What's next in music
TONY Music predicts the year's breakthrough artists.
Mon Jan 9 2012
You wouldn't necessarily associate the British town of Watford with subtlety—its starry alumni include Vinnie Jones, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and rogue trader Nick Leeson—but subtlety, grace and charm are exactly what you get with the Staves, a trio of sweet-voiced, sweet-faced sisters. The ladies' darkly delicate folk-pop will likely appeal to fans of Laura Marling and Blue-era Joni Mitchell—and in fact did appeal to father-and-son superproducers Glyn and Ethan Johns, who share production credits for the first time on the Staves' forthcoming album on Atlantic. Catch the hotly tipped Brits touring the U.S. with Civil Wars, pre-SXSW. Oh, and send a song or two to your mom. She'll like it.—SH
Of all the things that typically unite bands, bedbugs don't rank high. But it was an infestation that led several members of Friends to take up residence together in the creative hipster state of Brooklyn. A quintet of multi-instrumentalists fronted by two girls who've known each other since elementary school, these sassy cohorts make funky disco-tropicalia. Their pop is rough around the edges, laced with cool, sexy grit and dripping with swagger: Bushwick R&B, if you will. The group has yet to release a full-length, but the handful of tracks in circulation evoke CSS's braggadocio, Cults' cutesy appeal and Mary J. Blige's retro hip-hop moves (see "My Boo," a cover of the 1996 Ghost Town DJ's song). These Friends are poised for success well beyond their borough.—ML
Indie-rock scholars know Olympia, Washington, as the birthplace of riot grrrl; this year, the metal quintet Christian Mistress links the town to a different kind of girl power. Possession (out February 28), the band's sophomore LP and first for the high-profile Relapse imprint, features a deliciously retro sound, with two guitars dancing in lockstep over a leather-jacketed chug and swagger reminiscent of early-'80s Black Sabbath. But out front, in place of the requisite Dio wanna-be, you get Christine Davis, whose faintly hoarse midrange belt conveys disarming vulnerability even as it cranes for the rafters. Add in resolutely uncheesy lyrics, which treat psychic turmoil like a Tolkien epic, plus artful arrangements crammed with proggish set changes, and you have a record that reinjects the mystery and majesty into a tired style. Raise a chalice to the year's first great metal long-player.—HS
In a year with no shortage of outstanding efforts from keen female auteurs—Tune-Yards, St. Vincent, Zola Jesus, the omnipresent Bjrk—Julia Holter, an upstart singer and multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, trumped them all with Tragedy. An absorbing conceptual platter based on Euripides, the album showed Holter's pedigree as a composer trained by formidable conceptualists like Michael Pisaro. But Holter wore that avant-cred lightly; what lingered were gentle vocals, enveloping soundscapes and indelible melodies. A closer analog to David Lynch's haunted cinema than Lynch himself could muster, Tragedy captured a great many ears. Ekstasis, its follow-up on the RVNG label, arrives on March 8; look for New York bookings around the same time.—SS