PLAYING COLUMBUS: Bands to Watch – An Annotated Playlist

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Grunge Dad is one of Columbus Alive’s Bands to Watch.

Imagine: Columbus Alive just released their much anticipated lineup for their annual Bands to Watch concert, and the coffee shop conversation is relentless. The show – which will include Sarob, Grunge Dad, Akula, Souther, and Future Nuns – is this Saturday, but you don’t know any of the acts. What do you do? You can’t drop your hipper-than-thou act (you’ve been keeping that up for years), and your “support local artists” laptop sticker won’t mean anything if you need to ask all of your post-punk friends for input. But you don’t want to miss out on the show, either.

Fear not! School your friends and foes by reading up on our annotated playlist, your guide to navigating any of the niche convos sure to happen at Skully’s on Saturday night. And more: we’ve included five of our favorite up-and-coming locals, so you can not only go above-and-beyond to impress your roommates – you might find yourself investing further in Columbus’ varied music scene.


Sarob is a deeply introspective musician. His 2017 release, Seeing in the Dark, deftly combines piano, rap, and gorgeous vocals. Beyond the dazzle of the samples and sounds that Sarob pulls into his work, Seeing in the Dark highlights intentionally and emotionally impactful lyrics with skill.


Though Grunge Dad has been playing together for less than a year, their thoughtful, addictive first EP, I Feel Weird, seems timeless. It’s an EP’s casual coolness makes Grunge Dad come across as friends you’d like to have because of their mix of artistic drive and relaxed perspective. On I Feel Weird, vocalist Lisa Brokaw’s tone is flippant but intoxicating, driven forward by drummer Emma Headley and peppered with dizzying bass riffs by Marie Corbo.


Akula is made up of five life-long musicians – Chris Thompson, Jeff Martin, Scott Hyatt, Sergei Parfenov, and Ronnie Miller – and it shows in their ambitious debut EP. Though only four songs long, each of those songs is a marathon. But while the instrumentals are piled into melodic heavy rock, Jeff Martin’s vocals are surprisingly light. It’s a remarkably paced and balanced album: evidence of the years of craft put into its production.


The project of Carly Fratianne, Souther is influenced by Fratianne’s return to her home state of Ohio, as well as by her Americana and folk influences. Her debut Is For Lovers, is, as the first track suggests, brutally honest, but Fratianne doesn’t forgo attention to composition in pursuit of emotionality.


Future Nuns began and developed their group within Columbus’ DIY scene, and their scrappy approach to performance has served them well. The band frequently alters its line-up, as well as the instruments that individual members play. They’re magnetic, both on-stage and off.

Playing Columbus’ picks:


Being a multi-instrumental singer-songwriter and producer isn’t enough for Tatum Michelle Maura. She’s also an ever-present advocate for queer and trans folks in Columbus and regularly contributes to actions against police brutality. Her Facebook feed reads as a detailed and empathetic guide to the local music scene – Maura uplifts what seems like every new local release.

TTUM’s debut album, synthpop stunner Flwless Ruby, came out in October of 2017. Her latest release, however, is a slow-burning dance track she collaborated on with Maahikeee and Katskhi.


After a nearly 2-year hiatus, Cherry Chrome is back in the studio to record a new album. I’m stoked, and as soon as you hear the opening hook from the 2016 self-titled album, you will be too. It’s dreamy, well-placed music with a distinctive rock edge – and honestly, it’s also just catchy. All four members – Xenia Bleveans-Holm, Mick Martinez, Amina Adesiji, and David Holm – contribute vocals, building an eerie sound which nearly echoes against the group’s thick bass and drum lines.


“Our genre: what a cutoff t-shirt would sound like if it was music” reads a recent Facebook post by DIY locals Queer Kevin. It’s indicative of the general tone of the duo’s online presence. But Queer Kevin is a band to take seriously. Prolific both in their touring and musical output, Felix and Dylan release sprawling lo-fi songs with deeply impactful lyrics.


Sharon Udoh, who performs under the moniker Counterfeit Madison, has recieved much-deserved acclaim for her 2017 album, Opposable Thumbs. Still, I think she’s underrated. Udoh moves effortlessly between genres, her voice captivating throughout the classical, jazz, gospel, rock, and soul-inspired concoction that she has created on Opposable Thumbs. Udoh holds the great gift of being able to be funny, as well as beautiful in her art, and she wields it with impressive precision.


BLKGLD’s self-titled EP is art that makes you feel good about art. The smooth production on the album gives its mixture of stretched-out bass and guitar parts and poetry a mythic, almost underwater quality. It’s an album emblematic of the vast collaborative possibilities available within Columbus, as well as the talent and deft writing this city is filled with. Listening to BLKGLD feels like watching sun-glimmered water moving through the tide.


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