Music

The Best New and Emerging Artists of 2011

The year's best new and emerging artists range across the musical spectrum from forward thinking R&B to classic soul, from a bevy of exciting new hip-hop talent to great new hopes for indie rock and Americana. 2011 shows that music is always pushing forward even as it dips into the past.

Artist: Caitlin Rose

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Caitlin Rose

Caitlin Rose isn't likely to get flashiest new artist in 2011, but her understated, dreamy brand of country music made for one of the most well executed and fascinating debuts this year. Own Side Now is a clever, bittersweet, and charming set that introduces us to one of the great new singing voices around. Rose lures us in like a siren, with the endless sweetness of her voice, before hitting us with perfectly dark details. She'll sneer at ex-lovers with a Loretta Lynn-esque strength, or she can break your heart with deep confessions ("Who's gonna want me when I'm just somewhere you've been?" she asks at one point). This is the kind of record that doesn't succeed on its own. It's not just a fine moment, it's the self-assured start to what should be a long career. In a time where the country pretenders and loud and shining with glitz, Rose snuck in and whispered a more convincing sound. Matthew Fiander

 
Artist: El Bebeto y su Banda Patria Chica

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El Bebeto y su Banda Patria Chica

2011’s splashiest regional Mexican debut came from babyfaced 20-something Carlos Alberto García Villanueva -- “El Bebeto" -- and his Sinaloan Banda Patria Chica (“hometown band"). Their Disa album Quiero Que Seas Tú comprises 26 minutes of fat brass grooves and unbelievable moments -- it’s hard to fathom that human lips and fingers can achieve some of these effects. El Bebeto was last seen in the likable but little-heard Banda Sairú, and he leads his own group with the confidence and drive of a tiger freed from a cage. Equally adept at rapid-fire waltzes, huge swinging ballads, and one very catchy cumbia, the band fires off 10 well-chosen songs full of humor and high drama. They sound perpetually eager to play their next amazing tune -- not a bad way to begin a career. Josh Langhoff

 
Artist: Hooray for Earth

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Hooray for Earth

Just don’t call it synth pop. Hooray for Earth mastermind Noel Heroux has been quick to point out that there’s actually very little synth to be heard on his band’s spellbinding breakthrough LP True Loves. Hooray for Earth’s music, brooding and ominous yet packed with effervescent hooks and big-hearted melodies, somehow manages to elude categorization at every turn. Sure, these guys live in Brooklyn and their music does sound vaguely synthy, but they’re beholden to neither scene nor sound. As a producer and songwriter, Heroux has a preternatural ability to compose music that sounds alien and comfortingly familiar at the same time (he’s listed everyone from Enya to Broadcast as influences, so there’s that). Whatever he’s got rattling around in that head of his, it turned a lot of people on in 2011. Heroux and his band mates aren’t above doing some old fashioned promotional work to help bring their sound to a wider audience either. The band has traveled across the lower 48 and back several times, shot a couple of ridiculously over-the-top videos (one has a horse-riding knight in it, people!) and covered Kanye at the request of Billboard Magazine. Hooray for Earth will take True Loves abroad in 2012 and hopefully get around to recording the follow-up that we’re already impatiently waiting for. Daniel Tebo

 
Artist: Pitom

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Pitom

In 2008, Yoshie Fruchter released an album under his own name on John Zorn’s Tzadik label called Pitom. He had a band helping him out, and that band now goes by the name of Pitom for Blasphemy & Other Serious Crimes. Time spent splitting hairs over whether or not Pitom is a “new" act (a rose by any other name… thorns and all… ) would be better spent getting acquainted with this new album, armed to the teeth with punk guitars, Jewish melodies, and an overall sense of balance that’s more suggestive of, say, post-rock than Masada. This is exciting stuff, teetering on the edge of musical chaos without ever going all the way. This is where crunch meets the synagogue. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. John Garratt

 
Artist: Morning Teleportation

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Morning Teleportation

Morning Teleportation’s debut album Expanding Anyway wasn’t the most highly touted of 2011, and it certainly wasn’t the most polished. But it may have been the most exciting. This five-piece band takes their inspiration from at least a dozen different subgenres of rock and pop from the past 50 years. Then they toss them into a blender and play what comes out. When it works the band gets delightfully loopy results like the punk, ‘60s spy music, and ‘70s talk-box guitar mashup of “Snow Frog vs. Motor Cobra". Or the appropriately named “Banjo Disco", which gives Basement Jaxx and their genre-mixing dancefloor hits a run for their money. Then there’s the nine-minute epic “Whole Hearted Drifting Sense of Inertia", which goes from happy jam-rock to George Clinton-style funk without missing a beat. Yeah, a few of the songs on Expanding Anyway fall flat, but that’s what happens when you take this many chances. Regardless, Morning Teleportation sounds like they’re having too much fun to worry about what other people think about them. Chris Conaton

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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