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10 New Artists You Need to Know: June 2015

Raury, D.R.A.M., X Ambassadors and more

chelsea wolfe and d.r.a.m.

Shaina Hedlund; Quentin Felder

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: The man behind the song that makes Beyoncé "so happy," the band you keep hearing on that Jeep commercial, Ariana Grande's favorite songwriter, some West African future shock and more. 

Mbongwana Star

Florent de La Tullaye

Mbongwana Star

Sounds Like: Congolese rumba and soukous guitar riffs bubbling and blurting as abrasively percussive Kinshasa street musicians and an Irish-expatriate studio wizard take it into the red

For Fans of: Konono No. 1, Adrian Sherwood, Staff Benda Bilili

Why You Should Pay Attention: Last year, producer Liam Farrell (a.k.a. Doctor L) was invited to the Congo's capitol to record a group of musicians who included Coco Yakala Ngambali and Théo Nozonza Nsutuvuidi, former members of Staff Benda Bilili, a band of mostly wheelchair-bound paraplegics who broke up in 2013. Back home in France, Farrell says he stripped down about 70 percent of what he recorded, added some ridiculous Jean Claude Kamina Mulodi guitar parts, and processed everything heavily. The results are a startling blend of West African traditionalism and Afrofuturism, a science-fiction sound full of nasty percussion, outer-space sonorities and sweet Congolese guitar riffs. Like their friends Konono No. 1, whose amplified mbira thumb pianos embellish a track on their debut, From Kinshasa, Mbongwana Star's music sounds very real, weird and uncompromised — and the group's live shows suggest stranger things to come. Earlier this month, From Kinshasa was named one of Rolling Stone's 45 Best Albums of 2015 So Far

They Say: "This project happened with no premeditation, nothing," says Farrell. "It all happened by accident. I came over a few times and recorded outdoors, on the street. Everything's very noisy. Kinshasa is full of Baptist churches on every street corner, and everyone's running generators because there's no electricity. You've got to stay focused because it's kind of funky. They don't know what a producer is or what a recording studio is, and it's only in bourgeois countries where you can afford to be interested in 'art' and 'producing.' People are so poor here that there's no instruments. They take bits and bobs and make stuff, which is brilliant because it's new sounds. When you record it, most people will say that 'it sounds electronic,' but it's just a guy banging on a dustbin."

Hear for Yourself: In the video for "Malukayi" (How Are You?), a spaceman walks the streets of Kinshasa as Konono No. 1 join the band. Richard Gehr

Chelsea Wolfe

Ben Chisholm

Chelsea Wolfe

Sounds Like: Lorde if she was actually goth, evil Björk on downers

For Fans of: PJ Harvey, Jarboe, Zola Jesus

Why You Should Pay Attention: She's the reigning dark priestess of goth-scarred art rock, romanticizing "Grey Days" and "Simple Death" in hazy, haunting songs that span grinding industrial, sparse folk, doomy metal and droning noise. It's foreboding stuff — and yet Queens of the Stone Age took her out on tour and the producers of Game of Thrones chose a track of hers (2013's "Feral Love") for the series' Season Four trailers. Wolfe's latest record, Abyss, is her most intense and dynamic yet. "We've been touring a lot for the past few years so I think naturally I had it in my head that I wanted my new album to have songs that would translate well live," she says. "And what I was writing about was really heavy, so even the more subdued songs have that feeling to them." 

She Says: The album's heavy subject matter includes Wolfe's lifelong struggle with sleep paralysis, a phenomenon in which a person is unable to move or speak while passing between wakefulness and slumber; it's often accompanied by a sensation of bodily pressure or choking, as well as terrifying hallucinations. "I've always had sleep and dream issues, since I was a kid," Wolfe says. "I've dealt with sleep paralysis for a long time and recently starting talking about it with other people, comparing experiences. I didn't set out to channel it into the music, it's just, I think having that connection to an in-between state for so many years started creeping into the way I wrote about things — sometimes the anxiety or strangeness of it would follow me into my day." 

Hear for Yourself: Wolfe strings gossamer vocals over metal-on-metal scraping and piston-pumping percussion on Abyss' unnerving yet strangely seductive opener "Carrion Flowers." Brandon Geist

victoria monet

Victoria Monét

Sounds Like: Lovelorn R&B, restless youth, whispered conversations in the night, spilled secrets

For Fans of: Tinashe, Jhené Aiko, Brandy

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ariana Grande has tweeted that Victoria Monet McCants is her "favorite writer": The 22-year-old has penned hits for Fifth Harmony, Jordin Sparks, Chris Brown and Kanye West. Now, she's emerging from the studio shadows and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Frank Ocean, Ester Dean and other songwriters-turned-pop hyphenates. Monet has a recording deal with Atlantic, but she opted to release her first project, Nightmares & Lullabies, independently. "My goal is to deliver the best product I can directly to my fans, and not come up with excuses about record label drama," she says of her warm, intimate solo debut, which features guest spots from T.I., B.o.B and Ty Dolla $ign. It's the kind of scrappiness she's exhibited throughout her young career. As a teenager working various odd jobs in her native Sacramento, she used MySpace to catch the attention of R&B veteran Rodney Jerkins. He brought her to Los Angeles for his girl group, Purple Reign, but despite a development deal with Motown the project languished. Undeterred, Monét made quick friends in the industry, and landed her first major credit with Diddy-Dirty Money's Last Train to Paris. Together with her current production (and romantic) partner Tommy Brown, she's building a behind-the-scenes reputation with a goal of front-and-center stardom.

She Says: In addition to her solo music, Victoria Monét is "about 10 songs in" on Ariana Grande's forthcoming third album. "I started working with her four years ago, back when she wasn't on the music industry's radar. She was more of a Nickelodeon icon at the time," remembers Monét. "She's the type of artist who's really loyal. If something works, she'll keep doing it. No matter how successful she gets, she'll reach down and bring people up with her, which I really appreciate."

Hear for Yourself: Filmed with ancient VHS technology, Monét's "90s Babies" clip pays homage to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Seattle Supersonics, 2Pac and FUBU. Mosi Reeves

daniel bachman

John Andrews

Daniel Bachman

Sounds Like: Artfully crafted solo acoustic guitar with storytelling capabilities than belie the lack of lyrics

For Fans of: Jack Rose, William Tyler, John Fahey 

Why You Should Pay Attention: Guitar savant Daniel Bachman's seventh album, River, is a rippling suite of the tradition-spanning solo picking he's honed since his teens. Inspired by the Rappahannock River in his native state of Virginia, it was recorded and mixed last year by Brian Haran (Vetiver, Hiss Golden Messenger, Megafaun) at Pinebox Recording in Bachman's current home of Durham, North Carolina. "We did everything first take, pretty much," he says in a warm, southern accent. "I was fresh off the road, so all that stuff was tight anyway." Alongside his intricate, meditative combination of folk, psychedelia and blues are re-toolings of "Levee" by his hero Jack Rose and William Moore's nearly 90-year-old "Old Country Rock." The first proper studio experience for the frequent collaborator of Ryley Walker sounds like the satisfying results of 10 years of exhaustive practicing and year-round touring for half a decade. To replenish his powers for tension and release, Bachman has disappeared into the wild landscape that informs his work. For most of the summer, he plans to stay off the grid working with the Virginia State Park Youth Conservation Corps Program. He'll spend his days without cell service — but not without an instrument. "I'm hoping when I come back I'm gonna be charged up to work on new stuff, you know what I mean?" he says

He Says: "I own three [guitars] currently. I got a mid-Eighties Guild, an early Seventies Martin and a no-name lap guitar I bought in Nashville a couple years ago. I play electric every once in a while for fun. I'm not a total gearhead. I have what I have, and they serve their purpose. I've totally honed it in at this point — even down to the fingerpicks I use. It's like finding that perfect pair of shoes and then you keep buying them forever. . . . I've got a setup in my house where I can sit down with a mic and run it into the computer, but when I do that by myself I get really frustrated. I'll hate it. I'm not an aggressive person, but I'll get super aggressive, throw my guitar and scream and stuff. [Working in a studio], you can't act like a baby around other people. So you kinda gotta just go in and knock it out. Having someone else push the button, that's the biggest difference."

Hear for Yourself: The 14-minute "Won't You Cross Over to That Other Shore" provides plenty of drama through dynamic shifts, willful speed and the right alternate tuning. Reed Fischer