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10 New Artists You Need to Know: March 2017

Marian Hill, H.E.R., Vindata, Sigrid and more

10 artists rolling stone, artists you need to know,

The New Respects and Sigrid are artists you need to know for March.

Cody Myers, Francesca Allen

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: a still-faceless R&B mystery, a Los Angeles jazz shredder and the most Shazam-ed band in America.

Chicano Batman

Josue Rivas

Chicano Batman

Sounds Like: The hippest prom band ever, exuding classic soul, cosmic consciousness and righteous resistance.

For Fans of: Os Mutantes, Los Freddy’s, ? and the Mysterians

Why You Should Pay Attention: The quartet has been called Los Angeles’ house band, and they’ve been selling out small theaters regularly on a West Coast run that follows opening slots on tours with Jack White and the Claypool Lennon Delirium. Their audiences consist largely of Latinxs vibing ecstatically to a classic soul sound, which they deliver in color-coordinated tuxedos, puffy shirts and bow ties. While Mexican cumbia and banda bass lines still find their way into the mix, the band’s new Freedom Is Free is both their most lucidly soul-stirring music and a step or two removed from the prog-rocking psychedelia informing much of their first two releases.

They Say: What about those tuxes? “The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Los Freddy’s and all these bands from Venezuela and Latin America were rocking them on the covers of their records in the Sixties and Seventies, so that’s definitely an inspiration,” says frontman Bardo Martinez. “Our bassist, Eduardo [Arenas], was the one who actually suggested, ‘Hey, let’s get suited and booted!’ He threw it down. We’re all aesthetically on that boat, but he’s the one who actually stepped into the vintage shop – and it was a stroke of luck that what he bought fit everybody in the band. Off the rack, man! It’s been 10 years, brother, and we’ve gone through a few of them. We try to keep it classic, man; we try to keep it polyester.”

Hear for Yourself: On the creamy slice of positive soul power “Freedom Is Free,” Bardo croons, “You got your guns up on display/But you can’t control how I feel, no way.” Richard Gehr

Sigrid

Francesca Allen

Sigrid

Sounds Like: A fire-throated singer-songwriter who as sweet as she is salty

For Fans of: Lorde, Astrid S, Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”

Why You Should Pay Attention: After finding success in her native Norway, Scandinavian alt-pop star Sigrid is releasing an Island Records EP on April 7th. Four years ago, the now-20-year-old was asked to perform with her brother’s band but under one condition: no covers. She wrote a song called “Sun” that was eventually picked up by Norwegian National Radio, helping give her some local shine. While her music career was picking up, Sigrid chose to stay in high school, still considering a future as a lawyer. She changed her mind once she finished school and moved to the Norwegian city of Bergen to pursue music full-time, linking up with producers and eventually getting major-label contracts in both Europe and America. Her as-yet-untitled EP pulls influences from her parents’ obsessions with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell as well as her own interest in grime.

“I was very shy as a child,” she says of blending her love for grime with folkier, softer pop. “I started doing covers and writing and got confident from that, so that led to me liking more aggressive music. I find it interesting when you can mix that aggressiveness into pop tunes.”

She Says: “It was about feeling not wanted in a room,” Sigrid says of the disastrous recording session that inspired her debut single. “It’s quite difficult when you’re going to write a song [with someone else], and when you’re writing a song it’s about chemistry. I find it quite hard to write when you feel like it’d almost be better if you weren’t in the room. The thing that was discouraging the most was the comments. I don’t know if it was my gender or my age or what it was, but I was made to feel that my opinion wasn’t as important. And that’s just not OK. It’s not OK to treat people that way.”

Hear for Yourself: “Don’t Kill My Vibe” shows how much bite she has in her booming voice by the time the chorus hits. Brittany Spanos

Cameron Graves

Anna Webber

Cameron Graves

Sounds Like: The house pianist for the party at the end of the universe, pulling in signals from John Coltrane, J Dilla, Meshuggah and points beyond.

For Fans of: Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Thundercat

Why You Should Pay Attention: A founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective that thundered to global renown with the release of Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, Cameron Graves, 35, cut his teeth playing the classic works of Bach, Schubert and Chopin before he hit Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. There, he bonded with Washington over a shared love of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and the mainstream jazz canon. “I met him when I was around 15, and we both would just hang out and listen to Coltrane all day, and practice with each other,” says Graves, “just ‘shed on tunes like ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘A Love Supreme.'”

Still, spare hours spent shredding out Van Halen and Slipknot tunes on guitar came in handy during Graves’s stint in Jada Pinkett Smith’s nu-metal project, Wicked Wisdom. Since then, he’s also held his own alongside one of the heaviest pioneers of fusion jazz, bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke. Mix up those experiences, stir in a taste for Prince’s revolutionary funk and J Dilla’s mixing-board skills, then add a twist of cosmic insight gleaned from The Urantia Book, an esoteric tome that purports to sort out the whole of creation. The result is Planetary Prince, Graves’s debut album as a bandleader, newly released on the Mack Avenue label.

He Says: “In sports, we always revere the most talented person on the field, the most talented person on the court, and it’s through their extreme skills that we end up revering that person, and creating a celebrity out of that person. And that is exactly what my mission is, personally: to do that in music, to showcase the virtuoso and to try to make the virtuoso a celebrity again, because I think that’s been lost in our society with all the … I kind of call it ‘plastic music.’ It’s brought the bar down in terms of the talent and the quality of the playing.”

Hear for Yourself: “Satania Our Solar System,” the opening track on Planetary Prince, presents all the essentials: a classically poised introduction, a writhing beat equally beholden to slick funk and prog-metal, serpentine electric bass lines, and lean, tight jazz-combo interaction. Steve Smith

Rayvn Lenae

Jimmy Fontaine

Ravyn Lenae

Sounds Like: A young woman finding her voice amidst sounds and colors

For Fans of: Solange, Jhené Aiko circa Sailing Souls, Kelela

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ravyn Lenae is a high school senior – she graduates from the Chicago High School for the Arts this summer – who crafts thoughtful and highly lyrical electronic soul. On her 2015 debut Moon Shoes, reissued by Atlantic Records last year, she sings about life as a dreamy, sometimes-melancholy teenager in a softly assertive voice. Her just-released follow-up, the appropriately titled Midnight Moonlight, delves into more romantic concerns with the same quiet grace. From January to March, the 18-year-old toured across the country with hotly tipped rapper Noname. “Before I left, we had put together an academic plan for me where I would basically be doing school online,” she says. “I thought it would be much easier juggling tour and school. But there’s literally no time to even sleep.” Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Lenae knew she wanted to pursue music at an early age. She sang in church and studied guitar and piano before she linked up with producer Monte Booker, who helped assemble her two EPs. “Honestly, I didn’t know it was a project,” she says of Moon Shoes. “I wasn’t creating with an intention, I was creating solely for releasing my emotions and being creative,” .

She Says: Lenae likes to connect colors with emotions. “I’m a very colorful person,” she says. When asked to describe the difference between Moon Shoes and Midnight in the Moonlight, she explains, “Moon Shoes is very pink and yellow, and maybe orange, very bright, whereas Midnight Moonlight is purple and blue and, I don’t know, gray. Not to say those colors are sad, because a lot of times people like to equate those colors with sadness, or [being] blue. But those colors are more emotion-felt, and deep, and sultry.”

Hear for Yourself: In the short but evocative “Alive,” Ravyn Lenae breaks free of a romantic attachment with no regrets. Mosi Reeves

Nico Niquo

Jordan Obarzanek

Nico Niquo

Sounds Like: Ambient music for hyper-digital hyper-realities

For Fans of: Oneohtrix Point Never, Ryuichi Sakamoto, 2814

Why You Should Pay Attention: Nico Niquo is getting the rare vinyl release from Orange Milk Records, the taste-making cassette label existing at the Tron-bike parallels of vaporwave, experimental electronic music and cutting-edge graphic design. The Melbourne-based 23-year-old born Nico Callaghan creates drifts that nostalgically soothe like some synthetic Windows 3.0–era New Age record but also yearn with the melancholy only time can provide. His second album, In a Silent Way, has the textures of dance music (he’s a fan of electronic experimentalists like Jam City and Huerco S.), but instead of throbbing, it swirls in a beatless cloud cluster. “Making music inspired by dance music, grid-like structures and Futurism is really fun because you can let your imagination run kind of wild,” says Callaghan, “but I wanted to give myself a really odd constraint to drive me to make something a bit more unusual, so no beats. A beat implies something very distinct, but I think it’s possible to make more evocative music in a slightly askew and odd sonic environment.”

He Says: “There are only a handful of ‘instruments’ on the album – some clarinet, saxophone and mallet percussion that friends and I recorded. Apart from that, everything else is kind of like a cheap, plastic impression of an instrument or something divorced from reality altogether. But the main instrumental sound I built everything else around is the ‘eski’ grime synth that Wiley brought to real prominence about 15 years ago. To me, that synth sound is the most futuristic, evocative sound ever.”

Hear for Yourself: The title track to In a Silent Way is a cinematic cluster of arpeggios that recall an anime rendering of Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi. Christopher R. Weingarten

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