New this year really wasn’t all that new. Though a list of this magnitude usually features those artists that we’ve never heard of before, 2011 proved to be a year where the underground efforts of some outstanding talent reached the mainstream, thus making them ‘new’ certainly in the eyes of many. This year’s batch is outstanding, indeed as strong a batch in at least a decade. It features some reinvented veterans or just clear star shine finally manifesting on others. Here goes:
the coolest artist around in pop music is Canadian (suck on that America!) Claire Boucher. Though she released a pair of obtuse debut albums last year, few heard them and even fewer had a chance to purchase them. The indie press latched on to her early though and we’ve been hailing her inevitable rise to mega-stardom next year ever since. The year has seen her reinvent pop as a major genre with her laptop-fiddling approach, re-release her debuts as well as co-author a new one. And to top it off, she’s dropped the first track of her upcoming album and left us all hungry for more.
2. Danny Brown:
not new but for all the years spent clowning around, Brown hit 30 this year and suddenly his jigsaw purpose fell into place. No other artist features more in the year (or on my song list) and that he reminds us of Andre3000 is, of course, a big help.
3. James Blake:
certainly, the year’s most talked-about new artist, Blake has been hyped and dished in equal measure---a sure sign that he’s arrived. Despite not nabbing a Grammy nomination, he has accolades from last year for his technical merits but this year we got to see his expanded talent and though some, most notable a member of Portishead, derided his rise, critics have uniformly praised his debut for enhancing dub-step into the future.
4. Shabazz Palaces:
Ishmael Butler, has turned up on Sub Pop as that label’s first rap act, this after pioneering in his previous band, Diggable Planets more than a decade ago.
5. Sheep, Dog & Wolf:
I keep coming back to the remarkable fact that this kid is still only seventeen!
6. The Weeknd:
reinventing contemporary R&B with a slutty twist that strikes the right balance.
7. Chelsea Wolfe:
the new queen of goth pop, Wolfe released her debut last year but it wasn’t with this year’s Apokalypsis that it all registered. Indeed, the album can be seen as a proper re-working of her entry into mainstream. Now, we see her as the younger version of PJ Harvey and in the eyes of rock scions there can be no higher recognition.
8. Frank Ocean:
yet another young Turk branching out successfully in the year.
9. Willie Evans Jr.:
rap’s new renaissance man.
10. Childish Gambino:
the most divisive rap act of the year but Glover has already transcended one genre…he’s merged it with pop and dug into something totally new.