Darren Criss is an unabashed Justin Bieber fan. He also loves Beethoven, Katy Perry, Disney composer Alan Menken - the list goes on. "There's artistry in all kinds of music," says the breakout Glee star, who shot to fame last year after covering Perry's "Teenage Dream." "This is not me being diplomatic or all-inclusive. I honestly love all genres."
But Criss isn't just a fan of mainstream music - he's got solid taste in underground and indie-rock bands. He just got back from his first trip to Coachella, where he checked out plenty of up-and-coming acts like Yelle and Foals. "It was so well curated," Criss tells SPIN, adding that he jotted down his favorite acts so he could pick up their records. "A couple days after the festival, I stocked up."
With Criss taking center stage on the new compilation Glee Presents: The Warblers (which landed at No. 2 on the Billboard charts this week), SPIN asked him to list his favorite new indie music. Check out his picks - and hear music from the artists below.
Criss digs the sunny tunes and lighthearted energy of this French electro-pop trio, which is led by singer Julie Budet and just released the new LP Safari Disco Club. "She just radiates positive vibes," he says. "At Coachella, she was wearing this ridiculously cute red jumpsuit and dancing around stage. I think Yelle is the manifestation of how indie-rock has become more dance-oriented versus alternative. Instead of head-banging or folding my arms and nodding my head during her set, I was full-out dancing."
- TAME IMPALA
This Australian quartet played one of their biggest shows to date at Coachella, delivering a hot blend of dreamy pop and fierce psychedelic rock. But Criss didn't hear about them until after the festival. "It was a bummer to miss them because everyone was saying how good they were," says Criss, who just bought their LP Innerspeaker and blasts it while doing daily chores. "The songs have a great groove with a lot of strong backbeats, and they're very surreal sounding. It reminds me of Badly Drawn Boy backed by a full band."
- FREELANCE WHALES
Criss' older brother Chuck plays banjo, bass, electric guitar, and glockenspiel in this New York indie-pop quintet - but Darren swears there's no fraternal bias in this pick. "I really like their music, separate from Chuck being my brother," he says. "It can suck when your family member is an artist, because you feel obligated to be supportive. But their music isn't something I have to put myself on the line for. They turn fantastical arrangements into ethereal pop songs."
Criss' brother hipped him to this England post-punk group, with whom the Freelance Whales are currently touring. "Chuck said, 'Oh my god, you have to see these guys,'" recalls Darren, who caught the band's sweaty, hyperkinetic Saturday afternoon set at Coachella. Brother knows best: "They had so much fun energy. I love how they look like British gentlemen, but they were maniacs onstage."
OK: They're not an under-the-radar band, but Criss says he's been blasting the French pop-rockers music since his junior year in high school, when he picked up their 2006 album It's Never Been Like That. (It remains one of his favorite albums.) "I remember hearing 'Long Distance Call' and 'Consolation Prizes' back-to-back and freaking out over how much I wished I was in a band like that," he says. "I kept wondering how Phoenix wasn't one of the biggest bands in the world. Lo and behold, six years later, they are."
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