With Grammy season right around the corner (it airs February 12th, 2017), it’s time to start thinking about who’s the best of the best in music. The nominations are out, the speculations have begun, and one thing audiences more than likely lose focus of in this process is how US-centric the award ceremony is or can be. Sure, the United Kingdom has the Mercury Prize, Canada has the Juno Awards and there are a slew of other smaller ceremonies meant to celebrate music worldwide, but none garner the kind of audience that the Grammys do. They remain the goal for a lot of musicians across the globe, regardless of the additional challenges they may face as international artists. Below are some showstopping singer-songwriters and amazing bands that may not get the nod of approval in February, but are definitely deserving of our attention in the coming year. Get free downloads from these artists and more on the Trebel Free Music Downloader app.
Hometown: Iceland (also Austin, TX)
Listen to: “Save Yourself” off of A/B
Austin (by way of Iceland) indie rockers Kaleo took the States by storm this year. From the softer “Way Down We Go” to the more sweltering “Hot Blood,” every song off their band’s debut album A/B further cemented the group’s place on the US charts and in our hearts. Most international artists struggle with crossing the pond, but Kaleo proved they could cross frigid waters with no trouble. Although their move to Texas almost disqualified them from this list, it was fairly recently and Iceland really deserves the credit for creating such talented musicians. Plus, the band’s videos show a deep connection to their homeland that can’t be ignored.
Hometown: Australia (also Palm Springs, CA)
Listen to: “Cheap Thrills” off of This Is Acting
This one you’ve probably heard of. Sia Furler (better known as Sia) is no stranger to the Grammys or award ceremonies in general. Even before launching her solo career, she was co-writing, collabing, ghostwriting all your favorite hits (think: David Guetta’s “Titanium,” Rihanna’s”Diamonds,” and Flo Rida’s”Wild Ones”) and winning you over long before you knew who she was. In 2014, she released “Elastic Heart” and 1000 Forms of Fear, her sixth album, but her first to really reach true widespread acclaim. Once Sia stepped in front of the mic and stopped being “featuring Sia” it was all over for everyone else. Now she’s a household name known for her own work, which at its current iteration translates to a mix of power pop and wacky wigs.
3. James Blake
Hometown: London, England
Listen to: “Radio Silence” off of The Colour In Anything
Singer-songerwriter James Blake is another name you probably periodically hear of. He had a successful debut record, James Blake, back in 2011 then saw much more commercial success in 2013 when he released it’s follow up, Overgrown. His second record received both the 2013 Mercury Prize as well as a Grammy Nomination. Over the course of this time, Blake’s sound changed fairly significantly. At first it was clear that he was hanging out with Kanye and holding on to his electronic roots, but by his 2016 release Blake begins to slow down. Songs like “Radio Silence,” show not a steps away from the synthesizer, but rather a refined retake of it.
4. Frank Turner
Hometown: Meonstoke, Hampshire, U.K.
Listen to: “Josephine” off of Postive Songs for Negative People
The occasionally moody, always introspective singer Frank Turner should be everyone’s favorite import from the United Kingdom. Since his days with Million Dead to his half dozen solo albums, Turner has always returned to the radio with even more emotionally indepth songs than before. His most recent record, Positive Songs for Negative People, finds him at perhaps the most popular point in his entire career. None of this sudden bumper crop of fame shows; this year the artist took the stage at Reading with his Sleeping Souls as he had done nearly a dozen times before, always to an increasingly larger crowd, with the same lose smile and wave.
5. Wolf Parade
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
Listen to: “C’est La Vie Way” off of Wolf Parade/EP 4
Before 2016, it had been years since we had had a Wolf Parade release. Then in January, the band’s website suddenly lit up with album artwork and promises of something. That something would in time reveal itself as Wolf Parade, the group’s fourth EP under that name. A four song comeback/brief break from the hiatus, Wolf Parade was just enough to sate the audience. The band then booked residency-type tours at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, Toronto’s Lee’s Palace and London’s Scala. The enthusiasm that met them there proved that this little band could disappear and come back to the same adoring fans. Their music is evidence that you don’t have to sell out Coachella to “make it.” Also, that Canada is good for more than just Justin Bieber.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen
Hometown: Mission, Canada
Listen to: “Run Away With Me” off of E•MO•TION
More people should really, really, really, really, really like Carly Rae Jepsen and the “why” comes down to EMOTION. No, not actual feelings, but Jepsen’s follow-up to her 2012 album, Kiss, which featured the nauseatingly catchy single “Call Me Maybe.” The record is a more mature, still stupidly peppy pop release that showed just how much potential Jepsen has as a singer. “Run Away With Me” illustrates how she is more lyrically clever than DNCE, as musically complex as Drake, as alluring as Taylor, as Canadian as Bieber, and but still somehow as a fraction of the page hits. Maybe 2017 and Emotion: Side B will change that.
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