BANKS has everything it takes to make it big on the Internet: A mysterious name, an even more mysterious voice and a face that's not hard to look at. But we're betting she can take her sultry, electronic R&B off the web and hit it big IRL. She's been compared to fellow Internet muse Lana Del Rey, but we'd liken her to a softer, more minimal Fiona Apple. Her "This Is What It Feels Like" video will have you instantly addicted.
Massachusetts pop-punk outfit Potty Mouth are four women you'd be wise to watch out for. In case you missed their marvelously bratty LP Hell Bent in 2013, Potty Mouth coalesce surfy pop (think Dinosaur Jr.) with DIY punk spirit (think Bratmobile) to irresistibly lively results. And although the band is among a relatively recent, undeniably awesome wave of young women dominating independent music, to reduce them to being just another "girl band" would be—as it always is—a dumb mistake.
We first met soulful sparkplug Tori Kelly on Season 9 of American Idol. She failed to reach the Top 24, so she took to YouTube and began posting a series of covers—our favorites are Frank Ocean's "Thinking Bout You" and Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie"—and the fans soon followed. Most of the views for her covers are in the millions, and the same goes for her first official original song release: "Dear No One" has almost two million views to date.
Los Angeles-based R&B singer-songwriter Jhené Aiko is only 25, but she’s already racking up famous friends. She's collaborated with Big Sean, Lil Wayne and Drake, and her 2013 EP Sail Out featured appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Childish Gambino. Check out "Bed Peace," her icy duet with Donald Glover, below.
Lorde was one of 2013's biggest breakout stars (duh) but Broods—a brother-sister duo also hailing from New Zealand—boast an even more arresting sound than the "Royals" singer. Broods' debut single "Bridges," crafted by Pure Heroine producer Joel Little, is a stunning synth-pop confection centered around 19-year-old Georgia Nott's Imogen Heap-esque vocals. An EP, helmed by Little, is tentatively scheduled for February.
It's not hard to overlook a record like Modern Baseball's 2012 debut, Sports, made up of a dozen hyper-personal songs about being young and angsty,
written by fairly young and angsty college kids. The Philly quartet—already the latest emo darlings among the college-aged, emo-reviving demographic—alternate between soft acoustic and rollicking pop-punk, straddling a fine line that becomes truly easy to love when
you watch them perform live. Few bands have more fun
on stage, and their genuine excitement
carries over into an improved sophomore full-length, You’re Gonna Miss It All,
out Feb. 11 (check out two new songs here and here). With a coveted opening slot on The Wonder Years' spring tour in their immediate future, they'll be making new fans in gulps rather than sips throughout 2014.
They've opened for Washed Out on tour. They make synth-y throwback music. And the band members hail from three different countries (U.S., UK and Germany). So yes, Haerts formed in Brooklyn. But there's nothing indie-typical about their carefully-constructed compositions that are as atmospheric as they are pop-friendly. And frontwoman Nina Fabi's full-bodied voice is the most unique instrument in their arsenal: She manages to sound sad and weary without sacrificing any of the inherent strength in her tone, not unlike Cat Power (although their sound is very unlike hers). Listen to their EP's title track below.
Real Friends play an accessible brand of pop-punk that's
been heard by listeners time and again over the past decade-plus,
but the reason they're climbing up the ladders of the genre
is frontman Dan Lambton's
raw vocals and über-relatable lyrics. The quintet has put out only 20
songs over the course of a few independently released EPs,
but they've built such a rabid fanbase that indie major Fearless Records
came calling with a record deal late last year.
A debut LP should be out around May or June, accompanied by a grueling
tour schedule. By the end of the year, we'll see this group become
one of the most popular names in pop-punk, leading the charge right
behind The Wonder Years and The Story So Far.
Will Vance Joy’s "Riptide" be the Lumineers' "Ho Hey" of 2014? The buoyant indie folk song didn't crack the U.S. charts in 2013, but it went multi-platinum in Joy's native Australia. The singer-songwriter formerly known as James Keogh has released an EP full of folk-y goodness called God Loves You When You're Dancing, and he just signed a five-album deal with Atlantic Records. Expect to see Joy and his ukulele charm audiences full of Mumford & Sons fans on this summer's festival circuit.
In the past few years, Top Dawg Entertainment has established itself as a premier hip hop collective with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul on the label. But with the signing of 23-year-old singer SZA, TDE is dipping into soul. The St. Louis-born, New Jersey-raised singer has released two EPs but earned shine with the release of the dark, sultry R&B track "Teen Spirit." Look for the singer's debut full-length later this year.
Angel Olsen's upcoming Burn Your Fire For No Witness is her first release on Jagjaguwar Records, home to 2013 breakouts Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Her debut single, "Forgiven/Forgotten," is another first: It's a bona fide rock song, even though fans of 2012's Half Way Home and 2010's mesmerizing Strange Cacti EP have come to expect pensive folk with a side of alt-country from the Chicago-based singer. Olsen's clearly just begun to show us what she can do, and we highly recommend you find out when she takes that elastic voice on tour this winter and spring.
Despite debuting less than two years ago, Korean boy band EXO is poised to be the next global K-pop phenom. The 12-member act—yes, twelve—saw their debut full-length XOXO become South Korea's first million-selling album in 12 years. The boys have a brewing American fanbase, too: The video for their Southern hip hop-inspired "Growl" (below) was the third most viewed K-pop music video in the U.S. last year, after Korean stars Psy and Girls' Generation. They also snagged the fifth and ninth biggest-selling K-pop tracks in the U.S. for "Growl" (which Billboard critics named the best K-pop track of 2013) and the dubstep-y "Wolf," respectively.
Maryland-born singer Kelela Mizanekristos has been releasing music since 2012, but it wasn't until late 2013 that the Los Angeles-based singer started gaining attention with her debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me. The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Kelela channeled her experiences into brutally honest lyrics that confront the listener as much as they entertain. Still, there's a soulful, accessible smoothness to her vocals that should find Kelela having a huge 2014.
Sampha's "Too Much" collaboration with Drake on Nothing Was the Same elevated the south London musician-producer from "music blog famous" (for his work with Jessie Ware and SBTRKT) to "actually famous" in 2013. His critically-acclaimed Dual EP was an all-too-brief collection of ballads highlighting Sampha's stunning voice and skills as a pianist and producer. No word yet on a release date for his full-length debut, but he recently premiered a new song called "Courtesy" on BBC Radio 1 and we're very ready to hear more.
Musically, Stockholm is best known for sugary, chart-topping pop, but Rhode Island-born Swedish transplant Mapei bucks the trend. The 29-year-old singer has a song penned for Disney on her resume, but her raw emotion and raspy, off-kilter voice puts her leagues above your average pop star. "Don't Wait," the singer's opening salvo, blends plucked acoustic guitar, finger snaps and filtered vocals with forward-thinking soul-pop in the vein of Kelis.
"Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" made waves for their throwback-inspired sound, but they lacked the spine-tingling vocals of yesteryear's soul singers. Cue England's John Newman and his brassy debut solo single "Love Me Again." It's a soul-pop update and already a No. 1 hit in his native UK. If the track gives you Adele vibes, his debut album Tribute (just released stateside this week) should do the same: The LP is inspired by one horribly devastating breakup.
We've been fans of Chicago rapper Vic Mensa since his stint in Kids These Days, the genre-bending group of teenagers who released 2012's underrated Traphouse Rock LP before splitting up last year. As a solo artist, Mensa has collaborated with fellow buzzing Chicago MC Chance the Rapper, and his J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced, soulful '90s throwback "Orange Soda" has already become a viral hit.
We first fell in love with the Poughkeepsie punks after catching them on Warped Tour 2012. Their second album, Weird Kids—which has an awesome jean-jacket vest on the cover and is one of Fuse's 41 most-anticipated albums of 2014—drops February 18. Based on the strength of lead single "Attention" and their impassioned live shows, this album just might propel the Tay Jardine-fronted rockers to the top of this year's pop-punk class. Give We Are the In Crowd your "Attention" below.