The Best Hopes to Break Out in 2015

This vibrant gang of musicians is approaching 2015 from all different angles. Some are still quite new to the music game, while others take the new year on after rising from a breakup.

This vibrant gang of musicians is approaching 2015 from all different angles. Some are still quite new to the music game, while others take the new year on after rising from a breakup.


Archibald Slim

There’s something comfortingly American about an artist like Rick Ross, who proves that great rhymes about being rich can become self-fulfilling prophecies. But the more stories I read about income inequality getting closer to Great Depression-era levels, the more I want to see a rapper like Archibald Slim hit the jackpot. Don’t be fooled by the title of his 2014 debut mixtape, He’s Drunk!: this a sober, poignant exploration of how it feels to have the deck stacked against you, driven home by the kind of gorgeously subdued boom-bap grooves that DJ Premier could’ve cooked up on a rainy day in 1992. Of all the members of Atlanta’s boldly innovative Awful Records collective, Archie’s vision is the most fully formed, his lackadaisical delivery framing him as a young man who’s already left outrage behind, who sounds resigned to a life spent traversing the shadowy alleys of an unfair world. If anybody’s ready to drop Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City-level science in 2015, it’s him. Joe Sweeney


Battle Trance

The tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance put out one of the most thrilling pieces of contemporary classical composition in the form of the album-length piece Palace of Wind, released through the always exciting New Amsterdam label. There is, however, a catch; while Palace of Wind is indeed a stunner, it’s the kind of piece that is hard to replicate or reimagine due to its unassailable singularity. Merely reiterating the sonic template established by Palace of Wind would dampen the achievement of the music. Nevertheless, while figuring out what to do after making a one-of-a-kind record is no small task, if anyone is up to the challenge it is Battle Trance. In taking one instrument, multiplying it by four, and from that creating a musical odyssey that sounds like the product of a much larger number of instruments, this quartet has adeptly proven its ability to challenge musical boundaries. For that reason, it's far from crazy to think these ace musicians have something else up their sleeves. Brice Ezell



It was but two years ago that we were, in this very same feature, talking about this very same group, hoping they'd do the very same thing. As Yogi Berra might have said, "it's like déjà vu all over again." You can forgive us at PopMatters if we're a little over-enthusiastic about this Chicago rap trio, but there's no one on the music scene with the kind of incendiary combination of humor and hooks, of passion and politics. The group went on hiatus in 2013 to deal with family and personal commitments, but that doesn't mean they were sitting on their hands. Epic recently debuted his first solo mixtape #OPRAH (on this very site, no less) while Illekt laid down tracks with Chicago MC Anonymous. Meanwhile, the group has been playing shows throughout the latter half of 2014 and has hinted at possible new music in the coming year. With over two years having passed since their last album, the stunningly ambitious bell hooks, it's hard not to get excited at the prospect of seeing the group's next step. John M. Tryneski



I hope clipping. keeps experimenting with its sound in the way I want them to. I hope that this year, the experimental rap group simply utilizes accessibility in the same way it might familiarize itself with a new instrument: to help foster the music that’s floating around in the group’s collective mind, and nothing more. While this year’s CLPPNG was a more flavorful pill to swallow than its predecessor Midcity, it still is a hell of a trip at the end of the day. The album tells stories, gritty and grimy, through the lens of a well-polished rap group.

I want to find out what hip-hop is when its innards are thrown against the wall, when any remaining recognizable semblance of the genre is processed and then rehabilitated. I want to find out how much more room there is in rap for the industrial sounds clipping. uses, and that Death Grips once used. I want to understand exactly what it is Death Grips left behind when they posted that now-infamous napkin picture to their Facebook page. I want to know that there’s more to this whole movement of sonic deconstruction within hip-hop, more to this sound that clipping. has helped forge than the illusion of remodeling. And when I listen to songs like “Body & Blood”, I realize something important is happening here. It’s the sound of vitality, of new sounds being explored in an old and familiar way. The truth is that even though I hope clipping. will keep exploring music in the way that it has so far, there’s an instinctive drive telling me that it's only just getting started. Jacob Royal


Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrianns

Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrianns are not new to the world of film scoring. In past years, the two have contributed low-key gems like their work for the highly acclaimed 2011 film Martha Marc May Marlene. However, 2014 proved to be the breakthrough year for this dynamic duo, with its scores for The One I Love and Enemy rising to the top of the crop. Enemy, in particular, is a tour de force of cinema music, an album that pulls off the rare feat of being able to stand entirely on its own and remain a compelling work. Many film music composers spend their whole careers without ever pulling that feat off, so for Bensi and Jurrianns to have succeeded in that way is a significant achievement. Hopefully, 2015 will see this innovative duo provide even more movie music, the kind that you’ll want to listen to long after leaving the theater. Brice Ezell

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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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