This year is already looking like it’ll be filled with great music releases and new artists destined to push the boundaries of their respective genres.
Over the last few years Angel Haze has released multiple critically acclaimed mixtapes and singles and lyrically she’s up there with the best of the best. Her songs which touch on personal experiences, ranging from abuse to heartbreak, are so raw they can be painful to listen to. At the other end of the spectrum, she’s rapidly firing out quirky, witty lyrics, left, right and centre, accompanied by beats that encompass a wide range of genres. She’s far more than just a rapper. She’s a writer, a singer and a poet, who isn’t confining herself to typical hip hop sounds. To promote her debut album Dirty Gold she’s released covers of songs, from A$AP Ferg to Lana Del Rey, showing her ability to put her own individual spin on diverse styles of music. Angel Haze is easily one of the most exciting prospects for hip-hop, and music in general, for 2014. Francesca D’Arcy-Orga
Jacob Banks is a British R&B/soul singer with a voice so good it reaffirms all hope in pure musical talent, especially when you find out the first time he picked up a guitar and started singing was two years ago. He describes himself as a story-teller, and his debut EP released earlier this year is a story you want to hear over and over again. Endless comparisons can, and will be made, with the kings of R&B and soul, but right now, Jacob Banks is sitting comfortably in a league of his own. He’s garnering publicity rapidly, having supported Emeli Sandé, Chase and Status and Rudimental, as well as featuring in an episode of Suits. 2014 looks like it will be an equally big year for this man, with more music and stories on the way. Francesca D’Arcy-Orga
Chance the Rapper
2012’s 10 Day mixtape got his name into conversations, but it’s this year’s Acid Rap that has solidified Chance the Rapper‘s spot among the artists to watch out for. Chance is settling into his sound and has developed one of the most unique styles in rap. Acid Rap isn’t just a preview of the things to come for Chance, it’s simply one of the best releases of the year. All eyes will be on Chance the Rapper in 2014 to see if he can build on all this hype. Logan Smithson
There’s no shortage of stellar bands coming out of Detroit, but this sassy quartet is among the upper echelon. Stitching together dirty, western blues with indie dance pop, the group is innovative without being too weird as to be off-putting. On the contrary, they have both of the strengths all groups hope for—high quality, infectious songwriting and venue-rattling live shows—and they have them in spades. With the latter, Flint Eastwood engages in a dialogue with the audience, rather than a mere performance. Singer Jax Anderson barks orders to the crowd, faux shoots them down like toppling dominos with finger pistols and calls out anyone not having fun or submitting to her instructions. In this sense, their four-song debut EP, Late Nights in Bolo Ties, is an introductory handshake to what the group brings to the stage. Ramshackle rhythms and riotous percussion, vocals delivered with the panache of a circuit-riding minister leading a tent-show revival and melodies that can’t help but rise to the fore all result as a confluence of past musical touchstones filtered through the lens of contemporary forms. Currently amassing a cult-like word of mouth following in their native state, come a year from now, it’s almost unthinkable they won’t be garnering conversions far and wide. Cole Waterman
Look out, San Francisco. If the rise of Jacco Gardner is any indication, the Netherlands may be the next hotbed of psychedelic music. Gardner’s 2013 debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities was a slice of baroque-pop genius, touching on colors previously explored by psychedelic gurus Love (circa Forever Changes), Curt Boettcher (of Sagittarius and the Millennium), and the Zombies, without sounding redundant. Impressively, save the drums of Jos van Tol, the album was performed entirely by himself, from harpsichord and strings to acoustic guitar and bass. If this guy gets a little more ambitious in the studio, a little more like his spiritual cousins Pepe Deluxé (circa Queen of the Wave) and MGMT (circa Congratulations), his next album should find a similar cult following. He’s already proven thoroughly competent live as well, having played over 150 shows since late 2012, including two North American tours in 2013. It is exhilarating just to think about what’s going to happen with this kid when it all comes together, and his drive points to that inevitability happening soon. Alan Ranta