Perfect Pussy

14 to Watch in 2014

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 12.19.13 in Spotlights

Every year, we look forward to two things: looking back on our “Ones to Watch” from the previous year, and assembling that same list for the year to come. Last year, we predicted Parquet Courts, Icona Pop, Savages, Sky Ferreira and several others would have a great year in 2013. We think our predictions were borne out. I’m even more excited about this year’s list, as I feel like it consists of 14 artists who are moving music forward, taking time-tested blueprints and refashioning them in their own image. These are our 14 to Watch in 2014. For more year-end coverage, check out eMusic’s interactive Year in Music experience, viewable in your web browser or as an app for iPhone and iPad.


Augustines’ debut (as We Are Augustines) <em>Rise, Ye Sunken Ships</em> was so full of heart-on-sleeve lyricism and aching, tears-in-eyes choruses it seems impossible to think of it as merely a rough draft. Yet that’s exactly what it was. The group’s soon-coming 2014 album takes those raw elements and blows them up to 70mm, like the world’s gutsiest bar band getting a one-night, go-for-broke shot at Madison Square Garden, or Frightened Rabbit if they made a Killers album. Their songs radiate pain and desperation and joy and hope in equal amounts, striving for salvation with hearts open, eyes wide. — J. Edward Keyes

Tei Shi

Tei Shi imagines a world in which Mariah Carey records for the weirdo L.A. label Not Not Fun. Her voice is strong and dexterous, bending and twisting through solitary blue bands of synths like a cat burglar eluding the security lasers in a museum at night. But where R&B often exults in romantic triumph, Tei Shi’s songs hint at dysfunction. In the gently thumping “M&Ms,” she sings, “I had a dream that you left me,” before adding, “I deserved it. I deserved it.” It’s that subliminal darkness, and the tension between her honeyed voice and Lynchian instrumentation, that makes Tei Shi so consistently riveting. — J. Edward Keyes


Perfect Pussy
From Syracuse mainstays Shoppers and SSWAMPZZ was born Perfect Pussy, a radically optimistic noise-punk band. Within their music is a gleaming struggle, sincerity that isn’t crippling, but motivational. Perfect Pussy don’t institute shock politics, but have that reaction: a sign that maybe some just aren’t ready for such intimacy. It’s not our decision to make. With only a fuzzed-out four-track demo cassette, the aptly named <em>I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling</em>, beginning with the instant classic, “l,” a disheartening tale of betrayal that ends with love, vocalist Meredith Graves screaming, “I am full of light/ I am full of joy/ I am full of peace/ I had this dream that I forgave my enemies,” Perfect Pussy is harbinging noise at its most melodically uncomfortable, distortion meant for passionate and intelligent people. A promising future awaits. — Maria Sherman

Kelela’s rise has felt both quick and natural — breaking as a vocalist on buzz-friendly dance-music singles (Teengirl Fantasy’s “EFX,” Kingdom’s “Bank Head”), then taking the spotlight on to the stirring debut <em>Cut 4 Me</em>. It’s easy to see her place in music for the foreseeable future: The way <em>Cut 4 Me</em> juxtaposes her against the icily intimate, future-R&B-tinged UK bass of producers like Girl Unit and Nguzunguzu gives her a cutting-edge context. But that context is easily tied in to a lot of the other minimalist space-age impulses that’ve slipped into mainstream-friendly R&B — so her appeal really comes down to her smoothly yearning yet powerful ’90s-diva-schooled voice. — Nate Patrin

St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Raised by the Pentecostal church in northern Alabama, frontman Paul Janeway’s gospel inclinations naturally seep into both his stage presence and tenor howl. But it’s the force of St. Paul and the Broken Bones‘ blasting horns and hip-shakin’ grooves that make this sextet the next retro-soul band to evangelize. Based in Birmingham, the band debuted its EP <em>Greetings from St. Paul and the Broken Bones</em> last year, with songs falling between the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” and Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing.” The band’s untitled debut, <em>Half the City</em>, is scheduled to drop February 18, 2014. — Hilary Saunders

Chance the Rapper
Like Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar before him, Chicago’s Chance the Rapper cut his teeth on mixtapes until he unexpectedly broke through ambush-style. With the psychedelically ambitious but relatable <em>Acid Rap</em>, Chance emerged with a style that perfectly merged personal daily-living detail, ego-trip raconteurism, and a voice well suited to burrowing its way into your subconscious. That he did so before he’d lived more than a few months of his 20s is encouraging enough, but his output so far has also proven that he’s too restlessly creative and experiment-prone to run out of ideas anytime soon. — Nate Patrin

Angel Olsen
Both as a member of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s backing band the Cairo Gang and as a solo artist, the Chicago-based singer-songwriter Angel Olsen has specialized in quiet intensity: a softly strummed guitar, a melancholy voice given to unpredictable phrasing and direct exhortation, and lyrics that spill the viscera of a relationship. On her third full-length, <em>Burn Your Fire For No Witness</em>, due in February (following 2012′s excellent <em>Half Way Home</em>), she adds a backing band and a little bit of volume. Rather than changing her sound, it’s more a means of expanding her palette, both emotionally and musically. Olsen is sharpening her attack to cut you that much deeper. — Stephen M. Deusner

It would be easy to simply pull out band comparisons when describing Washington D.C.’s GEMS. Innocent female vocals like Purity Ring; middle-of-the-night ambience a la the xx; attitude akin to any R&B group from the ’90s with a sexy groove or two in their back pocket. But all those names come hedged with an “almost” or “sorta.” Talk of love, memories and obsessions flicker through each song of the duo’s debut EP <em>Medusa</em> like images on the screen — which means the description the GEMS is most likely to be graced with is “cinematic.” In these dark times, they could prove to be the most inviting of escapist fare. — Laura Studarus

The members of San Diego instrumental trio Earthless only hook up from time to time, but when the stars align, watch out! These guys are so accomplished and their chemistry is so strong, they can knock out a headfuck of an album with minimal preparation. Their latest, <em>From the Ages</em>, was recorded in just two days, and it doesn’t sound the least bit hastily prepared or under-rehearsed. Like most of the band’s output, it’s an immaculate slab of garage-psych that combines elements of Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Can and Flower Travelin’ Band. In other words, it’s a mind-blowing amalgam of stoner metal grooves, droning riffs, ebb and flow tempos, mesmerizing leads, and perfectly placed fills that leaves listeners wanting more. — Jon Wiederhorn

Pity Sex
The members of Pity Sex — childhood friends Sean St. Charles and Brennan Greaves, as well as Brandan Pierce and Britty Drake — freely admit that ’90s music inspires their songwriting. However, the Ann Arbor, Michigan, band (which formed in 2011) has impeccable influences: 2013′s <em>Feast Of Love</em> LP echoes Midwest emo icons (especially the Anniversary, whose grungy, wiry pop informs “Smoke Screen”), ethereal shoegazers (“Keep”) and churning space rockers (“Sedated”). More important, Pity Sex transcends its retro leanings — listen as Drake’s smoky voice turns bittersweet and sails above shimmering solo guitar on the breathtaking “Hollow Body.” — Annie Zaleski

By day, the members of Leeds, England’s Eagulls work retail gigs; by night, they’re perfecting a combustible mix of throttling post-punk and ’80s dark wave at gigs alongside acts such as Iceage, Parquet Courts and Joanna Gruesome. Recently signed to Partisan Records, the quintet is set to release their debut full-length in 2014. The confrontational record has angst and angles to spare: Roiling bass lines and scratchy, doomy guitars claw at vocalist George Mitchell, whose punk howl is equal parts anguished and terrified. — Annie Zaleski

Production duo Astma & Rocwell have been haunting the Swedish hip-hop scene for more than a decade. But it wasn’t until teaming up with sprightly singer/songwriter Stina Wappling that they found their sweet spot: caffeinated pop choruses and crunchy beats, paired with Wappling’s Nordic wind-like soprano. In 2013, Stockholm’s Icona Pop taught us all the fun in emotionally checking out (“I Love it!”), but NONONO are out to make us feel <em>feelings</em>. Heck, their anthemic lead single “Pumpin Blood” has already made us care about whistling — something we thought we’d all left behind after the infiltration of Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” — Laura Studarus

Last year didn’t bode well for Washington, D.C. Anyone looking for a politically savvy punk-pop band would have to search elsewhere: It seemed like the town traded in dissidence for apathy. Enter Priests, the feminist queercore band that manages to occupy the space between sarcasm and precision, and everything around it. Scorched earth. More than derivative, riot grrrl revisionist tripe, Priests are dangerous. They’re not competing against anything but posturing against it, the kind of band that will ruffle feathers until you’re fully inspired. Priests aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but their undeniable ferocity couldn’t come at a more important time. — Maria Sherman

Mean Creek
This Boston foursome’s ambitions are arena-sized — their most recent album, 2012′s <em>Youth Companion</em>, opens with the Springsteen strut “Do You Know?” But they avoid bombast by deftly incorporating elements that could’ve been birthed at a basement show; sinewy disco, slacker fuzz and shoegazey bliss all rear their head over the course of its 10 songs. And “Cool Town,” off their forthcoming <em>Local Losers</em>, intersperses punk’s desire to get out with indiepop’s resigned sighs. (Its “Ironic”-inspired video only adds to the longing.) – Maura Johnston