List

Stereogum’s 50 Best New Bands Of 2015

Kero Kero Bonito

LOCATION: London, UK

Listening to Kero Kero Bonito is a joyous, extrasensory experience — a sugar rush followed up by a brain freeze. The trio navigates its already clearly defined brand of no-nonsense pop without missing a beat, and they touch on everything from gender norms to what video game they’re playing with a sly smile and a winking nod. On their debut mixtape, Intro Bonito, and the string of flawless one-offs that followed, they milk their brilliant meld of J-pop and dance music for all it’s worth, and it feels like there’s still more to go. —James

Leon Bridges

CREDIT: Rambo

LOCATION: Fort Worth, TX

Leon Bridges went from washing dishes in a Texas hole-in-the-wall to the forefront of soul revivalism. Straight-laced and classic in every aspect of the word, Bridges favors tailored ’50s suits in restrained colors and scooped doo-wop beats to frame his truly spectacular crooning. His debut album for Columbia, Coming Home, contains one barn-burner, though: Final track “River” taps into deep, fiery spiritualism. Neo-soul can be bent in many shapes, and it will be even more telling to see where Bridges heads when he outgrows home. —Caitlin

Long Beard

LOCATION: New Brunswick, NJ

Sleepwalker is a fitting title for Long Beard’s new album; Leslie Bear’s songs often sound like the space between the dream world and waking consciousness. It’s a hushed, declarative collection of tracks that focus on small facets of our day-to-day routine, and the seemingly insignificant thoughts it produces. Bear’s voice wafts in and out of spindly guitar motifs, but its delicate nature doesn’t hinder any of her precocious observations. They’re humbly rendered, huge revelations. —Gabriela

Lydia Ainsworth

CREDIT: Van Robinson

LOCATION: Toronto, ON

In college, this Toronto singer and producer studied to become a film-score composer. And in her debut album Right From Real, you can hear how good she’d be at the job. There is a very real sense of tension and dread in Ainsworth’s music; every music-box chime or Kate Bush yelp seems to speak of some impending doom. But there’s beauty in the music, too. She layers bleeps and pings and her own voice into the sort of soundworld that you can disappear into. End result: Ideal mood music for when you’re walking through a dark forest or an abandoned industrial-neighborhood sidewalk, alone, vaguely terrified. —Tom

Malportado Kids

CREDIT: Eric Phipps

LOCATION: Providence, RI

Malportado Kids comprises Victoria Ruiz and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco of the punk band Downtown Boys, who blew the fuck up this year when they dropped their Don Giovanni debut, Full Communism. The two bands have a lot in common, delivering political, punchy sermons in Spanglish, but Malportado Kids is a dance project. Inspired in part by music heard in dancehalls throughout Latin America, Total Cultura ends with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” presenting a much-needed portrait of what a different brand of American identity sounds like in the 21st century. —Gabriela

Mothers

CREDIT: Kristin Karch

LOCATION: Athens, GA

The bristly “No Crying In Baseball” is just one mode of many for this young Athens-based band. The project has its roots in Kristine Leschper’s powerful voice and hard-line lyricism, and the rest of the group supports that weight with a considered and compelling restraint. Their songs toe the line between free-falling folk and embittered punk, somewhere between baring your soul and baring your teeth. —James

Mourn

LOCATION: Barcelona, Spain

When talking about these teenage Barcelona punks, PJ Harvey’s name is always going to be the first one that comes up. That owes to frontwoman Jazz Rodriguez Bueno’s strident, gut-ripping howl, one of the few voices on the indie rock landscape that could merit such a comparison. But while Mourn may challenge Ms. Harvey’s elemental ferocity, they also play with a sloppily simple basement-hardcore urgency that’s just overwhelmingly endearing. That voice, combined with the band’s juvenile bash-it-out force, makes for a potent combination. —Tom

Murg

LOCATION: Bergslagen, Sweden

The anonymous Swedish black metal duo Murg dropped out of nowhere earlier this year to release a debut album, Varg & Björn (“Wolf & Bear”), that instantly felt like a classic: not just because it was (and is) so goddamn great, but because it deals in a very traditional style spawned decades ago by the likes of Gorgoroth, Taake, and Immortal. Like those bands, Murg blend violent chaos with insanely high-impact hooks, creating an effect in the listener that mirrors a dangerous dose of pure adrenaline. There are lots of bands who fashion fine careers out of little more than replicating the music of their primary influences, but on Varg & Björn, Murg have done something extraordinary: They’ve limited their palette to a single color — raven black — and have somehow come up with something worthy of their progenitors, something that makes those old sounds feel urgent, essential, even new. —Michael

MUNA

CREDIT: Alexa Johnson

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

The worst ’80s revivalism — read: most ’80s revivalism — is the musical equivalent of a chewed-up wad of gum, hardened and sapped of its flavor and stuck to the bottom of some Johnny-come-lately A&R executive’s desk. The best ’80s revivalism hits like a gust of winterfresh breath, sweet and chilly and vibrantly alive. MUNA are the latter kind of band; the good feeling they elicit is so potent that you might not notice what a biting aftertaste Katie Gavin’s incisive lyrics leave behind. —Chris

Myrkur

CREDIT: Ole Luk

LOCATION: Copenhagen, Denmark

Amalie Bruun, the woman behind Myrkur, has been making music for a while via numerous projects, most notably the indie-pop duo Ex Cops. But as Myrkur, Bruun has released two records over the past year — a 2014 EP and a 2015 full-length — that suggest an artist with a vast reach and unique vision. Bruun is deeply indebted to genre greats Ulver (whose frontman Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg co-produced the LP), but she takes the soft/hard elements of Ulver’s sound to far greater extremes, at times sounding like Enya, at other times sounding like Bathory, and every now and then, finding a perfect center between the two. Myrkur has been met with some contention among purists, but she’s steadily steamrolled over any opposition simply by making great, groundbreaking music. In 10 years, no one will remember any of the irrelevant noise that came from the sidelines; they’ll only know the music, and the name, and both will be discussed with reverence. —Michael

>> NEXT PAGE