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: Wolf Alice, Nicole Dollanganger, Jess Glynne, Tory Lanez and more.
Sounds Like: A flashback to that Nineties moment when bands like Nirvana and Hole made rubbed-raw guitar rock signify as pop, with burly hooks and provocatively smart lyrics.
For Fans of: The aforementioned grunge era, as well as shoegazers like Lush and moody modern post-punks like the XX.
Why You Should Pay Attention: The North London noise-pop quartet hijacked their name from Angela Carter's feminist fairytale about a fierce changeling girl, and their debut LP My Love Is Cool crashed the British Top 10. Since then the band has barnstormed festivals — with frontwoman Ellie Roswell occasionally jumping into crowds midset — and dropping fun one-offs, like a feedback-crusty cover of One Direction's "Steal My Girl." "They ask you to do a recent Top 20 hit," Roswell says of the BBC radio program the band was playing, "so we thought we'd go as extreme in that direction as possible."
They Say: "We don't care about genre; we're just out to write the best songs that we can," Roswell says of Wolf Alice's creative tastes. "But I always leaned more towards heavier rock, because it seemed more fun to me. When I went to shows when I was younger and saw people crowd surfing and getting drunk, that looked a lot more fun that sitting down and noodling on the guitar singing folk songs, or being a pop star and having to look fabulous every night. This seems a little more laid back."
Hear for Yourself: "Bros" is a dreamy reflection on childhood friendship. Will Hermes
Sounds Like: Turning heartbreak into hope with a club's pulsing lights guiding the way.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Last year, Jess Glynne's alto was all over pop radio thanks to her cameo on "Rather Be," the feather-light Clean Bandit Top 10 hit that wound up nabbing the Best Dance Recording Grammy earlier this year. Glynne's voice stood out among her chart compatriots for its blend of ebullience and vulnerability: Even in the brief space of a pop song, her vocal performance showed she could run the emotional gamut. Her debut I Cry When I Laugh, which came out in September, takes cues from quite a few subgenres of dance music, from saucy house to slick electro, but her voice, which brings to mind big-lunged divas of yore can channel longing and optimism on the same song.
She Says: "I was going through a pretty hard breakup, but at the same time I was starting to live my dreams of working on my debut album. So I tried to pour all of that energy into my music and stayed focused on the positive. In the studio, I would write about hope, joy and happiness as a way to release everything that felt wrong in my heart. [I Cry When I Laugh] is essentially my own self-help guide!"
Hear for Yourself: Glynne's voice soars over the pounding piano on "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself," a banger that wrings dancefloor joy out of heartache. Maura Johnston
Sounds Like: Crooning vocals and hard-nosed raps over menacing, woozy beats
Why You Should Pay Attention: Originally born and raised in Toronto, the Miami-based rapper, singer and producer got his start after being discovered by Sean Kingston in 2010, and has since worked with Meek Mill, G-Eazy, YG and more. After a prolific string of well-received mixtapes, including 2014's Lost Cause and this year's Cruel Intentions (a collaboration EP with producers from boundary-pushing Los Angeles-based electronic label Wedidit), the versatile Lanez signed to Benny Blanco's Mad Love Records and is set to release his debut album in early 2016. His latest single "Say It" was recently covered by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, and you can catch the Canadian triple threat on a headlining North American tour starting next month.
He Says: Lanez describes his personal style as "swavey." "Swavey is a musical genre that I came up with to describe artists who are too talented to stay in a box with their music," he explains. "This is for artists who fuse one genre with another genre or how many genres they want but they make it their own."
Hear for Yourself: The soulful "Say It," which samples Brownstone's 1995 R&B hit "If You Love Me," has topped 5 million YouTube views. Max Mertens
Sounds Like: Macabre millennial nightmares, softened by dream-pop tranquilizers, reverberating from a casket-shaped music box.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Nicole Dollanganger's gothic folk songs detailing mental illness, guns, sexual violence, poverty and death are as beautiful as they are brutal. After exploring abandoned buildings growing up in Stouffville, Ontario — a small town near Toronto — the taxidermy enthusiast studied film at Ryerson University and started posting her dark, cinematic songs on Bandcamp. Soundbites and grisly themes from horror movies, Welcome to the Dollhouse and school shootings amplify these lo-fi bedroom recordings. Backed by acoustic guitar, Dollanganger's winsome cover of Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" off 2013's Columbine EP strips away the original's party vibe to its chilling lyrical core. A demo of her latest album, Natural Born Losers, eventually reached her countrywoman Grimes. "It blew up my brain so hard that I literally started Eerie [Organization, a new artist collective] to fucking put it out," the art-pop experimenter said in a press release. They performed together opening for Lana Del Rey in June and Dollanganger is supporting Grimes' fall tour.
She Says: "I fell in love most with aggression in vocal delivery. Even when someone's singing something that isn't aggressive, but they yell it or scream it, it strikes me. Ceremony comes to mind. They're incredible. [Frontman Ross Farrar's] vocal performances, I was like, "Holy shit." Type O Negative, I was taken with how [Peter Steele] fluctuated between really dark topics and really light topics. Some of the sounds were really industrial and heavy, and some were softer. That kind of mixture is really intriguing. [Marilyn] Manson does the same thing."
"I really enjoy hitting record on GarageBand. For an hour and a half I'll just freestyle. I'll get a chord progression going and start singing. I'll record everything. Most of it's trash, but usually there's a line at least — like 'drinking a cup of alligator blood' — then I'll build around that."
Hear for Yourself: Echoing the pulse of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," Dollanganger sweetly toes the line of bruised love on "You're So Cool." Reed Fischer
Sounds Like: A sexy R&B journey through space
Why You Should Pay Attention: Judith Hill has had an action-packed career, but her time in the spotlight has only just begun. She's appeared on The Voice and in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom — but it's the cosigns from Michael Jackson and Prince that take her several steps ahead of the game. "Michael really opened my eyes to what it takes to truly be an artist," Hill recalls about her career beginnings as the King of Pop's duet partner from the would-be comeback tour he was mounting before his tragic death. More recently, Prince took Hill under his wing, having her record her debut album, Back in Time, at Paisley Park. "It's funny because he told me he had never seen me in [Michael Jackson documentary] This Is It or The Voice," she says. "He had just stumbled across me in an interview I had done where I stated that I'd love to work with Prince."
She Says: "Paisley Park is a really fun place to be. [Prince] is very fun to be around, he likes to play jokes a lot, like sometimes he'll call me on the phone to get me to come down for rehearsal or recording and he'd pretend to be someone else, and I wouldn't recognize his voice. He is a really fun spirit. We would be playing ping pong in between takes or things like that. I definitely treasure my time spent there."
Hear for Yourself: On the modernly bluesy single "Cry, Cry, Cry," Hill shows off her immense vocal range in full. Brittany Spanos
Sounds Like: The last hour of the year's most turned-up quinceañera.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Dusty is at the forefront of a sound he calls "the new cumbia," updating a genre that dates back centuries by adding EDM synths and a digging-in-the-crates approach to samples. Born in Corpus Christi, Dusty found similar artists through at parties like Peligrosa in Austin and Que Bajo?! in New York, and he landed a deal with Universal after attempting electro on 2012's "K Le Pasa." Next up, a debut album: It will be released as soon as he figures out the right rappers for his unique beats.
He Says: "[The internet] is the birthplace. People were uploading all these old cumbia records, the Cumbia Cumbia compilations, and sampling the shit out of all those songs. And that's kind of where it started: People were making edits of those songs or cumbia edits of hip-hop tracks. Toy [Selectah] was scouring MySpace for all the artists and putting us all together. It was a cool little phase we went through. Now it's so routine: You put a song out and here's where you market it and here's your target audience, all this kind of shit. Whereas before it was just experimenting."
Hear for Yourself: "Cumbia Anthem" uses an accordion sample as bait, then locks you inside a rave. Nick Murray
Sounds Like: A certain ratio of post-punk distilled down to the fundamentals: wiry guitars, emphatic rhythms and incisive lyrics
For Fans of: The Slits, Slant 6, consumerist critiques you can dance to
Why You Should Pay Attention: The London band are currently on their first tour of the U.S., including dates with Shannon and the Clams in October and Priests in November. Guitarist Rachel Aggs, drummer Andrew Milk and bassist Billy Easter first played together in the group Covergirl. They opted for a more "streamlined and scaled-back" approach, according to Milk, when forming Shopping in 2012. They're already on to their second album, Why Choose, out now on FatCat.
They Say: "We're political people, but we didn't set out to make a political band," says Easter. "I think it comes through cathartically," says Aggs.
Hear for Yourself: "Straight Lines" neatly summarizes the band's strengths: taut work from the rhythm section, an accelerated melody on guitar, and interesting vocal interplay as Milk examines the economic and emotional dynamics of a relationship. Tobias Carroll
Sounds Like: The club, the afterparty, those regretful moments after the afterparty
Why You Should Pay Attention: Nadus — born Rahshon Bright — is an architect of the thriving "Jersey Club" scene; though his new LP, Broke City, veers firmly off the dance floor. As an actual tween, Bright and his friends threw way-underage parties in and around Newark, New Jersey. Too young to get into real clubs but old enough to learn rudimentary music production software, this scene of middle schoolers blended their parents' house beats with hip-hop, chopped-up Top 40 tunes and pretty much whatever else they felt like. "If ghetto house and Baltimore club had a baby," says Bright, "that's what Jersey Club music is like." Nadus still proudly reps his hometown and its club sound as he tours nonstop; but Broke City goes beyond the beats, toying with moody, downtempo, choir-filled film-score-like compositions.
He Says: Newark's former mayor is honored with a track named "Sharpe James" on the LP. When young Bright was supposed to make a trip abroad with the Newark Boys Chorus School, the longtime politician helped make it happen. "We were like $25,000 short, and he pledged that $25,000 for us to go on that trip," says Bright. "That trip changed my whole outlook on music."
Hear For Yourself: "Sharpe James" is one of the album's most heavenly offerings, full of celestial strings, keyboards and choir "oohs" aplenty — along with samples of interviews with the titular politician. Arielle Castillo
Sounds Like: A lone glam-rock astronaut floating deep into the outer reaches of his own mind
Why You Should Pay Attention: The latest act from Australia to make waves in the Northern Hemisphere is this trio from Perth — a noteworthy success story at this year's CMJ festival despite having zero U.S. label backing. They're already getting even bigger cosigns Down Under, where Melbourne's own Courtney Barnett is taking them out as an opening act in January of 2016. Frontman Jake Webb spent a solitary summer recording their debut album, Oh Inhuman Spectacle, almost entirely on his own in a house a couple of hours south of Perth in a remote coastal town. "I find it difficult to work on things when there's anyone in earshot," he says. "If I'm as isolated as possible, I can go completely crazy and work on things until they evolve."
They Say: Webb met Thom Stewart and Chris Wright, who round out Methyl Ethel's live lineup, through Perth's thriving rock scene. "It's a real tight-knit community," says Stewart. Their friendship with local stars Tame Impala came in handy earlier this year, when Methyl Ethel played a show at the club where Wright usually works as a sound mixer. "I didn't think to book anyone [to cover for me] that night, so we were stuck for a sound guy," Wright says. "We paid [Tame Impala leader Kevin Parker] 50 bucks to come and mix us. It was his first time mixing — he was a little nervous, I think!" "He did a good job, though," Webb adds with a laugh. Simon Vozick-Levinson
Sounds Like: Millennial R&B and neo-classical minimalism meeting in a trap track
Why You Should Pay Attention: Taking his moniker from a 16th century Japanese swordsmith, the productions of 19-year-old Brit producer Alex Crossan's are razor-sharp, with startling juxtapositions of elegant strings, honeyed R&B vocals and snapping trap drums. While he's working on his debut album, Mura Masa's individual tracks are taking off: "Lovesick Fuck" is at 1.3 million YouTube views while "Love for That" featuring Shura and released two weeks ago, already has more than 400,000 plays on his SoundCloud page. And back in April, five of Mura Masa's tracks were prominently featured on a Diplo & Friends mix for BBC Radio 1.
He Says: Crossan claims that Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." video so inspired him as a lad that he learned guitar just so he could play along. But he also credits his musician father for some crucial lessons beyond turning him onto Joni Mitchell and Yes. "He gave me the best advice about how to be a mindful musician," Crossan said. "He told me that music is so much more about what you aren't playing than what you are; silence and space are so important."
And while present-day Crossan relishes his recent collaborations with upstart singers like Shura and Nao, he's currently finding inspiration in something more personal. "I recently went through my first really terrifying breakup, and I can't express how powerful that is for me," he says. "It's not something to be shy of or try and avoid; catharsis is so healthy. I feel like a lot of really seminal records come from being deeply upset."
Hear for Yourself: The minimal snap of "Love for That" is led by an assured mix of strings, woodwinds and thumb piano. Andy Beta