Best Art-Rock Band Less Than 30 Years Old

Dead Rider

Critics' Picks

I say "less than 30 years old" so I won't have to choose between Dead Rider and Cheer-Accident, but there isn't the brightest line between the two bands. Guitarist and front man Todd Rittman, who launched Dead Rider in 2009, used to play in Cheer-Accident himself; Thymme Jones and Andrea Faught, who sing backup and play varying combinations of synth, bass, and trumpet, are founding and part-time members of Cheer-Accident, respectively. (Drummer Matt Espy has been in Atom­bomb­pocketknife and Avagami.) Both bands refract a focused pop sensibility through a complexity that borders on cryptic, but where Cheer-Accident seem to prefer their art-rock playful and confounding, Dead Rider go for unctuous and sinister. It feels like they all know something you don't, and it's ruinously bad news—but they're not going to tell you what it is. The sleazy, perversely luxurious grooves on the band's newest album, this spring's Chills on Glass (Drag City), consist mostly of throbbing bass synths, lurching stabs of guitar, and smart-bomb precise but stubbornly sideways drumming; they deliberately provoke an uncomfortable tension, providing all the momentum of rock or disco but often frustrating the desire for something stable enough to dance to. Sometimes I suspect that the stumbling backbeats and rambling, unparseable meters are an elaborate ruse—Dead Rider are like an extraterrestrial predator wearing the body of a broken-down drunk, and every so often they'll wreck the disguise by snapping into a wicked unison figure, neatly impaling you through the ears.