1. KOPPS – “Thermometer”
One of this summer’s underground success stories was “Tongues,” the delectably weird show-stopping single from Joywave’s How Do You Feel? EP. If you’ve heard that track, you’ve already been introduced to KOPPS, a Rochester electronic group that featured on their hometown brethren’s hit song. The four-piece make some seriously heavy, blatantly sexual dance music (for God’s sake, their debut EP is titled Fuck Jams). Newest track “Thermometer” is built around the trashiest percussion you’ll hear outside of a Stomp show, and singer Patricia Patrón belts with the irresistibility of a modern-day Siren (“I’m making you want me/you can’t escape my heat”). Get down, get dirty, and get listening to KOPPS.
2. Airling – “Wasted Pilots”
Want to latch on to the next big thing? The start listening to Hannah Shepherd’s Airling, because she’s got the makings of a bona fide star. “Wasted Pilots,” the third track on her debut EP Love Gracefully, has been my most-played track since it hit the internet in August (it’s not even a competition). It’s a singular achievement in feathered, soulful pop, a dreamy escape from any reality. When the chorus hits, the drums explode like muffled fireworks, tempered only by Shepherd’s elegantly lofted vocals. A cleanly lit synth lazes through the backdrop like a
3. VÉRITÉ – “Weekend”
If the world is a fair place, VÉRITÉ will be a star. Here are three reasons why, although you won’t need convincing after listening to her stellar track “Weekend”:
1) Girl knows her hooks. That opening self-harmony is beautiful in its own right, but when it morphs into the rise and fall AH-AH-AH-OH chorus, it’s downright infectious.
2) Girl’s got pipes. She starts “Weekend” off with the hushed austerity of Lana Del Ray, but then she shrugs off the sullen disguise and launches headlong into the blitz of a chorus, where she sounds a hell of a lot like Paramore’s Hayley Williams (and I LOVE Paramore’s Hayley Williams).
3) Girl builds tension like a boss. “Weekend” is a barely-contained rush of adrenaline, a song that makes you feel like something big is on the line. Listen for it in the climax of the next big teen movie that makes it to theaters near you.
Do yourself a favor and jump on the VÉRITÉ bandwagon. It’s worth it.
4. Petite Miller – “Backpack”
Dirtiest sax line of the year goes to Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” hands down. But if you’re like me, you need something mellow to soften the exhaustingly jagged hooks of child stars-turned-pop goddesses. That’s where Petite Meller and her smooth-as-could-be “Backpack” come in. The Sweden-via-NYC-via-France artist grew up on a musical diet of big name jazz, girl group pop, and, as she puts it, “Eurotrash,” and she blends these influences into her own unique brand of sugar-frosted pop. The sax here is warm and inviting, something from the mind of a street musician. It backs up Meller’s youthful vocals, high-pitched but far from grating. The backing track is all fizz and pop, cheery as Pawws and light as a lullaby.
5. Noosa – “Begin Again”
“Begin Again” is a genre-defining dream pop effort, an ebullient and lighthearted blend of sparkling piano, puckish plucked strings, and Noosa’s sparkling sky-high vocals. The song doesn’t even need a hook, but it’s got one in the form of a drawn out, repeated post-chorus sigh that fades away with a light shiver. It’s a first class ticket to whatever fairy tale land exists in Noosa’s head, and there’s a good chance you’ll never want to come back.
6. Jordan Klassen – “Go To Me”
The opening measures of “Go to Me” establish Jordan Klassen as a worthy successor to the throne of delicate, banjo-driven folk that Sufjan Stevens was known for in his earlier works. The spell-binding, shout-out-loud chorus, however, shows that Klassen found more inspiration in the triumphant pop of Illinois than in the melancholia of Seven Swans. The Vancouver-based folk artist knows how to blend mellow lows with euphoric highs, and in doing so creates tracks that could very well be timeless.
7. Monogem – “Wait and See”
Monogem, the LA duo of vocalist Jen Hirsh and production maestro Scott Smith, unabashedly embraces the members’ 80’s-rooted influences. “Wait and See” is a simmering pop jam, one that might take a few listens to get behind. Simple puffs of warm static create the opening earworm of a bass melody, and spare parts slowly attach themselves to this line as the song progresses. By the time we reach the final chorus, “Wait” has gone full out anthem, and you’re left with your head in the clouds.
8. Emilie Nicolas – “Pstereo”
What do you get when you combine the trappings of Scandinavian synthpop, an early 90’s #1 Norwegian hit, and powerful, Rihanna-esque vocals? “Pstereo,” as covered by Norwegian soon-to-be-star Emilie Nicolas. Nicolas updates the beloved (at least, in Norway) DumDum Boys track by adding a rolling, popping beat, soaring self harmonies, and a third act that’s a torrent of fluttering energy. It all works beautifully, and I’m not the only one to think so – Sony signed her to their roster and released her debut album in Sweden this past August (and it will be hitting stateside early next year!).
9. Zak Waters – “Penelope”
“Penelope” has the most hilarious message of any song I’ve heard this year. Zak Waters’ relentlessly poppy sun-tinged indie pop gem is a love letter to, of all people, his former babysitter. Here’s a little taste of the lyrics: “Oh Penelope, where are you now? I’m old enough to take you out.” It’s a bold move, but you know what? There are worse ways to let your childhood crush be known. Hell, “Penelope” might even be flattered by the attention, especially when it’s delivered in such an enjoyable package.
10. TV Girl – “Birds Don’t Sing”
A few years back, I obsessed over the laid back 60’s sounds of Denver duo Tennis, and I went on a hunt for bands that occupied a similar sun-bleached soundscape. This journey led me to the lo-fi surf pop of TV Girl, a Los Angeles group that’s been hanging around the fringe of blog frenzydom for the better part of four years (and running one of the more hilariously sardonic Twitter accounts that I know of). Earlier this year they dropped their debut LP, French Exit, and put it up for free download on Bandcamp. One standout is “Birds Don’t Sing,” a twangy steamroller that runs on the summery fumes of coconut sunblock and frozen margaritas. A fluttering string-and-horn melody copped from your local mariachi band leads the charge for a parade of slick, languid harmonies, shimmying percussion, and wavering guitars. It’s a perfect slice of sun-baked pop, and you’d do well to give it a few listens.
11. Camden Cox – “Kinda Like”
London-based Camden Cox has latched onto the Sound of the Moment, and it’s bound to serve her well. “Kinda Like,” her debut single, occupies a niche between slowed down pop of AlunaGeorge and the funked-up house of Disclosure, and Cox lists SBTRKT, Massive Attack, and Purity Ring as further influences. The darkly echoed hollow synth drops that propel the song pretty clearly owe influence to these groups, and her heavily altered vocals follow that trend. It’s a song meant for night time listening, and a gorgeous one at that.
12. Adhds – “City”
ADHDS are based in Miami… and that’s all I know about them. Doesn’t matter, though, because the music is telling enough. “City” starts with only a quietly strummed acoustic guitar, but promptly throws that idea to the wind – and in comes a towering vocal hook that would have fit snugly on M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Layers of thrumming electronic fuzz keep the song grounded between choruses, and stately, arena-ready drums ensure that there’s never a dull moment. The lyrics are optimistic and excited for life, and the backing music agrees wholeheartedly.