20 Best New(ish) Artists of 2017: Ratboys, Phoebe Bridgers
As we discussed when we made a similar list last year, it’s harder and harder to figure out what really qualifies as a “new” artist. We were talking about some of the artists on this list on BrooklynVegan in 2016 and some even in 2015 or 2014. Most of them released a debut album this year, but some landed on this list off the strength of a sophomore album and a couple others haven’t even released a proper album yet. So what exactly is a “new” artist? We can’t say we’re entirely sure, but 2017 was a year where all 20 artists on this list made a noticeable impact on us, and they all seem like they have promising futures. A bunch of them landed on our Top 50 Albums of 2017 list and others didn’t. (Also, four artists from our Best New Bands of 2016 list landed on our Top 50 of 2017.) Either way, we love all 20 and we want to celebrate them with this list.
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Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps is one of the highest ranking debut albums on BV’s Top 50 Albums of 2017 for good reason. She had a three-song EP before this (including two songs that were revamped for Stranger in the Alps) and she’s been a professional musician for a few years, but Stranger in the Alps really is the world’s introduction to Phoebe Bridgers and it is a rare thing to come out of the gate with music as emotionally overwhelming as this. Over minimal singer/songwriter arrangements, Phoebe delivers some of the most powerful lyrics I’ve heard all year — on a debut or otherwise — with a voice that has no trouble conveying real emotion and gorgeous melody in equal measure. Her album has just ten proper songs, one of which is a Mark Kozelek cover, and I think all of them were my favorite at different points. If this is just Phoebe’s start point, her future looks very bright. [A.S.]
Ratboys put their debut album AOID out in 2015 on the trusty Topshelf Records, but it’s this year’s GN that cements them as a band that you need to be paying attention to. Like past tourmates (and Best New Bands of 2016 alumni) Pinegrove, Ratboys find the middle ground between alt-country and DIY indie rock, and offer up an exciting twist on two familiar sounds. Singer Julia Steiner’s voice should appeal to fans of stuff in the Waxahatchee/Speedy Ortiz realm, while the twangy slide guitar and real-deal folk music may attract fans of Dave Cobb-produced crossover country (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, etc). They’re increasingly good in the live show department too, made even better by their tendency to bring guest horn players on tour. [A.S.]