It’s hard to believe Black Helicopter were playing out for a good five years before they hit most people’s radar. But that’s Boston: there are just too many bands — good bands — for anyone to keep track of. As a publicist put it in a press release for the Columbia reissue of Aberdeen City’s The Freezing Atlantic, “Even before The Freezing Atlantic saw national distribution, Aberdeen City’s distinctive sound gained them fans throughout the notoriously picky Boston music scene.” That’s right, notoriously picky.
Well, we do have that luxury. And though I don’t have the space to hip you to every great local band, I had no trouble finding 10. These aren’t the biggest local bands, and the list by no means covers the entire local music scene. I could just as easily have filled it with hip-hop artists, jazz players, singer-songwriters, or metalcorists. So I stuck to rock bands who have been around long enough to have solid followings and who are starting to headline clubs on both sides of the river, from T.T. the Bear’s and the Middle East, to Great Scott and Bill’s Bar.
Aberdeen City | I’d say this foursome were Boston’s answer to Death Cab for Cutie if the last Death Cab album had been any good. But Aberdeen City have enough in the way of atmospheric guitar melodies to have lured Steve Lillywhite, the guy who produced U2, Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds, and XTC in the ’80s, out to re-record two tracks for the Columbia re-release of The Freezing Atlantic.
Aberdeen City, "God is Going to Get Sick of Me" (mp3)
Apollo Sunshine | How the Elephant 6 collective missed these guys is a mystery. They have all the requisite Revolver Beatleisms and Smile-style Beach Boyishness to go along with vintage gear, a playful instrumental sensibility, and songs that sound like long-lost classics.
Apollo Sunshine, "Phony Marony" (mp3)
Darkbuster | The title of Darkbuster’s most recent masterwork, A Weakness for Spirits, pretty much says it all. When it comes to drinking to drinking songs sung by drinking types, it doesn’t get any better than Darkbuster, a punk band with a sense of both humor and style.
Darkbuster, "Shoulda Known Better" (mp3)
Dear Leader | This band probably wouldn’t even be on this list if Roadrunner had had a clue about what to do with singer/guitarist Aaron Perrino’s previous band, the Sheila Divine. But out of the ashes of that local hopeful Perrino has put together a band who are every bit as good and a lot more fun now that gearing up for major-label showcases isn’t part of their routine.
Dear Leader, "Raging Red" (mp3)
Frank Smith | The Lot Six are no more. But what started as a side project for their drummer, Aaron Sinclair, has evolved into one of the better roots-oriented rock bands in town. The Texas-bred Sinclair leads a band who sound as if they’d grown up on the Southern stuff.
Frank Smith, "Time to Cut the Fence" (mp3)