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10 New Artists You Need to Know: November 2015

Maluma, Dilly Dally, Dawin and more

Julien Baker, Dilly Dally

Jake Cunningham, Pooneh Ghana

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: reggaeton sensation Maluma, raucous Toronto indie rockers Dilly Dally, dreamy vaporwavers 2814 and more. 




Sounds Like: Quadratic equation rock performed by malfunctioning, sputtering appliances

For Fans of: Oxes, Bellini, Guerilla Toss

Why You Should Pay Attention: Like a Beefheart made for loft shows, Philadelphia-based fractal-rock quartet Palm's sounds improvisational while being rooted in utter precision. On their debut, Trading Basics, guitar parts deconstruct themselves in real time; bass lines dart and duck; drums propel the action while also seeming to comment on it. Vocalist-guitarists Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt's vocal harmonies add more tension to this outfit's heady mix. Palm are wrapping up a nationwide tour and are already preparing to head back into the studio and record album Number Two.

They Say: "For the most part, our music starts with a seed, and then we all come together and add our own elements to it," says Alpert. "It's important that we're all doing something, that the song is all of our parts. A lot of times, we like when the rhythm section takes the foreground of a song. We like to deconstruct what a pop song could be, and we like to be pretty jagged in our sound."

Hear for Yourself: The lurching, churning "Garden" shows off Palm's ability to create gorgeously realized chaos from ragged pieces. Maura Johnston

BJ the Chicago Kid


BJ the Chicago Kid

Sounds Like: The street-soul feel of New Jack Swing, updated for contemporary hip-hop listeners

For Fans of: The Black Hippy collective; D'Angelo; and, in the words of BJ himself, "Al Green with the vest on and the gold chains and no shirt"

Why You Should Pay Attention: Over the past couple years, Bryan James Sledge's gospel-influenced croon has lent an unforgettable touch to tracks by the contemporary scene's best conscious-minded rappers. That was BJ on Schoolboy Q's late-night reflection "Studio"; that was BJ again on Joey Bada$$'s mournful, boom-bapping "Like Me" — not to mention on tracks by Chance the Rapper, Big K.R.I.T., Dr. Dre and more. But his seeming overnight ubiquity was years in the making. Raised in the church-music world, he got his start in his native Chicago as a drummer before going on to work with soul greats like Mary Mary. From there, he moved on to writing songs and lacing vocal tracks for a who's-who of modern-day hip-hop and R&B greats, from Kanye to Kendrick to Mary J. Blige.

Though he self-released a 2012 full-length, Pineapple Now-Laters, his forthcoming effort for Motown, In My Mind, marks his proper major-label debut. Think Sixties-style soul brass and percussion, married with head-nodding beats and a much-needed infusion of old-school romance for the Tinder generation.

He Says: "I talked about the 'New Cupid' in so many interviews I had to write a song about it," BJ says of the album's gospel-inflected, Stax-flavored rave-up of the same name. "People would ask me in interviews, did I think love is important, or popular? Yes, I think love is important, but it's not popular. Cupid is very much busy in the club, rolling up weed, and smoking, and drinking cognac at the bar like everybody else. He's not doing his job like he used to. So I'll call myself the New Cupid."

Hear for Yourself: "Church," closing in on one million YouTube plays and featuring Chance the Rapper, neatly sums up BJ's deft straddling of multiple worlds. Over a loose breakbeat and funky strings, the crooner struggles to avoid a party girl's temptations and make it, instead, to his usual spot in the pews on Sunday morning. Arielle Castillo

Julien Baker

Jake Cunningham

Julien Baker

Sounds Like: Self-immolating anxiety set to reverberating guitar

For Fans of: Bon Iver, early Low, Throwing Muses

Why You Should Pay Attention: Memphis-based punk screamer turned singer-songwriter Julien Baker turned 20 only a couple months ago, and she's already playing her austere indie-folk supporting Wye Oak, Torres and EL VY. Her recently released debut, Sprained Ankle, contains nine sparse, beautifully morose coming-of-age tableaus finding the European lit major poetically reliving battles with addiction, car wrecks and feelings of worthlessness that enveloped her adolescence. On "Everybody Does" she delicately declares, "I know I'm a pile of filthy wreckage," and on "Something," she feels the "walls of my skull bend backwards" while missing a friend. Other than a few moments when she finds faith in God, the hope on the record lives in her gauzy, haunting guitar lines and the crystalline quality of her voice. "I think I really connect with sparseness," she says. "The less tools you have, the more you have to rely on the narrative of your lyrics." 

She Says: The album opens with "Blacktop" a song that alludes to drug use and a near-fatal car wreck. "Everything was going wrong in my life, and I wanted to be a self-destructive kid," she says of the teenage years that inspired it. "I was in that nihilistic phase of rejecting everything and being bitter at God. I was like, 'Why should I not get high and wander around my neighborhood?' Then I started to see God's presence show up in subtle ways. A lot later, when I was 16, I was leaving church in my first car — my mom's Honda Accord — in the middle of the day when a light pole fell on me and turned my sedan into a hot dog. Every part of the car caved in except for the space around my head. When they took the door off and I got out of the car, I was unscratched. I was covered in powdered glass, but I was not bleeding at all. I was like, 'This is insane.' I know people say there's a distinction between coincidence and miracles, but I think they overlap. Why, when I was putting all kinds of crazy chemicals in my body, why when I was going out to parties I shouldn't have been going to with people who may have been recklessly driving, why didn't I die? Because I have something else to do. 'Blacktop' is a pastiche of these experiences."

Hear for Yourself: From Baker's opening line — "Wish I could write songs about anything other than death" — "Sprained Ankle" is sad and beautiful. Kory Grow




Sounds Like: A shambolic mix of psychedelic blues and manic punk, ripping open the cushions of a vintage paisley couch and lighting the stuffing on fire

For Fans of: The Birthday Party, A Place to Bury Strangers, Kurt Vile

Why You Should Pay Attention: London trio Yak's introduction to Jack White's Third Man Records was a 10-minute stoner rock take on folk standard "Cumberland Gap," a distant cry from Lonnie Donegan's frenetic skiffle version that was a hit in the Fifties. According to the group's gregarious singer-guitarist Oliver Burslem — an ex-thrift store operator who used to host jam sessions in the shop's basement — the performance video reached White's friend Ben Swank of Soledad Brothers and the rest is garage-rock history. Following up hard-charging Fat Possum singles "Hungry Heart" and "Plastic People," the No EP just arrived on Third Man. Its three songs capture the group's blistering live energy and sinister melodic leanings in just over seven minutes. Produced by Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, the EP was recorded while bassist Andy Jones was in denial about a broken finger, which didn't slow him a bit. 

They Say: "[The No EP] didn't take much time," Burslem says. "We got it mixed, sent it to Third Man and they were really into it. It was kind of a painless experience. We tried not to fuck around with the initial live recordings we had that day. All of the bands we like, it's not too edited, I suppose. Once you start editing conversations or editing anything, it can kind of lose the charm of it. I always have loads of ideas. I sit at my desk here with notes, loads of nonsense. I try and fill my brain with as much clutter as possible, and then we get together as a band and vomit it all out.

Hear for Yourself: Loaded with amp-rattling feedback and Burslem's unfiltered musings at the top of his lungs, "No" is a sludgy garage stomper. Reed Fischer


Dream Catalogue


Sounds Like: A late night cruise through the cyber-future dream highway

For Fans of: Boards of Canada, Oneohtrix Point Never, Kavinsky

Why You Should Pay Attention: The Internet-birthed "vaporwave" aesthetic — highly nostalgic, highly reverbed, highly sampled — seemed like a trend destined to die in the place where irony met #feels. But as 2814, London performer HKE and his fellow enigmatic SoundCloud dweller Telepath have captured all the romance and wistfulness through bold, original compositions. "We wanted to show how the whole vaporwave vibe could be made as original music rather than just relying on the same muzak and kitsch-pop samples everyone else had been using for years," says HKE. "While I thought the whole idea of playing with samples was cool … I've always been more enamored by its thematic concepts — its focus on dreaminess and surreal futurism and on painting a narrative through music." The next-level gambit paid off with second album 新しい日の誕生, an unparalleled success within a small, passionate pocket of the internet. The album is a staple of the Bandcamp charts, the purple cassette version goes for $40 on Discogs and an Indiegogo campaign recently launched a 2xLP vinyl version. In short, it's the most popular release the genre has produced in four years.

They Say: "I don't take any kind of drugs. But my whole worldview has always been that of a "dreamer" though, and a lot of what drives me spiritually in life would probably be considered esoteric and obscure by most," says HKE. "I sit in a dark room lit by a red light almost every night these days and I just take inspiration from the world around me. I have pretty vivid dreams and nightmares often and have suffered from recurring sleep paralysis and hallucinations since I was a teenager. I've been reading a lot about dreams, philosophy, history, religion, science, etc. and have developed my own theories on music being some kind of objective divine language of the universe that I could and will probably write a book on one day. Ultimately it all comes down to trying to understand the human condition."

Hear for Yourself: 新しい日の誕生's opening track, "恢复," is a dreamy, gorgeous cascade of deep drone, cascading piano and distant sirens. "The track's name in English is "Restore," explains HKE. "It's about reliving the same story in another time and space … again and again. Not so much reincarnation but the endless cycle of the universe as it expands and contracts forever, time repeating itself." Christopher R. Weingarten