Atlanta Music Roundtable ’11: Artists You Expect to Break Out in 2012

I thought last year's debut Atlanta Music Roundtable was a really important discussion on local Atlanta music last year. So when I was asked to participate, I gladly accepted the chance to discuss some of my favorite local music. While working at Paste Magazine has had me focused more on non-local music, we've covered plenty of our favorite Atlanta acts this year including Balkans, Little Tybee, Oryx and Crake, Reptar, Royal Thunder and Spirits and the Melchizedek Children. With this discussion, we turn our focus to see who's likely to turn our heads in 2012.

We’ve discussed ten different topics, and we’ll be posting one topic on each of our websites all week long. Here’s the topics and schedule:

Monday: Most Underrated (Davy), Mediums and Formats (Bret)
Tuesday: Break Out in 2012 (Me), Best and Worst (Moe)
Wednesday: Best Shows (Emily), Visuals (Adam)
Thursday: Best EPs/Songs (Christina), Best Places to Buy and Hear (Rube)
Friday: Best Local Albums (Denton), Best Non-Local Albums (Tim)

Denton (Little Advances): When I look back at who we wrote about in this category last year, it's pretty obvious that predicting breakthroughs is tricky business. There are just too many factors involved. We don't know who's going to put out killer records in 2012; we don't know who's going to grind it out on the road. It's even harder to predict which bands will get picked up by the national blogs. New Animal is the perfect example of how unpredictable this is. None of us had even heard about them last year, but they put out an excellent album in January that earned them national blog attention even before us locals caught on. How could we have anticipated that?

It's still fun to try, though. In light of all those variables, I think Order of the Owl feels like a sturdy prediction. They look like they have a great shot at breaking into the national metal scene. The live show is on-point, they seem committed to touring, and the rough mixes they've posted from their upcoming EP sound incredibly promising. That Zoroaster pedigree should help them in metal circles, too.

Who else? Lyonnais has been patient and deliberate, and it's paid off with some nice national notices. If they stay on the same path they're currently on, more and more people will start to pay attention. Red Sea has built a strong hometown base, and it feels like the right time for them to get some new material out there and tour behind it. On a smaller scale, Cassandras are still low profile despite releasing two very impressive EPs in 2011, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them playing to crowded local rooms by this time next year.

Adam (BeATLanta): Detroit Mutant Radio is due a try. I think a lot of folks might overlook them because they don't fit into the indie landscape for which Atlanta is known. If you’re not into their sort of music, you’ll probably pass them by. There is a simmering rock fusion scene in Atlanta right now and I think Detroit Mutant Radio leads it. They're a nice blend of rock, jazz, pop and hip hop that will sometimes remind of you of the old school Motown days — Michael Jackson over an experimental rock band or something more modern like Rage Against the Machine. Dissect each individual sound coming from this group's instruments and you're met with a swirl of funky riffs that both thrill and entrance. When I hear them live I often find myself lost in the instrumentals; they have a sound that sometimes seems larger than itself. Creech on vocals is able to draw on the likes of Zach De La Rocha to Michael Jackson to Brandon Boyd of Incubus. He sings, raps, yells and draws on the energy from his band.

Detroit Mutant Radio is dedicated to the trade, passionate about their music and eager to get it out there to the fans. They have a great image and energetic live shows. They know more folks connected to the larger, income-producing music scene in Atlanta than most bands I know. I also happen to know that they have some serious folks interested in what they're doing. I'd say look out for Detroit Mutant Radio.

On another and more obvious note, there are many bands I can think of that I would love to see picked up. I think Jungol deserves an opening spot for a big national tour and I think something like that could happen for them. I'd like to see the same for Sealions, who got to open for Metric when they came to the Tabernacle. Odist recently toured out West and recorded with Free Moral Agents and I hear they made some good connections through that. Balkans have had some attention drawn their way in the past year, even making a Spin Magazine's list of "15 songs you must hear now" with their song "Edita V." O'Brother toured nationally with Manchester Orchestra in the past year and I'm sure they made some headway with that opening spot. Carnivores had a pretty big world tour this year and I think they will build on that. Cusses (Savannah) have been gaining a lot of ground from what I've seen. They put on an unrivaled show and play around the Southeast constantly. I think you can expect all of these bands to play bigger shows to bigger crowds in the coming months and years.

Moe (Latest Disgrace): I’m pretty sure I harped on this last year, but for me the issue of who’s going to break out will always come down to a couple of factors. The most obvious one is desire. Who’s going to chase down the dream? Who is going to put in the long hours in the practice space and in the studio? Who’s going to log the most miles on the road? Who’s going to best leverage the advantages of social media? There are a lot of bands in this town that have the talent; I’m not so sure that many have the will and the vision. While I agree with Denton about the unpredictability of the Web and the power of the blogosphere, I think those things can only carry you so far. If New Animal is going to take the next step, they’re most likely going to have to get into a van and grind it out from stage to stage.

With that in mind, one of the bands I see most set up to succeed right now is Whores. I think I actually had them on my list last year, so of course, this could all end up going nowhere. But with their recent signing to the small but reputable Brutal Panda Records, a strong EP that’s gaining momentum on metal and hard rock publications, a new bass player in Jake Schultz (Norma Jean) who’s seasoned and understands the business, and their apparent willingness to tour in 2012, I can only see good things for them in the near future.

The other factor concerns bands putting themselves in unique situations to succeed. Outside of putting out music, what is a band doing to get noticed? What shows are they playing? Who are they playing with? Are they collaborating with other artists, with other industries outside of music? Simply put, who’s stepping out of the proverbial box to stand out from the massive herd of other bands all essentially trying to do the same thing?

When I think of a band like Lyonnais, I see a band that doesn’t necessarily play a lot of shows, but when they do, it’s impactful. They’ve headlined their fair show of local shows, but they’ve also opened for higher profile acts like Deerhunter. They also kind of keep themselves shrouded in a veil of mystery, not revealing a whole to the public, which I like. But when they do finally do something, it’s usually a grand statement like their “Dusted in Mount Sinai” video that got them some good traction this year. And while winning Best Experimental Band from the Creative Loafing and signing to a boutique label like Hoss Records is only going to gain them more exposure, the band seems to be just as interested involving themselves with art and cinema. I’m not sure when it’s scheduled for completion, but the band was recently tapped to score a short film called Terminus that, among other things, will feature Chandler Riggs who plays Carl Grimes on The Walking Dead. To me that’s far more impressive and interesting than going into the studio and putting out another EP.

Tim (I'm A Bear! Etc.): It's already been noted that it's hard to predict who will break out due to many factors, but there's some bands I'd love to see break out. Wowser Bowser has a debut LP coming out in January, and they already have a group of rabid fans and play wonderful balloon-filled shows. After hearing the polished version of 'Water Story' and another single from the LP, I'm pretty sure they'll catch on with a lot of folks. Cousin Dan took Atlanta by storm this year, and although many are quick to point out that he is a gimmick, folks still love him. He'll play other cities, bigger venues, get backed by the masses with camera phones and Twitter who want to spread the word about that gimmick (just look at how much chatter came out about him after he participated in the Scoutmob Halloween Party). Cassandras was mentioned earlier and I agree that they've got a lot of talented musicians within that group and I loved what they put out earlier this year, too. There's also been rumblings of Oryx and Crake recording a new album, and thanks to backing by Paste Magazine and others, I think they'll reach a bigger audience in 2012.

Bret (Hijacking Music): I am going to talk honestly about a great friend of mine who I believe is definitely going to see some big things this next year. She drums for both Jack of Hearts and Odist. She's been kicking major ass this year touring and recording for both bands. Both albums are really solid all the way through.

Jack of Hearts is a bit more accessible to a broader audience, and as we've seen here in Atlanta, people eat that music up. Every show since their first has been packed out. They've made every move the right way making sure that their sound, look, packaging and presence is spot on. I do not think it will take much for them to blast off out of the ATL.

Odist on the other hand is not as accessible, but there is certainly a market for them. Throughout the year they've made some awesome connections, played some great shows with other amazing bands, and have nowhere to go but up. With their debut full-length album coming out next year (produced by Ikey Owens) and a bunch of touring to follow, I honestly think they have a chance to do something big. Instrumental progressive rock music is on the rise and they are in the upper echelon of bands doing that.

I would also like to add to Isness to this list. These guys have been playing music together for a long time and are continually morphing their sound. They are a great match between experimental and accessibility. Every show they play gets bigger and they have a good team of people helping them along the way.

Christina (Promising Chord): Bret, Sarah Wilson is the best! I can see Jack of Hearts breaking out for sure. I agree that they could appeal to a grand audience — their music is accessible yet timeless, and their live shows are one of the best out of Atlanta.

Cloudeater is a given in this discussion. I can’t wait for the day when Cloudeater will be a household name and I know it will happen. They are smart, outstanding musicians that create incomparable music. Cloudeater’s biggest show this year was opening up for Little Dragon which was incredibly great, but every time they play it’s full of passion for the music. All of this equals one amazing band that I can see soaring to great heights next year, and I will do everything in my power to support them.

Me: I think it’s really difficult to predict who’s going to break out at the local level because we largely don’t who’s putting out proper full-lengths yet — something that will determine success on a larger scale. With that in mind, there’s four bands that come to mind here: Oryx and Crake, Little Tybee, Royal Thunder and Reptar.

As Tim mentioned, we’re hoping to see Oryx and Crake’s second album sometime in 2012. We’re also going to see Little Tybee’s new record out in March. Those two bands have been the leading orch-pop groups in Atlanta over the past few years, and should continue to lead that genre locally, with a possible chance to gain increasing attention outside of the Atlanta area.

Royal Thunder put out an excellent EP in 2010 that hinted at what they can do with their upcoming full-length. But if I had to pick one group to become to break out nationally, it has to be Reptar. After releasing a fantastic EP on Vagrant Records, they opened for Foster The People, Cults and Phantogram this fall. They seem posed to have a great 2012.

Emily (Wholly Roller): TIM. YES. Wowser Bowser is going to blow up in 2012. I'm so excited for that LP, it's ridiculous. I've already noticed their recently released tracks getting some love from blogger bros outside of Atlanta and that totally rules.

And YES. Cousin Dan will totally take the world by storm. From what I understand via Facebook and Twitter, he's working on spreading his love at SXSW and I really think that would help catapult him into super stardom, which should happen because the dude wears a disco ball jock strap with a keyboard on it. His music is awesome and his live shows take you to an alternate '80s universe filled with shiny, bright colors and dancing. Lots and Lots of dancing. Cousin Dan for President 2012. Anyone?

I think New Animal is going to continue their quest to take over the world. And I can't wait for Oryx and Crake's sophomore album. 2012 is going to be huge, y'all.

Christina (Promising Chord): How could I forget Royal Thunder, Max! I am on the edge of my seat waiting for their new album that drops next year and I know there will be a lot of buzz around it. Each time I see Royal Thunder live they just keep getting bigger and better. 2012 will be a great year for them!

Tim (I'm A Bear! Etc.): Wow, Max, didn’t know Little Tybee had another record coming out next year. Hopefully we’ll see a nationwide power tour with Little Tybee with Oryx and Crake as they take the world by storm. After Bret’s mention of Jack of Hearts, I have to agree with him. I got to see a little bit from them this year and I’m excited to see what they come out with in 2012.

Davy (Ohmpark): Yeah, I think Little Tybee and Oryx and Crake have the best chances of breaking out from the local scene and making noise nationally with new albums next year. They both do music that appeals to a broad segment of people, but they each have their own unique style. Also, I think Wowser Bowser is definitely going to be a big deal at least locally in 2012. The new Nomen Novum record that will come out sometime next year is his best yet, and hopefully he will finally find a larger audience with its release. From Exile is working on new original material, and I’m excited about that. If Cousin Dan and the Back Pockets can take their lively stage shows on the road enough, I think they can break out of Atlanta. I love what I’ve been hearing from the Four4 Collective/Primitive Patterns extended family, and I think those kids are gonna be an important part of the local scene going forward. Also, the artists loosely associated with the Cottage are doing cool things. And of course, just as I said last year, there’s going to be plenty of new acts that will come out of nowhere and blow everyone away.
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