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"Folksy" Bands You Should Know

Jillian Morabito |
October 20, 2012 | 8:11 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The Nicki Minaj's and Britney's may still dominate the majority of the popular music scene, but there is one trend emerging from deep within rustic coffee shops and cramped basement music studios-- an indie rock style of folk. 

After hearing the same pop tune remixed over and over, just set to different lyrics, it is easy to see why folk is re-emerging as a respected genre to younger generations today. Perhaps, it is from the Americana trend so popular at stores like Urban Outfitters or American Apparel. It could also be because of the fact everyone today wants to have “unique” or, rather, “hipster” if we’re using common day vernacular. More so, it may be due to the fact that folk music reads moving lyrics and possesses a calming tone. Lyrics typically convey a sense of profound love and a deep appreciation for nature and art, like an acoustic performance laced with poetry.

The original folk man himself, Bob Dylan, once said, “The times, they are a changin’.”  Perhaps this age marks the time when folk finally emerges from those small dive bars and county fairs, a “roots revival” of sorts. Anyway you become accustomed to the folk genre, here some bands you really should know:

1. Mumford and Sons

How can I start off this list without first mentioning Mumford and Sons? From having one of the best selling albums of 2012, the band released their sophomore album “Babel” with lofty expectations. Needless to say, those expectations were surmounted. Concert tickets? Sold out within minutes. Adding a second date in L.A.? Sold out even faster. By far the most popular and publicized folk bands, Mumford deserves every ounce of credit they’ve has been given. If you have any doubt as to their talent, see them in person. If you can make it out of the concert without chills or tears, then we’ll talk. 

Check out “Awake My Soul” and “Lover of the Light”

Best lyric: “Where you invest your love, you invest your life”

2. The Lumineers

Being one of the first to take note of this band, it is heartwarming to see them gain popularity with “Ho Hey.” The Lumineers formed due to a tragic loss, the brother of Jeremiah and best friend of Wesley died and the two soon came together to write songs to cope with the loss. With the addition of Neyla responding to their Craiglist ad for a cellist, The Lumineers were soon on their way to staying with fans during shows and playing in small coffee shops. With Wesley’s yearning voice and the catchy, foot-tapping beats, it is easy to see how the band has emerged from Denver with enough loyal fans to do a national tour. After seeing the Lumineers play their whole album live, just feet in front of me this past summer, I can say that this band hits every note and strums every chord with sincerity and passion.  

Listen to “Slow it Down” and “Flowers in Your Hair.”

Best lyric: “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all”

3. Of Monsters and Men

First there was Bjork, now there is Monsters. Straight out of Iceland, this Indie band accomplishes absolute perfection through distinctive tunes about love, loss, and everything in between. Staying true to classic folk tunes, the band enjoys writing and personifying animals (as also noted in the title of their album, “My Head Is an Animal”). “Little Talks” is the most well known song by the band, peaking at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Alternative charts. Of Monsters and Men compose songs that just make you feel good, with every song on their debut album sounding different. Playing this album in the car with the windows down while driving down PCH is highly recommended. Also, seeing them in concert is an absolute must, so put it on you’re music bucket list because you will not be disappointed. 

Be sure to listen to: “Six Weeks” and “King and Lionheart”

Best lyrics: “Just grab a hold of my hand, I will lead you through this wonderland.”

4. Bon Iver

In the mood to take a stroll through the woods? Make sure to listen to Bon Iver in between checking your Instagram. This band, from the woods of Wisconsin, blends together haunting melodies and engaging lyrics, although they are a bit hard to sing along to. Though the lyrical pronunciation may be hard at times, don’t confuse Bon Iver with Sigur Ros; there are actual words being pronounced. Justin Vernon’s haunting falsetto and calming instrumental melody further contribute to the beauty of the songs. Last year he won a Grammy for “Best New Artist” (even though the band has been making music since 2007) and “Best Alternative Album.” Don’t remind Vernon about that “uncomfortable” night though; like any true independent artist will tell you, he only makes music for the sake of making music. 

Be sure to listen to: “Blood Bank” and “Michicant”

Best lyrics: “I’ll be holding all the tickets and you’ll be owning all the fines”

5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Going on a road trip? Pop in an Edward Sharpe CD. You may have seen their video for “Home”-- it makes you want to buy a polaroid camera and frolic in fields. The Zeros do more though than encourage you to embrace your free spirit, they accomplish adding a fun side to every song, no matter how serious the topic may be. The name Edward Sharpe is actually a fictitious, godlike being made up by lead singer Alex Ebert. After breaking up with his girlfriend and enlisting in A.A., Ebert took a year off of his life disconnected from the outside world, giving Edward Sharpe stories and characteristics as to portray in his lyrics. “He was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind,” the singer proclaimed. With dedication and creativity as fierce as this, it is easy to see how the band produces such quality music. 

Be sure to check out “40 Day Dream” and “Man on Fire (Remix)”. 

Best lyrics: “Only one desire that’s left in me/ I want the whole damn world to come dance with me”

6. The Avett Brothers

With their guitar and banjo in check, the Avett Brothers emerged from North Carolina with unbelievable talent. The band is comprised of brothers Seth and Scott, as well as Bob Crawford. The band formed in 2000, but the brothers have been making music since they were kids. Combing a harmony of bluegrass, rock, country, and heavy folk, the Avett Brothers formulate a distinct style. The songs are so easy to sing along to, with unforgettable melodies. In 2011, the band played at the Grammys alongside Mumford & Sons and the epitome of folk, Bob Dylan. Releasing a CD this past September, a nationwide tour is expected to be announced by the Avett Brothers.  

Be sure to listen to: “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “Pretty Girl from Michigan”

Best lyrics: “If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die”

7. Tracy Chapman

In discussing how folk brings about lyrical masterpiece, there is no way to avoid mentioning Tracy Chapman. Beginning during the racially charged 1980’s, this folk legend has never ceased taking her guitar and singing about love, social justice and struggle. Growing up listening to her debut CD, it is hard to conceive the notion that people have not been exposed to her blend of African drums and tribal beats, infused with acoustic guitar and fiery lyrics. Though her last album was released in 2008, Chapman is still prominent in the music scene and is a prominent member, bridging the singer-songwriters of the past and present.

Be sure to listen to: “Crossroads” and “The Promise”

Best lyrics: “If you knew that you would die today, saw the face of God and love, would you change?”

8. First Aid Kit

Hailing from Sweden, these sisters (Johanna and Klara) utilize the woodsy environment they grew up in to compose excellent folk tunes. The sisters are quite young-- 22 and 19-- and have already expanded outside of their home country. Last year, they released a free single on iTunes to gain exposure and to promote their CD “The Lion’s War.” Performing at major music festivals such as Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, First Aid Kit is hailed as being a must-see show. 

Listen to: “The Lion’s War” and “Wolf”

Best lyrics: “You know I’m not asking much of you, just sing little darling sing with me” 


9. The Civil Wars

Gaining recognition from “Safe and Sound,” this band emerged from Tennessee with a heartfelt melodies and a desire to make it big. Safe to say they’re doing pretty well. The Civil Wars won a Grammy for “Best Folk Album” and “Best Country Group/Duo Performance” for “Barton Hollow.”  With a tenacious guitar and country-esque tunes, this group has a long career ahead.

Listen to “20 Years” and “Barton Hollow”

Best Lyric: “I don’t love you but I always will”

Reach Staff Reporter Jillian Morabito here.



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