Top 10 Alternative Rock Picks of 2018”

Jake Kussmaul




Michael Rubin, the lead singer and main songwriter of the Inoculated Canaries, a New York City-based rock quartet whose music was described by the Observer as “exhilarating and heart-pounding,” grew up in a home where his father was a huge fan of classic rock. “He still is,” Rubin says. “You know, ‘Zeppelin is God.’ The first song I heard after coming out of the womb was ‘Achilles’ Last Stand,’ all seven minutes of it.”  

By the time Rubin was twelve years old, he already was putting together the band that became the Inoculated Canaries (it was, he explains, around the time of the bird flu). They recorded their first EP in 2013, The Blue Laws, when he was thirteen, and originally the band was influenced by the adventurous music of Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, with elements of prog-rock. “As a thirteen year old I listened to a lot of weird music, so the band kind of reflected that. Then as I got older, I became of more focused on my songwriting, and it was music that was palatable. I was a School of Rock student for six, seven years, so I grew up playing the same stuff my dad used to listen to.”  

Rubin and drummer James Terranova have been in a band together since 2010, and then, while teaching at School of Rock, they met bassist Dylan Gross and keyboard player Brian Sweeney. “Then I think the real shift in the Canaries happened when I went from listening to Zappa and Steely Dan and started listening to more modern stuff, like Foo Fighters and Tame Impala.” Over the course of the last seven years, the Inoculated Canaries put out a number of singles (including “Don’t Be Late,” “Sneakers,” “Who Are You?”, “Count Me Out” and the most recent, “Donna”) and the EP Trying Times. “People think of “mainstream” as like a dirty word. When I was younger, I definitely did,” Rubin admits. “That’s why we had songs like ‘Prisoner,’ which doesn’t even have a chorus.  

“I think the journey we’ve been on songwriting-wise to take the energy that we love from a lot of prog-rock bands and kind of reimagine it in a way that more people can enjoy. We try to focus a lot on the musicianship without going overboard in a way that would make it pretentious. Really, we’re just dudes in a garage playing rock and roll as loud as we can play it.”  

Recently, Rubin formed a second band, King Falcon. Under that name, the single “Shake! Shake! Shake!” came out in early summer 2020. “We kind of thought about it like, if you took characters from one TV show and made like a spin-off show, that’s a bit like what King Falcon is. We wanted to start fresh. It’s a bit more commercial, more modern.”  

The newest release by the Inoculated Canaries, the single “Hypocrite,” comes out in the midst of a time of social turmoil. It has echoes of the kind of instant- newsworthiness of the protest music of the ‘60s and ‘70s; it steers clear of pointing a finger at any specific figure, but its lyrics about the “lying eyes” of its title figure are unambiguously responsive to this specific political moment. With the upcoming election very much on the band’s mind, they decided to time the release of the track to the fall campaign season.  

The band’s lead singer and writer Michael Rubin explains why “Hypocrite” took on such urgency for the Canaries. “Now more than ever,” he says, “everything is political. Deciding if you want to go to McDonald’s versus going to Popeye’s, that’s political. Every choice you make has political ramifications.” The song, Rubin explains, was recorded (and the video was shot) around a year ago, but rose to become a priority only over the past couple of months, with the dual challenges of the pandemic and the movement for racial Justice.  

Rubin says, “A woman got on the news, she was basically suggesting that we shouldn’t wear masks because masks interfere with ‘God’s perfect breathing system.’ The system is so perfect that we’ve got over 100,000 people dead people in the United States.  

“Or you can see somebody who says, ‘Oh, I really care about social issues, but yet in the same sentence they’ll say something like ‘All lives matter,’ undercutting what’s going on. At the heart of it, people are hypocrites.”  

The song, Rubin says, “was pocketed it specifically because of how politically charged it is. This is our favorite song we’ve written to this point, and we don’t want to just put it out and not have it mean anything. So we’ve really been saving it for this election. It’s nothing new that politicians are crooked, you know, but just to have something about the guy who’s causing everyone misery right now, and being able to put it out at a pivotal point, I think we got very lucky.” ****









For Fans Of: Foo Fighters, Thin Lizzy, Steely Dan, Cage the Elephant, Rory Gallagher, Pink Floyd, The Black Keys, Tame Impala and Radiohead

Their music was so exhilarating and heart pounding”

MaryAnna Antoldi of The Observer

Yes this is rock, and yes there is infectious energy, but there are no wasted notes, superfluous chord progressions or overused riffs. ”


The Inoculated Canaries are bringing back classic rock with a modern twist. They are explosive and dynamic!”

— Aces Magazine

“Donna” opens on a brief drum fill flowing into an infectious rhythm topped by smooth gleaming textures of harmonic color. When the chorus enters, the tune brims with expansive flavors embellished by radiant horns, infusing the music with bright surface coloration. Rubin’s voice, rich and rife with effortless melodicism, imbues the lyrics with delightful timbres of zest. “Well, all my friends they say you’re no good for me / But I know that they don’t know shit.” Superbly wrought, “Donna” ripples with buoyant sonic punch and a contagious harmonic flow, as well as the deliciously deluxe”

Randy Radic at Rawckus Magazine

Atop a tidal wave-sized riff and a stately horn section’s powerful melody, vocalist Michael Rubin sings “Cause I’m a fool for you / And there’s nothing I can do / I just keep on waiting / For these new kicks to get old,” in the climactic chorus of his band The Inoculated Canaries’ new single “Sneakers,” which was released this year to a warm reception from both fans and critics. Rubin isn’t holding anything back from us on the lyrical front in this swinging song, and while I admit that I was expecting a lot out of this latest track from The Inoculated Canaries, I can confidently say that they’ve hit another homerun in this juggernaut of a jam. The addition of the horns in the chorus adds a lot of spice to a familiar rhythm and, in my opinion, gives it that signature I.C. feel that the group has become known for in the last half-decade. Their tonality is splendidly crisp and sounds as organic as it would on stage, and though the guitars are the undisputed driving force in “Sneakers,” Rubin shares the spotlight with the other players without ever sounding vexed or buried by the multifaceted instrumentation surrounding him. As far as the percussion goes, “Sneakers” boasts a drum pattern that is easily the most texturally expressive component of any in the song. The pulsating beats give context to the emotional verses like nothing else could have, and I think that without their prominent presence in the mix, this wouldn’t be nearly as engaging a single as it is in this form. You can definitely see why The Inoculated Canaries have been compared to the Foo Fighters in the past here, but there’s no debating the originality of the sound that they’re discharging in this fiery new track. The music video for “Sneakers” is surreally provocative and demands a reaction out of anyone who views it. The tale that it tells us in a stoic, but highly emotive, string of shots is riddled with so much unfiltered vulnerability that I wouldn’t recommend it to the newly single (or those who are a little sore over a messy breakup in general), but regardless of its stinging design, I don’t think there’s another alternative video out this summer that is as accessible as this one is, no matter how many times you’ve absorbed its viciously relatable content. It didn’t take very long after picking up my own copy of “Sneakers” to decide that it’s my favorite song by The Inoculated Canaries so far, and from the looks of the press that they’ve been getting this season, I’m not the only music journalist saying as much. They’ve got so much charisma in this track, so much undying emotion that putting it down isn’t as easy a task as it might sound. This isn’t the only strong single contained in their growing discography, but I think that it’s got the potential to expose The Inoculated Canaries’ sound to a larger audience of listeners who have been hungry for some full-throttle, raucous alternative rock in 2019. ”

Loren Sperry Music Existence

“New York is the home of some of the biggest names in music ranging from Blondie, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the New York Dolls to KISS, Anthrax, and the Beastie Boys. It has proven, time and time again, that it’s one state that definitely hosts a breeding ground for talent; and with no exception, The Inoculated Canaries are on their way to write their names beside those who laid the road on which they now travel with their latest release, ‘Trying Times’””

The Bucket List

This quartet does an exceptional job of highlighting each member’s unique talent in a way that fuses together in a seemingly effortless way. While they are constantly trying new things, The Inoculated Canaries have a recognizable style and band chemistry that is evident throughout their music...In addition to the incredible sound they have produced with “Sneakers”, The Inoculated Canaries have released an official music video to accompany their track. The video flips back and forth between two sets; one is of the band performing the song in an intimate setting and the other follows the couple being described in the track. “Sneakers” is a metaphor for a relationship; the shoes start in a new and “perfect” condition but eventually are broken in too much to be worn anymore. A line in the chorus of the song states I just keep on waiting for these new kicks to get old, bringing awareness to waiting for things to go wrong before they do, because their is such an exciting inhibition that comes with new relationships. This video is incredibly impressive, because in the four and a half minutes of the video viewers get a very real idea of the couple’s entire relationship in an intimately close distance, while at the same time getting to know the band behind the magic that is The Inoculated Canaries”

Molly Dickin at Indie Band Guru