When we shared this post for 2021, we were still living DEEP in a global pandemic, no live shows were happening, and vaccines were still not available to the general public. Though we’re going on year three of this shit, some things HAVE gotten better, though it seems dangerous to feel optimistic.
But we’re going to do it anyway! One of my favorite things about music and writing about it is the endless discovery of up and coming musicians that we find worth sharing with our readers. It’s like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
We easily could have written about another 22 artists, but below is the group that made the cut, very much American Idol style. Check out the full list below.
In alphabetical order:
There is always something incredibly exciting when an acclaimed songwriter decides to release their own music. Allen, who has been making music as an artist for several years, has also found incredible success in collaborating with artists like Selena Gomez, Halsey, Harry Styles, and more (example: she co-wrote Styles’ “Adore You”). I knew Allen’s name looked familiar when I stumbled across her music this past year, and was instantly intrigued when I realized she has an incredible list of accomplishments that I noted above. Allen’s 2021 EP “Awww!” is full of feel-good ’90s, early 2000s vibes that remind me of The Princess Diaries era where pop music was fun, only slightly edgy (and that’s debatable) and super cynical.
Tip: start with “A Woman’s World.” And thank me later. – Kristin
Move over alt-country girlies, there’s a new gal in town! Just kidding, there’s definitely room for all of us. Meet CMAT, also known as Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, a country musician from Dublin who has been promoting her music by “shitposting” on the internet, including (but not limited to) refusing to release the single “I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!” until she could ride a horse and live-streaming herself eating an 80-piece chicken bucket from KFC. I first stumbled across CMAT’s single “No More Virgos” and was hooked based on the title alone. CMAT’s debut album drops on February 25.
Melbourne-based folk singer Grace Cummings recently released Storm Queen, her first major release under ATO Records, after stints performing with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Weyes Blood. The album is tinged with a bluesiness that gives it an ethereal feel, and it’s truly unlike anything I’ve heard in the 2020s.
Although Storm Queen is already out, keep an eye out for her name as an opening act on global tours, a festival performer, or even just an artist with the potential to develop a slow burn of a fanbase over the course of the year. The music speaks for itself.
– Emma M.
If the name looks familiar, it’s because Joe P was one of the few artists who I discovered in 2021 who also made my “best of” list at the end of the year, His EP Emily Can’t Sing landed at #35 on Staged Haze’s list, and I wrote about how I instantly connected with his music, so much so in the way that absolutely zero part of my brain had to try to like it: I just did. If you want to get ta true feel for his artistry, I suggest you check out his Instagram, where he consistently posts clips of himself performing the latest verses of songs he’s written in his backyard, in the New Jersey snow. If you want more, Joe P is touring with Spacey Jane later this year. – Kristin
If you’re looking for the next Amy Winehouse, I think you’re going to find it in in 23-year-old Joy Crookes, who has been releasing music since the age of 17 and started teaching herself multiple instruments in her early teens. Crookes’ debut album, Skin, was released at the end of 2021 and was met with critical acclaim. Some of the songs on Skin were written nearly ten years ago, which emphasizes the amount of time and effort that went into the creation of this album, which was also heavily worked on during lockdown.
With vocals wise beyond her years and reminiscent of major powerhouses like Adele and Amy Winehouse, Crookes’ vocals effortlessly weave genres like jazz, soul and R&B into a sound of previous decades. – Kristin
I feel like it has been a generally long time since I’ve discovered a new BAND I enjoy: recently I’ve been more drawn towards solo artists (for whatever reason) and the bands I do listen to are ones that I’ve been following for several years. The band, comprised of Sawyer Nunes, Jude Ciulla, Henry Weingartner, Etai Abramovich, and Henry Pearl, stared Laundry Day when they were in high school together. Laundry Day, who makes indie pop/punk music, have cited Tyler, the Creator and Brockhampton as some of their biggest influences: which I find fascinating.
Though Laundry Day has been releasing music for several years now, I only stumbled across them last summer when checking out the Lollapalooza lineup and digging their vibe. Laundry Day’s fourth full-length album, We Switched Bodies, dropped last week.
We stan any situation that can be described as an “absolutely wild turn of events,” which is the way LA-based singer Lou Roy announced she was opening for MUNA on her first-ever tour, which started that same week. Roy has released two singles off her upcoming full-length: “Valkyrie” and absolute banger “Uppercut.” Roy previously released EP “Your Friend,” in 2019 and two EPs under her past moniker “Huxlee,” but her upcoming release Pure Chaos, out on Balloon Machine on April 29, will be her first LP. Her rhythmic pop will appeal to fans of Haim, Maggie Rogers, Orla Gartland, and even country-leaning artists like Maren Morris. – Brittany
While the news of BROCKHAMPTON’s disbandment may be heartbreaking for some, I believe it will benefit individual bandmates in the long haul. Kevin Abstract has already made a name for himself, but I’m personally keeping a close eye on Merlyn Wood’s activity from this point forward. Wood delivered some of the slickest bars in BROCKHAMPTON’s discography, including his effort on “WINDOWS” from ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT NEW MACHINE. It’s a shame that everyone and their grandmother wanted a verse on the track as the crowd stifled some of the individual efforts. I firmly believe that Merlyn Wood will dominate a sector of the hip-hop scene in the near future. An EP would be great; a LP would be a dream come true. – Sean
Mint Green announced their signing to Pure Noise with an expansive new single, “Body Language.” The Boston-based band already has two alt/emo EPs under their belts, but this single is only the second since bassist Tiffany Sammy and guitarist Brandon Shaw joined founding band members drummer Daniel Huang and frontwoman Ronnica (if you don’t count their Bandcamp Friday Phoebe Bridgers covers). Co-produced by Collin Pastore (Lucy Dacus, illuminati hotties, Deau Eyes), “Body Language” showcases more slick pop production than Mint Green’s previous work and is even reminiscent of Misterwives at some points. We hope that this single precedes an LP1 announcement later this year. In the meantime, you can check out Mint Green on their Spring Break Tour in March. – Brittany
In a shocking turn of events that are surprising to absolutely no one, another artist has skyrocketed in popularity because of TikTok. 29-year-old Petey, who lives in Los Angeles and has been working in the mailroom of a talent agency for the past three years, has been spending his free time promoting his music on TikTok through strange, sometimes pointless clips: one has nearly 10 million views.
Winter, who grew up outside of Chicago (like myself) and played music with local band Young Jesus for quite some time before his move to LA. I struggle coming up with a description of what Petey’s music sounds like, but I don’t think it really matters. Like Petey’s PR biography states, “Is it indie rock? Punk? Electro-pop? Emo? Sure, but if you’re getting hung up on what to call it, then you’ve already missed the point.” – Kristin
Kyle Kaplan and Vinny Pergola—better recognized as the EDM-phenom Phantoms hailing from Los Angeles—have flown under the radar in recent years. I first discovered their self-titled Phantoms in 2017 and instantly found myself engrossed in their electronic-dance storytelling. This album holds a special place in my heart beside the late Avicii’s Stories and Zedd’s recent full-length play True Colors. Disconnect, and Moonlight, released in 2019 and 2020 respectively and the duo recently released “Lay It All On Me” with Jem Cooke on vocals. Given the duo’s activity, I’m predicting another full-length play that aligns more closely with their self-titled LP releasing at the tail-end of 2022. – Sean
Brooklyn-based all-black emo-indie-punk band Proper. couldn’t have bigger ambitions. After all, their new album, out March 25 on Father/Daughter and Big Scary Monsters, is called The Great American Novel. Vocalist Erik Garlington describes the record as “a concept album about how Black genius, specifically my own, goes ignored, is relentlessly contested, or just gets completely snuffed out before it can flourish. This record is a concept album that’s meant to read like a book; every song is a chapter following the protagonist through their 20s. Imagine a queer, Black Holden Caufield-type coming up in the 2010s.” The first single off of Novel, “Red, White, & Blue,” reflects the band’s roots in early-2000s emo with callbacks to Paramore and At The Drive-In. However, the second single “Milk & Honey” indicates the upcoming Bartees Strange-produced album has an even wider indie palette—“You could tell me this is The National and I would believe it,” as Staged Haze’s editor Kristin said. With that kind of musical breadth on top of the album’s concept, we think The Great American Novel has the potential to be The Next Great American Album. – Brittany
Queen of Jeans
“If it weren’t for the fact that both Miri [Devora] and Mattie [Glass] were each the tokenized female (and queer) members of their respective bands, Queen of Jeans may have never existed,” reads the Philly-based band’s bio. The self-described “Crockpot pop” band, rounded out with drummer Patrick Wall, released one of the best albums of 2019 with If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid. Queen of Jeans boasts the ethos of a much bigger rock act, sounding like a cross between Mitski and My Morning Jacket. Will Yip produced the band’s 2019 album, and seems to also have produced their unannounced upcoming LP they’ve teased online. Queen of Jeans should have a much bigger audience than they currently do, and we hope their upcoming project, purportedly full of “the best songs we’ve ever written,” launches them to indie stardom. – Brittany
Though I first stumbled upon Rachael Jenkins’ beautiful track “Allergy Season” earlier this year, I quickly realized that Jenkins, a Utah-born singer-songwriter has already been making a massive mark on the music scene. Last spring, Jenkins released her with debut single “untitled,” a track that speaks on Jenkins’ experience leaving the Mormon church and coming to terms with being queer.
It makes sense why Jenkins finds inspiration in artists like Hayley Williams and Phoebe Bridgers: after all, Jenkins finds that she does her best work when she’s “upset and raw.”
Though a California native, Reno Cruz has transplanted himself to Chicago, working as a backing musician for artists like Sen Morimoto and Lala Lala. In January 2022, he released his debut album Falling In Love Is Not That Hard, which combines Christian Lee Hutson-style guitar work with Moses Sumney-like vocal effects and “psychedelic” production touches. The album is an easy-to-groove-to conversational meditation on romantic, platonic, and self-love that will hopefully launch Cruz as a regular staple on the Chicago music scene, starting with his album release show at the Hideout with Elizabeth Moen and Fresh Tar on February 24. – Brittany
I’m not quite sure how to explain what Sasami’s music sounds like, but if you can get down with a good folk pop song (think Waxahatchee), but also love grunge rock (Pom Pom Squad), AND also love the weird edgy electronic music that artists like Grimes makes, you’re going to love Sasami Ashworth. Who is making music that sounds like all of the artists I mentioned above? Not many that I can think of.
Ashworth, who originally studied classical music and jazz, started to dip her toe into pop music after spending time in LA’s buzzing indie rock scene: her brother Joo-Joo is a member of the band Froth. Sasami is a musician who wears many hats: she has spent many years scoring movies and commercials, music production, and string, horn, and vocal arrangements for artists like Curtis Harding, Wild Nothing, and Vagabon.
Sasami’s next project Squeeze drops on February 25. – Kristin
I discovered Squirrel Flower, aka the project by musician Ella Williams, a couple years ago, but for whatever reason, her music didn’t really stick with me. Fast forward to 2022, and I’m absolutely enthralled with her newest release, Planet EP. While doing some research for this post, I came across some commentary on the internet about Williams sounding miraculously a lot like Mitski: “Is post-Mitski just a genre now?” If it is, I love this genre.
Williams, who happened to release a sophomore LP just a few months ago, released a new collection of songs earlier this year, which happens to be “the first time in a long time” that Williams has released music she’s produced solely on her own, she noted in a press release. The EP also includes a stunning cover of Björk’s “Unravel.” – Kristin
You know it’s an artist to watch when their debut EP is close to making Staged Haze’s “Best of 2021” list. A couple writers, including myself, felt so passionate about Tommy Lefroy’s EP, we considered swapping out picks to get it included. The duo, comprised of Wynter Bethel and Tessa Mouzourakis, first met in Nashville a few years ago, leading to a project under moniker “Tommy Lefroy,” based on Jane Austin’s former lover, Thomas Lefroy. Now, Bethell and Mouzurakis make music over the internet across the ocean from each other, one in Los Angeles and one in London. But the distance definitely doesn’t hinder the magic made between the two. There are plenty of indie rock artists we feature on Staged Haze, and each one has their own respective unique trait, and Lefroy’s happens to be their incredibly brazen lyrics about the rise and fall of relationships, existential crises, and depression. The first song that truly made me fall in love? “Vampires,” featuring the beautifully simple lyrics “You can fall in love a thousand times / I just want for you to love your life / I just want for you to not think twice / when somebody asks if you’ve been doing alright.” – Kristin
Toro y Moi
Keep your eyes out for Toro y Moi’s next full-length play MAHAL, slated to release on April 29 on Dead Oceans. Toro y Moi—Me and The Bull—is a monumental influence in the chillwave & psychedelia department of alternative electronic. Multi-faceted, Toro y Moi specializes in singing, songwriting, producing, AND graphic design. One of my all-time favorite albums Outer Peace was the electronic commander’s last LP, releasing back in 2019. Needless to say, I’m amped for MAHAL. Two teasers can help tide Toro fans over for the next two months: “Postman” and “Magazine.” Be on the lookout for more soon. – Sean
Wallice, jazz school dropout turned bedroom pop’s newest it girl, is currently opening shows for bedroom pop’s it boy Still Woozy. With a slew of airtight singles to her name and skyrocketing steaming numbers, Wallice is more than capable of releasing the 2022 debut album equivalent of Clairo’s Immunity. Witty, light, and armed with a DIY sensibility, Wallice’s is nearly guaranteed to dominate indie pop playlists upon her to-be-determined first full length release. – Emma M.
If you’re being called an industry plant on the internet, odds are, you’re doing something right. Formed by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers after ten years of friendship, the British duo formed Wet Leg in 2019, and soon after, signed with Domino Recording Company. With only four singles released thus far, Wet Leg has sold out a handful of shows to promote their debut album that drops in April. It’s pretty miraculous to see an artist that’s barely two years old on the road to success this quickly, and I’d like to say it’s because of the magically chaotic app we all have a love/hate relationship with, (TikTok), but it’s also because Wet Leg has ridiculously catchy and fun lyrics (“Chaise Longue” references a line from the cultural phenomenon also known as Mean Girls). We’ll be catching their set(s) at South By Southwest this year, so there’s absolutely more to come from us on Wet Leg.
Yumi Zouma’s last record, Truth Or Consequences, was released March 13, 2020. Despite the fact that they weren’t able to tour the record, it became one of my favorite records of the year, soundtracking summer sunset drives where I could pretend life was normal. Though the New Zealand band has gained popularity in their home country and Australia, we wish they were more popular in the US and hope their upcoming album Present Tense (out March 18 on Polyvinyl and PIAS Australia) will help boost their American profile. Singles “In The Eyes Of Our Love,” “Mona Lisa,” and today’s release “Where The Light Used To Lay” showcase their unique brand of alt-pop—dreamy, groovy, and altogether incomparable. – Brittany
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