Music’s rising stars for 2014

Predicting the next big thing in pop music is tricky business. It’s a fickle genre by nature and design. What sounds fresh today (hello, Lana Del Rey) can be out of touch a month later. Likewise, plenty of sensations can emerge seemingly out of the blue (two words: “Gangnam Style”). Instead, we’ve rounded up 10 artists who might not have a hit or even come to town but whose music is worth your time and attention this year.

Sean Hagwell


  • The Australian singer-songwriter, real name Jessica Newham, honed her chops at the Berklee College of Music and she learned her lessons well, as her four-song 2013 EP, “The Movement,” is a bright bubble of synth pop bliss. The cool blue ballad “Right Here” and the pulsating “Somebody Loves You” — written the week that Whitney Houston passed away and inspired by the pop diva — have us looking forward to finding out what Who is all about. [SR]

Rick Diamond/Getty Images


  • A clever and heartfelt country singer-songwriter, Janson made some noise in 2013 with the singles “Better I Don’t” (a simultaneously comic and poignant look at leaving the wild life behind) and “Cut Me Some Slack.” He’s also penned songs for other artists, including Tim McGraw’s hit “Truck Yeah” and collaborated on tunes with everyone from Bill Anderson to Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses. That classic country and hard rock combo can be heard in his sound, in which the Missouri native combines an unbridled energy with thoughtful observations and wry humor. Following some stops and starts in the industry, Janson is poised to break through to a bigger audience. [SR]

Karl Walter/Getty Images


  • Think of “Dual,” the seven-song EP that Sampha released last summer, as one long exhale after a deep drag on a cigarette. The British musician comes from a storied line of soulful singers, both old-school (Bill Withers) and neo (D’Angelo), but his brand of R&B is decidedly contemporary. Sampha exists in the new realm where the beats are electronic and minimal, the mood hazy, and the vocals nearly vaporous. He’s closely associated with Jessie Ware and Solange Knowles, with whom he has collaborated, and for good reason: They’re all singers who know the power of a less-is-more approach. [JR]

Louise Greene


  • It’s amusing to watch someone’s reaction to hearing Avidan for the first time. Take a song like “Different Pulses,” the title track of his 2012 album. Eyebrows arch, and a moment of familiarity flickers across the face. “This sort of sounds like Amy Winehouse.” Or, “Wow, who is this woman?” That woman happens to be a soulful and ethereal Israeli man who has already made quite an impression in his homeland and Europe. An otherworldly quality marks his brand of pop, landing somewhere along the lines of Jeff Buckley and Janis Joplin. After fronting a folk-rock band called Asaf Avidan & the Mojos, Avidan went solo a few years ago and begins his maiden US tour next month. His latest album hasn’t been released here yet, but you can hear bits and pieces of it on YouTube. (Avidan performs at Somerville Theatre on Feb. 22, as part of World Music’s programming.) [JR]

Jarrod McCabe


  • At “Another Day/Another Time,” a concert back in September celebrating the music from the film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the lineup was flush with heavy hitters: Joan Baez, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello. But it was a lesser-known band that nearly stole the show. A woman in the mezzanine turned to her neighbors on either side. “Who. Was. That?” she asked after Lake Street Dive delivered an electrifying performance buoyed by powerhouse singer Rachael Price. That excitement rippled throughout the venue after the quartet’s quirky and playful mashup of jazz, folk, and swinging pop. Lake Street Dive, which started in Boston when its members met as students at New England Conservatory, has been kicking around for a while, long enough that it has a digital album titled “Live at the Lizard Lounge.” But with the Feb. 18 release of “Bad Self Portraits,” its next album produced by Arlington resident Sam Kassirer, the foursome is destined to have a breakthrough year. Finally. (Lake Street Dive plays at the Sinclair on Feb. 21; it’s already sold out.) [JR]

John Michael Fulton


  • Under the name BANKS (note those caps), the Los Angeles-bred singer and songwriter Jillian Banks has amassed a lot of buzz on the strength of her lone EP, last year’s “London.” Songs like “Waiting Game” and “Before I Ever Met You” ooze a dark-hearted iciness while playing off the warm, sensual tones of Banks’s voice. Half the time she reminds you of the xx; the other half it’s Sade. Her debut album doesn’t have an official release date, but it’s likely due in the spring. In the meantime, she recently placed third in the BBC Sound of 2014, an annual poll of UK music critics and industry types who gauge what to expect in pop music for the year ahead. [JR]

Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP


  • The hype reached a fever pitch almost immediately after his self-titled debut came out in his native England in 2012. Bugg, who turns 20 next month, is the kind of mop-topped musician whose appeal skips across genres and generations. A father might hear a little bit of early Bob Dylan or the Kinks in Bugg’s pinched voice, while a son might think it sounds like the Tallest Man on Earth. Then there are Bugg’s freewheeling joyrides through plainspoken folk, proto-punk rockers, lonesome country ballads, and modern indie-rock. Still in his teens, he already exudes a confidence and talent beyond his years. (Bugg plays at the House of Blues on Saturday.) [JR]


  • Toward the end of 2013, a year when hip-hop was dominated by high-profile releases from Kanye West, Drake, and A$AP Rocky, a Minneapolis rapper named Lizzo put out an unabashed party album. “LIZZOBANGERS” was her debut, and inexplicably flew under the radar, but it was jammed with big beats and an even bigger presence from its creator. Raised in both Detroit and Houston, Lizzo claims an array of influences, from gospel to Southern soul to ’90s R&B girl groups. She credits Destiny’s Child with inspiring her to make her own music, which she has done in a hodgepodge of bands in various genres. But as a rapper, she has found the perfect outlet for her kinetic wordplay (witness “Batches & Cookies”), wicked sense of humor, and penchant for brash live performances. With any luck, she’ll find her audience this year, be it in a sweaty club or a massive arena. [JR]

Jason Davis/Getty Images


  • If you’re a contemporary country music fan you know Stapleton’s songs. He’s written over 150 that have been cut by some of the biggest names in Nashville including Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, and Brad Paisley. Thanks to his big, soulful voice — which bluegrass aficionados may recognize from his time in the Grammy-nominated SteelDrivers — the Kentucky native is also an in-demand backing vocalist. On the heels of his 2013 single “What Are You Listening To?” Stapleton is finally heading out on his own as a solo artist and, after a wonderful performance at a songwriters’ round at the Hard Rock Cafe this past October, we expect his debut album will be one of the answers to that musical question in 2014. [SR]


  • An 81-year-old Delta blues musician is an artist to watch in 2014? Yep, Welch is. On Tuesday the guitarist and singer, who cut his teeth in the church and has been largely overlooked outside the South, released his debut album. “Sabougla Voices” pays homage to the Mississippi town where he grew up with a steely, electric take on gospel informed by the blues. As Welch notes in the album’s press materials, he doesn’t see much difference between the genres: “I believe in the Lord, but the blues speaks to life too. Blues has a feeling just like gospel; they just don’t have a book (a Bible).” His new album is full of feisty songs meant for shouting, stomping, and testifying. Can Welch get an amen? [JR]

James Reed can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.