opinion: michael’s top vocalists

Written by Michael Gibbs

Part of what gives a band its distinct sound is its vocalist. Many bands are lead by skilled singers with good voices but every so often a band comes around with an amazing and unique lead singer. I’ve compiled a list of just a few of those such bands and their inclusion is based on how unique their lead vocalist sounds. I picked these bands because I think their sounds are very much worth listening to and the strength and quality of their vocalists are worthy of keeping you engaged in their sound.

In no particular order, the first distinct vocalist worth checking out is Elena Tonra from the indie-folk band, Daughter. One of the first things you’ll notice when listening to her is her similarity to Florence Welch, but Elena distinguishes herself with a softer and kinder tone and vocal range. Many of the songs from Daughter, are slow, quiet songs and Elena perfectly complements each song with a voice that creates this level of intimacy rarely present in the sounds of other bands and singers. One listen to “Youth” should get you hooked on her immensely pleasing voice.

The next vocalist on this list is Olen Kittelsen from the alt-rock band, Armors. Olen immediately distinguishes his voice in songs like “Genesis” and “Old House” because of his amazing falsetto, immense vocal rage, and passionate voice. He greater range differentiates himself from other male singers with high voices. He can take the song to a really high place and then drop it, giving many of Armors’ songs that variety and uniqueness. The verses in “Name” can be slow and breathy, and then Olen will elevate the passion for the chorus and create this intense sound while still maintaining his fantastic, melodic voice. His vocal talent shines through in every song, and it never ceases to amaze me how amazing he is when he holds a single note like in the chorus of “Old House.” His vocal range and passion are reasons why you should listen to this unique singer.

The next vocalist worthy of your time is the truly incredible Francis Quinlan from the band, Hop Along, the indie folk-rock band from Philadelphia. I can definitively say that I’ve never heard a vocalist that even remotely sounds like Francis. Her voice is almost indescribable. As with the other singers on this list, she has an insane vocal range. However, there’s so much more to her voice. It’s filled with multitudes of voice cracks and whines but somehow she makes that sound pleasing. Those cracks come when Francis increases her passion and intensity and they come between moments of hauntingly beautiful vocal sections, where Francis’ voice feels so pure and soothing. Those clean sections perfectly contrast with moments of passion full of cracks and whines that sound almost as if she’s pulling her voice from her soul. That contrast and range as well as just the bafflingly way in which Francis makes whines and voice cracks sound amazing is much more than enough reason to listen to this band. Even if you don’t like raspiness or voice cracks, Hop Along has a multitude of songs where Francis tones down her whininess and focuses instead on that pure and sweet voice. That doesn’t prevent the songs where she sings like that from achieving passionate or meaningful moments that just enchant the listener. My description doesn’t do justice to Francis’s voice which I believe to be one of the most unique voices in modern rock and modern music as a whole. The only way to understand why this claim has validity is to listen to any song from Hop Along. If I had to recommend just one song, it would be “Well-dressed” as that has the pure, sweeter moments and the intensely passionate moments filled with voice cracks and raspiness. However, there are so many more Hop Along songs that deserve a listen. The band is just incredible and Francis’ voice just elevates the band’s whole sound in a way that’s unlike any other.

The last singer whose unique voice I wanted to point out is Jake Luppen from indie alt-rock band Hippo Campus. “Wavy” is probably the most appropriate word to describe Jake’s voice. Throughout their discography, Jake showcases seamless transitions from low, soothing tones to exciting falsettos. These transitions can happen between verses and choruses but they can also happen in the middle of verses and even in the middle of words. Not only is Jake’s voice wavey but with whatever tone Jake is singing, it sounds satisfying and pleasant. In songs that have less tone transitions, it’s clear that Jake’s voice is just flat out fantastic. In “Monsoon,” Jake slows it down for a more emotional track and his voice achieves this beautiful and soft quality with clean and extremely beautiful melodies. Jake’s voice perfectly complements the melodic sound that the band the has and the waviness of Jake’s voice makes it different from any other contemporary singer. That uniqueness coupled with his amazing melodic voice makes his sound one that should be listened to.

All of these singers have incredible and unique voices that I highly recommend you to listen to. These are just a few of the modern vocalists with great and different sounds. Some other singers that could have gone on this list are Christo Bowman from Bad Suns, Joe Newman from Alt-J, and Monica Martin from the now-disbanded, PHOX. Hopefully, this list will turn you on to at least a few of these fantastic bands and fantastic singers.

Featured: Hop Along

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