Picked to Click 2010

Pink Mink lead the pack in our 20th annual best-new-bands poll

The marathon only hints at how all-encompassing music is for Phantom Tails. In just over a year, the three, joined by bassist Dave Dorman, have gone from new to national, releasing an album and clocking some serious time on America's highways.

"We all decided, going into the band, that if anyone can't do the full-time music thing and can't go on tour, you're not in the band," Treon, the band's singer/guitarist, says.

Through this trial by fire came proof of the four's honed metallurgy, lurking in this year's Sounds of the Hunchback Whale. The album, easily at the top of the Cities' 2010 releases, is difficult to describe, much like the band. Hernandez's keyboards sound like they were stolen from the Munsters' abode. Treon's cool, detached vocals are equally sexual and spooky, and his guitar playing is angular and throbbing. Meanwhile Kerkhof's retro drum machining suggests late-night booty shaking. And though Phantom Tails dabble in many genres, they manage to evade every label.

"Apparently people call us garage," Kerkhof says. "I don't see that at all. It has about as much to do with that as it does mid-'90s hip hop."

"That's the next band," Treon half jokes. "And you get your German '70s synth music thrown in there. Your mid- '90s hip hop and your '60s garage rock."

"A little sprinkle of Prince," Kerkhof laughs.

They left on their first tour only a couple of months after starting to practice, with no album or merchandise, just a fiendish desire to soak their self-described "deep space doom funk" across the map. Since then they've barely taken a breath. Now entrenched in their current tour, this weekend they're playing two shows in New York during the CMJ media feeding frenzy. And it would be no surprise if critics sift through the hipster mass hysteria to take notice.

9. Voytek (tie)

By Andrew Flanagan • Photo by Steven Cohen

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"Oh god, we are the dumbest band." —Sam Gerard

"We were actually the original lineup of Motion City Soundtrack." —Jon Tester

Voytek is composed of four lady-loving, wrestling-watching little scamps scratching the itch any well-maladjusted person has behind their ear, next to the gum. The team of Sam and Max Gerard, Jon Tester, and Taylor Harris met each other five years ago by playing in bands like Tora! Tora! Torrance!, Squareshooters, and Charles De Gaulle—all of a sort but far from the distilled and endearing goofiness of their current band—and started playing together in full form this April, after a long winter of percolating and lineup fine-tuning.

The dudes play short and fast and as far from cerebral as an algebra notebook covered in doodles; they've written two songs about boobs so far, but that doesn't mean they're lazy. Their interests just range widely.

Voytek is an especially promising new addition to a rich tradition of straightforward, barely wrought, and perfectly written punk in the Cities that includes Sinks, the Sleaze, Awesome Snakes, Teenage Moods, Selby Tigers, and several thousand no one's ever heard of. In fact, the Cities seem to particularly like this stuff for reasons we'll venture to guess; between Extreme Noise, winter isolation, the Foxfire, the Triple Rock (where two of the Voys work), and the constant ebb and flow of show houses, the Cities have long fostered a culture of honest-to-boogers punk unburdened by genre affiliations or legacy expectations, just how the kids like it.

While we all ride the particularly high-minded, unrepentantly pretentious wave of new music that's being made around town (you know who), bands like Voytek will hold down the part that makes dumb jokes for an hour and calls it an interview. One caveat though: Next time you see them they might have a quarter-inch cable plugged into a circuit-bent, Gameboy-playing horse's ass. It's a long story.

10. The Bombay Sweets

By Jeff Gage • Photo by Nathan Grumdahl

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Take a listen to any of the handful of 45s and demos that comprise the Bombay Sweets' still-small body of work and it's not surprising to learn the band got its start with an old reel-to-reel tape deck.

"I bought it from a former gym teacher of mine from elementary school," says band leader Nathan Grumdahl, taking a break from playing cards with some friends during a Sunday afternoon happy hour at Common Roots. "I really bought the reel-to-reel to hear kind of what crazy shit he had recorded on it because he was such an asshole," he laughs, sweeping his long blond bangs to the side.

The tape deck turned out to be something of a bust, as it was scant on recordings and then broke not long after Grumdahl started using it himself. But the former Selby Tigers and Monarques guitarist was inspired to work on a cache of songs that hadn't fit into his other bands, and eventually found a vision for the project from some of the musicians he encountered through his day job, buying and selling vintage instruments. "It would basically be them and like a drum machine, sort of like this old '60s one-man-band thing," he recalls. "And I was like, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't be afraid to do this.'"

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