Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2013

Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2013

It’s that time of year again: Time to take stock of the vast armies of new musicians making music in the past year, and to pick out a few dozen of the best and brightest. In the three previous annual versions of this column, we’ve hailed the arrivals of Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, A$AP Rocky, Grimes, Savages, Best Coast, Zola Jesus, HAIM, DIIV, and a host of others. Some have gone on to greatness, and others have slipped away into obscurity, but they’ve all deserved a few minutes of your attention. And that’s also the case with this year’s list, which makes room for frantic art-rappers, rickety DIY punk bands, slickly synthy festival-beaters, grimy art-noise warehouse-annihilators, and, um, Diarrhea Planet.

Our list is alphabetical, not ranked, and it comes with a handy 40-song playlist of every act included. But before you go all the way in, we should point out what we mean when we say “new band.” Some of these acts have been around for a while, but they’ve really come to prominence in the last 12 months. And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, have fun discovering and arguing about all the artists who made this year’s list.


Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2012
Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2011
Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2010


All Dogs

Columbus pop-punk trio All Dogs have just one release out, a split tape with fellow Ohioans Slouch. On the tape, All Dogs have five original songs plus a Muffs cover, but those few songs contain more perfect anxiousness and earnestness than some bands can get out in a whole album. "I want you, and you want me, but I will fuck it up, just wait and see," sings Maryn Jones on one of the best songs here, "Love Song." The tape is made by moments like that -- sticky, sorta-emo one-liners that will most definitely be lodged in your head for a while, plus punchy drumming that is pretty impossible to not bop your head along with. It was released earlier this summer just before the band came to NYC to play the Salinas Records 10-year anniversary show with Swearin, PS Eliot, and Radiator Hospital; fans of those bands, take notice. – Liz

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: All Dogs Split Tape w/Slouch is available via Bandcamp.


A$AP Ferg

Ferg is not the most visible member of Harlem's A$AP Mob -- that'd be Rocky, duh -- but he might be the most talented. Rapping in an excitable throaty yammer that shifts without warning into head-blown stoner-dude talk and psychedelic singsong, Ferg seems like he lives his crew's art-gallery-dipset aesthetic more fully than anyone else, and his hardest anthems -- "Work," "Shabba," the Waka Flocka collab "Murda Something" -- are among the most fun and impactful bangers currently in rotation. His debut album Trap Lord, which started as a mixtape, will take over your life if you let it. – Tom

FOLLOW: @ASAPFerg | Facebook

BUY: Trap Lord is available via A$AP WorldWide.



Vampire Weekend looms huge in the sun-kissed indie-pop that young Californian Zach Yudin makes as Cayucas. But even if you can trace the dazed quicksilver guitar leads and deadpan vocals back to their source, it's still impressive what Yudin does with them, the way he uses them to make starry-eyed pop anthems. "High School Lover," in particular, could be the theme song to The O.C. if The O.C. went on the air today. And on the rest of his album Bigfoot, Yudin projects an open-hearted sincerity that brings Buddy Holly to mind. – Tom

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Bigfoot is available via Secretly Canadian.


Celestial Shore

The members of Celestial Shore met in Boston, but for the first four or five years they were playing together, I don't think they had a band name; they seemed to care too much about just playing music to come up with one. I can recall them playing in living rooms and lofts and once as a Zombies cover band, but mostly they were just a group of kids living in a freezing warehouse playing weird, screeching experimental takes on their jazz and classical roots. It was seriously cold there, so it's no wonder they romanticized the Beach Boys and the West Coast and sunnier sounds in general, eventually mixing those influences with deconstructive, explosive noise, an inventive meld of elements that come together seamlessly on debut LP 10x, out this month on Hometapes and Local Singles, a new label run by Brad Oberhofer. The album features vocals of Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of), who played in the band for a year and remains a frequent collaborator. – Liz

FOLLOW: @celshore | Facebook

BUY: 10x is available via Hometapes/Local Singles.


Chance The Rapper

This Chicago teenager raps in a cartoonish, weed-addled blur, but he displays a serious eloquence about his situation: growing up as a possible black-sheep in a tight-knit family, spending his childhood in a burnt-out urban warzone. His new mixtape, Acid Rap, matches his inimitable voice with expansively jazzy production that brings to mind early Kanye, and it's one of the year's most ambitious mixtapes, and its best. He surprised Lollapalooza organizers when mobs of local kids jammed the area around his small-stage performance. And for his latest trick, Chance handily swiped Lil Wayne's new mixtape Dedication 5 away from him with just one guest appearance. – Tom

FOLLOW: @ChanceTheRapper | Facebook

BUY: Acid Rap is available as a free download.



Chvrches, the infectious Scottish synth pop duo, had it harder than you'd think this year. Tracks like "Recover," "The Mother We Share," and "Gun" were a fierce combination of "Heartbeats"-era Knife romanticism and M83's neon majesty with a heavenly force that is Lauren Mayberry's voice. But let's be honest -- three great singles? Trendy influences? A promising EP? -- all ingredients for countless buzz bands that quickly burn out. So it is a massive relief to find that Chvrches' debut album is a stunner overloaded with hooks at no loss of emotional resonance, with songs that rival and, yes, one-up ("Lungs," anyone?) the singles that put them on the radar to begin with. – Miles

FOLLOW: @chvrches | Facebook

BUY: The Bones Of What You Believe is available via Glassnote/Virgin.



The first five seconds of Midcity ("it's clipping. bitch") sounds like conventional hip-hop, but then an abrupt blast of what could pass for digital-era Merzbow hits like a brick in the face. Then silence, as Daveed Diggs' lightning-fast rapping cuts in, a capella. What follows over the next 50 minutes explores those two extremes in every imaginable way. Starting with the Wolf Eyes-meets-party-rap of "Loud" through to the devastating, sobering "Real," Midcity is a brain-damaged club crawl carried by Diggs' equally funny and dark rapping. With a deep understanding and love for hip-hop and harsh noise, clipping. make what could have come off as gimmicky (or a Death Grips clone) into one of the most exciting hip-hop or noise acts to come around this year. – Miles

Follow: @clppng | Facebook

BUY: Midcity is available via Bandcamp.



Connections is the platonic ideal of an Ohio indie band: Built from key parts of Times New Viking, El Jesus de Magico, and 84 Nash (all legends in their native Columbus); playing basement-bound arena rock a la Guided By Voices and the Mice; bafflingly prolific (upcoming full-length Body Language follows one LP and one EP already this year); recording for Anyway Records, one-time label home of GBV, Gaunt, and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. Maybe that's why the Breeders, arguably the definitive Ohio indie band, nabbed them as an opening act. Or maybe, like anyone who's caught Connections in concert, Kim Deal was just electrified by Kevin Elliott's melodic huffing against the power chord churn. – Chris

FOLLOW: @connections614

BUY: The Body Language single is available via Bandcamp.



Many bands on this list show just how much the Boston music scene has blossomed and really spread its branches. Not Designer. Designer's not even part of the plant -- they're the weird-looking mushroom over there that makes you trip your face off and puke on your shoes. Blaring guitar noise and manic distorted vocals mesh with glowing hooks and the grooviest rhythm section in town. "Weekend Museum" (the opener on the excellent Kalvin & Kline EP) sums up their incredible creativity, complete lack of pretension, and humor in one off-the-cuff comment after the band stops playing: "Perfect! Except … JIM FUCKED UP!" Lay off Jim; they nailed this one. – Miles

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: The Kalvin & Kline EP is available via Bufu Records.


Diarrhea Planet

How to sum up Diarrhea Planet? Do the math, bruh: Six members + four guitars + countless hooks + infinite power + zero shame = this band is the shit. Infinity Cat debut I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams imagines pop-punk as Camaro-ready classic rock catnip, but the live show is what'll really blow your hair back. For proof, have a look at that Stickles-assisted "Born To Run" cover, or get thee to thy local dive bar and writhe around in it ("it" being a breathless, wide-eyed, beer-chugging mass of young people). – Chris

FOLLOW: @DiarrheaPlanet | Facebook

BUY: I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams is available via Infinity Cat.



While this brotherly duo from the UK scored a hit in 2012 with the rapturous, love-struck track "Latch," it's with debut full-length Settle that they've transcended their electronic accolades and become a united favorite among dance, indie, rap, and R&B fans alike. Whether they're enlisting fellow Brits for impassioned vocal contributions (e.g., AlunaGeorge, London Grammar) or pushing their own compositions, Disclosure have crafted an incendiary collection that has delivered only hits. And they've got an engaging live show to boot, employing not only electronic hardware, but live instruments, too. – Claire

FOLLOW: @disclosure | Facebook

BUY: Settle is available via PMR/Island.



In her new band, Wye Oak leader Jenn Wasner links up with producer John Ehrens and lends her heart-rending bazooka of a voice to the sounds of squelchy early-'90s R&B and techno-pop. If you were into Wye Oak for their masterfully comforting meat-and-potatoes, maybe it's a bit of a shock to hear Wasner showing off her command of the early-Mariah Carey production style. But she is good at this stuff, and she sounds giddy at the freedom to let her voice float over all those tingly keyboards. Maybe the greatest surprise on Dungeonesse's great and surprising self-titled debut album: the chemistry Wasner has with Baltimore rapper DDm on "Cadillac." – Tom

FOLLOW: @Dungeonesse | Facebook

BUY: Dungeonesse is available via Secretly Canadian.


Empress Of

Since 2012, we've been intrigued by Empress Of and her Colorminutes project, where she introduced listeners to her music by posting one-minute demos to Youtube, each assigned to a basic visual, just a screen displaying one color. "I feel like artists today feel so determined to present a 'polished' product and I just wanted to let people in to my personal process as a creator," she told me last fall. It's been an inspiring project to follow, watching these 1-minute lo-fi YouTube clips evolve into expansive, captivating dream pop songs. This year, Terrible Records released Systems, a gorgeous 4-track collection, and one of the year's most promising debut EPs. – Liz

FOLLOW: @EmpressOff | Facebook

BUY: The "Champagne" single is available via No Recordings.


FKA twigs

The cerebral dance producer and Kanye collaborator Arca makes cold, unforgiving soundscapes, and not too many singers could take his tracks and use them to make sad and icily beautiful pop songs. But that's exactly what the young Londoner FKA twigs does on her breakout single "Water Me." She emotively breathes her romantic problems through so many vocal filters that she sounds like five different aliens at once, all while projecting a distinctly human vulnerability. – Tom

FOLLOW: @FKAtwigs | Facebook

BUY: EP2 is available via Young Turks.



Live, the members of this Swedish psych ensemble wear masks and costumes, many of its members pounding drums as two boundlessly energetic women, dressed like witch doctors, leap and whirl and yelp. There's maybe something a touch racially problematic about this Scandinavian take on tribal music, but the band's shotgun marriage of stoner-metal fuzz and Afrobeat ripple is so intense and intuitive that you'll be too busy dancing to theorize about it. Their debut album, World Music, stands as history's finest example of white-people go-go. – Tom

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: World Music is available via Rocket Recordings.



Forget the dancing skeletons, possessed cats, and schoolgirls brought to mind by the name Hausu -- these Portland post-punk troubadours are more Jawbreaker than J-horror. Their debut, Total, may recall a moment before the word "emo" was relegated to hackneyed pop-punk whining, but it's hardly a nostalgia daydream. Twinkling guitar riffs here may have that familiar patina of angst, but this quartet takes those notes from the past and brings them into new, discordant territories. You don't kill your idols, you just snatch some of their cloth to make your own off-kilter quilt. – Claire

FOLLOW: @Hauusu | Facebook

BUY: Total is available via Hardly Art.


Kirin J Callinan

Aussie iconoclast Kirin J Callinan linked up with Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor's Terrible Records for Embracism, a record unlike anything you'll hear this year. One moment he's on some space-age Tom Waits shit, the next he's crooning luxuriantly over a string-laden new wave power ballad. Hearing him sing, "Standing there, in your underwear" is more than a little unsettling. In concert, he's a freak. In videos, he's even more of a freak. Results may vary, but Tim and Eric superfans might have just stumbled upon their latest obsession. – Chris

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Embracism is available via XL Recordings.



Krill's Lucky Leaves makes you root for them like the underdogs in some inspirational sports film. From the opening "Theme," the trio shows itself as messy, funny, and maybe just a little insecure (their name is Krill). But it's their overwhelming passion that hits hardest, especially on the penultimate "Infinite Power," with the screamed mantra of "If you want to feel like a failure, that's your right." That could be a sort of jab/ode to Jamaica Plain and Allston -- the Boston neighborhoods in which the band made their name. It doesn't matter where you're from with music this universal, though -- Krill's songs will reach anyone living in a state of hopelessness and make them feel like conquering the world. Here's hoping these guys do. – Miles

FOLLOW: @Krilliamhmacy | Facebook

BUY: Lucky Leaves is available via Bandcamp.


Majical Cloudz

Sometimes the simplest statements are the hardest to make. "I want you to know how I feel." "I want you to know I have respect." "I wanna feel like somebody's darling." These are all lines from Majical Cloudz's second LP, Impersonator, a collection of songs that are courageous in their willingness to be open, fully exposed, and even at times uncomfortably honest. Majical Coudz started in 2010 as singer Devon Welsh's solo project, but with Matthew Otto's refined, minimalist electronics underlining the lyrics, the songs are at once spacious and gentle, but also radical in their way of looking you in the eye and demanding your attention. – Liz

FOLLOW: @MajicalCloudz | Facebook

BUY: Impersonator is available via Matador.



Atlanta trio Migos -- Quavo, TakeOff, and the currently incarcerated Offset -- were already hometown well-knowns garnering a bit of national blog traction when their tape Young Rich Niggas dropped in June. Despite its album credits (Gucci Mane guardian angel Zaytoven on beats, as well as Guwop, himself), it's far from standard issue. They are at times whimsical ("Bando" is Kirby trap music) but can be completely brutal in their opulence ("FEMA"). And then there's the Drake co-sign. But who can blame him for wanting in on their odd raprobatics? Their exuberant beat choices, mono-frenetic lyrical delivery, and a propensity for word-repetition that sews hooks into your brain can turn something as simple and absurd as "Versace, Versace, Versace" into a mantra. – Claire

FOLLOW: @MigosATL | Facebook

BUY: Young Rich Niggas is available as a free download.



These days, it's pretty unusual for a metal band composed of teenagers to make any sort of impact. Generally speaking, the genre rewards performance chops that can't be fully honed til one's mid-20s, or, alternately, demands its practitioners toil in obscurity for years before being taken seriously. But Baltimore teenagers Noisem hearken back to an earlier era of metal, when high school-aged bands like Entombed and Obituary were vaulted to semi-stardom on the strength of their stunning debut albums, which exploded with youthful ambition and naiveté. A more accurate comparison, actually, is Slayer, whose founding members -- guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King -- were 19 years old when they released their debut album, 1981's Show No Mercy. Noisem sound bit like a young Slayer, in fact -- their incredible 2013 debut, Agony Defined, is thrash metal with such sharp edges and dark shadows that it feels like something blacker and harder than what we typically define as "thrash." It feels not goofy or fun, but -- bracingly -- unpredictable and dangerous. – Michael

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Agony Defined is available via A389.


Parquet Courts

Lots of indie bands these days are content to revive the '90s, but Parquet Courts are wise enough to dig into the '70s and '80s too. "Stoned And Starving," their crowning achievement thus far, could be Television or Sonic Youth as easily as it could be Pavement. Yet no matter how much of debut LP Light Up Gold seems beamed in directly from the canon, it's far too restless and alive to scan as mere retro kitsch. Songs this timeless could just as easily be from your unborn children's debut LP. – Chris

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Light Up Gold is available via Dull Tools.



This has been a big year for noise fans, with albums from Wolf Eyes, Hair Police, and Prurient to name a few. Yet not one of those vets could even touch 22-year-old Margeret Chardiet's searing debut album as Pharmakon. Just 27 minutes, Abandon is one of the most harrowing albums of the year. Built around crushing industrial blasts and painful, raw screams, Chardiet's music is recorded with the immediacy of her volcanic live shows. It is also a record based on careful tension-building; from the opening howl of "Milkweed" to the death-march of "Crawling On Bruised Knees," Chardiet knows exactly where she's dragging you and it's not pretty. – Miles

BUY: Abandon is available via Sacred Bones.


Pity Sex

Ann Arbor quartet Pity Sex aren't reinventing the wheel; their fuzzy shoegaze pop is a direct descendent of Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, and My Bloody Valentine. Of course, the same could be said of roughly half the bands on the planet. What separates Pity Sex is their impeccable songwriting -- beneath all that reverb and echo is a series of gloriously infectious hooks -- and the tag-team vocals provided by co-frontpersons Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake. On the band's 2013 debut LP, Feast Of Love, Greaves and Drake trade off lead duties on successive tracks, giving the album the push-pull feel of a long conversation over a life-changing night full of inebriants, furtive glances, heartfelt confessions, and massive epiphanies. – Michael

FOLLOW: @Pity_Sex | Facebook

BUY: Dark World is available via Bandcamp.


Potty Mouth

Back in June, we named Massachusetts all-female, pop-leaning four-piece Potty Mouth a Band To Watch, writing that the band is "expanding the conversation about what it means to be a a forward-thinking feminist band ... intentionally crafted but not outwardly political, in touch with the legacy of riot-grrrl but dismissive of lazy comparisons to it." While all of that factors into why we love Potty Mouth, knowing the background about their politics isn't even necessary to appreciate the hooky rock songs on their upcoming full-length, Hell Bent, out 9/17 via Old Flame in the US and Marshall Teller in the UK. It's an impressive debut with some of the best singles of the year; see "The Spins" and "Damage" for proof. – Liz

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Hell Bent is available via Old Flame.


Power Trip

The mid-'80s genre sometimes called "crossover" (named after the 1987 album by NYC band D.R.I.) brought together hardcore and thrash metal, two genres that had been at pretty severe odds prior to that fusion. Among the bands that evolved from crossover were Cro-Mags, Crumbsuckers, Biohazard, and Prong. But as heavy music further atomized, something so basic as a dual-genre hybrid became a quant notion: Who's got time for crossover when we're trying to parse the distinctions between micro-niches like war metal and bestial blackened death metal? Power Trip, that's who. And thanks to Power Trip, we do, too. The Dallas band's 2013 debut LP, Manifest Decimation, owes a significant debt to the groups that defined crossover; moreover, Power Trip manage a blend that feels like a truly equal balance of hardcore and thrash: the music is heavy, mean, prone to inducing hysteria and violence (hardcore); yet fleet, frenetic, and viscerally thrilling (thrash). But don't be misled by all the historical references; Power Trip are a gust of fresh air even amid a robust and innovative heavy music scene -- and they're a ton more ferocious, punishing, and intense than any of the tinny-ass bands that played this shit back in the day. – Michael

FOLLOW: @PowerTripTX | Facebook

BUY: Manifest Decimation is available via Southern Lord.



I'm too young to have seen a live Fugazi show, but after the first time I saw Priests, I left feeling like I knew what seeing Fugazi might have felt like. There's an undeniable element of early DC punk to their explosive sound and energy, which is smart, angry, politically charged, and anti-consumerist. But Priests don't at all feel like a band that is harkening back to the past. They are the opposite: Priests are a rare sort of band that makes me excited about the present and hopeful for the future. There is just something so fucking immediately captivating about them. Between songs, singer Katie Alice Greer speaks about the content of the lyrics, and reminds crowds to be mindful of their dancing, to treat others with respect. On tour, their merch table includes copies of In Every Town, a book about all-ages venues. The band actively avoids playing bars and traditional venues; online, Greer has written extensively advocating for the value of inclusive community spaces. Their recordings are upfront and addictive too: start with their Radiation/Personal Planes 7". – Liz

BUY: "Radiation"/"Personal Planes" single available via Bandcamp.



PUP are a great recent case for quality over quantity. For most of the year we've only had two singles and talk of a (still-untitled) debut album from the band, but those two songs are more than enough to get them on this list. "Lionheart" was a charged pop-punk tune that did the impossible of making you not roll your eyes at the combination of those two words. Balancing that was "Reservoir," a fiercely bitter and angry criticism on doing nothing but partying every night, which came right in time as the weather started getting colder and the nights shorter. – Miles

FOLLOW: @PupTheBand | Facebook

BUY: PUP is available 10/8 via Royal Mountain Records.


Pure Bathing Culture

If there were ever a name that foretold what to expect from a band, it would be Pure Bathing Culture. Former members of the folky Vetiver, the Portland-via-Brooklyn BTW alumni's new output has some ethereal textures, but it's far too lucid and almost-cleansing to be born of an astral plane. It's a cheeky way to look at it, but members Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman are music students of the earth, taking influence from the sky (astrology) and water (yacht rock). Birth charts and boat shoes are uncommon companions, but it's the confluence of soothsaying they lure out of the two that make the connection crystal clear. – Claire

FOLLOW: @PureBathingCult | Facebook

BUY: Moon Tides is available via Partisan Records.



It's a little strange to think about how little time Rhye has actually been around. We forget how young a band this is, because of that moment. You know. That first time you hear "Open," after the introductory string and horn swells clear, and that taut rhythm and Mike Milosh's breathtaking voice first appeared. You're silenced. By the first chorus it's clear that this could be a classic, and by the second, that's when tear ducts start twitching. But the fact that this duo followed that up with an album deserving of such an opener is why they'll be remembered as a great band and not just a great song. – Miles

FOLLOW: @RhyeMusic | Facebook

BUY: Woman is available nvia Polydor


Rich Homie Quan

Before setting his sights on spitting rhymes, Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan dreamed of being a baseball player. Although he succumbed to the music, he wasn't on his path to becoming a household name until after doing a year-long stint in jail on a burglary charge. Now, he's landing guest appearances on albums from fellow ATL rappers like Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz, but it's his own music that's leading him to make his mark. "Type Of Way" is arguably the year's rap summer jam, climbing up the Billboard Heatseekers chart before landing on the proper 100 list. Even Rihanna's taken notice, quoting its lyrics on her notorious Instagram. Sounds like a home run. – Claire

FOLLOW: @RichHomieQuan | Facebook

BUY: Still Goin In Reloaded is available as a free download.



Not since Njiqahdda has an American metal band chosen a more frustrating moniker, and it's doubly insane in the case of Sadgiqacea, because if they had a name as easy to pronounce and spell as, say, Baroness or Mastodon, they'd probably be superstars by now. Of course they've still got plenty of time for that. This Philadelphia duo -- whose handle, btw, is pronounced "sad-juh-kay-sha" -- has been kicking since 2010, but they just released their debut LP, the four-song False Prism, this past May. It's a revelation: melodic, mid-tempo, hook-heavy psychedelic sludge that draws equally from early-'80s Metallica and late-'90s Neurosis. Of course those aren't templates, they're archetypes -- but Sadgiqacea offer more than mere towering ambition; their acumen suggests similarly massive recordings to come. – Michael


BUY: False Prism is available via Candlelight Records.


Speedy Ortiz

Massachusetts still rules, and this year the indie rock world at large finally has to admit it. If there's any band playing around right now that's making this obvious, it's Speedy Ortiz. Their smart and snarky 2013 LP Major Arcana is one of the best rock records of the year, matching huge riffs and heavy drumming with singer Sadie Dupuis's intricate, intelligent lyricism. And with their higher profile, Speedy have been able to champion other Massachusetts bands like Krill, Pile, and Sneeze, a testament to the sort of community-oriented attitude that's made them a much-loved band in their home state for the past couple of years. – Liz

FOLLOW: @Killquilty | Facebook

BUY: Major Arcana is available via Carpark.


The Underachievers

Flying Lotus signed the young Brooklyn rappers Issa Dash and Ak to his Brainfeeder label for their weedy astral-traveler boom-bap. But they didn't let that stop them from recruiting Virginia banger-maker Lex Luger to produce most of their new mixtape The Lords Of Flatbush. When these two are staring at the stars and watching their smoke drift, as they did on the early-2012 mixtape Indigoism, they've got a great thing going. But as the Luger collaborations attest, they're still exploring, still pushing themselves. – Tom

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: The Lords Of Flatbush is available as a free download.



I only caught half a song by Torres at SXSW this year, but it was enough to make me a believer, watching Mackenzie Scott and company plunge their carefully arranged newfangled folk-rock down a black hole of searing harmonic static. Which is to say Torres ain't mere coffee shop fare. In fact, the coffee-referencing masterstroke "Honey" is one of the year's most harrowing power ballads. Scott's exceptionally good at channelling those dark, damaged emotions. Torres' self-titled debut got a little lost in 2013's bumper crop of indie-rocking female singer-songwriter types -- 'sup, Don Giovanni Records roster -- but you'd be wise to find this music. – Chris

FOLLOW: @TorresLovesYou | Facebook

BUY: Torres is available via the band's site.



These Cincinnati trash-pop scrappers peg themselves as doo-wop among other descriptors, which is a little misleading if you associate doo-wop with smooth, scrubbed-up vocal groups in highly controlled settings. Early demo "Be Mean" bears the specter of Spector, sure, but Tweens specialize in rocket-fueled ragers like "Rattle&Rollin'" and "Don't Wait Up." Their debut LP, due early next year on Frenchkiss, promises to be among 2014's most uncouth pleasure bombs, equal parts catchy, jacked-up, and jagged. – Chris

FOLLOW: @Tweeeeens | Facebook

BUY: Tweens' singles are available via Bandcamp.



There's never been a shortage of quality lo-fi pop coming out of Ohio, but goddamn is there a lot of it right now. I feel like I trip over a new great scuzz-pop band every time I leave the house, but maybe that's just because I'm fairly certain a member of Vacation lives across the street from me. The majority of the players hail from Cincinnati, although they spend enough time marauding across the DIY tour circuit that Jersey's stacked Don Giovanni label snatched them up for this year's fuzzed-out punk rock party record Candy Waves. – Chris

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: The "Candy Waves" single is available via Bandcamp.


World's Fair

Naming your debut album Bastards Of The Party can mean a slew of things, but for Queens rap collective World's Fair it's a marker of their devil-may-care, but fun-as-hell dark reinvention of classic New York rap. Members Prince SAMO, Jeff Donna, Cody B. Ware, Lansky Jones, Nasty Nigel, and Remy Banks are a gaggle of snarling goofballs who have made good on so much promise, they've become sweethearts of the city's iconic rap station Hot 97. But they're still lords of the underground, recently signing with Fool's Gold, who have solidified themselves as one of the best independent rap labels on the strength of guys like 100s and Danny Brown. And with this crew on board, they're further advancing that narrative. – Claire

FOLLOW: @TheWorldsFair

BUY: The World’s Fair is available as a free download via Fool’s Gold.


Yellow Eyes

OK so technically speaking, Yellow Eyes are not a NEW artist -- they released an LP in 2011 that was heard by maybe 300 or so people. Heck, it's not even like anyone's heard the LP they released this year, Hammer Of Night. They've got ZERO social media presence, and their Big Cartel store has been sold out of literally all their product for months -- not exactly a huge surprise when you consider they only pressed 25 copies of the vinyl LP. So in order to hear Hammer Of Night, you gotta do it the old-fashioned way: Spin that shit on Bandcamp. And you gotta do that RIGHT NOW. In an American black metal scene that has exploded into mainstream consciousness over the past few years -- and very much reached its highest potential outcomes in some cases -- Yellow Eyes may be the best representative of the scene's future. Hammer Of Night isn't post-metal or blackgaze or "transcendental" or anything that implies a dilution; it's fucking black metal: raw, harsh, chaotic. But it's not retro or "troo" or anything: It's melodic and accomplished and adventurous in ways that fully capture the imagination and ear -- and in ways that separate it from the output of just about every other USBM band today. – Michael

BUY: Hammer Of Night is available via Bandcamp.


Young Scooter

When Free Bricks 2, Gucci Mane and Young Scooter's collaborative mixtape dropped, Atlanta crew Bricksquad's prolific output seemed destined to take over the year -- and then Gucci and Waka Flocka Flame's relationship went sour, dismantling almost its entire infrastructure. Scooter is the last man standing, and it might be because of his ability to make music that is both austere and anthemic at the same time. Last winter's "Colombia," from his Street Lottery tape, is one of the coldest cocaine cuts -- not just the standard barrels of braggadocio, but a string of boasts about hard work. When that's part of your character, it's no wonder the captain keeps you around. – Claire

FOLLOW: Facebook

BUY: Free Bricks 2 is available as a free download.

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