Last year, EMA, Cults, Yuck, and A$AP Rocky headlined our list of best new artists. For the most part, the break out artists of 2011 toured to support their 2011 material in 2012, hitting the festival circuit particularly hard. And by the stipulations we determined this year, a couple of the artists wouldn’t have even been eligible (The Weeknd & A$AP). For this year’s list we explicitly only allowed artists who released their first proper studio album within the calendar year, unfortunately disqualifying artists such as Grimes, Ab-soul, and Schoolboy Q. In addition, previous mixtapes do not prohibit an artists eligibility, allowing Frank Ocean and Meek Mill to be eligible despite extensive previous exposure. These guidelines were not decided on lightly and may be changed for future lists, but we wanted to define this category as narrowly as possible.
Its debatable whether this year’s crop is as strong, but there have been plenty of new artists to break onto the scene. Several artists of note also missed the list, but you’ll just have to hit the jump to see who. Enjoy, and as always, let us know who we omitted, forgot, or shouldn’t have included.
10. Purity Ring
This workmanlike electronic Indie outfit is one of the more controlled and deliberate in the genre. Usually, when you think of electronic and Indie, you think wild swings and bombastic changes go along with it. On their debut album, Shrines, Purity Ring keeps it tight, which is actually a breath of fresh air.
On their self-titled debut, Django Django seems to spend a lot of time with the allure of the desert, whether that’s the Western American desert (“Firewater”, “Waveforms”, “Hand of Man”) or the Egyptian one (“Life’s A Beach”, “Skies Over Cairo”), the band finds interesting sounds in building on the hypnotic blinding nature of the dry landscape, except this band is no mirage.
Minneapolis four piece Polica got a good bit of publicity when Grammy Best New Artist winner Justin Vernon of Bon Iver told Rolling Stone in a recent interview that Polica was “the best band I’ve ever heard.” We may not feel that strong, but we certainly gravitated towards the electro-rock, drum machine, and auto-tune mixture on their debut, Give You the Ghost.
7. Jessie Ware
Devotion marks the beginning of an artist who could make a huge mark on pop music in the near future. The combination of hearty songwriting, pristine vocals, and physical beauty make Jessie Ware a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t hurt that she has already gained the admiration of the Indie community.
6. Meek Mill
Meek Mill isn’t exactly a “brand new artist”, but he does fit within our guidelines. After using three mixtapes and innumerable guest appearances over the last couple years to hone his craft, he finally released his first proper album, Dreams & Nightmares. I can be quoted as saying it may be my favorite half-album of the year. Half is amazing, the other is so-so, but at least not insulting.
5. Kendrick Lamar
The most well-known Black Hippie continued his assault on establishing himself as a force in the rap game. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a smashing success, with its varied but cohesive production, and judicious use of guests. Even though they haven’t released an album together yet, The Black Hippies as a group may be the artist of the year (Ab-soul and Schoolboy Q also released very good albums).
If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: Boys & Girls is the most wildly overrated album of 2012. But, my esteemed blog-mates seem to love it. Don’t get me wrong, the Alabama Shakes are a solid band and released a solid album, but there is nothing to make me go “wow”. I’ll tell ya though, there are some solid soul, blues, rock chops in there, and I sincerely look forward to what they do in the future.
At first listen, I thought the blood rushing to Todd’s chub over FJM including Aubrey Plaza in the video for “Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings”, along with FJM being the drummer for Fleet Foxes, was clouding his judgment on the actual music. It has grown on me some, particularly when identifying clearly a classic influence. More unreasonable now is Todd’s infatuation with Aubrey Plaza.
The top two artists on our list are more similar than you may think. They are both cool as hell. Daughn Gibson’s particular brand of cool derives from his assured throw-back vocals and alt-country sound. With the release of All Hell, Gibson drudged something up that I certainly haven’t heard since Roy Orbison and Elvis, and gave it a delightfully modern spin. More please.
1. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean also established himself as one of the “coolest” performers alive in 2012, while releasing an epic R&B album and letting the world (including Tyler, the Creator) know that he is proud homosexual. The music speaks to his talent, and the declaration speaks to his character, as many potential hip-hop collaborators have displayed homophobic tendencies. Put on some of this baby-making music, even if your lifestyle situation only allows you a condo in a trendy part of the city and a small dog.
Dame Jones may be young, but he already has the flow, the control, and the swagger of a young Jay-Z. To boot, he already has a whole support crew backing him up. You may think one-hit-wonder when you hear this years hottest track “Hot Cheetos and Takis”, but we at LxL think potential. Be looking for Dame Jones to be headlining festivals, be partial owner of a NBA team, as well as opening a major record label by the time he is 18.
It’s no secret that Wes does not like anyone funking with his groove. That’s why he lets these Seattle groove-hounds take care of that for him. Trust us, it’s safe with THEESatisfaction, and if you haven’t heard them yet, get ready to have a good time. They have proved to be one of the years most funky-fresh bands, as well as one of the infamous Sub Pop Records better signs in recent years. Let’s hope they keep things fresh as they continue to grow.
I delved into alt-J a little bit in my Monday article. They were relatively new on my radar then, but have only continued to earn my affection. Debut, An Awesome Wave is endlessly surprising and interesting. It is also a full-fledged album, which needs to be listened to from front to back, interludes and all.