- North America
- Ryan Kristobak
- Music Editor
You might recognize “Bloody Monster” from the end credits of Orange Is The New Black‘s fourth season. The rest of her EP, Snack, is just as clever, earnest, eclectic, and strange; we need more artists like her.
The Super Saturated Sugar Strings
In A Knight’s Tale, it is joked that Heath Ledger’s William Thatcher, while visiting Greece, “spent a year in silence just to better understand the sound of a whisper.” While Kathryn Moore of the alt-folk/gypsy outfit The Super Saturated Sugar Strings didn’t go a full 365 days, she did endure a five-and-a-half-week stretch of complete silence to save her voice, and you better believe that level of dedication comes through the band’s music.
From Yeezus tour backup dancer to GOOD Music signee, this 22-year-old singer-songwriter is not the typical artist one expects from Kanye West’s label, but her as-of-now untitled 2016 debut LP is guaranteed to settle any confusion or doubts listeners might be harboring.
So the story goes, Kari Faux went from working at fast food chicken restaurant Chick-fil-A to kicking it with Childish Gambino. Despite her sudden rise, Faux has maintained her level-headed Southern mentality, keeping things as cool as her conversational-style raps.
While MUNA has been labeled a queer band — not incorrectly — the group never has to be worried about being pigeonholed thanks to their massive, ‘dark pop’ hooks (self-labeled because of the topics tackled that are atypical for pop). “Loudspeaker” is the new anthem for anyone who has exited a terrible relationship.
Gavin Turek mixes everything that was great about ’70s disco with modern electronic pop to craft soulful smashes like “On The Line.” With its bouncing bass line and Turek’s brassy harmonies, you’ll be boogieing to this track on repeat all night.
Born in Santa Monica, Natalie Mering , aka Weyes Blood, has moved around a lot, making stops in the Bay Area, Bucks County (PA), Portland (Oregon), Baltimore, Philadelphia, Kentucky, and New York City. Now settled back in L.A., Mering’s brand of ‘70s psych-folk, at moments, draws parallels to Father John Misty, and she’s got the intelligence and humor to boot.
Denver-based singer and producer Povi caught a much deserved bump when Red Bull paired her up with iLoveMakonnen and producer Christian Rich (they’ve worked with J. Cole, Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, and Drake) for a couple of tracks. Now that she has the market’s attention, expect her to deliver big and to do a lot of it all on her own.
The sultry vocals of Sikh Indian-American singer Raveena Aurora feel like classic soul plucked right out of the ’60s/’70s, and “Something’s Gotta Give” serves as a radiant reminder that no matter how many curveballs life throw at you, bad luck eventually breaks.
Starrah (aka Brittany Talia Hazzard) has long remained in the background, picking up high-profile songwriting credits and features alongside artists like Rihanna, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott. But now it’s 2016, and, similar to Sia’s ascent, Starrah’s time has come.
An ex-ballerina, there’s a grace to Caroline Sans, aka Sur Back, music that is rare in experimental pop, garnering her comparisons to the magnificent St. Vincent.
“New-wave goth-soul singer” is a pretty dense descriptor to be prescribed to any artist. To simplify things, ABRA’s new EP PRINCESS is heavily influenced by ’80s R&B – and it’s really, really good.
Brittni Paiva is Hawaii’s queen of the ukulele. Listening to “Firework” below, you’ll forget that she’s covering one of Katy Perry’s biggest hits.
Seven albums deep, Eilen Jewell (“the half-broke horse of Idaho”) and her americana sound have only gotten stronger with each output. Sundown Over Ghost Town will have you yearning for a log-cabin mountain retreat.
Noname’s 2016 debut mixtape, Telefone, joins spoken word with jingling, hypnotic production. Each word carefully chosen, Noname masks the inescapable melancholy of life with youthful optimism.
Dev09’s stylish and seductive brand of pop sounds as DIY as it does club-ready, but either way you see it, she never loses her fangs.
Elizabeth Moen is one of those rare artists whose voice, from the first moment you hear it, consumes your entire being, doing away with all previous thoughts and concerns, and leaving you short of breath.
We all experience moments where we wish we could melt away the structures of our daily life and wander about aimlessly. Your Friend’s 2016 record, Gumption, is your soundtrack for when that feeling next arises.
One third of Pistol Annies – Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe rounding things out – Angaleena’s debut solo album, American Middle Class, is a true narrative of growing up with poverty hovering right outside your front door, and proves that she is just as capable of riding her own wave as her two bandmates.
Whether she’s performing solo or with her band, The Miss River Band, Sarah Quintana produces the New Orleans breed of jazz music that continues the city’s legacy with the genre. However, on her latest album, Miss River, she brought a little more local flavor thanks to recordings of the Mississippi River via an underwater microphone, and other natural elements.
Amy & The Engine
Portland’s Amy Allen previously appeared as a contestant on The Voice, and she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music. Her debut EP, TandeMania, is the dream of a brighter Billboard chart, comfortably picking from the pop-rock of the ’50s and the danceable beats of the ’80s.
With one song, Maggie Rogers, a student at New York University, reduced Pharrell Williams to tears. Now, the nature-infused dance of “Alaska” is here for us all to experience.
Raised in London, England, but Boston-born, pop/R&B artist Kenzie May isn’t afraid to add a little crunch to her music. Turning heads since the release of her 2014 single “Skeleton Key,” May’s breakout is just around the corner.
Empty Houses’ early summer release, Daydream, is one of the warmest records of 2016; their Motown-inspired retro-pop, led by the splendid vocals of Ali Shea, will you having dancing wherever you are until the album’s 10 tracks come to an end all too early.
I do my hair toss / Check my nails / Baby how you feelin’? / Feeling good as hell. When no one around you is keeping it 100, you always have Lizzo.
Lewis & Leigh
The acoustic-accompanied harmonies of Alva Leigh and Al Lewis will comfort you in the moments when you’re missing someone, reminding you that contentment can be found in the struggle of separation.
If you devote any amount of time to the music blog circuit, it’s almost impossible that you haven’t caught Angel Olsen’s name in one place or all of them. Her latest effort, My Woman, is ’50s/’60s rock at its best, and Olsen is likely to be one of the great voices of this generation.
“Living the life of a rambler,” as she puts it, June West has lived all over the U.S. After nearly a year of touring and playing keys with the psych-pop band Quilt, West is back in Montana to “feed my roots,” delivering fantastic tracks like the bluesy rock of “Peaks and Valleys.”
Rolling Stone described Shannon LaBrie’s music as a band combination of Norah Jones and Jeff Buckley with a slight country bend, and it’s hard to argue with that claim after just one listen of her 2016 album, War & Peace.
Pronounced ‘Shaw-Bree-El’, this Vegas singer-songwriter’s debut EP is jazzy R&B perfection, rife with peanut butter bass licks, rich horns, and dazzling keys.
Just like the exquisite video for her track “Palm Reader,” Anna Madsen’s magical pop feels like a modern retelling of colonial life in rural America, full of witch hunts and hidden forest cottages.
There’s little shock that Long Beard’s Leslie Bear was signed to Team Love Records, a label co-founded by Conor Oberst, as her somber and introspective indie-folk appeals to all who have spent sleepless nights listening to Bright Eyes and Death Cab For Cutie.
The former touring guitarist for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nicole “Coco” Morier is bringing back the electro-pop of the ’80s– sass, gold lamé kimono and all.
Featured on Jay Z’s 2015 summer Tidal playlist, the masked Brooklyn artist produces confident, menacing raps, boasting the lyrical dexterity to match any of her peers and an eye for experimentation that so many lack.
Recording your debut record with only your voice and your cello is brave; recording your debut record live in a church is borderline heresy. On her debut EP, Church, Kelsey Lu’s voice and cello move like siblings, picking and sliding hand-in-hand; for its lack of any other instrument, there is little more to be wanted here.
Not many harpists can claim over one million Spotify plays, and even fewer can list Thurston Moore, Sharon Van Etten, Nick Cave (visual artist), and Kurt Vile among their collaborators. Pairing her Lyon and Healy Concert Grand harp with occasional effects, Mary Lattimore’s new record, At The Dam, is one of 2016’s most elevating creations.
The Marie Parker-fronted trio has been around since 2001, formerly operating as The White Foliage, with three albums under their belt. However, as they prepare for their senior effort, their Nina Simone cover proves the best things come through time and patience.
Sounding something like The Cranberries if they had been into shoegaze, Nights is a curious signing for Tragic Hero Records. But if the label is trying to reinvent itself, Nights is a perfect pivot.
Listening to Samantha Crain sing is like listening to a well-traveled soul that has jumped in and out of bodies throughout the ages. Thankfully, that soul found the perfect voice in Crain.
Before anyone knew Alexandra Savior’s name, one of her demos was featured on the second series of True Detective, she was featured alongside Tame Impala’s Cam Avery, and has been the de facto protégé of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner since 2014. Seriously, stop reading and listen to her music.
Philadelphia is the current epicenter of punk in the U.S., and few acts there are doing it as well as Mannequin Pussy. With plenty of crunchy riffs and wails verging on screams, the group softens its edges with just enough pop influence to widen their appeal to break the barriers of townhouse basements.
Rooted in old-school country and folk, Marissa Nadler’s music moves like high noon in the desert, dizzying you with lyrical jabs like, “You touch and the earth will crumble / You speak and hurricanes attack / I am pulling out the windows to prepare for you.”
The influence of Stevie Nicks won’t be lost on Grace Joyner’s listeners, but unlike many others, Joyner’s debut album, Maybe Sometimes In C, actually lives up to the comparison.
For those living in areas with real autumnal vibe the excitement of campfire season is real. For those where fall isn’t near, you can always listen to Jami Lynn.
With just her voice and her guitar, Julien Baker’s became a 2015 breakout with her album Sprained Ankle. Her melodies might be delicate, but her content is anything but shy, tackling topics like depression, substance abuse, and balancing her Christian faith with being queer.
As described by NPR‘s Felix Contreras, Lola by Carrie Rodriguez’s, the self-proclaimed “half-gringa, half-Chicana fiddle[r],” is the Spanglish soundtrack to a melting pot Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, if such a place exists.
The Aces might only have one track available at the moment, but you don’t need more than “Stuck” to know that this all-female quartet will absolutely dominate the music market in 2017.
Kat Wright & The Indomitable Soul Band
Kat Wright and her seven cohorts deliver the groovy blue-eyed soul that few others achieve, and a large portion of their success is undoubtedly thanks to Wright’s crisp delivery.
On her new album Body Work, Negative Gemini (aka Lindsey French) ranges from deep-bassline Detroit techno to the electro-pop of cat-caller killer “Don’t Worry Bout The Fuck I’m Doing,” with each track just as infectious as the last one.
The daily work schedule can get hectic at times. Thankfully, we have groups like NAVVI to help slow things down, turning on the cruise control with their dark bass-y grooves.
Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller
Miller and Milnes tap into their Appalachian roots to create some seriously fun traditional bluegrass, occasionally dueling fiddles, and always bursting with heart.
The bedroom indie-pop on Yohuna’s latest record, Patientness, is the result of an artist who has finally found her center after years of physical and mental restlessness, channeling all of the emotions and considerations of this period into a calmly stated thesis.
Sharing banjos, guitars, harmonicas, and harmonies, it’s difficult to tell Staci Foster and Alysia Kraft apart. But this isn’t an identity crisis; it’s chemistry, and it oozes into every track they write.