Predicting the next stars in pop music is futile. What’s buzzed about right now could be out of favor by the end of the month. And then there are the dark horses no one sees coming. (How else to explain last year’s global domination of “Gangnam Style”?) Here’s our list of 10 bands and musicians who may or may not be famus but are worth your time and attention as we ease into 2013.
This UK foursome’s debut album, “An Awesome Wave,” came out in September, but don’t be surprised if Alt-J’s stylistically restless excursions take the better part of 2013 to fully own you. A given Alt-J song can dip into growly electronics, plaintive folky vibes, and post-punk swagger without losing its compositional cool. That debut snagged last year’s Mercury Prize, and the band’s North American tour is quickly selling out (though tickets still remain for the March 3 gig at the Paradise). There’s a 90 percent chance you’ll be sick of hearing about this band by the time SXSW rolls around, but it’ll be a while before these songs wear out their welcome.
Yes, we know. Azealia Banks was an artist to keep tabs on last year when her jaw-dropping song “212” became a viral hit. Since then, the Harlem-born rapper released an EP and a mixtape and became more infamous for her online presence, including a recent Twitter spat with fellow rapper Angel Haze (which then got even messier when gossip blogger Perez Hilton meddled in the affair). Love her or loathe her, and there’s little middle ground at this point, Banks is a talented writer, rapper, and even singer, all qualities we hope she’ll showcase when her full-length debut, “Broke With Expensive Taste,” is finally released in February.
While it would be wrong to classify Disclosure — the young London duo of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence — as retro, they do have a way with chunky chord progressions that conjure memories of Crystal Waters and Robin S.; and the crispy-clean house they purvey is worlds apart from the grit and murk that characterized a lot of what leaked from London’s basements last year. After last summer’s incredible “The Face” EP, a ubiquitous remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running,” and the runaway hit of “Latch,” the duo’s full-length debut due this spring on PMR will be one of the most anticipated dancefloor dinner bells of the year.
The battlefields of 2012 were strewn with chillwave casualties, as a legion of bedroom solo project auteurs practically threw out their backs attempting to get lower-fi than the next dude. Meanwhile, Matthew Mondanile, guitarist for New Jersey’s psyche-delicate rockers Real Estate, has wriggled free of that trend’s trappings, recruiting fellow Jerseyans the Big Troubles, Oneohtrix Point Never mastermind and Sudbury native Daniel Lopatin, and Cults’ singer Madeline Follin to brighten the corners of his easygoing explorations. “The Flower Lane” comes out on Domino on Jan. 29.
The name of her latest (and third) record is “The Beautiful Wild,” and that’s a handy descriptor for the earthy, iridescent folk-pop Grant excels at. By turns rootsy and ruminative, Grant’s music will bring to mind the ethereal eloquence of fellow Canadian songbird Feist. Grant performs at Brighton Music Hall on Jan. 17.
As soon as you hear this sister act’s songs, you’ll know where they call home. Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim make music redolent of California pop, both past and present, with notable traces of Fleetwood Mac and a ’90s R&B vibe. Haim recently signed to a major label, Columbia Records, and will release their debut in the spring. In the meantime, the title track from their recent EP, “Forever,” will get tangled in your brain like taffy.
Nominated for three awards at the upcoming Grammys ceremony (including best new artist), this rising 21-year-old singer has been called country music’s answer to Justin Bieber. His songs are easy on the ears, as much as he’s easy on the eyes. Hayes, who writes his own tunes and plays multiple instruments, also shares musical DNA with Taylor Swift, whose early music was largely acoustic but with a pop sheen.
If 2012 was Kendrick Lamar’s turf, this year could very well go to his Black Hippy cohort ScHoolboy Q. Following a prolific two years — 2011’s “Setbacks” and 2012’s “prequel” to that album “Habits and Contradictions,” plus a couple of mixtapes — Q recently confirmed on Twitter that his major label debut, “Oxymoron,” would be ready to go in 2013. Expect appearances from the inescapable A$AP Rocky and the ineffable Danny Brown, plus miles of tight lines delivered via Q’s uniquely versatile and effortlessly nimble flow. For a taste, check out “THere He Go” — and don’t let its shock and awe campaign of F-bombs give you the wrong idea.
Canadian singer-songwriters Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet are compelling in their own right, but when they teamed up in 2011 as Whitehorse, sparks flew. The proof is on their new album, “The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss,” which comes out on Tuesday. The pair, who happen to be married, put a twangy stamp on gritty folk blues. Doucet’s guitar playing, in particular, lends the music an air of noirish intrigue.
Elliot and Natalie Bergman, a brother and sister who record under the moniker Wild Belle, surfaced out of nowhere last year with a relentless earworm called “Keep You.” Brassy, swaggering, and tinged with reggae, the song made it hard to pin down its makers. And that chameleonic approach to indie pop continues with “Isles,” Wild Belle’s debut, which Columbia will release in March. Wild Belle performs at Paradise Rock Club on Feb. 15.