22 up-and-coming artists you ignore at your own peril!
[Above: White Rabbits]
Hometown: Ísafjörður, Iceland
Why He's Worth Watching: Mugison likely embodies the person Led Zeppelin envisioned when writing “Immigrant Song.” One moment, this man from the land of the ice and snow is sounding the hammer of the gods, alternating between an infernal howl (much like Robert Plant’s) and a guttural heavy-metal groan, the next, he’s crooning to twanging guitar over eerie strings. He’s a shape-shifter and a funnyman, and Mugiboogie builds on his four previous genre-transcending works.
For Fans Of: Tom Waits, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Led Zeppelin
Acceptance Speech: “When I was 14 years old, I was voted the best-looking guy in school, but after the ceremony I found out that some of the girls in the school were running a campaign behind my back. The campaign was called ‘Vote the Freak.’ I also found out they did this to piss off the guy who’d won it three years in a row—they had some unfinished business with him. Is this something similar?”
Mugison on MySpace
Hometown: Nashville (via Fort Collins, Colo.)
Album: Apple Tree
Why She's Worth Watching: Herzig set herself up for failure when she declared, “If it gets any sweeter than this, I don’t want to know,” on her 2006 LP, Weightless. Her latest, Apple Tree, pushes her now-signature style—brightly textured acoustic pop that’s clever yet sincere, sunny but grounded—to exquisite new heights. It’s Herzig’s most accomplished work to date (and the sweetest—but don’t tell her that).
For Fans Of: Shawn Colvin, The Weepies, Jewel
Acceptance Speech: “Thank you, Paste! I owe it all to the cherry and apple Lara Bars that keep me alive on the road, my MacBook (aka music-making factory/life partner), Oprah, my present and future exes—both real and imaginary—and the letter ‘O.’ Because, without it, there’d be no ‘Oooohs’ to sing.”
Katie Herzig on MySpace
Hometown: San Francisco
Why They're Worth Watching: Blending West African Ewe drumming and bluesy, finger-picked guitar into toe-tapping folk-pop, The Dodos mix intricate musical knowledge with a pleasantly familiar twang. The duo’s refreshingly pared-down songs mingle drummer Logan Kroeber’s energetic rhythms with singer/guitarist Meric Long’s genuine vocal emotion—a combination nearly as rare as the band’s moniker would suggest.
For Fans Of: Animal Collective, Akron/Family, Babatunde Olatunji
Acceptance Speech: “What a pleasure to be gracing the yellowed pages of Paste. Although we don’t know who comprises the rest of the list, we’re honored to be a part of what is doubtless a beefy crop of bands. We’re just gonna keep doing what we’ve been doing—touring and making records—and maybe we’ll see you somewhere in between.”
The Dodos on MySpace
Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland
Album: This Is The Life
Why She's Worth Watching: This Libertines-by-way-of Kate Nash singer/songwriter makes waves with her booming contralto and propensity for jangly acoustic pop—talents she’s honed since her first gig at age 15. Macdonald’s infectious guitar hooks and sublime harmonies position her at the top of a genre replete with copycats. Her 2007 debut, This Is The Life, went double platinum in the U.K.
For Fans Of: KT Tunstall, Leona Lewis, Aimee Mann
Acceptance Speech: “Thanks to my family for their support and Sarah Erasmus and Pete Wilkinson, my managers—Pete u legend! Thank you, Paste, for your intelligence and astounding good taste in recognizing the music of a Glaswegian girl like me. You obviously know how to let your hair down and have a good time like us Scots!”
Amy Macdonald on MySpace
Hometown: Charleston, S.C.
Why They're Worth Watching: Sonic atmosphere—elegant, corroded and larking all about—is not merely ornamental for these Southern troubadours; it emanates from the deepest recesses of their scrupulously orchestrated compositions. Somewhere on a delicate pivot point between pop balladry and resolute anthemics, Slow Runner is the rare band that can mourn and bewail, then hope and ramble on, all with one hand on the blip-and-bloop button for good measure.
For Fans Of: Grizzly Bear, Clem Snide, John Vanderslice
Acceptance Speech: “How did we end up on this list, you might ask? HGH and camel steroids? Sure, that’s part of it. But hard work, that’s part of it, too. And by hard work, I don’t mean actual work. I mean sitting around thinking about things that are awesome, like unicorns and fireworks and free love. That’s the stuff that fuels great bands. Great bands like SLOW RUNNER.”
Slow Runner on MySpace
Hometown: New York (via Columbia, Mo.)
Album: Fort Nightly
Why They're Worth Watching: Two drummers give this six-piece of erstwhile Missourians more frenetic bounce than their namesake, and though they play with the studied synchronicity you’d expect from a band with concert garb that involves sweaters and button-downs, Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson’s double-team choruses routinely unfold into impassioned, full-band shout-alongs. “He’s not impressed,” they claim on fan favorite “The Plot,” but we are.
For Fans Of: The Walkmen, Cold War Kids, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Acceptance Speech: “Although we would love to be here in person, our busy schedule kept us from appearing personally in this information box. Thank you for your award. Here’s to a good 2009.”
White Rabbits on MySpace
Hometown: Langhorne, Pa.
Album: Langhorne Slim
Why He's Worth Watching: Hold on to your pork-pie hats, y’all—Langhorne Slim’s eponymous second LP swaggers like a jug-band strapped to the back of a rickety jalopy lurching down a muddy country road. The lycanthrope howls of his early songs are unleashed here only sparingly, leaving Slim sounding steady and sure on these new classics, even as he sings, “I felt restless, and I felt soft / Didn’t know anymore who I was ripping off.”
For Fans Of: The Avett Brothers, Josh Ritter, mid-’60s Dylan
Acceptance Speech: “Thank you for including us in your magazine. I’m not sure what you will be writing about, but I hope it is incredibly positive, and that fame, fortune and a possible appearance on Ellen will come as a result. I already liked your magazine and can safely say I like it even more knowing that it likes us. Don’t change, have a good summer and I love you, Mom.”
Langhorne Slim on MySpace
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Album: I’ll Be Lightning
Why He's Worth Watching: The lush musicality of Finn’s debut—on which he plays nearly every instrument himself—feels downright demure compared to his frantic live performances, in which he quite literally throws himself between bass, guitar and drums, conjuring less of Lightning’s sensitive-folkie vibe and more of another feral, bushy-browed percussionist—a certain pink-and-orange Muppet.
For Fans Of: Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, Ben Folds
Acceptance Speech: “I am mighty honoured to be considered as a Best of What’s Next. If you were to ask me what was to come next, I would answer, ‘Sexual healing all over the ceiling? Step off, step off, don’t you come near ’round here. I ain’t about to be your toy boy, middle-aged woman!’ Maybe it’s the beard?”
Liam Finn on MySpace
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Album: The Mixtape About Nothing
Why He's Worth Watching: This young MC has rapped over Justice (on “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.”), created a mixtape inspired by Seinfeld (called The Mixtape About Nothing, natch), sold out shows in multiple U.S. cities and signed a production deal with Mark Ronson’s Allido Records. Though he hasn’t yet released a proper LP, his future is already looking bright.
For Fans Of: Kanye West, Rhymefest, Common
Acceptance Speech: “I’d like to thank Allido Records for taking a chance on a knucklehead from DC. I’d also like to thank Con Ed for shutting off my power while I was out of town thus forcing me to write this acceptance speech from my Blackberry rather than my Mac Book Pro. Oh and thanks to PinkBerry for providing me with a cold, tasty sanctuary in this awful July heat in NYC. If they don’t have a PinkBerry in your area yet, I suggest opening a franchise. It’s dairy gold.”
Wale on MySpace
Hometown: Johnson City and Knoxville, Tenn.
Album: Nothing Is Okay
Why They're Worth Watching: Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews form the core of one of today’s greatest young country bands. Like the South itself, The Everybodyfields deftly straddle old and new, bitter and sweet, desperation and transcendence with an arresting command. And no contrast is more stark—or beautiful—than the two voices: Andrews’ smooth, clear alto and Quinn’s ambling croon.
For Fans Of: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, The Band
Acceptance Speech: “Hot dog. If you had told me a year ago that living in an irrepressible coma of self-loathing and depression would in turn give an otherwise legitimate publication an inkling that this band would be something to watch—man, I would have been surprised. Hot dog.”
The Everybodyfields on MySpace
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
Album: Arm’s Way
Why They're Worth Watching: Sprung from the loins of hipster-beloved band The Unicorns, Islands cut to the chase, opening for Beck at one of their first shows. Taking near-theatrical turns, the band’s sprawling indie pop skips from genre to genre, trying on arena rock and neo-psychedelia while following ringleader Nick Thorburn’s whims.
For Fans Of: The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal, The Apples in Stereo
Acceptance Speech: “On behalf of Nick and his messy men, I (the boil on his forehead) would like to acknowledge the aforementioned acknowledgment of Paste magazine bestowed upon a gracefully willful and potently potential ensemble. I’ll be lanced and long forgotten, but Islands is forever, and getting better.”
Islands on MySpace
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
Hometown: Taylor, Miss.
Album: Meet Me In The Garden 7-inch EP
Why He's Worth Watching: Magnificent or not, this combination could easily prove more gimmicky than the sum of its parts, but somehow the strange brew works. Part backwoods lounge singer, part town troubadour and part spurned John Hughes nerd, Dent May is joined at just the right times by a hand-clapping, “ooh wah wah”-ing band and a dose of synthesizer that’d wilt Tiny Tim’s tulips. After two EPs, a proper full-length is in the works.
For Fans Of: Jens Lekman, Beirut, Caetano Veloso
Acceptance Speech: “Thanks, Paste magazine, for including me in your list of the 25 Hottest Ukulele Hunks of the New Millenium. Finally, the hundreds, nay, thousands of hours I poured into my craft as a young lad have paid off. And to the ladies along the way who opted instead for the muscled rockers with bad goatees, look at me now!”
Dent May on MySpace
Album: A Larum
Why He's Worth Watching: At 25, Johnny Flynn is already contemplating the benefits of death, but when he sings, “Pray for the people inside your head / They won’t be there when you’re dead” on “Tickle Me Pink,” there’s a bit of disappointment mixed with his relief. His debut A Larum—with its spry guitar, healthy sighs of accordion and fiddle, and rollicking drumlines—would be a lovely way to shuffle off this mortal coil, but here’s hoping he lingers for a while.
For Fans Of: Fionn Regan, John Fahey, The Chieftains
Acceptance Speech: “Well, thank you for this honorable mention, Mr. Paste. It’s been quite a year and this has really capped it off, or, as we say here in Britain, ‘Put the turkey on the Christmas table.’ And what a turkey. What a Christmas table. You might think the two are synonymous, but without a turkey, a Christmas table is nothing. You have given me that turkey.”
Johnny Flynn on MySpace
Hometown: Louisville, Ky. (via Lexington, Ky.)
Album: Learning to Bend
Why He's Worth Watching: As one-fourth of Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet, Sollee applies his classical cello training to the freshly broken ground of Chinese- and folk-tinged bluegrass. On his debut solo LP, he wields his instrument in slightly more familiar singer/songwriter territory, but to no less delightful an end. Whether gently fingerpicked or dramatically sawed, Solee’s deft stringwork adds an uncommon dimension to his songs about life and love.
For Fans Of: Andrew Bird, Otis Taylor, Jamie Cullum
Acceptance Speech: “There are tales of a young man from the hills of Kentucky who built himself a monastery of red clay, and who speaks through a wooden box. They call him ‘Kentucky Buddha.’ He seeks expression through music and finds wealth in giving. One of his aides is Paste magazine, who he thanks for their warm support of his expressions.”
Ben Sollee on MySpace
Wild Sweet Orange
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
Album: We Have Cause to Be Uneasy
Why They're Worth Watching: Songs about feeling restless, desperate, nervous and scared rarely go down so easy. This is movie-soundtrack indie pop, made of smartly emotive lyrics and mellow melodies, and sprinkled with tasteful bouts of rock. Finally, something to be excited about for those who haven’t recovered from the Jump, Little Children breakup.
For Fans Of: Bright Eyes, Copeland, Coldplay
Acceptance Speech: “Thank you very much, Paste, for pointing out our little rock band. Thank you for letting our name show up in people’s houses and coffee shops. Maybe Wild Sweet Orange could even be lucky enough to have someone actually spill some coffee on this exact page. How amazing would we feel to be that close to someone?”
Wild Sweet Orange on MySpace
Right Away, Great Captain!
Album: The Eventually Home
Why They're Worth Watching: Drawing lyrics from diary entries of a fictitious 17th-century sailor, Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and his collaborators carve themselves a poignant hole between the worlds of music and literature, where the solitude of the sea proves beautiful, haunting and human. Imagine if Hemingway had created The Old Man and the Sea as a three-album musical project set to an acoustic guitar, and you’ll get the idea.
For Fans Of: Page France, The Mountain Goats, The Weakerthans
Acceptance Speech: “I guess I can’t say I was ‘surprised’ when I got the news—after several chart-topping hits and selling thousands of records in Manchester Orchestra, I figured it was just a matter of time before this project skyrocketed straight to the top as well. But, sincerely—thank you, Paste, for all you do for me and my friends.”
Right Away, Great Captain on MySpace
Album: Fresh Pair of Eyes EP
Why She's Worth Watching: In a music world overpopulated with acoustic guitars, warbling voices and tinkling piano keys, Brooke Waggoner and her cache of mesmerizing tunes stand out. With her serenely sweet voice, she plays the piano like a Little Richard/Rachmaninov hybrid and can arrange the bejesus out of a seemingly simple melody. We dare you to think of her as just another girl with a piano.
For Fans Of: Regina Spektor, Tender Forever, Ben Folds
Acceptance Speech: “They’re in my sleep. My dreams. My midnights. My mornings and afternoons. My weekends. My errands. Songs. They’re now in the world and no longer contained in the privacy of my living room. I feel a sense of responsibility with that. Don’t wanna waste people’s time. What used to be written strictly for me is now meant for others and that’s not a cop out. I’m grateful for your attention and time.”
Brooke Waggoner on MySpace
Hometown: Portland, Ore. (via Nevada City, Calif.)
Album: Pirate’s Gospel
Why She's Worth Watching: Two years ago, 23-year-old Alela Diane Menig and her debut album of simple, aching tunes slipped nearly unnoticed from the dusty bowels of Nevada City. Though often compared to Devendra Banhart, the freakiest part of Menig’s folk is how it emerged so fully-formed, as startling as a sudden glint of gold in a miner’s sieve. A rumored late-2008 follow-up should showcase the further ripening of this beautiful old soul.
For Fans Of: Cat Power, Nick Drake, Karen Dalton
Acceptance Speech: “I kindly thank you folks for thinking I am promising and all, but how did you find me? I have been hiding out in the cool waters of the emerald river, tucked away in the pines, far away from the lands where magazines are written. You must have a little spy that rides a trout or something!”
Alela Diane on MySpace
Hometown: Cardiff, Wales
Album: Hold On Now, Youngster
Why They're Worth Watching: The seven lads and lasses of this enthusiastically punctuated twee-punk outfit bounce with giddy abandon from xylophone-tinkled confessionals to sugar-rushed choruses about coffee breath, the Dewey Decimal system and translating goosebumps into Braille—all in brilliant defiance of their debut LP’s titular admonishment.
For Fans Of: Belle & Sebastian, The Go! Team, Broken Social Scene
Acceptance Speech: “We’re less the next big thing and more like the last old thing. In fact, we are like sooooo 2006 it’s ridiculous. We are much like a pair of well-worn pink cycling shorts; pretty cool to like if you are 11 but just a passing fancy before you move on to more fashionable tastes.”
Los Campesinos! on MySpace
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Album: Partie Traumatic
Why They're Worth Watching: The last rock star to emerge from Jacksonville—Actionville, to those of us who know it well—was a certain gaffe-prone rap-metal frontman with a backwards baseball cap. So, hurrah for Black Kids! They make super-fun dance rock with an endearingly nostalgic edge, they have one of the best-named tracks of 2008 (“I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You”) and, as far as we know, they’re not doing it all for the nookie.
For Fans Of: The Strokes, Hot Hot Heat, Michael Jackson
Acceptance Speech: “Take your pick: arrogant/arrogant or self-deprecating/arrogant. With the most profoundly feigned humility, we five twentysomethings from the lower-middle-class, Jacksonville, Fla., neighborhood of Arlington do accept this distinction most graciously bestowed upon us by Paste magazine (the most prescient, perspicacious, preeminent arts publication around, if our selection is any indication). Thanks!”
Black Kids on MySpace
Hometown: Shawnee, Okla.
Album: The Confiscation EP
Why She's Worth Watching: In a genre often pinned to formulaic sounds and themes, Samantha Crain is re-stitching the seams of Americana to fit her singular artistic vision. The 21-year-old songwriter—recently signed to tasteful North Carolina label Ramseur, which also houses The Avett Brothers and fellow Best of What’s Next-ers Everybodyfields—paints mystical, poetic slipstreams of words onto a canvas of haunting echo-chamber lap steel, earthy acoustic guitars, and loose-change tambourine, delivering her graceful songs with a gorgeous, quivering voice.
For Fans Of: Joanna Newsom, Andrew Bird, Mary Gauthier
Acceptance Speech: “Thank you! We can hardly conjugate verbs right now. We want to thank all the people at Paste who looked deep within their Magic 8 Balls before giving us this honor and—to all the other bands out there—we just want you to know how super-pumped your jealousy makes us feel right now! Thank you!”
Samantha Crain on MySpace
Hometown: Provo, Utah (via Lincoln, Neb.)
Album: The Sun Is Always Brighter
Why He's Worth Watching: Joshua James matches each of his radio-friendly pop tunes (“Another silly love song could make me sick / About a heartbroke emo rocker and his messed up chick”) with some real gut punchers (“Every time you wake / It haunts you once again / My daddy ain’t comin’ home”), and his raspy-voiced delivery and delicate, pedal steel-laden arrangements complement both extremes.
For Fans Of: Brett Dennen, Ron Sexsmith, Ray LaMontagne
Acceptance Speech: “I would like to thank the Paste Academy of Cultural Significance for this great honor. It is with considerable pride and consternation that I humbly accept this award. To be included with such an accomplished and enlightened group of artists affords me an entirely new appreciation for the expression ‘mutual admiration society.'"
Joshua James on MySpace
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