Listen Before You Buy’s Ones To Watch For 2012

Listen Before You Buy's Ones To Watch For 2012

With 2011 behind us and as we’ve looked back on the year with multiple year-end lists, it’s now time to focus on what’s to come in 2012. Below you’ll hear tracks from some brilliant artists, some of which you will already have heard of and hopefully some who are new to you.

A few of the artists have already released albums in 2011 but were criminally under-covered by sites and blogs, but that will change in 2012 as more people discover their immense talent. There’s a little writeup about each artist as well as as a playlist of all the songs, so I’d suggest hitting play on the playlist (it’s at the bottom) and then start the reading. These are in no particular order.

As always, enjoy the music and support the artists. Let’s keep music alive.

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Azealia Banks

Without doubt Azealia Banks will be the biggest of all of these newcomers in 2012. Having made huge ground with her breakout hit with a stolen beat “212″, this Harlem, New York native is most at home when spitting viciously fervent rhymes at breakneck speed with the kind of delivery you’ve come to expect from Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, and Nicki Minaj. With a mixtape in the works and talks of record deals, chances are she’ll release one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2012.

Alabama Shakes

Powerful voices in Indie music aren’t exactly a common occurrence, so when one shows up with the scratch of 1970s Rod Stewart and the soul of Sam Cooke in female form, you better sit up and take note. That’s what most of the blogosphere did in 2011 when Alabama Shakes stomped onto the scene, originally as The Shakes, and grooved their way onto many-a-passionate year-end list. Their debut album is as yet unnanounced.

Dreamers Of The Ghetto

This Indianapolis band already released their debut album “Enemy/Lover” in October of 2011 and although it was well-received by almost anyone who heard it, including us having it at number five on our Best Albums Of 2011 list, we think this will be a band whose album will be discovered, loved, shared, and exposed to more in 2012 than it was in 2011. Their stadium-sized sound and cacophonous rumble from song to song  will see them gain more coverage and praise and eventually get them to that universally-known phase.

Nick Waterhouse

Channeling the ferocity of Little Richard, the unbridled passion and soul of Ray Charles, and the unhinged groove-tinged Garage-Rock of a love-child born from the coming-together of a sax-led Harlem and Smith Westerns, Nick Waterhouse has in his possession the ability to single-handedly reduce even the most evil of rulers to a withering, hip-shaking, hand-clapping, turtleneck-wearing dancing mess. Watch out for his stunning debut album in April.


The only thing stopping 2:54 from becoming the musical mainstays they deserve to be is the entire world becoming suddenly joyful. That’s not to say that 2:54 are only good for those lost souls in need of lonely aural accompaniment, but we all have those times where we just want to be left alone with music that flat-lines your mood, keeping it a constant level of somber and contemplative. 2:54 deliver this in spades with their sullen, emotive, driving Shoegaze road trip. No word on a debut album yet.

Boy Friend

Hailing from one of the most musically-productive cities in the U.S., Austin, Texas duo Boy Friend are a new side project from SLEEP ∞ OVER’s Christa Palazzolo and Sarah Brown. Droning, ethereal, dramatic, and ghost-like in all the right places, their EPs and singles to date are some of the least-known-with-the-most-amount-of-excellence you’ll hear this side of Neptune. Their debut album is due in February via Hell Yes records who previous released some Reading Rainbow and Love Inks singles.

Jai Paul

Jai Paul is an artist, producer, magician, inventor-of-beats, and an enigma. There’s very little known about him other than that he’s from London, England, he’s dropped a bunch of demos and snippets of tracks (once available on his MySpace page but now gone), he made one of the best songs of the last few years in “BTSTU” and he’s signed to XL Recordings with an album in the works. After “BTSTU” he disappeared and hasn’t done a single thing since. Word on the street is that the albums is finished and if XL’s Christmas cards they sent to people in the U.K. with clips of a new song are any indication, we might just get to hear it before 2014.

Kishi Bashi

If you haven’t heard the name before you might’ve seen him live without knowing it, as he’s part of the touring bands for of Montreal and Regina Spektor, but he’s also a founding member of Jupiter One, but this year…well, last year, he’s embarking on his own solo venture and based on just a few songs the reaction and excitement surrounding them is palpable. His debut EP “Room For Dream” is an exquisite showcase in what’s to come from him, slow-burning and melodic dream-pop, swelling in emotion much like Andrew Bird. No word on a release date yet but his debut album is due out this year.

Charli XCX

London, England’s Charli XCX hasn’t even hit age 20, yet she’s already been making music since she was 14. In 2011 she not only managed to go to school, do homework, get home in time to watch Byker Grove, and kick a ball about in the street, but also release two of the best songs of last year. “Stay Away” and “Nuclear Seasons” play like a post-apocalyptic world stuck in the 80s and run by super goths hell-bent on creating an army of synth-wielders. Her debut album is reportedly due out in the Spring.

Crushed Beaks

Formed in London, England in 2010, Crushed Beaks are a duo who aren’t trying to push the boundaries of music, they’re just trying to rock its fucking face off. Think of Cloud Nothings before they started sounding like Blink 182 and encircled by an atmosphere of belly-button fuzz and lyric-muffling drone. Their debut single “Close Ups” is out now with a debut album coming soon.

Keep Shelly In Athens

Already fairly well-established between most of the best music blogs and sites on the planet, Greek duo Keep Shelly In Athens were one of the most prolific artists in 2011 dropping single after single after remix after video after EP after remix after EP after single. With all of those releases behind us the only thing left for their ever-changing sound which has its feet firmly planted in the soil of experimental electronic soul-gaze and somber-pop, is to release an actual album. No word yet on where, when, who, and what it’ll be, but it’s gotta be close. It’s gotta be.

Michael Kiwanuka

Harnessing the teeming and overflowing emotion and soul that permeates from old Bill Withers and Al Green records, Michael Kiwanuka from London, England has made all of the right moves in 2011 to place him firmly on every major musical radar around the globe.  You can’t listen to his breakout track “Tell Me A Tale” without thinking you’re listening to some lost Bill Withers track that soundtracked an old 1970s drama set in New York City. His debut album “Home Again” drops on March 5th.

The Coasts

Back in August of 2011 we tagged this Arkansas duo as Ones To Watch, and nothing’s changed. You don’t even have to sit through more than two of the songs on their debut self-titled release to see why they have the balls to go places. Merging Lo-Fi Indie-Rock with a touch of 60′s Soul, The Coasts actually had one of the best albums of 2011 though it narrowly missed out on a place in our top 31, but each copy purchased a portion of the proceeds went to help the children of Haiti. You get good music, and a warm fuzzy feeling.

Jagwar Ma, an actual jaguar

Jagwar Ma

Scientists report that people who listen to Jagwar Ma are convinced that it’s sunny outside, regardless of the actual time of day. True story….real scientists said that. If you don’t believe us then just listen to “Come Save Me” at 2am on a rainy Winter’s morning like I am as I write this. Fronted by Jono Ma who splits his time between Germany and Australia, he’s also the brother of Dave Ma, a well-known video director, but musically he’s touching on a modernised and electronic vibing The Beach Boys covering The Avalanches. No word on an album yet but expect a 12″ single of “Come Save Me” in February.

The History Of Apple Pie

We’ve already written about The History Of Apple Pie numerous times in the last 18 months but 2012 should mark the release of their debut album after releasing a handful of singles and b-sides as well as throwing down a supporting tour spot with Yuck (who are actually the ones who turned me onto THOAP). Crafting some of the melodious and contagious Grunge-fueled, Shoegaze-inspired Indie-Rock since 1992, THOAP‘s debut album, when it does arrive, will take you back to that time in the 90s when you bought your first flannel shirt. Member?

Friends promo photo


Touching on the epitome of “New York Cool”, NYC band Friends came together after an infestation of bedbugs forced them to live with each other for a few days, and pun-firmly-intended, their track “I’m His Girl” only takes one spin before it’s shacking up inside your head and infesting the shit out of your noggin’.  With Shoegaze basslines, New-Romantics synths, and vocals dipped in reverb as if they were sung into the opening of a cave from the safety of a nearby tree, not only are Friendsa band that we were all giddy-like after discovering in 2011, they’re a band that you want to keep your eyes and ears peeled for in 2012.

Already featured on our Best Songs Of 2011 list at #17 with “Let’s Move Back To Front”, Zulu Winter have yet to do anything but impress us. It doesn’t take 12 songs to understand just how much potential these guys possess, which is good because they only have a handful of songs anyway. Tracks like “Let’s Move Back To Front” and “Never Leave”are some of the most exquisitely crafted and fragile-sounding songs you’ll hear by a guitar-drum-bass-led band doing the rounds, and with at least another handful of tracks yet to be unveiled, it’s only a matter of time until everyone else picks up on their brilliance.

South Of France, band promo photo

Sometimes we’ll post on our Facebook and Twitter pages asking for our followers to let us know some new music they’re enjoying and usually the response is phenomenal. One such request ended up putting us in touch with South Of France, a band from Colorado, who have a bit of a distorted Cults sound with the interplay of vocals, sunny disposition, and general jovial sound of their songs. At the moment all they have is a three-song EP called “Kings”but with just less than 12 months until the end of the year you better believe we’re going to be hearing a lot more from them.

Darkly experimental with fractured electronic beats and harmonies that Brian Wilson or Elton John would be jealous of, Purity Ring are an artist that you’ve probably heard of already. With only two or three official releases they’ve yet to release an album, though, and “Ungirthed”is without a doubt one of the catchiest tracks of last year, and that was without even trying too hard.  If we don’t get an album this year, we march on The White House!

Rounding out our Ones To Watch for 2012 is WOODKID, the moniker used by Frenchman Yoann Lemoine who’s also an accomplished video director, evidenced by his mind-blowing video for his track “Iron”. Gifted with an eye for the cinematic he was also gifted with an ear for the dramatic. His “Iron”EP is a tribal and sparse affair, but maybe mostly notable for his unique voice that on first listen sounds like it’s being spun through an effects wheel, though that’s not the case. He’s been working on his debut album for a few months now and he’s close to having it finished, so it might see the light of day before the snow has melted.