Every year, a shit load of music drops. Some of it's good, most of it's bad, but it's almost impossible to sift through it all to find the juicy stuff without experiencing autotune-induced madness.
Relax. We've done the heavy lifting for you. Sorting through the mess of music released this year, we pulled our favorite five up-and-comers of 2011 from across a variety of musical genres. 2012 is the year of genre-pushing, so ring in the New Year with some soon-to-be classics, and a couple ditties that will leave your ears (and your head) confused. That's a good thing.
Ronika's bubblegum electro-pop and platinum curls are reminescent of early Madonna in more ways than one. Post-disco and pre-house, Ronika's "Only Only" proves that electronica isn't just a hipster circle-jerk affair. She pokes fun at '80s kitchy-style and manages to give the track a sound reminiscent of the goldern era of disco -- an elusive musical sweet spot (let's be fair, a lot of disco is pretty terrible). We love a gal with a sense of humor, and Ronika's too-blinged out music videos and dorky flair are wonderfully, ironically tacky.
On first listen, Austra's Canadian-bred frontwoman Katie Stelmanis' warbling pipes sound so similar to Florence Welch's full-bodied wail that it's easy to confuse the golden-locked crooner with the flame-haired siren. But Austra's new wave music is less operatic and more grounded. Rather than building waves of sound that transport the listener into a transcendent state, Stelmanis is content to play on the beach's shore, creating simple refrains and a jingling, entrancing progression. It's mystical, and a welcome chilled-out compliment to the already well-established Florence + the Machine.
3. Jai Paul
"Don't fuck with me, don't fuck with me," British Jai Paul sings in a gentle falsetto, opening one of the most celebrated indie songs of the past year. The XL Recordings artist's hook then leads into a song laden with a heavy kick drum and cascading synths that stand in gritty contrast to Paul's angelic whispers. Like chocolate on meat, the different components of Jai Paul's sound should be at odds with one another. Instead, they mesh in an unusual harmony.
2. Purity Ring
The self-released, dubby "Ungirthed" makes use of a host of ghoulish howls, giving Purity's otheriwse upbeat pixie-pop a haunting, nightmarish flourish. Indie lead singer Megan James' clear, girlish voice cuts through the music's mystic fog. We love it when pop and electro come together to make unsual and experimental dance floor magic -- Rihanna and Calvin Harris: take note.
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1. The Weeknd
It's hard to leave contemporary R&B crooner The Weeknd off any "Best of 2011" list. The up-and-comer, who caught super star Drake's attention with his silky smooth vocals in "Trust Issues," has exploded onto the Internet. His album, which recieved predominately positive reviews, is restrained, patient and culturally (and vocally -- seriously, he's got crazy strong pipes) resonant. Make room, Frank Ocean.