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Rhythm and Soul: Bands to look out for

By Kathleen McWilliams
On March 26, 2014

My first column this year was about new bands and artists to keep your eye on. I mentioned Bastille and a lesser known singer Lorde who, in line with my prediction, swept the Grammy's this year. It has been exactly six months since that first column and I think it's time to revisit the subject and predict a few more big groups for 2014.
Straight out of college, electronic indie duo MS MR has a rollercoaster of an album, "Secondhand Rapture." It probably won't hit major charts, but this album is solid gold. It's rare for me to find an album I enjoy listening straight through, but "Secondhand Rapture" makes it easy. Every track has a unique feel to it without deviating too far from the band's ominous, electronic sound. My favorite track is "Hurricane" which combines powerful vocals from frontwoman Lizzy Plapinger and a hazy, mysterious, but altogether captivating background harmony. "Bones" is another fantastic track on the album and it blends even stronger vocals with a more upbeat tune. Both of these tracks reflect deep personal issues such as struggling with depression and toxic relationships, but despite their dark take on life, the songs are relatable. "Think of You" is another top track on the album and this one deviates from the norm with an extravagantly electronic sound that is a heroic and empowered "get lost" message to an ex. Plapinger's real emotions come through in this track and it's hard not to get up dance and sing along whether or not you're heartbroken. I am expecting big things from these recent college grads and if the success of their first album is any indication, they'll be delivering that success anytime now.
Another electronic-indie pop group that is making waves is Magic Man. A four-piece synth band from Boston, Magic Man has only released an EP and they've already been picked up for a national tour with Panic! At the Disco. Never fear emo-rock haters, this group could not be any different from Panic!. Their sunny, sound is much more MGMT or Passion Pit than rock that was popular when we were in middle school. "Paris" is my favorite track by them for its exuberant and energetic tone. The track starts with a delicate piano line and crashes into an electronic wall that explodes into a catchy and ridiculously euphoric chorus. With lyrics like "It's just a fantasy, taking over like a disease," the song is the perfect soundtrack to summer or a celebratory dance party. Other tracks like "Nova Scotia" are more mellow with softer synth harmonies and smoother vocals. I additionally love the quirk that three out of five songs on the EP are named after places. "Texas," the second track, is like "Paris" in that it starts softly and erupts, but it also has elements of "Nova Scotia" in that it never quite reaches as dramatic heights as "Paris." While their musical canon is small, Magic Man are sure to steal your heart and I'm betting on big things from them this year.
St.Lucia is a New York City-based act who, like Magic Man and MS MR, crafts exciting and unique electronic influenced music. "Before the Dive" is an addictive song that combines piano and percussion along with synth to create a deliciously captivating song. I found myself immediately drawn in by Jean Phillip Grobler 's voice and his lyrics were surprisingly touching. His South African roots come out in some of the harmonies of his music, but also gives his music that global universality that I crave in some artists.
For some reason I've been really into electronic influenced music this year, but this last band does not fall into that category. Phildel is a London-based artist who has an incredible voice. If you like Regina Spektor, Florence and the Machine or Robyn, you'll love Phildel. Her voice is soft, but also powerful. Her songs are all encompassing, using percussion, strings and synth parts as well. "Storm Song" is her magnum opus so far for its gradual build up and hugely emotional chorus, but songs "The Wolf" and "Beside You" are perfect counterparts to the drama of "Storm." Just like Florence and the Machine rose slowly and quietly to fame, Phildel is sure to gain some recognition for her quirky, dramatic melodies and unique voice.

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