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10 New Artists You Need to Know: May 2014

Meet the rising stars of rock, hip-hop, EDM, roots and more acts shaping your tomorrow

10 Artists You Need to Know May 2014

Piper Ferguson; Ren Radka

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: Kitten's Eighties rock makeover, Kristina Train's Springsteen-approved croon, K Camp's slow-rolling Atlanta rap and Ben Frost's deep drones.


Ren Radka


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

Ben Frost

Bökur Sigthorsson

Ben Frost

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

Fatima Al Qadiri

Dom Smith

Fatima al Qadiri

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

Wild Cub

Alysse Gafkjen

Wild Cub

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

Dayne S

Matheus Fernandes

Dayne S

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

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