We’ve all been there. A friend is going on and on about their favorite new band and you, having just come across that very same band, echo their enthusiasm. And then, about halfway through the conversation, they make a passing reference to “How much like Erasure they sound,” and you realize, to your horror: “We are talking about completely different bands.” That mistake is getting easier and easier to make these days, thanks to the fact that the ratio of New Bands to Good Band Names is preposterously lopsided. So before you express your love of Bear in Heaven, only to discover the band in discussion is actually Bear Hands, consult our handy list of bands whose names are a little too easy to confuse.
Lotus Plaza vs. Flying Lotus
How They’re Similar: Both artists have a knack for spaced-out song titles — “Jet Out the Tundra” and “White Galactic One” for Lotus Plaza; “Do the Astral Plane” and “Comet Course” for Flying Lotus.
How They’re Different: Pretty much every other possible respect — it’s straightforward, hooky indie rock versus some of instrumental hip-hop’s most adventurous nods to free jazz.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why:: Flying Lotus shortens neatly to “FlyLo,” which doubles as a fairly decent pun. “LoPlaz” reads more like some hinky prescription drug, which is grounds enough to relinquish the name. — Nate Patrin
Bear in Heaven vs. Bear Hands
How They’re Similar: Both groups are based in Brooklyn. In addition, each band has a yearning vocal style indebted to MGMT and incorporates forceful rhythms and keyboards.
How They’re Different: Bear Hands tend toward two distinct styles: frantic post-punk with a histrionic edge or mellow psych-pop. Bear in Heaven, meanwhile, is a full-on electronica project with a fondness for melancholy new wave or wistful shoegaze.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why:: Bear Hands, because Bear In Heaven’s Jon Philpot has released music under this name since 2004. — Annie Zaleski
Deerhunter vs. The Dear Hunter
How They’re Similar: Both of them are fiercely committed to their own gonzo aesthetic — Deerhunter to gorgeous, filmy and unsettling indiepop, The Dear Hunter to kinetic, convulsive emo.
How They’re Different: The Dear Hunter sound like they’re barreling through the food court of your local mall with a 200-piece Broadway Orchestra. Deerhunter is quietly setting a fire in the corner.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why:: The Dear Hunter. Because you do not want to mess with Bradford Cox. — J. Edward Keyes
Rise Against vs. For Against
How They’re Similar: Both are from the Midwest (Rise Against from Chicago, For Against from Nebraska) and spent formative years on indie labels.
How They’re Different: Rise Against is a socially conscious punk band who’s released several major-label albums and is popular enough to play arenas. For Against, who rarely tours, mixes a Joy Division-influenced post-punk spine with softer shoegaze overtones and jangly dreampop signifiers.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why: For Against, to something less confrontational and more in line with its recent tendency toward slower, piano-based tunes. — Annie Zaleski
Steely Dan vs. Steeleye Span
How They’re Similar: Both bands reacted to the post-psychedelic ’60s with music that evoked (and tweaked) preceding eras — the Dan with early bop; Steeleye with traditional British folk. Both bands also recorded a number of songs about drunk people.
How They’re Different: Kanye West, MF DOOM and Prince Paul haven’t sampled “All Around My Hat” or “Two Magicians.” Yet.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why:: Steeleye Span were named after a fictional farmhand in the folk song “Horkstow Grange,” but Steely Dan were named after a sex toy from The Naked Lunch. The Dan stays, Span goes. — Nate Patrin
Twin Sister vs. Twin Shadow
How They’re Similar: Both bands call Brooklyn home — but aren’t from there originally — and specialize in nostalgic, moody electronic pop.
How They’re Different: Twin Shadow is one person, George Lewis, Jr., and his swooning New Romantic music takes cues from Morrissey, David Bowie and Spandau Ballet. Twin Sister is a quintet fronted by Andrea Estella, and its atmospheric, effects-perforated brooding is akin to Cocteau Twins or Portishead.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why:: Twin Sister, so the band isn’t quite so difficult to Google. — Annie Zaleski
The Verve vs. The Verve Pipe
How They’re Similar: Both are chiefly remembered in the U.S. for one 1997 hit single — “Bitter Sweet Symphony” for The Verve, “The Freshmen” for The Verve Pipe.”
How They’re Different: The Verve were part of the Britpop moment, had a long string of U.K. hits, and spent most of the ’00s bitterly broken up. The Verve Pipe are from East Lansing, Michigan, recorded a kids’ album a few years ago, and never actually broke up.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why: The Verve Pipe, because what the hell is a verve pipe, anyway? — Douglas Wolk
Lone vs. Lorn
How They’re Similar: Both make beat-driven electronic music.
How They’re Different: Lone (Matt Cutler from Nottinghan, England) crafts ecstatic throwbacks to early-’90s rave, while Lorn (Marcos Ortega from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) makes beats with more in common with his mentor Flying Lotus and El-P’s grinding tracks for Company Flow.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why: Lorn — it’s all too easy to slide away into saying “Lone” by accident. — Michaelangelo Matos
Steve Reich vs. Steve Roach
How They’re Similar: Both men’s music work as deep background.
How They’re Different: Reich is one of the most widely respected living composers, author of modern classics such as Drumming and Music for 18 Musicians. Roach is a highly prolific ambient musician whose work skirts both Goth and new age.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why: Steve Roach — his work contains more tweeting birds than scurrying insects. — Michaelangelo Matos
A$AP Rocky vs. Aesop Rock
How They’re Similar: Tough to say. Both have highly individual and instantly recognizable styles that feel a world away from the rest of rap. Both have a solid fan base in the NYC art-school crowd. Both inspire equal-but-opposite cultish adoration from said crowd.
How They’re Different: Literally every other way. Aesop Rock is dyspeptic, disturbed, a guy with too many thoughts in his head and too many words in his verse. His best music is searingly personal and agonizingly specific. A$AP Rocky is flashy, fly, arrogant, a triumph of style over substance.
Which One Should Change Their Name and Why: We feel like it should probably be Aesop Rock, but we don’t have the heart to tell him. Maybe someone else can do it without him knowing, Milton-in-Office Space style? — Jayson Greene