10 New Artists You Need to Know: August 2016 – Rolling Stone
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10 New Artists You Need to Know: August 2016

LANY, Kiiara, Nao and more

10, New, Artists, July, 2016, Bright Light Bright Light, Kiiara, Nao, Teeth & Tongue

Nao (left) and Bright Light Bright Light.

Eva Pentel/Sony Music Entertainment UK, Shervin Lainez

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: Alt-pop digital-agers LANY, R&B boundary pusher Nao, Bay Area rapper Nef the Pharoah and more.

10, New, Artists, July, 2016, Bright Light Bright Light, Kiiara, Nao, Teeth & Tongue

Shervin Lainez

Bright Light Bright Light

Sounds Like: Bubblegum electro-pop that transports you to Working Girl-era realness

For Fans of: Wham!, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure

Why You Should Pay Attention: Welsh singer-songwriter Rod Thomas (who goes by this Gremlins-inspired moniker so he won't be mistaken for Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas Stateside) became pals with Elton John a few years ago, and opened for the rock legend on his 2014 tour. John contributed vocals to Bright Light Bright Light's anthemic summer single "All in the Name," as well some other songs on his recent Choreography. His U.S. tour starts in September.

He Says: Thomas made two mixtapes for John's recent birthday: one labeled "greatest hits," the other "greatest shits," which included "really, really awful bargain-bin artists … with reggae ballads, B-sides and terrible remixes. "[John] rang me, 'Oh, my God, it's amazing,'" Thomas says. "It was a lot of fun to put together and it's insane to think that Elton has heard them. … He's the biggest music fan in the world."

Hear for Yourself: "Careful Whisper" evokes the New Romantics for a new generation. JERRY PORTWOOD

10, New, Artists, July, 2016, Bright Light Bright Light, Kiiara, Nao, Teeth & Tongue

Courtesy of Teeth & Tongue

Teeth & Tongue

Sounds Like: Dancing alone in the dark and not apologizing for it.

For Fans of: Blondie, Kate Bush, Chromatics

Why You Should Pay Attention: Teeth & Tongue is the cheeky moniker of Jess Cornelius, a New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based musician who specializes in dark, disco-tinged pop. What started out as the name of Cornelius' solo album took her on a long, peculiar journey — involving the breakup of a longtime relationship, living like a nomad for the better part of a year and retreating to the Nes artist residency in Iceland. The band recently supported Courtney Barnett on her headlining album tour, and they're set to release the shimmering LP Give Up On Your Health on Captured Tracks later this fall. It vibrates with arpeggiated synths, drum machines and Cornelius' wistful croons. "It's a little more curious, I think," Cornelius says of the album. "I got a little sick of writing about myself as well. [So] I'm looking at other kinds of relationships, not just the romantic ones or ones in front of my face all the time."

They Say: "We were in this tiny town [at the Iceland residency], and no one had a car," says Cornelius. "We only had access to this little corner store and that's where we did our shopping. Sometimes you'd go and there'd be a cabbage, and it'd be like $12. Sometimes you couldn't get fresh bread but you could get like, turmeric root. One time the village put on a traditional dinner, with gray, fermented meats. The whole idea was that you'd go to the dinner, you'd have a piece of fermented shark and they'd give you a shot of Brennivin, the liquor that they drink, to wash it down. But when we went home, the girl I was staying with, we had to wash everything — hats, gloves, because the cloakroom had been in the same room as the fermented shark! It kind of smells a bit like like ammonia."

Hear for Yourself: Cornelius says the infectious forgiveness banger "Dianne" is "a bit of a letter to myself I was writing when I was a teenager." PAULA MEJIA

10, New, Artists, July, 2016, Bright Light Bright Light, Kiiara, Nao, Teeth & Tongue

Courtesy of Terry


Sounds Like: Sashaying onto the dance floor in bejeweled platform heels and watching heads turn.

For Fans of: Television Personalities, Thee Oh Sees, Purling Hiss

Why You Should Pay Attention: The jittery glam pop quartet Terry — comprised of power couples Amy Hill and Al Montfort, and Xanthe Waite and Zephyr Pavey — was born on a holiday in Mexico, right after one of Zephyr and Al's other bands, Total Control, wrapped up a tour. Each Terry-er is a mainstay of Melbourne, Australia's vibrant music scene in their own right (at last count they're in 11 bands total, including UV Race and Dick Diver), but this time they sought to wield instruments they didn't usually play in any of their other groups. "I think it sounds better when someone doesn't totally know what they're doing," Montfort says. Their debut LP, Terry HQ, released last month on the taste-making U.K. label Upset the Rhythm, is full of shambolic country ditties and smart post-punk bangers that feel loose and fun, removed from inhibition and doubt. The Terry operation is firmly rooted in D.I.Y., from the songwriting process to the band's distinctive swagger-y uniform of Terry-emblazoned denim jackets and fringe shirts. "Me and Al, we always wanted to have nudie suits. And of course we couldn't afford to do that, so we tried to make our own," Hill says. "Then it got a bit mutated," Montfort chimes in.

They Say: "It's all pretty relaxed. We kind of make demos at home, and then send them off [to each other]. And then we all get together and figure them out," Hill says. "Zephyr wrote a few songs and wasn't sure what to do about lyrics, so we said, 'Just write all about your Uncle Greg who's a bus driver. Like, who the fuck is Uncle Greg? What was the story?'"

"He always tells these stories about this Uncle Greg and we're like, 'Ah yeah, he sounds like such a prick,'" says Montfort. "So [Pavey] wrote all these lyrics, heaps and heaps. Too much for one song. Uncle Greg got in trouble on the bus … but also Zephyr had it in for him because he stole Zephyr's wah pedal to sell. Zephyr's got a lot of stories from his childhood about people from the Blue Mountains in Sydney that kind of sound like fictional characters."

Hear for Yourself: The galloping country ditty "Hot Heads" flexes the band's talent for deadpan harmonies. PAULA MEJIA

10, New, Artists, July, 2016, Bright Light Bright Light, Kiiara, Nao, Teeth & Tongue

Jodi Darby

Marisa Anderson

Sounds Like: A hazy soundtrack to an existential Seventies western

For Fans of: Kate Wolf, Bill Frisell, Bruce Langhorne's music for Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand

Why You Should Pay Attention: The deft and vigilant way Portland-based guitarist Marisa Anderson has with a six-string garnered her some old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Anderson's ingested both the country blues and bluegrass lexicon in such a way so as to voice something new. Her recent Into the Light is her most satisfying solo album to date, finding new timbres in pedal steel, piano and Wurlitzer, weaving a mesmerizing spell with only her fingers.

She Says: "From age 19 to age 29, I lived with no fixed address, hitchhiking, living in tents, school buses, whatever. It made me really open to experience, in terms of being in a new place all the time, meeting every kind of person. It made me self-reliant…. For Into the Light, there was a narrative coming up for me, based on time I spent in the desert and about politics and what's going on in the world. The word 'alien' got in my head, as in an alien that comes from space and someone who's not from where you are."

Hear for Yourself: Into the Light's title track is a shimmering noir instrumental. ANDY BETA