Within this first week of 2017, the music industry has hit the ground running with a slew of news about artists making big returns this year. We’ve been promised new music from The xx, Ed Sheeran, HAIM and The Shins and big names like the Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys have announced they’re headed back to the studio. Headliners aside, 2017 also looks like a great year for new breakout stars who plan to dominate genres and/or bend them. Amplify a list of impressive new acts to look out for in 2017.
The Big Moon
The Big Moon, formerly The Moon, is a quartet from London who began recording together in 2015. The all-female band came out swinging with their first single “Sucker” and have continued to release one successful song after another. Led by lead singer and lyricist Juliette Jackson, the four-piece are passionate live performers who utilize every inch of the stage to engage with one another and the audience. Not to mention, they do all this in assorted Hawaiian shirts that they’ve collected throughout their touring. Their debut album “Love in the 4th Dimension,” produced by Catherine Marks (Wolf Alice, Foals) is due out in April and is sure to be a “formidable” force on the rock scene.
Canadian country music singer Cory Marquardt already has one album under his belt, 2015’s “This Man,” but the Ontario-born musician is already working on a follow-up. The ex-hockey player caught the performing bug when some teammates prompted him to get on stage at a bar and he hasn’t let up since. Marquardt has gone on sold out tours with Toby Keith and opened for Brett Kissel, Aaron Pritchett, and Brantley Gilbert. His unique sound stems from his 90s country influences along with a touch of heavy metal for an edgier, more rollicking tone. More of Marquardt’s infectious brand of country should be headed our way in 2017 as he finishes his sophomore album with producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Shania Twain, Ringo Starr).
Noname has made an art of living up to her subtle moniker. The Chicago-based rapper has been around for a few years featuring on other artists’ songs, including Chance the Rapper. She appeared on two of Chance’s mixtapes and recently joined him for a song on Saturday Night Live. In 2016, Noname, (who also goes by Noname Gypsy) released a tender and hopeful 30-minute long mixtape of her own titled “Telefone.” The release has Noname rapping over mostly soulful jazz instrumentation and discussing drugs, alcohol, love, police violence, and abortion with honesty and sincerity. Noname’s positive message and heartfelt songs are likely to strike a note in 2017.
In August of 2015, Declan McKenna self-released his first single “Brazil” at the age of 16. With a trendy haircut and a name like that, McKenna could have easily gone the route of teen heartthrob, but the younger singer/songwriter made his debut with a song criticizing FIFA for awarding the World Cup to Brazil without doing anything about the country’s deep and expansive poverty. Later that same year, McKenna won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition by bringing his youthful lyrics and sometimes cracking voice to the one of the world’s biggest stages. “Brazil” reached number one on Sirius XM Radio’s Alt Nation Alt 18 Countdown in early 2016 and he has continued to make a name for himself through his politically-inspired music. The singer looks poised to release his debut in 2017 which will hopefully include some of 2016’s singles that addressed issues like transgender youth and police brutality.
At the end of last year, a mysterious artist going by the acronym H.E.R. began catching everyone’s attention. The name, ironically I’m guessing, is short for Having Everything Revealed and was accompanied by an EP simply titled “H.E.R., Vol.1.” The artist’s label RCA Records sent out an early stream of the album with a message that the artist’s identity would remain a secret. According to RCA, H.E.R. wanted the focus to be on the music, not the person. Turns out the beautiful voice, arrangements, and beats come from child sensation Gabi Wilson, a young musician RCA signed in 2015. With endorsements from Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean, “Vol. 1” went to number one iTunes’ R&B charts. The EP is reminiscent of old school R&B and moves slow with 808 beats never far away. Regardless of what name she chooses to go by, “Vol. 1” does not seem like the last we’ll hear of H.E.R.
Most people have probably already heard the eerie melodies or clever lyrics of Alexandra Savior before without realizing it. The mysterious singer’s song “Risk” was used for season 2 of HBO’s True Detective, her cavalier vocals can be found on Cameron Avery’s (Tame Impala) “We’re Just Making It Worse,” and she co-wrote The Last Shadow Puppet’s “Miracle Aligner” with Arctic Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner. Turner turned around and lent his wit and multi-instrumental talents to Savior’s debut album Belladonna of Sadness which is due out in April. Of the handful of songs already released, it is easy to see why other musicians have been wooed by Savior’s haunting style that she described to Gigwise as “feminist angst horror film feel.”
Earl St. Clair
Earl St. Clair, born Earl Johnson II, never set out to be a solo artist. Born in Cleveland, St. Clair began his career as a producer and co-writer for other artists. Luckily for us, Earl discovered he had more vocal talent than he originally thought. From the moment he opens his mouth on single “Man on Fire,” his low growl of a voice keeps you enthralled as he sings about being left behind by the woman he loved. His mix of soul, jazz, rock, and blues feels like a seasoned artist topped off with down to earth, no nonsense lyrics. His debut “Song About A Girl I Used To Know” does not have a release date yet, but St. Clair has already divulged that it’s been created with accomplished producers like Brody Brown who produced Bruno Mars’ most recent album “24K Magic.”