10 New Artists You Need to Know: January 2016 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Artists You Need to Know: January 2016

Aurora, Daya, Troye Sivan and more

Aurora, Troye Sivan

Aurora and Troye Sivan are two of the new artists you should not miss this month

Courtesy of Glassnote, Laura Lewis

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: Top 40 bubblegum R&B singer Daya, grime sensation Lady Leshurr, metal-inflected trap DJ Lookas, critically acclaimed art-rapper Milo and more.

Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus

Sounds Like: Hyper-aware missives from a friend whose mind is always whirling.

For Fans Of: Eleanor Friedberger, Wye Oak, Sebadoh's "Rebound"  

Why You Should Pay Attention: Richmond-based Lucy Dacus has a knack for writing disarmingly open indie rock songs, with plainspoken lyrics that hit even harder thanks to her soft, sturdy alto. Her debut No Burden, which comes out February 26th, was recorded in Nashville over the course of a single day. Dacus's voice is surrounded by gently churning guitars with forays into dreampop (the fuzzed-out ending to the sturdy "Dreamtime") and stark acoustic tracks ("Trust," one of Dacus's earliest songs).

She Says: "Usually I'll just be walking from my house to somewhere else, and melodies and words will start coming up, and I'll have to run home to write it all down. I have a huge note on my phone where things just start popping up. It doesn't make that much sense to me at the time, but once a song is finished, I can read into it and figure out who the characters are in my life. Hopefully when you listen to a song, you can say, 'That's me,' or 'That's someone I know' — you relate to it in a way that's cathartic."

Hear for Yourself: "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore" is a pitch-perfect portrait of a woman feeling boxed in by the way her peers view her, with Dacus' thoughts about potential personas grounded by a steady chug. Maura Johnston


Sharon Esquivel


Sounds Like: A dream conjured up during a quiet storm

For Fans Of: The S.O.S. Band, Klymaxx, Janelle Monáe and Miguel's "Primetime"

Why You Should Pay Attention: Since the release of their first EP in 2011, this Los Angeles-based R&B trio — made up of twins Paris and Amber Strother with Anita Bias — has made waves with their inviting, harmony-rich brand of R&B. They've opened for Babyface and Prince, and they appeared on Robert Glasper's star-studded Black Radio. Tracks like "The Story" and "The Greatest" nod to the lush textures of Quiet Storm and smooth jazz while having their sights set on the future. Bias and Amber Strother's vocals blend and bend into bliss, while Paris Strother's meticulously arranged instrumentals are tailor-made for whiling away an afternoon. Fizzy love songs and extended analog-synth fantasias are all over King's self-released debut album, which comes out on February 5th.

They Say: "All of this coming together [was the result of] us collaborating together and creating with ourselves," says Paris Strother. "In the last few years of getting to know each other better, we've approached this synergy where we're sharing ideas while completing each other's musical sentences. … There's a ton of analog synths in there, [and] we have a LinnDrum now. It's kind of an addiction of mine, hanging out on eBay and finding old vintage synths. There's also the modern touch of making sounds, and using sampling to really beef up the sounds that we like — we went and bought a cowbell and a hi-hat. [Our aesthetic is] coming from all over the place. But it's largely based on the warmth of analog synths; we want to recreate the feeling we get from listening to music from a particular era, when those synths were just coming out and changing the musical landscape."

Hear for Yourself: The gently boastful "The Greatest" makes romantic victory sound utterly sweet. Maura Johnston

Troye Sivan

Laura Lewis

Troye Sivan

Sounds Like: A John Green book set to a dream-pop soundtrack

For Fans of: Broods, the Neighbourhood, romantic suburban angst

Why You Should Pay Attention: The South Africa-born, Australia-raised Troye Sivan had a Top Ten album last month with Blue Neighborhood and lead single "Wild" has more than 12 million YouTube views. Though he's only 20 years old, stardom has been 10 years in the making. As a pre-teen he began acting on stage (Oliver!, Waiting for Godot) and on screen (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but he got his real start just over three years ago with his YouTube channel, becoming a popular vlogger. Still, before he became internet famous, music had been his first love and he released four EPs since 2007 before finally unveiling his debut, Blue Neighbourhood, a lush electropop collection that tackles angsty teen romance in an idyllic manner. "I was very limited for a very long time," Sivan explains of why he waited so long to release a full-length album. "The song that ended up getting me signed to my record label was a song called 'The Fault in Our Stars,' which was my first time producing and writing everything. I did it all myself, and it took ages. If I listen back now, I'm pretty sure I hear glitches."

For the singer-songwriter, not only did he find pop icons like Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls influential, but he also credits the discovery of Swedish and Scandinavian artists like Robyn and Donkeyboy as a teenager with expanding his ideas of what pop can be. "It was mind-blowing to me that pop music could be really smart and cool and still be pop music and still make you feel as good and still be catchy." Later on, artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey — "[With her lyrics,] it's guaranteed some young person is going to get it tattooed on their body" —paved the way for Blue Neighborhood, showing him ways that youth can be described in smart ways while still reaching a large audience.

He Says: "Most of my visual inspiration comes from spending a lot of time online, scrolling through beautiful Tumblr blogs and finding really cool artists and photographers on Instagram. The artist who did my artwork for the Wild EP and Blue Neighbourhood was an artist I found on Tumblr from Taiwan. I also found the typographer who did the Wild handwriting for the cover art online as well. Most of my discovery and inspiration for visuals comes from online."

Hear for Yourself: The gorgeous, dreamy "Wild" previewed his sweet and whimsical debut LP. Brittany Spanos


Chán Andre


Sounds Like: An explosion of bubblegum R&B

For Fans of: Alessia Cara, 1989-era Taylor Swift, actual 1989 pop hits

Why You Should Pay Attention: Seventeen-year-old Daya has a hit creeping up the charts with the infectious "Hide Away" — it just cracked the Top 10 on the Pop Songs chart while the video has hit over 4 million YouTube views since its debut at the end of October. "It's crazy how quickly it can go from just being another song on iTunes to being well known by and downloaded by thousands and thousands of people," the young electro-pop singer says. On her self-titled debut EP, Daya, born Grace Tandon, leans towards infectious bubblegum but her influences are more on the softer side of rock. "I think the first concert I attended was Coldplay with my dad when I was around eight years old," she recalls. "I remember looking out into the sea of phone lights as Chris Martin belted 'Yellow' on the piano and deciding that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life." This spring, she'll tour with Vine sensations Jack & Jack and work on her debut full-length, due later this year.

She Says: "I have a lot of surprises in store. I promise it will never be a boring ride! I honestly just hope to continue creating music that people can relate to and connect with in a personal way."

Hear for Yourself: "Hide Away" — currently at Number 31 on the Hot 100 — is a breezy sleeper hit likely still on the rise. Brittany Spanos


Spencer Wells


Sounds Like: Hyper-literate, thoroughly self-engrossed art rap

For Fans Of: Open Mike Eagle, Serengeti, Busdriver

Why You Should Pay Attention: Rory Ferreira's immersion in underground hip-hop dates back to his youth: His uncle is respected Chicago MC Nizm, and he has known Open Mike Eagle since childhood. The latter led him to Nocando, a host at the iconic L.A. beats showcase Low End Theory, and owner of the Hellfyre Club imprint that released his early work. While Milo (who took his name from the hero in Norton Juster's children's classic The Phantom Tollbooth) honed his craft through modest releases like 2012's Milo Takes Baths, he studied philosophy at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. His collaboration with beatmaker Kenny Segal, So the Flies Don't Come, marks his finest work to date, and earned a position on Rolling Stone's best rap albums of 2015 list. "I want to focus on radical freedom in the art that I'm making, and the way that I live as an artist," says Milo, who dropped out of school to focus on music, and now runs his Ruby Yacht imprint in Milwaukee. "I have a perspective that people think of as not that common in rap, and for that reason alone it has value."

He Says: A highlight from So the Flies Don't Come is "Napping Under the Echo Tree," which has a beat eerily similar to the Twin Peaks theme and a title inspired by a Henry Dumas poem. "I had been reading a lot of [Martin] Heidegger, man," he says, adding that he consumed the German intellectual's collection of lectures, What is Called Thinking? "I flew to L.A., and I had all this cumbersome, weird, mid-20th century German continental philosophy words in my mind. Kenny had a very weird beat that he had done. I was thinking about Sun Ra and Heidegger, and how [both are] obsessed with being in time. And there's Henry Dumas who is kinda like a talk box in a lot of ways for Sun Ra — as a friend and collaborator — and his poetry is obsessed with being in time. So I wanted to make a piece that's a synthesis of all those different people."

Hear For Yourself: The lo-fi clip for "Re: Animist" finds Milo and his Ruby Yacht crew exploring the woods and practicing tai chi. Mosi Reeves

Roly Porter

Photo Courtesy of Roly Porter

Roly Porter

Sounds Like: Unsettling, wordless sonic narratives that are sometimes blissful and sometimes sinister.

For Fans of: Haxan Cloak, Tim Hecker, Philip Glass's collaborations with Godfrey Reggio

Why You Should Pay Attention: The onetime member of dubstep duo Vex'd is returning with Third Law, his first album for acclaimed avant-garde electronic label Tri Angle. Porter's unpredictable forays into composition and narrative make for an album that contains moments of quiet beauty and ominous fury. This is music that's constantly in flux, challenging while remaining accessible. Devotees of heavy metal, ambient and contemporary composition will all find elements to embrace.

He Says: After two albums with relatively clear narrative lines, Porter opted for a slightly different approach for Third Law. "It was more about sonic ideas that I wanted to explore, that had to do with pace and rhythm and things like that, finding new ways to inject speed and beats and rhythmic ideas that didn't fall into any genre ideas but that propelled this soundscape along in a different way," he said. "It's kind of about pace and intensity, but without using any traditional rhythm structures." Porter notes his fondness for metal and noise, both of which can be heard here. "I grew up loving metal, and I'm still listening to a lot of metal now," he says. "But I'm still waiting for some kind of variation on metal that works for me. The intensity and the noise is there, but there's some variation, especially with bass ideas, that hasn't happened yet, and I'm still hoping will happen."

Hear for Yourself: The exhilarating "Known Space," which closes Third Law, embraces the low end and the abrasive before letting in an unsettling chorus of voices and giving way to John Carpenter-like minimal synths. Tobias Carroll

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