Xander. Wolf plays Sugar Skull in Franklin Park Friday, Dec. 27. - Courtesy of Coren McLeod/McLeod Media Company

Surprises of 2019: Xander. Wolf, Absolute Phase — Coren McLeod

Editor’s note: Over the next week, we take a look at some of the bands who jumped out at us in 2019. Leading up to that, we asked some friends and scene contributors for their picks, too. Today, Coren McLeod of The Tasting Room Radio Show, Rock Rage Radio and McLeod Media Company shares her picks.

Xander. Wolf

With a pulsing, intense sound engaging fans from across many walks of life, Xander. Wolf brought an international act to the city of Chicago. The band has toured all over the world (including Australia, Europe, Central and South America), inspired by the wonderful touring band Coldplay. In addition to its sonic base, the band slips in some EDM beats to get you dancing while blending elements of Depeche Mode and Muse, which makes for a nice combination. On the verge of releasing a brand new album in 2020, Xander. Wolf gives fans a taste of phenomenal songs with “Little Boy on The Rocks,” “Mr. Dreamer,” and “Where I Want to Be.” The lead singer Danny Lopez has the passion and the drive to develop a different sound as they settle in to the Chicagoland area. He is fearless, confident and already has a loyal following which will make him a huge impact in the New Year. Check it out on Spotify or live when Xander. Wolf plays with the Lunchroom Rejects at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, at Sugar Skull, 9743 Franklin Ave, Franklin Park. $5. sugarskullchi.com.

— Coren McLeod

Absolute Phase – Courtesy of Coren McLeod/McLeod Media Company

Absolute Phase

With taking the alternative route a little differently and having the strength of a tiger, Absolute Phase has been perfecting their sound for a few years. The band is a mix of cool and dirty rock, which makes their fans really move to their tunes. Clearly influenced by Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, Absolute Phase shows the edgier side of 90s alternative is alive and well in 2019. Come the New Year, you can expect a new album and a lot of shows. Zac, Matt, Andrew and Ismael recently opened for Otherwise at Basecamp in Lisle. Absolute Phase works hard and plays harder! With their gritty vocals and smooth bass line, the guys accentuate their songs with heavy drums and guitar riffs that last forever. Don’t be afraid of a band with a weird name. They are genuinely nice and funny. You will get the rock to the roll you need in your life. Check the band out on Spotify. Absolute Phase takes the stage with Color Me Amused, Primal Moon and Johnny Personne at a 2020 Showcase Saturday, Jan. 4, at Q Bar, 8109 S. Cass Ave., Darien. $7-$10. qbardarien.com

— Coren McLeod