Justin Bieber is a polarizing figure—you either love him or you hate him, there’s just no in between. You have to admit, however, that as problematic as he is, he does make some really catchy music. Whether he actually writes and orchestrates those songs is enough content for whole other conversation, but I digress. I come to you, my dear readers, with five new artists to purge your ears of his catchy catalogue.
I mean, sure. It’s totally fine to be a Justin Bieber fan, but it doesn’t look good on paper, kid.
In short, you’re looking for a good-natured pop song with the emotionality of an R&B track. You don’t need to listen to Justin Bieber for this blend of genres—there are plenty of indie artists who are doing this mix, minus the problematic behavior and the general horror of being Justin Bieber.
1. Saint Motel
Saint Motel is an indie-pop band that was formed in 2007 in Orange, California. The lead singer, A.J. Jackson and Aaron Sharp met as film students at Chapman University. They later recruited bassist Dak Lerdamornpong who worked at a local sushi restaurant and drummer Greg Erwin who was attending another nearby college. Putting their film skills to good use, the release of their debut EP, ForPlay, caught not only auditory attention, but visual attention. The band created retro-style videos for each track of the EP and kept up the excitement by constant touring.
Plain and simple: there is not another band like Saint Motel making music today. Featuring soulful, warm vocals from A.J. Jackson, groovy basslines from Lerdamornpong, complex guitar flourishes from Sharp and a steady, danceable drum beat from Erwin, there’s little not to love about Saint Motel. Not only do they produce a unique, classic sound, they have funny lyrics such as “You’re just my type / You have a pulse and you are breathing.” We don’t use horns enough in contemporary music and Saint Motel is laughing in our faces with their skillful use of the brass instruments.
Essential Tracks: “Cold Cold Man” and “My Type.”
2. Electric Guest
Electric Guest is an indie, funk-pop duo that formed in Los Angeles in 2011. While working with The Lonely Island on songs such as “Dick In A Box,” Asa Taccone was collaborating with Matthew Compton on the soon-to-be debut album, Mondo, of Electric Guest, which was released in 2012.
Electric Guest has a mellow, chilled-out sound. It’s not pop music that seeks to beat your head in via a powerful bass line, but pop music that says, “grab your friends, grab some drinks, you’re in for a well-deserved, relaxed weekend.” Taccone has a sultry, high-pitched voice that lulls you into a trance, far away from the regular stresses of life. What’s unique about Electric Guest is their emphasis on piano-based melodies as opposed to your usual guitar-lead melody. You’ll have the occasional synthesizer interlude, but the focus is the piano.
It’s a lovely instrument—we should be paying more attention to it.
I discovered this group via Majestic Casual’s compilation albums on Spotify. If you haven’t heard of Majestic Casual, I strongly suggest you check them out. I’ve never heard anything I didn’t like from any of their postings or compilation albums.
Paradis is a French electronic music duo who embody the French pop music and modern dance music. Featuring an emphasis on synthesizers, drum and bass, somehow this group is able to create some of the mellowest, calming dance music on the planet. The vocals are delicate and smooth, whispering sweetly into your ear. There is something sophisticated about their music—forget that they’re French for a moment—but with their controlled rhythms and chilling, high-pitched synths, you are immediately transported to a yacht somewhere with a large glass of wine in your hand.
Essential Tracks: “Hémisphère” and “La Ballade de Jim.”
4. Atlas Genius
Atlas Genius is a band that was formed in Adelaide, Australia by the brothers Steven and Michael Jefferey and Englishman, Darren Sell in 2009. They build their own studio and worked as a cover band to pay the bill. In 2013, they released their debut album, When It Was Now. The band received immense attention for their track, “Trojans” and blew up in the alternative rock radio world. While Sell is no longer with the brotherly duo, Atlas Genius continues to make tasty indie-pop for the masses.
Atlas Genius has a more traditional of an indie-pop sound. Returning back to a guitar-focused melody, Atlas Genius blends angular guitars, bouncy bass lines and crooning vocals to create a unique indie-pop sound in an genre that continues to spew out similar sounding acts. Grab your dancing kicks and hit the floor this weekend with the infectious sound of Atlas Genius.
Essential Tracks: “Trojans” and “If So.”
MKRNI (pronounced macaroni), a band I had to utilize my limited knowledge of the Spanish language for, is a band that formed in Santiago, Chile in 2008. Releasing their debut record, Playa Futuro, in 2012, MKRNI is a group that is reminiscent of 80s new wave. Self-described as “electrolatino,” MKRNI is a trio that is creating music wholly unique in every aspect of the word. Quite frankly, I’m appalled more people are not aware of MKRNI as well as the entire Santiago music scene.
Elisita Punto is the lead singer of the group and her voice is haunting. It flows like no other, sounding like this is how she speaks in conversation. It breathlessly pleads with you, breaking your heart in the oddest of fashions. MKRNI’s sound is casual, relaxing and overwhelmingly melancholy. There’s nothing demanding about their sound, but simply something you can easily get lost in.
A.K.A me at three in the morning on some Saturday evening because I never seem to find good music at appropriate hours.
Essential Tracks: “Inercia” and “Dime Que Si.”