Some of our favorite rising acts in music, featuring Sam Truth, Grand Pax, Jany Green, Skott, Whu Else, and more.
We rounded up some of our favorite new music discoveries. Look back at all of our Best New Artists here and keep up with them all on the Best New Artists playlists on Spotify and Apple.
Sometimes the excitement around a new music discovery is hearing a hit and knowing that millions of other people are going to connect with it. Other times, it's more pure and about hearing something for the first time and thinking, "I love this, but what the hell is it?" In the case of Detroit artist Whu Else, it's the latter.
Trying to describe the 9-song project Big Brain Man is a lost cause—it's vibrant, odd, and supremely confident. There's a quirky, lo-fi quality to it that pits timeless songwriting against almost childlike, DIY-sounding backdrops, a description that might make Whu Else sound like Daniel Johnston if you haven't listened to the music. But this isn't Daniel Johnston. While Johnston grew up in love with comic books and The Beatles, Whu Else was inspired by the drum set in his grandmother's basement and the frenzied organ player at Baptist congregations.
"The inspiration for Big Brain Man was drawn from every man or woman considered a pioneer in his or her field," says Whu Else. "When someone listens to Whu Else I want them to feel empowered and inspired to make declarations of their own. To draw a line and stand behind it."
Four years ago, we premiered Swedish artist Skott's debut song "Porcelain." Speaking on that song, she told us, "The most precious things take time and care to build, but take only a fraction of that time to destroy or break." Skott was signed to a major label and in the following years she released a handful of singles and one EP, but no album. Until now.
Skott makes pop music with a theatrical twist, catchy and immediate but still thought-provoking and interesting. Sonically, it's cut from the same cloth as Lykke Li, Lorde, or MØ—slightly left of center but easy to imagine on the radio or performed in front of thousands of people. But Skott didn't follow the typical pop star path of rapid-fire singles or a rushed album, non-stop touring, and relentless marketing fueled by major label muscle.
In 2019, Skott announced that she had decided to go independent, and she started a label called Dollar Menu to release music on her own terms. “One of the main reasons I started my own independent label, Dollar Menu, was because I wanted to prioritize creativity above all else," Skott tells us. "When I was signed to a major, my hands felt a bit tied, in that I had to fight hard to convince people to let me run with my visions. And that also meant I couldn’t get music out as fast as I’d have liked. They essentially only wanted singles, and I‘d always wanted to make a full album. So I kept working on my album in secret, until I finally got all the pieces in place to release it just now under my own label. It’s a dream to be able to release Always Live For Always, it’s a personal milestone. It feels almost like Skott’s been baptized. I haven’t even fully processed it yet.”
Skott's debut album Always Live for Always delivers on the potential promised in 2016 and drives home the point she made alongside her first official release in 2016: the most precious things take time.
We first heard of Sam Truth when he replied to a recent call for submissions on Twitterwith a link to "All My Dogs," the standout track from his February debut album Child. On first listen, it's a bouncy, carefree indie rock song—as are many of the other songs on the album—but close attention to the lyrics paints a different picture.
"Child was a transitional period in my life where I was finding out who I was in both music and in life," Sam explains. "It’s a very messy yet pure project all based around experiencing homelessness from starting the project at the age of 18 to settling down and finishing it at 21. There are stories of depression, fear of the future, insecurities, vulnerability as well as love and breakups."
If Child is a hint at Sam Truth's potential as an indie rock artist with crossover potential, his inspirations and approach suggest that his sound will be constantly evolving. "I’ve been drawing from more alternative rock and hip-hop influences. Some of these influences are Bloc Party, Kid Cudi, The Pixies, Early Kanye, King Krule, and Damon Albarn," he says. "I approach each track pulling thoughts from my notes (or diary) about things I can’t communicate outside of music. I use these lyrics as therapy and as guidance in finding new ways to cope with the situations I face. With the next project, I’m hoping that other black kids struggling with depression and other issues can find solace and know that it’s okay to be vulnerable in their art. I didn’t have that growing up."
Sam Truth is just getting started, but the pieces are falling into place and his future is buring bright.
"I grew up in Alaska. It's an amazing place, but it's hard," says Jany Green. "It's dark, it's cold, and it can feel really isolating. It's difficult to feel like you can reach an audience outside of the state."
Jany Green has considered himself an artist since the age of 11, but things started clicking when he moved from Alaska to LA and adopted his new moniker, a combination of his middle name (Jany) and his mother's maiden name (Green). "My hope in adapting that moniker is that Jany Green can help to express positivity, love, and joy for other people in the way that my mother does that for me."
After years of trying to figure it out, Green is feeling more optimistic than ever, working with his writing partner/producer Ralph Castelli and hitting a stride with the last two singles, "Little" and "Suffocate." That positivity and joy beams through on both songs, with Green's hip-hop background and upbeat nature boosted by a dynamic bounce on par with the work of a full band.
During times like these, spreading joy is a wildly ambitious goal, but it's a necessary one. If you're looking for a little relief from the barrage of bad news and relentless anxiety, check out Jany Green.
Grand Pax released a couple of singles in the UK a few years ago, but if she’s new to you, you’re not alone. Her new 3-song EP PWR served as our introduction, and the title track alone is a potent first impression. Powered by moody soundscapes and understated nostalgia, Pax doesn’t rely on over-the-top vocal flexes or booming production—but it’s not your typical bedroom pop, either. “PWR” combines drums fit for ‘90s trip hop with layers of breathy vocals and celestial synths all while holding on to that very human, personal touch that makes Grand Pax so intriguing.
“Sometimes I feel like tracks are so vivid they can feel like films, in my head anyway," Grand Pax tells us. "These three tracks play like that for me. They consist of similar colors and imagery, reoccurring faces and that, but different points in time, different levels of dark/light. Maybe that sounds a bit mad, but writing for me is like swimming through a stream of consciousness at a varying pace. The PWR EP consists of three tracks. It can be a bit odd to pluck tracks and fix them together, but these particular tracks for me fit sonically, and sound cohesive in what I was trying to say."
Korean American artist Audrey Nuna emerged with slow-paced, sultry R&B songs like "Party" and "Time," showing off soaring vocals over hypnotic production. Refusing to be boxed in, her recent releases have included rapping and harder edged, uptempo beats, all of which comes together with a memorable video (which she co-directed) on standout track "Comic Sans."
Born and raised in New Jersey and going on to study at NYU's Clive Davis Music Institute, Audrey put her studies on pause to focus on music, and it seems to be paying off. Her sound is expanding with each release and her sharp visual style and fashion sense also helps her stand out, on Instagram and in all of her music videos. "I've been working on educating myself about this country's actual history and reality," she says of the current moment. "Embracing uncomfortable and tough conversations. Eating fruit more consistently. This year, expect more videos co/directed by yours truly."
"My process with Vito was very different from my process with Do or Die," says Indiana rapper Vince Ash. "As I see it, this is a compilation of independent projects—every song being one in its own right. Most of the songs on this tape were written before the production was made, which is a new way of working for me. Instead of being able to feed off the beat, all that I had to inspire my writing was my own experiences."
Like fellow Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs, Vince Ash isn't chasing the sound of the moment or feeding into current trends. He's a storyteller with a commanding voice, a no-frills delivery, and respect for the big picture. "I had to be patient with myself through the making of this one because in speaking on so many things that are deeply personal," he says. "I knew that what I was speaking on represented a society of people larger than just myself."
On "Whut it G Like," one of our favorites from the Vito project, Ash channels Eazy-E and paints a picture of a day in his life. Other tracks on the project employ different flows, production styles, and energy, but they're all tied to together, often referencing happenings from other songs or offering a slightly different perspective. "All in all, I'm proud of what the project became because it’s a detailed account of my own experience, and tribulations, and representation of many men of the same kind."
Portland's JT Flowers has been making music for almost exactly a year now. He's been working on a debut project called Steel Roseand trying to hone in on a sound that's entirely his own—a complicated task for an artist who says his two favorite artists are Headie One and Elliott Smith. "I've been influenced by everything from trap music to UK drill, neo-psychedelic rock, dream pop, R&B, grunge, hip-hop, and alternative music," Flowers says.
"I started making music because it was the only place I could bring all of myself. I make shit for the kids like me, the people that've been swallowed up whole by the world around them and forced to search for that raw peace within themselves. That's what my music's about—not having anywhere else to go. It's about imperfection and finding a way."
"Lose My World" is the song that got us hooked, but Flowers just put out a follow-up called "Track 4," and he's got another single or two coming before the debut project. "I want that to be a proper moment, some shit that not only tells a story, but really shakes people awake on a sonic level."
The Koreatown Oddity
The Koreatown Oddity might be the furthest from a "new" artist that we've ever included in this feature—he's a 10 year plus veteran on his fourth solo album, not to mention his multiple collaborations with L.A. underground hip-hop and beat scene stalwarts. The rapper and producer's new album Little Dominique's Nosebleed feels important to share, however, so here we are.
The record is centered around his own experiences of the Koreatown neighborhood in LA, where he was raised, and feels like an especially important documentation of experiences that are both deeply personal (car accidents experienced as a child, his parent's musical taste) and more widely felt in his community (gentrification, racial profiling). "I seen this whole area evolve from a black perspective," he explains. "I want the history of Black/Hispanic People who grew up in Koreatown to be told."
"I was apart of '92 riots in LA when I was 8 which I speak on a little bit on the album on the song 'Koreatown Oddity,'" he adds. "So the climate of whats going on has always been stitched into all of my art. From music to comedy to film. I mean I wrote and starred in a movie based on my experiences growing up dealing with the police called Driving While Black that came out in 2015."
"Little Dominiques Nosebleed is entering the corridor of my mind's traumas and enlightenment that live as one like Siamese twins," The Koreatown Oddity says. "When you wake up as a kid so many nights with your pillow and sheets covered in blood it alters your perception of the outside world. God spoke with me during my outer body experience and without words let me know that I would be used as a vessel for something greater than myself."
Across the album, disparate topics are tackled with a sense of humor and a deft touch over beats produced entirely by The Koreatown Oddity himself, while features come from Baby Rose, Sudan Archives, Fatlip from The Pharcyde, and more. Little Dominiques Nosebleed is out now via Stones Throw.