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Sound City: Emerging New York Artists To Root For

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There are thousands of emerging artists across the country, ready to make a lasting mark on the music scene — but what about the musicians here at home, in New York City? Without the support of local fans, these artists may not have a chance to rise up to the top of the charts, which is where we’d like to see them. So let’s take a moment to show some fan (fun!) love to the Big Apple’s own. Here WAX presents just a few local talents to get you going on a search for more NYC bands and solo acts to get behind, egg on and root for.


Singer-songwriter Laetitia Tamko, who performs under the alias Vagabon, found inspiration in the music that surrounded her while growing up in Cameroon. After moving to New York City, she began playing indie-rock music, mixed with a little electronic pop. Earlier this year, she released her second piece of work, titled Infinite Worlds. This record features the singles “The Embers,” “Minneapolis,” and her most streamed song on Spotify, “Fear & Force.” Not only does Tamko deliver captivating lyrics with soothing vocals, but she also plays both drums and the keyboard on her latest album. Vagabon embarked on her first headlining US Tour in October.

The Lemon Twigs

Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario are the epitome of classic rock ‘n roll with a little modern twist. The Lemon Twigs, fronted by both brothers with Danny Ayala on the keyboard and Megan Zeankowski on bass, take inspiration from the 1960s. Their music is pop-driven, with slow rock beats, taking listeners back to an entirely a bygone yet exciting era. Their 2016 record, Do Hollywood, features 10 songs, including “I Wanna Prove to You” and “These Words,” equally as groovy and jammable. The group is nowin  Europe after playing a few shows in the U.S.

The Skins

This five-piece group is the multi-genre band that is slowly making noise on the music scene. The versatile, Brooklyn-based band experiments with hip-hop, rock, and pop — not settling for a predefined genre or solidifying a certain sound. Bay Li, lead vocalist, is accompanied by Kaya Nico on vocals and bass, Reef Cole on drums, Daisy Spencer on guitar and Russ Chell on guitar and synth. Not only is their music diverse, but the members are all unique themselves, showing off different looks, genders, and skin tones. Their 2016 EP Still Sleep includes “Bury Me,” their biggest hit track to date, featuring D.R.A.M., which lends it a fresh, incomparable beat. The Skins perform regularly (but not often enough!) on New York stages, most recently at Bowery Electric in Manhattan.


Jilian Medford, who formerly performed in a solo project called IAN, is now the lead vocalist of IAN SWEET, an indie-pop trio. IAN SWEET, which includes drummer Tim Cheney and bassist Damien Scalise, dropped their first album, titled Shapeshifter, in 2016. The 10-track record includes alluring and out-of-the-box song titles like “All Skaters Go To Heaven,” “2soft2chew,” “Cactus Couch” and “Knife Knowing You.” Medford captures listeners with her unique squeaky and endearing vocals, confronting issues of anxiety masked behind dreamy, catchy beats. IAN SWEET, now on the end leg of their 2017 US Tour.


Duo Tamara Jafar and Peter Durniak have kept quiet since they released their self-titled album in 2011 and their EP Animals in 2013. However, earlier this year, the band released a riveting track, “White Elephants (Boom).” The song is intense and diverse at the same time – Jafar’s vocals are almost eerie against heavy background synths, creating a dark, new sound. The duo is definitely up to something modern, original, and refreshingly rare. Although there hasn’t been any news yet, keep them on your radar.

Half Waif

Inspired by the countryside in Northwestern Massachusetts as well as the traditional Indian bhajans she listened to growing up, Nandi Rose Plunkett’s music is fairly complex. Plunkett, who goes by Half Waif onstage, can be categorized in various musical genres, taking beats including from electronic pop and folk. On social media, she describes her music as “mood ring pop.” Her latest EP, form/a, includes the single, “Severed Logic,” an electro-driven tune. Half Waif currently resides in Brooklyn and was last seen onstage on October 27 at The Town Hall in midtown Manhattan.

Chelsea Reject

Hip-hop artist Chelsea Alexander, who goes by Chelsea Reject, is a female rapper from Brooklyn. Her 2015 album, CMPLX, includes some R&B and soul undertones with catchy lyrics. In “Closer,” she sings, “If loving you was a crime / Then I don’t want to be right.” Chelsea has already opened for acts like Iggy Azalea, Talib Kweli and Sean Prince, and has made her way across the globe, recently performing in Japan and France. Her next project, titled This Is Not My Final Form, is set to drop this winter.

Big Ups

The alternative punk band Big Ups, formed in Brooklyn, consists of vocalist Joe Galarraga, guitarist Amar Lal, drummer Brendan Finn and bassist Carlos Salguero, Jr. Their latest record, Before A Million Universes, features fast-paced riffs, grunge vocals, and heavy beats. Songs like “Goes Black” and “Capitalized” will leave you headbanging, with moments of talk-singing in between raspy unclean vocals. The Big Ups played at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn just two weeks ago.


Mitski Miyawaki, known as Mitski, started her career as a singer-songwriter after studying music at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. She released two albums, Lush, and Retired From Sad, New Career in Business, in the time span of two years. Her fame only grew from there. After moving to New York City, Mitski released Bury Me at Makeout Creek, and her most recent work, Puberty 2. Backed by heavy guitar beats, Mitski’s addictive voice shines through, relaying relatable lyrics. On her popular single, “Your Best American Girl,” she sings through the chorus: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I think I do / And you’re an all-American boy / I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl.”

Adult Mom

Originally from Purchase, New York, Adult Mom is not only a queer-core band standing up for what they believe in but also one acting as a voice for those who may be misunderstood. Their indie-rock beats are easy to tap along to, filled with emotional and intense lyrics. Stephanie Knipe, who started Adult Mom as a solo project, now performs alongside Olivia Battell, Mike Dvorscak, and Bruce Hamilton. Their 2017 album, Soft Spots, delves into Knipe’s mind, allowing listeners to hear a snippet of her thoughts. The band is set to play Irving Plaza in Manhattan later this year, on December 6 and 7.

Olivia Perreault

Olivia Perreault is a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island, but is a city girl at heart. As a music journalist, poet, and aspiring author, she's always writing and adventuring in the world. You can spot her crowdsurfing at a concert, exploring the streets of New York City, or writing in a coffee shop.
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1 Comment

  • Joan on November 15, 2017

    Loved the article! great info! =]

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