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.
Jessy Lanza and more...
The Icarus Line
The days of Penance Soiree are long gone, and since then the Icarus Line has taken the tracks leading into the underground. LPs like 2007's Black Lives at the Golden Coast and 2011's Wildlife are fine on their own terms, but there the vitality of Penance Soiree lingers only slightly. With Slave Vows, the comeback album of comeback albums, the vitality is not just present but amplified massively. Opener "Dark Circles" says it all: beginning with an extended jam session comprised of a Swans-esque repeated groove interspersed with squalls of feedback, it shows that these guys are here to play, and so long as they're here they'll play until the speakers in their amps melt to the floor. This dogged inability to never stop rocking defines The Icarus Line; it's hit its peak with Slave Vows, but it's unlikely things are at their end now. Penance Soiree is one of those perpetually underrated rock revival LPs, a fate Slave Vows will probably share, but even if these guys never "break big", as long as they keep making music like this, there'll always be reason to hope for more. Brice Ezell
Joanna Gruesome subscribes to the definition of indie rock that came out of early '90s North Carolinian bands like Archers of Loaf: quickly mixing between the melodic and the angular, using guitars to up the dissonance. There is a smoothness to songs like "Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love With Me?", but they come from the terrific vocal work and melodies laying on top of those wild guitars, which feel like duct tape over a chaotic storm. The Cardiff, Wales-based band has already shown they've got enough brass to cover a song like Galaxie 500's "Tugboat", and enough talent to nail it. Their first LP, Weird Sister, jumps around from twee to noise to punk screams without missing a beat. They've got a diversity in sound and unity in purpose, a combination which is rare to find in one person, let alone five bandmates. Don't bother trying to figure out what they're going to do next, just know that it will sound fantastic. David Grossman
London's Jungle push the evolution of modern R&B with their sheer electronic textures, gentle grooves, and understated melodies and vocals. But what really makes them fascinating is their lyrical take on urban decay housed in the most shimmery and modern of musical textures. It's the type of ironic musical and lyrical pairing that UK artists perform so well. They've only released a double single at this point with "Platoon / Drops", but look for really big things from Jungle in 2014 as their star rises high. Sarah Zupko
There's nothing about King Krule's Archy Marshall, a teenaged Ron Weasley lookalike with a gruff, heavily accented voice given to growly talk-singing, that particularly makes sense. But then neither is 6 Feet Beneath the Moon a particularly conventional debut LP, what with its dusty grooves, slyly confessional songwriting, and throaty, inimitable delivery. At 19, King Krule is hardly out of secondary school; here's hoping the start of his 20s doesn't halt the creative burst. Zach Schonfeld
If recent trends hold up, and there's no reason they shouldn't, 2014 will feature a woman who works in indie-pop telling us something about herself. So far, it's that they can't stop, that they love it, that we should go and play our video games. They care so much. By Jessy Lanza doesn't. "If you cheat, I don't mind. Because I don't give a fuck what you do," she breezily lets you know on "Pull My Hair Back", the single off her album of the same name. On "5785021", she gives you her number and dares you to call her. There's not a lack of interest in her part, but something that's been missing from music ever since Lou Reed died—coolness. Her preference for Vangelis-like synths and tendency to go into falsetto on a whim only enhances it. More interesting than Daft Punk, sexier than the Weeknd, Lanza shows the true potential of electro R&B. David Grossman