10 artists to watch in '11
  • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 05, 2011

  • Posted by: David Pitz

Enough with the 2010 retrospectives! We've spent the last few weeks reflecting on the year that was...an insanely rewarding activity of course, but not nearly as exciting as peering into the great unknown that is 2011. What's cool too is not all of it is unknown. There are plenty of artists gearing up to have themselves a rather massive upcoming year. So without further ado, we bring you 10 artists we're particularly st(r)oked to hear from over the first bit of the new year.

Adele

"Rolling in the Deep" is such a tease; a soulful romp of punishing percussive thwacks, heavy handed piano, and of course Adele's testifying presence at the front of it all. The song's so good I suspect our own Joe P was just being modest when he called his endorsement a "minor freak out". Come on Joe! This thing warrants an insane, irrational kind of reaction...which is why we're bummed this is the only little smidge of her new Rick Rubin produced album 21 to trickle out of Adele's camp so far. Oh well, we are patient people. But with the album not slated for release until the end of January, the Grammy award winning singer will certainly test that patience.

James Blake

Based out of London, James Blake made a well-received skip across the pond this past year, releasing three EPs of stylish material to a fair share of acclaim here in the states. Hard to believe the glitched out beats, misty synthetics, and highly manipulated vocal samples are the work of a staggeringly young twenty-two year old. Not so hard to believe is the tizzy the electronic producer managed to work up amongst the early adopting crowd. Surely bigger and better things await Blake in 2011...especially with a debut full length slated for February 7th.

Bon Iver/Fleet Foxes

Ok, probably not entirely fair to clump these two artists together. But both Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes staked their claim for backwoods supremacy in 2008...and oh by the way, they did so with debut albums. Now there are murmurs that each will deliver what will be highly scrutinized follow-ups in 2011. For Bon Iver, the curiosity will lie in the way Justin Vernon has evolved. After all For Emma, Forever Ago was conceived from such intense emotion, and brought with it the kind of backstory you could hear hiding between the notes of his lovelorn songs. In the case of Robin Pecknold's Fleet Foxes, nothing short of the same vocal bliss that brought their self-titled debut to ears everywhere will do.

The Decemberists

When last we heard from The Decemberists, the long-time Portland band had undergone a rather drastic transformation in the form of The Hazards of Love; a bulky, overwrought chunk of rock that offered little to no room for the bookish bouts of storytelling folk previous releases had trained audiences to expect. Naturally, opinions scattered in every which direction. With The King is Dead slated for release on January 18th, it will be interesting to hear just what kind of threads the band has slipped in to these past couple of years. If the Gillian Welch enhanced first single is any inclination, expect the band to be slurping up some inspiration from the eighties. It not-so-shamelessly reminisces of REM's "The One I Love". And then there's that title, hinting at an ode to The Smith's classic 1986 album The Queen Is Dead.

The Go! Team

If you've been around NFL football at all this season, you've probably heard The Go! Team's "The Power Is On" prominently featured in the league's Play 60 campaign. It's a big score for the band of course, but we're hoping not their biggest of the year. To really make a year of it, the band will need to get behind their third album, Rolling Blackouts. "Buy Nothing Day" suggests the band's peppy, cheerleading spirit remains intact some seven years after their debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike caused an international commotion. Look for the new album to be released on January 31st via Memphis Industries.

The Low Anthem

The latest evolution of The Low Anthem will be a curious thing to hear. On their '09 release Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, and Jocie Adams often sounded like two different bands, pairing candle lit acoustic melodies alongside whiskey-swigging rips of rough and tumble country folk. For the follow-up titled Smart Flesh, the Providence Rhode Island based band recruited an additional member in Mat Davidson, and rigged a dissipated pasta sauce factory for recording purposes. The results of which will be interesting to hear. Did the Charlie Darwin obsessed band take a step in the direction of natural selection, paring down their two distinct styles into a perfect combination of the two? Or is the identity crisis that fueled their last album alive and well? We'll know February 22nd, when Smart Flesh is set for release via Nonesuch Records.

Lykke Li

She's one of our favorite freaks; a feisty personality who can coil herself up, only to let loose like some stylish, windup toy. The world-wide response to Swedish singer Lykee Li's debut Youth Novels has been nothing short of enthusiastic these last few years. But a number of songs released from her forthcoming follow-up Wounded Rhymes suggest a deliberate turn in craft. "Get Some" and "Paris Blue", released to tease the album, are of a decidedly moodier nature, with their sparse construction leaving lots of room for some of Lykke's pent up emotion (anger, rage, frustration, etc) to seep through. The two songs are captivating, but will the people dig it? We'll see when Wounded Rhymes is released on March 1st, via her label LL Recordings. A massive tour will accompany the record.

Radiohead

Radiohead's last album In Rainbows brought with it an unexpected, shock-the-world kind of moment. Not since the freewheeling 90's had an album release felt like a universal, musical event. Sure, there was the pay-what-you-want approach that accompanied it. But the real buzz was in the timing of it all, with the band unloading In Rainbows on the public a mere 10 days after announcing its' completion. In Rainbow's successor will be a tough act to follow, and already there's been a year's worth of gossip surrounding it. Is it done? Did they completely scrap it? How will it be released? 2011 should provide the answer to such burning questions. Sit tight.


The Strokes

The band's last record (First Impressions of Earth) was a flop...so much so it sent band members scattering in their own individual directions these past 5 years. But The Strokes announced their return with a heavy schedule through the summer festival season this past year, and recently wrapped production on their 4th album, Connections from the Left Side. No deets are available on the release date just yet, but I'd expect it in the next few months as you can bet the band will once again want to strike out on the summer circuit in support.





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