5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 5

by Steven Spoerl

Continuing the 5 to See series isn’t proving much of a challenge; as mentioned before, NXNE has gone all out for their 20th anniversary, booking an absolutely packed lineup that’ll more than likely result in a long list of schedule conflicts. This series is designed to help navigate those conflicts, positing the strengths of an artist while providing an informational sample in addition to a live video. It’s also worth noting that the further this rabbit hole gets explored, there will be less emphasis on Heartbreaking Bravery’s regular genre specialties.  This is something that’s already becoming evident from the selections of the last few entries and will continue to be evident with the fifth installment. From the only hip-hop act to ever earn a feature here to some startlingly gorgeous folk-inflected acts, here’s the newest class of the 5 to See family.

1. My Darling Fury

What to Know: Easily destined to be several festivalgoers favorite NXNE discovery, this folk-leaning quintet is an essential stop for many reasons. Among them: masterful songwriting, an incredible central voice, their ability to adeptly blend an intelligent mix of genres into something that feels unique, and songs that are downright gorgeous. Haunting harmonies and clever lyrics put them way over the top and should catapult them to the top of any acoustic-lovers list. The video below should dispel virtually any lingering uncertainty.

What to Watch:

2. Craft Spells

What to Know: Craft Spells have excelled in making music that blurs the lines between dream-pop and powerpop for the last few years and are gearing up for the release of Nausea, their sophomore effort. If an early look at Nausea was any indication, Craft Spells are currently settling into their strengths as a band and operating more confidently than they ever have before. It’s the perfect music for the spring-to-summer transition and their set should leave a lot of people with perma-grins on their faces.

What to Watch:

3. Robert Ellis

What to Know: An acclaimed songwriter and guitarist, Ellis’ career was built on word-of-mouth and his place as a cult staple in the folk, bluegrass, and alt. country scenes was won through a combination of undeniable talent and smart touring decisions. A gifted fingerpicker and lyricist, Ellis’ set has been leaving those fortunate enough to see him slack-jawed for the past few years and his most recent record, The Lights From the Chemical Plant, garnered universal acclaim. For an indication of what he has to offer, watch the stunning performance clip included below.

What to Watch:

4. Courtney Barnett

What to Know: Barnett’s droll tongue-in-cheek witticisms have earned the songwriter quite a bit of praise lately. “Avant Gardener” has become nearly inescapable and the wide-open feel of that particular song can be found in most of Barnett’s other stream-of-conscious ramblings. All dirtied up and sharp, the Australian act’s set is likely going to wind up as one of the most hotly-tipped of NXNE. Don’t miss out on an artist who’s currently making all the right moves.

What to Watch:

5. Run the Jewels

What to Know: Killer Mike and El-P are two of the most critically acclaimed MC’s out there. Wildly imaginative and often unrelentingly dark, the two came together for a project called Run the Jewels last year and turned the hip-hop world on its head. To date, this is the only rap/hip-hop project to have earned coverage on Heartbreaking Bravery and their material is strong enough to have earned that distinction in full. Additionally, their live sets have been pretty well-documented as things that frequently topple over into events so out of control that they border on absurdity. It’d be foolish not to fully expect this to be one of NXNE’s most memorable moments.

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