Now that Taylor Swift has shaken off her country roots in favor of pop superstardom, Nashville is in dire need of a new, fresh country queen. Kelsea Ballerini might just be the next best option.
Ballerini even recently became the first female artist to have her debut single reach No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart in nine years; Carrie Underwood last did it in 2006 with “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
After moving to Nashville at age 15 in hopes of becoming the next Swift, Ballerini soon learned that she was better off finding her own sound, and reinvented her image as country’s freshest new girl next door.
This year, Ballerini can look forward to the Country Music Awards, where she is nominated for both Female Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year.
With hooks reminiscent of Sara Bareilles, the diary-inspired lyrics of Taylor Swift and an even cooler vibe than Katy Perry, Ballerini is surely one to watch in 2016.
A rock band with the occasional shimmery alternative-pop hook, Eternal Summers is making a play for one of the breakout groups of 2015.
Its fourth album, “Gold and Stone,” was released in May of this year to strong reviews from critics, who praised the group’s movement from the current angsty nostalgia craze in favor a wiry, punk edge reminiscent of old-school rock.
The album digs deeper into feedback-drenched guitars and just-sweet-enough vocals, displaying a newfound urgency from the group on songs like the charging “Bloom” and the whispery “Ebb Tide.”
“Gold and Stone” jumps genres in a way that feels authentic and natural, navigating the fine line between pushing the envelope and holding onto the status quo. When fusing its pop and punk impulses, the group breaks new ground in blurring the line between alt-pop and rock.
In 2016, the band will embark on tour and continue playing live performances, including one at the FRZN Fest in Madison, Wis., in early January.
dance | electronic | pop
With Adele back to break everyone’s hearts and just about every sales record in the process, the Brit-singer craze is in full swing on this side of the pond. She may not have Adele’s chops for singing about heartache, but singer-songwriter Jess Glynne is making a name for herself on the charts with her pop tracks with unique beats.
Glynne released her debut album, “I Cry When I Laugh,” September this year, and the record featured a wide variety of dance music subgenres, ranging from slick electro to saucy house.
Her ability to channel heartfelt emotion into pop songs with catchy hooks and club-ready beats makes her a standout in a radio lineup in which many of the biggest stars seem to be merely phoning it in.
Glynne’s voice evokes her big-lunged, soul-filled British contemporaries like Florence and the Machine, but she uses it for uplifting hits rather than melancholy ballads.
With a few hits already under her belt including a vocal feature on Clean Bandit’s 2014 smash “Rather Be” and her current single “Hold My Hand,” Glynne looks to be a familiar face and voice in 2016.
After the success of his single “Awwsome,” which spawned a remix featuring A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz, D.C.’s own Shy Glizzy is poised for a breakout year in 2016.
He has already received cosigns from stars like Beyoncé, who danced to “Awwsome” at a concert in New York’s Central Park, and Chance the Rapper, who brought him out at a tour stop in Maryland. Glizzy was named an XXL Freshman in 2015, and his mixtapes have already attracted renowned producers including Metro Boomin and Zaytoven.
Glizzy is a prolific artist, releasing 11 mixtapes since he first debuted in January of 2011 with “No Brainer.” His 2013 mixtape “Law 2” featured a number of high-profile rappers: Migos, Kevin Gates and Yo Gotti, to name a few.
A year later, Glizzy’s 18-track tape titled “Young Jefe” featured Young Thug, PeeWee Longway and Plies, among others.
Glizzy’s videos continue to rack up huge numbers of views. “Awwsome” has been watched over 4.5 million times on YouTube, while songs like “John Wall” and “3Milli” each have over 3 million hits. Glizzy, along with Chicago drill-music star Lil Durk, also featured on the song “Chiraq” by Meek Mill, which has over 5 million views, and these numbers will only grow larger as Glizzy continues to churn out hits.
dream pop | alternative
Hailing from Baltimore, Md., dream-pop duo Beach House has recently come out of an extended silence following the critically acclaimed releases of 2010’s “Teen Dream” and 2012’s “Bloom” with the release of “Depression Cherry” and “Thank Your Lucky Stars.” The band returns to its simpler origins with these albums, turning away from the loud and aggressive aesthetic characteristic of its last two studio efforts.
Its attempt to turn away from the commercial grasp of the music industry came to fruition with the band’s release of two albums inside of 50 days. Almost unheard of in today’s market, its release is even more remarkable considering the albums are far from half-hearted or rushed efforts. They are expertly produced, tightly recorded and offer a unique vision of the band.
Influenced by Neil Young, The Zombies and Brian Wilson, the duo blends psychedelic rock vocals with organ, programmed drums and hypnotic slide guitar.
In March, Beach House will embark on another tour after returning to the United States from Australia, the final stop of its current world tour. While the band has accompanied Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective and Portishead on tours, its potential has yet to be realized.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats released their eponymous debut album last August to critical acclaim. This, combined with their TV debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” this fall, makes it all the more surprising that they are still far from the spotlight. Perhaps most surprising, however, is Rateliff’s successful transformation from a Colorado folk artist to a sole front man reminiscent of Otis Redding.
Interested listeners can get a more intimate look at the life of Rateliff and his band in the 2015 documentary, “Austin to Boston.” Featuring stunning videography, this documentary serves as an intriguing entry point to an up-and-coming genre.
Centered on the premise of “5 old VW camper vans. 4 bands. 3 thousand miles. 2 weeks. 1 gloriously backwards tour,” the film demonstrates Rateliff’s god-like status in small venues across the country, but also begs the question, “Why has this isolated fame not translated to larger markets?”
Whatever the reason, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are set to continue their international tour into the New Year.
Pure Bathing Culture
indie-pop | electronic
Oregon-based indie-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture is set for a big year in 2016, having recently released its sophomore album, “Pray For Rain.” The album is a shift from its debut, “Moon Tides,” with a more refined artistic focus and newfound confidence. In many ways, the album speaks the most to what the band is not, and offers a vision for their bright future. Characteristic of guitarist Daniel Hindman are airy chords, electro-inspired melodic breaks and echo effects reminiscent of U2’s “The Edge.”
Meanwhile, vocalist Sarah Versprille brings a vocal approach analogous to that of megastar Katy Perry. Together, the band —organically formed following a collaboration with Sub Pop artist Vetiver — has cut the chord from its previous album in search of new sonic horizons.
The band was included on Stereogum’s Bands To Watch column a couple of years back, but has only recently signed a deal with Partisan Records, finally allowing it to make an album truly its own. Although centered on the concept of romantic connection, the album is far from cliche. For example, the opening song, “The Tower,” is inspired by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 in the spring of 2014.
Pure Bathing Culture is set to accompany alt-rock giant Death Cab for Cutie on tour this December and looks set to continue touring into the new year. Luckily, the band is still very accessible for those hoping to see it amid the hype.
This Spanish indie-rock group generated buzz last summer with singles like “Bamboo” and “Trippy Gum,” earning praise from music critics at NME and the Guardian. Boasting a punky, youthful energy and distinct lo-fi sound, the group is gearing up to release its debut album “Leave Me Alone” on Jan. 8.
Hinds has previously toured with alternative-rock titans such as the Libertines, the Vaccines and the Black Lips.
Hinds started as a duo of Carlotta Cosials and Ana García Perrote in 2011 but soon brought in Ade Martín on bass and the Netherlands-born Amber Grimbergen on drums.
The four women embarked on their first world tour in 2015, playing in Europe, the United States, Australia and Thailand. The group has played at numerous festivals in countries around the world; at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, they performed 16 concerts in just four days.
The Guardian compared Hinds’ sound to the Velvet Underground. The band lists its influences as the Strokes, the Vaccines and Ty Segall, among other artists. Keep an eye out for the brand new single, “Garden,” and expect to see this group continue to develop a larger fan-base through its prolific touring schedule.
For other artist profiles and features, click here.
Shy Glizzy | Courtesy of Kyle Gustafson
Pure Bathing Culture | South Florida Insider
Nathaniel Rateliff the Night Sweats | Rolling Stone
Kelsea Ballerini | Courtesy of Erin Turner
Jess Glynne | mirror.co.uk
Hinds | The Fader
Eternal Summers | Hit Flix
Beach House | Fake Plastic Tunes