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10 New Artists You Need to Know: April 2014

Meet the rising stars of rock, hip-hop, EDM, country and more acts shaping your tomorrow

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: Sam Smith's genre-smashing croon, the Strypes' no-nonsense rock, Samsaya's pan-continental pop, Sohn's hiccupping beats and more.

Tajette O'Halloran

Courtney Barnett

Sounds Like: Melancholy and the infinite slackness – loose, easygoing alt-rock with the sense of gentle self-awareness that many first-gen alt-rockers lacked

For Fans Of: Juliana Hatfield, the Go-Betweens, Lou Reed

Why You Should Pay Attention: One of Rolling Stone's best discoveries at last year's CMJ, Courtney Barnett has little more than two EPs to her name, collected together on the comp, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, due in America on April 15th. Yet she has lined up appearances at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Primavera and more – not to mention gigs with MGMT, Phosphorescent and Sharon Van Etten. She writes whole-hearted, often-funny confessionals about everything from writing her best songs when she's asleep in a drunken stupor ("History Eraser") to masturbating to get to sleep ("Lance Jr."); and does it all with imaginative, quasi-psychedelic guitar playing and a sweetly sublime vocals.

She Says: "I think anything that influences you for the worse you've just gotta use and turn it into something good – like Guernica," she says, joking. One of the bad experiences Barnett turned into something positive was the very true event she sings about in "Avant Gardener." On one especially hot day (104 degrees, according to the lyrics), she suffered an anaphylactic panic attack while gardening and needed an adrenaline shot à la Pulp Fiction. "That is a real story," she says emphatically. "The only untrue part is that I actually got adrenalin to the thigh, not the heart."

Hear for Yourself: Barnett's easy, breezy panic attack number, "Avant Gardener," dramatized in the video as a tennis kerfuffle. By Kory Grow

Courtesy Samsaya

Samsaya

Sounds Like: Hyperactive pop that draws influences from all over the globe

For Fans Of: The softer side of Santigold, the poppier offerings of M.I.A., the inspirational slogans of Nelly Furtado.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Hailing from Norway by way of India, Samsaya isn't beholden to any particular genre or style, cherry-picking elements of hip-hop, ska, raga and EDM, throwing them into her motivational, upbeat pop. The music on her forthcoming Bombay Calling LP thrills as often as it gets the body moving. "Breaking Bad" smashes together militaristic drums and slippery synths in a way that makes its kicking-against-the-grain message even more potent; and the loose-limbed "Beginning At The End" twists the breakup song into something actually hopeful. The New York Times caught her at SXSW and noted her "cheerleader energy somewhere between peak No Doubt and Lady Gaga."

She Says: "I've been told that I sang a lot as a kid. I remember the first song I wrote. When I was around 13 years old, I was really mad at my mother because she wouldn't let me hang out with the older kids at the youth center. So I wrote a song called 'Why Do You Want To Rule Me,' and I even tried to get my two best friends to start a girl group with me. We were big fans of Michael Jackson, TLC, Prince and Aaliyah. I loved how they would accentuate their lyrics and melodies with their moves and style. These [new] tracks represent my emotions, and are full of warmth, heat, and energy – like magma that's building up inside of me."

Hear for Yourself: Single "Stereotype" doubles as a mission statement, a rebuke to listeners who want to place her in a box before turning up their boomboxes. By Maura Johnston

Barry Brecheisen

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires

Sounds Like: Flannery O'Connor gave up fiction for a Coors and a Gibson SG

For Fans Of: Drive-By Truckers, Bruce Springsteen's storytelling, Alabama Shakes

Why You Should Pay Attention: Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires are the best argument against paying for a Brooklyn rehearsal space. Bains was an NYU literature student who decided to return home to Birmingham, Alabama, to play music (first in the Dexateens, then with an old friend and a pair of brothers in the Glory Fires). Toiling away in a relatively buzz-poor town, the band was discovered when their producer emailed friend and Sub-Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman a zip file of their second album, Dereconstructed. The label finally signed Lee Bains after they got to witness the band's fire and Keystone spirit in person, and will release the album in May. Lately they've been touring with like-minded neighbors the Alabama Shakes.

They Say: "I went up to New York like a lot of artsy Southern kids would hope to do, to learn about the art scene, the music scene, to be exposed to different people and ideas and all that," says Bains. "I was exposed to those things, which was amazing. But ironically, in doing that, in seeing people making art from all over the world with their own voices, what kept popping up in my mind was, 'What is my voice? What is my cultural context?' I see a band or an artist that is struggling with their cultural identity in one form or another, and playing off that in their art, it made me reflect on what my cultural identity was."

Hear for Yourself: Dereconstructed opener "Company Man" covers religious prophets, politicians, poets and union busters in three minutes and 21 seconds of sweaty soul-tinged garage. By Jessica Suarez 

Amelia Troubridge

Sohn

Sounds Like: Thom Yorke's soul-loving younger brother

For Fans of: Rhye, the Weeknd, James Blake, Bon Iver after a feverish digital-editing session

Why You Should Pay Attention: With a string of chillingly pretty singles and a production/remix résumé including Disclosure and Rhye, English expat Sohn (a.k.a. Toph Taylor) has finally finished a debut LP, Tremors (4AD), a solo joint featuring his elegantly glitchy electro-beats and falsetto-laced high tenor. Songs like "The Wheel" and "Paralysed" show a lyricist unafraid of raw emoting. And his video clips show his taste for soulful minimalism extends to his music videos too – check the Weather Channel time-shift of "Bloodflows" and the desolate panic-attack meditation "Lessons."

He Says: "When I was a kid in school, I really enjoyed singing in front of people," he confesses, "but I hated that I really enjoyed singing in front of people. I hated what that meant – that I needed that confirmation from others. It took me a long time to come to grips with it."

Hear For Yourself: "The Wheel," a song about despair that seems as if voiced from beyond the grave. By Will Hermes

Mariana Zarpellon

Karol Conka

Sounds Like: A bouncing bass-heavy blend of rap, hip-hop, baile funk and Afro-Brazilian beats delivered with bracing positive energy

For Fans Of: Lauryn Hill, M.I.A., Azealia Banks

Why You Should Pay Attention: There are few overground female rappers in Brazil, and even fewer blending hip-hop with the tropical traditionalism of the Bahia region, where Karol Conka's grandmother was raised. Born Karoline dos Santos Oliveira, Karol Conka (i.e., "Karol with a K") enlisted the ubiquitous Nave to produce her terrific debut. Released by Vice in Brazil last year, and internationally on England's Mr Bongo label this month, Batuk Freak earned her Brazil's prestigious Multishow Best New Artist award for 2013. Conka delivers uplifting rhymes in Portuguese over booming bass lines wrapped around raw percussion, traditional pifano flutes, and samples from the proto-rap improvisational rhymes of repente – all in the service of a good time.

She Says: "We have excellent MCs and beat makers with a growing space to show their work. In this scenario, I situate myself in a position where I sing about joy; my protest is against sadness. I always try to sing about self-esteem and respect with festive and danceable beats… "Batuque is a term generally used to designate beat. 'Batuk' is a 'karolish' version for this word."

Hear for Yourself: Booming bass and a female chorus guarantee a "Boa Noite" in her video – which currently has more than one million views. By Richard Gehr

Will Holland

William Tyler

Sounds Like: Masterful fingerpicking that's equal parts American primitivism and German motorik

For Fans of: John Fahey, Neu!, Six Organs of Admittance

Why You Should Pay Attention: Tyler's already a 15-year Nashville veteran whose plucked with everyone from Lambchop to Charlie Louvin. He's honed his shimmering, minimalist, wistful picking over two acclaimed solo records, but his upcoming EP Lost Colony, might be his most talked about yet. Recording his arrangements with a full band for the first time (including JEFF the Brotherhood drummer Jamin Orral), Tyler finds common ground between the churn of contemporary country blues and the driving rhythms of krautrock.

He Says: It's a constant challenge [playing quiet music]. If you're playing a bar… You might have 15 people with you, you might have 15 people against you. You're just gonna have to play to the people that are listening. I've seen shows where guys like Richard Buckner and Jack Rose yell at the crowd. That's not my personality – and I'm probably not intimidating enough physically for that to work.

I've been in bands with 10 people, I've been in bands with two or three people, but I basically enjoy doing it solo. It doesn't feel like touring. Right now I'm driving through a national park. I stopped in Roswell today and went to the alien museum gift shop or whatever. When you're in a band with five other dudes, really other than peeing or eating fast food, you don't tend to stop and do interesting things… To be honest, man, I'm 34 and I can't imagine trying to keep a band together.

Hear for Yourself: The A-side of Lost Colony, "Whole New Dude," ambles through 5/4 rhythms, steel guitar whines, Can-style beats, and one sunshine-y guitar solo within 13 gorgeous minutes. By Christopher R. Weingarten

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