Mexican singer-songwriter Ceci Bastida cut her teeth in her native Tijuana, where she started her first band at 15, before going on to become a backing vocalist for Julieta Venegas. She picked up a lot of friends and supporters along the way, as evidenced by some of the guests who pop up on her debut album, Veo la Marea — including Diplo, Rye Rye, Tim Armstrong, and XXXChange. With her often-political focus, it would be easy to call her a Latin alternative to M.I.A., but her pop sensibilities and welcoming demeanor set her apart.
Boy & Bear
Australia’s Boy & Bear have a lot of musical power at their disposal. All three of the group’s initial founders are singer/songwriters, which gives them a similar vocal prowess to like-minded act Mumford & Sons. It doesn’t hurt that Mumford themselves have been big supporters, or that their brand of high-energy folk has become so recently popular — but as evidenced by their debut EP, With Emperor Antarctica, Boy & Bear are just getting started, so now is the perfect time to catch them and see what’s in store.
The Joy Formidable
Welsh trio the Joy Formidable are a testament to perseverance. The band released its first EP, A Balloon Called Moaning, in 2009, offering it to fans for free download. The word-of-mouth approach worked, and saw the band make a slow build to prominence, picking up support from fans and other acts — including Passion Pit, who helped them reach a US audience. Mixing ’90s alternative rock with shoegaze and contemporary indie pop, the group equally evokes My Bloody Valentine, Veruca Salt, and Metric, finding a tenuous balance between dissonance and melody on its first full-length, The Big Roar.
The Naked and Famous
New Zealanders the Naked and Famous may have taken their name from a Tricky lyric, but UK trip-hop isn’t the obvious reference point for the Kiwi quintet. Rather, the group has picked up the ball put in play by MGMT and run straight off the field with it. You’ve probably heard their ridiculously catchy single “Young Blood” already, and there are a lot more where that came from (namely, their debut album, Passive You, Aggressive Me). Capturing the complementary nature of male vs. female vocals in their sun-drenched electronic pop, the Naked and Famous picked up a nod in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll, and are currently proving worthy contenders for the title.
We’ve been fans of rootsy singer/songwriter Lissie since we caught her for the first time at SXSW in 2010, and the release of her first album, Catching a Tiger, sealed the deal later in the year. She initially gained a lot of attention through her folk-influenced covers of artists including Lady Gaga and Metallica, but its her own songs — which update Stevie Nicks soul through a country filter — that are really worth noticing.
If there was one artist who saw the most meteoric rise to fame in the UK over the past 12 months, it has to be Tinie Tempah. The hip-hop dynamo went from playing clubs to arena status faster than we could keep track, and we’re betting on him to see an equal level of success in the US. His single “Written in the Stars” is the most unforgettable song we’ve heard in a long time, and collaborations with Wiz Khalifa, Kelly Rowland, and Ellie Goulding are evidence of his versatility in the studio. Plus, he’s one of the most mesmerizing live acts we’ve seen in ages.
For more on Tinie Tempah, check out our exclusive interactive video interview with the artist.
Fitz and the Tantrums
West Coasters Fitz and the Tantrums are another band we first fell for at SXSW, prompting us to call them one of 2010’s most promising new acts. We’re still loving the modern Motown sounds of their debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, and once again looking forward to witnessing the onstage chemistry between the ever-dynamic Fitz and his captivating co-singer, Noelle Scaggs. Easily our favorite guitar-less band on the bill.
Noah and the Whale
English act Noah and the Whale may have a biblical-sounding moniker, but it’s actually a filmic reference (to director Noah Baumbach and his flick The Squid and the Whale). The group fittingly takes a widescreen approach to its music, having gone so far as creating a feature film to accompany one of its albums. First embraced as part of the UK folk revival spearheaded by Laura Marling (who was once a member of the band), Noah and the Whale have morphed considerably on their way to current album Last Night on Earth. With a more pop-driven, narrative aesthetic, they’re now as likely to call up visions of Tom Petty as Belle and Sebastian, leaving you with a lot more to smile about.
Another artist bordering on household-name status in her native UK, Ellie Goulding is now making a serious stateside play, with a recent appearance on SNL bringing her to countless new fans and a performance at the recent royal wedding (at the regal couple’s own request) raising her profile around the world. Straddling the line between singer/songwriter fare and dance-floor friendly pop, Goulding’s debut album Lights boasts a lengthy string of hit singles, including “Starry Eyed,” “Guns and Horses,” and “Under the Sheets.” Watch for a potential onstage collaboration with Tinie Tempah, as she also sang the hook on his own personal superhero anthem, “Wonderman.”
For more on Ellie Goulding, check out our exclusive interactive video interview with the artist.
Dark pop trio White Lies‘ sophomore album, Ritual was one of our favorite New Year’s treats. A step forward from their towering first album, To Lose My Life, the record was preceded by the release of the massive single “Bigger Than Us,” which once again found the band channeling an alternate-universe Interpol with arena-rock ambitions and an unending arsenal of hooks. Their onstage lineup has grown along with them, so expect a live sound as big as their large-scale compositions anticipate.