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Top Manchester Bands of the Year – 2019

2019 has been a truly top year for Manchester music, with new bands hitting the scene on what feels like a weekly basis and so I thought RGM would round it up with a list of some of our favourite new music. Some you will have heard of and some you won’t, some of you love and some you won’t but the one thing they all have in common is they are creating new sounds for the city. The list is deliberately compiled of different genres as let’s face it if we all liked the same music life would be pretty dull, wouldn’t it! There is easily another 20 bands that have been music to my ears this year but I can’t include them all otherwise I’d have no time to drink my new gingerbread gin.

And before you pipe up saying where’s The Happy Mondays and all that Mad Chester gubbings? Why is there no Oasis on this list? Wonderwall is the mutz nutz!!!!!  The answer is simple this is not the 90s, if it ain’t new or up and coming, no thank you, we don’t want it on this particular list.

There will also be a list coming in the new year of bands we’re tipping to explode in 2020, so watch this space.

1. The Blinders

After gaining a reputation for their fantastically feral performances and distinctive looking face paint the Blinders went from strength to strength with their debut album ‘Columbia’ released September 2018. They continue to sell out venues including the Ritz and a storming Glastonbury set as well being hailed as heroes for their Social Sunday gigs that back Labour and Corbyn to end the horrifying rein of the cock womble of the year Boris Johnson. Their live shows are irrepressible, their lyrical message and values undeniable and their dirty rock riffs are pure class. 

2. Cabbage

Cabbage is not just people’s least favourite green vegetable it is also a Moseley based five piece serving up an idiosyncratic, satirical attack in the form of discordant neo post-punk. With a tendency towards unpredictable live shows that only serve to heighten the live experience and an appetite for self-destruction they have drawn comparisons with fellow Mancunian outsiders The Fall. Cabbage’s debut album Nihilistic Glamour Shots was release to ecstatic critical acclaim in March. 

3. Afghan Sand Gang

Our second offering from Mossley we have Afghan Sand Gang. With electro synth beats blended with velvety vocals, juxtaposing politically charged dark lyrics with upbeat dream pop riffs they are a conundrum wrapped in a beautifully sounding enigma and currently no one is making music like them. Expertly selecting their varied influences from a blend of genres such as Shoegaze, Krautrock and late 80’s Electronica it give the sound a familiar yet fresh feeling with well deserved critical acclaim and numerous plays from BBC Introducing and XS Manchester ASG are on the tipping point of blowing up in epic proportions. 

4. The Slow Readers Club

I genuinely debated if Slow Readers Club should be on this list, as I feel they are no longer up and coming and this is entirely due to the fact they have transcended the breakthrough artist level and have now officially made it. They sold out the Apollo and after signing with Modern Sky their third studio album Build A Tower was a UK Top 20 hit album reaching number 18. So if this means they can no longer be considered as a RGM one to watch….. as everyone is already watching them, then I think they will be ok with that.

Well deserved Slow Readers about out time too!

5. Dirty Laces

As  well as being inarguable one of Manchester hardest working bands they can also claim the coveted titled of Rev & the Makers frontman Jon McClure’s new favourite band to boot! RGM has always been firm fans of these lads (check out our interview in the boozer with the band) and are sure 2020 will be their year they take over. If you haven’t already seen them catch them quick as their time in smaller venues is going to be a thing of the past.

6. Ist Ist

Post-punk band Ist Ist that have been slowly building in the Manchester scene for a while and took their take over of the radio waves to the next level with the release of their EP Spinning Rooms. Frontman Adam Houghton’s haunting vocals go straight to your soul and the hypnotic melodies of are reminiscent of Joy Division, but their heavier, darker tone sets them apart from anyone coming through at the moment.

7. Dollie Demi

4 piece all-girl band Dollie Demi describe themselves as Sassy AF and no other description is more on point. Cat suited frontwoman Demi oozes energy with her girl power performance and can deliver a kiss and kick in the nuts in one enigmatic shouty pout. Alongside Demi’s frisky filled vocals you have Mia on Bass, Anna on Drums and Ella on guitar, they are a mix of garage rock, pop and punk with a strong focus on sexual positivity and feminism within their music drawing influences from the likes of bands such as The Talking Heads, Bikini Kill, The Runaways, and No Doubt

8. ILL

ILL are just absolutely incredible. They are raw, direct and immediately become your new favourite band when you see them live. Their debut album, ‘We are Ill’ was released on Box Records and it is just a furious ride from first to last note, with amazing layers of vocals sitting on a sea of effects-ridden guitar and keys.  

9. Déjà Vega

The current reigning kings of psych released their self-titled debut album this year and the vinyl sold out instantly. Although claiming them as a Manchester band could be classed as a little far fetched as they site Winsford as their home town but as Winsford doesn’t seem to have a best-of list and every gig they play in Manchester sells out to raucous applause they have earned their spot on the list.  Despite just being a trio Déjà Vega not only fills the stage but send their sound out into the far outer reaches of the room they inhabit and shake the floor along with it. Guitar riffs are physically thrown down the neck of Jack Fearons guitar, across the stage to fellow band members and effects pedals are played like a moonlight sonata on a distorted Moog on acid and the bass as a weapon full intent on causing some serious damage. Their connection of belting drums and distinct twangy guitar riffs should be overwhelming but the vocals still manage to take prominence. Having gained a cult following for creating a live show both as experimental as it is electrifying if you haven’t had the chance to check out this band yet make sure you do before the move into bigger less intimate venues.

10. Pales Waves

If you’re into sleek guitar pop, Manchester four-piece Pale Waves will be right up your alley, particularly if that’s a charmingly dark alley out of a Tim Burton movie. The distinctly ’80s goth look of frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie is striking and their smooth, jangly guitars call to mind indie-pop bands of yesteryear as well as the glossy pop of today. With lyrics that will transport you inside the mind of an angsty teenager, regardless of your actual age. They released their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises via indie giant Dirty Hit, best known for The 1975 and Wolf Alice. The 1975’s Matty Healy and George Daniel also co-produced this album with Pale Waves’ drummer Ciara Doran and recording engineer Jonathan Gilmore. 

11. Tinfoils

To quote their own band camp page “Tinfoils are a three-piece garage-punk band based in Manchester, whose frantic brand of ‘no frills’, DIY guitar-driven music rages against the private security companies who police the streets of Britain, the royalist media machine, the inescapable nature of a 20-odd year old’s overdraft – as well as having the odd song about thrush.” While I would suggest a quick trip to Boots (other high street pharmacies are available) for a week’s worth of Canesten to deal with the itching, other than that I wouldn’t change a thing as they a just a joy to watch live! Predominantly influenced by contemporary bands such as IDLES, Thee Oh Sees, and Cabbage, but also take inspiration from a number of ‘70s rock ’n’ roll bands such as Buzzcocks, and Richard Hell & the Voidoids, while they may have been born in Yorkshire they were made in Manchester. 

12. Working Mens Club

Still relatively young and already signed to Heavenly Records Working Men’s Club popularity is spiralling quickly upwards. With showering’s of praise from Steve Lamaq and generous airtime on 6 music, as well as support slots with the infamous Brain Jonestown Massacre, West Yorkshires rising stars have a bright future ahead of them. With indie music facing a decline to its inability to move on in new directions WMC are pushing the boundaries with their stabbing synths and chorus tinged bass patterns. 

13. Cold Water Swimmers

Three-piece Cold Water Swimmers were formed in 2018 fronted by guitarist and songwriter Chris Bridgett (of Dub Sex, Rude Club and The G-O-D) along with Carrie Lawson on bass guitar and Selina Clements-Woolnough on drums.  The trio just keep smashing out ear worm worthy tracks and proving age means nothing in music and the Manchester’s music scene needs experienced players as much as the eager youth that follow them. 

14. Saytr Play

Saytr Play are as exciting as they are innovative. Famed for their live performances that never fail to raise the roof with a sea of audience smiles from their infectious energetic grove and frontman Fred Farrell may just be the most expressive presence on the scene right now making them a well-established firm festival favourite. . The band takes influences from a variety of styles from classic rock, folk, funk, pop and indie to create a completely unique fresh and cool contemporary style and 2019 saw them well deservedly sell out Gorilla. 

15. Ded.Pixel

Ded.Pixel are a fully automated luxury gay rock space group. Now how the hell can you not be intrigued with a tag line like that! Signed to Manchesters most inclusive and boundary-pushing label Analogue Trash Ded.Pixel are the soundtrack to a rage against equality and civil disobedience. Imagine Giorgio Moroder and David Gilmour battling the Radiophonic Workshop across the streets of Neo Tokyo on Saturday Morning TV. They are a glorious collision of the experimental and contemporary electronics, postmodern with the dystopian, the irreverent with the deliberate and definitely a band you need to be checking out!

16. Velvet Shakes

This band quite simply blew me away at this years You Are Not Alone festival they create beautiful crafted amalgamations of electronic disco and guitar-lead pop. It is literally impossible not to dance to ‘We Are not Alone’ with its sun tinged harmonies telling tales love and support for each other over subtle shuffling dance beats that lift and fall easy flowing melodies. The vocals and ensnaring harmonies are faultless, simply put this band belongs on Radio one.

17. Callow Youth

It’s great to hear Callow Youth finally getting national airplay they deserve from Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music. Formed in Easy Manchester while the band were still in high school, despite their “Youth” they band have a confident, matured and polished sound. Having recently signed to 42 Records, a label who like the band itself are on a roll with their first three releases; veterans Narcissus, Cheshire’s finest synth dance with Reclaim Vienna and now this latest Callow Youth all being indie floor fillers. You need to be quick to catch Callow Youth at intimate venues these days as their latest headliner at the Star and Garter sold out.

18. SWJ Group

Another wild card from our list without the faintest hint of an Oasis riff about we have The SWJ Group named after frontman, writer, performer and producer Stephen Wilson Junior. The band is a collective of seasoned musician playing their own unique brand of tripped out awesomely earworm worthy tuneful music. Having previously been described as falsetto toned modern disco Mancunian funk, but my preferred title is Mancadelic. They are a glorious kaleidoscope of colour and mashed up funky noise inspiring visions of Starsky and Hutch but dressed in Parkers walking through the Northern Quarter with a distinct Manc swagger. An unashamed party band without the whiff a cheese, seeing this lot live is a guaranteed good night out. 

19. The 99 Degree

If Brian Wilson and Lux Interior had ever got wasted and formed a band then they’d probably have sounded like The 99 Degree. An intoxicating and intoxicated eclectic collision of mariachi surf punk with bits of psychobilly and B-movie soundtracks thrown in and then sprinkled with Northern humour.  With uddles of reverb, shouty gang vocals and just the right level of dirt on the guitars, Blossoms fans don’t even bother as mainstream they are not, but they are one heck of a filthy live act. But with garage rock and punk rising in radio play and chart success, thanks to the likes of bands like Idles and fat White Family 2020 could the year The 99 Degree get their own brand of noise out of the basements and onto the bigger stages they deserve. 

The Moods may have been around for a while but they have made the list because they continue to be one Manchester most innovative bands and most exciting live acts. If you have been living under an Oasis laden rock and haven’t managed to catch them they are a nine-piece collective, yes I did say 9…. of producers, poets and musicians. Combining drum & bass, reggae, hip-hop and EDM, The Moods’ mighty music sparks off a contagious need to dance, underpinned, with real grit & substance. They are a band with plenty to say, singing and rapping with raw passion about capitalism, war, famine, love, life and death. The Moods have been wisely described as “Rage Against the Machine, The Prodigy and The Happy Mondays mixed into a grime-soufflé”. 

20. Big Peach

Everyone favourite squishy fruit garage rock and roll group The Big Peach end the year on a high with release their latest single “Run and Hide” on Sour Grapes Records. The bands fan numbers swelled when they created and curated their own festival PeachFest that caught attention of many bands, record labels and promoters. Their unique sound features a heavy dollop of that 60s Rock & Roll music the band have now become renowned for. They gather a lot of influence from the burgeoning garage and psych scenes of the 1960s and beyond. With influences deep in Laurel Canyon, hints of Tamla Motown and a splash of Mod from the streets of London.

📸 Photo Credit : Model D Photography