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10 New Artists You Need to Know: February 2015

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Natalie Prass, Seinabo Sey and more

Leo "Bud" Welch and Catfish and the Bottlemen

Aubrey Edwards; John Stone

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, we talk to an 82-year-old Mississippian releasing his first blues album and a 16-year-old X-Factor veteran — not to mention the Nineties-centric rap of Vic Spencer, the chart-storming deep house of Robin Schulz, the critically acclaimed art-folk of Natalie Prass and more. 

Robin Schulz

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Robin Schulz

Sounds Like: The kind of hard-but-smooth dance music that doesn't alienate those who aren't quite in the mood to dance.

For Fans of: Duke Dumont, Avicii at his least Avicii, the "toaster" Instagram filter

Why You Should Pay Attention:  Schulz has become the go-to-guy for low-key dance remixes, and rightfully so: His two most famous edits turned mostly-acoustic tracks — "Prayer in C" and "Waves" —by barely-known artists (Lilly Wood and the Prick and Mr. Probz, respectively) into the sort of global hits that work equally well on pop radio and main stages. The 27-year-old grew up in clubs, his dad a DJ and his mom handling business behind the scenes. At 14, he started producing, and he kept grinding until the "Waves" went viral on Soundcloud. Now commissions come from giants like Coldplay, David Guetta and Axwell ^ Ingrosso. An album, Prayer, combines the best of these with a handful of original tunes.

He Says: The German Schulz isn't fluent in English, but is still able to communicate his top priority with his infectious deep house tracks. "I try to make the track danceable," he says. "I want to make people freak out on the dancefloor. I want to create music that people can dance to — great voices and great melodies — and of course I want to create emotion from the music as well. I love when I see the reaction from the crowd the first time I play a track."

Hear for Yourself: "Sun Goes Down" proves that the remix kingpin can also start from scratch, swallowing synths, guitar, horn and occasional piano notes under copious amount of melancholic reverb. By Nick Murray

Mitski

Kenneth Bachor

Mitski

Sounds Like: A slow-building breakthrough at an indie-rock therapy session.

For Fans of: Rilo Kiley, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Liz Phair

Why You Should Pay Attention: Mitski's recent Bury Me at Make Out Creek, showcases the singer's ability to turn delicate indie-folk into carefree heavy rock at a moment's notice. Her voice is both confident and sad, and her lyrics are personal and poetic — "I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony," she sings in "Townie," "and I want a kiss like my heart is hitting the ground." 

It's a sound that's been a long time coming. Mitski studied composition in college and her past records have leaned more toward piano-driven, singer-songwriter tunes. She cites the international folk music her dad would play, and the Japanese pop her mom would sing to herself as inspirations, but she also draws influence from M.I.A., Mica Levi, Björk and J-pop singer Shiina Ringo, "because they all do what the fuck they want, and do it well." She learned guitar last year, and out came Bury Me at Make Out Creek ("I had to make songs that would be good even when played badly," she says). In turn, she's been gaining critical praise and a busy performance schedule, with an upcoming tour supporting Hundred Waters and Screaming Females and another with Speedy Ortiz.

She Says: "I'd never screamed in the studio before doing 'Drunk Walk Home,' but it just felt right for the song. I remember I did an initial take of screams and they were pretty tame because I was shy, and then the recording engineer stood up and said, 'Let me try,' and did a set of screams that were better, and I was like, 'Oh, OK fucker, watch this,' and did the screams on the record. I'm easily coerced by competition."

Hear for Yourself: The debauched "Townie" perfectly captures the feeling of losing control on a wild night. By Kory Grow

Vic Spencer

J. Johari Palacio

Vic Spencer

Sounds Like: Deft, late-Nineties hip-hop lyricism, with a dash of nonsensical free-association. 

For Fans of: Sean Price or Redman if they were raised in Chicago a decade late.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Approaching his mid-30s, Vic Spencer is older than your average emerging rapper, and he embraces the irascible, grumpy persona in a way that's more entertaining than aggravating. He grew up on the distinct, personality-driven "lyrical" styles of the late Nineties underground — think Soundbombing-era Eminem or Redman — and though it's an old sound, Spencer approaches it in a fresh way. Few contemporary rappers sound much like him, which is part of why he's stood out in a crowded Windy City hip-hop scene. He recorded with Chance the Rapper and the similarly named (though stylistically distant) Vic Mensa before either were known quantities, and has the support of a who's-who of local producers, particularly the celebrated autuer Tree. Spencer's latest tape, The Cost of Victory, isn't something you'll hear on the radio, but it taps a stylistic vein that's been almost completely abandoned, a slice of classic late-Nineties backpack rap without the negative connotations.

He Says: Vic Spencer's parents both had problems with drugs, and he ended up living with his aunt from the time he was seven. In his early teens he transferred to a group home, where he began taking rap seriously. The year was 1997. "I was trying to defeat the odds of what I was going through. [We formed] a group called Uhlich Voices," says Spencer. "The CEO [of the group home] took an interest in how we were writing music and doing things to stay out of trouble while we were in the agency. Me and three other guys, we traveled across the country. Sacramento, Kentucky, Connecticut, St. Louis…a couple of other spots. [We performed in] DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services] forums. DCFS is in Chicago, and we was always be a part of the entertainment. I wrote about being in the group home, being angry, about my parents being crackheads…for people that were going through the same stuff that I was going through, and I wanted to show them that there was another side and it would be alright." Today, his parents are both clean, Vic has been married for nearly a decade and has two daughters of his own — and he's still rapping.

Hear for Yourself: "Relapse" epitomizes the jazzy style of The Cost of Victory. By David Drake

Palace

Hollie Fernando

Palace

Sounds Like: A languorous summer day spent sun-dappled in bed with a first love, a joint and the knowledge that the moment will end, as all good things do.

For Fans of: Jeff Buckley, Foals, Buffalo Springfield

Why You Should Pay Attention: Since these four British lads' debut single, 2014's "Veins," racked up nearly 50,000 plays on Soundcloud in just two weeks, the U.K. music press has been all over them like they were the world's last jar of marmite. Rowdy rocker Jamie T handpicked Palace to open for him at his first live shows in four years, which raised the band's profile in its homeland to yet another level. Amazingly, even the Internet commentariat have had mostly positive comments for the group's new EP, Lost in the Night. "Someone on Soundcloud said it's like Morrissey and Buckley had a baby, which I guess is kind of cool," says drummer Matt Hodges. "Another guy said we're like Foals on Xanax, which was quite interesting. We've had a few comments about our music being good baby-making music too, so that's nice. Sex music, basically."

They Say: Palace write and rehearse in a unique North London space that Hodges describes as "a musical commune/squat." "It's had a big influence on us as a band, as there are so many different people working on many different genres of music," he says. "It's also a bit of an instrument graveyard — sitars, organs, endless guitars and percussion stuff lying around, which makes for a lot of fun in our downtime when we're recording. It's a pretty craggy place with a lot of crap everywhere. It's gets down to arctic temperatures in the winter, and in the summer we have to pretty much play in our boxers it's so hot, but it's been amazing for Palace."

Hear for Yourself: Languid and shimmery, "Bitter" finds the sweet-sad spot between indie emo and Sixties blues. By Brandon Geist

Bea Miller

Camraface

Bea Miller

Sounds Like: All the best Nineties teen movies compressed into three minute pop jams.

For Fans of: Demi Lovato, Boyce Avenue, the Warped Tour

Why You Should Pay Attention: Before she even turned 16 this month, Miller had competed on the X-Factor, nabbed a deal with Hollywood Records, opened for Demi Lovato and released her dark and angsty single "Young Blood," which has already racked up millions of YouTube views. This year, she has an untitled debut album slated for late spring and a new single on the radio, "Fire N Gold."

"I really gravitate towards music that's fun to listen to, but when you listen to it and dig deeper you find the true meaning of the song," says Miller, a huge fan of classic and alternative rock bands like the Beatles and Nirvana, who inspire much of her sound and style. "A lot of kids my age don't listen to those bands and don't appreciate those artists as much as I would want them to," she notes with a laugh.

They Say: "I'm really honest. I think that's important because I'm the same age and gender as the majority of my fans, and I understand what they're going through. I'm not going to tell them that everything is going to be fantastic and wonderful all the time. I'm going to be real and say, 'You're going to fall down, and you're going to go through bad times. It's really going to suck, but we all go through bad things.' Not a lot of pop artists talk about the negative sides of life, which is fine. I've just always wanted to say the things that I wish pop artists when I was 8, 9, ten would've said to me. "

 Hear for Yourself: The ebullient and angsty new single "Fire N Gold" fits right into Miller's brand of upbeat pop accompanied by melancholy lyrics.

Youth Man

Youth Man

Sounds Like: U.K. kids tinkering with the ill-angled tantrums of of L.A., D.C. and San Diego punk. 

For Fans of: Future of the Left, Dead Kennedys, 400 Blows

Why You Should Pay Attention: Boldly dubbing themselves "the loudest live band in the U.K.," gnashing trio Youth Man stand in sharp contrast to the croony "B-Town" indie rock bands like Peace and Swim Deep. Their brand of punk leans heavily towards the weirdos (not the Weirdos) of early California hardcore, in which bands like Fear weren't too afraid (or too unskilled) to throw in an odd time signature. Since dropping their first music in 2012, Youth Man have opened for Pissed Jeans and Sleaford Mods.

They Say: Youth Man have been releasing a steady stream of singles and EPs — second extended play, the five-track Hill of Knives, is due in August — but have yet to commit to a full-length album. "Everybody these days has a short attention span. We do too," says singer Kaila Whyte. "Plus nobody has offered us enough money yet." Lead single "Skin" is only 77 seconds long, but for bassist Miles Cocker, it will last a lifetime — for the video, he gave himself a tattoo. "It was like watching someone poke themselves with an inky needle. Over, and over, and over, and over," says drummer Marcus Perks. Adds Whyte, "We were all pretty drunk by then so it's a slightly hazy memory."

Hear for Yourself: The jittery "Skin" yowls, churns, and explodes with feedback — but its irregular pulse includes tricky bars of 5/4. By Christopher R. Weingarten

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