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11 Artists To Watch In 2017

The Bands, Rappers, And Singers We're Looking Forward To Hearing More Music From In 2017

On January 6, 2017

One of the best parts of being a fan of music--especially in the age of the internet-- is the thrill of watching bands form, develop, perfect their craft, and put it all together. We can watch as artists go from a Bandcamp single to the top line of a Coachella poster, and feel invested in those artists from the jump. The artists featured on this list--some bigger than others, and some you may already know, and some you have probably never heard of--are the artists we're going to pay special attention to in 2017, and root for as they release albums, tour, and get signed to labels. So, here are our 11 Artists to Watch in 2017.

Middle Kids

This Australian trio might only have two singles to their name, but they’re almost pre-booked to be the breakout act of this year’s SXSW, after garnering praise from NPR and Rolling Stone before they barnstorm SXSW as part of their U.S. tour opening for Cold War Kids this quarter. Their music is a melange of American rock influences, like all of the best rock from Down Under these days. “Edge of Town” is their best song so far; from the opening guitar strums to vocalist Hannah Joy’s searching vocals, the song unfurls for its entire run time, a bike ride rush of feelings and guitars. They’re readying an EP and an LP for sometime this year.--Andrew Winistorfer


Unlike the country performers delivering a corrective to bro country in 2016 via their “authentic” sound, there’s a wave of new country acts coming up that look back not to Outlaw Country’s halcyon days of 1971, but to 1991, and the era of George Strait and Garth Brooks, big hats and line dancing. Midland are the best of that bunch; a band that sounds like they stepped out of the honky tonk to long enough to record their debut EP before turning around and going in to get more liquored up. “Drinking Problem” sounds like a lost Brooks and Dunn cut, and I mean that in the most positive way you can say that. Their debut LP should hit country radio in a big way.--AW


Noname is butter-smooth and steel-strong. If you don’t have an abundance of Noname in your life yet, I’m definitely sitting here wondering what you’re doing. A poet to her core, her dreamy soul-infused rap bops and sways in warmly familiar ways, but frequently glides into new dimensions. Her gliding melodies and easy bars are inviting intimacy and soft touch, just on planet you’ve never heard of. Even if you already know her from her appearances on Acid Rap and Coloring Book, make sure you’re on her 2016 album Telefone and her flawless feature on Saba’s track “Church / Liquor Store,” because Noname’s set up in every aspect to lay down her reign over the scene going forward.--Amileah Sutliff


You know that one friend that casually seems to do everything well? They don’t ever brag about themselves, but are quietly naturally capable of fixing a car, tying 40 different types of knots, packing a suitcase for a family of eight and writing several volumes of heart-wrenching poetry. Palm is the band form of this friend. Their music isn’t pretentious; it just takes an unpredictable stroll down the line of experimental sound and easy indie rock. It’s music that verges on math but never quite reaches mechanics. Their debut album Trading Basics was released in fall of 2015, housing sounds that exist in a set of carefully coexisting layers that combine in the purest for of intrigue. Indie rock as a genre is so saturated and undefined, it can be tricky to navigate sometimes, but rest assured that Palm’s out here finessing some unique indie with ease. Hopefully on a new album too.--AS

Carly Pearce

Maren Morris, one of the biggest country stars of 2016, rode a skyrocket to the CMAs and Grammys via blowing up on radio after she became huge on Sirius XM Country channels--which, people would might be surprised to hear, can break country artists. Carly Pearce seems earmarked for that same trajectory in 2017: her “Every Little Thing,” a piano-heavy song about every little thing she remembers about a lover who left, is blowing up Sirius XM country right now, and she seems earmarked for a major label deal and more this year. She’s a songwriter battle tested at the Opry and at the Bluebird. She’s going to be huge.--AW

Princess Nokia

We live in an age of warped, over-commercialized feminism that often turns to oversimplified or exclusionary narratives of what it means to be a “woman” or what it means to be “empowered,” and this often leaks into art. Princess Nokia isn’t here for that. And she’s sure as hell not here to pander to conventional narratives. Destiny Frasqueri’s feminisms are as complex and dynamic as her unique hip-hop itself. On her brazen rap banger “Tomboy” off her 2016 mixtape 1992, she unapologetically yells “My little titties and my fat belly! My little titties and my fat belly!” over and over, a cry confident cry of acceptance. Her songs range from these sharp shouts to the tender whispered odes to female importance on “Young Girls” off 2014 Metallic Butterfly: “Young girls, take care of all the Earth; Young girls, they need their own respect; Young girls, carry babies from their neck.” Informed by the adversity and tension of an extremely difficult coming-of-age and her own spirituality, Frasqueri’s bars maintain a powerful consistency that I’m confident with move mountains in the years to come. And if you need a solid introduction to Princess Nokia beyond her tracks, The Fader’s mini-documentary “Destiny” can give you about a hundred more reasons to fall in love with her.--AS

Jay Som

I was first introduced to Jay Som this summer when she was on tour supporting Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. She opened to a small, but packed room and by the time she was mid-way through her set, she’d reached a level so captivating that you could hear the breath of the person behind you in between songs. At just 22 years old, she has a raw emotional vocabulary and has mastered the ebb and flow of successful indie rock that a lot of artists never quite get. I hope it rains a lot in 2017 so we can all just stay inside and cuddle to her 2016 album Turn Into. Or better yet, cuddle to anything she may have coming--her Polyvinyl debut LP is looming-- in the upcoming year.--AS

Moses Sumney

All discussions of Moses Sumney basically begin and end with his voice, and for good reason. It’s a powerful, varied instrument, floating above and within his songs, showing off an incredible range that hardly any singer--veteran or rookie--can touch. His recent EP, Lamentations, was featured as part of our VMP Rising series, but his releases so far feel like an amuse bouche. The full course of his eventual LP--coming out this year he says--is one of our most anticipated releases of 2017.--AW

Trophy Dad

One of the best part of following a local band is watching them grow; when you get to see the same artists play in your town every month, you can see their subtle evolution overtime. Trophy Dad has been opening shows since I first moved to Madison two years ago, with unassumingly powerful indie rock that is getting tighter every time I see them. It’s rare to find a band that’s equal parts capable of making you jump around in a sweaty basement and contemplate alone on the bus, but Trophy Dad manages to find that line. Their latest single “Louis Sachar” dropped right at the beginning of the year and bumped them up on my list for bands to look out for this year. It’s both a musically well-oiled track and spot-on narrative of what it feels like to witness the male gaze: “I remember eating crackers as you watched her like a TV.” Singer Abby Sherman describes helpless frustration in the midst of pressure to keep cool: “don’t cause a scene, it’ll be alright” Their lyrical and and musical growth on top an already solid foundation of tracks combined with the promise of new music this year means you’ll wanna keep an eye out for them this year.--AS

Yves Tumor

If 2016 was about realizing things, I can naturally only assume we all took a lot of walks. I have a feeling we’ll all need more walks in 2017. Yves Tumor’s 2016 album, Serpent Music, is a collection of masterfully looping tracks that meld field recordings and a massive range of synthesized sound. It’s the ideal companion for both walks and realizing things, or any other mundane activity you’d like to move into a new level of understanding. After it dropped in September, it’s all I could do not to wander around all the time and stare at everything I knew through the new eyes of this funneling into my headphones. Tumor spins everyday soundscapes into otherworldly meditations and spheres of existence. These sounds take what we know and impose on it what we could know, resulting in a strange blend of both unsettling comfort and putrid beauty. After working with artists like Mykki Blanco and having two successful experimental albums in 2016, Yves Tumor is definitely one to watching going forward.--AS


One of the recent signings to POW Recordings (home of VMP fave Chester Watson), Dallas, Texas’, T.Y.E. is one of the most distinct rappers we’ve heard in the last year. His backstory has crazy plot twists--he was on an opera scholarship at Abilene Christian University before he dropped out to deal with a drug addiction and his bipolar disorder--that get close to explaining the hard to classify music that T.Y.E. makes. “La La Land” is his most recent single, and it’s got a klaxon for a hook, and machine gun rapping that sounds like it was recorded in the Dungeon. He’s readying his first release for POW and we can’t wait to hear it.--AW


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