10 Artists You Should Have Known In 2012It's hard to keep track of new artists these days. Anyone with a credit card can start a Bandcamp page, and there are only so many hours in the day you can listen to music.
In an effort to make it a littler easier on you, we asked some colleagues around the country to share their favorite new discoveries of 2012, bands that made a real dent in their communities. Here are the artists you should have known in 2012.
The sweeping majesty of Lord Huron's Lonesome Dreams makes a compelling case for rushing right out the door, and leaving the mundane routine of everyday life in search of love. "Run away with me, it'll all make sense" urges Ben Schneider, singing of a life brimming with possibilities. "We're going to leave tonight, by the light of the moon." If only we could accept this romantic invitation, but at least we have this album of brilliant atmospheric folk to take us on a fantastic journey of sorts, if only in our minds for a moment. --Jason Bentley, KCRW music director in Santa Monica, Calif.
Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White started out in living rooms, performed after-hours in an Eritrean restaurant, pressed their self-consciously weird souls to CDR; over four short years they rose to prominence in Seattle, and were eventually able to quit pushing shopping carts at Costco. Back in February, on Sub Pop Records, they dropped the album they'd been promising for years. awE naturalE is a deep, epic jazz poem that synthesizes and refracts several distinct phases of Black light, and more than lives up to the expectations. This year alone they saw the U.S., Europe, Australia and Iceland over the course of eight or nine tours. THEESatisfaction has had a major 2012 and promises more this next cycle, alone together or alongside key collaborators like Shabazz Palaces. --Larry Mizell Jr., host of KEXP "Street Sounds" in Seattle
What started a side project has exploded into a full-time career for Channy Leaneagh and her bandmates in bedroom R&B project Poliça. The quartet converged in the studio over a few humid Minneapolis summer days last year and emerged with a fire-and-ice sound that binds organic elements (dual drums, punchy basslines) with more alienating aspects like manipulated vocals and undulating and robotic laptop beats. Leaneagh is unabashed in her use of Auto-Tune and bends the effect to her will, letting just enough of her lyrics slip through the chromatics to reveal the deep sorrow and loss that inspired their debut, Give You the Ghost. It's an album that resonated immediately with a local fanbase already familiar with the band member's previous projects (producer Ryan Olson's Gayngs, Leaneagh's Roma di Luna); their mesmerizing live shows ignited a national spark at SXSW and have kept them on the road touring the U.S. and Europe ever since. -- Andrea Swensson, 89.3 The Current in the Twin Cities
There is so much flavor on John Fullbright's debut, From the Ground Up, it could please folks accustomed to anything from soul to folk, to indie pop. It's not every day a new artist shows up out of the red Oklahoma dirt — Woody Guthrie's hometown, to be exact — and earns comparisons to great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, but Fullbright's music makes sense in such lofty company. His songs toss around themes of god and lust and faith and doubt like they're all dirty shirts that have been worn for too long. Take "Jericho." Its gospel organ and dark, slogging rhythm support lyrics about searching for something — be it love or forgiveness, truth or transcendence. Everything here is on even ground — the profound as important as the profane. For Fullbright even the road to glory must be built from the ground up. --Kim Ruehl, FolkAlley.com
Savoir Adore's Deidre Muro and Paul Hammer sculpt exuberant synth-pop spun from fantasy concepts — their partially Kickstarter-built sophomore album, Our Nature, is a concept album loosely involving unrequited, otherworldly lovers surreptitiously meeting by riverbanks and wooded glens. But longtime friends Muro and Hammer — and their three bandmates — intuitively sharpen their dreamy dialogues with wiry, earthy hooks and defiant dance beats: the result is an ingenious marriage of esoteric artistry and easy accessibility. Tracks like "Regalia," a percussive collision of the Cocteau Twins and the Spice Girls or the sweet, early-morning sunbeam of "Dreamers" are perfect pop manna. While conjuring such gems might come easily to Savoir Adore, what is inexplicably harder is getting these DIY-determined New Yorkers the effusive attention they deserve. --Kara Manning, content editor at WFUV's The Alternate Side in New York City
Aaron & The Spell
Finding one of Philly's best new artists is no easy task. Recently the city has seen a resurgence in creative energy with bands like Dr. Dog, War On Drugs, Work Drugs, Lushlife and Strand of Oaks representing the City of Brotherly Love. While there's no shortage of fantastic new bands from various genres, we decided to look to soul music for one of our best new artists. From The Sound Of Philadelphia to the Roots, Philly has always been steeped in soul. Singer-songwriter Aaron Brown is an exciting new name to add to the lineage of the city's expressive and emotionally intense soul singers. His self-released his album, Sing, recorded with some Philly scene up-and-comers backing him up and performing as The Spell, is an excellent new addition to the musical landscape. --Bruce Warren, WXPN program director in Philadelphia
Graham Dechter is a talented young guitarist who started composing music at a young age (he's the child of professional musicians & music educators). He focused early on classical-based composition until high school, when a jazz teacher told him that improvisation was "composition in real time." The jazz light bulb switched on brightly, and within a few years, he was laying down grooves with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. His playing and arranging skills are precise, lean, accessible and hooky. He plays with soulfulness and with experience seemingly beyond his years. --Nick Francis, Jazz24.org music director
Our adoration for Radiation City actually dates back to 2011 — their impossibly catchy song "The Color of Industry" was our first introduction to the band midway through 2011. Infusing old-school soul and girl-group sounds with modern day indie pop, it was the most upbeat number amongst an impressively well-polished collection of slow burners on the quintet's debut The Hands That Take You. Earlier this year, the band followed with the Cool Nightmare EP, Lizzy Ellison's captivating voice presiding over a kind of bossa nova fever dream with one sparse composition often running into the next. The group impressed repeatedly on stages throughout the year, whether delivering a complexly reworked version of one of their songs or a note-perfect take on Etta James staple "At Last." All reasons to say Radiation City is Portland's best new band. Their sophomore release will be out in early 2013 on Tender Loving Empire. --Jeremy Petersen, opbmusic.org in Portland
Guitarist and singer Pedro Moraes is a great introduction to Rio de Janeiro's adventurous music scene. At turns rocking and lyrical, Moraes demonstrates his ability to mine Brazil's rich musical veins and turn traditional rhythms and forms on their heads. Like Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke and other roots-minded jazz musicians, Moraes finds surprising ways to embrace his past and carry it into the future. On January 14, Moraes hosts a showcase of "explorative" music in New York at (le) Poisson Rouge, with groups led by Ivo Senra, Elisa Cassini, Sergio Krakowski, Mauricio Zottarelli and Gabriel Santiago. Since many of these musicians are rarely heard outside of Brazil — or even outside of Lapa, Rio's hot bohemian neighborhood — this will be a rare chance to hear some of Brazil's most fertile musical imaginations at work. --Tim Wilkins, WBGO's The Jazz Bee
Alejandro Rose-Garcia is only slightly less well known than his nom de guerre "Shakey Graves," but those in the know feel like they're in on a very special secret. This Austin native (and talented actor — you may have caught him in his recurring role in Friday Night Lights) is fast developing a reputation as the city's most astonishing one man show. His lo-fi recordings can only approximate his intense, haunting live shows, where he's as likely to be playing to his rapidly growing circle of fans from one of Austin's larger venues as from a front porch stage or an impromptu midnight showcase at a highway underpass. Shakey Graves is more than just a stage name for a seriously talented flatpicker and songwriter: thanks to his unique blues-infused flatpicking style, a voice that can flicker from a fragile whisper to a startling howl and a pocketful of hook-heavy original songs, Shakey Graves is becoming an antifolk phenomenon even in a city weary of "next big things". Unclassifiably original. And frighteningly good. --David Brown, KUT in Austin