25 Great Musicians Under 25

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13. The Districts, age 19
Freshly graduated from high school, four friends decided to defer college for a year to see where their musical talent could take them. Two years later, the Lancaster, Pa., quartet appears to be doing more than okay: Their 2012 self-released album Telephone garnered attention from Mississippi-based label Fat Possum (The Black Keys, Temples, Modest Mouse), which released a titular five-track EP in 2014. The Districts offers a fulfilling display of the band’s range, from the deliciously dirty guitar riffs on “Long Distance” to the old-timey plucking of “Stay Open” and goosebump-inducing emotive vocals over marching drums that made “Funeral Beds” an instant hit. The band’s future is more than promising, with a headlining world tour and LP A Flourish and a Spoil due February 10.—Abby Gilman

14. First Aid Kit, ages 21 and 24
Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have packed their Conor Oberst-inspired Americana and near melancholy longing for simpler times into Stay Gold. But the record is also a stamp of optimistic youth—an unjaded lens through which to face the future. Its title is a simultaneous call-out to Robert Frost’s famous line, “Nothing gold can stay,” and a rejection of it, a refusal to let the burdens that weigh on globally touring musicians tarnish their poise. And this, through a folky harmony that simultaneously embodies that subtle melancholy of their rootsy Americana inspiration and the liveliness that fuels their youthful, keep-it-real manifesto.
—Meagan Flynn

15. Petite Noir, age 24
Since 2012. That’s how long we’ve been waiting for a substantial release from genre-defying South African artist Petite Noir (aka, Yannick Ilunga). The 24-year-old teased us with singles “Till We Ghosts” and “Disappear” in 2012, then gave us false hope again in 2013 with “Noirse,” and, finally, late last year we were given “Chess” to tide us over. The January 19 release of Ilunga’s debut EP The King of Anxiety means the wait is almost over. “Chess” and “Till We Ghosts” will be included on the Domino Records’ release, as well as three new tracks, one of which is reportedly a collaboration with good friend Mos Def. Ilunga’s voice draws comparisons to Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio, imaginatively floating above soaring beats that emerge larger than life. It’s the kind of music that seems almost tangible, encompassing your entire being for the few minutes of sonic bliss.—Abby Gilman

16. The Orwells, ages 18-21
The year started with a shockingly weird performance of “Who Needs You” on The David Letterman Show (shocking to TV viewers; standard procedure for The Orwells) and ended with iPad Air featuring the song in its commercial. A pretty weird arc in itself, for a group of guys only recently adjusting to a breakaway from their childhood suburbia. And that’s sort of what Disgraceland is about: leaving their perceived lame and boring hometown of Elmhurst, Illinois, behind to segue into new lives. Particularly those of globe-trotting, seventies-inspired garage-rock punks. Through limited-range, intentionally careless vocals and deliberate, no-nonsense rhythm guitar, that style comes across strong—particularly on network television.—Meagan Flynn

17. King Krule, age 20
Seriously? This dude still isn’t 25? Not only does Archy Marshall’s brooding, pensive baritone sound like Tom Waits’ undocumented 40-year-old love child, but his emergence under the stage name King Krule at a music festival in France three years ago primed him for a wunderkind-like ascension still in the making. After wallowing through a tumultuous childhood—during which he was threatened with prison time by his parents after refusing to continue school, diagnosed with at least one mental illness, and channeled insomniac-fueled Pixies sessions into a burgeoning appreciation of soundscapes—Krule has used his past to inform his eclectic artistry. Simply put, his sound is confounding. Elements of jazz, trip-hop, soul, and post-punk arrive at an enigmatic confluence. And they work. The pasty, baby-faced redhead was featured on New York hip-hop collective RATKING’S 2014 “So Sick Stories.” He was nominated by BBC for Sound of 2013 (previous nominees include FKA Twigs, The Weeknd, and ASAP Rocky), and rode the success of his 2013 debut album 6 Feet Beneath the Moon to performances on Conan and The Late Show with David Letterman. Oh, and he just turned 20.—Cole Norum

18. Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks, age 20
Twin Peaks  is a band that takes full advantage of the stage;—and more: Guitarist/vocalist Clay Frankel sometimes jumps off and spin-runs around, miraculously without tripping on his cord or whacking audience members with his guitar neck. But when guitarist/vocalist Cadien Lake James broke his foot, he couldn’t necessarily join the fun. He played Pitchfork Music Fest from a wheelchair and, in their Sandlot-reminiscent “I Found A New Way” music video, was pushed around haphazardly through gravel lots and weeds. The song might as well have been named for him. But despite the wheelchair confinement and weeks in a cast, no ounce of live energy was ever lacking.—Meagan Flynn

19. Lapsley, age 18
Lapsley, a.k.a 18-year-old English producer Holly Lapsley Fletcher, came across success in the most organic way possible: planting some seriously good music on the web and letting nature take its course. “Station,” perhaps her most celebrated release thus far, combines simple claps, reverberating keys, and soft-spoken lyrics that sooth almost to the state of paralysis. Her voice is ethereal and breathy, but that’s not to say it lacks power. Much like The xx or London Grammar, her music is richly layered yet incredibly, beautifully simple and easy to digest. She leaves you completely fulfilled yet yearning for more, and, lucky for us, her upcoming EP Understudy is due out Jan. 5.—Abby Gilman

20. Joey Bada$$, age 19
He may not be the most prolific artist on this list, but he sounds like he might as well be. At only 19, Brooklynite Joey Bada$$ is a rapper’s rapper: workmanlike, stylistically transient. His effusive flow is an Eastern bloc behemoth, absorbing icons and idols and upstarts Akira-like from everywhere local (Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and DOOM), to Detroit (the Slum Village aesthetic and protégé Black Milk), to Chicago (Chance the Rapper), to anywhere else that’ll have him. Through a few mixtapes, some high-profile singles, and last year’s EP, Summer Knights, Joey seems to have found his own voice, which means that when his debut drops on his twentieth birthday, we’ll get the best of every artist with which he’s so obsessed.
—Dom Sinacola

21. Glass Animals, ages 23-24
It should come as no surprise that these guys retreat to the woods when it’s time to record, at a place they call “the Shed.” Between the xylophone dinging and the hand drum beating—all finessed on synth—Glass Animals sound like a band from the tropical wilderness accidentally born in the digital age. You get the sense when palm trees accompany them on stage, even in the Midwest. After the success of ZABA in the fall, the Oxfordites will spend much of the coming months finishing their world tour. And while vocalist and songwriting mastermind Dave Bayley has said he prefers to do his writing in one sitting, as opposed to scattered while on the road, we’re hoping his tropical-wilderness inventiveness will still be in full supply.
—Meagan Flynn

22. Frankie Cosmos, age 20
Frankie Cosmos’ lyrics are mostly silly and surface-level about everyday events. Which singer-songwriter Greta Kline croons over playful arrangements with simple guitars that sometimes gradually turn into dance-pop. The band’s first proper album Zentropy, released by Double Double Whammy, has an eclectic charm—on the opening track “School,” the 20-year-old scrutinizes the misery induced by the banality of high school, despite the fact that Kline was homeschooled. Kline explores topics ranging from a bus splashing her with water, the yearly tradition of growing older, and longing for her late dog, who is forever commemorated on the album’s cover. The songs are short and sweet—the longest clocking in at a mere 2:38—but well worth a listen.—Abby Gilman

23. Broods, ages 20 and 22
The electro-pop, New Zealand-based brother-sister duo is still getting used to the fact that they’re selling out shows across the ocean. Caleb and Georgia Nott, 22 and 20 respectively, had always grown up in a musically talented family; the only difference now is steadily spreading, global recognition. It started with the viral online release of the single “Bridges” in October 2013, which landed them on the indie radar, quite literally, overnight. It caught the attention of Capitol Records and also Joel Little, the producer behind Lorde’s Pure Heroine. And now here they are, performing their debut album, Evergreen—a combination of Georgia’s pure soprano over Caleb’s fluid synth and the subtle pop-popping of his drums—overseas at full capacity. But it wasn’t just the result of some viral good luck: Evergreen was well over a year in the making.—Meagan Flynn

24. Deers, ages 18-23
Hailing from Madrid, Ana Garica Perrote and Carlota Cosials met some years ago through ex-boyfriends. They planned a trip to the coast, brought guitars (one stolen from an uncle) with no knowledge of how to play, and formed the duo Deers. They added two new members in March, shortly after they eschewed a formal studio in recording their demo , a fast and furious pair of songs with an artfully disheveled glow. The blithe nonchalance of chord changes in “Bamboo” conjures the aura of a happy-go-lucky love for all things music. As a sunburst guitar plods along, one of them wonders, “Why you’re on my mind?” We’re pretty sure why they’re on ours.—Cole Norum

25. Joanna Gruesome, ages 20-22
With a name, and album artwork, reminiscent of a Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel, Cardiff group Joanna Gruesome meshes fuzzy shoegaze with melodic, barely discernible vocals. Its 2013 debut LP weird sister is a churning 10-set left to brood in a cauldron of frenzied, unpredictable angst; the concoction won the Welsh Music Prize 2014. With tracks ranging from the palpably rebellious (“Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers”) to impatient-but-smug superiority (“Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr In Love With Me”), the five-piece thumb its collective noses at any and all wishing to type cast them as pop-punk, noise, or any of the sorts. And for God’s sake, do not call them twee. Perhaps the most daunting installment of the sublime weird sister is “Wussy Void,” a gallant navigation through growing up’s increasingly unrealistic balance between fantasy and reality. Alanna McCardle’s lilting, near-angelic voice asks (most likely, because no lyrics exist anywhere) over loping drums and a twanging guitar “Why can’t we live on a motorbike?” The song ends in a difficult, abrupt crash of noise, a cacophony. Befitting of a group formed at the behest of an anger management counselor.—Cole Norum

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