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Cousins of the classics

By Sarah Cook     9/18/08 7:00pm

So you're afraid your favorite music has become too popular? Maybe you're beginning to realize it always was? Never fear. With this list of ten relative unknowns that smack of the artists you know and love, but without that hypey aftertaste, you can stay indie forever.Rilo Kiley ? Land of Talk

When Rilo Kiley burst onto the scene, the way their pop hooks blended seamlessly with a dark folk vibe captured me. But Under the Blacklight seemed to be a move away from their traditional sound, and I found myself longing for something to fill the void. Enter Land of Talk. Their lead singer, Elizabeth Powell, even looks a little like the adorable Jenny Lewis. Try "Some Are Lakes" and "Young Bridge."

Depeche Mode or Bjork ? Olga Kouklaki

It's been a while since I've seen this sort of dark, industrial synth pop from a new artist, but Olga Kouklaki is stunning. Her songs are complex mixes of simple beats with a husky, emotional voice. Her classical roots show through, making her pieces tight and allowing them to flow very smoothly. I especially like "How Do You Feel" and "Getalife," for which her debut album was named.

The Shins or The Killers ? Sparkadia

Light pop about love can go a few ways. When it goes wrong it can induce vomiting better than syrup of ipecac, but when it goes right and has kickass guitar loops, it can stick in your brain in a good way and really cheer you up. That's why I love Sparkadia. Their songs have a synth feel that weaves in and out of repetitive guitar and drum hooks -- the best kind of earworms. "Jealousy" is their finest example of guitar innovation, but "Animals" has a more upbeat rock feel that makes you want to bounce around.

Dolly Parton or Nickel Creek ? The DeWayn Brothers

The DeWayn Brothers are a self-described acoustic/thrash/bluegrass band from Kansas who have a deeply Southern sound that consists mostly of string instruments and Southern drawls. Their amazing mandolin skills and storytelling lyrics make them worth listening to if you're into back porch country (which, well, I am). I really like "Mockingbird Woods" and "Hangover," both of which are available on their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thedewaynbrothers.

The Ramones or The Buzzcocks ? Zatopeks

Before the emergence of hardcore in 1982, a lot of punk had a traditional verse-chorus-verse makeup and talked about subjects like girls and hanging out with friends. Even though most punky pop artists and groups like Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte have kept these elements, they haven't retained the rough recording sound and pounding guitars that made me love The Ramones in the first place. Zatopeks is a pop punk group from London who sound like the lovechild of The Ramones and X. "Quality Footwear" has an interesting surfer hook, but my personal favorite is the slow-starting "Jumble Sale."

Petshop Boys, House Music or Daft Punk ? Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk are a zany, sleek electronic band from the late 1970s. Their album paved the way for House Music to become one of the first bands to bring mechanical and industrial sounds into catchy tunes. "The Robots" and "Computerlove" probably most exemplify their style, but their album Trans-Europe Express is filled with gems.

Dave Matthews Band ? Frightened Rabbit

The lead singers' voices sound exactly the same in many songs, especially "Fast Blood." The strongest connection between Dave Matthews Band and Frightened Rabbit, though, is in their bittersweet delivery and combination of several live instruments.

Siouxsie and the Banshees ? The Duke Spirit

Everyone loves the smooth, soulful female vocals of Siouxsie and the Banshees, especially the way they can mix with a light rock beat that shifts on a dime to a hard, gutteral sound. The Duke Spirit, a UK punk and soul band, sounds almost like Siouxsie and the Banshees incarnate. Their sound is comfortable and easy, with a rock edge. "Cuts Across the Land" has a great beat, and songs like "Into the Fold" show off the lead singer Liela Moss's husky register.

Bob Marley ? Mohobub

Who hasn't fallen in love with Bob Marley's simplistic reggae? It makes you feel like you're lying in a hammock in the Caribbean, even while the political messages that permeate it seem urgent and earnest. Mohobub, a Belizian musician, has a less aggressive punta rock feel that is filled with intoxicating percussion and dance beats. Songs like "Ital Food" show serious political messages, while "Drunkin' Man" has a great flute solo.

The Faint, Bloc Party or Hellogoodbye ? Does It Offend You, Yeah?

This four-person electro-rock group from Reading, England took their name from the British version of the hit show "The Office," originally named "Does it Offend You, Yeah? My Drinking?" They shortened the name before the release of their brilliant first album, You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into. Each of their songs has a different electronic feel, but they're all danceable, with a great combination of rock and synth. Songs like "Dawn of the Dead" sound like a lower-pitched, easier Hellogoodbye tune, with cool vocals laid simply over a synth background. "We Are Rockstars," on the other hand, incorporates rock into the background and synth into the vocals, kind of like The Faint. "Epic Last Song" sounds more like a Bloc Party number, with just a few small tastes of electronic amidst the easy rock. This band, honestly, has a little something for everyone.

Sarah Cook is a junior at Wiess College.

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