Here we are again, friends and foes of the beloved German tongue. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION continues to explore the diversified musical landscape of the German-speaking countries after already showcasing two succesfull parts in 2014 and 2015. And once again we use the home field advantage of our basis in Germany to take a closer look on up and coming bands that currently deserve to get your attention. These artists are clever, talented and definitely don’t need you to be fluent in the difficult German language to get their idea.
Once again we tried to keep an open ear when it comes to stylistic diversity – partly noisy, partly abstract but mostly catchy and entertaining: That’s what these 10 acts are. Some have been around for quite a while, some are on the verge of up and coming. All in all they’re once again proof that you don’t need to be ashamed to use the German language in a pop musical context these days.
What the name means: Self-explanatory
Where they come from: Cologne
What it sounds like: Tropical Hipster Pop with highly addictive hooks.
What it’s all about: The fact that this four-piece named its debut album Playa Holz makes way too much sense. ‘Playa’ stands for the easy-going and tropical approach towards their sound while ‘Holz’ (aka ‘wood’) represents the German origins of this four-piece from Cologne. They first gained attention in the national media by providing bizarre but memorable arty music videos like Ping Pong and Macauly Culkin (right here) and even got the infamous Home Alone star to actually aprove the track about him. Following the path Austria’s BILDERBUCH opened up in the past years, GOLF give the German sound and language a certain leightness and smooth flair you normally don’t find in German music. Somewhere between PHOENIX, METRONOMY and CARIBOU these guys find their own way to give the ‘Bundesrepublik’ a certain balearic groove it clearly needs from time to time.
What the name means: The Wrestler
Where they come from: Hamburg
What it sounds like: In what DER RINGER calls ‘soft punk’, jangly guitars and atmospheric, 80s-leaning synthesizer sounds merge with a gritty, at times primal rhythm section.
What it’s all about: /logs in, loads intertextual reference, prepares informative text . . . . . In a recent interview with Electronic Beats, DRANGSAL’s very own Max Gruber referred to DER RINGER as ‘one of Germany’s most promising bands’. Although the five lads are supposed to currently work on their debut album, it seems odd to describe them as newcomers. Formed in Hamburg and being around for almost eight years, the band released their first EP Das Königreich liegt unter uns in 2013 and its follow-up Glücklich in March this year. It is remarkable how DER RINGER has been constantly working on, changing, and developing their sound over the past six years. Formerly inspired by math rock and bands like FOALS, DER RINGER succeeded to create their very own identity and sound while still being open to change.
Whereas the debut EP featured guitar-led indie pop songs with metaphoric lyrics keeping an eye on social processes, their second collection of tracks shows a grown band with a focussed and progressed sound that effectively oscillates between fast and slow sound patterns, combining soft electronic elements with rough drums and supporting guitar play. Thematically, the songs deal with how the digital age influences the perception of ourselves and how we interact with our fellow beings, for example as lovers as depicted in the animated clip for APPARAT. Rather exceptional is Schneider’s vocal performance: slightly alienated and dark in character, his voice lies like a gloomy shadow over the band’s atmospheric play. Needless to say, DER RINGER is an exciting band to keep track of, especially now that a proper album is in the works . . . . . /logs off, plays some purple Glücklich vinyl, –.
What the name means: Unicorn
Where they come from: Vienna
What it sounds like: Austria’s version of indie power-pop
What it’s all about: It’s an open secret that Austria’s vital pop scene partly succeeded Germany’s one in the past years when it comes to originality and a natural understanding of what to do with this quite special language. Mainly, the R&B-infected glamp pop of BILDERBUCH and the rock’n’roll sing-along of WANDA was responsible for this. Now, with Vienna’s EINHORN a second wave of fearless new bands starts to spread its magic. The group’s first EP Schöner Als Berlin (‘More beautiful than Berlin’) is not just a statement of local favourites but also delivers catchy power-pop in the tradition of TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB. Young, hasty and full of potential: It’s far too easy to fall for this goove, right?
What the name means:Probably it’s just onomatopoeia but story goes that the band was founded in front of the ‘Dysecatmotel’ in Amsterdam.
Where they come from: Chemnitz/Jena (East Germany)
What it sounds like:Let’s call this: Experimetal. Highly dynamic and entertaining with a bit of stoner rock, noise and lots of DADA in it.
What it’s all about:Actually, in order to grasp what Andrej Dietrich and Jari Rebelein are doing you’d have to attend one of their live shows. On paper it’s just the classic combination of a guitar, drums and two voices. But what really elevates the sound of DŸSE is the sheer amount of energy and inventiveness they put into it. It’s a maelstrom of various rhythmic power plants (including beatboxing), suspense, heavy distortion, headbanging explosions and mostly nonsense lyrics that still manage to wrong-foot you. It’s not easy to digest, that is for sure. But these guys ongoing underground success is not just a local phenomenon anymore: Recently these two guys also grew quite a decent fanbase over in the states. So, watch out for DŸSE, lads and gents.
What the name means: It’s her name
Where they come from: Berlin
What it sounds like: Easy-going singer/songwriter pop with exotic influences and intelligent lyrics.
What it’s all about: Believe it or not but Germany got a long tradition of singer/songwriters, although the term ‘Liedermacher’ (like it is used over here) always managed to seperate itself from the world of pop. National legends like Reinhard Mey and Konstantin Wecker made intelligent and political songs that still only applied to a majority. Well, it’s just not as ‘cool’ as a popular rock and pop band. But things slowly start to change and Dota Kehr is one reason for it.
For over a decade now the talented lady built up a loyal fanbase in the German capital thanks to her clever, partly funny but also real honest folk pop gems that are also influenced by reggae, surfrock and Bosaa Nova. Together with her band, the ‘city pirates’ and under the moniker ‘Kleingeldprinzessin’ (loose change princess) DOTA played pretty much everywhere in Berlin whether it’s the streets, professional venues or a protest march. Her fanbase constantly increases and maybe you’re the next to follow, even if your German isn’t the best. But you’ll get her spitit anyway, trust us.
What the name means:The Nerves
Where they come from: Stuttgart
What it sounds like: Post-Punk meets Noise meets Kraut meets madness and attitude
What it’s all about: It’s a shame that this threesome only now pops up in our little examination of German singing-bands. Hailing from Stuttgart in the south of Germany, DIE NERVEN have grown into something like the posterboys of a new cool scene apart from the usual Berlin and Hamburg based bands. It’s a scene of loud, edgy and dirty guitar music – passionate, with a strong professional ambition but never forced or compromised. That the scene for which they stand now is likely to be more of a media construction is another topic. Point is: Since their 2014 album Fun and last year’s Out, DIE NERVEN established themselves as a really unique and vital voice in Germany’s rock scene. The richness of their angry sound, their nearly SONIC YOUTH-like inventiveness and especially how well these three guys operate together is something that can be witnessed best live on stage. Either way, DIE NERVEN are a real treat for the strained nerves of us digital primates.
What the name means: Caries
Where they come from: Stuttgart
What it sounds like: More noisey Post-Punk with attitude.
What it’s all about: It’s kind of interesting that a city like Stuttgart turns out to be the hometown of some of Germany’s most subversive and exciting bans right now. We just talked about DIE NERVEN above and already introduced you to HUMAN ABFALL the last time. Four-piece KARIES is the next group that emerges from this unimposing city. Maybe it’s the fact that the quite conservative bourgeoise is so dominant in the city that it causes a certain uproar in the underground. Germany’s green party is running the city (and the entire state of Baden-Württemberg) and over the past years the former revolutionary and environmentally cosncious movement slowly became a new reactionary force in Germany. Anyway, sorry for the political detour but it really helps to explain the motivation for a band like KARIES which already supported the almighty SLEAFORD MODS during their recent German gings. The rough and raw post-rock sound clings to the old-times and so do the desperate and dark lyrics. But these are dark times and KARIES represent a youth culture that is not buying the neoliberal phrases of Merkel and Co. anymore and is not interesting in practising escapism by attending shiny Open Air rave events with their iPhones. You can’t appreciate that enough.
What the name means: Well, it’s her original one
Where they come from: Mainz
What it sounds like: Radio-friendly R&B/Pop with class.
What it’s all about: Just like in the music scene in general, Germany is facing a lack of prominent and intelligent female figures in pop and we can’t tell often enough what a shame that is. Thank god, there are always exceptions to the rule and MINE from Mainz could be such a game changer. While her first releases where more in the style of traditional singer/songwriter pop her new album Das Ziel ist im weg (‘The goal is in the way’) extends her musical microcosm with minimalistic electronic beats, soulful R&B and a certain cool and contemporary vibe. The fact that she still manages to do that in class and with integrity should be enough argument for MINE. That’s how you can do good pop (with really good music videos as well) without selling out your soul.
Der Bürgermeister der Nacht
What the name means:The Major of the Night
Where they come from: Hamburg
What it sounds like: Slightly psychedelic pop. Either very uplifting or rather depressing. Depending on your mood.
What it’s all about: First of all, Fynn Steiner and Joachim Franz Büchner are those kind of guys that are very playful and reflective about their language. They seduct sense and nonsense within the rather abysmal or at least devious parts of our lives. And they do it in an increasingly catchy and soothing way. Their tunes are pop, often elated, sometimes with a sad undertone, sometimes more in the aggressive indie rock field, but always tongue-in-cheek enough to make it all seem effortless. In a small independent scene like the one of Germany you won’t be surprised that DER BÜRGERMEISTER DER NACHT recently toured with the wonderful ISOLATION BERLIN who we praised in this little series before and who really outgrew our expectations in the end. Hopefully, that’s something that awaits DER BÜRGERMEISTER DER NACHT as well.
What the name means: Again, it’s his real name
Where they come from: Hamburg
What it sounds like: Hamburg-based songweiter ENNO BUNGER is a hidden treasure in the large amount of emerging songwriters with pop appeal in Germany. Last year’s sophomore album Flüssiges Gold (‘Liquid Gold’) gave his melancholic melodies a more electronic twist as they unfold a cold but also quite comforting feeling that instantly connects with the listener. His lyrics are profound and use clever phrasing (Sorry again, Non-German speakers) but they aren’t afraid to speak the truth. The haunting Wo bleiben die Beschwerden? (‘Where are the complaints?’) describes the rising racist and right-wing movement in Germany in the course of Europe’s current refugee crisis, especially addressing the silent acceptance of it in large parts of the – so called – liberal society. On the other hand he criticises the one-dimensional pop landscape of his home country in Am Ende des Tunnels (‘At the end of the tunnel’) in quite a humorous way. Aside from that ENNO BUNGER is just a really, really friendly lad and he deserves all the success and attention in the world. The fact that he’s not desperately forcing it to happen only makes him more loveable.
If you are triggered now and want to explore more interesting German-singing bands, come over and follow NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION‘s playlist of recommendable German-singing bands and artists over at Spotify.