"Friends of Friends", this Brooklyn trio's first single off their forthcoming self-titled debut studio album, was one of our favorite tracks of 2011. They've since unleashed another impressive cut, titled "Betty Wang", which is somewhat reminiscent of the criminally underrated, now defunct Boston group Pants Yell! (except with female vocals of course). Though there are only two songs from the group to go off of, we have a good feeling the rest of the LP is going to deliver as well. When it does, expect to be hearing a lot more about this indie pop outfit.
11. Teen Daze
It’s amazing that we live during a time where an artist like Teen Daze can be described as a “bedroom” musician. One listen to the super sharp production quality and attention to detail on any track off last year’s A Silent Planet EP and you’ll quickly realize there’s nothing “bedroom” about this Vancouver musician. Teen Daze (a.k.a “Jamison,” according to his Facebook page) started 2012 off with a bang by dropping “Let’s Groove,” an absolutely killer reworking of the classic Earth, Wind & Fire track. With its house-inspired electro injection, it’s hard for me to think of a better modern interpretation of disco since Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind” way back in 2008. -B.K.
I know, I know, Friends are a Brooklyn band. But before you roll your eyes and throw them in the gigantic pile of other skinny-jeans-wearing, fixed-gear-bike-riding groups, hear me out. Friends’ dancey, tropical pop is anything but pretentious. Their track, “Friend Crush,” garnered a decent amount of buzz across the web in 2011 with it’s infectious melody and the sultry vocal stylings of Samantha Urbani and Lesley Hann. On “I’m His Girl,” they sing, “When you see me walking around with him, I’m not just some other chick. I’m his girl.” It sounds like something from a Lana Del Rey song, but the subtle disco bass line and thumping backbeat give it a deliciously cool girl power kick similar to Lykke Li. With their debut album currently in the works, 2012 could bring big things for these five Brooklynites. -B.K.
09. Spirits of the Red City
Spirits of the Red City are about as amorphous as a band can get. They’re a seven-piece at the moment (but that number seems to fluctuate constantly) and according to their bio they’ve been on a nation-wide tour since spring 2009. As that sort of fluidity might imply, Spirits of the Red City has a heavily folk-influenced indie sound along the lines of the Avett Brothers. Where Spirits are unique, though, is their ability to be several seemingly contrary things at once — melancholy and fun, complex and accessible, jammy and polished. That along with the sheer excitement and talent of every member makes them a joy to listen to. Spirits have one full length, Hunter Moon, and two EPs, Serves You Right, and Limbs, a split with Some Say Leland. - S.W.
08. Vince Staples
Reminiscent of early 90s hip hop with stoner beats, the Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 mixtape has put Vince Staples towards the very top of our list of up and coming rappers. Rather than talk about how things are 'all good' and how he's only about 'getting money', this Los Angeles emcee spits some of the most introspective lyrics we've heard from the hip hop community in a long time, all while making it very clear he's walking around with a chip on his shoulder. Never have pissed off rap tracks been so chill. Download Shyne Coldchain Vo. 1 for free here.
07. Shiv Hurrah
Possibly the most unknown out of all the acts on this list, Shiv Hurrah make up for their lack of marketing skills with David Bechle's innate ability to pump out tracks on par with some of the best songwriters around today. I've only heard 6 songs from this Rochester (formerly Brooklyn) group, but every single one is just about as consistent as the others. Though they may not have the music world's attention just yet, it's going to be hard for tunes like Shiv Hurrah's to stay unnoticed for long.
06. Dumbo Gets Mad
A one-man project (with vocal help from his girlfriend) exported from Italy to the greater Los Angeles area, Dumbo Gets Mad put out a solid 10-track album, Elephant at the Door, last February that has some how gone unnoticed for the most part. Word seems to slowly be spreading on this experimental psychedelic pop act though and we expect for this Italian and his lady friend to receive their proper share of attention in 2012. Be sure to check out "Eclectic Prawn", one of our favorite tracks of 2011. If you dig that, download the whole LP for free (price of a tweet or Facebook share) here.
After putting out one of the best punk records of 2011, this Los Angeles 5-piece kicked off the New Year by dropping their best track yet. The only problem is we're not sure if the tune is titled ":(" or "We're Not Happy Until You're Not Happy". Either way give the impressive slower number, which features vocals reminiscent of Eels' E and Girls' Christopher Owens, a listen below. Then feel free to check out the video for their meth'd up punk anthem "Wake Bake Skate" here.
Still in his early twenties, GDP has a back catalogue that would shame most veteran rappers' entire discographies. The 'West Orange delegate' dropped one of our favorite LPs of 2009, Realistic Expectations, our favorite hip-hop EP of 2010, Magic Bullet and again, one of our favorite LPs of 2011, Useless Eaters. Forget cliche raps from coattail riding 'entertainers', GDP drops his well articulated knowledge like a ton of bricks; one of few hip hop acts that succeeds at delivering well thought out lyrics without coming across as self-righteous. Start off by listening to his Run For Cover records debut, Useless Eaters, and work your way back from there.
Bay Area multi-instrumentalist Jhameel made a pretty big splash last year with “Shut Up”, which played nonstop at Forever 21 for a few months. Jhameel plays a unique brand of ultra-produced dance-pop songs, something like a slightly indie Prince. He defines his music as “catchy melodies that settle easily into your mind with human lyrical themes that continue to challenge the heart”. Apparently Jhameel speaks five languages, was once in the military, and graduated from Berkeley with honors in two years, making his martian American Apparel aesthetic all the more bizarre. Jhameel has two albums, a self-titled record and one entitled The Human Condition. - S.W.
02. King Krule
It's quite hard to describe what exactly makes Archy Marshall aka King Krule's music so appealing. To put it simply, the tracks making up his self-titled EP show both Marshall's natural skill as a songwriter and his innovativeness as a musician. The two qualities collectively make the very young UK producer's music an entity that will most likely carve itself a substantial space in music world this year. Be sure to give his latest effort a spin over at Spotify.
01. Brick + Mortar
This progressive indie duo made a huge leap from their impressive debut EP to their mind bendingly good new 3-track single. Now we at NJU, along with a number of informed music blogs, are anxiously awaiting Brick + Mortar's next move. "Heat Stroke" was our #6 favorite track of 2011. You can stream and/or download that cut over at B+M's bandcamp, first however, give "Move To The Ocean" a spin below.