We listen to a lot of music here at Stereogum — it’s sort of our job! — and every year, we attempt to codify all of that listening through lists that take stock of what’s kept us engaged throughout. There are still a few weeks until the hectic year-end list season descends, but we’ve made it something of a tradition to highlight new sounds that have us excited about the future of music through our annual Best New Bands list.
Now, obviously, “new” is a subjective term, and “band” doesn’t necessarily apply to all the entries on this list, but one thing that unites all of these artists is that they’re pushing the boundaries of music forward, or at least revisiting old sounds in unique and refreshing ways. These are musicians that have created albums and songs that we can’t stop listening to. Most of them have released debuts within the past twelve months (with some exceptions) — the rest are on the verge of putting out a first full-length project, and all of them have us pumped to hear where they go next.
Those are some wide parameters, but we think this list make sense. And if you’ve been reading Stereogum throughout the year, from our Band To Watch series to our frequent daily music posts, most of these names should be familiar, and maybe you’ve grown to love them over the last year, too.
If you’re interested, revisit our lists from 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010, and get familiar with Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2016, presented in alphabetical order, below. You can also listen to a playlist of our picks on Spotify. –James
LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA
The first thing you notice when you listen to Abi Reimold’s debut full-length, Wriggling, is her voice. It starts in lilting falsetto and sinks to a low and grating rasp the moment Reimold’s songs start to sound too pretty. Wriggling is a rock n’ roll tempest, a series of songs about growing up and fucking up and seeking something undefined. It’s a humbly-produced album that proves Reimold has the potential to grow into something much, much bigger. –Gabriela
LOCATION: Atlanta, GA
Two years ago, when Awful Records was the toast of the rap internet’s trend-conscious bleeding edge, few would have predicted the Atlanta collective’s most exciting export would be an R&B singer. But ABRA, who recently signed with Matador offshoot True Panther, is making music unlike anyone else right now. Her recent EP converges countless strands of ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, from house to industrial to post-punk to new wave, and weaves them into something spare, chilly, and thoroughly modern. It’s called PRINCESS, and if ABRA keeps maturing at this rate she’ll be a queen in no time. –Chris
LOCATION: Boston, MA
Metal is unusually resistant to the “Best New Bands” treatment. (I’d get into why, but since I’m on a tight word count here, I’m afraid I have to leave this thesis unsupported for the moment. My apologies.) In any case, there are a number of metal bands that released strong debut LPS in 2016 — Blood Incantation, Sumerlands, Numenorean… — but for various and sundry reasons, Astronoid are the only metal band on this list. “But are they even metal?” Well, they self-define as “dream-thrash,” a clever end run around being tagged as “blackgaze,” although equally meaningless. Their first full-length, Air, is built on base elements from various metal subgenres, but it’s equally indebted to shoegaze, prog, dream-pop, and post-rock. It’s catchy as hell, beautifully produced, tonally complex, and wildly thrilling. If they never release anything else, Astronoid will have left us with a single remarkable statement. If this is just the beginning, though, they could be something really, truly special. –Michael
LOCATION: Ripon, England
It’s startling to hear several generations of English folk-rock manifesting in the music of one 17-year-old girl. Nick Drake’s gentle whispers, Radiohead’s trembling balladry, the Staves’ breathless sonic panoramas — those are just a few of the musical memories wrapped up in Marten’s prodigious debut album Writing Of Blues And Yellows. Before voting age, she’s already consumed a lifetime’s worth of staggeringly beautiful music and synthesized it into a sound all her own. “Where does her start go from here?” she sings on breakthrough single “Bird.” We can’t wait to find out. –Chris
LOCATION: New York, NY
Though they’ve been around for a few years and have opened for some big names, Charly Bliss’ debut album is still on the horizon, and that’s an exciting prospect. With one-off single “Ruby” earlier this year, they offered up a love letter to a therapist punctuated by sticky sweet hooks and vividly violent details like being “passed out on the subway with blood in my hair.” They’ve got more effusive and sharply menacing pop-rock in the wings, and a full-length will be their time to shine. –James
LOCATION: Dripping Springs, TX
Austin is a Southern metropolis, but you don’t have to drive far outside the city limits to find miles of eerie Texas desert. That’s where Cross Record’s ranch is situated, where their stunning Wabi-Sabi was conceptualized and brought to life. The album reflects its environment, its sun-charred drones and thunderous storms of noise animated by Emily Cross’ restless whisper. Chicago post-rock is in the mix too, nodding to the band’s pre-Austin history, but those sounds have been transported to a foreign realm and converted into something utterly haunting and unique. –Chris
LOCATION: Berlin, Germany
Chicago footwork, with its heart-murmur rhythmic schemes and its dizzying speeds, is a tricky form of music, and almost nobody from outside Chicago ever seems to get it right. But DJ Paypal, from Berlin by way of North Carolina, has the sort of grasp on the genre that allows him to push it in weird new directions. The producer likes to stay mysterious and unpredictable, performing in a mask and, at one point, dumping 30 Drake remixes on the internet at once. But his giddy, spazzy take on the genre isn’t a joke or a gimmick; it’s an even more head-spinning version of a form of music that was already head-spinning. –Tom
LOCATION: Hampton, Virginia
How can you feel anything but love for this guy? Just when we thought he was going to be a footnote in the grandiose multimedia saga that is “Hotline Bling,” he bounced back with “Broccoli,” a summer jam so joyous its piano notes practically bounce out of the speakers and dance with you. Now he’s dropped an entire album that good, one that fearlessly bridges rap, R&B, gospel, house, reggae, and rock with the poise of a pro and the demeanor of a drunken master. It’s lit — as in, it shines like the sun and will definitely brighten your day. –Chris
LOCATION: Olympia, WA
For those who were bummed-out by G.L.O.S.S.’ passing (RIP), there’s still a lot of music to look forward to. Who knows what its members will go on to produce, but rest assured Sadie Switchblade will be around for awhile, making country-leaning rock music that sounds-off to seminal American bands passed; Switchblade channels indie greats and even covers Lucinda Williams with grace and reverence. Dyke Drama’s Up Against The Bricks is a semi-sweet meditation on identity, love, and longing. It’s rarely incendiary, but never afraid to prove a point. –Gabriela
LOCATION: Washington, DC
Next year, the great DC punk band Priests will finally release their debut album, something that some of us have been eagerly anticipating since they dropped a game-changing EP in 2014. But Priests bassist Taylor Mulitz has already played on another great record. Mulitz is one third of the DC band Flasher, and their self-titled debut EP takes the far-off sounds of krautrock and dream-pop and grounds them in the push-pull of a classic DC post-hardcore rhythm section. This is punk rock that walks the line, letting its ideas run free while keeping the earthy urgency that the genre needs. –Tom