At this time every year, we take a look at the local scene to see which up-and-coming acts stand poised to make some noise in the coming year. Last year was a good one for the local scene. Chimaira and Mushroomhead continued to tour and record, solidifying their respective positions as the city's biggest bands. Indie rockers Mr. Gnome, the Lighthouse and the Whaler and Hey Monea! all had solid years while rapper Machine Gun Kelly dropped a new mixtape and worked on the followup to 2012's chart-topping Lace Up. But what about the newer bands who aren't as well known? Who's about to break big? Here's a look at 10 new acts that look to make an impact in 2014.
In 2012, Cameroon native Lorine Chia released her first mixtape and hasn't looked back since. That album featured "Living in Vain," a collaboration with Chance the Rapper; it generated enough buzz that she signed a deal with Make Millions Music, and her followup, The Naked Truth, arrived to wide acclaim last year. "House on the Hill," the lead single, premiered on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy arts and entertainment blog, and Chia played a release party at SOB's, a popular New York club. On the album, she channels the late Amy Winehouse on the woozy opening track "Fly High" and puts on gangsta airs for the rousing "Bout It." The eclectic disc features a little bit of everything, including reggae ("Da Fire") and trip-hop ("Lost in My Mind" and "Feel the Music"). She's at work on a new album and promises that there's a good chance you'll hear her making a cameo on some major hip-hop releases coming out in 2014.
Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys
Last year, singer-songwriter Rachel Brown assembled a big band (dubbed the Beatnik Playboys) to accompany her on her solo debut Just Look My Way. It's an appropriate pairing since she's got a big, beautiful voice and the arrangements suit it perfectly. She channels Emmylou Harris/Bonnie Raitt on the luscious, country-ish ballads "Peace in the Valley," "So This is Love" and the title track, and then ventures into Roy Orbison territory on the elegant "Just Words." Featuring organ, piano and horns, "Enjoy the Dance," is a fun roots rock anthem that nicely summarizes Brown's sound. Brown has been singing since she was 10 and that experience comes through loud and clear on this terrific CD which would hold its own going up against any big-budget production out of Nashville. She's slated to start recording her next album early this year.
Led by snotty singer-guitarist Brian Hager, guitarist in local glam rock outfit Vanity Crash, the Chromes evoke the British rock of the '70s on their five-song debut that came out last year. You can hear elements of T. Rex as Hager whispers his way through the chug-a-lugging "Little Evil" and the same goes for the stuttering, bluesy "Talk That Walk." "Situation" is simply a stellar power-pop tune. Recorded, mixed and mastered at the Buddha Basement in Brunswick, the production quality is a bit sloppy; vocals sometimes sound as if they're cutting in and out. But despite those glitches, these songs are terrific and have real swagger to them. Even though he's not a powerhouse singer, Hager is a terrific guitar player who holds his own on the microphone. He even successfully takes it down a notch for the somber power ballad "Nothing to Lose." The band's been through numerous line-up changes but hopefully the group has finally stabilized.
A pre-med student as Case Western Reserve University, 20-year-old singer-songwriter Jordan Genovese sounds more mature than you'd expect on her full-length debut, last year's Green November. The album opens with the poppy "Maybe," a song you could imagine getting radio airplay alongside the likes of Avril Lavigne, Carley Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift. Genovese has said she doesn't think she's the greatest singer, and her voice certainly lacks the kind of power of many of today's country/pop divas. But Genovese is so young, she still has time to develop her vocal skills. On the album, she actually sounds a bit more confident when she talks (rather than sings) her way through a song, and Genovese, who writes her own tunes, has a good ear for a pop hook. She also displays plenty of personality in spunky songs such as "Won't Lie No More," "Angel Song" and "I'm Not Sorry." She's threatened to move to Nashville to pursue her career; here's hoping she sticks around Northeast Ohio.