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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