Thus far, this column has examined guitar bands that are on the brink of breakout success, as well as the incredible flexibility of the guitar even just within the world of rock and roll. But the power of the guitar can be felt within much narrower pockets of society, namely in the music scenes of specific cities. And perhaps no city highlights the clout of the guitar more than Philadelphia.

On the eastern side of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is famous largely for its rich American history, its greasy food and its namesake television program. But more recently, the city that is home to approximately 1.5 million people has become renowned for its exceptional music scene. The wealth of bands that have cropped out of this town--Radiator Hospital, CRUISR and even Kurt Vile or The War On Drugs--is truly staggering.

Out of the enormous group of Philly-based bands, however, these three seem to have the highest ceiling in the years to come.


Perhaps the most significant testament to the power and drive of the individuals behind NOTHING is that the band exists at all. Frontman Domenic Palermo had been a part of the hardcore group Horror Show in the late 1990s and early 2000s before a 2002 conviction for aggravated assault, to which he pleaded self-defense, earned him a two-year jail stint and five years of parole. Using his time off from music to reflect upon himself and revitalize his musical career, Palermo formed NOTHING in 2011. Working together with Brandon Setta, Kyle Kimball and Nick Bassett, Palermo and NOTHING have signed with metal label mainstay Relapse Records, in spite of the fact that NOTHING slants more toward shoegaze and noise. Their debut LP, Guilty Of Everything, was acclaimed by a litany of outlets and their upcoming follow-up, Tired Of Tomorrow, seems poised to become an early album of the year candidate. Their heartfelt brand of powerful music is sure to stir something deep within inside everyone.

Beach Slang

To put it simply, Beach Slang's debut LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, was one of 2015's best records. The earnest, sincere musings of James Alex and his band of middle-aged punkers feel like hymns for the outcast and downtrodden of the world. Tracks such as 'Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas' and 'Throwaways' feature soaring melodies and hooks coupled with poetic imagery that would surely touch the heart of any person who has ever felt "different." The music evokes The Replacements and Jawbreaker with warm reverence, all while making its own mark as powerfully evocative pop-punk. Although an outlier in terms of instrumentation, as it only features an acoustic guitar, cello and piano, the song 'Too Late To Die Young' is perhaps the group's defining track and one of the best songs of 2015. Their prior EPs from 2014, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? and Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street, are also extraordinary collections. A lot of bands can make pretty sounds, but few carry the same emotional weight as Beach Slang.

Modern Baseball

Modern Baseball originated, as so many bands do, as a collaboration amongst college friends. Formed at Drexel University, the group is comprised of high school friends and guitarists Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald, as well as drummer Sean Huber and bassist Ian Farmer. Named for a book owned by Ewald's father, the group recorded their first album, 2012's Sports, at the studios on Drexel's campus. The success of that record earned them a deal with the superb Boston-based label Run For Cover. Their 2014 follow-up You're Gonna Miss It All proved to be one of the year's most celebrated records, with a litany of stellar tracks including 'Charlie Black' and 'Your Graduation.' Their penchant for catchy, moody songwriting, as well as the fact that all band members can and do sing gives them a unique voice in the music world. As such, their upcoming album Holy Ghost is one of the year's most hotly anticipated records. It feels as though the group is truly knocking on the door of mainstream success and, if anyone deserves it, it is the guys of Modern Baseball.