We talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: high-octane Canadian blues from Reignwolf, steamy rap&B sex talk from Ty Dolla $ign, throbbing Dutch house from Martin Garrix and the country hustle of actress Lucy Hale.
Why You Should Pay Attention: The full-contact blooz-bash of sweat grenade Jordan "Reignwolf" Cook has been enthralling summer festival crowds with acrobatic antics that find him bounding off bass drums, riding security guards, soloing in the audience, and abusing his Gibson. Though he only has little more than a 1,000-edition 7-inch and an iTunes single to his name, he's already opened for the Pixies, has a 10-day tour with Black Sabbath on the horizon, and is headed into Dave Grohl's Studio 606 to record songs that may appear on his long-awaited debut.
He Says: "Usually when I come off stage I'll notice all sorts of new cuts and bruises and all sorts of blood on my guitar. But when you're in the act, you just don't think about those things. One of my last shows actually, in Seattle, I took a land from the soundsystem. I jumped up on top and then I landed right beside my drum… My arm hit the backside of [the foot], and there's still a nice scar kind of happening from that. And also in Texas, I was hanging from the roof in a little club there and same thing – landed right next to my drum. The same piece of my arm. Side-by-side scars, the twins, I call them.
'I've only [ridden the security guards] a couple of times. The security was hilarious at Lollapalooza because the guy was so clueless about what happening. Right after we were done, he was like, 'I've worked at this stage for six years,' or something. 'That's the most intense show I've ever seen.' Of course… that's 'cause I was on your back for the last song!'
Hear for Yourself:
The dramatic, distortion-caked rasper "Are You Satisfied?":
by Christopher R. Weingarten
Sounds Like: A debauched night out with multiple sex partners
For Fans Of: Future, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown
Why You Should Pay Attention: Before he wrote hits for YG ("Toot It and Boot It") and Wiz Khalifa ("Young, Wild & Free"), Tyrone Griffin, 28, emerged from L.A.'s mid-2000s future-soul underground, learning from innovators like Sa-Ra Creative Partners and Erykah Badu. Now, with urban club anthems like "Paranoid" and "My Cabana," Ty Dolla $ign leads the city's sexually-charged "ratchet" movement. He joined Wiz's Taylor Gang crew last year, accompanying the "Black & Yellow" rapper on his amphitheater tour. Released earlier this month, Ty's critically acclaimed Atlantic Records debut, Beach House EP, dazzles and stuns in its throbbing electro-pop minimalism and charismatic yet bluntly honest vocals ("Can you really ride dick or nah/Can I bring another bitch or nah?"). But he clearly appreciates classic R&B songwriting, too, and counts '90s icon Brian McKnight and gospel singer Kim Burrell among his inspirations.
He Says: "I try to say everything that everybody really feels. I try not to sugarcoat the shit. "You can put my shit on when you're with a chick, and you can get right with it. [How you feel] is all in the words to the song. Basically, my lyrics are like an instruction manual. It's a soundtrack to the night."
Hear For Yourself: The eerily seductive single "Paranoid" where Ty worries what his two girlfriends will do when they run into each other:
"Never Be The Same" ft. Jay Rock
by Mosi Reeves
Sounds Like: Euro-smash EDM that'll make you want to dress up like a glam chipmunk and party til you collapse.
For Fans Of: Tiësto, Skrillex, Calvin Harris
Why You Should Pay Attention: This babyfaced 17-year-old Dutch DJ and producer looks like a hair model, but don't hate him because he's beautiful. Hate him because his life is way, way better than yours. He recently scored a massive European hit with "Animals," a throbbingly transporting, relentlessly pounding bit of trance that has been bouncing around the lower reaches of the American Hot 100 for 17 weeks. He's enjoyed massive success on the European festival circuit and will embark on his first U.S. tour later this month before hitting Ultra Festival and Coachella. In an email, he defines his formula succinctly: "Energetic, big drops, PARTY!"
He Says: "It was 2004 and I was watching TV with my parents, who mentioned that a famous Dutch DJ would perform at the Olympics, so we watched it together. It was the first time I ever saw a DJ performing and when I watched how Tiësto was DJing, I just thought it was the coolest thing and wanted to do it myself! I've always done what I love the most: Making music. That my track, "Animals," became so big was just so unexpected! The rollercoaster ride [I'm] experiencing is just crazy! You meet so many new people, get to perform at the most amazing places in the world and get so many amazing opportunities. I feel very fortunate to be able to do this."
Hear for Yourself: Feel free to add to the more than 138 million views of "Animals":
by Jon Dolan
Sounds Like: The Pretty Little Liars star and perennial Teen Choice Award winner says she grew up listening to both kinds of music: country and Disney princess songs. Those influences coalesce on her new single "You Sound Good to Me," a perkily infatuated breeze set to arena-ready fiddle and mandolin.
For Fans Of: Sugarland, pre-NPR-pandering Dixie Chicks, Nashville's Juliette Barnes
Why You Should Pay Attention: A gal can hardly find a home these days on country radio, which is a stomping ground for lightweight hunks telling big lies about good times in small towns. But Hale, beginning her fourth season as PLL's Aria, brings 3 million weekly ABC Family viewers and even more Twitter followers. "You Sound Good to Me," which rides the recent Nashville trend of likening your crush to a song (see Florida-Georgia Line's "Cruise"), sold 42,000 downloads in its first week, hopping into the Billboard Hot 100 and the country Top 30. A full-length, recorded with producer Mark Bright (Rascal Flatts, Scotty McCreery, Carrie Underwood) and featuring a Joe Nichols duet, is expected this spring.
She Says: "While recording we would usually start at about 10 a.m. every morning and break at about 1 for lunch. I'm obsessed with ranch dressing and would pretty much have it every day. After we ate, I would come back in to continue recording and sound 50 percent better than before. So we joked that ranch dressing is my secret weapon."
Hear for Yourself: "You Sound Good to Me," the exact sonic opposite of a polar vortex:
by Keith Harris
Sounds Like: Hyperactive power-punk-pop with the occasional blood-curdling hardcore scream as a release valve.
For Fans Of: The hooks of New Found Glory, the chugging riffs and caterwauls of Killswitch Engage, the sweat of a day under the Warped Tour sun.
Why You Should Pay Attention: After a decade-plus working their way up the Warped roster, honing a unique, unlikely blend of metalcore and sugary pop (and battling Victory Records in court), these Floridians self-released their fifth album, Common Courtesy, last fall. The gambit paid off, as first single "Right Back At It Again" climbed to No. 33 on Billboard's Alternative chart. The band's do-it-yourself spirit isn't just limited to records: In March, they're throwing the Self-Help Fest – the bill includes what vocalist Jeremy McKinnon calls "a lot of bad-ass bands," including Of Mice And Men, Bring Me The Horizon, and the Story So Far – in San Bernardino, California.
They Say: "We were truly a garage band," says McKinnon. "We started off in a really small town in our parents' garage and we would have the cops called on us all the time just for playing our music – neighbors would get pissed off about it. We went to work and paid for everything we did, and it just snowballed from there. There was never a point where it just shot through the roof – it was this gradual growth. That's why we've been able to sustain things; nothing ever came too fast or too quick. Growing slowly over the course of 10 years gave us the time to grow up."
Hear for Yourself: The band chronicles their trip from the garage to headlining their own festival on the peppy, bouncy "Right Back At It Again":
by Maura Johnston
For Fans Of: Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, country singers not averse to using the word "fuck" when necessary.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Shouted out by no less a rock & roll arbiter than Richard Hell, this brash Columbus, Ohio 23-year-old set tongues wagging at last year's SXSW, and has just finished her breakout album Somewhere Else, an aching, lusty set of twang and sneer wrapped in electric guitar swagger. Among its knuckle-ball love songs are "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" (the singer admires how the French symbolist poets expressed affection) and "Head" (a bummed-out meditation on oral sex). There's also a shimmering cover of "They Don't Know" by the late, great English singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl.
She Says: "I am a not-at-all-closet huge Ke$ha fan – I actually have her logo on my ankle! My friend and I went to see her last year, and we got matching tattoos. I'm fascinated by the whole pop-star thing, and I think she's a really good pop songwriter. I do "Blind" as the bare bones song, to give people a different perspective on it."
Hear for Yourself: The sweetly tortured "To Love Somebody":
by Will Hermes
Sounds Like: A super-crunk, blacklight warehouse party surrounded by four separate Carnival parades.
For Fans Of: Major Lazer, Buraka Som Sistema, Machel Montano
Why You Should Pay Attention: A go-hard blend of peak rave synths and traditional Afro-Curaçaoan tambú music, Kuenta i Tambú (or K i T, for short) translates as "words and drums" in the Caribbean language Papiamento. It's a spare distillation of the music these Amsterdam party-starters pay tribute to, "work songs" originating from slaves in the formerly Dutch-occupied island of Curaçao. Their bananas, just-released debut, Tambútronic, puts rhythm above all, alongside beat-blasts and dance-beseeching chants by gum-cracking lead vocalist Diamanta von Lieshdek. It's a "worldwide ting," as they say: high-impact, dutty-wining single "Jackhammer" has been remixed by like-minded stars of global bass music and upcoming dates around the world will leverage the party in 2014. (They're playing SXSW and doing a U.S. tour in early summer.)
They Say: "We played a block party in the Bronx, and I was dancing with this old lady, I think she must have been 70 or so," says Roël Calister, the group's mastermind. "And she was wining, going on her knees, you know! People went fanatic. I think it was the hypnotizing beats of our drums, the tambús, which are the most important part of our set."
Hear for Yourself: "Jackhammer" shames dance-floor half-assers with von Lieshdek's motivational chants:
by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
Sounds Like: Llewyn Davis's favorite pop group; Motown meets the Brill Building in jazzy, soulful, woulda-been Sixties chart toppers.
For Fans Of: Norah Jones, Pink Martini, Hurray for the Riff Raff
Why You Should Pay Attention: Launched as a country-jazz experiment at Boston's New England Conservatory in 2005, Lake Street Dive has evolved into the hardest-swinging pop quartet since Manhattan Transfer. Their upcoming second album, Bad Self Portraits, is a fresh, knowing collection of tunes that split the difference between Motown soul, Sixties pop zip, and British Invasion swagger. With award-winning jazz vocalist Rachael Price as their secret ingredient, LSD boasts an unflagging collective charisma and sense of humor that will take them far. Invited to join a roomful of idols at T Bone Burnett's Inside Llewyn Davis concert in New York, they found themselves mugging it up with Elvis Costello, who probably hasn't seen their sultry million-views YouTube take on the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back." But he should.
They Say: "We came out of the institutional jazz scene," says Price, "so it was a mischievous and crazy thing to decide to play three-chord pop. We wanted to make music that would garner younger fans, but we grew up listening to the Beatles and ended up playing music our parents love. We didn't think about demographics, just 'let's play pop.'"
Hear for Yourself: Price delivers the goods in the loping, explosive "Rental Love":
by Richard Gehr
Sounds Like: If the Cocteau Twins discovered a long-lost triplet who had slugged it out in space-pop groups and post-rock bands.
For Fans Of: Slowdive, Mogwai, the adjective "ethereal"
Why You Should Pay Attention: Literally "post-metal," this Parisian duo traded in the leather gauntlets and "corpse paint" they wore in their halcyon days as teenaged black-metal hellions for a dream-pop second act with sweaters and clear complexions. The eight flickering, shimmery tracks on the group's fourth and latest, Shelter, have more in common genetically with Sigur Rós than Satyricon. Moody and serene, the album plays like metal in photo negative: The guitar lines jangle and reverberate, the drums wash in and out, and frontman Neige sings in a way that seems absolument devoid of machismo. Their transformation was convincing enough they were able to get Sigur Rós buddy Birgir Jón Birgisson to produce and dream-pop O.G. Neil Halstead of Slowdive to sing on the appropriately Slowdive-y "Away."
They Say: "I felt a bit bored about all this metal stuff from some years ago," says Neige. "A lot of old fans are completely lost. They don't understand why a band that could be metal before would change to something else. People think they know better than me what Alcest is. It's crazy.
"In Australia, we had a mosh in the audience, which was quite funny. This music is very, very calm and very serene and there was almost a fight in the audience. It's so funny when you play this very dreamy and ethereal music and you see guys moshing. It's completely weird."
Hear for Yourself: The intoxicating, splendiferous, Homeric 10-minute album closer "Délivrance":
by Kory Grow
Sounds Like: Sometimes even the Alternative Nation gets the blues
For Fans Of: PJ Harvey, the Breeders, Sharon Van Etten
Why You Should Pay Attention: Will Oldham called on Olsen to sing on his 2011 album Wolfroy Goes to Town and her quivering, angelic voice often stole the show. She's currently Bon Iver's labelmate on indie powerhouse Jagjaguwar and her upcoming second album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, fluctuates between sparse songs of introspection and bluesy numbers that still can convey optimism. Case in point: The first song is called "Unfucktheworld."
She Says: "[My music] changes from quiet melodies to rock and roll – some might venture to say its psych-folk. I hope listeners can pick up on something meaningful and, if not, something fun."
Hear for Yourself: Twang-punker "Hi-Five"
by Mike Ayers