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The New Girls: Meet the Next Generation of Indie Pop Stars

Move over, Britney, there’s a new wave of pop princesses.



The last two weeks have seen the release of four of the year's best albums by a quartet of female artists and bands who are storming the charts and shaking up the music business - and it's really pretty awesome. And, no, we’re not talking about Miley, Britney, Katy Perry, Avril, Gaga, or Cher, all of whom are releasing albums this fall, and none of whom appear to be in danger of fading away anytime soon. But from outside the mainstream, and from across the globe, we now have a New Zealand teenager, a trio of So-Cal sisters, a Scottish feminist, and a pair of Swedish party girls who are putting a new spin on what pop music really means. Other similar acts (in that they’re female fronted, vaguely indie, and worth your attention) are also dropping records in the next few months, including the Naked & Famous, Glasser, Sleigh Bells, Sky Ferreira, Best Coast, and the Blow. But for now let’s focus on this new fearsome foursome:

LORDE (pictured above):

Rhymes with. . .
Lord (not "Lordy")

So who is she?
A mature-beyond-her-years 16-year-old singer-songwriter (real name: Ella Yelich-O’Connor) who just happens to have the number one song in the country. A female Bieber, you’re thinking? Nope, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

Where’s she from?
New Zealand - the land of Hobbits, kiwis, and sailors who aren’t quite as good as our own. It would be nice to point something from her native land that informs Lorde’s sound, but New Zealand’s best known song is probably this one, and that’s not even really a song.

Why should you care?
Lorde’s debut single, “Royals,” is currently the number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100, and her debut album, Pure Heroine, was just released last week. She was discovered at 12 at a talent show, signed to a major label deal, and started writing her own material. She has awesome hair, Questlove is a fan, and she declined Katy Perry’s offer to open for her on tour. And did we mention she’s only 16?!?

What does she sound like?
Definitely not like what you’d expect a 16-year-old pop singer to sound like, even if her lyrics do touch upon typical teenage angst. The sound is spare, woozy, and narcotic without sacrificing hooks. Seriously, this shit is catchier than an STD. (That was meant to be a compliment.)

Where should you start?
“Royals,” although you’ve no doubt already heard it since it’s the most popular song in the country. Otherwise, “Team,” “Tennis Court,” “Ribs”...you know, really everything on the album is pretty terrific, so you should check out the whole damn thing.   


HAIM

Rhymes with...
"Rhyme," as a matter of fact.

So who are they?
Three sisters (wait, I know what you’re thinking, Chekhov, right? No? Nevermind) who were in a family band called Rockinhaim with their folks before striking out on their own. Did we mention, their last name is Haim? It is, and their first names are Este (27), Danielle (24), and Alana (22). There’s also a dude drummer, Dash Hutton. But he doesn’t seem to get mentioned much.

Where are they from?
Southern California - home to Fleetwood Mac, they band to whom they’ve most often been compared (they’ve also been compared to Phoenix, Arctic Monkeys, Spoon, the Eagles, Destiny’s Child, the Pretender, Pat Benatar, Shania Twain, and the Eagles). In fact, Este and Danielle were in a band called Valli Girls, so they really are California girls at heart.

Why should you care?
Well, the whole backstory is pretty cute, with the whole traveling band shtick conjuring up images of the Von Trapp Family Singers or the Partridge Family, and the sibling act recalling the Beach Boys, the Kinks, Creedence, and Oasis. Come to think of it, given the history of family bands, you should probably try to catch them while you can. But also because they were the breakout act on this summer’s festival circuit, bringing the center-part back into vogue, and generally setting the rock-blogosphere aflame with hype. Well-deserved hype, as it happens.

What do they sound like?
Did you read that list of artists they’ve been compared to? Then you know exactly what they sound like, right? Suffice it to say, their critically-acclaimed debut album, Days Are Gone (released September 30), is a shiny, tight, bright pop gem, full of hiccupy vocals, skittering rhythms, soaring harmonies, and sunshine-drenched melodies. Grantland’s Robert Mays described the album as, “a near-perfect fusion of classic songwriting chops and canny production techniques.” You can also really tell that they’re from California.

Where should you start?
“The Wire” is as good a start as any, but we have a soft spot for “Honey & I.”


CHVRCHES:

Rhymes with...

"Churches," but that would be a pain in the ass to Google.

So who are they?
We’re cheating a bit here, because lead singer Lauren Mayberry is the only woman in the band, with Iain Cook and Martin Doherty rounding out the trio. But, oh what a woman (more on this later).

Where are the from?
Glasgow, Scotland - a city that’s been turning out killer bands for a while now. In fact, Chvrches’ vocals occasionally evoke Glasgow bands like Belle & Sebastian, and they've also got the dance-y aesthetic of Glasgow's Franz Ferdinand and the wide-screen cinematic scope of Glasvegas. (One guess where they're from. And, no, it's not Las Vegas.)

Why should you care?
Well, mostly because they’re just really fucking good. But also because Lauren Mayberry should be your new rock crush. That’s not just because she’s pretty (though she is pretty), but because she is one of the smartest, most articulate, and, frankly, toughest artists to turn up in ages - male or female. Trained as a journalist, Mayberry has taken her overly aggressive admirers to task for their misogyny, and in the process only gained more admirers, but for all the right reasons.

What do they sound like?
Chvrches’ debut, Bones of What You Believe (released on September 20), is wall-to-wall electro indie-pop goodness, with Mayberry’s airy vocals floating and soaring over throbbing synths and martial beats. A rock band with one foot firmly planted in the world of dance music, they’ve been lumped in with like-minded artists such as MGMT and Passion Pit (with whom they’ve toured), and predecessors like Depeche Mode (with whom they’ve also toured).

Where should you start?
“Lies” was the first single Chvrches released, in the spring of 2012, and it provides an excellent intro to the band’s aesthetic. Other standouts include “Gun” and “The Mother We Share.”




ICONA POP:

Rhymes with...

"I wanna rock," kind of. Or "I wanna shop," but the first one is more appropriate to their sound.

So who are they?
The electro-house duo Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, who joined forces in 2009 and released their self-titled debut in November, 2012. . . to little fanfair. But that was then. Their latest effort, This is Icona Pop (released September 23), is a game-changer.

Where are the from?
Sweden - that Scandinavian wonderland that churns our pop-nuggets the way they once churned out bloodthirsty Vikings. What the hell is in the water there? This is a country that’s given us Abba, Roxette, Ace of Base, The Cardigans, Robyn, Peter, Bjorn & John, Miike Snow, Swedish House Mafia, Lykke Li, Avicii and Max Martin, the mad genius behind (deep breath) Britney Spears, Katy Perry, The Backstreet Boys, Pink, ‘N Sync, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Bieber.

Why should you care?
They’re really, really, really ridiculously fun. The duo's single “I Love It” was originally released in May of 2012, but didn’t really blow up until it was used as the soundtrack to an insane, cocaine-fueled bacchanal on HBO’s Girls. As a result, a year after it was released, the track became an inescapable candidate for 2013's Song of the Summer. Luckily, the rest of This is Icona Pop (released September 23) is equally infectious. Which doesn’t really seem possible, but hey, they're from Sweden.

What do they sound like?
The best description we’ve read is from Lindsay Zoladz's review of the new album for Pitchfork: “Cranked-up, EDM-influenced pop that sounds like a cross between ABBA's Gold and Andrew WK's I Get Wet.” This is serious party music that doesn't want to be taken seriously, brash, sometimes kind of trashy, but always insanely, deliriously fun.

Where should you start?
“I Love It,” of course, but then you can move onto “Girlfriend,” “All Night,” and “Then We Kiss.”



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