It’s been five years since Rolling Stone crowned Baltimore the best music scene in America. Since then, plenty of bands have gotten more national press, others have broken up, and many more have formed. The plaudits and coverage from music mags and tastemaker blogs might not be at the same level as it was back then, but very little about what made this city’s scene great has changed. Rents are still affordable, making it possible for musicians to live and work without starving. Though a long list of warehouse venues have grinded to a halt, Baltimore’s DIY spaces still serve as incubators for talent. In five years’ time, new above-ground clubs have sprung up to fill the void and operate alongside institutions such as the Ottobar and Sidebar.
Each week, City Paper painstakingly details the best upcoming shows in the Short List, chronicles different parts of the scene in our genre boxes, and profiles the best bands Baltimore has to offer. We certainly encourage you to head to the nearest yellow box for all of that, but in the meantime, here’s a primer:
Ami Dang: A hypnotic combination of electronic beats and world music, Dang’s music has been heralded by none other than elfin Canadian indie sensation Grimes.
Beach House: Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s dreamy pop tunes have become one of the scene’s biggest exports, and it’s not hard to see why.
Caleb Stine: The country/folk songwriter is a Baltimore staple.
Dan Deacon: As one of the city’s best-known acts, Deacon is popular enough to tour around the world. But he is just as quick to serve as the local scene’s biggest advocate and perform his bouncy electronic music on behalf of a great cause.
DDm: The whip-smart MC’s mix of sharp lyrics and club-inspired beats have made him a rising star in the local hip-hop scene.
Dope Body: Art-punk done right: raw, abrasive, loud. Few bands have improved over the last couple of years as much as Dope Body.
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat: Baltimore’s favorite talk-show host, comedian, and pasta chef also fronts one of the best post-punk acts in town.
ellen cherry: A singer-songwriter with a sugary-sweet voice and the writing chops to match.
Future Islands: Danceable synth-pop with a lot of heart, delivered by one of the most compelling frontmen around.
Horse Lords: Long, instrumental krautrock-inspired songs with deep grooves.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business: A roadhouse-rock throwback with a big future that includes a new release due out on ATO Records.
Lafayette Gilchrist: The veteran jazz pianist is as vital and active as ever, with three albums set to come out this year alone.
Matmos: Originally from San Francisco, this duo draws from all manner of materials and thematic inspiration to create kaleidoscopic noise music.
Murder Mark: The DJ and producer has become one of the standard-bearers of the city’s signature club sound.
Roomrunner: A loud, heavy wall of guitars that assaults the eardrums and feels like nirvana.
Rye Rye: After years of waiting, the club-rap powerhouse finally released her debut, Go! Pop! Bang!, last year, giving the rest of the world a taste of her infectious tracks.