10 Musicians Poised to Break out in 2017

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney

Singer and songwriter Moses Sumney | Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

Trying to predict which bands and artists will succeed in the music industry is a little like trying to guess which holes will pop up in Whac-A-Mole before you’ve even put in your quarter — only with many thousands of holes instead of a mere five. The whims of the listening public are impossible to foresee, so even talented artists with surefire hits can easily fall into obscurity. Some, however, will find the success they deserve and maybe earn a lasting spot in pop music history — and, quite frankly, it’s just too tempting to try and prognosticate who it will be.

So without further ado, let’s look to the unknowns of today to try and figure out what the future of pop music may hold. Let’s play Whac-A-Mole.

1. Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney’s chief instrument is his voice, which he loops, double-tracks, and feeds through various effects to craft backing tracks to accompany his movingly vulnerable lyrics. The Los Angeles-based artist has been impressing live audiences for years but has so far resisted cashing in on his much-deserved buzz with an LP release. Whenever he does, it’s safe to expect an outpouring of critical support, likely followed by a hit single that manages to impress for its melody and minimalism.

2. Oddisee

Some of rapper Oddisee’s best work has been instrumental, as his releases frequently alternate between intricately-layered soul instrumental albums and rap albums featuring his eloquent rhymes overlaid on soul-infused beats. The Washington, D.C.-based rapper has been steadily releasing albums since 2008 and proved himself to be a thrilling bandleader on tour, but here’s hoping his 2017 LP elevates him above his current cult-hero status.

3. Thundercat

If you liked Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, you’ll probably like Thundercat. The songwriter and accomplished bassist made his jazz-infused R&B sound an integral part of Lamar’s critical and commercial hit. Though perhaps most known for his collaborations with other artists, Thundercat is a visionary as a solo artist too, combining virtuoso bass playing with delicate falsetto vocals and evolving jazzy rhythms. More people ought to know his name with the February release of his fourth album Drunk.

4. Chromatics

The Chromatics make moody dance music that has more in common with the Italian disco of the 1970s than the standard EDM beats dominating dance clubs today. Their previous effort, Kill for Love made its share of top 10 lists, but their sultry, often cinematic synth-pop is too perfect in its execution to go ignored by the larger listening public. Now, with eerie analog synths more popular than ever, let’s hope the world is ready to embrace Chromatics’ next effort.

5. HAIM

HAIM already made big waves in the indie music scene for their debut album, Days Are Gone — a tight, crisp power-pop document that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but rather reminds listeners why the wheel was such a great invention in the first place. Everyone’s been hotly anticipating their followup ever since, and if it’s as strong as the debut, it should be enough to catapult HAIM into the forefront of popular music.

6. Beat Connection

For a band from Seattle, Beat Connection’s songs are surprisingly tropical in sound. Their last release Product 3 was filled with the kind of sunny electro-dance-pop tunes that just make you feel like soaking up the sun on an endless white beach. Every tune balances a rich atmospheric sound with irresistible hooks. It isn’t hard to see how they could make it big — it’s much harder to figure out why they haven’t already.

7. Vic Mensa

Chicago is fast becoming the frontrunner in the race for rap supremacy, but one of the city’s best beat makers has yet to find his sweet spot in the public consciousness. A close friend and collaborator of current hitmaker, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa is no less good-humored and personal in his raps but frequently more confrontational in his fearless political lyrics and larger-than-life beats. Last year’s EP “There’s Alot Going On” confirms his talents, but an LP release in the near-future might bring them to wider attention.

8. Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice is a kickass guitar-based, punk-inflected alternative rock act in a time when such things seem spectacularly rare. The London-based four piece’s debut LP, My Love Is Cool, is chockful of tracks infectiously poppy in their hooks but thrillingly hard-edged in their execution. If their sophomore album due this year continues mining the same vein, it’ll be a tragedy if chart success continues to elude them.

9. Foxygen

Foxygen have earned some critical attention for their past releases but never much in terms of commercial recognition. Their sound harkens back in so many ways, to the flowery psychedelia of the ’60s, with a hint of affectionate 21st century irony added. Their recently-released fifth album, Hang, remains rooted in that decade while furthering their evolution in a Sgt. Pepper’s-esque direction featuring conventional rock songs drenched in strings and other intoxicating musical add-ons.

10. Hurray for the Riff Raff

In keeping with their musical hometown of New Orleans, Hurray for the Riff Raff is a band especially rich in musical heritage, pasting together scraps of Memphis blues, country, folk, country, doo-wop, Latin rhythm, and indie influences into a sound that’s as cohesive as it is rewarding to pick apart. This year will see their sophomore major label debut, The Navigator, and given the broadly-appealing Americana sound and sparkling production of lead single “Hungry Ghost,” this could be the one that hoists the band into bigger and better things.

Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf

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