1. EARL SWEATSHIRT: Odd Future member and only 19 years of age and skilled beyond his years, a methodical wordsmith whose splatterpunk murder fantasies were rendered all the more unsettling by his incredible poise. Late August saw the release of Earl Sweatshirt’s long-anticipated sophomore effort/debut album “Doris.” Earl Sweatshirt himself, credited as randomblackdude, has production credit on seven of the fifteen tracks, as well as sole credit on “Guild” and “523.” Other producers include fellow Odd Future members Tyler, The Creator (“Sasquatch” and “Whoa”), Frank Ocean (“Sunday”) and Matt Martians (“Hive”), as well as post-bop trio BadBadNotGood (“Hoarse”) and hip hop heavyweight RZA (“Molasses”). Doris is easily one of the strongest Odd Future releases. Earl Sweatshirt is easily one of most clever wordsmiths in the group, and he consistently proves throughout the album that all of the hype is well deserved.
2. LORDE: At only 16 years old, endorsed properly by the likes of Kanye West, she released her debut album, Pure Heroine, to critical and commercial acclaim. She made an impressive American live television debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. She surrounded said appearance with equally impressive debut NYC performances at Webster Hall and Warsaw. And most importantly, after becoming the first woman in 17 years to top Billboard’s Alternative Songs Chart, she then became the youngest singer in 26 years to top Billboard’s Hot 100. Lorde’s clear, soulful vocals and relevant, self-written songs are surefire indicators that she has an exciting future ahead of her. A fan of minimalist sound, her straightforward vocal work is reminiscent of contemporaries like Florence Welch and Lana Del Ray, though it is compounded by smooth harmonies. Lorde wants to keep the focus on her lyrics, and the simple, unadulterated vocals ensure that her words stand out. In her interview with Spotify, Lorde sites James Blake, Lana Del Ray, Lou Reed, Burial, Bon Iver, and Drake as influences, so it’s no wonder her songs and videos are a compelling combo of pop familiarity and indie weirdness.
3. KELELA: If Cut 4 Me, the first mixtape from the D.C-born and L.A.-based singer Kelela, worked as a simple production showcase for the various names associated with the dance label Fade To Mind, it would be well worth hearing. You can hear some of Amel Larrieux’s poise in Kelela’s delivery: The precise diction, the icy directness that comes through even in her sighs, the refusal to display her technique in showy ways that don’t serve the songs she’s singing. And Kelela also cites Little Dragon, whose twitchy future-pop manage to sound boutique-level fashionable and deeply idiosyncratic at the same time. Singer Yukimi Nagano always sounds at ease in her band’s jittery, uneasy music, and so maybe that’s her influence at work when Kelela deftly navigates the globs of bass and synth that the Fade To Mind people throw at her, treating these sounds like they’re no big deal.
4. FKA twigs: The cerebral dance producer and Kanye collaborator, Arca makes cold, unforgiving soundscapes, and not too many singers could take his tracks and use them to make sad and icily beautiful pop songs. But that's exactly what the young Londoner FKA twigs does on her breakout single "Water Me." She emotively breathes her romantic problems through so many vocal filters that she sounds like five different aliens at once, all while projecting a distinctly human vulnerability.
5. WORLD'S FAIR: Members Prince SAMO, Jeff Donna, Cody B. Ware, Lansky Jones, Nasty Nigel, and Remy Banks are a gaggle of snarling goofballs who have made good on so much promise, they've become sweethearts of New York City's iconic rap station Hot 97. But they're still lords of the underground, recently signing with Fool's Gold, who have solidified themselves as one of the best independent rap labels on the strength of guys like 100s and Danny Brown. And with this crew on board, they're further advancing that narrative.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.