The way I see it, 2013 is going to be a fascinating year for music. The big boost that Frank Ocean gave to R&B last year is likely to continue through at least the first half of this year. Synth pop will be a big draw too, though not in the ways you might think. I suspect there will be a few really creative synth-based records that will create that forward momentum. It’s only appropriate that The Knife are putting out a new album and touring this year too, and a number of bands with similar influences are likely to get swept up in such an attractive darkness. Electronic producers with open minds are probably going to be hot in 2013 too as they take a mess of different genres and throw them all into some unique stew of their own creation. That blurring of lines between music styles will definitely take off even more than it already has. And while 2013 will be a year of innovation for many musicians, others will learn that certain tried and true techniques and sounds never really go out of style and that there’s always room to inject fresh blood into a genre that might otherwise have been left for dead. A great punk rock record doesn’t simply become bad just because it might not be “cool” anymore. It is with these thoughts in mind that I put together the Class of 2013. They’re certainly an eclectic selection of 10 artists, even if some of them sound relatively similar to one another. In some ways, that’s part of the fun. I’m tremendously excited that I’ll be following their every move for the next 12 months, and have every intention of doing even more than what I did with the Class of 2012. So strap yourselves in and click past the jump to learn all about the Class of 2013!
AlunaGeorge [Official Site]
Breakdown: I’m not entirely sure how they came up with their name, but AlunaGeorge is the London-based project of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid. After releasing a three track EP last year called You Know You Like It (by the way, I did) and doing a lovely Lana Del Rey remix, the duo is busy preparing their debut full length album Body Music, set for release in June. Their sound is a wholly fascinating mixture of styles and genres, pairing odd and experimental beats with ’90s R&B-style structures. Think of it sort of like Frank Ocean meets Purity Ring and The Knife, only with a razor sharp pop edge and dynamic hooks. And I don’t mean to bring up the Frank Ocean comparisons because they covered his song “Thinkin Bout You” a short while ago. Don’t miss listening to and watching the videos for the singles “Just a Touch,” “You Know You Like It” and “Your Drums, Your Love,” as they’re all great songs pointing to a great future for this band.
Angel Haze [Official Site]
Breakdown: I swear to you this pick was made before Angel Haze got into a fight with Azealia Banks. Perhaps amusingly, Banks was a key player in last year’s Class of 2012, even though her debut album was ultimately pushed back into 2013. In choosing my Class of 2013, I was hoping to find somebody with comparable skill and talent. Angel Haze was that choice, based primarily on the great work she did on her 2012 Classick mixtape and Reservation EP. I’m also proud to have featured songs from her in a few editions of my long-running daily “Pick Your Poison” posts last year. She’s got some great friends in the hip hop community, A$AP Rocky counting among them, and look for quite a few great guests on her forthcoming full length album. Her feud with Azealia Banks that started the year has spread from Twitter into a series of dis tracks exchanged between them has already caused quite a stir across the web, and I’m sure it will ultimately help both of them as they compete for attention this year. Which one of them is more talented? I honestly can’t say at this point, but I’m not taking sides and am very much looking forward to hearing both of their official records.
There’s tons of free downloads and streams of tracks on Angel’s Official Soundcloud.
CHVRCHES [Tumblr Page]
Breakdown: If anything is clear, 2013 is going to be the year that bands who spell their name in all caps are going to gain popularity. Remember that one year when every band had “The” in front of their names? Now we encounter something like CHVRCHES. They’re a trio from Scotland, and they make synth pop with a somewhat dark and experimental edge to it. Here’s another band drawing close comparisons to The Knife, in a year where The Knife themselves are returning to claim their musical crown. But CHVRCHES play to a decidedly more populist crowd, taking those gothic moods and sounds out from the shadows and into something that borders on anthemic. In that way, they also match up well with The Cure, though the vocal duties shared between Iain Cook, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty provides them with some unique dynamics that with any luck will pan out into a brilliant debut full length. The single “The Mother We Share” certainly is a grand place to start.
FIDLAR [Tumblr Page]
Breakdown: Another band whose name is 100% capital letters. In the case of FIDLAR though, it’s an acronym for Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk. It can be a little tough to do press and get exposure when your name has an F-bomb in it, so I totally understand the reason why they made such a decision. Apparently the phrase itself is popular among Los Angeles skaters, which is what the boys in FIDLAR are, at heart. They’re also punks, which the main genre of music attached to skate culture. Growing up listening to bands like the Circle Jerks and having a parent in 80s punk band T.S.O.L. will put you on a path in life too, as brothers Elvis and Max Kuehn seem to have found out. But backgrounds aside, FIDLAR is really just four young guys in their early 20s being immature, getting drunk and making music that kicks ass. I’ve been featuring tracks from them since late 2011, when they were listed as a “breakout band” at CMJ. They’ve been touring quite a bit in the last year, but have finally gotten around to recording a debut album, which is self-titled and officially out on Jan. 22nd (though you’ve been able to buy it at their shows for awhile now). While they were certainly selected for greatness what seems like a long time ago in music industry terms, 2013 will almost definitely be their year. The record is great, and I’m psyched to see what they’ll do with the increased profile that will definitely bring with it.
HAIM [Official Site]
Breakdown: I might as well just leave my caps lock on, eh? Let’s get the basic facts out of the way from the start: HAIM is the shared last name of Este, Alana and Danielle, three sisters that count Los Angeles as their home base. The band originally started as a full family affair with their parents, but eventually they stepped back as the girls started to gain real momentum. Their sound has been compared to Fleetwood Mac, though it definitely goes beyond that into a mixture of everything from ’60s pop to ’90s R&B and everything in between that feels fresh and exciting. Their interplay, both vocally and instrumentally, is certainly operating on a different wavelength than most bands, and it’s that sort of intuitive dynamic that is going to take them far. They put out an EP called Forever last year, along with a couple of 7″ singles, all of which were pretty strong and really showcased their attempt to find their own distinct voice and style. In 2013 we’re getting a debut full length, and it promises to be a relentlessly catchy and fun affair that will likely charm millions. If you’re not excited about HAIM yet, grab some headphones and pay close attention.
La Big Vic [Facebook Page]
Breakdown: Remember Pitchfork’s offshoot website Altered Zones? It was home to a bunch of music writers that specialized in uncovering the offbeat and experimental side of indie, but apparently business wasn’t good enough to keep it up and running. Why do I mention it? Well, La Big Vic singer and violinist Emilie Friedlander is the former editor of the site, as well as a blogger herself. Interestingly enough, if Altered Zones were still around today La Big Vic might be featured on there. Their sound isn’t totally off the charts weird, but it’s an impressively creative blend of synths, guitars, horns, violins and beats that feels very unique and original as Friedlander’s vocals rise like cream to the top and maneuver in strikingly acrobatic ways. The band is rounded out by keyboard/avant-garde guru Peter Pearson and multi-instrumentalist/producing wunderkind Toshio Masuda, who lived a fascinating and very musically-oriented life in Japan before coming to America. La Big Vic’s first record Actually was reasonably well-received in 2011, but it’s sequel Cold War (out Feb. 12th) is rumored to be a masterpiece. The couple tracks that have been released so far (see below), “All That Heaven Allows” and “Ave B,” both don’t do anything to dispel that idea. It’s also likely this will be a relaxing record to lounge around to, and I’d like to think we can all use one of those every now and then.
Little Green Cars [Official site]
Breakdown: It says something about Little Green Cars that they’re signed to Glassnote Records, which is also home to Mumford & Sons. It also says something that they’re a five piece out of Dublin that makes what many would describe as alt-country music. I’ve yet to hear a banjo in one of their songs, but they’ve still got plenty of time to whip one out. Based on what I’ve just told you, it makes them seem like an easy choice for a contemporary “next big thing,” following in the footsteps of the aforementiond Mumfords, plus your Phillip Phillips and The Lumineers, among others. Many of those acts and their forebears may be raking in album sales and massive fan bases, but they’re not particularly critical darlings. To the more astute listener, they exploit cliche and work off the same stale model. Part of me likes to believe Little Green Cars will rise above all that and forge their own path through the weeds. Ideally, they’ll fall into the same arenas as early Band of Horses or Fleet Foxes, and with the intense and gorgeous vocal harmonies they’ve got going on, their songs can send shivers down your spine in the right conditions. Take this live, acoustic rendition of their single “The John Wayne” as a fantastic example of their handiwork. Here’s hoping their debut full length due later this year will be just as good.
Rhye [Official Site]
Breakdown: For those that like a little mystery in their music projects, please enjoy Rhye, a project about which details are relatively scarce. It was only recently that we found out that the duo behind the name are Canadian singer/producer Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal of the Danish group Quadron. Don’t let the female-sounding vocals fool you – it’s Milosh behind the microphone, which has definitely caused some confusion as the project has started to gain legs. Only adding to that is just how sexy the songs sound, like a classy electro & strings mix of The xx and Sade. Hell, the NSFW video for the song “Open” features people having sex. But that’s the point, actually. This music is about embracing sex not as some debaucherous act with nasty people doing nasty things in the name of pleasure, but rather the tenderness, beauty and passion that can occur between two people that really love one another. If you ask me, that sort of genuine expression has become rare in music today, which is in part why Rhye’s songs have attracted the right kind of attention. There’s a full length album due in the first half of this year, and a tour planned for the spring. Beyond that, there’s little else out there about Rhye, and they like it that way.
Ryan Hemsworth [Official Site]
Breakdown: Ryan Hemsworth is first and foremost a producer. He’s been making tracks, beats and remixes for the last few years, and has earned a strong reputation for his attention to detail. He’ll find that one little piece of a track that most wouldn’t look at twice, and twist it into something that sounds huge and fun and engaging. His work remixing tracks from people like Grimes and Frank Ocean has earned him a fair bit of attention in the last year, but as he’s putting together a lot of original material for 2013, it’s going to be fascinating to see where he heads next. At the moment he’s starting to work directly with hip hop artists, which puts him in a similar territory to someone like Clams Casino, though Hemsworth’s approach is more electro-ambient in nature and just a little less prone to the heavy bass and drops you might find elsewhere. Overall his work continues to blur the line between electronic, R&B and hip hop, which can be eerily similar to Girl Talk at times too. His 2012 EP Last Words may have come off as a little unfocused and random in its execution, but the couple tracks he’s released in the last couple weeks suggest he’s found his footing and is ready to take the music world for a ride. I don’t know about you, but I’m on board.
Savages [Official Site]
Breakdown: The rise of Savages has been one of the most fascinating stories of the last year. The band played their first live shows nearly a year ago, and they’ve quickly been building buzz faster than a mosquito zapper on a warm summer night. It’s apparently their visceral and intense live performances that has caused such a commotion for these four London-based women. Realistically speaking, their sound is nothing new – they fall pretty firmly into the post-punk category and have drawn favorable comparisons to Joy Division. There has been a whole category of bands you can point to as obvious Joy Division clones (ex: Crystal Stilts), but few have taken that mold and truly made it their own. As the band claims on their website, “Our intention is to create a sound, indestructible and musically solid, written for the stage, designed with enough nuances to provide a wide range of emotions. The songs aim to remind us that human beings haven’t evolved so much, that music can still be straight to the point, efficient and exciting.” That’s the impression I gather from their debut 7″ “Husbands,” as well as the four track I Am Here live EP they put out last year. When you can actually HEAR the emotion bleeding through every word and note it’s always a good sign. That it leaves me wanting so much more is even better.