College is among the most important periods of musical exploration and discovery in a person’s life, a chance to differentiate your taste from that of your parents and the like-minded folks you surrounded yourself with in high school. College radio stations can be great for introducing you to new bands whenever they aren’t pumping out the same Green Day and Aerosmith songs over and over again. At the prestigious university I attended, College of DuPage, the radio station was run by professors, and thusly comprised of 90% jazz, with theme nights like reggae, salsa, and blues tossed in here and there.
While I appreciated the introduction to Charles Mingus, I had to learn about bands like Diiv and Smith Westerns through my friends who attended schools with student-run stations. The college rock landscape continues to expand and shift with each incoming freshmen class, with the Internet helping to fill in the cracks left by the 89.1’s and 88.5’s, introducing us to more new artists each week. There’s a lot to take in if you’re a young person just getting past listening to all the songs you heard at prom, so we’re here to help narrow it down for you.
17. Gothic Tropic
Jungle rock isn’t a genre that many bands self-assign these days, but Gothic Tropic tackle the label head-on and do so with a fervor and unique sound that most other bands can’t match. The L.A. trio have put out only a few tracks, but each one has some distinguishing factor from the rest, whether it be one member dominating the track more than others or an entirely different sound from the extremely versatile band. Each member is given their time to show off, but it always works within the greater concept the group is reaching for. Drummer Liv Marsico is often given a chance to shine, and it’s well deserved because she’s an undeniable force behind the kit. Having toured with bigger groups like Cold War Kids in the past, Marsico, and her bandmates Cicelia Della Peruti (Guitar/Vocals) and Daniel Denton (Bassist), seem to have tapped into something special with Gothic Tropic, and it would be wise to keep an eye on this band in the near future as they hopefully prepare to release much more material. –Pat Levy
16. Potty Mouth
Hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts, the four members of Potty Mouth formed the band in 2011 while attending the town’s women’s-only Smith College. Together, they encapsulate the gritty infectiousness of a basement show. Their debut album, Hell Bent, struck the perfect balance between punk and indie rock-minded pop, recalling acts like Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, and other ‘90s big guns. Songs like “The Spins” flail around with rough-edged guitars and clever lyricism from frontwoman Abby Weems, with her distinct and terse delivery. Another highlight is the authenticity anthem “Black and Studs”, which attempts to get to the bottom of rebellion and punk: “What happened to you/ To make me wear black and studs?/ What happened to me/ To wear them just because?” Like fellow Northhamptonites Speedy Ortiz, Potty Mouth are helping make Western Massachusetts one of the brightest spots in the country for well-made guitar rock. –Josh Terry
15. The Lemons
Chicago natives The Lemons have an infectiously happy nature about them, which for some reason feels rare nowadays. The Lemons just want you to cheer up! What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Their charming brand of ’60s flower pop is colorful and inviting, with short snippets of songs that don’t linger, but rather, keep you moving. Their lyrics pop like Hubba Bubba, riding the wave of their jangly and carefree instrumentation, making them downright irresistible to dance to. With tiny jams like the 37-second “Ice Cream Shop” and the sugar high addictiveness of “My Candy Girl”, The Lemons have solidified themselves as one of the most original bands out there. If there’s one thing most college rock bands have in common, it’s originality. Through their live shows and undeniably pleasant nature, they’ve already developed an almost cult-like following of fans and friends, recently finishing off a tour with another of our list toppers, Twin Peaks. Soon enough, we’ll all be Lemon Heads. –Rebecca Bulnes