List

Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2016

Let’s Eat Grandma

CREDIT: Francesca Allen

LOCATION: Norwich, England

Imagine the creepy twins from The Shining rented a room in a gingerbread house, ate some magic mushrooms, listened to a lot of Kate Bush, and then recorded an album. You’d probably get something like I, Gemini, the beautiful, bewitching debut from British teenagers Let’s Eat Grandma. Their dark fairytale music is experimental without ever taking itself too seriously, their whimsical eccentricity resting somewhere between total sincerity and winking artifice. Either way, it’s magical. –Peter

Littler

CREDIT: Scott Troyan

LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA

Being young is hard. Your twenties are basically just a series of personal, professional, and romantic fuck-ups, a decade of fumbling towards something resembling adulthood. Sometimes it feels like the only thing to do about it is complain over some loud guitars, and that’s the approach that Littler take on their debut album Of Wandering. The band recorded the LP with Swearin’s Kyle Gilbride, which places them in an impressive lineage of punky, poppy DIY rock that also includes Waxahatchee, Radiator Hospital, All Dogs, and Sports. But Littler’s fuck-ups are all their own, and so are their triumphs, Of Wandering being one of them. –Peter

Mal Devisa

LOCATION: Northampton, MA

“Now I go by Mal Devisa/ Avid rapper, she’s a preacher/ A nonconformist nonbeliever.” That’s how Deja Carr describes herself on Kiid’s swaggering closer “Dominatrix,” but I’ll keep it short and just call her a star. Her voice is a whole universe unto itself, folding everything from Nina Simone’s smoky croon to Merrill Garbus’ fiery yawp into its rich depths. Whether singing over the deep thrum of her bass or rapping over an explosive beat, she projects the kind of quiet confidence that demands your attention instead of asking for it. –Peter

Mannequin Pussy

CREDIT: Scott Troyan

LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA

Mannequin Pussy can thrash you, soothe you, blitz you, groove you. The Philadelphia pop-punks have a Pixies-like ability to shift the shape of their sound, making full use of their genre’s dynamic spectrum from gently pretty singsong to harrowing sonic violence. Their new album Romantic fits more thrilling twists and turns into 17 minutes than most bands can muster over an entire career. And since that music is a vehicle for Marisa Dabice’s compelling internal monologues, it adds up to something more lasting and meaningful than mere sensory overload. –Chris

Margaret Glaspy

CREDIT: Ebru Yildiz

LOCATION: New York, NY

On her debut album, Margaret Glaspy makes tried-and-true rock and roll sound vital and fresh. Her blues-inflected songs take cues from the ’70s (think Mitchell) and ’90s (Phair) but feel thoroughly here and now. Glaspy’s a world-class songwriter, and each track on Emotions And Math explores the divide between desire and rationality with exactitude and confidence. If Glaspy feels like an outlier in today’s musical landscape, that’s only because she’s so remarkable, and her music demonstrates that the singer-songwriter tradition is alive and thriving. –James

Maria Usbeck

CREDIT: Holland Brown

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

Maria Usbeck’s Amparo is an album that’s traveled long distances. Written and recorded throughout Latin America, Florida, the West Coast, and Brooklyn, and composed in Usbeck’s native language, Spanish, these songs sound like they could stretch out and find a home just about anywhere. Usbeck herself describes this work as a travel diary, and it’ll make you want to get out of your familiar surroundings and explore something new, whether it be a neighborhood or city, or something simpler, like a genre of music you’re not well-versed in. Amparo is just that beautiful. –Gabriela

Melkbelly

LOCATION: Chicago, IL

After spending a few years knocking around the Chicago underground and putting out a string of pulverizing and epically-constructed shortform releases, Melkbelly are gearing up to release their debut full-length next year. “Mount Kool Kid” and “Elk Mountain” from this summer’s 7″ ooze confidence and cool and have a handle on tension-building like no other, and if they’re any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be a wild and snarling ride. –James

Moses Sumney

CREDIT: Micaiah Carter

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

An unearthly vocal range, the ability to write lines like “I know what it is to behold and not be held,” and the savvy required to maximize them both in everything from a bedroom 4-track setup to a full studio? What else could you ask you for? Maybe that he release more than five songs every year-and-a-half or so? Even then, with less than 15 songs to his name, Moses Sumney has more potent emotional evocation in his beautiful, soulful, short catalog than some artists can boast for their entire career. –Collin

Muncie Girls

CREDIT: Jay Wennington

LOCATION: Exeter, England

It’s hard to make political music, but we were graced with so much good music this year that was explicitly aimed at creating social change. The Exeter-based punk band Muncie Girls take macro issues and act them out on a micro stage. “All the things you didn’t learn in school, and why it feels like no one knows the truth,” Lande Hekt sings on From Caplan To Belsize’s leading track. “The systems we rely on aren’t for you, they’re for the lucky fucking few!” And while the album is polemical, Muncie Girls still manage to sing about the everyday trials and tribulations of regular 20-somethings on the side. They’re fighting the good fight, and they’ll make you want to do the same. –Gabriela

Noname

LOCATION: Chicago, IL

Back in 2013, a complete unknown who called herself Noname Gypsy turned in a casually virtuosic guest-verse on “Lost,” a highlight from Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap. And she’s been doing great work on other people’s songs since then. But none of it fully prepared us for the stirring, humble, conversational depths of Telefone, the album that the newly rechristened Noname gave us this year. Over dizzily lush and organic beats, Noname rhapsodizes about childhood sneakers and her imagined future child, helping to usher in a glorious new age of introspective Chicago rap in the process. –Tom

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