Top 5 New Artists of 2012

16 Dec

For a while, I thought this year was a little devoid of new music.  New artists.  The hip new cats on the scene.  The movers and shakers, the trend-setters, the fresh sounds, the modern beat, the….oh you get the idea.

Fact is, it really wasn’t until the last few weeks/month that I began to find these bands and I’m glad I did.  These five bands all had debut albums this year that will be appearing in my top 50 albums list.

That, for the record, is my rule for this list: You must have had a debut album out in 2012.  So even a band that may have had a previous EP out is still eligible for the list.  On the flip side, an EP is not enough to get you on this list.  More on that later. 

So, we’ll look at the band, how I discovered them and I’ll give you a little taste of what they sound like.  Sound good?  Great!

Jessie Ware – Devotion

PMR018_CDA_Wal.inddJessie Ware may be #5 on this list, but I think she may have the most potential for the future.  In fact, I eagerly anticipate the day I hear her music on the radio: I don’t think it’s far off.

Ware is a strange marriage of two of my favorite sounds: Female R&B and synth pop.   On paper that may not sound like the greatest combination, but in the end it’s fairly refreshing.  On a few tracks, a little prince-like, even.

Where did I find Jessie Ware:  My husband, actually.  He’s got a fairly good handle on my music taste and he assured me I would not be disappointed.  Yet, I still went in with lowered expectations.  That’s what made this even better upon hearing it.  It almost blind-sided me a bit, but by the end of the album I realized that this lady was on to something great.

Recommended listening:

Purity Ring – Shrines

shrinesThere was a lot of build-up for this band at the beginning of the year, and if lead single “Obedear” was anything to go by (not odebear as I continuously read it in the beginning, making me think it was a song about an adorable bear…possibly the one from The Only Place) this was going to be a great album.

Months went by.  A song or two floated around and I began to anticipate this album at levels beyond measure.  It was then I knew that disappointment was imminent.

That’s what’s so special about this atmospheric dance (some like to call it “Witch House”) album, it didn’t disappoint after intense hype.

Where did I find Purity Ring?  The Internet. I know that’s a generic answer, but you couldn’t throw a rock around a music website and not hit a story about Purity Ring for months.  What made me a fan however, was seeing them live.  I had only heard the album once before I had that opportunity (in fact, the album wasn’t even out yet, this sucker leaked early) and as soon as their set was over I snatched that album up.   With an intense light-show on giant cotton balls and disco drum sets, they really woke their music up in a live setting and it opened me up to them in a big way.

Recommended listening:

I went with a live video (from the show I saw them at) to show you what I’m talking about.  I hope the audio does them justice.

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

alt-j-cdApparently these guys are the new Radiohead.  I don’t know about that. 1) Because I don’t think there can ever be a band like Radiohead (and I don’t mean that in a pretentious way, I just think Radiohead’s career has been too varied to ever be duplicated) and 2) Because, while atmospheric, their music really doesn’t have the lyrical quality to it that Radiohead’s does.  But, I think if you heard a second of their music, you’d just inherently understand the comparison.

They have been bestowed with those most generic of labels: Art Pop and Indie Pop.  What I can tell you is that they are almost a mixture of Animal Collective vocals over Post-Rock.  Yeah, it’s weird.

Where did I find Alt-J?  Because I’m so hip, I had actually purchased tickets to see Alt-J about 4 months before they blew up on the Pitchfork scene.  Ok, that’s not 100% true, I bought tickets to see Chairlift and they were opening for them.  Unfortunately, some crazy stuff happened at Lollapalooza, culminating in someone stealing my husband’s cellphone and we ended up late to the aftershow and barely got to see Chairlift, let alone the opening acts.  So, they became a bit of a white whale for me, especially after the music world told me I needed to hear them, post-haste.

I took a little while getting around to it, see: Last week, but I’m glad I did.  The vocals kill me in a huge way, but the music more than makes up for it.  I hope that future releases see an improvement, because they could be an easy favorite band of mine.

Recommended listening:

Chad Valley – Young Hunger

Chad-Valley-Young-HungerThis is Chad Valley.  He is a producer from the UK and this is his debut LP.  Lifting lyrics from the Spice Girls here, and swirling synthesizers there, how could you not enjoy the beats this guy serves up?  What’s that? You want more?  Well, you’re in luck, he also snagged guest-artists aplenty, including fellow 80s-guru, Twin Shadow.  There are also visits from Glasser, El Perro Del Mar (a huge favorite artist of mine), Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Active Child, among others.

There are bumps in the road on this album and a few dead spots, which just tells you how good the rest of the music is, really, that I rate him so highly.   I know I said that I think Jessie Ware has the most potential for the future, but I believe that Chad Valley could end up being an artist I grow old with, if he sticks around.

Where did I find Chad Valley? I have an Australian friend with horrible taste in music (Danny, if you read this, I’m kidding and I ❤ you forever), but for once, I was on the receiving end of a recommendation from him.  He hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one.

Recommended listening:

(The) Ice Choir – Afar

afar-ice-choir-vinyl-cover-artIt may not be a good sign that I still can’t figure out if this band’s name has a “The” in it or not, but I’ll tell you right now, the last time I heard an approximation of a classic sound this good was Yuck’s self-titled debut (so really, it’s only been a year, but the point is, this is not something that happens once a week).  If you like Tears for Fears then stop reading this article right now and go check out Ice Choir.  It’s like they went to the studio Tears for Fears made their music in, stole all of the remaining equipment and whipped this bad-boy up in a lab full of bad haircuts and new romance.

As a fan of Tears for Fears, I had some trouble with this album at first, deciding if I only liked it because it sounded like TFF or if I liked it on its own merit.  When I found myself still singing the music days later and turning to the album again and again, I had my answer.

Unfortunately, this band is a side project, and it’s a side project of a fairly decent band: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s drummer, Kurt Feldmen, is the lead singer and pretty much mastermind of the act.  This tells me a lot of time may not be spent in touring this album, let alone in making more music.  I hope it’s not true, because there is so much room to grow here.

Where did I find Ice Choir?  Actually, I knew I was going to make this list a few weeks ago, so I figured some research was in order.  Thank you Stereogum, without you, I wouldn’t have found what may prove to be the best act I’ve heard in quite some time.

Recommended listening:

Ah, these guys get two.

324633f8cd094203d3a7ad04d0857f60ffe9426bNow, before we go, I want to make something clear: I was very specific about the criterion for this list for a reason.  I am incredibly excited by Charli XCX.  I want that woman to release an album more than anything in the world, but for some reason, 2012 turned out not to be that year.  If it had, she would likely have taken #1 (if the album was good).  As it stands, she has been my #1 musical discovery this year, and I couldn’t leave without saying so. I hope her album comes out in 2013, and I hope it’s everything I’ve dreamed of and more.  She has two Mixtapes out right now, and crazy enough, I haven’t heard them.  I downloaded them last week, but time gets away sometimes.

Enjoy what we did get from here in 2012:

Well, that’s about all I have to say for today.  Tomorrow, either an album review or favorite songs of 2012.  We’ll see if I’m feeling crazy!

3 Responses to “Top 5 New Artists of 2012”


  1. Ashley’s Top Albums of 2012: 50-41 « An Ocean of Noise - 18/12/2012

    […] waxed on quite a bit about Jessie Ware yesterday, but she deserves just a bit more of your attention […]

  2. Ashley’s Top 50 Albums of 2012: 30-21 « An Ocean of Noise - 21/12/2012

    […] I just don’t feel like re-writing my feelings on these two albums when I laid it out in my favorite new artists of the year […]

  3. Ashley’s Top Albums of 2012: 20-11 « An Ocean of Noise - 23/12/2012

    […] My favorite new act of the year right here.  As I mentioned here: […]

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