Thanks to 2013, the future of music is far from dead, but kicking and screaming for evolution. Let the records show that this year produced some of the most defiant songs and albums of the last decade, with a tide of new musicians pushing genre perimeters and reaching towards new and unfamiliar possibilities as insistently as, if not more than, established bands. Artists like Lorde, HAIM and CHVRCHES, who were staking the gutsiest moves on the culture’s forefront alongside established veterans like Kanye and Arcade Fire. With that said, it’s never been a more radical and exciting time for the Ones To Watch of the present and future. Today, we’re taking a look back at the year in new music by Ones To Watch artists. We present you with the best Ones To Watch albums of 2013!
Days Are Gone - HAIM
Nostalgic, yet wildly relevant: The Haim sisters struck gold with their 80s throwback appeal and introduced the “new” pop-ballad with “My Song 5.”
Highlights: “The Wire,” “Don’t Save Me,” “Days Are Gone”
The Bones of What You Believe-CHVRCHES
The exhilarating future of post-New Wave synth-pop: So they just may be the most talked-about electronic band this year next to Daft Punk, but CHVRCHES certainly live up to the hype. Their debut album showed this off one shrewd, irresistibly catchy single at a time.
Highlights: “We Sink,” “Gun,” “Lies”
Song & Dance - Duologue
Our post-Radiohead obsession: London alt-electronic outfit Duologue, cultivate rich melodies from orchestras and synthesizers into a heady storm of layered songs. We also really appreciate their sense of humor.
Highlights: “Underworld,” “Push It,” “Gift Horse”
Talking Dreams - Echosmith
Alt-Pop’s most promising new kids: These ambitious L.A. siblings dreamed up a glimmering set of earnest, starry-eyed tunes in their debut album, Talking Dreams, an auspicious new gem in alternative pop.
Highlights: “Talking Dreams,” “Let’s Love”
Pure Heroine - Lorde
She’s 2013’s most buzzed-about 17-year-old in the world, and for good reason: Lorde’s stunning first album blends woozy, staggering hooks with devastatingly heartfelt lyrics about youth, love and the remarkable ambiguity of it all. There’s no doubt about it - this heroine is talented.
Highlights: “400 Lux,” “Ribs,” “Team”
When It Was Now - Atlas Genius
Indie-rock’s gust of fresh air: Atlas Genius’ lively debut, When It Was Now, spells out thoughtful, multidimensional rock with layers of energetic, hook-driven power tracks among softer, experiment-tinged ballads.
Highlights: “Through The Glass,” “Symptoms,” “If So”
Heart of Nowhere - Noah and the Whale
Happy kings of folk-pop: The London-based rockers prove they’re happy ruling their own corner of indie music in Heart Of Nowhere, where theymused about life, love and loss in earnest, witty tracks. There’s never a dull moment here.
Highlights: “Heart of Nowhere,” “Lifetime”
Evil Friends - Portugal. The Man
They chalk it up to “the Alaskan Way,” but we have a hunch that psychedelic rockers Portugal. The Man would swim against the tide no matter what state they called home. Though they’re far from a new artist, their latest album Evil Friends (produced by Danger Mouse) is still one of our favorites of this year. It’s filled with intoxicating, riff-heavy, darkly humorous material - all of it catchy as hell - proving the band is as foolhardy and cleverly prolific as ever.
Highlights: “Hip-hop Kids,” “Evil Friends,” “Creep In A T-Shirt”
R.E.V.O. - Walk Off The Earth
While electronic music walks in one direction, Walk Off The Earth goes down a welcomed, different path with their fresh take on reggae-rock. It’s like experiencing an entirely different sound in today’s synth-obsessed world. In their third album, the Canadian band samples uncommon loops using unexpected instruments. Their infamous Gotye cover (5 people, one guitar) is only the beginning of what this album has to give.
Highlights: “Red Hands,” “Summer Vibe”
Us Against Them - Jake Miller
Pop’s newest idol brings a different kind of message, because Jake Miller strives to put a positive spin on bleak but real themes on his debut album, Us Against Them. Oh, and he does it with a smile on, 24/7 - no kidding, the kid lives to inspire.
Highlights: “Collide,” “A Million Lives”