AND another month goes by. While most bloggers and music journalists were busy putting together ‘Year End‘ and ‘Next Big Thing” lists, I was sitting on my thumbs, bingeing on Netflix shows and listening to tons of good music. That being said, while I haven’t been writing—I have been listening (I’m ALWAYS listening!). While 2015 certainly had its moments, musically speaking, I have to say, I am VERY EXCITED about 2016. SO excited that I went ahead and created a new Promising Pop Spotify playlist. Now, let’s jump right to the music, shall we? Here are some of the artists that caught my attention towards the end of last year—Promising Pop artists I have a feeling will be sticking around through 2016 and beyond. LET’S GO!
I’m admittedly late bloomer when it comes to 24 year-old Nashville (via Philly) singer/songwriter CAPPA (AKA Carla Cappa). Sure, I’d read her name floating around the blogosphere but it wasn’t until I heard that SYNTHful reimagining of TLC’s 1999 hit single “No Scrubs” that things clicked in my head and my officially obsession began. Full of attitude and complemented by a slick, glossy production—CAPPA‘s new single, “Goddess” is a playful, flirty and empowering pop anthem. Hoping we see/hear a lot more out of CAPPA in 2016! “Goddess” is out now (Spotify). Listen below.
Donna Missal is a name I only recently discovered, thanks to a prominent feature on “Side,” a standout off Brayton Bowman‘s deliciously smooth R&B-pop EP The Update (iTunes) which dropped this summer. While Missal’s easy-breezy vocal style does mesh perfectly with “Side’s” glittery electro-pop production, it wasn’t until I saw her live that I truly GOT her. Her debut, “Keep Lying” is a burning hot stunner of a single, sung with the kind of impassioned gusto you’d expect from a seasoned blues singer. The song oozes a sexy intensity from the very first note, all the way through to the end, with Missal’s gritty edge cutting through brooding guitar riffs like a machete.
With only two songs on her SoundCloud, I highly recommend seeing Donna Missal live. Hopefully we’ll get some more tour dates later in the year, but if you live in the New York City area, you can catch her at Rockwood Music Hall February 2nd when she’ll be joining a slew of other emerging talents for Communion NYC (tickets). I had the pleasure of seeing Donna play Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right right before the holiday and I was blown away. Check out “Keep Lying” below and listen to her bluesy take on Drake‘s “Hotline Bling.”
It’s not often that a male vocalist hits me right in the emotional core but that’s exactly what Stockholm-based singer/songwriter Elias does to me. Check out the video for the GRADES-produced “Green Eyes” below. Elias‘ velvet-smooth, intensely soulful, sorrow-tinged vocals pierce the song’s uneven, glitchy production like shrapnel to create dark and gloomy yet strangely alluring soundscape. “Green Eyes” is the second release from Elias’ debut EP, WARCRY which was released in November (Warner). The mere existence of Elias is further proof that Sweden is an unstoppable juggernaut when it comes to producing musical talent. Elias was recently featured as a Spotify ‘Spotlight‘ Artist for 2016. He is slated to play a show in London at The Lexington on January 25th (tickets), with his U.S. live debut scheduled for SXSW 2016. Download Elias‘ WARCRY (iTunes).
I became infatuated with emerging singer/songwriter ESH after watching the striking black & white visual paired with her debut single, “Trigger.” Virtually unknown right now, ESH has seemingly everything she needs to be the next big thing in atmospheric electronic-pop: haunting, ethereal vocals, dark, soul-penetrating production—oh yeah, and she’s absolutely stunning. “Trigger” (Spotify) is a collaboration with producer Liam Howe (FKA Twigs, Marina & The Diamonds, Lana Del Rey) and offers listeners a taste of what to expect when she releases her debut EP later this winter. Listen to “Trigger” below.
Foreign Air is a band I listened to without really knowing anything about them. As soon as I heard this DC duo’s first single, “Free Animal,” I was hooked. The pair, comprised of frontman Jesse Clasen and Jacob Michael met while they were both working on different projects, only to connect later when both were looking for something different. Soon after they started sharing dropbox folders of loosely sketched out melodies and beats, Jesse and Jacob finally decided to meet in person and put pen to paper.
While press materials describe the band as indie rock, I wouldn’t try to pin a specific genre on these boys. “Free Animal” is exactly that—a wild musical beast of a song that seamlessly blends some of the harder elements of rock (commanding guitar, forceful and dynamic lead vocals) with the softer sounds of indie and electronic pop (blippy-backing vocals, tinseled electronic production). “Free Animal” by Foreign Air is available to stream now (Spotify). Look out for their debut EP, due out next month.
Nominated for the BRITS Critic’s Choice Award. Nominated as a BBC Sound of 2016 finalist. Participated in a BIG-ASS North American Tour, opening for James Bay—Um…I’d say 22 year-old British singer/songwriter Frances had a pretty EPIC 2015! And with the recent announcement of the Coachella 2016 lineup, I’d say 2016 is looking pretty good for Frances as well! Up to this point, the flame haired English chanteuse seemed to be on the adult contemporary path, releasing a string of lovely enough piano-led ballads and mid-tempos. With her latest single, the Howard Lawrence (1/2 of Disclosure)-produced “Borrowed Time,” Frances FINALLY gives us something we can groove to. Sure, there have diamonds in the rough—gems like “When It Comes To Us” (featuring Ritual) for instance, or “I Care,” a collaboration with POMO. Unfortunately nothing really grabbed me—at least not until “Borrowed Time.” Thank GOD for Disclosure (also playing Coachella btw).
I’ve always been a sucker for a strong male falsetto (although Sam Smith nearly ruined its allure for me). Lucky for us we have emerging artists like Gundelach from Norway. His new song “Spiders” is pure electronic-pop perfection, featuring a delicate male vocal hovering over a bed of pulsating electronic beats to create a subtle, yet aurally stunning soundscape. So often, heavy production on a song can overpower the vocals so to hear a song like Gundelach‘s “Spiders” accentuating the vocal here is refreshing. The song will feature on Gundelach‘s forthcoming EP, due out early this year, with production from Joel Ford (of Ford & Lopatin and Young Ejecta) and Al Carlson.
Inspired by the Oslo club scene since the age of 16, Kai Gundelach started out as a fan, sneaking into various venues to see his idols spin. While his early career afforded him opportunities to play as a support act for said idols, his real interest was writing his own music. After ditching “Kai” and going by his last name only, Gundelach was handpicked by Swedish/Aussie sister duo Say Lou Lou as support act on tour in support of their debut album. Gundelach‘s debut single, “Alone In The Night” (Spotify) was released in Sweden and Norway and to date has over a million streams. “Spiders” is available to download (iTunes) and stream (Spotify) now. You can also listen to it below.
KLOE is a buzzy new singer/songwriter/producer, hailing from Glasgow. At the tender age of 17 years old, KLOE found herself headlining Glasgow’s prestigious King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut music venue. Following the release of her debut single, “Grip,” KLOE was a desired pop entity, attracting the attention of LA-based record label IAMSOUND (AKA the label responsible for launching Florence + The Machine, Little Boots, Charli XCX). New single—”Touch“— an otherworldly synthpop glitter bomb of a song, was released via National Anthem (HAIM, CHURCHES, Wet) / Columbia Records (iTunes). The song was produced by Lewis Gardiner (of PRIDES). Check out the Geej Ower-directed visual below.
LOLO is an artist I’ve covered before and for good reason. She has one of those voices that will bring you to your knees while simultaneously bringing tears to your eyes. Practically every note this girl sings is COATED with raw, gut-wrenching, heart-piercing emotion. Whether she’s channeling the deep down dark hurt of a scorned lover, or perhaps something less gloomy—LOLO will make you feel FEELINGs guaranteed. Check out the gorgeous black & white visual for “Not Gonna Let You Walk Away,” “a song about being unapologetic,” and a clear standout off her Comeback Queen EP (iTunes).
Written and produced by LOLO and Jake Sinclair respectively, The Comeback Queen EP was released this past summer on DCD2 Records. The 28 year/old singer recently gigged in support of the EP, joining Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, New Politics and The Griswolds as part of The Wilderness Politics Tour. LOLO is currently in Los Angeles working on her sophomore album, but will hit the road this February as part of the Communion Residency, performing in NYC, Boston, Philly, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Dallas. I’ll be seeing her February 2nd at Rockwood Music Hall (along with Donna Missal!). Get tickets while you can!
LA alt-pop singer/songwriter Lostboycrow is generating lots of buzz at the moment, thanks to his swoon-worthy new single “Love Won’t Sleep.” Instantly smitten with the song, I had to see what else he had out and was surprised to see a healthy amount of music on his Spotify page. “Love Won’t Sleep” starts off with, what sounds like the electronically-altered sweet cooing of a Mourning Dove, before Lostboycrow‘s silky smooth vocals enter, wafting over jittery electronic beats and effervescent pop production. The song features on his forthcoming EP, Sigh For Me, produced by MARØ and Brian Child, and set for release this Friday, January 11th. If you’re in Los Angeles, catch Lostboycrow’s EP release show at Popshop West on January 13th (tickets).
Brooklyn-based electronic-indie-pop-rock outfit MOTHXR is another band that took me by complete surprise. Until recently, I had never even heard of these guys, but turns out they already have a big following and a small, but solid collection of tunes. The fact that they have a big following should come as no surprise really, considering actor Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) is the band’s frontman. *SWOON* Rounding out the band’s roster—bassist/producer Jimmy Giannopoulos, guitarist Simon Oscroft and keyboardist Darren Will. Late to another party, what can I say. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Better late than never, right? Latest single, “Stranger” (Spotify) is a hypnotic, 80s-tinged electro-bop guaranteed to make you lose your sh*t in a haze of smoke and glitter. The song is actually giving me Raving George/Oscar & The Wolf vibes, which is not a bad thing at all. “Stranger” appears on the band’s forthcoming debut album, Centerfold, out February 26th (iTunes). If you pre-order the album, you get “Stranger” as an instant grat track so go make it happen.
After dazzling musical tastemakers like Pigeons & Planes, The 405 and Complex this past summer with their Stint (Gallant)-produced debut, “Confidence“—Canadian duo P’ARIS return with “Focus,” a SEEMINGLY euphoric synthpop stunner. The song has all the makings of an electropop smash—a celestial-pop vocalist (Canadian artist WILLA), shimmering synths, an infectious beat—so what’s the catch? Well, “Focus” is actually about loss.
“‘Focus’ is a song about two people experiencing the loss of a pregnancy. There’s a very particular type of gentle empathy that both partners must offer each other when going through a miscarriage….‘Focus’ is about making sure the relationship doesn’t suffer while you’re each processing things in your own way.”
One of the many things I LOVE about music is how artists use it as a vessel for their emotions. I can’t even begin to imagine how therapeutic it must be as a songwriter, to channel those feelings into lyrics, and melodies. Massive respect to P’ARIS for taking such darkness and turning it into something magical and uplifting. “Focus” is available to stream (Spotify) right now.