Music from outside the mainstream

Tired of listening to the same old songs and the musical minute every day? This author’s got you covered. Music taste is subjective, so not all these bands will tickle your fancy. Whether you want to support local bands or ones halfway across the world, I hope this article will have you covered.



If you like that 1980’s vibe and aesthetic that makes you reminisce about Huey Lewis and the News, but also have a passion for fresh tunage, CRX might be the band for you. Their song “Walls” is a complete bop you might hear on your pal’s workout playlist. The song “Ways to Fake It” gives off a clean, poppy vibe that sounds deceivingly like it would be on a classic 80’s movie soundtrack. Complete with a talented drummer, wonderfully diverse vocals from the lead singer, and the talents of the other instrumentalists, CRX is a multitalented rock band with a fresh outlook on the genre.



Who knew hard rock and trap drum kits could fit together so well? With the raw and emotional vocals by the singer, you can dive right into the music. The song “Bury Me Face Down” gives off a vengeful yet calm vibe, with wonderful background sound that makes it sound similar to “Legendary” by Imagine Dragons. On the biography section of the well-formatted website, the singer describes his music as “honest rock and roll.” The songs touch on a variety of topics, including war, finances, and relationships. The most popular song by the singer is entitled “Bills”, showcasing the talent of this Canadian-influenced hard rocker. If you turn up the volume, the music washes over your brain like a caustic tidal wave.


August Hotel

One of McHenry County’s very own bands, August Hotel has an intriguing sound. “12 AM” is a slow, synth-y song that perfectly portrays the feeling of being up at 12 AM. This song was featured in MCC’s 2017 edition of Voices, and rightfully so. With their new track “Michigan Again”, you can feel their playful vibes come out with the poppy beat and creative use of calliope. Recently playing at Reggies, the five-man band is expanding their brand across Chicago and possibly the midwest as a whole.


Beach Bunny

Missing summer? Beach Bunny adds a chill California beach vibe to all her songs. In concert, she’s impressive, handling her electric guitar riffs while singing. “Shoegazer” is a slow song with rich, velvety vocals and a vibe that whisks you away to a dying down party, making it an excellent song to wind down to. “Six Weeks” immerses you in a toned down yet poppy beat. Lead singer Lili Trifillo is an Illinois native who replicates the feel of surfside music without the use of any supplemental instruments.


Dengue Fever

If you’re a diehard fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, you may have heard this band’s hit song “Sni Bong” during the weather forecast. Dengue Fever is a Cambodian-American band based out of Los Angeles with their own label, Tuk Tuk Records. The music can be described as a hybrid of psychedelic indie music with lots of Cambodian rock influence thrown in. “Woman in the Shoes” is a very overlooked track worth listening to, with a blend of acoustic guitar and an  exotic-sounding brass instrument. The band is fairly well recognized, with interviews being published in the New York Times, Wired, and “Fresh Air” from NPR. If you’re looking to chill, get pumped up, or simply just have some different music while studying, checking them out will satisfy your eardrums for all those tasks.



This band is well known for its hit song “Ocean Man”, appearing in the soundtrack of the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Tracks from this band go as far back as 1985 and reach across a vast variety of genres. Once a few of their other tracks are discovered and listened to, you’ll be amazed that a band like this got a song in a kids’ movie. “Friends” is a notable song, contributing an upbeat but chill synth-y vibe to their album La Cucaracha. The band was created as a union between a cool dude and a jock who both shared a passion for music, underlining the diversity of their tracks.



Experimental rock music is what this band specializes in. Each of their songs sounds like a Tame Impala track taken a bit farther. “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You” is a song that evolves as the track goes along. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki brings a special element in her voice that makes each song feel imaginary and dreamlike. “Hi” is a poppy sounding song with vocals that add a somewhat ominous layer on top of the instruments. Feel free to burn some candles and put on a record of Deerhoof for the entire ethereal experience.


Of course, there are many other talented bands out there that could not be included on this list because it would take hours to read and even more to write. If you feel like checking out any of these bands, here is a link to a playlist from the writer to you. Click shuffle if you’re feeling adventurous.