The Best New / Emerging Artists of 2015

There was no shortage of new and exciting music in 2015. From the rise of a major new jazz talent challenging boundaries to ever more experimental R&B, this crop of artists gave us a lot of great music this year.

Deradoorian to Gwenno


Granted, Angel Deradoorian has been on the scene for a number of years at the time of this writing. A current member of Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks and contributor to recent albums by the likes of Flying Lotus, Charlie XCX, Matmos and the Roots, she was a major player in Bitte Orca, the magnum opus of Dirty Projectors released back in 2009, and her debut EP came out that same year. It would be six long years from the release of her EP until the world finally got the chance to hear her first proper solo full-length, but, cliché as it sounds, the wait was well worth it. The Expanding Flower Planet is a mesmerizing neo-psychedelic art-pop journey, and no 2015 year-end list is complete without it. The album was entirely written by Deradoorian, who estimated that she played upwards of 90% of it herself, so the chances of her repeating her success are favorable to say the least. She is the real deal. -- Alan Ranta


C Duncan

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist C Duncan dropped his stunning debut Architect earlier this year to overwhelming critical acclaim, even landing a Mercury Music Prize nomination in the interim. The son of two classical musicians and a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for music composition, the 26-year-old Glaswegian creates the type of delicate, pastoral dream pop, intimate electronic-tinged folk and luxurious choral harmonies normally attributed to an entire stage full of musicians. Knowing that the 12 songs on his intricately crafted debut are the product of one man toiling away for a year in his bedroom seems remarkable enough, but Architect is the type of debut that displays more compositional maturity than found on the majority of artists's entire catalogues. An accomplished painter whose works have been shown throughout Scotland and can be seen gracing all of his EP and album covers, Duncan's immense talent seemingly knows no limitations. If there was any justice still lingering out there in the music industry, his debut would have won that coveted prize, but the immense publicity surrounding his nomination is a career triumph all to its own. -- Ryan Lathan


Fetty Wap

If the rise of Fetty Wap in 2015 doesn't make you feel even a little bit joyful, then I fear you've been a replicant all along. Here's an artist from Paterson, New Jersey -- the hometown of precisely zero pop stars -- who lost his left eye to congenital glaucoma, and has a catch phrase that's the same as Austin Powers'. And his now-ubiquitous "trap&B" sound -- thin synths and drum machines fluttering underneath his confident, warbling croon -- is as uncompromising as his backstory. When the obligatory major label debut dropped in September, it was refreshingly bereft of famous guests. Fetty Wap doesn't bother with a rambling intro about the pitfalls of newfound fame. It just starts with his signature hit "Trap Queen", followed by 19 songs created in its image. By not wasting his time insisting that he's still keeping it real, Fetty Wap is doing just that. Yeeeaaaah baby, indeed. -- Joe Sweeney


Floating Points

Sam Shepherd had already gained his PhD in neuroscience when Floating Points started generating buzz. Looks like he wanted to tap at neurons in a different fashion this time around. Certainly Elaeina is some delicious food for the brain and ears. It's a record that's damn near impossible to label. Are there strands of straight up dance music? Well of course, but DNA samples of chamber, jazz, ambient, and anything else Shepherd wanted to poke at end up on Elaeina in a dizzying, yet cohesive fashion. Surely with his studies on the human mind, Shepherd knows that Elaeina will start a budding addiction. Surely this is only the first proper taste from something captivating. What else will evolve? -- Nathan Stevens


Jake Xerxes Fussell

The word "new" seems out of place set next to the name Jake Xerxes Fussell, since he specializes so much in old music. A student of Southern blues and country music seemingly from birth, this year Fussell used his debut, self-titled album to bring arcane songs of this ilk into the light, through his compelling singing and guitar playing. On the album, released early in the year on the label Paradise of Bachelors, Fussell and producing collaborator William Tyler set these would-be dusty gems in an airy room under a flattering skylight. The resulting album is a vital set of music that contains history in its bones yet feels absolutely of the moment. That's largely a testament to the care and understanding approach Fussell takes to old Southern music, but also to the sheer talent he displays in his performance. -- Dave Heaton


Sam Gelliatry

Having released two extremely high-quality Soundcloud trap projects in 2015, Short Stories EP and Ideas, along with a number of equally impressive singles, producer Sam Gellaitry has found himself on the radar of numerous tastemakers and critics. While he can make a name for himself continually putting out forward-thinking beats on Soundcloud, the deciding factor for most producers is how they can make the leap to producing for others. For anybody who's heard a Gellaitry beat, it's assumed they've dreamed of their favorite rapper tackling one of his releases. Hopefully 2016 is the year we find out what that sounds like. -- Brian Duricy


Girl Band

In a year when the old notion of what constituted indie rock more than 20 years ago is all but a faint memory, with so many contemporary bands mustering about as much energy as Bruce Hornsby and the Association, along come Girl Band, a Dublin foursome who blew the roof off the genre with the roaring, visceral Holding Hands With Jamie. The early buzz on Girl Band was how they were so intense in a live setting, and although that side of their sound is indeed palpable on this debut album, the most remarkable aspect is the music's discipline. Krautrock is as important an influence as noise rock, and the two sides create an incredible dynamic, and therein lies this band's genius. It's all about tension and release through taut Can/Neu! beats and cathartic blasts of distortion and feedback. Not since Savages have we heard a new indie rock band harness this kind of intensity with such supreme skill, which is reassurance that indie rock isn't dead yet. -- Adrien Begrand



Girlpool's minimalism seems destined (or designed) to be covered by moody classmates at a talent show, but it's not amateurish; Before the World Was Big is highly-calibrated music for emotionally underserved teenagers. This ten-string, one-chord-per-track duo is whip-smart, able to articulate the emotional and experiential realities of young adulthood with intricately developed harmonic and structural good sense. When asked, Girlpool claim to be "SIXTY-FIVE AND BALDING", though the record puts them in the late teens, meaning that when we compare them to their elders, I remember a line from Henry James: "There was nothing that at a given moment you could say an intelligent child didn't know." Youth is a perspective too often thought of in retrospect, something we're supposed to grow out of. Girlpool makes a strong (I'd say definitive) case that youth brings its own aesthetic rewards. -- Michael Opal



Coming out of a Toronto music scene that has never been more populated, vital, and diverse, Grounders still manage to stand out in 2015. The band began some years ago with an impromptu basement jam session with improvised instruments, after which the line-up of Andrew Davis, Daniel Busheikin, Evan Lewis, and Michael Searle solidified naturally over time. Their very first record, the Wreck of a Smile EP, came out in 2013, but with the gap between that effort and this year's self-titled debut album, Grounders served as an introduction for many, and a reintroduction for those already familiar. Every song on Grounders successfully attempts something different than the one before it, from bubbling krautrock to grey sky indie slow-dance to ‘70s shag carpet blues rock riffs. -- Ian King



Ten years ago Gwenno Saunders was cheerily singing "Pull Shapes" and "Dirty Mind" with indie pop darlings the Pipettes. Today she's a rising Welsh auteur who has put together one of the most original, creative albums of the year. A concept album inspired by Owain Owain's science fiction novel of the same name, Y Dydd Olaf combines airy European synthpop with the trance-inducing krautrock of Can and Neu!, making for a wonderfully cosmic, or Kosmische rather, experience that extracts great beauty out of gentle, minimalist arrangements. For those who don't understand Welsh, Saunders' singing sounds even more otherworldly, only adding to the record's mystical quality. So clever is her work that it's easy to understand why it's warranted to call her the best Welsh musical export since Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. -- Adrien Begrand

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