Boxx couldn’t let the year end without taking a look back at music’s high notes. From our favorite albums and music videos to the breakthroughs and comebacks we didn’t see coming, our critics have assembled a yearbook of Top 10 lists. Today, we list our Top 10 Breakthrough Artists of 2013 (in no particular order). Stay tuned in the days ahead for more coverage, culminating in our 2014 preview.
Mish Way of White Lung
Thanks to the endless clatter of their mid-tone heavy, hook-laden punk cuts and vocalist Mish Way’s prolific journalism career (see her articles in VICE), White Lung has become a standout of 2013’s female-fronted bands. The Vancouver group has finally graduated from dingy basements to full-fledged festivals, and they’ve documented every step of the way—from frantic tri-chord ragers to the occasional gonzo narrative.
L.A’s first lady of goth has been churning out moody pieces of minimalist doom folk for years now, but this year’s wonderfully macabre Pain Is Beauty has quickly catapulted her into the limelight, even garnering her a supporting role on Queens of the Stone Age’s tour roster.
Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES
Synthpop is nothing new to anyone who’s been within earshot of a college campus or alt radio station these past few years, but CHVRCHES reinvented the wheel before it even started spinning. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry sings with childish effortlessness and relentless sheen, proving to be the musical backbone of the Scottish trio and making the job look too damn easy.
Second chances are rare, especially in the choppy waters of the music industry, but Katie Crutchfield isn’t one to pass up on the slightest glimmer of hope. After her debut album, American Weekend, skated under the radar last year, Crutchfield made every second count on Cerulean Salt.
Fronted by the gravely intense Jenny Beth and abiding by rigid manifestos and unbending credos, Savages are undoubtedly one of the most intense bands of the year. With their authentic post-punk sound, these ladies have the cavernous sound of a dank ‘70s English basement and the conceptual steadfastness of a distant future.
Kim Shattuck has paid her dues as lead singer and guitarist of The Muffs, but she began a new chapter as the new bassist for the recently revamped Pixies earlier this year. Stepping into the big shoes that Kim Deal left behind was no small feat, and Shattuck only had a year to leave an impression on fans. With Black Francis’ only gripes of the 50-year-old being stage diving and unapologetic candor, it seems that Shattuck may be splitting with the Pixies, but she won’t be going quietly.
Originally beginning as Sadie Dupuis’ summer camp creative outlet, Speedy Ortiz has come a long way from afternoon songwriting sessions and off-key renditions of Kumbaya. In an especially tangled and knotty sophomore release, Speedy Ortiz turned heads and blasted eardrums with Major Arcana. Let’s hope they picked up plenty more tricks on the campgrounds.
Before, she was respected as a versatile and independent woman in the R&B world. Now, with 2013’s The Electric Lady, she’s an artistic force to be reckoned with as she completed her transformation from crooning sass queen to energetic entertainer.
Love them, hate them, still have no idea how to pronounce that damn name (say it with me: “HIME”), the Texan sister trio dominated this year with their explosive debut, Days Are Gone.
Elena Tonra of Daughter
After a few sleeper EPs packed with multi-layered instrumentation and witchy vocals, Daughter’s 2013 debut LP broke them through to international acclaim. Driven by Elena Tonra’s mystical vocals and poignant lyrics, there’s no question whose hands are on the control board when it comes to the band’s dampened, echoic sound.
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