1. The Weeknd
Abel Tesfaye, whose stage name is “The Weeknd,” was born in Toronto, Canada and started recording in 2010, at the age of 20. He’s an R&B artist who specializes in taking samples from classic or current popular songs and then putting his own spin and lyrics over them—seamlessly. John Norris at MTV dubbed him the “best musical talent since Michael Jackson.”
Here’s one of his songs, “What You Need”:
2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Founded by Ariel Pink in Los Angeles, the “freak folk” group doesn’t really sound like anyone else out there, although you can hear some of Ariel Pink’s influences occasionally. For instance, Pink worked with Animal Collective and the Rapture, both of whose sounds are perhaps the clearest in the band’s nine studio albums.
Here’s their newest hit, “Round and Round,” off 2010’s Before Today:
3. Tame Impala
Hailing from Perth, Australia, Tame Impala are a psychedelic rock band who released their first album in 2010, Innerspeaker, which topped the charts in Australia and has just begun picking up traction in the States. They describe themselves as “a steady flowing psychedelic groove rock band that emphasizes dream-like melody.” You can be the judge of that, but either way, they’re awesome.
Here’s their video for “Lucidity”:
4. The Vaccines
The Vaccines are only two years old, but have already gotten to #4 on the UK Album Chart with their debut album, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? Formed in London, the four-man post-punk revival band say their influences stem from “‘50s rock ‘n’ roll to ’80s American hardcore and good pop music,” but many critics have compared them to the Ramones and the Strokes. Their sound is basically all of that. In a very good way.
Here’s the video for one of their hit singles, “If You Wanna”:
The Allah-las are the youngest group on this list, having only been formed in 2011 in Los Angeles. Despite that, their music invokes the sounds of ’50s and ’60s garage rock, that is to say, lo-fi and cool. They only have an EP now—Tell Me (What’s on Your Mind)—but if you’re in the LA area, they’re going to be playing at the Echo every Tuesday night in August.
Here’s their single, “Long Journey”:
6. Rye Rye
Rye Rye’s a rapper and dancer from Baltimore, Maryland, who Billboard named as one of the best artists in their list “21 Under 21” in 2011. When she began performing at the age of 16 in 2005, she did it because she loved performing, singing, and dancing, and thought if she got into the industry, she would “destroy it.” Well, she did, with the club hit “Shake It to the Ground,” and ever since she’s been getting bigger and bigger.
She recently collaborated with MIA for a song, “Sunshine”:
7. Blood Orange
Blood Orange is an alias of Devonté “Dev” Hynes, who is also known as “Lightspeed Champion.” Though born in Houston, Texas, Dev is a British composer and songwriter, probably best described as a mix between folk and baroque pop. He’s been performing since 2005, and aside from his own work, he’s written for Florence + the Machine, the Chemical Brothers, the Arctic Monkeys, and many more. It’s probably best you just check him out now.
Here’s “Forget It”:
Indie rock group Efterklang are little known outside of their native Denmark, but their music certainly shouldn’t be. Since 2001, they’ve released three albums, most recently with 2010’s Magic Chairs. They also collaborated on a cool project with French filmmaker Vincent Moon to create a film, “An Island,” which was coincidentally shot off an island on the Danish coast. Their musical and artistic direction is unique, any way you look at it. For example, in their video for “Mirador”:
9. Frank Ocean
Similar to the Weeknd, Frank Ocean (aka Christopher Francis Ocean) is an up-and-coming R&B artist. Originally from New Orleans, Frank Ocean started his career by ghost-writing for artists like John Legend and Justin Bieber, and released his debut mixtape Nostalgia in 2011. Now, at 24, he’s working on his first studio album, set to be released in the first half of this year.
Here’s his first single, “Novacane”:
10. Craft Spells
Hailing from Stockton, California, Craft Spells are a new band who seemingly are out to bring back a sound that’s akin to a mix between New Order and the Smiths. The Guardian described them as “retro-pop miserablists” who are “summoning the spirit of 1986.” And if you’re not okay with that, you should be.
Here’s them performing “Party Talk” off their debut album, Idle Labor: