Lana del Ray and more...
Lana del Ray
No artist lit up the blogosphere the way that Lana Del Rey did in 2011, and 2012 looks like the year that she is poised to break out, for better or worse. Every comment thread of every indie music site is filled with speculation on the past, present, and future of Lizzy Grant (aka Lana Del Rey). Some hope that the incessant online excitement disappears upon the release of a full album, some hope that her talent outstrips the focus on her mysterious background and heretofore shaky live performances, and some probably just hope that she poses for Maxim. Personally, I hope that she releases an album with at least a few songs that match the quality of the impossibly catchy (and creepy) breakout single “Video Games”. While “Blue Jeans” matched that song’s creepiness, if not its indelible hook, it won’t be until the release of her full-length in early 2012 that we know whether Del Rey has already peaked or whether she is better than we ever even knew. Matt Paproth
Prior to the release of The World Is a Thorn in 2010, critics wondered how Demon Hunter could top 2007’s Storm the Gates of Hell, their best album to date. Then again, critics said the same thing about Storm the Gates of Hell in regards to 2005’s The Triptych, and the pattern repeats itself for the rest of the band’s history. So it wasn’t shocking to longtime fans that The World Is a Thorn eclipsed all of its predecessors as Demon Hunter’s greatest triumph. Betting against such a trend would be ridiculous. All signs point to Demon Hunter’s upcoming 2012 release driving them to the greatest breakthrough of their career. Not only will their music be even more high-caliber and soul-stirring, but the diversity of their sound is bound to show even more forward-thinking ideas that other metalcore bands would never even attempt. Though they may not be as prolific as their peers in As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter is certainly the most skilled Christian metalcore band active today, and next year will be their chance to prove it to everyone. Chris Colgan
In 2011, if we’re talking about hopes for the future, we almost have to think about the business side as well as the artistic one, and that’s a challenge that Florrie has already tackled. Singer, model, songwriter, and ex-house drummer for Xenomania, Florence Arnold has thus far avoided any deals and funded the whole thing herself. It’s not for nothing that the video for “I Took a Little Something”, her best song and one of the best singles of 2011, is one Dolce and Gabbana’s YouTube channel rather than her own. This year’s Experiments EP would be promising all on its own, but combine Florrie’s pop nous with her clear gasp of the ins and outs of pop star economics in the 21st century and you have a force to be reckoned with. As long as she keeps making songs like “I Took a Little Something”, I for one won’t mind her eventual world domination. Ian Mathers
Since the mid-2000s, Oregonian Laura Gibson has been releasing exciting little folk albums where she sings unconventional, thoughtful meditations on life, death and nature. Her last one, in 2009, was an avant garde collaboration with sound artist Ethan Rose, showing she isn’t following your standard singer-songwriter path. 2012 seems the perfect year for her to break out and get better-known, and her songs deserve it. On January 24, her third solo album La Grande will be released by Barsuk, a step up, exposure-wise, in the indie-label world from Hush, the fantastic little Portland label she started on, which also brought the Decemberists to the world. Judging by the first single, Gibson’s new album will continue to broaden her sound, while keeping her distinct vision and voice at the forefront. Dave Heaton
Claire Boucher, the Montreal based artist known as Grimes, mixes in a soaring falsetto voice with an encyclopedic parade of musical influences, including industrial, dub step, psychedelic, new jack swing, and electronica to emerge, in little under two years, as one of the most creative and compelling indie pop artists. She refers to herself as hailing from the post-internet generation, and complements her musical influences by going beyond sampling, or name checking cultural touchstones, by demonstrating an innate ability to weave together increasingly complex compositions. The tendency of her songs to mosey present the listener with the opportunity in less than four minutes to take a serendipitous path through a variety of influences that yet adhere to a narrative.
Like any new artist, her live set is a work in progress, but she is building confidence, buoyed by rave reviews for her support for Lykke Li on her 2011 tour and high profile appearances such as the opportunity to open for home town heroes Arcade Fire at an intimate theater show during POP Montreal. Her rapid emergence will be tracked in 2012, as more listeners come on board and she releases her new album Visions on 31 January, followed by a North American tour in February and March. Dennis Shin