If the Boston Music Awards’ Best New Artist field is a snapshot of the new generation of greater Boston musicians, it is a hopeful one. The area’s thriving hip-hop and DIY scene is well represented, and a slew of bedroom pop artists are putting their own stamp on the top 40 sounds. It is appropriate to describe the field as “diverse” in more ways than one; mixed-gender rock bands are the norm, and black artists excel in genres where the BMAs typically favor white musicians. Maybe the end of white guy indie rock is finally near.
The public has until November 25 to vote for their favorite candidates.
Alisa Amador had what can only be described as a real big break in 2022 when she won NPR’s Tiny Desk contest, so it’s really no surprise to see her at the BMA election. Amador grew up in Cambridge; Her parents, Rosi and Brian Amador, lead the Latin folk band Sol y Canto. Amador’s winning entry in the Tiny Desk Contest is a quiet but powerful reflection on her struggle to feel at home with a cross-cultural identity that spans family roots in Puerto Rico, New Mexico and New England. Sung in Spanish over a sparse acoustic guitar, “Milonga Accidental” is hushed and enveloping, a bittersweet meditation on finding yourself.
CHYLD’s songs could be engineered in the lab to surpass Spotify’s algorithms: polished, emotional, and impossible to get out of your head. The Shrewsbury-based producer/singer released an EP earlier this year, Be Patient, which sees him poised to climb the ranks of bedroom electropop. It’s a collection of intimate songs with extensive production, a series of small stories with big ambitions.
Though Dino Gala has only released a handful of singles in their short life so far, the band is already making waves in Allston’s DIY scene. The group, whose members met at Berklee College of Music (check that off on your Boston Music bingo card), is an exemplary entry into a peculiarly Boston tradition of emo rock music with dirty guitars, big dynamics and a slight wistful sensibility . The band’s 2021 single “Run It Back,” a depressing, slow-building anthem, is their most-streamed song on Spotify. But my favorite might be 2022’s “British,” which features a rising hook and ends with an adorable little kiss.
Northeastern University student and up-and-coming bedroom pop star Eph See caught our attention this year for her catchy tunes; We featured Eph See in our Sound On series on up and coming local artists. An extraordinary musician with a preternatural ear for melody, Eph See channels the aches and pains of growing up into bubblegum tunes laced with wry melancholy. Her 2021 EP g*rlhood was a strikingly confident debut, at once quirky and polished.
Going222jail’s 2022 EP Ragweed is an auspicious debut, shimmering and wistful. The Salem-based indie rock band tends towards melancholy, with guitar-driven songs about the strange, slightly disconcerting journey into adulthood. But there’s also a playfulness to the music, evident in incongruously upbeat riffs and singing cadences. You can feel the band resisting their own nihilistic pull by still having fun.
HAAWWS released his second studio project this year, NSFW, a sleek, quirky entry into the burgeoning Boston-area rap scene. “NSFW” has an easy, experimental feel with downtempo beats and blown out basslines. Despite forward-thinking production, HAAWWS is, at its core, a rapper’s rapper infatuated with sly rhymes and tight rhythms.
Boston rapper Kei rightly recognized that having a schtick pays off. In her case, it’s a campy, faux-violent personality, most recently manifested in an EP entitled Child’s Play; on the cover, kei appears in a auburn wig, wielding a knife, in homage to the horror film series about a murderous, red-haired doll named chucky. Once you hear Kei’s music, the piece makes sense: she wields poles much like that knife, insane and sharp.
Little Fuss is still gearing up for the release of their debut album, Girls at Parties, which is due out in early 2023, but the band has already begun to make waves. Boston’s Olivia Martinez and Cody Von Lehmden make hook-loaded indie pop, centered on Martinez’s punchy vocals, alternately ethereal and spiky. The duo weaves ominous minor melodies into feminist hits.
Of all the entries in the “Best New Artist” category, STEFAN THEV is perhaps the most difficult to classify. The Brockton musician makes almost fanatically upbeat pop rock, peppered with parodic downbeat lyrics. “Have you ever seen your face on a t-shirt, ‘goe too early,'” he sings on “ghouls! Zombies! Skeletons!” “I have!/ It’s not that cool!” It’s ironic and revels in the darkness.
Another day, another Allston indie rock band. This should not belittle Winkler – quite the opposite. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re part of such a proud and well-loved local music line. (Especially if your band shares a drummer with Dino Gala, who was also nominated for Best New Artist.) Winkler manages to set himself apart, largely through his slow playing, his songs dreamy psychedelic productions, and cheeky lyrics meander.
The 2022 Boston Music Awards will be announced on December 14 at Big Night Live.