Every year when December comes around, we get excited like all other music fans about putting together our end-of-year lists. Of course we get excited about best songs and albums, but maybe the most exciting list is the best new artists. These were fresh and exciting new faces that surprised us with their debuts, and we can’t wait to see where they go next. For example, the members of our favorite new artists of 2012 list are now giants in their own right and will likely top our 2015 albums list (Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, Father John Misty, and who knows, maybe Frank Ocean will surprise us with an album release before 2016). So without further ado, our favorite new aritsts of 2015.
10. Chris Stapleton
A Nashville songwriting veteran for the biggest country stars (Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw), Chris Stapleton’s debut is a beautifully tender album more in the vein of Springsteen’s Nebraska than mainstream country radio.
Showing the ugly side of Las Vegas, Shamir Bailey brings irresistible synth pop R&B mixture that defines your normal categories, just like Bailey himself.
8. Floating Points
Playing off a mixture of the cosmic jazz of Flying Lotus and spacey rock of Radiohead, the electronic brilliance of Floating Points aka Sam Shepherd is interesting and exhilarating: the sound of a neuroscience PhD turned electronic producer.
This new time-warped R&B sound is certainly the flavor of the day (from FKA Twigs to even the female love interest/R&B musician in Creed) but Kelela does it as good as anyone: catchy, soulful, and experimental.
6. Leon Bridges
Speaking of soul, the clean-cut young Leon Bridges revives the spirit and innocence of Sam Cooke, with a few less vocal tricks but a few more dance moves. Also like Cooke, Bridges sure knows how to write a soulful pop song.
5. Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest is the sound of a young talented musician trying to recreate the magic of the Strokes in his garage and bedroom. Will Toledo brings a droning, garage-rock edge to the driving indie rock sound the Strokes perfected in the early 2000’s.
I’m actually pretty surprised we got all the way to #4 without mentioning 90’s grunge rock, because the sound of the 90’s is everywhere in the indie world. Bully is certainly one of the good ones, with lead singer Alicia Bognanno learning from the best, 90’s production king Steve Albini, via an internship at his studio Electric Audio.
3. Viet Cong
Nasty, noisy, and Canadian? Sure one of these doesn’t fit with the others, but Viet Cong brings the thunder on their self-titled debut and on stage.
2. Vince Staples
The rap breakout star of the year, Vince Staples’ double-disc debut Summertime ’06 is deeply personal, dark, but also just a killer rap album. The production here is as good as any rap album you’ll here around, thanks to big-time producers like No I.D. and Clams Casino.
1. Kamasi Washington
It’s been a hot minute since we were this excited about a jazz musician (that’s also because frankly we are casual jazz fans at best), but fusing the spacey magic of John Coltrane with the hip-hop infused sounds of Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar is a formula for brilliance. Kamasi and his band of childhood friends also put on one of our absolute favorite shows of the year.
Wes – Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
The ever-rare mother-son musical duo, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear make pleasant and cozy campfire songs that warm your heart.
Austin – Fetty Wap
Beyond just loving to say the name “Fetty Wap”, Austin can get down to “Trap Queen” in every and any situation.
Todd – Twerps
Jittery and jangly, the male and female vocal split of Australia’s Twerps is just good clean fun.