List

Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2016

gobbinjr

CREDIT: Andrew Piccone

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

As gobbinjr, Emma Witmer translates anxiety and alienation into songs that feel like a pillow you can rest your head on at night, or at least beat up senselessly in an effort to release your frustrations. Her whimsical pop music sounds wholly unique and oddly confident in the way it revels in its own uncertainty, and her new EP, vom night, is a darkly comedic coming-of-age about dealing with the incongruities of your personality and life never living up to weighty expectations. –James

Gordi

CREDIT: Savannah van der Niet

LOCATION: Sydney, Australia

Thousands of college students sit around in their rooms writing music every day, and most of it is as garbage as Natural Light cans on the lawn. But imagine your roommate is Sophie Payten, and she spends her free time conjuring these windswept electro-acoustic epics, sounding wise and sophisticated beyond her 22 years. Soundtracked by “Can We Work It Out” and “Wanting” and “Nothing’s As It Seems,” all-night homework marathons would suddenly seem profound and heartrendingly beautiful. Pro-tip for undergrads: Next time some hack is strumming away during your cram session, slide the Clever Disguise EP into your headphones instead. –Chris

Hazel English

CREDIT: June Rustigan

LOCATION: Oakland, CA

Hazel English songs are far too easy to get lost in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the dreaminess of her shimmering aesthetic is supposed to have that effect, but you can easily gloss over some exquisite vulnerability because it’s expressed so plainspoken and unassuming, enveloped by that transcendent glimmer. But she cuts through ever so gently and it registers much more forcefully upon a few listens. It’s a good thing her Never Going Home EP is easy to keep on repeat. –Collin

IAN SWEET

CREDIT: Eleanor Petry

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY/Boston, MA

With the addition of drummer Tim Cheney and bassist Damien Scalise, Jilian Medford’s solo project IAN has evolved into the full band IAN SWEET. But it’s still Medford’s bruised, beating heart that lies at the center of Shapeshifter’s twitchy tangles of guitar-rock, and it’s her voice we hear cracking into a strained yelp time again and again. Shapeshifter is a brutal album, an album about anxiety and self-destruction and giving yourself up for someone who only makes you feel more alone. But it’s also a hopeful album about going through the wringer and coming out on the other side with a smile. –Peter

Jamila Woods

LOCATION: Chicago, IL

On songs like Donnie Trumpet And The Social Experiment’s “Sunday Candy,” Jamila Woods’ voice was always a ray of aural sunshine, a liquid shimmer that marries jazz elocution to gospel warmth. And she’s still a ray of sunshine on her own album, HEAVN, but the album is something else too. It’s an album-length love letter to Woods’ Chicago hometown, with all that city’s beauty and heartbreak accounted for — a statement of devotion that still acknowledges all the flaws of the place she’s singing about. Woods is such a vivid, dextrous singer that she can cover the Cure’s biggest hit and make it feel new, and she’s using that gift for bigger things. Bless her. –Tom

Japanese Breakfast

CREDIT: Photobymo

LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA

Michelle Zauner’s music as Japanese Breakfast plunges headfirst into some of the darkest experiences in human life and finds glimmers of bright light around the fringe. As a music critic, my instinct is to describe its genre, but trying to pin down Zauner’s style can be as fruitless as attempting to make sense of the sadness and loss that inspired her new album Psychopomp. As with those sensations, it might be more productive to just let this music wash over you than to understand its inner workings. It’s as fluid, expansive, and gorgeous as its subject matter demands. –Chris

Kamaiyah

LOCATION: Oakland, CA

A West Coast queen has been anointed. No other woman has unified the sounds of an entire state, from the Bay all they way down to LA, like Kamaiyah has. But it would be criminal to give Ill Yaya the “good for a girl” pat on the back because she’s at the top of the class in the new school regardless of region or gender. Not only can she rhyme, she has a sense for pop craft that has her stealing the show from heavy hitters like Drake and YG with just a hook. Getting in the studio with her is a brave move for many a rapper. Not only can she out-rap you, but those raps will be packaged to sell while still sounding authentic as hell. –Collin

Katie Gately

CREDIT: Jasmine Safaeian

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

Katie Gately’s interest in electronic music grew out of her academic background as a sound editor for films and an obsession with field recordings, and she’s said that she wanted to take all of her found sounds and “make them the movie stars of the soundscapes.” On Color, her debut full-length, she does just that, making these odd squelches and rattles the focal point of tracks that mix the studied with the instinctual, inverting the structure of pop music and celebrating its immediacy with a cinematic gaze. The result is beguiling and sounds absolutely massive, a soundtrack for our darkest moments that still retains a sense of playfulness and wonder. –James

Kississippi

CREDIT: Emily Dubin

LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA

Sometimes you’re introduced to a song at such a pointed moment in time that it physically hurts you to hear it. Kississippi’s “Indigo” did that to me when I heard it a year ago. There’s a loneliness in Zoë Allaire Reynolds’ voice that curls up next to you when you find yourself in the same emotional space so you can keep each other company. Kississippi’s exquisitely-produced EP, We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, is a moody and open-hearted collection of songs about love overcoming physical and emotional distance, and the fallout that ensues when it doesn’t. –Gabriela

Kweku Collins

LOCATION: Evanston, IL

You’d think a guy that name checks Sade, Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, and Iron Maiden as influences would make a chaotic, discordant mess of sounds. Somehow, Kweku Collins has the skill to steal (in the way that good artists steal versus borrowing) elements from all of them and combine them all into a unique gumbo. To add to the constantly shifting sonics, Collins slides on a spectrum between singing and rapping with an ease that belies his 19 years on the planet. Dude is rap game Brandon Ingram — scary good already with a huge upside. –Collin

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