Cleveland's next generation of top musicians walks among us today, but you might not have noticed them yet. Not much makes them stand out on the street — maybe it's the long hair, the leather jackets, or the look in their eyes that says we're hungry.
But on weekend nights, they pick up their guitars, grab their microphones, cue up fresh mixes, and turn Northeast Ohio's clubs into seas of pumping fists and bouncing bodies.
Already a few are earning national acclaim, and perhaps someday they'll all be known everywhere. Each of these 10 area artists are set to hit their stride in 2011, and most are slated to release new albums in the coming months.
Have a chance to see them live? Do it now, before all your friends are talking. After all, bragging rights are everything these days.
Last year at this time, Dylan Baldi was an 18-year-old kid making skuzzy power-pop songs in his parents' Westlake basement. By the end of 2010, Baldi — better known by the recording moniker Cloud Nothings — saw his homemade debut EP, Turning On, reissued on Carpark Records, home of 2010 buzz band Beach House. He toured with Wavves and Les Savy Fav, and put the finishing touches on his full-length debut, which comes out on January 25.
"The new album sounds very underground — probably the most underground album out there," says Baldi, who once again plays every instrument on the album. Cloud Nothings' lush, loud, and low-fi noise pop has already caught the attention of The New York Times and Pitchfork. An expanded lineup will tour Europe and the U.S. all year, including a stop at the influential South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
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Catch them in 2011: Cleveland dates will be announced early in 2011, but you can usually catch them at the Beachland, Grog Shop, and Musica.
When Elaine Richardson isn't lecturing at Ohio State or taking care of her three children, she escapes to Cleveland's club and bar scene to sing sweet soul music as Dr. E. Last year, the singer, songwriter, educator, author, and mother released her debut album, Elevated — a smoky R&B cabaret on which she channels Billie Holiday and Erykah Badu while confronting her hopes and demons with beauty and groove.
"My music and my life are about love and education," she says. "I survived sex trafficking and abuse, and I write and perform from places of pain and triumph." Richardson is due to release a hip-hop-flavored mixtape with New York DJ KidRelly. An EP will drop in June on her Give Us Free Records label.
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Catch her in 2011: Stay tuned to Dr. E's website for upcoming performances, but you can often catch her at unique Cleveland-area venues ranging from Gibb's Lounge to the Savannah.
Emeralds create distant worlds that erupt in nebulous synthesizers, droning guitars, dreamy vocals, and dense atmospherics. The Cleveland trio has been crafting awesomely cosmic instrumentals since 2005, releasing more than 30 records using mostly synths (you won't find any drums here).
"It sounds like music from a dream," says John Elliott, one of the band's two synth players. "The overall vibe is both hopeful and at times dismal." Emeralds' ambient electro is catching considerable buzz these days. They have a European tour planned this year to promote a series of seven-inch singles and a reissue of a cassette-only release (The Overlook) they put out a couple years ago.
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Catch them in 2011: Local Emeralds shows can be tricky to find. (In the words of Elliott: "We don't play in the U.S. a lot, because it's bullshit.") The band's preferred local venues are the Grog Shop and area art museums. Like what you hear? Follow them to Europe, where they've already booked shows in Spain, England, and Poland.