Every major city around the globe has its batch of artists who help to shape, define and continuously transform the dimensions of today’s music scene. These talents are as unique as the cities from which they herald, and their respective creative wells organically reflect something about the very streets they walk. From the West Coast to the Far East, and many continents in between, the musical talent of tomorrow is emerging, ready to push boundaries and subsequently drive the industry itself to new levels, whether through a catchy hook, gripping melody, incendiary lyric, or simply inimitable personal flair. The cities themselves serve as spheres of artistic propagation for these up-and-coming culture-makers, and the musicians in turn become reference points for the beloved metropolises: Cities call to mind certain musicians and musical eras (London of the 1960s, New York of the ’70s, etc.), and vice versa. Here is the newest crop of talented young artists currently on the rise, who you can find occupying the spotlights of the following global cities:
Hanging out on a block of Kent Avenue on the Williamsburg waterfront smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and discussing Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, or perhaps tucked into a remote corner of a lush Chinatown speakeasy, or maybe blowing out warehouse speakers in Bushwick, lie New York’s up-and-coming musical newbies. Like NYC legends of the East Village in the ’70s and ’80s, they are defining the ethos of an entire generation of young New Yorkers. Brooklyn has become the breeding ground for talent that transcends genres. In electronic music, drum and bass DJ/producer Com Truise has achieved status as underground royalty, his innovation with beats testing the boundaries of what most call techno. Sinkane, the afro-funk five-piece whose reign over the live show circuit in Brooklyn included a recent residency at Zebulon, is led by the multi-instrumental Ahmed Gallab, who rumour has it may just be the next Twin Shadow. Sharon Van Etten, the acoustic rock goddess who rules the indie scene, was cherry-picked by none other than Kyp Malone of NYC darlings TV on the Radio as a talent that simply could not be overlooked in New York’s sea of young musicians who write and record sad songs in their bedrooms. This year, Van Etten will be on tour opening for Nick Cave. On the other end of the musical spectrum, the rowdy, sassy, synth-pop quintet, Friends, who formed after being forced to shack up together in Bushwick due to a bedbug infestation, have been largely perceived as teetering on the verge of real stardom. Though they have kept quiet over the past few months, making scant live appearances, which tend to sell out within minutes, they are still considered to be the next hot thing in the city that never sleeps.
Los Angeles has long been known as a mecca for anyone and everyone trying to “make it” in the entertainment industry. In fact, there’s an LA graveyard for rock legends of yore—Hollywood Forever Cemetery—which even houses a music venue that has become a hipster hotspot over the past year. LA is also indisputably the centre of gravity for all the major record labels and management companies. For many, it represents the only path to greatness. There are scores of highly ambitious people competing for a select number of spots. Rising to the top of that pack currently is Haim, the folky synthpop trio of preternaturally talented sisters who used to play live music around town with their parents, Partridge Family style, and who are now as adults on the verge of releasing one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. Wavves, the too-cool-for-school surf rockers from San Diego are beginning to, well, make waves in the LA music scene. They have a new album coming out this spring, which will apparently give everything else a run for its money, and will push the band into even greater leagues. Rhye, the mysterious LA-based duo comprised of singer/producer Mike Milosh and producer Robin Braun, make exquisite, minimalist, synth-laden R&B. They only recently released their first album, Woman, but already have the whole industry abuzz with excitement. They are currently holding the No. 10 spot on US iTunes. Sky Ferreira is a former model/ actress who is now focusing on her music career. This endeavour has been attempted time immemorial by dozens of others before her, who have failed miserably and become emblems of celebrity self-worship as a result. Ferreira, however, has succeeded. Her live performances are becoming wildly popular to attend, thanks to her impressive chops (she was trained as an opera singer as a child) and the spectacular laser shows that accompany each set. Though her debut album has not even dropped yet (it’s slated for release this spring), she already has the whole city buzzing.
Detroit, despite current hardships and hurdles, is considered to be the cradle of some of the greatest musicians and most recognizable musical genres of our time. It is home to Motown the progenitor of R&B, which eventually metamorphosed into what we know today as hip-hop. Finally it became (arguably) the birthplace of electronic music and currently hosts one of the more famous techno festivals in the world. While some perceive it to be in a devastating state of shambles, others see it as a city full of life and opportunity for new growth. There has hence been a slow but steady reverse talent drain back to Detroit, after a decade of population decline.
Amongst those beginning to give the city a breath of momentum, establishing a new direction in which art and music can head, include prodigy drummer and electronic artist Shigeto, who recently returned to Detroit from New York City, and has over the years accumulated an avid fan base for his talent and innovation with regards to melding live and electronic performance. Aside from an ever-bourgeoning electronic scene in Detroit, there is also a budding indie pop cohort. Rai Knight’s music is a fresh blend of electronic dance music and synth pop along the lines of Robyn and Class Actress, and she is considered to be the current darling of the pop scene in Detroit. The songstress was recently featured in a Pepsi campaign, and her much buzzed-about sophomore album is due out this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is the musical brainchild of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein, who have perhaps already surpassed the threshold of indie fame, after signing to Warner Bros. The duo genre-bends funk and electronic, layering soulful melodies over each track to produce an infectiously catchy signature style. Alex Winston, the experimental multi-instrumentalist from Bloomfield Hills who has been compared to Kate Bush and Karen O, will soon be ruling the indie pop charts. Her tracks have been used for commercials and TV shows, and she recently performed at Bestival and was featured on YouTube’s watchlistentell.
Across the Atlantic Ocean into the Old World and its revered City of Lights, the music scene has been steadily evolving over decades into what has become a generation-defining era of electronic and dance music. Out of this trend, producers from across the country have converged in Paris and are spearheading labels like Kitsune and Sound Pellegrino, which, without missing a beat, continue to churn out high-calibre talent into the airwaves and onto the global stage. Woodkid, the solo project of Yoann Lemoine, who recently transitioned from a career in film and animation to multi-instrumental electronic music, and who has produced countless music videos for major pop stars ranging from Lana Del Rey to Drake and Rihanna, is living up to his reputation as he settles into his new career. His first album, The Golden Age, came out in March. Even prior to its release, his video for one of its singles “Run Boy Run” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video. In addition to Paris’ rich electronic music tradition, bands like Phoenix pioneered an entire movement of French indie, paving the way for artists like The Dø, who make experimental folk-rock, and have been gaining steam since 2007. After releasing their second studio album in 2011, they began to garner international attention across Europe, and stateside as well, with a successful string of US shows, including a live stream on Flavorwire. They are currently recording much-anticipated new material. Housse De Racket has emerged in Paris as “the band to watch”. Signed to Kitsune, they make the kind of dreamy synthpop over which hipsters in Brooklyn go absolutely gaga. So popular, in fact, that the global scene excuses the fact that they sing predominately in French (a facet considered for the most part a detriment to French bands trying to break through internationally). La Blogothèque, not so much a musical act as it is an institution unto itself, began when a group of young Parisian music lovers began video recording musicians play sets that would later be coined as “take-away shows” in other peoples’ apartments around Paris. Not just any musicians either. La Blogothèque was successful in curating take away shows headlined by Beirut, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and St. Vincent with Andrew Bird—before any of them were particularly famous, that is. They recently scored a sponsorship deal with Wrigley gum, and are now hosting take-away shows in cities across the globe that are in turn streamed live onto their YouTube channel for the world to watch in real time.
London has always been one of the top cities in the world for music. Seemingly every decade in modern British history produced an entire slew of rock legends, many of which not only broke artistic boundaries, but socio-cultural boundaries as well from the Beatles and the Stones, who aligned themselves with the civil rights movement in the States, to early punk rock and new wave, whose messages were seamlessly intertwined with issues around class divisions that pervaded the entire country. London was the musical amplifier for everything that was happening throughout England, and still holds the reputation as a nexus of creativity and social awareness as well as an engine that drives new trends in music. The new generation of trailblazers won’t disappoint. Gold Panda, a composer and electronic producer, is currently at the top of the game in London. He broke onto the scene thanks to his self-produced collection of remixes, which were so instantaneously popular as soon as he made them public, that he was almost immediately snatched up by boutique avant-pop label Ghostly International. His 2010 debut full-length won The Guardian’s first album award, and he hasn’t looked back since. Charli XCX is considered the current reigning princess of electropop in London. So far she’s released a handful of singles and a few EPs, which have alone catapulted her to the top of the charts and indie blogs, and have garnered her comparisons to Zola Jesus and M.I.A. Her debut album due out in April is, to say the least, highly anticipated. Novella, the London-based all female psychedelic/noise trio has already made its mark on the indie scene, when their eponymously titled EP elicited comparisons to shoegaze demigods My Bloody Valentine, as well as Jefferson Airplane. Word on the street is that 2013 will be their year. Post War Years have literally been described as the future of indie pop, even though they’ve (ironically) been in existence since 2008. Their new album, which came out in March of this year pushes the boundaries of conventional pop music, employing experimental sampling and polyrhythmic beats, creating an entire genre unto itself.
The music scene in Berlin has always been quite the envy of other major cities. It is the birthplace of a diversity of genres and is a destination for musicians, mostly DJs, who want to expatriate themselves from their countries of origin (Richie Hawtin and Peaches were two of the pioneers of this movement). It’s the Berlin pull, some ineffable gravitational field that sucks talent from around the world into its depths. Because of this, and despite the wide array of musical offerings the city hosts, techno is what it is ultimately known for. However there’s an entire other world of music in the city that is wielding its own influence on the global scene, unbeknownst to anyone. Dance On The Tightrope, a four-piece electronic outfit has been in existence since 2009, but only recently broke out of the underground scene, thanks to their second successful EP, which led the band to win the coveted Berlinvision Song Contest. Alphacloud is an “indietronica” quartet comprised of members who all migrated from various countries to make rock that is infused with “delicate electronic sounds”, according to the band. According to the blogs, however, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Thanks to K-pop and the “Gangnam Style” phenomenon that subsequently took the world by storm, South Korea has become a global fascination vis-à-vis the music scene. Despite the fact that Psy was perhaps responsible for the sudden outpour of interest in K-pop, there is in fact a long line of artists who came before him, and many are now gaining comparable popularity. 2NE1, the all girl K-pop quartet from Seoul, has been around since 2009. They released several singles and an EP in South Korea, all garnering positive criticism. However, it was when they came stateside that they began to blow up. The New york Times described their show at the Prudential Center in New Jersey as one of the “best concerts of 2012”. Now their debut album is in the works, being produced by will.i.am, and is set to come out later this year. MBLAQ, who have been around since 2009, are beginning to surface to the top of what has become a highly ubiquitous genre of music—no easy feat. The male vocal quintet recently completed their first tour of Asia.
Over the course of the latter part of the 20th century, Australia became known as a melting pot for different types of music from both the Eastern and Western hemispheres, with Sydney at the centre of the scene. From AC/DC (currently one of the five top-selling artists in the history of the US music industry) to The Vines, Sydney has produced bands that can compete on the world stage for some of the bigger spotlights. Some have said that the island is in fact teeming with such talent. Steve Smyth is purportedly the millennial generation’s Tom Waits (of Australia that is), with vocal chops that knock you right off your feet. The brooding troubadour, who is gaining more and more recognition, recently opened for megastars The Killers. The Rubens is a quartet of irritatingly cute and vocally talented young men who have recently drawn comparisons to Kings of Leon. Since practically their formation as a band, and with only one album out, they have played sold-out shows the country over. Elizabeth Rose, a 22-year-old solo electronic/ pop producer, makes songs that are as catchy as they are wholly original. Though young, she has already made a mark on the industry. She released her debut EP last year, was quickly named by Inthemix as one of “25 under 25”, and was the only female artist on Radar Radio’s list of “Top 20 Aussie Electronic Artists You Need to Know in 2012”.
Article by Marianne White for The Untitled Magazine “Music” Issue 6