New Year's revolutions

TONY tells you who to watch in 2009.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

Photographs: Sebastian Mylarski

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson


Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

Photographs: Sebastian Mylarski

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
There's something implausible and dramatic about Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson—his too-long name, his strange backstory and, of course, the music—that sets him apart from your regular singer-songwriter yawnfest. Raised on the road with his comedian dad, Robinson was a troubled kid whose path led him from Portland to NYC—and included a stretch sleeping rough on the benches at Coney Island. That groggy volatility is audible on last year's self-titled debut, helmed by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor—check out "Who's Laughing" for a taste of Robinson's rattly, romantic style. This year's good news is that Robinson's next disc (due this summer) was produced by TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone. Early listens suggest a cross between Nebraska-era Springsteen and Prince in squawky sax mode. Excellent.—SH







Charles Hamilton

Photograph: Dove

Charles Hamilton
Any emerging artist wants to make a big splash, but Charles Hamilton took it to an extreme late last year with a series of seven free downloadable mixtapes, issued biweekly through iMeem and a series of hip-hop blogs. This 21-year-old rapper and instrumentalist worked his way up from the streets, literally: As a homeless high-school dropout, he snuck into Frederick Douglass Academy and crashed in the studio, in the process tracking cuts that got him noticed by Interscope. That label issued Hamilton's first official single, "Brooklyn Girls," in November, and followed it in December with a pressing of The Pink Lavalamp, the last and most devastatingly personal of the mixtapes. Hamilton's formal debut is due in 2009; download the tapes now and brag that you knew him way back when.—SS







WAVVES

Photograph: courtesy of De Stijl Records

WAVVES
Like a latter-day Daniel Johnston, Nathan Daniel William prefers recording his scuzzed-out rock odysseys in the privacy of his bedroom. He may not have inspired a documentary film yet, but he's on the right track: The blogosphere was ignited by his self-titled debut as WAVVES; a new one, WAVVVES (three v's!), gets wider distribution from De Stijl on February 3. William's dissonant, feedback-heavy tunes invite comparisons to those of No Age—especially when considering that, like his Angeleno counterparts, William is just a tyke (he's 22). But while the San Diego native's cuts retain an outline of punk's brevity and harshness, they are intimate, complex and extremely mature...particularly when you can make out just what the hell is going on. Here's hoping these homemade four-track adventures don't drive him crazy.—CSJ

WAVVES plays NYC Feb 6 and 7; check toddpnyc.com for details.







Christina Courtin

Autumn De Wilde

Christina Courtin
Local singer-songwriter Christina Courtin—covered by TONY as an unsigned artist in 2006—is a contradiction. Though only 25, she is distinctly old-fashioned, having gained approbation not through blogs, but in local club appearances. She studied violin at Juilliard and currently plays in the chamber group the Knights, yet she's an untrained singer; as a result, her songs have the sophistication of a professional and the immediacy of the untutored. The songwriter is nobody's idea of hip—her ballads are smooth and traditional, with classy arrangements backing her commanding, undulating voice. And yet the songs on her self-titled debut album, due on Nonesuch in April and featuring Jon Brion and Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, have an exquisiteness that extends beyond any genre ghetto. This is how you wanted Norah Jones to sound.—JR

Christina Courtin plays (Le) Poisson Rouge Jan 8.







SHARPER IMAGE Darcy James Argue prepares to make a big splash with the release of his debut CD in may.

Photograph: Ben Anaman

Darcy James Argue
Unlike pop, jazz doesn't require an artist to flaunt personality anywhere but on the bandstand. But as Darcy James Argue has demonstrated, it certainly can't hurt. The 33-year-old Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based composer has recently emerged as a witty, highly opinionated blogger (secretsociety.typepad.com), given to over-the-top feats such as documenting 2007's 27-hour Bang on a Can Marathon in real time. His true vocation, though, is big-band leader. No swing-era revivalist, Argue draws on the full spectrum of modern rock, jazz and classical music with his band, Secret Society. Yet his complex, emotionally charged pieces handily transcend pastiche. If Argue is better known to some for his online presence, Secret Society's debut, Infernal Machines, to redress that imbalance. Recorded on the heels of an excellent recent Jazz Gallery run and due out in May, the album ought to not only raise Argue's profile, but also serve as a reminder that big-band jazz needn't be a fossil.—HS