30 Criminally Good Artists We Couldn’t Stop Obsessing Over In 2013

The Mowgli'sThe Mowgli’s: About five seconds into The Mowgli’s “San Francisco,” you’ll understand why it became a big alternative hit for the California-based indie/gospel/folk eight-piece. For one thing, “San Francisco” is an exuberant cavalcade of high-octane good #feels, with gang harmonies that sound broadcast from the grooviest hippie love-in this side of John and Yoko’s bed. The rest of the songs on their 2013 album, Waiting For The Dawn, like “Love Is Easy,” follow that mold, with a few diversions into trippy psychedelia. The band, who spent the year performing at basically every music festival around the country, seem tailor-made for the current Era Of Sincerity. On the other hand, the only explanation for them not being bigger stars by now is simple: Love is dead :( — LO

Mykki BlancoMykki Blanco: Much like the aforementioned Le1f, rapper and producer Mykki Blanco effortlessly fuses fashion and performance art and is constantly experimenting with hip-hop’s gender lines. Need proof? Just look to tracks like “Bugged Out” and “Feeling Special,” from this year’s Betty Rubble: The Initiation Blanco, where Michael David Quattlebaum shows off a unique flow, vocal style, and ear for intense, trap-like beats. In terms of his live shows, last summer Blanco flirted with big stages while opening for Tricky and Bjork, but an artist who stays this close to their own vision might be too unique for the full mainstream success story. (Which, incidentally, might be better for the rest of us.) –LO

nononoNONONO: If there are two things we’ve fallen head over heels for in the past couples years, it’s immaculately designed Scandanavian dance pop — the kind that’s as cool and sleek as the people who make it. Two songs from the Swedish trio NONONO fit the bill perfectly, “Pumpin’ Blood” being the former, and “Jungle” the latter. “Pumpin’ Blood” is already the hit it was always destined to be (you might recognize its whistling hook from that Samsung Galaxy IV commercial), but there’s room on the rest of their EP for the group to graduate to Icona Pop status. –LO

palma violetsPalma Violets: Could we be in for a resurgence of boozy, guitar-based rock in the next year? If so, expect the London four-piece Palma Violets to be one of the forerunners. The Rough Trade rockers have already made a big splash at home among the Brit music press — NME named “Best of Friends” their Track Of The Year in 2012. But that hasn’t translated into similar acclaim in The States. (Yet.) The growling but majestic, swaggering noise anthems of their debut, 180, have all the ingredients for what we need out of a new class of rock star — especially the British part. –LO

Pure Bathing CulturePure Bathing Culture: Portland dream-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture (guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille) sing lush, heartbreakingly earnest singles (such as “Dream The Dare” and “Pendulum”) that bring to mind other haze-pop bands such as Beach House, Wild Nothing, and even classic contenders Fleetwood Mac. Writing music together since 2009, Hindman and Versprille are currently surfing the success wave of their debut, Moon Tides, which topped a number of critics’ year-end lists (Stereogum, Gorilla vs. Bear). Intrigued? Keep the dream (pop) alive this winter when Pure Bathing Culture go on tour in early 2014. –RB

Spirit AnimalSpirit Animal: The New York quartet — who are somehow not Charlie’s band on “Girls” — taught us some rock ‘n’ roll dance moves this year with “The Black Jack White,” a song inspired by the blues-rocker that’s basically a guide to air guitar. As the song proves, the hard-riffing dudes do just fine with the real thing. The group’s Kingdom Phylum EP dropped in October, and they’re already at work on more music — and maybe even some new moves. –DG