Poised to Pop has become something of a tradition around here, but it’s not quite Picked to Click.
The artists who place in City Pages’ annual poll have already demonstrated a likelihood to break out. A panel of experts has communed to evaluate their potential. Statistics are available.
Poised to Pop, though, is a shot in the dark, a wager, one writer’s attempt at reading tea leaves. Will these bands pop big in the local scene in 2019? My bet is yes. This is your chance to get on board.
For fans of: Two Door Cinema Club, Bastille
Arena-level pop has to start somewhere, and with Yam Haus, that’s the Amsterdam. The sparkly synth-pop band stunned at the Current’s Best New Bands showcase in early 2018 and followed up with a too-big-for-the-venue performance at their June release show. A year later, their debut, Stargazer, feels even more purposeful, even more ready to bubble over to wider and more hook-hungry audiences. If they strike soon, the exuberant group of Lars Pruitt, Zach Beinlich, Seth Blum, and Jake Felstow could be bound for stadium-size receptions. The spirit in them calls for it.
For fans of: A$AP Rocky, Flatbush Zombies
Minneapolis psych-rapper Will Robinson dwells on the fringes—of Twin Cities hip-hop, and of human consciousness itself. A professed “anxious alien addicted to psychedelics,” Robinson wanders through dimensions, spilling out metaphysical verses that will remind listeners of the Underachievers. His 2018 EP Lost in Space Part 2 was seemingly channeled from another plane of existence, and watching the uninhibited MC divine the cosmos is a trip in and of itself.
For fans of: Lady Lamb, Speedy Ortiz
Best known for her MAGA-chud-enraging re-imagining of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Lydia Liza emerged on the local scene as a high school sophomore in 2012, fronting Bomba de Luz. Now the soulful dynamo is striking out on her own. In late 2018, she Kickstarted her solo debut, Non Compos Mentis, which is due this spring. In the meantime, she’ll continue to make the War on Christmas crowd look like feckless idiots with her undeniable talent and unflappable wit.
For fans of: Chelsea Wolfe, Stevie Nicks’ character on American Horror Story
After a two-year layoff, garage-born solo talent Half Tramp re-emerged from her slumber to release the occult This Problem Has No Name. It’s an EP that sounds like it was unearthed from a tomb in the Black Hills Forest, and a single listen could taint your soul. Half Tramp’s spellbinding nature isn’t merely the result of witchcraft, though: Her voice is careful and deliberate, with a gift for mood-making rarely found in the local ranks.
Kiss the Tiger
For fans of: The Head and the Heart, Florence + the Machine
Months after forming, Kiss the Tiger scored a second-place finish in the Strib’s 2017 Are You Local? showcase, and their sound has grown immensely since then. The five-piece have refined their hard-edged blues-rock into a multifaceted blend of retro styles, including gospel, folk, and classic rock, that comes roaring out on their upcoming February release, Let Me Bleed.
For fans of: FIDLAR, Thee Oh Sees
Sometimes all you need to lose your goddamn mind is a strong bassline and a manic drumbeat. Minneapolis surf-punk band Products work up a Pavlovian combination of beachy guitars, derelict grooves, and Dead Kennedys-era political outrage. Featuring members of Frankie Teardrop and the Florists, Products have the experience to know what whips local crowds into a bumping mosh, and they’ve come together in a riptide of distrust and distortion to make it happen.
For fans of: M83, Ariel Pink
Mariel Oliveira has struck out from the Controversial New “Skinny Pill,” the Twin Cities’ foremost purveyors of dada pop, joining American Cream’s Joseph Carl Berns to make something truly absurd. XOXOTECH is a parody of the producer/singer electropop duo cliché, but it’s infectious enough that the tongue-in-cheekiness doesn’t hinder your good time. Overrun with Italian house beats and mid-’80s synth rock, XOXOTECH transform modern-day technophobia into danceable dread on their 2018 album, Alien Dream Software.
For for fans of: Afrojack, motherfuckin’ parties
You might recognize Róisín Hayes Owens from her 18-month residency at the Kitty Cat Klub. Or from her tenure as P.O.S’s DJ. Or maybe her current collab with Babyghost as Hoops. But chances are, you recognize her. DJ Rowsheen is a pervasive presence in the Twin Cities party scene, and her ability to elevate a room is prized by headliners looking to get the crowd hyped. But Rowsheen is a headliner in her own right with an incredible music library and a charismatic presence.
For fans of: Kid Cudi, Earl Sweatshirt
A true newcomer, 20-year-old Lubi made a great first impression last November with his debut music video, “Sequence,” which spotlighted the rapper/producer’s grand delivery and taste for the dramatic. Lubi’s follow-up single, “Control,” plumbed similar depths while showing a more determined edge. This year will be a testing ground for Lubi. Will he separate himself from the pack or become just another sad boi in the shuffle? A full-length record in 2019 could be the answer.
For fans of: The XX, Chvrches
When singer Autumn Compton and producer Ganzobean formed Starcrossed in 2018, their downtempo electronica immediately turned heads. Ganzobean’s jazz-inspired beats contrast powerfully with Compton’s breathy, reflective vocals. The intricate, pulsing “Brave Heart,” from Starcrossed’s 2018 EP Above the Noise, deserves heavy rotation on the Current.