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Top 10 Musical Discoveries of 2013

Updated on September 16, 2015


A band of real life sisters was one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2013.
A band of real life sisters was one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2013. | Source

10 Artists That Broke Out in 2013

As a music fan I am always on the lookout for new music to peak my interest. With the internet it is becoming increasingly easier to discover new music. There has been a number of musical discoveries that I made during the year 2013. Some of those discoveries were musical artists that have been around for a while but were new for me. Others were artists that have just started recently making music. Some of the discoveries could be considered obscure gems while others have gain widespread attention.

For the sake of this list I chose to stick with artists that are fairly new. A few of them first started releasing music prior to 2013, but they didn't show up on my radar until 2013. All of the artists on this list have released new music in 2013.

Mountain Man Featuring Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso

Amelia Meath (left) with the folk trio Mountain Man. She has since become one half of Sylvan Esso, one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2013.
Amelia Meath (left) with the folk trio Mountain Man. She has since become one half of Sylvan Esso, one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2013. | Source

10. Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso I discovered back in September 2013 when I saw them open up for Volcano Choir at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This EDM duo featuring vocalist Amelia Meath and electronic musician Nick Sanborn have a compelling stage presence. Musically they have a really cool trip hop vibe.

Their only release is a 12" which was released on July 16th, 2013. Along with the vinyl release, they also released the double A side (Hey Mami/Play It Right) as a digital download on Bandcamp.

Nick Sanborn has been involved with a number of different indie bands. Most notably he was the bassist for Megafaun. Amelia Meath previously was in the all female folk trio Mountain Man. Sylvan Esso's "Play It Right" was originally performed a cappella by the Mountain Man. Also I really didn't get into Mountain Man until 2013, so I guess I will give them an honorable mention as a musical discovery (even though they recorded prior to 2013).

Hey Mami by Sylvan Esso (Video)

9. Ned The Kids Dylan

I stumbled upon Ned The Kids Dylan when he was featured on the American Songwriter website. Ned is from Northampton, England and he is only 12 year old. As his stage name suggests he is strongly influenced by Bob Dylan. Along with the folk feel, his songs have a strong punk vibe as well. His songwriting is very mature and ambitious for his age. His vocals have an undeniable passion and sincerity.

Even at his young age he has been playing a number of music festivals and he has been garnering attention. He played the 2012 Cambridge Music Festival and the Alabama Shakes caught his set. They were so impressed that they invited him to join them on stage for their closing number.

He released his first EP, My Life, July 13th, 2013. It is available as a free download on Bandcamp. It is well worth the listen.

The Glastonbury Song by Ned The Kids Dylan (Video)

#8: Rhye

I am not going to lie, I discovered Rhye when their track "Open" was offered as a free iTunes download through Starbucks. Once I downloaded the track I was immediately moved by the Sade like 80s soul feel. I was captivated enough to search out more of their music and to seek out there 2013 album, Woman. I was not disappointed, it had a really cool retro soul feel. It is an excellent album to just chill out to.

Once I discovered a bit more about Rhye, I was in for a few surprises. They are a Canadian/Danish duo. Also the Sade like vocals is from the Canadian male (who released a couple of solo albums under the name Milosh). It wasn't what I was expecting. That being said it is those types of surprises which helped make Rhye such a gem.

3 Days by Rhye (Video)

#7: The Howlin' Brothers

The Howlin' Brothers is one those musical discoveries which I owe to Noisetrade. The band offered their 2013 EP, The Sun Studio Sessions as a free download (but you had the option of leaving a tip). I loved the rollicking and authentic old school honky-tonk feel. After I downloaded the album I found out that they also released their full length debut album in 2013, Howl. It also featured old school country with an outlaw edge.

Big Time by The Howlin Brothers (Video)

#6: Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett is a singer songwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Don't quite remember how I stumbled upon her, but I am glad that I did. In 2013 she released the album The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The album was a repackaging of two previously released EPs, 2012's I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and 2013's How to Carve a Carrot into a Rose.

I am really drawn to Courtney's witty lyricism and deadpan vocal delivery. There is also an infectious 90s nostalgic slacker alt rock vibe to her music. Also one of my personal highlights of 2013 is a cover she recorded of Kanye West's "Black Skinhead" for the Triple J's Like a Version Session (which can be found on You Tube).

History Eraser by Courtney Barnett (Video)

#5: Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz started off as the solo project of Sadie Dupuis in 2011. Later on it became a full band. As a full band it released the 2012 Sports EP and the 2013 full length Major Arcana. I didn't get around to discovering Speedy Ortiz until 2013. I stumbled on it through some random music blog (don't really remember which one).

Speedy Ortiz has a retro 90s slacker rock feel. I am drawn to it because it makes me feel nostalgic in a good way. I also love the rawness and looseness of the music.

Tiger Tank by Speedy Ortiz (Video)

#4: Chance The Rapper

In 2013 Chance The Rapper dropped his 2nd mixtape Acid Rap (his first was 2012's 10 Day). Since I am not really a rap aficionado I was a little bit late to the party and didn't become aware of him until late 2013. But I was impressed by his lyrical flow. I was also greatly impressed by his live performances which feature a tight live band and a charismatic stage presence.

Chance The Rapper has generated a lot of attention from Acid Rap. It has made a number of critics year end lists. He was also named best rapper for 2013 by Spin Magazine. He also received enough attention to perform at the 2013 Lollapaloolza Music Festival, and during the end of the year he made his major TV debut by performing on the revived Arsenio Hall Show. Not bad for someone who gives away his music for free.


In the hip hop culture the term mixtape has evolved to mean an album by an artist which they make available for free. Sometimes (as in the case of Chance The Rapper) the album consists of all original material. In other instances the album can feature remixes and freestyle versions of popular songs.

Chain Smoker by Chance The Rapper (Video)

Keaton Henson

Keaton Heaton is a singer songwriter, poet and visual artist from London, England. He is also one of my favorite musical discoveries for 2013.
Keaton Heaton is a singer songwriter, poet and visual artist from London, England. He is also one of my favorite musical discoveries for 2013. | Source

#3: Keaton Henson

Keaton Henson is another musical discovery that I owe to Noisetrade.Through Noisetrade Henson offered an EP of songs taken from his 2013 full length album Birthdays. I was so drawn by the emotional impact of his music that I searched out the entire album. I also discovered his debut album Dear, which was first released in 2010, and then re-released in 2012.

The aching beauty of his vocals comes from a very real place. His music made more sense when I found out that Henson is a recluse who suffers from stage fright. Because of this he barely performs. In a sense his music seems to be his place of solace. It also becomes a place of solace for similar minded individuals who seek music as an emotional outlet. Along with his music he is also an accomplished visual artist and poet.

Lying To You by Keaton Henson (Video)

#2: Hiatus Kaiyote

Hiatus Kaiyote was one of many artists that I have discovered through Daytrotter (one of my favorite sites for discovering new music). They are also the second artists on this list who hail from Melbourne, Australia.

Their debut album Tawk Tomahawk was originally self released in 2012, but was re-released in 2013. I was immediately drawn in by the edginess and eclecticism of their sound. When I first listened to the Daytrotter session my mind was blown. The explosive "Lace Skull" in particular was a highlight. The band describes their genre defying sound as "future soul" and it is definitely an apt description. The band ended up receiving some high profile support with endorsements from Erykah Badu and Questlove (drummer of The Roots).

Hiatus Kaiyote also received a surprise nomination at the 2014 Grammys in the Best R & B Performance category for their song "Nakamarra" (featuring Q-Tip). Despite that recognition they still maintain a fairly low profile.

Lace Skull by Hiatus Kaiyote (Video)


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Danielle HaimEste HaimAlana Haim
Danielle Haim
Danielle Haim | Source
Este Haim
Este Haim | Source
Alana Haim
Alana Haim | Source

#1: Haim

Haim (rhymes with lime) had a big breakthrough year in 2013. Their debut full length album Days Are Gone made a number of critics best of lists. They also played a number of talk shows, were musicals guests on Saturday Night Live (where they also appeared in a sketch) and played a number of music festivals. The band made up of three sisters also received attention for the ridiculously hilarious (I mean ridiculously hilarious in a good way) facial contortions of bassist Este Haim.

All three sisters are accomplished musicians and are multiple instrumentalists. Danielle also has experience playing guitar for Jenny Lewis, guitar and percussion for The Strokes Julian Casablancas solo tour. She was also a member of Scarlet Fever, Cee-Lo Green's all female backing band. Danielle and Este were also previously part of the all girl group the Valli Girls which were signed to a major label back in the mid 2000s.

It is hard not to be hooked by the band's infectious blend of pop hooks and classic rock. Sometimes music is just simply about feeling good. It is hard not to feel good after listening to Haim. The sister act has struck the delicate balance of merging retro with relevance. It will be interesting to see how the sisters continue to evolve.

Falling by Haim (Video)

Favorite Musical Discovery of 2013 Poll

Of the 10 artists mention, who is your favorite?

See results

© 2013 CJ Baker


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