: “Boa Noite”
Birdy is a 17-year old singer-songwriter who’s making waves on both sides of the Atlantic on the strength of her self-titled debut. That album was made when Birdy was just 15 and was comprised of covers of bands like Fleet Foxes and Phoenix — but it was her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” that became an international hit and put her on the global radar. With a six-song EP, Breathe and its lead single, “Wings” under her belt and a sophomore album (her first as a songwriter), Fire Within, set to arrive June 3rd, it’s clear the future is bright for Birdy.
Who: Ana Tijoux
Ana Tijoux has been working hard for years, but the buzz is finally building around this wildly talented rapper with her unerring ear for rhythm and tremendous flow. She has Breaking Bad (her track “1977” was used in an episode) and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (he claimed “1977” as one of his favorite tracks of 2013) to thank for helping the world take notice of her serious skills on the microphone. She seems to thrive under all the attention, though: her new album Vengo finds the Chilean MC flying as fast and furious as ever.
Listen: “Somos Todos Erroristas” (“We Are All Errorists”)