Slingshot's 2023 Artists to Watch
From distinctive, R&B singer-songwriters to rising bands making fuzzed-out country rock, this year brings a new crop of artists set for a big break. Here, NPR Music's partner stations select a new wave of artists poised for greatness in 2023.
Atlanta based singer-songwriter Baby Rose has one of the most distinct voices in R&B right now and there's no better example of this than her emotional and psychedelic leaning song "Go," which received a lot of attention from radio towards the end of 2022. This track was released with "Fight Club," another new song that sees her collaborating with Georgia Anne Muldrow, ushering in a new era for the artist. —Brian Burns, WUNC
Almost three years have passed since electronic duo LANNDS decamped to the mountains of North Carolina to experiment with synths and psychedelics in an effort to write and record its 2020 EP lotus. The six-song offering was a product of a long collaboration forged in Jacksonville, Fla. between singer and guitarist Rania Woodard and multi-instrumentalist Brian Squillace, and proved to be a synthesis of the musicians' singular electronic umami. LANNDS signed with Boston's Run for Cover Records shortly thereafter, relocated to Los Angeles, and in late 2021 released "In The Garden" as the lead single for the deluxe version of lotus. The duo debuted two new singles (the effervescent "K TOWN" and the dreamy "Overseas/BACK 2 U") in 2022, and kicked off 2023 with a meditative new track ("Blueprint"), all of which build upon layers of earthy samples foraged from nature, ambient synth lines and Woodard's evocative vocals. —Matthew Shaw, JME
Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir's trembling alto holds its own alongside the torch singers she grew up listening to from her father's vinyl collection. A student of guitar, piano and cello (which flawlessly mimics her own vocal range), Laufey's timeless, low-and-slow style warmly blends jazz, classical and pop, vividly soundtracking the young Icelander's own tender age — especially on the gentle bossa nova of "Fragile," where inhibitions melt even as she shatters in her "case of fragile glass." —Erin Wolf, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee
If it's possible to have sorrow and optimism in the same song, Daniele Ponder's "The Only Way Out" has achieved it. Ponder burst on the scene last year with a voice that immediately commands your attention. Not surprisingly, Ponder worked in the Rochester, NY public defender's office before taking a leap of faith and becoming a full-time musician. The power behind her music could sway any jury of her peers into immediately becoming an instant fan. —Benji McPhail, KXT
Wednesday has two great stars in indie music — and the momentum. Guitarist MJ Lenderman is coming off the success of his album Boat Songs, and brings huge riffs and layers of feedback. Then there's the lyricism of Karly Hartzman, which is like peeking over a fence into the backyard of a troubled neighbor while Drive-By Truckers blasts in the background. Rat Saw God is Wednesday's third album and may be one of the biggest of 2023. —Justin Barney from WNXP
The Cherokee Nation citizen of Muscogee Creek descent, Oklahoman, multi-disciplinary visual artist and singer-songwriter Kalyn Fay (Barnoski) focuses her creative practice "on self-location, community-building, collaboration, and empathy," and this is evident whether her tool is her hands or her voice. With warm, emotive vocals and beautifully-crafted lyrics, her music explores her Indigenous identity, as well as universal questions of love and faith, with the gift of a natural storyteller. "Judadatla Tsisqwa," or "Spotted Bird," is Kalyn's contribution to Anvdvnelisgi (Performers), a contemporary album of original music performed entirely in the Cherokee language released in 2022. —Julie Wenger Watson, Live From Cain's
Countless unique and vibrant communities settle here in Austin, Texas, and we are blessed with constant reminders of music's singular ability to bring disparate communities together. In their latest project Caramelo Haze, Beto Martínez and John Speice (Grupo Fantasma), Alex Chavez (Dos Santos) and Victor "El Guámbito" Cruz (Nemegata) epitomize the alloy strength born in the crucible of our dancehalls with an unexpected cross-pollination of Texas soul, Afro-Colombian folk, psychedelic Americana and much more. —Ryan Wen, KUTX
Sometimes you just want to strip it down, keep it simple, and embrace your younger self who grew up in a time when bands with guitars were actually popular among young folks. Am I showing signs of "get off my lawn"-ism? Perhaps. I guess it's just nice to know that punk records like these are still in existence for those of us that need them. CIVIC's sophomore release Taken by Force drops on Feb. 10 (bonus points for the surf-themed album artwork). —Jason Thomas, Indie 102.3
Jichen Zhang and Meng Liu
Jichen Zhang takes on one of the most challenging pieces in the saxophone repertoire in this video and absolutely owns it! Jichen has been collecting awards from numerous competitions and is completing his doctorate in classical saxophone performance at the University of Iowa. Meng Liu is similarly accomplished, having won a platinum award in the Quebec Music Competition in 2022. She is also pursuing her doctorate of musical arts at the University of Iowa in piano performance. —Nikhil Sarma, KING FM
Ali Thibodeau's pursuit of a career in performance has taken her around the globe — from New York City clubs, theaters and subway platforms (where she spent time busking) to a stint as a country crooner aboard a cruise ship. Encouraged to return to her hometown of Richmond, Va. by friend and fellow Richmond native, Lucy Dacus, Thibodeau took up the moniker Deau Eyes and became a welcome staple in the region's burgeoning music scene. Last year, Deau Eyes released her sophomore album, Legacies, on Richmond-based label Subflora. Co-produced by Subflora's founder, Scott Lane, and Butcher Brown's DJ Harrison, the record boasts a sonic maturation that's still firmly anchored by Thibodeau's standout voice and songwriting prowess. While Thibodeau continues to write and workshop songs on a rolling basis, she plans on spending 2023 bringing Legacies to life on the road. —Desiré Moses, WNRN
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