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20 NJ Bands to Conquer 2011

20. Escape Directors (Rock/Alternative)

Escape Directors are a Bergen County group that deliver well crafted piano driven rock songs. Bands like Coldplay, The Fray and Death Cab For Cutie come to mind while listening to the acts debut LP Ladders. The delicately layered tracks on the nine song release are often brought together by singer, Steve Carter's voice, which give the ballads a unique appeal. You can download Ladders for free at the group's website. In the words of Escape Directors "sharing is encouraged"!


19. Those Mockingbirds (Alternative/Rock)

Hands down the hardest working band on the list. From doing things like staying on the road with no agent and little label support to hitting up malls to shove their music down kids throats, Those Mockingbirds won't stop at any cost. The North Jersey quintet have also recently lost a couple members. How did they deal with it? They released a solid cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain". Check it out below. Also, find all of their upcoming tour dates, which include some meeting up with NJ's The Gay Blades, here.


18. Action Item (Pop)

2010 was nothing short of a great year for Bergen County's Action Item. Their latest album The Stronger The Love debuted on both iTunes Top 100 Pop Charts and Billboard Top Heatseeker Charts. The band have been on the road touring alongside bands such as Allstar Weekend, School Boy Humor and Amely. Action Item also performed at last year's Popcon Festival along with Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. 2011 is already shaping up to be a bigger year as the band is set to release a duet version of the song "When Everything Falls Back Down" with Disney Channel star Chelsea Kane. Along with the obvious touring, don't be shocked to see Action Item's popularity to reach unbelievable heights. - Terrance Pryor 


17. Young American Artists (Post-hardcore)

For better or for worse, NJ has seen it's fair share of post-hardcore bands. Luckily, Young American Artists don't sound like the post-hardcore bands you're most likely thinking of. This North Jersey outfit's songs bring bands like At The Drive-In, Rage Against the Machine and Refused to mind. With old-school punk guitar riffs that seem to have slight blues influnces and vocals that aren't ear piercing squeals, but powerful screams this is a band you need to check out if you are a punk/hardcore fan. The group put out an 8 song album last May and have been wreaking havoc on VFWs, basements, backyards and rock clubs ever since. You can pick up Under a Rock for only $2 here.


16. Julian Lynch (Indie/Experimental)

Unique, ambitious, critically acclaimed and from New Jersey. Ridgewood native, Julian Lynch has a good amount of things going for him. This past year, the solo artist released his most creative effort yet, a full-length titled Mare, which came out last June on Olde English Spelling Bee. The 10 song release is a collection of songs that can either be a great soundtrack to your hallucinogenic journeys or just calming freeform music to get you through a long drive. Either way, the stand out record is something you should make an effort to listen to in 2011. You can pickup Mare here.


15. Wild Rompit (Folk-rock)

Surprisingly one of the best folk-rock groups I've heard in quite awhile is a quartet made up of all Jersey college students. The members, who all attend school at Philadelphia's Drexel University, have been playing together for only a year, yet perform as if they were headlining sold out clubs. It may be their singer, Blair's palpable stage presence or the group's attention to detail (they did bring their own PA just to play the Meat Locker). Either way, we can only hope this young and unique folk outfit continue their efforts in developing their songwriting and persist in putting on memorial rock shows. You can download bunch of their music for free here.


14. FiKus (Electro/Funk/Hip-hop)

Categorizing your band as “electro-fuckadelic hip-rock” is a sure way to be completely pigeonholed into a certain genre, however, FiKus embraces their choice of sound and so do their fans. Hailing from Northern New Jersey, FiKus has become recognized for their energetic and participatory live show . The five piece just announced their residency at Tommy Fox's in Bergenfield where they will be playing every Thursday in 2011 for an unspecified amount of time. The band also just released the 'Mover Shaker EP', a release that shouldn't be passing through anyone's radar unnoticed. - Brian Reilly


13. Delicate Steve (Experimental/Indie-pop)

It takes a whole lot of ambition to put out a record like Delicate Steve's debut, Wondervision. For starters the album is more of an experimental pop symphony then a standard 11 song full-length release. The music on the all instrumental composition is dense, bright and mind altering all at the same time. The Montclair group are set to be on the road for the better part of this year in support of Wondervisions, which is due out on the David Byrne run label Luaka Bop. Pre-order the LP here


12. I Call Fives (Pop-punk)

Pop punkers I Call Fives are destined to make a name for themselves in 2011. After signing with No Sleep Records in March, the band released the Bad Advice EP a few months later. After that, the band saw themselves touring across the country and overseas. The band have also partnered up with JaGK (clothing line owned by Glamour Kills Clothing and Jack Barakat from All Time Low). This year the band is heading over to Canada to tour with Kid Liberty and Rust Belt Lights. I.C.F. is also set to release a split 7" inch with tourmates Rust Belt Lights. - Terrance Pryor


11. Trees Above Mandalay (Pop/Rock)

Trees Above Mandalay are a North Jersey pop-rock band that have been constantly developing and critiquing their sound over the past few years. The quintet have had their busiest year yet touring wise and don't look to slow down in 2011. New material is currently in the works and the group is rumored have some exciting behind the scenes stuff going on as well. Maybe this is the year the rest of the world will get to find out what we here in Jersey have been keeping to ourselves all this time.


10. Big Troubles (Lo-fi/Shoegaze/Post-punk)

Big Troubles is yet another band from the prestigious Ridgewood, New Jersey and yes they are lo-fi and yes they do play in Brooklyn more than in NJ, but that doesn't mean they don't put out music that gives them their own identity in the tight-knit Bergen County scene. In fact, with the exception of Real Estate, I've probably listened to Big Troubles more than any other band from Rigdewood. If you give their new LP Worry a listen you might find out why. Stream their entire debut full-length album here


9. Slow Animal (Lo-fi/Punk)

It's safe to say that in the past few year's there has been a rather noticeable rise in the amount of lo-fi bands making noise in the music world. So what does Slow Animal have on these thousands of other Garageband enabled acts? Good songs for one. The duo's demo EP seems to go in a direction Wavves may have gone in had he not ditch his lo-fi sound for a shot at reaching a broader audience. Beneath the tons of fuzz are intricately layered tracks with hints of influences from 60's pop, late 70's post-punk and 90's rock. You can download their debut effort over at their bandcamp for free. Also, if you're not up to much this Sunday you may as well check them out for free at Hoboken's Maxwell's. 


8. Bright And Early (Pop-punk)

A South Jersey pop-punk group that's sporting a great EP and a even better live show is set to continue making an impression on not just NJ, but the music world in general. Bright and Early are fronted by ex. The High Court singer JB, who seems to just now be hitting his stride as a songwriter. Though it may be a cliche, B&E really are one of the hardest working bands out there. Not many unsigned bands have the will to constantly tour without the help of a label or major booking agent. Look out for the group's 2nd EP, which is due out in the near future. Until then check out their Louder Than Words EP here.


7. Waking Lights (Orchestral Pop)

With appearances at the CMJ Music Marathon and a well-received headlining gig at Maxwell's in 2010, the band that NJ Underground called “New Jersey's best-kept secret” last year has slowly been gaining momentum with  its buoyant, sonorous  mix of  guitar, violin, Rhodes electric organ, and rich harmony vocals.  The Wayne-based groups promises new videos and merch coming soon, and has already announced 2011 shows in Boston, Jersey, and New York City. - Jim Testa


6. Suburban Scum (Hardcore/Punk)

Suburban Scum is a New Jersey hardcore band that has made many moves throughout the last year. Having done a significant amount of touring and also having released one of the heaviest hitting albums of the year, 'Internal War', Suburban Scum's raw energy and relentless live show will be worth checking out in 2011. For fans of Incendiary, Trapped Under Ice, Cruel Hand, Backtrack, No Warning, and so many more. - Brian Reilly


5. The Front Bottoms (Folk/Punk)

Far and away my favorite new band of 2010, The Front Bottoms stand poised to break out of New Jersey's indie-underground basement scene in 2011 with the release of their second EP, Grip 'N' Tie and some higher-profile gigs (starting with a NJ Underground/Jersey Beat sponsored show at Maxwell's at the end of January.)  The band's unique dynamics (acoustic guitar, synthesizers, and maniacal drumming) combined with Brian Sella's earnest and heart-rending lyrics have been winning over everyone from music bloggers to rock journalists, as well as devoted fans who show up to sing along with all their favorite tunes. - Jim Testa 


4. Washington Square Park (Pop-punk/Rock)

There are very few pop-punk bands today that are actually worth listening too. Luckily, this past year Washington Square Park have been reminding people one of the reasons why NJ is so great when it comes to music. They have not only been attacking music fans' speakers, but have also been playing their fair share of shows all across the United States. If fast paced loud rock equipped with tons of attitude is something you might be into then you may want to check out the group's debut self-titled LP, which dropped this past Summer. Even better yet, you can download their very new song "Open-Ended" for free below. 


3. Brick + Mortar (Rock/Shoegaze/Funk)

Asbury Park’s Brick + Mortar laid a strong foundation in 2010, with a knock out EP “7 Years In The Mystic Room” last March, which gave us only a small but savory taste of what this stealthy drum and bass duo has to offer in the New Year.  They rounded out 2010 with a few hype-worthy performances, playing to a sold-out crowd as an opener for River City Extension at the legendary Stone Pony in November; winning a meeting with a top exec at Jive Records at Le Poisson Rouge in mid-December; and headlining Shore Alternative’s Holiday party at the Watermark.  Before the year was over, they earned a nod from My Old Kentucky Blog, where they were featured in the Holiday Interview series.  Brandon Asraf (vocals, synth, bass) and John Tacon (drums, synth) offer full-bodied, high-energy performances, and will continue to do so in 2011 with upcoming shows this month in Jersey, NYC, and Philly. - Kiani Angus-Torres


2. The Nico Blues (Alternative/Rock)

I'd say The Nico Blues took every great record from 1985-2005 and somehow mashed them together to create a surprisingly original and ear pleasing debut LP. This Wayne quintet is heavily influenced by 90's rock (Blind Melon, Smashing Pumpkins), yet also include hints of 80's punk, 90's post-hardcore and some of the folk-rock that came after, in their music. Like Camden, their debut effort shows that they actually challenged themselves by delving into new territories both musically and lyrically. Picking just one song to properly represent the band has been frustrating to say the least. I suggest you just listen to all of Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements, which is available on a name your own price basis. Be sure to pick it up here.


1. Camden (Electronic/Soul/Pop) 

Camden are a four-piece made up of former Northeastern students, some of which have had the great pleasure of growing up in the Garden State. Where as most bands you come across these days are usually either trying to reproduce whatever is hip or what has been done years ago, this young quartet mixes electro-pop and soul in a way I've never heard before. Months after being struck by their debut EP, I had the chance to catch them during an unofficial CMJ showcase at Pianos' makeshift upstairs performance space. After seeing dozens of official CMJ bands play through top of line PA's to packed audiences, Camden somehow managed to make all those buzzbands' performances blur. The NJ/MA group is set to release their 2nd EP come this March and will hopefully release another in the Fall. Until then you can download their intricately layered Vale EP for free here. Listen with headphones.

Reader Comments (27)

front bottoms rule. real talk.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternb
This will take awhile to listen too.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
HEY! you guys forgot [my shitty band]. Fuck this list!
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFresh Prince
Digging Camden, Nico & Big Troubles so far.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterviv
Don't really know any of these bands. Guess I haven't been paying much attention to the NJ music scene as in the past few years. Going to check these out.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
which one is going to be the next Bon Jovi!?!??!?!?!?!!?
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Chips
these Camden guys aren't too shabby.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersammy sosa
Julian Lynch should be higher. Check out his set from
MHOW on nyctaper.com, his song Travelers is awesome.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieday
Slow Animal kill. Camden aren't bad either.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdrew
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSam
Is Julian Lynch the dude who made fart noises into a microphone and got a 8 from pitchfork?
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSalami
You guys forgot The Jonas Brothers. They are going to be huge!
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPow Wow
another year of "bands to conquer" that nobody has heard of that won't do anything. way to be informed on "the scene" njunderground.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpunx
Brick + Mortar!!!
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM.
guess punkx band didn't make the list :(
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan
Old Wives are almost finished recording their debut record.........and it's gonna hurt.
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMe
Thr front bottoms rock!!!!!
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwac
The Nico Blues!
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterk
Slow Animal and Camden are really cool. Free music rules.
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
Good list. Would have made Slow Animal and Delicate Steve a little higher though.
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCJ
Young American Artists should be wayyyyyy higher on the list...Top 3 at the least!
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
WSP 4 lyfe
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
suburban scum destroy everyone on this list.
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterx
get the potatoes out of your ears FIKUS should be #1
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnny kizzle
yo those camden dudes are killing it! Reppin Jersey hard in the city of Boston. Great tunes!
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchapstick
Liking Camden, Nico Blues n Slow A. much. Thanks for this!
January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara
February 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter~~~~~~~

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