We’ve partnered with some of our favorite websites to bring you each scene’s best upcoming bands, diving beneath the surface to give you a glimpse of tomorrow. In this monthly check-in with our friends at Post-punk.com, we get the scoop on names like Korine, Mareux, Harsh Symmetry, and much more. (Check out last month’s column here!)
Philadelphia, Pa. is known for several things: Wawa, the Liberty Bell, and those greasy cheesesteaks from Gino’s, slathered with copious amounts of bright orange ’wiz. A little-known fact, however, is that the city is also one of the best places for synth-pop.
In the ’80s, the city of brotherly love’s synth-pop crown was worn by local heroes Book of Love, a band so great they toured with Depeche Mode twice: once during their North American stint for 1985’s Some Great Reward and again for 1986’s Black Celebration.
Nowadays, the city reigns supreme with Korine, one of my favorite bands right now. Taking the mantle from forebears Book of Love, the duo of Trey Frye and Morgy Ramone capture a sound that hits a sweet spot between Alan Wilder joining Depeche Mode and when Martin Gore started dressing in bondage gear. You know, those Before Berlin, After Berlin memes? (And as much as I’d like to imagine that the band is named after Harmony Korine, the director of Gummo and Kids, it’s just the moniker that punk veteran Morgy was using as a solo act.)
Korine released their full-length debut album New Arrangements in 2018, with the charming lead single “Elegance and You,” but it was 2019’s stand-alone single “Uncrossed” that really won me over. With its haunted library setting, the song’s video has that “Don’t You Forget About Me,” and “Head Over Heels” vibe for the Stranger Things generation.
In 2020, the band released their second LP, The Night We Raise, one of the best albums of that year. The record features a melange of angsty, lovelorn anthems (“Cruel,” “Cold Heart”). They followed up the album with the shimmering standalone single “Sunshine” last year. In 2022, they completed their first European tour, supporting Choir Boy, Soft Kill, and securing a spot on the Wave Gotik Treffen lineup.
Conjuring synth-pop so sweet, too much indulgence will inspire a visit from the ghost of Wilford Brimley (remember those diabetes commercials?), Philly’s Catherine Moan made her debut in 2020, with a self-titled EP. In earnest, it was her reworking of the Depeche Mode B-side “Fools” that kick-started her career, garnering international play as of late. (“Fools” is an obscure enough choice; it’s likely many clubgoers don’t realize it’s a cover. She definitely made it her own.)
After “Fools,” Catherine Moan released her full-length debut album, Chain Reaction, an assortment of dreamy bubblegum pop tunes, like “Drop It” and “Body Work”, sure to give you the aural equivalent of tooth decay.
In fact, Catherine Moan’s music is so insulin-spiking saccharine-sweet, she even wrote a song called “Soda Pop” while pounding down Monster energy drinks to self-medicate her ADHD. That track is included on the limited edition expanded cassette version of Chain Reaction.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, two other bands made serious waves with their live debuts, resulting in a surge in popularity: Mareux and Harsh Symmetry.
Los Angeles-based musician and producer Aryan Ashtiani, a.k.a. Mareux, made his recording debut in 2013 with his Decades EP. Sporadic releases followed, leading to spring 2020’s Predestiny EP and the track “Gopnik,” an affectionate ode to his tracksuit-wearing, Slavic/Eastern European fanbase. I mean, when one of your fans shows off photos of their knife collection, you could call the FBI and issue a restraining order… or you could capitalize on the absurdity and write a song about it.
Both “Gopnik” and “Spectral Tease,” Mareux’s Lynchian second single off of the Predestiny EP are pretty damn good, but it's the track “Summertime” that really took off… and yet, its measly 5 million Spotify streams pales in comparison to the viral success of Mareux’s Cure cover of “The Perfect Girl.”
Now I, like The Simpsons’ Abe Simpson, used to be with it but they changed what it was and so this current incarnation seems weird and scary to me. At least, that is how I feel with “The Perfect Girl” going viral on TikTok synced to clips from Euphoria. (I’ve never watched the show, but I hear it’s Kids for Gen-Z.)
Before Mareux, if you told me there would one day be a cover of a Cure song more popular than the original, I’d say “Blasphemy!” Yet here we are. At the time of writing this, Mareux’s “The Perfect Girl” sits at 89 million listens on Spotify.
With only one single under his belt, Harsh Symmetry recently opened for Mareux at several sold-out shows in Southern California. Prestigious European darkwave label Fabrika Records (home to Selofan, Lebanon Hanover, She Past Away) took notice and quickly snatched him up for their roster.
With a vocal style reminiscent of Cocteau Twins collaborator Cinder (This Mortal Coil, Cindytalk), Harsh Symmetry’s Julian Sharwarko is the epitome of goth, resembling a classic Propaganda model and a cross between Velvet Goldmine-era Jonathan Rhys Myers and 1983 Robert Smith.
The song “Mirror Twin” is pure unabashed old-school post-punk, like an early 4AD darkwave tune mixed with post-Southern death cult band Getting The Fear, and the criminally-overlooked Nebraska dream-pop unit, For Against. If the song is any indication, Harsh Symmetry’s forthcoming full-length debut will be the perfect soundtrack for the melancholy set clad in black, leather, and lace.