Just a couple weeks into the new year, it’s exciting to take a moment and wonder who’s next, meaning who’s poised for their big breakout. Who’s lyrics can penetrate enough to contribute to a dialogue that saw a sampling of just about everything last year. Many burgeoning artists had their moment, and one fact we can walk away with is that great writing can come from any genre and at any level – independent, mainstream or otherwise. From Jim James first solo steps out of My Morning Jacket, to the howling old-soul-isms of a young woman barely old enough to drink, here are 10 lyricists that’ll rise above the static noise to have their say in 2013.
Yunalis Zarai is a Malaysian-born singer songwriter whose lyrics reflect a level of maturity well beyond her 26 years. Songs like “Deeper Conversation” off her stateside debut EP Decorate resonate with a sweet, divine touch of emotion, embodying a style of play that is fearless in its vulnerability. Yuna’s self-titled full-length is a more polished introduction to her work, and the execution of it suggests a crossover star in the making: [LISTEN]
Is your skin as tanned as mine?
Does your hair flow sideways?
Did someone take a portion of your heart?
And I’m learning you
BLKKATHY is the thin fiber that binds lust, love and hate. The Brooklyn-based pop outfit, a pair of women who both share the name Kate, combine a simple, lo-fi analog sound with brooding lyricism, all of which is underlined by a playful, if not downright flirtatious, vocal style – an anthem for the girl that broke your heart, but only because you had the nerve to break her’s first. For now BLKKATHY has only three songs to their credit, which at the very least is a solid foundation for an EP: [LISTEN]
Try to take some love from you
Make you feel what good lovin’ can do
But you thought one’s not as good as two
And it’s true
Comprised of brother and sister duo, Elliot and Natalie Bergman, Wild Belle is everything that contemporary funk is looking for, an intelligently crafted bridge between traditional and progressive soul. They blend elements of afro-rock, funk, and soul with pop-friendly lyrics, which together leads to a wonderfully cheeky style. Natalie’s nasally tone is incredibly endearing, and Bergman gives her a solid, cinematic foundation to sing her swan song. Wild Belle is precise in their execution, both in sound and lyric: [LISTEN]
Every minute that I spend on you
I give you honey and I give you truth
All the other women they get treat so rude
Why can’t I keep you for myself?
Sweatshirt brazenly puts his energy out there like a star about to go supernova. On his latest single “Chum,” he discusses the impact of his father’s absence, taking listeners down a meandering path full of abstract corridors. His complex rhyme schemes, and meticulous wordplay, hold a quiet intensity; time tested and classicly inspired. Earl’s forthcoming album Doris features everyone from the Neptunes to Frank Ocean, and it’ll be a blazing star to look forward to in 2013: [LISTEN]
Mama often was offerin’ peace offerings
Think, wheeze cough, scoff and then he’s off again
Searching for a big brother, Tyler was that
It doesn’t take a music aficionado to see that Laura Mvula is inspired by some of jazz music’s greatest singers, Nina Simone in particular. But there’s a quality to her voice that is immediately striking, and her warm perspective is certainly welcome in the contemporary jazz scene. “Green Garden” is a featured single from her forthcoming studio debut, Sing to The Moon. And if it’s any indication of what’s to come, it’ll arrive to a chorus of praise: [LISTEN]
Take me outside sit in the the green garden
Nobody out there, but it’sooo-kay now
Bathe in the sunlight, don’t mind if rain falls
Take me outside sit in the green garden
Pop-rap saw a rise in prominence last year, and Azealia Banks is the next logical step – a hybrid star whose star-crossed lyrics can just as easily find a home over a classic house beat as it can over a gritty banger. It’s as if Crystal Waters was reborn and had the gall to sing and rap over Storyteller. Banks’ latest single “BBD” is glam-rap accented with a stroke of ‘fuck you’ brashness, a single that’ll kick-start a seemingly fruitful year: [LISTEN]
I’m just stuntin’ in stilettos,
Holla, playa, hello
All them dusty bitches Jello
I’m rising, I spit that ghetto
Real name Aly Spaltro, Lady Lamb… is barely old enough to drink, yet she already understands that the purest form of inspiration comes from within, that tiny dark place inaccessible to none. She holds her pain and joy in the palm of her hands, and with an imperfect voice she releases it into the air with bold gallantry. Her forthcoming album Ripely Pine is tagged as a complete project, a tour de force of a young burgeoning artist’s emotions: [LISTEN]
I am no savior I am no savior I am no savior
I am only your dog
And I’m all tied up, see how I’m tied up
My wrists are bound I am the boat on your dock
Jim James’ solo project, Regions of Light and Sound of God, is an unorthodox venture, considering that he’s already an established star as the frontman for My Morning Jacket. But in many ways that works to his benefit. The project plays out like a smokey dream, an imagined place where creativity is unhinged and free of burden. As a result you get groove-laden cuts like “Know til Now” and sleepy ruminations like “A New Life.” James is well on his way: [LISTEN]
Lost in the world
Caught, at a loss for words
While 2013 looks to be a more optimistic year, King Dude stands out as an equalizer, a bombastic voice that reminds us that for every good deed done there’s a force ready to counteract it. Dude’s grizzly tone holds the perfect cadence for him to tell his tragic stories, and penmanship like his will be highly regarded in 2013: [LISTEN]
Jesus will not save him
A savior will not rise
Satan kissed him on his cheek
Said his last goodbye
Don’t you wanna know why?
Wolfe is a voice of contrast, a whisper in the dark whose chilling tone provides an unexpected level of comfort. Her writing has shown steady improvement, and there’s no reason to believe 2013 won’t reflect the same. As esoteric as she can be at times, she’s still accessible in ways that make her style of writing a much needed commodity. As she continues to evolve so will her ambitions: [LISTEN]
Like Black Diamonds I should light
Like them rhymes when I’m precise
To meet some fellows, then I’m survived