The Best New Artists of 2012

The best new artists of 2012 have remade R&B for the new century, pushed eclectic art-rock in new directions, and kept indie rock and hip-hop strong.

The best new artists of 2012 have remade R&B for the new century, pushed eclectic art-rock in new directions, and kept indie rock and hip-hop strong.




Plenty of today's artists indie and major label alike make a name for themselves by mining the past. Yet few do so with such aplomb and painstaking accuracy as the Allah-Las, a Californian ensemble dedicated to a special sort of sensitive and sublime surf pop rooted in the Left Coast's weird old days. The sun-soaked production of their self-titled debut for Innovative Leisure recalls a 1960s ideal that has been parodied so much that such a sincere attempt as this to reclaim it resonates so much. With enough tambourines to make a Byrds fan blush, their authentically breezy folk rock tunes harken back to the days of the Turtles while reminding us why the Jesus and Mary Chain so gleefully plagiarized from this period. Yet the unavoidable retrospective awareness of darker times in the counterculture adds an unintentionally murky filter, making cuts like "Sandy" a tad unpleasant, which incidentally is part of the fun. Gary Suarez




Onuinu is Dorian Duvall, a Cleveland native and Portland transplant whose debut album, Mirror Gazer blends huge dance beats with spacey electronics and fuzzed-out guitars. What sets Onuinu apart from the rest of the art-damaged electro pack is his ability to craft joyous, shout-along hooks that meld power pop heft with soulful R&B swagger. Songs like "Always Awkward", "Happy Home" and "Mirror Gazer" burst with energy that is both captivating and undeniably fun. There are echoes of old-school hip-hop, Thriller-era Michael Jackson, Euro-house and glo-fi; and it all adds up to a highly original sound that Duvall calls simply "disco-hop". For years, Onuinu has been a fixture on the dance floors of Portland's warehouse district, and with Mirror Gazer, Duvall brings his crowd moving disco-hop soundscapes to an ever widening audience. Robert Alford



Space Ghost Purrp

SpaceGhostPurpp, aka Floridian Marquise Rolle, is another nihilistic anti-hero for our post-Wu Tang times, and a fascinating one at that. At first he comes off as black-hearted, hateful and sex-obsessed; actually that impression never changes, though his penchant for self-mythology and observational paranoia increases to an impressive level. He has a surprisingly understated throwback style, sometimes seeming like a mystic Schooly D, others like a perverse, bizarre-world Bad Boy Records act. (There's a heavy dose of Ultramagnetic in here, too.) That all of his twisted visions are set against a musical horror-movie and sci-fi backdrop, with plentiful blips, bleeps and screams, makes this all the more intoxicating. Dave Heaton



Melody's Echo Chamber

Under the paving stones, the beach! Yes, if you ever fancied une soirée dans Paris '68 daydreamin' through Montmartre and toastin' a goblet of the green fairy (y'know absinthe), well just drop the needle on a copy of Melody Prochet's debut LP... et voila! Produced by Tame Impala's 'Genius in Residence' Kevin Parker it's a perfect Molotov cocktail of chic Gallic cool, nouvelle vague, la liberte, blurr'd hallucinogenics, art, flowers, wine, acid and passionate kisses... with a soupçon of impending bloody revolution. Throughout Prochet's kaleidoscopic, swoonsome vocal flickers hypnotically through a vivid miasma of colourful bangs, clatters, rolls, flutters and wows to deliriously disorientating effect. Just think Francoise Hardy fronting Stereolab. One of 2012's most divinely unexpected pleasures now sparkin' a word of mouth forest fire that could burn well into 2013. Matt James




Despite the stigma associated with trying to make a career in reality television, there are a few individuals who have graduated from the format into respectable careers. American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson became an Academy Award-winning actress. Real World cast member Sean Duffy is now a Congressman. In 2012, we could add to these achievers the man born Jody Christian but known as RiFF RaFF aka Jody Highroller aka Rap Game Dr. Huxtable and many other aliases. Emerging in 2009 for a two-episode stint on MTV's From G's to Gents, RiFF RaFF has spent the past few years parlaying that initial exposure through a canny use of corporate brands (literally tattooed on his body), a dedicated form of Internet performance art that involves multiple identities, and above all bona fide rap skills. After a flirtation with SODMG in 2011, he's now set to make millions via a reported five-year deal with Diplo's Mad Decent. Label affiliation aside, it is his tireless creativity and endless stream of singles and videos that have made him the most entertaining rapper of the past year. Though many of his memorable verses have been on collaborative tracks with Action Bronson, Harry Fraud, Three Loco, Lil Debbie, and Kitty Pryde, among others, RiFF RaFF is unique in that he is a master parodist/practitioner, every bit as skilled in comedy as he is in lyrical flow. To watch him being interviewed or to try to parse his lyrics -- an inspired mixture of non sequiturs and left-field pop culture references -- is to be privy to a sort of entertainer presumably tailor made for the Internet age. Though while it seems like RiFF RaFF was everywhere in 2012, even that overexposure is a sleight of hand. After all, the millions of viewers contributing YouTube hits have not yet gotten a glimpse of the man behind the character. These days, when online anonymity seems impossible, that in itself is a stroke of genius. Thomas Britt

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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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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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