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Proof that “CMJ buzz” still exists in 2012, Canada’s Metz were almost universally declared the victors of the festival, with blog love and raving fans raining down like drops of sweat at the band’s furious live sets. Metz makes a type of rock music pushed to the sidelines of the indie world of late: loud, aggressive, and unapologetically scummy. The trio’s self-titled debut reigns in the chaos of its live shows, honing its tracks down to razor sharp shivs of raw power. But Metz doesn’t merely turn things up and bash away at its instruments like your first high-school punk band. These are well-crafted songs, tuneful and dissonant, moments of harmony giving way to explosive drums and scorching riffs. This is a band to lead the charge in reclaiming indie rock for the scuzzballs. Who are we taking it back from? I won’t name names, but let’s just say these dudes won’t be putting out a Christmas box set anytime soon. Corey Beasley



Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas is as hot a prospect right now as any. Coming from the UK, one of most prominent nations guilty of devouring young pop hopefuls through various reality TV competitions, it’s pleasing to know that true talent can still be uncovered and showcased in the correct way. Signed to Warner Bros, the 23-year-old Londoner dropped her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, last summer. Striking up a song-writing partnership with Matt Hales (who releases records under the monikor Aqualung), La Havas’s agile guitar playing and sweet vocals carried a set of songs that displayed her own stylish fusion of pop, soul and folk. Like most great artists, La Havas hasn’t arrived fully formed. The record perhaps has a few too many washy ballads cluttering its second half. But she’s a precocious talent, with musicianship matched only by her star quality. Dean Van Nguyen



Icky Blossoms

While it may not be anything new to merge disco beats and synth pop textures to the alt-rock realm, Omaha’s Icky Blossoms do it with such panache that they can’t help but be viewed as something special. The eclecticism the trio showcases on their eponymous debut, both in terms of musicality and emotional stimulus, is striking, each disparate facet handled with remarkable deftness for such a young band. Whether inducing trances with the deadpan sacrilege of “Sex to the Devil” or the even grimier sex romp of “Babes”, lighting the match on the incendiary punk ravings of “I Am” and the “Burn Rubber” or toning it down for a little nihilistic pathos on “Cycles” and “Stark Weather”, the Icky Blossoms ooze confidence, not being the least bit shaky in any realm. Part of the appeal also lies in the fact they straddle that line between the sincere and the saturnine. In a realm where pure irony has become the pervasive mood, Icky Blossoms stand apart for throwing that paradigm into question. Cole Waterman



Charli XCX

Twenty-year-old Charlotte Aitchison has been making idiosyncratic dance pop singles since 2008, but her career began in earnest in late 2011 with history’s greatest post-apocalyptic love song “Nuclear Seasons” and the slightly chillier follow-up “Stay Away”. In 2012, Charli XCX continued her streak, becoming one of the year’s most intriguing pop artists without even putting out an album. Instead, she staked her rep on live appearances (including a prime opening spot for Coldplay) and a smart release strategy that played to the strengths of each bundle of songs. The only music she released for sale was the You’re the One EP (in various international incarnations), which banked on the safe-bet combo of the months-old “Nuclear Seasons” and the similarly dramatic title track. She otherwise let the freebies flow steadily, releasing the atypically light “Valentine” and “I’ll Never Know” as self-contained downloads, a batch of new songs and remixes mostly in her established goth-pop vein on the Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixtape, and yet more new songs and remixes with a slight R&B bent on the Super Ultra mixtape. Considering the general quality of this deluge, it’s practically a footnote that she co-wrote Icona Pop’s bulldozing “I Love It”, the most fun you could have this summer under three minutes. David Bloom



Django Django

British quartet Django Django’s entry into the U.S. music scene began with blatant buzz from this year’s SXSW and airplay on KCRW, KEXP and WFUV’s “The Alternate Side”. Confident songs such as “Hail Bop” and “Default” from the self-titled debut also provided an impressive introduction to the band. With an art rock aesthetic (the group met at an Edinburgh art school) that still embraces pop structures, their danceable tunes feature vocal harmonies chugging over an electronic backbone. They seem to add in hand claps and plenty of hand percussion just for fun. A full listen to the album finds an airy instrumental simply called “Introduction” for the first track and a wide variety of stylistic methods throughout, from the jaunty approach in “Life’s a Beach” to the cultural references in “Zumm Zumm” and “Skies Over Cairo”. Django Django is undaunted by conventions of any sort, refreshing and irresistible at the same time. Jane Jansen Seymour

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