The Best Hopes to Break Out in 2012

by PopMatters Staff

1 January 2012


Jukebox the Ghost and more...

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Jukebox the Ghost

Jukebox the Ghost

Whenever any of my less blogosphere-minded friends ask me for a music recommendation, I always have the same suggestion: Jukebox the Ghost. They’re fun, wry, catchy, and far too few people have heard of them. The bubbly Philly-based trio has two excellent albums to their name, they’ve played on Letterman, and they tour nonstop—and yet here they are, three years removed from their debut LP, still hovering just under the radar. Last year’s Everything Under the Sun was a power-pop tour de force, full of piano pyrotechnics of the Folds and Joel varieties; here’s hoping their next album, rumored to be due out next year, is the one to put them on the map in a big way. Billy Hepfinger


King Krule

Every social movement could use its own rabble-rousing singer-songwriting mouthpiece—or is it the other way around?—and precocious 17-year-old Londoner Archy Marshall is already being hailed as the voice of Generation Occupy. AKA King Krule, Marshall brings to mind strains of Cockneyed, Billy Bragg-ish agitprop pop, getting across a confrontational ethos while he’s working out his ideology and a specific list of demands, not too unlike the burgeoning mass demonstrations of the moment. On his all-too-brief just-released debut EP, King Krule crosses downbeat jazz-inflected guitar work and ramshackle sampling to convey a sense of disillusionment that’s more than your garden variety teen angst, coming off like Tricky as a busker on the dubby folk of “Bleak Bake” and a roughed-up Stuart Moxham on the self-explanatory “Portrait in Black and Blue”. If his social commentary can catch up to his resourceful, uncanny musicianship, Marshall might just be starting his own revolution. Arnold Pan


Lil B

Seeing “Wonton Soup”, Lil B’s first real YouTube sensation, completely without context was a jarring experience for me. A flood of thoughts: “This guy is the worst rapper in the world. This has to be a joke. This is a joke, right?” Around the 13th straight viewing I was hooked. After watching a video of drunk club girls doing B’s signature cooking dance, I became a fan for life. B is not the greatest technical rapper (though he’s not nearly as incompetent as message board haters would have you believe) nor is he a “visionary” like Tyler the Creator. Lil B’s greatest strength is his marketing savvy. Whether he’s bootlegging his own album over Twitter, or using his most recent single “I Got Aids” as a Sex Ed tool, Lil B knows how to cultivate an audience. Over the past year he’s turned himself into a one-man industry, and “Based” music into a legit genre, complete with signifiers and its own lingo. This is the guy who introduced “swag” into the vernacular. Maybe most important, Lil B is fun to watch. His enthusiasm is infectious. Just try to watch him in an interview interviewed without being bowled over by his positive attitude. Lil B just the kind of guy you want to see succeed. Justin Linds


Magic Wands

It’s as if the universe was proper Dickensian (all horse ‘n’ carts and street urchins shuffling about in black ‘n’ white) when Nashville’s Magic Wands first appeared it feels so long ago. That calling card EP of dynamite-with-a-laserbeam tunes that threatened to take on the law singlehandedly. “Black Magic”, “Kiss Me Dead”, “Warrior”. Killer classics with fightin’ talk aplenty. Chris ‘n’ Dexy, a pair of star cross’d lovers lookin’ for adventure with cock’d and loaded 45s at their hips. A 21st century Bonnie & Clyde smouldering behind Ray-Bans, tottin’ tommy gun guitars with their faithful toy lion Captain Sylvester riding shotgun. Well lawks-a-lawdy, Johnny the shoeshine guy hears on the street their début album Aloha Moon is finally… (whispers)... ready to roll. Magic Wands if you’re out there, we’re ready to drop our “Bad Mother Fucker” wallets into your bag. Class of 2012, this town needs takin’ down. Matt James


Frank Ocean

Out of all of the members of the increasingly popular hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Tyler, the Creator took 2011 by storm. Goblin, his controversial second studio recording, was a substantial hit, and his capturing of the 2011 MTV Music Video Award for Best New Artist brought much attention not just to himself but to Odd Future as a whole. Unfortunately, this attention seemed to cast a shadow over perhaps the best thing about Odd Future: Frank Ocean. His debut mixtape, the brilliant Nostalgia, Ultra, is one of the most unique R&B records to come out in awhile. Ocean’s artistry is most evident on the album’s standout track, “American Wedding”. He straight-rips the Eagles’ “Hotel California”, a classic depiction of American decay, and sings new lyrics over the music, a depiction of the decay of modern love. The song is not just a damn good track; it’s also indicative of the unique artistic function hip-hop and R&B can serve in taking the old, putting an entirely new spin on it, and espousing a timeless message. Hopefully in years to come, Ocean’s skill becomes no longer an under-the-radar gem but instead a highly renowned fact. Brice Ezell

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