White Lung

13 to Watch in 2013

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 12.10.12 in Lists

We hate to gloat, but last year, we predicted Purity Ring, Kendrick Lamar, Porcelain Raft and Nicolas Jaar would have big years in 2012. Were we wrong? That’s a decent success ratio, sure, but we’re aiming for an even better guess-rate for next year. And looking through our list of 13 to Watch in 2013, I feel confident in saying this year’s hopefuls will be next year’s breakouts. Take a few minutes to get to know them now.

Oh, and one more note on last year’s list? We also named Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and Bleached, both of whom may not have blown up in 2012, but who just signed significant record deals for 2013. As it turns out, we weren’t wrong. Just early.

Parquet Courts

Anyone looking for a shorthand to describe the devil-may-care attitude pervading Light Up Gold, the irresistible debut from Brooklyn band Parquet Courts, will find it 24 seconds into the first song, when Austin Brown first sneers the album's most indelible hook: "Forget about it!" It's meant sarcastically – he's playing the part of a privileged one-percenter looking down his nose through his monocle at the unwashed masses – but it's a good indication of the jaundiced eye through which Parquet Courts view our troubled times. Like the most beloved cult movies, the thing that makes Light Up Gold so addicting is its infinite quotability. On regional cuisine? "As for Texas: Donuts Only. You cannot find bagels here." On the value of wisdom? "Socrates died in the fucking gutter." And on the job market? "The lab is out of white lab coats/ 'cause there are no more slides and microscopes/ But there are still careers in combat, my son." They drop these bon mots between jagged guitar lines that sound like they were lifted from Wire's 154 – bent-coathanger leads that teeter on the steep incline between punk and post-punk. But Light Up Gold's greatest irony is that its creators aren't ironic at all. In their interview with Douglas Wolk, they stressed the importance of emotional honesty, and as the album goes on it becomes clear their acrid wit isn't the result of disaffection but deep-seated alarm. Sarcasm is the scalpel they use to dissect contemporary culture, turning its ambivalence against itself and exposing is rotten core. Insight like that is as rare as a bagel in Texas. – J. Edward Keyes

White Lung

In 2012, the widespread acclaim for Japandroids bolstered the profile of other bands from Vancouver, including (and especially) thrashing punks White Lung. The quartet capitalized on this boost, touring with Ceremony and releasing a scabrous second album, Sorry, which melds corrosive guitars to frontwoman Mish Way's gritty lyrics and bellowing vocals. Like their sonic kindred spirits Pretty Girls Make Graves, the band succinctly confronts the anti-women sentiments that permeate society. And given that those attacks are occurring with distressing regularity, White Lung's music – and fierce feminism – is vitally important. – Annie Zaleski


While most of the U.S. hasn't even heard of Merchandise, the defiantly DIY band had a room full of record execs foaming at the mouth on the outskirts of Brooklyn recently. Listen to any of their self-released records (free of charge here for the time being), and it's easy to hear why; despite hailing from Tampa's hardcore punk scene, Merchandise whip up a racket that's equal parts Krautrock and noise-pop. Depending on where they decide to go next, they could either implode spectacularly – like Death Grips did this year – or become The Next Killers. – Andrew Parks

Icona Pop

Iconic EP

Icona Pop

There's been no shortage of pop ringers in 2012, but Swedish duo Icona Pop still managed to make a lot of noise with just a handful of EPs. The group, consisting of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, belong to the new class of underground artists pushing pop to new heights with massive hooks and thrashing beats that hit with the force of a champagne glass smashed on the dancefloor. They've had some help: Their peer Charli XCX penned their celebratory breakup banger "I Love It" and Patrik Berger (Robyn) produced it. Lyrics like "I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs" are proof enough Icona Pop are not to be underestimated. – Marissa G. Muller

Pure Bathing Culture

Pure Bathing Culture are as tranquil and luxurious as their name implies Рgently lapping guitars and rippling layers of synth, topped with Sarah Versprille's lazy purr. But listen closely to the lyrics of "Lucky One," the intoxicating first track on their too-brief debut EP, and that cool fa̤ade starts melting fast. As Daniel Hindman's guitar does a sock hop slow dance in the background, Sarah Versprille rebuffs an indifferent ex-lover by bragging about the suitors lining up at her door ("Who's the lucky one now?" she asks) and in "Silver Shore's Lake," in front of a rippling, translucent musical backdrop, she laments, "I wish my heart was deep enough." Pure Bathing Culture were 2012's most alluring mirage: foamy waves of sound that hide stinging nettles. РJ. Edward Keyes

Joey Bada$$


Joey Bada$$

Earlier this year, 18-year-old Brooklyn MC, Joey Bada$$ released his first mixtape, 1999, which prompted the question, "Whose DeLorean did he use to jump from that year to 2012?" Now he's released his first official single, "Waves," boasting breezy production from Freddie Joachim. He's cited J Dilla and MF Doom as musical influences, and it's evident: Joey has a throwback style and a natural ease about him, sharing childhood stories over carefully-chosen, and equally laidback, beats. – Tambi Younes


The four women in London post-punk act Savages are bringing danger back to indie rock. Formed in late 2011 (and a U.K. media darling by this past May), the quartet turned heads with their abrasive concerts, androgynous look and a stark sound: doomy, greyscale post-punk with boiling basslines and a bleak outlook. (Think early PJ Harvey meets the Pop Group.) With just a live EP and 7-inch to its name, Savages have kept demand high for new music – and primed itself to become massive in 2013. – Annie Zaleski

Night Beds

Like Justin Vernon in Bon Iver or Justin Ringle from Horse Feathers, Winston Yellen, of the Nashville-based chamber-folk outfit Night Beds, leads with his voice. Tensile and slightly androgynous, it swoops among the acoustic strums of their recent single "Even If We Try," and swells against the cinematic strings throughout their 2012 EP Every Fire; Every Joy. It all sounds like a warm-up for Night Beds' forthcoming debut, Country Sleep, out in February from Dead Oceans; that will surely offer a richer showcase for Yellen's distinct instrument. – Stephen Deusner

Sky Ferreira

Ghost EP

Sky Ferreira

Between Sky Ferreira's Lolita-like stage presence, repeated Terry Richardson visits, and Pitchfork-approved repositioning as an edgier example of post-Robyn pop music (see also: her "Youth Quake" co-stars Charlie XCX and Grimes), the singer's bound to become one of 2013's Downtown 'It' Girls. Translation: when her long-awaited debut album finally drops, expect photo spreads and think pieces everywhere from Vice magazine to The New York Times. Scrappy in spirit yet sleek in execution, this is Top 40 music for a Tumblr world. – Andrew Parks

Daughn Gibson

As first pointed out in an extensive eMusic piece earlier this year, Daughn Gibson's rural upbringing makes him a man of contradictions. On one hand, yes, he enjoys blasting country music, joyriding down back roads, and pelting watermelons with shotgun shells. But that's only half of the story. As first revealed on All Hell – a low-key release on the label of Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Kosloff – Gibson sings like Johnny Cash but constructs his lonesome highway hooks around a thoroughly modern mix of thrift shop loops and spooky laptop samples. And now that he's joined the Jeans on Sub Pop, a joint tour/takeover mission can't be far away. – Andrew Parks

Jessie Ware


Jessie Ware

In the video for breakout single "Wildest Moments," UK singer Jessie Ware appears, dressed in white, in front of a blank white backdrop and begins to sing. And that is pretty much all that happens. But the thing is, not much more needs to happen: The song itself is potent, big, "Paper Planes"-style bass drums and Ware's smoky alto preaching the gospel of two-way love as a path to self-actualization. It's like that throughout Devotion, Ware's sneakily seductive debut that fuses the best parts of '90s R&B with current trends in UK dance. Throughout, the music is deliciously underplayed: cool blankets of synths, percussion that percolates like an 8-bit coffeepot and the occasional filigree of guitar. It makes for a new kind of high-tech lover's rock, cruising sleek and quiet as a sports car on a city street in the hours just before the sun comes up. Like all the best crushes, it sneaks up on you unexpectedly, and takes a firm, unwavering hold. – J. Edward Keyes

Blut Aus Nord

Memoria Vetusta II - Dialogue with the Stars

Blut Aus Nord

With Cosmography, the third album in their 777 trilogy, French iconoclast Blut Aus Nord (fronted by the cryptic Vindsval) completed its evolution from a strange, experimental black metal band into an underground entity that transcends borders and boundaries. Sounds ranging from ethereal choir music to Godflesh-inspired industrial rock are well within its grasp, as are more avant-garde electronic-based compositions, Pink Floyd-ish psychedelia, mesmeric drones, downcast goth, otherworldly Krautrock and ripping, blast beat battering metal. It's staggering that the group released all three 777 albums as well as the 30-minute EP What Once Was… Liber II (the follow-up to 2010's What Once Was… Liber I) in less than 18 months. It's too bad Vindsval doesn't promote his achievements by playing live, conducting interviews or updating fans with Tweets. But given Vindsval's track record, it probably won't be too long until 888 – or whatever he chooses to call it – is upon us. Chances are it will be just as jaw-dropping and groundbreaking as 777. – Jon Wiederhorn


Matt Mondanile, the guitarist of Real Estate, has been recording his one-man ultra chill psych pop project Ducktails as a one man project since 2007. But things have changed for his upcoming album The Flower Lane: He's added a full band (the members of Big Troubles), several prominent collaborators (Oneohtrix Point Never and Madeline Follin of Cults), and got signed to Domino. Early tastes of the album suggest that Mondanile and company tap into some Steely Dan grooves to make catchy, smooth music. – Evan Minsker