As the concept of a music scene becomes more fluid (thanks, Internet!), it's hard to not blink and miss something wheedling its way into our aural landscape. But there's a good chunk of homegrown talent out to catch your eye, young bands and artists not yet jaded by the trappings of fame behind the Orange Curtain. (Careful, kids--surviving as a big fish in a small pond comes with its own set of problems.) We spent the better part of 12 months scouring clubs and Soundcloud pages to find the next big thing in local music. And while we found way more gems than the ones listed below, our music staff took turns taking bets on the bands and artists that have the potential to break big this year. Some of them are veterans whose time has come, some are young, some of them are virtually unknown--and all of them are damn good. Now if they can only manage to keep their egos in check after this.HERO FOR TODAY
Think back to your friend's punk-rock band from your pre-prom days, then imagine they didn't suck. Hero for Today are four promising musicians from Rancho Santa Margarita who possess equal parts dedication and musical energy. Last year's self-titled debut EP was more heartfelt, but this year's All You Wanted sounds significantly more polished. The title track takes us back to the blissful naivete before college ruined us. We're eager to see if Hero for Today will continue to shy away from vacuous punk pop hits and instead create uplifting anthems.
TIM GRAY & THE DELUSIONS One of the most captivating turns of phrase in Tim Gray's latest release, "Train Wreck," is found in its chorus: "God gave you the grace of a train wreck." And God graced us with Gray's voice. For the now-defunct, greatly missed local band Charles Mansion, the guitarist/vocalist delivered the melodic antithesis to Corey Kaiser's charmingly caustic voice. Now Gray's back with beautiful songs filled with insightful lyrics that explore the familiar themes of heartbreak, loss and despair, each carried by Gray's unmistakeable croon. His newly formed band Tim Gray & the Delusions (featuring Corey and Jason Kaiser, plus Adam Ditt) are sure to bring him to the next level in the coming year. (Taylor Hamby)THE GARDEN
Twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears (bass and drums, respectively) have four instruments onstage. That is, if you count their bodies, which they often use as instruments of destruction, whether they're diving into crowds, fistfighting with each other, or growling and convulsing as if they were possessed. As the Garden's haunting, garage-punk playing improves, the fun-spirited fury they conjure with songs such as "Energy Yelp," "Grass" and "Vada Vada" will only intensify. Though the beanpole twosome are part-time models contracted for campaigns with fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent (seriously!), that fact doesn't seem to go to their heads. None of the outside attention from the world stage matters as much as the one they're on at the moment--which they're intent on destroying.(Nate Jackson) BOOGIE
Though this year was kind to 25-year-old Boogie, 2015 could very well be his breakout year. The Long Beach rapper released his latest album, Thirst 48, without much fanfare, though he was featured on popular indie EDM act SBTRKT's highly anticipated sophomore effort. In addition to the great, thorough piece on the up-and-comer in our sister publication LA Weekly, you can find Boogie in features by indie-blog tastemakers such as Passion of the Weiss and high-traffic aggregators such as HotNewHipHop.(Patrick Montes)NAMEBRAND
NameBrand may very well be the most talented representative of Long Beach's Colton High. Epic Records' Sha Money XL--who's partly responsible for the meteoric rise of 50 Cent and who signed 2 Chainz to Def Jam during his tenure there--linked the upstart with Epic as though he were a first-round draft pick. If one of the most astute minds from the business side of hip-hop believes in someone, you pay attention. Not only that, but NameBrand has worked closely with Willie B, the producer best known for his inclusion in the very small circle surrounding Kendrick Lamar's TDE camp. Power 106 affiliates Los Angeles Leakers also work with NameBrand, having released and premiered his recent Great Tape II project.(Patrick Montes)NILU
As with a fine wine, Nilu only gets better with time. The Iranian-American musician seemed destined for instant accolades in 2012 thanks to "Sing for You," a viral piano ballad that introduced us to her enticing vocals and pensive songwriting. It wouldn't be until January of this year that she graced newfound fans with Dichotomy, an impressive four-song EP. But a lot has happened for the 26-year-old since then, including teaming up with Grammy Award-winning producer and former American Idol judge Randy Jackson as her manager and crafting a full-length album, slated for release sometime next year.(Gabriel San Román)PECKS
Pecks' skill behind the mic is impeccable. Since May, the 19-year-old MC/graffiti artist has preceded hip-hop's biggest acts on stages throughout OC, most recently at the Yost Theater, just before headliner A$AP Ferg. In July, Pecks released A City Kid, which offers revving wordplay and entendres that put the youngster in a whole new class.(Nick Nuk'em)
SKELETON JAM BAND Skeleton Jam Band blend spaghetti western, folk and psychedelic grunge sounds with the harmonica, accordion, tambourine and electric guitar. Quinton Salazar (vocals) and Jack Rose (lead guitar) also make their own percussion by filling coffee cans with toothpicks and rattling keys, a nod to a time when songs were a way to pass time while aboard large merchant ships. Their first, 11-track album, Into the West, is slated for release at the end of January. (Taylor Morgan)
GRN+GLD In 2014, the beat scene seemed to belong to GRN+GLD Collective, a younger crop of producers who made noise throughout the live-music scene. Nine or 10 guys from all over OC--Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Diamond Bar--collaborated on tracks; mixed and mastered one another's EPs; pushed the envelope that had been licked, stamped and sealed by their LA counterparts; and added some OC flavor by making it a little grimier, cruder, more garage-y. (Adam Lovinus)
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They have been on our radar for a while, but this year, Breach the Summit are poised for indie-rock godhood. They picked up OC Music Award nominations for Best New Artist in 2013 and a subsequent nod for Best Pop in 2014, and their debut EP, The City, definitely turned some heads. In between the noms, they were pleasantly surprised to be approached by Avenged Sevenfold's management for representation. Taking into account their catchy hooks and the multitasking talents of front man/drummer/overall charmer Olen Kittelsen, their string of successes isn't too surprising--and all the more reason to watch them soar in 2015.(Heidi Darby)