This week, we’re celebrating the past, present, and future of Pitchfork’s Rising series, which has offered profiles of exciting new artists for the last eight years.
In the spirit of paying positivity forward, we asked a bunch of onetime Rising acts to tell us about the burgeoning music makers they are most hyped about going into 2017. Here are their picks.
CuckooLander is someone who makes beautiful, intelligent pop music with gorgeous, almost baroque visuals—like when she pulls out an oud (like a Middle Eastern lute) in the video for one of my fav songs of 2016, “Beating Myself Up.” Her voice is stunning and totally blows me away every time I hear it, and couple her vocals with Rostam’s production... #omg. She makes me melt/cry/die all at once, and I totally love her for it.
Camp Cope is a three-piece from Melbourne that released a rad self-titled debut album in 2016. “Keep Growing,” however, is a new song from an upcoming release. I saw them play it recently at a vinyl in-store, and it gave me all the emotions. I’m all for a great cyclical song. Keeping on growing and going nowhere, I guess it’s all tied together.
Sleigh Bells’ Alexis Krauss
The Frightnrs’ debut, Nothing More to Say, came out in September on Daptone, and I’ve listened to it pretty much once a day since its release. Tragically, the lead singer and songwriter, Dan Klein, passed away from ALS shortly after they finished recording the album. There is an intimacy and simplicity to his songs that really move me. “Gonna Make Time” is my favorite track: The groove is solid, and while there’s a mournfulness to his delivery, I can’t help but feel hopeful after I listen. This album has soothed me many times over the course of a turbulent 2016.
Deep Cuts are a hidden gem of East Texas. Their tailored muso aesthetics harken back to quiet storm-era Sade and the slick sophisti-pop sheen of bands like Johnny Hates Jazz and the Blue Nile, who telegrammed the ’90s that new wave had all grown up. Live, their musicianship seems slugged out in both the sweaty basements and velvet ropes of the world, a beautiful friction not often seen in the indie continuum.
Deep Cuts: "Take Me Back" (via SoundCloud)
River Tiber has that incredible vibe that Toronto artists have, but it’s very, very special because he infuses a lot of gospel vibrations in his song “West” with Daniel Caesar, who is just as dope vocally. It all comes together for a vibe that I play back-to-back, like five times in a row, everyday.
Tobias Jesso Jr.
Alex Izenberg is a complete maniac. I first found that out when I met him in 2011 and he forced me to call him ‘Glóin’ (The Lord of the Rings, Gimli son of Glóin). Back then, Glóin had three different musical projects (all him), two separate record contracts (he signed two deals without anyone knowing until they both found out later), about a hundred email accounts, and, each year on his birthday, he would turn 19 again. He would often blur the line between con artist and artist, and for the most part it worked for him. He was also writing music beyond my comprehension (it still is beyond my comprehension). It seemed so simple to watch him play me his songs, but I could never quite understand them. A chord change that felt wrong at first, like he’d made a mistake, would upon repeat listens turn into my favorite part. His lyrics acted like a maze that never seemed to go anywhere until, like a maze, you figured it out.
Shortly after meeting him, he asked me—someone he barely knew—to produce and mix the entire album he was working on. I had never produced anything but also didn’t have much of an idea of what production even meant, so I said yes. It turned out to be a terrible choice for him because, along with being an unpayable illegal alien, I also had zero experience with computers and wasn’t a producer, so nothing ended up getting done besides roasting a lot of almonds. But during that time I learned a lot from Alex, his songwriting, his musical choices, his ideas. Alex is largely responsible for how my original demos sounded with the warble-y piano, a trick I learned from him. I’ve never met anyone quite as unique as Alex. His music today feels both as simple and complex as it always was, and his choices remain a mystery to me, but I will always love them.
Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown
I had the privilege of working with Gauche on a new record a few weeks ago. They come from three different East Coast cities— D.C., Baltimore, and Providence—and are top-notch performers and talented musicians that take the edge off of a punk background and lean towards more danceable grooves, taking cues from close-to-the-heart classics like Maximum Joy, XTC, and the B-52’s. I was super into their cassette, and since then they have added a saxophone and lit up their basement with a disco ball.
I recently had the pleasure of going on a short tour with Mary Lattimore. She is such a wonderful human, I’ve known her for a few years—she’s friends with everyone. In addition to her incredible sense of humor, kindness, and uniqueness, she has a spellbinding, otherworldly talent that is completely her own. It was a treat to watch her cast her spell over our audiences every night.
Kevin Garrett is incredible, and his EP Mellow Drama is one of my favorite bodies of work in a while. He opened for me on tour early this year, and I was blown away every night. His songs have this common thread of anticipating or accepting things that haven’t happened yet, but he writes in a way that evokes pathos in such a strong way. He’s played me songs that have me sobbing while not even being 100 percent sure of what they’re about. It’s genius.
Krispy Kareem was one of the bands I played with when I played my first basement show in Philly. Consisting of Chris Terlizzi, Kieran Ferris, and a rotation of drummers—most notably the absolute ledge Tom Kelly, who can be seen killing it with Alex G—the band has been writing and playing together since high school. I moved in with Chris this spring, and we slowly converted our basement into a little studio, where Krispy’s latest album Poussine was created. The boys make perfect alternative/pop-rock songs and are dominating East Coast basements, but what makes Krispy Kareem extra special is Kieran and Chris’ beautiful harmonies. I always get envious of siblings and close friends who can harmonize so well you feel there’s only one voice. Their harmonies really shine in the chorus of “Fraternity Forefathers”—they’re so lush and almost rustic. It takes me back to the old Crosby Stills & Nash records I’d listen to when I was in grade school.
I’m excited for Baba Ali’s debut EP that’s coming out soon. He toured with me on the West Coast in August and he’s a hypnotic performer and a fantastic singer. Musically, his songs are really exciting—these elaborate percussive tracks and unfurling instrumentals with fantastic lyrics.
I met this artist Ale Hop when we played a club in Peru a couple months ago. I don’t usually have such a strong physical response to music when I’m tired on tour in a crowded club vibe, but her show was so loud and overwhelming, and the energy was amazing in the room. Her singing feels pleasantly demented and free in a way I like.
Ale Hop: "Sinnerman" (Nina Simone cover) (via SoundCloud)
Real Estate’s Alex Bleeker
The Range of Light Wilderness is a quintessential rock band for the 21st century. Perfect three-part harmonies float above overdriven garage hooks in service of melodies so catchy they feel almost ingrained in a greater musical consciousness. This band has earned a steady and loyal cult following along the coast of California, popular for their super-tight, uplifting live performances and textured lo-fi recordings.
Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis
I saw Marina Fages perform at a DIY club in Buenos Aires earlier this year and became obsessed with her most recent record, Dibujo de Rayo. After the show she took a selfie with me and my mom—nice. The title track is all snarl, guitar dissonance, and shifting time signatures—her voice sometimes recalls fellow Argentine singer Juana Molina, while her instrumentation sounds like the best of Scout Niblett’s records with Albini. Fages is an accomplished player and composer in more genres than rock, and releases folk and improvisational guitar records, too. She owns a label and a record shop—both of which are titled Mercury—and has the coolest blue hair on the block. A true superhero.
Cienfuegos is the industrial project of Miami-born, Brooklyn-based musician Alex Suárez. The project shares its name with the Cuban town and translates to “one hundred fires.” The intent of this moniker can be felt tangibly throughout the music’s gritty, driving rhythms, which veer towards nasty while never losing their groove, and the siren song of synth tones that promise accessibility and then turn on a hairpin to skronk and wail, lashing out against expectation. The vocals are often snotty and provocational, while at other times reminiscent of the authority of an empowered political speech, but always commanding. The lyrics, written in Spanish, explore the sordid history of relations between the Caribbean and the U.S., and apply these themes on a personal level, through poetic description of the fragmentation of cultural and personal identity, the misplacement of a nomad. This is passionate revolt music, or as Suárez so succinctly describes it, “some form of resistance music for people who know the world has already ended.”
Cienfuegos: "Trabajito" (via SoundCloud)
It is always a pleasure to find contemporary music where the human qualities aren’t overshadowed by technological ambition. “Woman of the Year” by Outside Source plays out like the echo of an intimate bedroom cantata which only a few have the privilege of hearing. Simply pure.
I could go on and on about the insane virtuosity, about the rare analog wind synth that almost no one in the world plays anymore, about the most unique intervallic melodies and harmonies, but it’s all secondary to the simple beauty that Justin Walter is able to conjure up with his solo music.
Justin Walter: "Dream Weaving" (via SoundCloud)
Katie Gately is an entire problem. OK?! Her music is explosive and nocturnal and so damn elegant. I am such a fan of the way she processes vocals—because she pushes harmony into the future. She doesn’t bind the human voice. I prefer to listen to imaginative music, and Katie Gately makes music for the person that wants to unhinge forever!
Erik Hassle is such a superstar. He’s so talented at what he’s doing when it comes to writing, singing, melodies. His lyrical side is very special, and you can feel that it’s for real—that he had his heart broken many times. Yes, he’s been writing for a long time but he’s been putting out great music, so we feel he should be massive because he’s so, so amazing. He can sing almost any song and he moves you.
Nour Harkati is a young Tunisian who doesn’t sing in Arabic, and his album The Shift deserves much more attention, because it’s just great he did it by himself in Berlin after escaping from Paris’ lack of encouragement. It’s another situation where artists are pushed from being what they are to correspond with a fantasized vision that the Western market has of us. He explored a sound and visual dimension that I haven’t heard or seen in young Arab artists yet.
Nour Harkati: "Ivy" (via SoundCloud)
RYAN Playground is an artist I’ve been watching and listening to for a while. I started a label so I could spend time in both the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat for this whole experience—that evolution. So I’ve watched RP go from DJing to producing to singing and performing all on her own, navigating and pushing through to finally reach that point where she is her own artist, solidifying her own sound. Her upcoming album will be all her, fully formed. Confident. It’s been a privilege to be on the sideline cheering on.
I first met the brilliant, Baltimore-based Ami Dang in the fall of 2014 when we fortuitously shared a flat together during Pop Montreal. It was the same weekend I gave my Rising interview, so it seems all the more fitting that I should choose her for this! I had the great pleasure of hearing her practice in our flat and I’ve been a fan of hers ever since. Her voice is heavenly—strong, sensitive, elastic, wise, warm, sweet and a million other honey-flavored adjectives. A singer, sitar player, and producer, Ami’s music fuses deeply personal elements unique to her upbringing in a Sikh-American household—ancient Indian texts and hymns meld with Bollywood and electronic music. The result is something completely mesmerizing.