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10 New Artists You Need to Know: April 2016

Bibi Bourelly, Seratones, Lil Uzi Vert and more

New Artists; Need to Know; April; Bibi Bourelly; Seratones; The Record Company; Ayo Jay; Japanese Breakfast

Seratones and Lil Uzi Vert are two of the new artists you should not miss this month.

Chad Kamenshine, Spike Jordan

Once again, we talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: Philly rap star Lil Uzi Vert, Australian chart-topper Grace, Rihanna co-writer Bibi Bourelly, eclectic Louisiana rockers Seratones and more.

New Artists; Need to Know; April; The Record Company

CREDIT: Jacob Blickenstaff - Brooklyn, NY - October 5, 2015 - The Record Company (Alex Stiff, Chris Voss, Marc Carzorla)

Jacob Blickenstaff

The Record Company

Sounds Like: The minimalist blues-rock of the Black Keys and the White Stripes, bolstered by a singer unafraid of his falsetto and — finally! — a bass player.

For Fans of: Led Zeppelin, Al Green, Morphine

Why You Should Pay Attention: The Record Company have opened for artists as diverse as Mavis Staples and Social Distortion, made their national TV debut on Conan in March and, following a European tour, will play Bonnaroo in June. After spending his formative years working on his family's Wisconsin dairy farm, the Record Company singer-guitarist Chris Vos (he favors lap steel) hightailed it to Los Angeles, where he bonded with bass player Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla over a shared love of the blues. But it'd be unfair to label the lean, deliberate three-piece as a simple blues-rock band. The songs on their stomping debut album Give It Back to You (recorded and mixed in Stiff's Los Feliz living room) would be right at home on alt-rock and Americana radio. "We are rock & roll," says Vos. "We're a band for whom the roll matters as much as the rock. The roll is the soul, the gospel, the swing and where it all lives.

They Say: "Soul voices are everything to me. [My falsetto] came from Al Green … and from listening to Prince. Hearing a guy sing like that when I was a young kid, I thought, 'I wonder if I can sing that way too?'" says Vos.

"We try to play our guts out every time we play. You have to take the stage like it's one less time in your life, not one more. Meaning you only get so many times in your life. It may sound kind of morbid, but you have to leave it all up there onstage."

Hear for Yourself: Give It Back to You's lead single "Off the Ground" opens with a snaking bass line before building to a woozy slide-guitar climax with Vos singing "Let the truth be told" in his highest register. Joseph Hudak

Grace; New Artists; Need to Know; April

Grace Photographed by John Wright

Grace

Sounds Like: If Adele had a little sister from Australia

For Fans of: Demi Lovato, Joss Stone, Miguel 

Why You Should Pay Attention: Grace Sewell is only 18, but she's already had a Number One hit in her native Australia with a fiery cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me." The cover was Quincy Jones' idea. The blockbuster producer took notice of Sewell's expressive vocal range and recommended the 1963 classic. Like Gore, Sewell was 17-years-old when she recorded her version, which was updated for the modern consumer with a hip-hop verse from G-Eazy. You can hear Gladys Knight, Janis Joplin, and Shirley Bassey in the swells of her smoky voice. Those were the artists Sewell says her parents — an illustrator and a BMW salesman — kept on in her childhood home in Brisbane. Sewell's debut album is set for release early this year. 

She Says: "I'm usually not inspired by watching TV in my downtime, but I've been watching the show Love & Hip Hop a lot and a song called "Burn Your Clothes" is fully about this couple on that show. … Rasheeda and her husband get in a big fight and she messes up all his stuff. My stories usually come from other people's journeys. … I think, 'How would I react if that happened to me?'" 

Hear for Yourself: Grace faces the ultimate betrayal when her Jay Z stops calling her his Beyoncé on "Boyfriend Jeans," a soulful ballad that balances deep regret with the burn of teenage love. Sarah Grant

Japanese Breakfast; New Artists; Need to Know; April

Phobymo

Japanese Breakfast

Sounds Like: Listening to a lucid dream

For Fans of: Mount Eerie, Asobi Seksu, Grouper

Why You Should Pay Attention: The side project of Little Big League leader Michelle Zauner began as an exercise in discipline when, during the summer of 2013, she set out to record one song a day during the entirety of June. The project soon evolved into an act of survival when Zauner put her life on Philadelphia on hold and moved to Oregon to care for her mother, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She passed away six months later. In the ensuing months Zauner poured her grief (and several of those modified song-a-day recordings) into what would become a stunning debut, Psychopomp. Its taut, gossamer pop songs leave behind any trace of the emo-tinged indie rock Zauner played in her past life, while still giving her a chance to flex her talents as a deft and emotive songwriter. This summer, she and her three-piece live band will open for Mitski.

She Says: "In this book I was reading by Carl Jung, there was a caption talking about [the word] 'psychopomp,'" Zauner says of the album's title. "I really liked it because it sounded like the word 'psychotic pop,' and I think that's what my record sounds like sometimes. In mythology it's supposed to be an usher of a spirit to the afterlife, specifically a guide that has no judgment. In a lot of ways, when I was living with my parents, it really felt like that was my role throughout that whole process. I wasn't there to judge my mom when she decided she only wanted to do two chemotherapy treatments. I was just there to support her and help her through her time, and in some ways I feel like I was there to help her die. In Jungian psychology [the psychopomp] is also supposed to be this mediator [between] the conscious and unconscious. I was having a lot of these dreams about my mother, and it brought me some comfort that I could continue to connect with her."

Hear for Yourself: "Everybody Wants to Love You" is stomping power pop with Zauner's swelling voice twinkling alongside Radiator Hospital's Sam Cook-Parrott guesting on backing vocals. Paula Mejia

Kaytranada; New Artists; Need to Know; April

Liam MacRae

Kaytranada

Sounds Like: Two parts punch-drunk neo-soul, one part New Wave boom-bap and a light garnish of house music

For Fans Of: J. Dilla, Basement Jaxx, J-Rocc

Why You Should Pay Attention: Kaytranada initially perked ears with remixes of songs by Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott — classics that he retooled with brash, bottom-heavy rhythms. Since then, he's been cosigned by veterans of the era he loves — producing for Talib Kweli and Mobb Deep — and has worked with other artists who wear their love of the late Nineties and early Aughts on their sleeves, like the Internet, Disclosure and AlunaGeorge. Kaytranada's debut album, 99.9%, hits shelves May 6th, and the record finds the producer uniting two generations of collaborators — Craig David sitting easily next to the rubbery young rapper GoldLink, for example — in the service of beats.  

He Says: "Neo-soul caught my attention more than any other sub-genre. I was really attracted by that sound. It made me do what I do musically: trying to find the same type of vibes, those nostalgic vibes." But his music isn't only about nostalgia. "On albums I used to hear, there were a couple uptempo but very soulful R&B songs," he says. "There would be one song that would sound that way. My thing was to bring more of that to the table. That uptempo neo-soul, I wanted to bring that to life. Something dope, but something dance-y at the same time."

Hear For Yourself: On an album full of vocal features, an instrumental cut may speak the loudest: "Bus Ride" features the razor sharp drumming of Karriem Riggins and an unfussy keyboard line — lounge music pushed to a neck-cracking extreme. Elias Leight

Ayo Jay; New Artists; Need to Know; April

Photo Courtesy of One Nation Records

Ayo Jay

Sounds Like: Afropop meets Caribbean dancehall and soca by way of New York

For Fans of: Kevin Lyttle, Rupee, WizKid

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ayo Jay's smash single "Your Number" was recorded several years ago while the London-born, Lagos-raised singer was attending Baruch College in New York and studying economics and finance. But after a long, slow climb — and a remix with Fetty Wap — it's about to cross over in the United States. Ayo Jay grew up on American pop music (he names Eminem, 2Pac, Michael Jackson and Akon among his influences), but didn't invest himself fully in the homegrown Afrobeats sound until after he left to attend college, becoming obsessed with making his own music in the wake of Nigerian artist Wande Coal's 2008 breakout Mushin 2 Mohits.

Immediately after graduating college in 2013, Ayo Jay signed to One Nation records and released "Your Number," the success of which took him by surprise. Although the song fits in well with the cutting edge Afropop sound, it was immediately apparent to Ayo Jay that the song had a bigger following internationally than in his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria.

"It was a difficult song to push in Nigeria because it's not the usual vibe that we vibe to in Nigeria," he says. "But online, when I put the song out, a lot of the comments weren't even from Nigeria — from the UK, from the United States, from the Middle East. So we knew it had international potential."

He Says: "That song was actually recorded in the projects in Brooklyn, East New York, in [producer] Melvitto's room. I used to go there because my cousin lived in the same building. One day he played me these beats, because he just came back from Nigeria and he had a bunch of beats that were free, that no one was using. I did a freestyle, and the first thing I sang was "Can I get your number?" And we built around that. I think the process took two days, we recorded the whole thing. And that was it, put it out."

Hear for Yourself: "Your Number" is has a melody so perfectly simple you'll wonder how no one stumbled across it before. David Drake

Margaret Glaspy

Ebru Yildiz

Margaret Glaspy

Sounds Like: Low-end-heavy indie rock with disarmingly honest lyrics

For Fans of: Exile in Guyville-era Liz Phair, Alabama Shakes, Joni Mitchell

Why You Should Pay Attention: Trained on instruments ranging from fiddle to trombone, inspired by Elliott Smith and Bill Withers, this California-born singer-songwriter's first full-length, Emotions and Math (due June 16 on ATO) shows off an ability to create heady, openhearted rock. Her upcoming tourmates — moody synthpop band Lucius, folk pair the Milk Carton Kids and jazz-rock outfit Lake Street Dive — show the breadth of her appeal. Her upcoming Bonnaroo appearance will be a chance for her voice — which can sound both gnarled and feather-light — to charm a field of people.

She Says: "I produced this record. I started to demo all of the songs a while back; I had the demos on an iPad and was doing multi-tracking through GarageBand to get all my ideas down. By way of that — and I didn't quite know it yet — I started producing it. Lots of different ideas were coming through; ways to pan things, different sounds, different sections of things started to come to the surface. From there, my partner and I bought some recording equipment and I decided to record it more officially. That would be in my room, because I couldn't afford to go to the studio."

Hear for Yourself: The title track to Emotions and Math is strutting yet off-kilter, neatly capturing its lyrical themes of wide-eyed longing. Maura Johnston

Raime; New Artists; Need to Know; April

Photo Courtesy of Raime

Raime

Sounds Like: Where dubstep mutates into post-punk

For Fans of: Actress, the Haxan Cloak, Sonic Youth if they scored a vampire film

Why You Should Pay Attention: Taken with the punishing rumble of dubstep, Reading duo Raime coupled it to gothic bleakness and industrial noise that suggests apocalyptic times — earning the admiration of Aphex Twin along the way. Their debut, 2012's Quarter Turns Over a Living Line, earned some good reviews and upcoming follow-up Tooth finds them incorporating live guitar and drums, giving their dark electronics a more serrated edge.

They Say: "Getting back to rhythm was a priority for us this time," the pair says over e-mail. "Dance music has always been the backbone of our influences so propulsion comes pretty naturally, but we really started getting into bands a lot more over the last seven years or so and experienced what they can offer dynamically. We thought it might create more immediacy and ultimately move our sound on. We realized that we wanted to change the way we were saying things, lay a few old tropes to rest and try something new, ultimately learning how to make records according to different rules."

Hear for Yourself: "Dead Heat" is a menacing, dissonant slow-build. Andy Beta

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