5 Artists You Should Have Known In 2011

fromKEXP

Pickwick were among KEXP's must-hear discoveries of 2011. i i

Pickwick were among KEXP's must-hear discoveries of 2011. Jim Bennett for KEXP hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Bennett for KEXP
Pickwick were among KEXP's must-hear discoveries of 2011.

Pickwick were among KEXP's must-hear discoveries of 2011.

Jim Bennett for KEXP

The hits just keep on coming — so much excellent music rolls out each week that it can be hard just to keep up. In 2011, Bon Iver, Wilco, Raphael Saadiq, The Decemberists, Gillian Welch, Tinariwen, Elbow, Tom Waits and Fleet Foxes all met high expectations. Shabazz Palaces, James Blake and Wild Flag dropped highly anticipated debuts that lived up to the advance buzz. Charles Bradley came out of nowhere, stripping his heart and soul bare on his debut album (No Time for Dreaming) at age 61. And legendary funk guitarist Dennis Coffey descended from cloud nine and a 20-year hiatus to lay down some wicked new original tracks.

In 2011, even with more outlets than ever for discovering and sharing new music, it's nearly impossible for even the most dedicated music lover to keep up. So, if the following five acts didn't pop up your radar in the past year, here's a perfect opportunity to catch up.

5 Must-Hear Discoveries Of 2011, From KEXP

Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men Courtesy of the artist. hide caption

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Of Monsters And Men

The Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men made its debut with My Head Is an Animal, an impressive set of epic folk-pop. Its dynamic sound combines the warmth and earnestness of Seattle's The Head and the Heart with the anthemic surge of Arcade Fire in impeccably crafted, heartfelt songs that feature male/female lead vocals, exuberant group harmonies, sing-along choruses and endlessly catchy pop hooks. My favorite album of 2011.

Canon Blue: Rumspringa

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Canon Blue

Canon Blue is the alias of Nashville's Daniel James, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and touring member of the Danish band Efterklang. Written while touring with that group, and recorded during off hours at its Copenhagen studio, Rumspringa is anything but a casual side project. It's an orchestral pop masterpiece with intricate arrangements, cascading melodies and emotional depth.

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Song
Indian Summer
Album
Rumspringa
Artist
Canon Blue
Label
Temporary Residence
Released
2011

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Apparat Organ Quartet

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Apparat Organ Quartet

If Kraftwerk made an album in 2011, it would probably sound like Pólýfónía — great for driving the Autobahn, the back roads or the Internet. A playful set of mostly instrumental synth-rock, it combines analog synths, organs and other vintage keyboards with driving drums and occasional vocodered vocals. This was my go-to record of 2011 whenever I needed a jolt of energy or my mood uplifted.

JD McPherson

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JD McPherson

Okay, this album came out in late 2010 — pretty much after the Best of 2010 lists had already been finished — but it's just too damn good to slip through the cracks. Signs and Signifiers is a scorching rock 'n' roll record that sounds like it could have been recorded in the '50s without seeming retro. Engineered to restore your faith in rock 'n' roll, it'll have you involuntarily snapping your fingers and bobbing your head.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
North Side Gal
Album
Signs & Signifiers
Artist
JD McPherson
Label
Hi-Style
Released
2010

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Pickwick

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Pickwick

Pickwick creates joyous, exuberant, blue-eyed folk-soul. Its insidious, slinky jams worm their way into your brain and plant their unshakeable melodies and grooves. Having seen the band live, I can say that the singles it's released in the past year only scratch the surface of Pickwick's potential. Let's hope for an album in 2012.

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