30 Criminally Good Artists We Couldn’t Stop Obsessing Over In 2013

Familiarize yourself with 30 artists we obsessed over in 2013.

Who ruled your playlist this year? If you were anything like us, you probably obsessed over names like Lorde, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus, and maybe you got familiar with a bunch of 2013 breakthrough acts like 5 Seconds Of Summer, Sleeping With Sirens, and HAIM. But what about the artists that stayed under the radar? You know, the artists who probably opened for the aforementioned arena seat-fillers? Or influenced and inspired them? Or, you know, wrote their music?

In celebration of these mega-talented names who we sincerely hope you didn’t sleep on, we felt compelled to gather up some of our favorite acts of 2013 and give them a massive Internet group hug. Call the po-lice. Call the guv-nah. These 30 artists are so good it’s criminal. We present them to you here today in hopes you get your s*** together and your life right and give them the love they so deserve.

You still have a few weeks left in the year to get familiar with artists like dream-pop act Pure Bathing Culture, Glaswegian synthpop trio Chvrches, and the Pro Era rapper Joey Bada$$. So when everybody’s reblogging them in 2014, you can say that you knew them when.

Active Child: This electronic artist has opened for M83 and turned Ellie Goulding’s head: She covered his “Hanging On” on Halcyon. The pair collaborated on his Rapor EP, released in October, which also notched a Mikky Ekko appearance and placed a track in the film “The Host.” With its Bon Iver-esque vocals, the EP’s probably the most chilled-out release in Vagrant Records history, but don’t expect songs such as “She Cut Me” to put you to sleep. Look for a full-length sequel in “mid-2014.” –David Greenwald

Betty Who: If you’ve never heard of synth-pop singer Betty Who, here’s a quick who’s who on Who: The Australian-born, Berklee-schooled singer-songwriter burst onto the scene this year with her ridiculously poppy (and free!) debut EP, The Movement. Drawing listeners in with an arsenal of hooks and choruses (think: Katy Perry meets Robyn) and an M83-esque electronica overlay, Betty had the blogosphere on lock late last year with the premiere of her shimmering debut single, “Somebody Loves You” (which, incidentally, is the perfect song to accompany your Home Depot marriage proposal), and now she’s got even more love to share with her latest single and video for “You’re In Love.” Look out for Betty’s upcoming debut album, which is scheduled for a 2014 release. –Rachel Brodsky

The Ceremonies: If you’re not familiar with NYC indie-pop act The Ceremonies, aka brothers Matthew, Michael, and Mark Cook, maybe you’ll remember them as 2013 American Music Awards presenters OR one of MTV’s Artists To Watch! Heavily influenced by ’80s post-punkers Echo & The Bunnymen, The Ceremonies originally started while Michael and Mark were still in high school. Though they currently have a solid collection of singles out (their rollicking debut “Land Of Gathering” chief among them), the brothers are currently hard at work prepping their debut EP, which they self-produced with the help of Danny Garibay. Look out for The Ceremonies on tour through March 2014. –RB

Chance The Rapper: Chicago’s Chancelor Bennett, better known as underground hip-hop player Chance The Rapper, has two solid (and free!) mixtapes to his name (10 Day and Acid Rap), and so far he’s began to gain press AND collabs; Chance got name-dropped in Complex’s list of “10 Chicago Rappers To Watch Out For” and he’s worked with everyone from Childish Gambino to Joey Bada$$. Most recently, Chance earned a feature spot on Justin Bieber’s #MusicMondays release “Confidence,” and you know what that means: If the Biebs has his eye on you, your “criminally overlooked” days are gonna be over VERY soon. –RB

Chvrches: Glaswegian synth-pop trio and Hive Artists To Watch alum Chvrches might have yet to break through mainstream pop radio, but heaven knows they’re gaining a devoted following. Their critically praised debut album, The Bones Of What You Believe, scored a solid 80 on Metacritic, and the band, comprising Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty, came in fifth on the BBC’s Sound of 2013 earlier this year. On top of that, Chvrches debuted their single “The Mother We Share” on “Jimmy Fallon,” and Lauren, who attended journalism school before Chvrches hit it big, penned a viral op-ed piece in The Guardian on the sexist remarks directed toward her through the band’s social media sites. Synth-pop AND feminism?? Be still, my beating heart. –RB

Darling Parade: Many Darling Parade fans might agree with the alt-rock band’s “overlooked” status. The MTV Artist To Watch, who sound an awful lot like fellow punk-flecked pop players Paramore, won last June’s “Make A Band Famous” OMA category and subsequently got to perform live at MTV’s VMA Week. Despite their big OMA win, the Nashville band, which comprises Kristin Kearns, Nate McCoy, Dustin McCoy, and Casey Conrad, have been moving slowly but surely toward stardom: In 2012, Darling Parade toured with “The Voice” winner Cassadee Pope, and later that year they opened for Cherri Bomb and Chevelle at Summerfest 2012. In 2013, the band unveiled their debut LP, Battle Scars and Broken Hearts, thanks in part to help from their devoted fans, who raised a whopping $16,000 to fund the disc. Watch the band’s just-released video for “Crash & Burn.” –RB

Check out more criminally overlooked bands after the jump!

Dinner And A Suit: With a name from the Great Depression and a modern synth-pop sound, Dinner and a Suit had a pretty stylish 2013. In addition to opening for bands like Lawson and The Parlotones, the band showed off their music video skills with the special effects-driven “Heartbreak” and toured their buns off for Since Our Departure, an album the band’s due to follow up — probably right after “Heartbreak” stops blowing up the radio. –DG

Driver Friendly: When we first met this Austin-based alt-rock troupe at the 2013 mtvU Woodies Festival, they charmed us with their favorite Texan phrase: “Full bucket.” But the boys aren’t just a band with adorable mottos. They’re also really good at channeling early-to-mid-aughts pop acts like Jimmy Eat World and OK GO with up-tempo songs like “Ghosts,” “Run,” and “Mesidonna.” In the last year alone, Driver Friendly released their latest EP, Peaks + Valleys and hit the road for Warped Tour 2013. Up next, the band will be touring with Motion City Soundtrack and Relient K. –RB

Travis Garland: This Lubbock, Tex., resident released his self-titled album in September (which peaked on iTunes’ pop chart at No. 6), and the grown-up set is full of seductive, Frank Ocean-style R&B. Garland even collaborated with a former Odd Future member, doing “AllSheWannaDo” with the hip-hop collective’s Casey Veggies. The singer, whose latest single is titled “Motel Pool,” will close out 2013 with a New Year’s Eve show in L.A. He hasn’t announced his plans for next year yet, though we’re hoping they include blowing up and taking his shirt off in cities across America. –DG

Gilbere Forte: The Philadelphia/Los Angeles hip-hop artist is probably the only MC in the game to sample Fiona Apple, bragging up a storm over an “Every Single Night” loop on “Pray,” the title track from his latest mixtape. “Pray” also found him working with Active Child, who lent a vocal hook to the foggy “Nolita.” The MC’s left-field production and hard-spitting flow scored him a record deal with Epic, and he’ll make his major label debut in 2014. –DG

Foxygen: The psych-pop revivalists scored some best-of-2013 acclaim for sophomore set We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, a title that wasn’t kidding around. Like an indie-pop Wu-Tang Clan, the group has also generated solo albums including Jonathan Rado’s “Law and Order” and Sam France’s “Star Power.” After surviving rumors of a potential breakup, the band will be coming on strong from now on: In October, Foxygen announced its next three (three!) albums. Up first is Foxygen… & Star Power, a release Sam France says is “really long with a lot of songs.” Keep ’em coming. –DG

Flatbush Zombies: The Brooklyn hip-hop crew followed up their D.R.U.G.S. mixtape this year with another hot tape, the smoke-filled Better Off Dead. Their trip turned eerie on songs like “Death,” a track that remembers that the group has “Zombies” in their name, and the MCs tapped Action Bronson and Danny Brown for scary-good guest spots. The guys dropped by MTV Rapfix when the show went live from Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center, and they turned up on Joey Bada$$’s “My Jeep” in October, but their 2014 plans — a debut album, perhaps? — remain hazy. –DG

Joey Bada$$: There’s a reason why we called Brooklyn emcee Joey Bada$$ an MTV Artist to Watch this year. Dude has the goods, charisma, and Wu-Tang Clan-influenced hip-hop hooks to ride the ’90s nostalgia wave into 2014. With only a handful of official releases to date, this year’s Summer Knights mixtape held fans over, with the breezy, jazz-inflected flow of “Hillary $wank” and the island-hopping reggae of “My Yout” with production from the likes of The Alchemist, MF Doom, and Statik Selektah. All of that, plus a handful of high-profile support slots for Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky have set the stage for the long-expected breakout with next year’s debut full-length, B4.Da.$$. –Luke O’Neil

Matthew E. White: This Richmond, Va., indie singer/songwriter looks mighty nice in an all-white tux, but that’s not all he’s bringing to the table. The Southern lad has been turning heads at Pitchfork, Consequence Of Sound, NME, and other tastemaker outlets since his 2012 debut, Big Inner, which features a nice combo of folk, jazz, soul, and gospel tunes lightly dusted in pop (think Cat Stevens meets Bon Iver meets Randy Newman). Nowadays, White’s just finished touring the U.S. (don’t fret if you missed him — Matt’s got a few more shows next April), and releasing a brand-new video for “Human Style.” –RB

mikky ekko: Chances are you’ve already heard of urban-pop performer Mikky Ekko. In addition to releasing his own singles (“Pull Me Down,” “We Must Be Killers,” “Kids,”) the singer, songwriter, and producer achieved the most recognition this year from his guest spot on Rihanna’s “Stay,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. And if you watched the 2013 Grammys, then you DEFINITELY know Mikky — the singer performed “Stay” together with Rihanna, marking his first time on the Grammys stage. Nowadays, in addition to earning songwriting credits on “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack, Ekko’s working on his debut record with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Clams Casino. –RB

Le1f: Khalif Diouf, the New York City producer and rapper who goes by the name of “Le1f,” has been steadily climbing to the next level ever since his days producing tracks for Das Racist. Unfortunately, his biggest news story this year came when he accused Macklemore of ripping off his 2012 booty-bounce track “Wut.” No comment there, but with beats like the ones we heard on this year’s Fly Zone and Tree House EPs, you can’t exactly blame anyone for coveting them. Le1f’s shown he can get sensual, danceable, and fun on tracks like “Soda” (not to mention exhibit an uncanny fashion sense), he’s collaborated with everyone from Junglepussy to The Drum to Spank Rock to Kitty, and has a second EP, Hey, in the works for 2014. –LO

Lord Huron: This Los Angeles five-piece has quite a taste for lushly instrumented, earnest folk explosions, which come featured prominently on their 2012 LP, Lonesome Dreams. Songs like “End of the Earth” hit the sweet spot of reserved yearning, multipart harmonies, and acoustic bounce, which should’ve made Lord Huron a top contender in the Mumford vacuum. Plus, high-profile gigs at Coachella, SXSW, and on “The Tonight Show” this year certainly didn’t hurt their rise. But as frontman Ben Schneider, who named the band after his hometown of Michigan’s Lake Huron, probably understands, sometimes big things take a while to form. –LO

Lucius: When you start getting written up in every outlet from the New York Times to NPR, you know you’re doing something right. Even acclaimed economist Paul Krugman is a big fan of Brooklyn indie-pop pioneers Lucius, who sonically embody a Tegan and Sara-meets-Shawn Colvin-meets-Fleetwood Mac-meets-Neko Case vibe, a sound that’s especially vibrant in their irresistible debut album, Wildewoman. Led by cofounders and lead vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, Lucius’ Wildewoman showcases the girls’ lush harmonies before diving into a series of echoing synths, male backup vocals, rhythmic guitar strums, and bittersweet words. Watch Lucius perform a live rendition of “Go Home,” and look out for the band on tour in early 2014 — they’ll be all over the U.S. through February. –RB

The Mowgli’s: About five seconds into The Mowgli’s “San Francisco,” you’ll understand why it became a big alternative hit for the California-based indie/gospel/folk eight-piece. For one thing, “San Francisco” is an exuberant cavalcade of high-octane good #feels, with gang harmonies that sound broadcast from the grooviest hippie love-in this side of John and Yoko’s bed. The rest of the songs on their 2013 album, Waiting For The Dawn, like “Love Is Easy,” follow that mold, with a few diversions into trippy psychedelia. The band, who spent the year performing at basically every music festival around the country, seem tailor-made for the current Era Of Sincerity. On the other hand, the only explanation for them not being bigger stars by now is simple: Love is dead :( — LO

Mykki Blanco: Much like the aforementioned Le1f, rapper and producer Mykki Blanco effortlessly fuses fashion and performance art and is constantly experimenting with hip-hop’s gender lines. Need proof? Just look to tracks like “Bugged Out” and “Feeling Special,” from this year’s Betty Rubble: The Initiation Blanco, where Michael David Quattlebaum shows off a unique flow, vocal style, and ear for intense, trap-like beats. In terms of his live shows, last summer Blanco flirted with big stages while opening for Tricky and Bjork, but an artist who stays this close to their own vision might be too unique for the full mainstream success story. (Which, incidentally, might be better for the rest of us.) –LO

NONONO: If there are two things we’ve fallen head over heels for in the past couples years, it’s immaculately designed Scandanavian dance pop — the kind that’s as cool and sleek as the people who make it. Two songs from the Swedish trio NONONO fit the bill perfectly, “Pumpin’ Blood” being the former, and “Jungle” the latter. “Pumpin’ Blood” is already the hit it was always destined to be (you might recognize its whistling hook from that Samsung Galaxy IV commercial), but there’s room on the rest of their EP for the group to graduate to Icona Pop status. –LO

Palma Violets: Could we be in for a resurgence of boozy, guitar-based rock in the next year? If so, expect the London four-piece Palma Violets to be one of the forerunners. The Rough Trade rockers have already made a big splash at home among the Brit music press — NME named “Best of Friends” their Track Of The Year in 2012. But that hasn’t translated into similar acclaim in The States. (Yet.) The growling but majestic, swaggering noise anthems of their debut, 180, have all the ingredients for what we need out of a new class of rock star — especially the British part. –LO

Pure Bathing Culture: Portland dream-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture (guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille) sing lush, heartbreakingly earnest singles (such as “Dream The Dare” and “Pendulum”) that bring to mind other haze-pop bands such as Beach House, Wild Nothing, and even classic contenders Fleetwood Mac. Writing music together since 2009, Hindman and Versprille are currently surfing the success wave of their debut, Moon Tides, which topped a number of critics’ year-end lists (Stereogum, Gorilla vs. Bear). Intrigued? Keep the dream (pop) alive this winter when Pure Bathing Culture go on tour in early 2014. –RB

Spirit Animal: The New York quartet — who are somehow not Charlie’s band on “Girls” — taught us some rock ’n’ roll dance moves this year with “The Black Jack White,” a song inspired by the blues-rocker that’s basically a guide to air guitar. As the song proves, the hard-riffing dudes do just fine with the real thing. The group’s Kingdom Phylum EP dropped in October, and they’re already at work on more music — and maybe even some new moves. –DG

Smallpools: Since this Los Angeles indie-pop group only made their live debut this year, we can understand a little more why they haven’t gotten the full blow-up treatment just yet. But their debut single, “Dreaming,” which went to No. 1 on The Hype Machine, is a expertly honed pop gem in the Passion Pit mold that’s shown up on a bunch of TV shows (“The Vampire Diaries”), advertisements (Snapchat), and video games (the FIFA 14 soundtrack), and has allowed the band to hit the road with everyone from Twenty One Pilots to Two Door Cinema Club. Their debut LP will be out this year on RCA. In the meantime, get your dance on to the band’s recently released “Mason Jar (Grouplove & Captain Cuts Remix).” –LO

St. Lucia: South African tropical-world pop musician Jean-Philip Grobler, aka St. Lucia, is named for an island off the coast of Africa, a place where he vacationed growing up. And the name “St. Lucia” doesn’t just bring forth visions of sandy beaches and gently rolling waves — Grobler’s music also embodies his breezy, horn-filled throwback pop (see such sultry summer singles “All Eyes on You,” “Elevate,” and “Closer Than This”). Even cooler, Grobler recorded everything himself on his debut, self-titled EP, which dropped earlier this year. Look out for St. Lucia on tour in the U.S. through February 2014. –RB

Waxahatchee: This all-star punched even the snobbiest hipster kids right in the feels this year. With a super-sad sophomore album, Cerulean Salt, Katie Crutchfield’s band notched a Pitchfork Best New Music and just headlined a tour with sister Allison’s equally punk-tastic Swearin’. The band’s road domination will continue in January, with fellow girl-powered rockers All Dogs and Cayetana along for the ride. –DG

Allison Weiss: The Los Angeles power-pop musician laced up her Converse for the 10-track Say What You Mean this year, an unmissable album she could’ve just as easily called Power Chords & Heartbreak. Weiss is the kind of musician who’ll spend her birthday crying in bed for eight hours (for her “Making It Up” music video, of course), which is some Beyoncé-level hustle (but with way more tears and probably a resulting migraine). She just wrapped a two-week tour with Austin Lucas and has more dates starting in January. –DG

Wild Cub: With its grooving hooks and stacked-up arrangements, Wild Cub sound like a much cheerier/less experimental Animal Collective. The indie band popped up at Bonnaroo this year (not bad for a first gig), recently played an MTV Hive Artist To Watch show, and will reissue debut album Youth on Mom+Pop Records on Jan. 21, 2014. Wild Cub released romantic single “Thunder Clatter” in October to tide us over, a track that finds singer Keegan DeWitt gushing, “You’re the love of my life.” Tell us one more time. –DG

X Ambassadors: One of our recent Buzzworthy Obsessions, Brooklyn quartet X Ambassadors had a busy year, what with signing a major-label deal, releasing songs like “Unconsolable” and their Love Songs Drug Songs EP, popping up on Eminem’s new album (“Wicked Ways”), and doing the showcase rounds. Their EP, which was produced by hitmaker Alex Da Kid, Dan Stringer, and Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds (who also remixed “Unconsolable”), so clearly they’ve got some heavy hitters ushering them along the path to stardom. Catch this band live before we officially unfollow you on Twitter. It’s THAT serious. –LO

Photo credit: RCA, Michael Lavine, Shervin Lainez, Dan Busta, Glassnote, Page 2 Music, Brad Clawson, Atom Factory Music, Anthonu Cabrero, Shawn Brackbill, Mom + Pop, Island Def Jam, Tom Beard, Partisan Records, Dan Monick