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Boston's best music: Pop & Electro

Mystery Roar (OUR PICK: Act of the Year)
From humble bedroom-recording beginnings, Mystery Roar has fast become Boston’s very own neo-disco institution. They’ve been around for only a year and change, but they’ve already shared the stage with artists such as Neon Indian, Das Racist and Soul Clap. This year saw the release of Mystery Roar’s inaugural self-titled EP on Dopamine Records, featuring their glittery, sultry single “Mayhem.” The group’s neon synths and smooth, sexy vocal harmonies combine with out-front basslines and full percussive arrangements reminiscent of early house; think Grace Jones meets MGMT. It’s refreshing to see a full band onstage actually banging away on guitars, keys, bass and drums in a scene ruled by drum machines and samplers. With his effortless crooning and gyrating stage presence, frontman Nathanael Bluhm will woo you into a disco trance before you even know what hit you.—Max Pearl
DOM (OUR PICK: New Act of the Year)
Worcester party-rockers DOM are all about the kind of sugar-coated keyboard riffs and washed-out vocals that the kids are really digging these days. Their debut EP, Sun Bronzed Greek Gods, is a dance party waiting to happen: You feel euphoria in their tambourines, infectious as a yawn but way more fun. Chances are you’ve heard DOM’s single, “Living In America.” The punchy track is exemplary of the act’s synth-driven dance aesthetic, which bridges the gap between shoegazey electro and radio-ready pop. You’d never have guessed that these sunbaked, beach ball melodies emanated from the dark reaches of Central Mass. Even Gucci Mane is down with DOM; he took the time to drop a verse on their album’s opening track while the band was kicking it in LA.—MP
The Wandas (OUR PICK: Best Live Act)
The Wandas spent the better part of 2010 touring the bejesus out of their third album, New Wave Blues. In the process, they caused a few bloggers’ jaws to hit the floor at South by Southwest and squashed the competition at WBRU’s Rock Hunt battle of the bands. The retro rock charms found on New Wave Blues should mollify anyone put off by the fact that none of these four dudes are actually named Wanda. The catchy and heartfelt “Thank You Note” exemplifies what a hit single should be, “Lose You” gushes lovelorn anguish, and “Please Come Home” proves that sounding like Neil Diamond isn’t necessarily something to be ashamed of. Still, it’s the Wandas stage show–which manages to be at once tight and bombastic–that has them topping our lists.— Barry Thompson
Lake Street Dive
Just a few years ago, four music students were writing songs for class at the New England Conservatory. Now, many of those same tunes are part of their catalog as Lake Street Dive, a jazz-trained pop quartet that specializes in soulful melodies, smooth acoustic grooves, and spirited live shows. The group’s loose, confident energy is palpable in its self-titled third LP, released in November 2010. Released by Signature Sounds (also backers of Crooked Still and Josh Ritter), the album accentuates Lake Street Dive’s musical prowess. It maintains a DIY feel with analog-to-tape recording and intimately understated production, though some newfangled strings and Rhodes organs help flesh out the minimalist compositions. After a year spent on the road, we’re happy to see the quartet touch down in Boston to celebrate their strongest record yet.—Adam Conner-Simons