Little Artists, Big Sounds: Five New Artists You Should Hear

T.M. Brown | September 16, 2016 1:25 pm

Young pop artists today have access to every sound under the sun and they’re using that access to build layered, multi-faceted tracks that take their cues from disco, R&B, reggae, and hip-hop in equal shares. We’ve rounded up five artists on the verge of breaking through including a 14-year old phenom from Los Angeles and an Albanian-Kosovar throwing Caribbean-flecked vocals and heavy EDM into a blender with stunning results. 

Era Istrefi

Hometown: Kosovo

The Music: A Kosovar Rihanna? Yes, she exists and her name is Era Istrefi, or just Era. She’s undeniably influenced by the ubiquitous house beats present in every club from Croatia to Cardiff, but you can hear the Caribbean influences shine through in her hit “Bonbon.” The blend in something unique in the pop landscape (think Sia but with the BPMs turned up), especially from a region dominated by EDM vocalists howling over building beats and huge drops.

Why You Should Listen: “Bonbon” is the kind of crossover hit that could dominate American airwaves in short order. It’s already gathered more than 30 million hits on YouTube, which is where Ultra Music founder Patrick Moxey first discovered the young artist. Moxey decided to sign Era, meaning you’re about to hear a lot more of her in the near future.

What’s Next: Era will be working on her debut album with the considerable support of Moxey and his burgeoning label. She’s already hit the studio in L.A. to work on a follow-up to her smash single.

Listen to This: “Bonbon”

Billie Eilish
CREDIT: CC Weske

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

The Music: Billie Eilish has Los Angeles in her blood. The L.A. born-and-raised artist cites the dreamy, cinematic crooning of Lana Del Rey and nihilism of Tyler, the Creator among her main influences, but the 14-year-old artist — yes 14! — is beating her own path as a pop purist. Her sound is expansive and carries what sounds like decades worth of longing and weariness,    

Why You Should Listen:  Even at 14, Eilish has some serious pedigree. She began singing in the L.A. Children’s Chorus at eight years old and recorded a breakout hit — written by her brother, the actor and vocalist Finneas O’Connell — ”Ocean Eyes” at age 13. She’s also started to integrate her work as a visual artist into her music, adding another dimension to her work when most other artists are starting to write their first tracks.

What’s Next: After releasing the single “Six Feet Under” in June, Eillish has been generating a ton of buzz. Keep an eye out for a debut EP, or catch one of her shows around Los Angeles in September and October.

Listen to This: “Six Feet Under”

Léon

CREDIT: Catie Laffoon

Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden

The Music: Pop history runs deep in Sweden, but Léon is more Robyn than ABBA. She cemented herself in the pop landscape after Katy Perry tweeted out a link to “Tired of Talking” from Léon’s debut EP Treasure. The cosign made “Tired of Talking” a bonafide hit and led to a deal with Columbia. She’s got a warmth to her voice that lends an emotional weight to her impossibly catchy hooks, a powerful combination that will take the 22-year-old far.

Why You Should Listen:  While Léon is the latest in an exceptionally long line of Swedish pop stars, she’s never shied away from folding other genres into her sound. “Tired of Talking” takes the frenetic energy of Robyn and reduces it, pouring out a syrupy hit. There’s a bluesy twang on “Léon’s Lullaby,” the closing track from Treasure; it could be a b-side from the Black Keys.

What’s Next: Léon is dropping her debut album sometime in 2016, so expect more layered, hook-filled pop sometime in the next few months.

Listen to This: “Tired of Talking” 

JONES

CREDIT: Sophie Mayanne

Hometown: London, England

The Music: London-based Cherie Jones-Mattis — a.k.a. JONES — has always been called an electropop artist, but when you hear “Indulge,” the title track from her 2015 EP, it’s obvious her range blends genres. She understands the importance of blank space in composition, a nuance no doubt enhanced by her collaboration with producers Rodaidh McDonald and A.K. Paul. She splits the difference between progressive crooners like FKA Twigs and electropop darlings’ CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry, creating something uniquely funky in her wake.

Why You Should Listen:JONES’ forthcoming debut LP New Skin sounds like an artist fully-formed. She’s taken sounds from her native London — the technical orchestra of Jamie xx, the emotional depth of James Blake — and grafts it to contemporary pop hooks with warm, swooning choruses. She’s also earned a massive co-sign from someone who’s made a career out of blending genres: Sam Smith. Smith raved about Jones’ debut EP Indulge in 2015, and she’s only gone up from there.

What’s Next: JONES’ full-length New Skin drops on October 7th and will doing shows all over the UK in support of it. She also just sold out New York’s Webster Hall, a feat that sounds like it’ll become more common in the coming years.

Listen to This: “Melt “ 

Shura

CREDIT: Andrew Whitton

Hometown: Manchester, England

The Music: For a 25-year-old, English artist Shura has a keen ear for sounds twice her age. The light-as-air synths that open her album Nothing’s Real harken back to diva-driven disco just like the wide-open sounds of “Indecision” sound closer to Phil Collins than contemporary electropop. She can go more upbeat when the time calls for it, though, with songs like “What Happened to Us?” channeling hits from Robyn and Janet Jackson.

Why You Should Listen:  Shura’s background is as diverse as it comes: born to a Russian actress and an English documentary filmmaker, the young Mancunian was a promising soccer player for the Manchester City women’s side. After wrapping up a degree at University College in London, she took a gap year to work with conservationists in the Amazon rainforest and returned to the U.K. and signed her first major deal with UMG. Her sundry life experiences come through in her music and has earned her a ton of buzz over the last few years.

What’s Next: Her debut album Nothing’s Real dropped in July, and she’ll be playing American and European dates in support of it through the end of the year.

Listen to This: “2Shy” 

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