Sounds Like: Super-fly nuggets from soul and rock's late-Seventies crossover heyday, rediscovered by the son of a gospel singer.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Harding has worked as a backup singer for Cee Lo Green, spent time in a Georgia rap group Proseed and currently plays in Black Lips guitarist Cole Alexander's quirky Night Sun. Now the Atlanta-via-Michigan singer has put his efforts into a blend of soul and rock that he calls "slop 'n' soul": "I take the bits and pieces that I have, which in Southern culture they call 'slop' – that's what you give to pigs – and soul is what I grew up on, so that's the foundation." His debut, Soul Power, spans funky guitar-centered rave-ups like "Keep on Shining" to the apocalypse-themed rocker "Surf," which Harding says was inspired by The Walking Dead.
He Says: "I love soul music. I love all music, but I could always sing. When I was doing rap, I would add elements of what I'm doing now. I'm just going back to my roots, and it's something I can do forever. I can't necessarily be an 80-year-old rapper, but I can definitely sing soul songs and sing music for as long as I'm alive."
Hear for Yourself: Harding's effortless cool and bluesy guitar solo are the perfect soundtrack for a half-nude beach stroll in his NSFW clip for "Next Time." By Kory Grow
For Fans Of: Adele, Annie Lennox, Brandi Carlile
Why You Should Pay Attention: After a jazzy debut on Blue Note, two years singing in Hancock's touring ensemble, and a four-day Detox session with Dre in L.A., Kristina Train put out the soul-baring tapestry Dark Black in the U.K. in late 2012. Her reward? Getting dropped from an impatient Mercury Records four months later. By Train's own admission, the material was dead in the water until the Boss heard her last year. He told NPR she's "very Dusty Springfield." Adding, "There's a song called 'Dark Black' that's fantastic. I love that." Equally evocative is Train's reimagining of the Jackie Wilson single "I'm Wandering" featured in a high-concept Lexus ad. Her cover of the Waterboys' "How Long Will I Love You" impressed the band's frontman, Mike Scott, so much that he invited her to sing on their new album. After bustling times in New York and London, Savannah-raised Train relocated to a farmhouse older than the state of Tennessee near Nashville, and is working on an Americana album called Root Down. "My best work is when I'm feeling uncomfortable," she says. "That's probably why I move around a lot."
She Says: Train has embraced her new Nashville digs. "I like going out on a Tuesday night and hearing Jim Oblon and Bucky Baxter play in a stinky, smoky bar on the far side of town, then hearing Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris sing 'Love Hurts' in a tiny room called the Basement on Thursday," she says. "My first two albums seem like biopsies under a microscope of specific times or situations in my life. I never meant to be a confessional artist, but I guess life got in the way. I'm really looking forward to Root Down finally showing who I am as a whole. I can finally look forward and not back."
Hear for Yourself: Her cover of the 1990 Waterboys single "How Long Will I Love You" is like Chrissie Hynde in torch-song mode. By Reed Fischer
Sounds Like: Rap making it rain in the VIP section of your favorite Atlanta strip club.
For Fans Of: 2 Chainz, Travis Porter, Migos
Why You Should Pay Attention: The Atlanta rap scene is famous for celebrating the good life with no apologies, and you can add K Camp to the growing list. The video for the Marietta-raised 24-year-old's breakout "Money Baby" finds him clutching a wad of dollar bills as he cavorts with bikini models in a mansion pool. A second smash, "Cut Her Off," inspired remixes from Rick Ross, T.I. and Wiz Khalifa, earning K Camp a deal with Interscope. But his origins were far more modest: After abandoning plans to study business management at University of West Georgia, he spent years paying dues on Atlanta's talent show circuit. A regional hit with Mykko Montana on 2012's "Do It" turned disastrous when K Camp – as he claims – didn't get the proper co-writing recognition. But with Interscope re-releasing his mixtape In Due Time and "Cut Her Off" going viral as it soars up Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop charts, Camp is getting his rewards. "Atlanta's popping right now," he confirms.
He Says: "I did all that, man… Open mics, performing in different cities for a Ciroc bottle. Now they give me the Ciroc and that cash. We don't want just one Ciroc bottle no more. We want five bottles, and wings and Red Bull. We want all that, we want everything."
Hear for Yourself: In "Cut Her Off," K Camp explains what to do to a girl with a foul attitude. By Mosi Reeves
Sounds Like: Punk rock battling the patriarchy while doling out melody under the table.
For fans of: Hole, L7, Fucked Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: Mish Way is one of the smartest and fiercest singers in the underground, and on the upcoming Deep Fantasy her band (now a trio) modulate their sound beyond breathtaking tantrums. See the "Snake Jaw," a brass-knuckled jeremiad about body image; the soaring "In Your Home;" and "I Believe You," a sexual assault meditation inspired in part by Cherie Curie's memoir Neon Angel. Way is also a sharp and hilarious prose writer who riffs on music, sexuality and other hot-button topics across the Internet. Her Talkhouse essay on screaming is a useful introduction.
They Say: "For every single woman I know, our body image is something we stress about constantly, because of all the media images out there," says Way. "I wanted to talk about that. I miss when people talked about this stuff in music. As a teenage girl, when I heard Kat Bjelland [of Babes In Toyland] screaming… the strength you feel, to hear that assertion, that confidence. It made me want to do that exact same thing."
Hear For Yourself: "Drown With The Monster" is a metal-tipped, Tokyo-versus-Godzilla attack. By Will Hermes
Sounds Like: Eurythmics' synth-heavy "Sweet Dreams" turned fever dream, with detours into sugary shoegaze and distorted power balladry.
For Fans of: Sky Ferriera, Siouxsie Sioux, Grimes
Why You Should Pay Attention: Still years away from legal drinking age, Kitten frontwoman Chloe Chaidez is already a raw, mesmerizing talent. Her father, who drummed in underground L.A. punk bands in the early Eighties, inspired his daughter to pick up the bass at age ten, ultimately forming kiddie alt-punkers Wild Youth. As Kitten, Chloe soon graduated from playing shows at the Smell (with an early version of FIDLAR backing her) to opening for the likes of fellow female-fronted powerhouses like No Doubt, Paramore and Charli XCX. After a self-released single, Kitten signed to Elektra Records. Kitten's now readied an audacious and eclectic debut for release this month, drawing on new wave, goth, punk, R&B and pop.
They Say: While Chaidez's father gave her a masters' course in cool underground punk bands, she dissented nevertheless. "New wave Eighties pop music was my own rebellion, as my dad didn't like Eurythmics, OMD or Roxy Music at all," she says. "A lot of the frontwomen for those Eighties bands made these characters; Missing Persons' Dale Bozzio sounds like an alien when she sings and I love that. When I sing, I try to sound like I'm from a different planet." When she wasn't pursuing music, Chloe was also a two-time state champion gymnast, though her two passions didn't always mix. "I tried to show off my gymnastic skills in London back in 2010," Chloe recalled. "I was swinging off these pipes and bumped into the pipe in front of me and chipped both my front teeth. I fell and was bleeding everywhere. Now I create a moment live for my gymnastic skills."
Hear for Yourself: Eighties throwback "Cut It Out" is soaring and fierce. By Andy Beta
Sounds Like: Crystalline electro pop, occasionally delivered as shards of glass.
For Fans Of: MS MR, Fever Ray, Phantogram.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Bands like Nonono are the reason music is one of Sweden's biggest exports. The trio – Stina Wappling and hip-hop/pop production team Astma & Rocwell – make music with elements of Lykke Li's wounded brooding and the Knife's icy allure. Their first single, "Pumpin Blood" even begins with the most memorable whistle hook since Peter Bjorn & John's "Young Folks." That melody has propelled "Pumpin Blood" to That One Song status. You know, That One Song – you've maybe heard in a cell phone commercial or a movie soundtrack or in a dressing room or on the Billboard Alternative chart. The cast of Glee even did their own joyous version of the song in April. On debut album We Are Only What We Feel, Wappling yearns for freedom – from lame lovers, everyday routine, even from gravity. But Nonono's melodies do all the flying that she can't.
They Say: The band owes their diverse sound – equal parts aching and exuberant – to their very different influences. "I grew up during the Eighties so I was heavy into a lot of U.K. bands like the Cure, Depeche Mode, and New Order," says Michel Rocwell. "Tobias ['Astmas' Jimson] was more into reggae and hip-hop. And Stina is very into singer-songwriters, Martha Wainwright and Bon Iver. I don't even think she listened to rock music growing up. It's a cool mix, we can bring everything that we like into this project, and it works. It's a nice harmony."
Hear for Yourself: We Are Only What We Feel's moody second single "Like the Wind." By Jessica Suarez
Sounds Like: A dance party held in Terminator 2's post-apocalyptic robot boneyard.
For Fans Of: Swans, Tim Hecker, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Why You Should Pay Attention: The Australian-born composer has been releasing deep, punishing, nuanced dronework for more than a decade, but his debut release on Mute, A U R O R A, has garnered enough enthusiasm to snowball into the ambient event of the year. "I had this day a couple weeks ago where I think I literally talked about myself for almost 72 hours, and I couldn't look at myself in the mirror after it," he says. "I just wanted to crawl under the blankets and rock myself to sleep." It's easy to understand the excitement. Though Frost has been known to play guitars and write for string ensembles (he once turned the Orchestra of the Capital Royal City of Krakow into a buzzing cicada farm), A U R O R A explores a palette of sounds closer to electronic and industrial music – it's a 40-minute suite for synthetic VHS grind, backslurps, wistful Bladerunner gloop, howling white noise and broken Detroit techno – plus the bell-ringing and junkyard clanging of Swans percussion abuser Thor Harris.
He Says: "[I wanted to] kind of do away with what I began to see as the kind of crutches that I was starting to lean on, sonically: guitars, pianos, strings. I don't know, I'm just done with them. And trying to circumvent this new generation of Arvo Pärt [and] Górecki fans that got themselves a copy of Sibelius [music software] and decided to call themselves "composers." It's sad piano and some kind of electronic atmosphere, and then that's a record. I really, really felt this intense need to get as far away from that as possible, because that's not what I'm about. More than being some kind of negative reaction to that, [A U R O R A is] more of a positive step towards making myself uncomfortable again. Getting into that position where you don't exactly know what you're doing. So when you remove all these things that make you feel comfortable, then who are you?
Hear for Yourself: The foreboding, chiming wasteland of "Venter." By Christopher R. Weingarten
Sounds Like: Chilly yet tantalizing electronic simulations of Chinese music.
For Fans Of: Laurie Anderson, Björk, Kode9
Why You Should Pay Attention: Asked to create a "cheap Chinese instrumental" knockoff of Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," Fatima al Qadiri spun the assignment into Asiatisch, an album-length meditation on the West's stereotypical view of China as an inscrutable, evil other. The Kuwaiti-born musician-artist has never been to China, but the ancient poetry, ping-pong sounds and Lady and the Tramp references she laces into her sinuous grime beats and synth choruses evoke a gleaming, if haunted, vision of the world's most populated country. (On her 2012 EP Desert Strike she exorcized childhood memories of playing videogames during the Gulf War.) Al Qadiri perches at the cusp of culture, commerce and politics. She's both a member of Gulf-based art collective GCC, who satirize the "performance" of international diplomacy, as well as an increasingly in-demand international DJ who has composed fashion-show ear candy for Kenzo and other luxury houses.
She Says: Al Qadiri probably won't be taking Asiatisch on the road any time soon. "I don't perform live except as a DJ. The idea of performing programmed electronic music strikes me as a little odd. If there's no live vocals, and if you don't have a $50,000 lighting rig and an immersive spectacle, I don't understand why anyone would want to perform electronic music live. I doesn't make sense to me."
Hear for Yourself: Nothing compares to Helen Feng Mandarin-izing Prince in "Shanzhai." By Richard Gehr
Sounds Like: The earnest all-together-now choruses of Arcade Fire interwoven with guitars that carry all of New Order's wistful lilt (with none of their atmospheric foreboding).
For Fans Of: Passion Pit, Yeasayer, Wild Nothing, the misremembered Eighties
Why You Should Pay Attention: Buzz sometimes takes a while to build. In 2012 this Nashville quintet formed around the nucleus of Keegan Dewitt, a singer-guitarist with a background scoring indie films, and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock. The band self-released its debut LP, Youth, more than a year ago, gathering more listeners last summer, when Bose chose the single "Thunder Clatter" to soundtrack a stylishly upbeat commercial. A 2014 reissue (with added tracks) from tastemaking NYC indie label Mom + Pop landed Wild Cub on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Conan, increasingly larger crowds and increasingly bigger clubs.
They Say: "The current [Nasvhville] music scene is one of the strangely positive results of the music business struggling so mightily," according to Dewitt. "For so long, Nashville was a town almost entirely centered around the industry of songwriting. The struggles in recent years helped make that a much leaner and thinner component of the musical scene and allowed room for a lot of different types of music and bands to flicker into life… You've got the garage scene with Diarrhea Planet and Jeff the Brotherhood, singer-songwriters like Caitlin Rose and Tristen, and of course the big acts like the Black Keys and Jack White. Nashville feels the richest now because there are so many different creative people doing different things."
Hear for Yourself: "Thunder Clatter" is uplifting and tropically rippling. By Keith Harris
Sounds like: Peak hour at that unmarked club you had to convince your friends to travel to.
For Fans Of: Moodymann, Art Department, Kerri Chandler
Why You Should Pay Attention: A European producer whose cavernous, soulful house music would sound equally at home in a Berlin warehouse or a New Jersey roller rink, Dayne S draws equal inspiration from deep house and Steve Vai. "It's all really popular music," he explains, and a recent move to Berlin suggests that in the coming years Dayne's music will open up even more.
He Says: On the subject of his unusual composition process, Dayne explains, "I often jam on my guitar to bluesy backing tracks or to house music, or I just play something random, and when I get a nice melody or riff it's the magic moment where I can see nearly the whole track in my mind's eye. There's so much you can do on that instrument, from simple rhythms to bassline ideas and complex chord arrangements. It's just a great tool to translate feeling into music, and for me it's easier than just shifting midi blocks. I find that pretty uninspirational."
Hear for Yourself: "How I Do," the Tapesh collaboration that layers bass, keys and vocal snippets from your parents' favorite Marvin Gaye record until it once again becomes something fresh and powerful. By Nick Murray