Dimes Square: meet the new artists reinvigorating NYC’s music scene
Ask New Yorkers of a certain age if Dimes Square is a place, genre or subculture and they’ll likely answer “yes”. Originally lifting its name from the area of the Lower East Side between Canal and Division Streets where DJs, e-girls and artists threw parties in the pandemic’s early stages, the phrase rapidly became a catch-all referring to acts playing electroclash, alt-pop and indie rock at tiny Manhattan bars. It quickly became known as NYC’s indie sleaze revival, thanks in part to music mirroring ‘00s mainstays like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sky Ferreira, The Rapture and The Strokes but also the scene’s penchant for noughties nostalgia via newsletters, podcasts, and flash photography documenting their nights out.
But all good things must come to an end, and what started as a way for alternative rapper Blake Oritz-Goldberg (aka Blaketheman100) to throw events for like-minded creatives has shifted from IRL to online. As post-pandemic prices peaked in the neighbourhood, many of the acts who gave Dimes Square a name headed back to Brooklyn, taking their music with them and broadening their sights outside of NYC.
The internet recently pronounced indie sleaze dead (again) and even the Indie Sleaze: NYC Revival Spotify playlist curated by Ortiz-Goldberg, pop duo Frost Children and electroclash DJ The Dare now focuses to post-punk hits of a previous era. But, out of the rubble has come a rich stock of musicians that have proven to be more than just a passing fad – and the vibe shift that led to Dimes Square in the first place lives on.
Whether it’s by listening to The Ion Pack’s podcast, clicking into Joe Kerwin’s You Missed It newsletter, watching Sid Simon sing indie rock songs at Heaven Can Wait, or dancing at a We Take Manhattan party at Old Flings, the buzzy NYC underground music scene is here to stay. We may now be in a post-Dimes Square world, but here are the artists making us happy to be living in it.
Erica Campbell, Features Editor (US)
Additional words: Anagricel Duran and Sophie Williams
Who: Manhattan’s next great guitar band
Why you should care: What’s an indie sleaze revival without sprawling guitar tracks that you can sing along to while balancing a drink at a sweaty Mercury Lounge? Been Stellar are a reminder that guitar rock is alive and well in the New York City, proving that the legacy of acts like The Strokes and The Walkmen will forever live on thanks to their bold songs like the killer ‘Manhattan Youth’.
Key track: ‘Manhattan Youth’ (EC)
Who: Full-time alternative hit maker, part-time DIY party planner
Why you should care: Blake Ortiz-Goldberg is not only known for kicking off the Dimes Square scene with his ability to pull off mega live events, but for his dance-worthy tracks that sit between post-punk nostalgia and alternative rap. Though his nihilistic and self-aware lyrics took off in 2021, he’d been making music long before that, which explains how he had the talent to pull off 15 NYC shows and drop three singles in 2022 alone.
Key track: ‘Ibuprofen’ (EC)
Who: Modern-day punks shaking up NYC venues with real flair
Why you should care: With their adrenaline-packed songs and chic demeanor, this six-piece have been taking the city by storm ever since the release of their debut album, 2022’s ‘The Fat Of A Bleeding Heart’. Catcher arrived just as shows were beginning to make a comeback after the pandemic, and their intimate, experimental live shows feel like hidden gems with the way that frontman Austin Eichler pours out every bit of passion and emotion while on stage.
Key Track: ‘Behind A Bleeding Heart’ (AG)
Who: Electro-pop duo daring you not to dance
Why you should care: Club Eat premiered their live act at a dim sum restaurant in Lower Manhattan. Though that should be reason enough for them to grace this list, it’s their angsty lyrics backed by electro-pop beats that keep fans coming back for more. The duo refuse to shy away from hedonism, sprinkling their high-octane tracks with list of vices and tales of drug-fuelled all-nighters that are impossible not to sing along to.
Key track: ‘No Sex’ (EC)
Who: A welcome respite in a pop landscape that can feel as if it’s lost its bite
Why you should care: Experimental pop duo Frost Children commit to the bit. Loud, punky and hyper-online, siblings Angel and Lulu Prost grew up in St. Louis before moving to NYC. They are now managed by Blake Ortiz-Goldberg AKA Blaketheman1000, and make music that mixes electronica with indie, pop, rap battles and heavy rock. Having recently released a new album, ‘Speed Run’, 2023 is primed to be a banner year for this pair.
Key track: ‘Wonderland’ (SW)
Who: New York’s most promising rock newcomers
Why you should care: The trio’s thrilling self-titled debut album, released in March, is evolving into something of a sleeper hit. Their strident, noisy sound finds a home in the dingy dive bar venues that populate downtown New York – and as their audience continues to grow, Hello Mary‘s introspective outsider anthems could very well be the songs that propel them towards much bigger stages.
Key track: ‘Sink In’ (SW)
Who: Noisy and visceral post-punk purveyors
Why you should care: Brooklyn four-piece Model/Actriz make the kind of electronic music that makes you want to dance and scream at the same time, with the sort of spoken-word revelations you’d hear at an LCD Soundsystem show. Comparisons aside, they have no problem venturing into boundary-pushing territory of their own. How else could they get away with lyrics that call out promiscuous partners: “With a body count higher than a mosquito”?
Key track: ‘Mosquito’ (EC)
Who: Brooklyn upstart providing all the hits
Why you should care: Teaming up with NYC’s legendary music producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor), Sid Simons has quickly become a staple of the downtown music scene. Formerly known as Girl Skin, Simons’ music features a mix of grooves and group harmonies along with fuzzy guitar tones and melancholic songwriting reminiscent of the ’00s indie icons that once dominated the scene.
Key Track: ‘Toy Gun’ (AG)
Who: The synth-pop duo modernising ’80s sounds
Why you should care: Made up of Allyson Camitta and Ezra Tenenbaum, Shallowhalo are reimagining that signature, synth-heavy ’80s sound with their unique musical voice. Each of their tracks is dripping with dreamy vocals provided by Camitta, along with dynamic percussion arrangements that add a bit of edge.
Key Track: ‘Renaissance Affair’ (AG)
Who: Underdogs turning the uncertainty of everyday life into lo-fi guitar anthems
Why you should care: Signed to shit-hot indie label Fire Talk – also home to Dehd and Mandy, Indiana – Strange Ranger‘s sound is embedded in both shoegaze and indie-rock fuzz, and over the past few years, the band have transformed from a local staple to one of the most compelling rock bands in America. Their new album ‘Pure Music’ (due July 21) is equally gnarly and tender while retaining a core feeling of warmth; lead singer Isaac Eiger is an observational writer, with an eye for ordinary intimacy.
Key track: ‘She’s On Fire’ (SW)
Who: The beating heart of New York City’s underground scene
Why you should care: The reckless and clattering ‘Girls’, the debut single from The Dare’s Harrison Patrick Smith, shamelessly extols the joys of late night misadventures, whilst recalling the ghosts of early LCD Soundsystem and bloghouse through electroclash sounds and yelped vocals. A resident DJ at Home Sweet Home, Smith has roots in the city’s nightlife scene, and is finding joy in hanging out, building a community and straight up vibing.
Key track: ‘Girls’ (SW)
Who: The hottest DJ duo to emerge from the post-Dimes Square scene
Why you should care: The duo, made up of Noah Dillon and Chandler Ransom Lucy, provide indie anthems aplenty during their sold-out DJ sets. However, The Hellp embrace all kinds of genres in their music, ranging from folk to alternative and even country. Yet its their synth-heavy songs that feel gigantic, and are reminiscent of early M83, providing a refreshing take on feel-good music.
Key Track: ‘Ssx’ (AG)
Who: New York City’s “prince of nightlife” and prolific podcaster
Why you should care: The Life, fronted by Curtis Everett Pawley (one-half of podcast duo The Ion Pack), managed to generate buzz before they’d even released a song. Securing support spots for the likes of Beach Fossils and The 1975, The Life kicked off these shows with their debut single, ‘Grace’. The track works towards a unique sound, with jangly guitars, soft vocals and abrupt electronic flourishes.
Key Track: ‘Grace’ (EC)