Music

The 20 Best New Artists of 2017

From garage rock to silky soul to jazz-metal to progressive hip-hop, our favorite new artists remind us that inspiration is inexhaustible and talent is everywhere.

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10. Lo Tom
The term “super group” is thrown around pretty liberally these days, but in the case of Lo Tom, it’s unquestionably in order. The band comprises scene veterans David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones) on vocals and bass, Jason Martin (Starflyer 59, Bon Voyage) on guitar, TW Walsh (The Soft Drugs, Pedro the Lion) on guitar and background vocals and Trey Many (Velour 100, Starflyer 59) on drums. With a melodic pedigree that’s rooted in the guitar-heavy, alt-rock-fueled ‘90s and also shaped by the glossed-up, genre-shifting ‘00s, Lo Tom encompasses a surprisingly modern sound that simultaneously flirts with and fights against its own nostalgia. Overflowing with a confidently relaxed cool and an absolute lack of pretense or veneer, Lo Tom’s debut somehow feels both enthusiastically self-assured and deceptively effortless. —Will Hodge

Read Paste’s review of Lo Tom’s debut album

9. Colter Wall
Colter Wall is a 22-year-old kid from the pitiless plains of Saskatchewan, where the cruel winters and endless horizon can drive the even warmest souls to the bottle and age a man five years for every one. Maybe that’s why his deep, dark voice and tales of lonesome cowboys, jealous lovers and violent vagabonds cut so deep. On his self-titled debut full-length, Wall clambers through his country blues with an acoustic guitar and little more, every spare string echoing with the old soul of a human glacier in perpetual search of another train to hop—a jug of wine in one hand, a buck knife in the other. On slow-freeze songs like “Thirteen Silver Dollars,” “Codeine Dream” and “Transcendent Ramblin’ Railroad Blues,” his burnt rawhide voice reveals a frontier poet of the first order, and one the most exciting young talents in country music. —Matthew Oshinsky

Read: Colter Wall Resurrects the Murder Ballad

8. Molly Burch
Los Angeles-born, Austin-based Molly Burch is a force to be reckoned with, albeit a subtle one. Her debut LP, Please Be Mine, was released in February and was not just one of the year’s best albums by a newcomer, but one of the best period. (It ranked No. 42 on our 50 Best Albums of 2017.) The record is heartfelt, intricate and unconditionally romantic. As a trained jazz singer, Burch’s vintage vocal anchor the 10 songs, particularly on the standout “Fool” and the title track, “Please Be Mine.” With dual talents for Laurel Canyon folk and Hit Parade pop of the ‘60s, she’s a breath of fresh air in comparison to much of today’s overly processed singer-songwriters. This year she opened for everyone from Lucy Dacus to Grizzly Bear, so keep her name (and her album) in your brain. —Annie Black

7. Sheer Mag
Philly garage-soul thrashers Sheer Mag actually released two full-length records in 2017. The first was a compilation of their previous three EPs, helpfully titled Compilation LP. It’s riffs were so jagged and glammy, its grooves so pungent, that it was hard to imagine Sheer Mag coming back with anything nearly so comprehensively great for their proper debut full-length. And yet, with Need to Feel Your Love, frontwoman Tina Halladay and Co. managed to preserve every last distorted shriek, every bouncy spine-tingler. It’s fitting that Sheer Mag hail from Philly, one of America’s unofficial capitals of R&B and punk (think Hall & Oates, The Delfonics, The Dead Milkmen). Album opener “Meet Me in the Street” is a mean thumper that AC/DC or Thin Lizzy would have been proud to call their own. It’s followed by the title track, a hip-shaker with funk chords and a romantic lead from Halladay that puts this band’s versatility on blast. “Nuthin’ to do but keep on battling on and on and on!” she declares. —Matthew Oshinsky

Read Paste’s review of Sheer Mag’s ‘Need to Feel Your Love’

6. Phoebe Bridgers
“Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time,” Phoebe Bridgers sings in “Funeral,” one of the best songs on her incredible debut album, Stranger in the Alps. “And that’s just how I feel. Always have, and I always will.” No doubt about it: Alps is, at its core, a collection of sad folk songs, presented with nifty sonic accoutrements (mournful fiddle here, electro-noise there) and clever references (David Bowie, Jeffrey Dahmer) that give them added dimension. But its Bridgers’s plainspoken lyrics and airy, inescapable melodies that make Alps not just one the year’s best debuts, but also one of 2017’s best albums by anyone at any stage of their career. At 23 years old, she already has a masterpiece under her belt. —Ben Salmon

5. Bedouine
Subtlety often seems like a lost art these days, but it’s the beating heart at the center of Bedouine’s music. With a languorous voice that calls to mind classic Dusty Springfield and a lyrical sensibility reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s, mastermind Azniv Korkejian found the perfect creative foils in the Spacebomb Records crew, who augmented her acoustic guitar frameworks with understated strings and horns. The result is one of the most elegant and beguiling albums of the past few years. Even better: it’s merely the first effort from a singer and songwriter who clearly bears watching. —Eric R. Danton

Read: Bedouine: The Best of What’s Next

4. Priests
Katie Alice Greer is the loudspeaker we’ve been begging for. The Priests frontwoman delivers every note throughout DC-based punk band’s excellent debut Nothing Feels Natural, with power, bravado and most importantly, authority. At one turn, Greer calls out an alpha-male lacking in self-awareness on “JJ”; on another, she delivers a feminist manifesto disguised as the quasi-Chomskian “Pink White House.” Operating on their own Sister Polygon Records label, Greer and Priests (also one of this year’s best live bands) are the next important female-fronted punk band in line (think Savages) to shatter the complacent patriarchy. —Adrian Spinelli

Read: Priests Are Political, But Don’t Call Them ‘Riot Grrrl’

3. Ron Gallo
Ron Gallo’s LP Heavy Meta was released toward the very beginning of this year, making it easy to forget that its opening cut, “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” was one of the most electrifying songs of the year. Gallo combines balls-to-the-wall garage psych with the kind of social anger and biting snark that keeps getting him compared to a young Bob Dylan (the voluminous ‘fro helps too.) The bitter humor of “Why Do You Have Kids?” and “All the Punks Are Domesticated” show there’re some real brains behind all the fuzzed-out brawn, while the stellar stand-alone singles he released last month (“Temporary Slave” “Sorry Not Everybody Is You”), have us hopeful he’s not slowing down anytime soon. —Madison Desler

2. Sampha
Better known until 2017 as the chosen side piece for a bevy of otherwise committed R&B and hip-hop stars (Solange, Drake and Jessie Ware, among them), Sampha Sisay stood firm on his own in 2017 with the release of his debut album Process. The record is almost startling in its inventiveness, with the English singer/songwriter and his co-producer trying to bend these slippery, undulating beats to their will. Sampha doesn’t miss a stroke, coming alive through these heartbroken, striving songs and his star-power moments on late-night TV. All it got him was a Mercury Prize and the adoration of a new generation of beat-makers and crate-diggers. —Robert Ham

1. SZA
SZA’s protestations that her music doesn’t fit into any single category ring truer than most: There are elements of jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop and pop on the Jersey singer’s debut LP CTRL, and she is equally adept at all of them. Plus, besides showing reflective and vulnerable sides, the singer born Solána Rowe has a sense of humor, and she’s not afraid to deploy it on takedowns of dumbass men that carry through entire songs, or through sharp turns of phrase that flicker past in an instant. Hers is a fresh voice with plenty to say, so it’s no wonder that Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj have turned to her for songs. Let’s hope SZA is saving the best stuff for herself. —Eric R. Danton

Read Paste’s review of SZA’s ‘CTRL’

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