Before They Were Cool

Cymbals Eat Guitars
Named after an obscure Velvet Underground quote, this Staten Island foursome have been on the periphery of stardom since their 2009 debut. Their latest, LOSE, should see them extend those inroads even further. Pavement references are somewhat inevitable thanks to Joe D’Agostino’s shrill lyrical musings and occasional guitar feedback freakouts. However, unlike their 90s slacker-rock forefathers, Cymbals Eat Guitars aren’t afraid of soaring, arena-ready choruses, as on “Warning,” or emotive, lighter-than-air ballads like “Child Bride.” It’s nice to see an indie band unafraid of expanding their sound and adding dashes of pop—snobby hipsters be damned. If a pair of good headphones was on your holiday wish list, LOSE will be the perfect record to break them in. Even better, catch them live at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Dec 12.

Cut 4 Me
Over the years, the DC-raised, LA-based Kelela Mizanekristos has experimented with everything from jazz standards and hip-hop to electronic music. That exploratory nature was on show in her acclaimed album Cut 4 Me. Released as a free online mixtape, the record quickly went viral and before she knew it, the second-generation Ethiopian immigrant was getting shout-outs from the likes of Solange Knowles and Björk. It’s easy to see why. The downright steamy one-two punch of “Go All Night (Let It Burn)” and “Bank Head” would have been hit records in the hands of Beyoncé or Trey Songz, and album closer, “Cherry Co¬ ee” has the feel of Mama’s Gun-era Erykah Badu. Fans will likely hear some new material when she plays the Bowery Ballroom on Dec 12 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Dec 13.

Ben Howard
I Forget Where We Were
(Island/Republic) Male 20-somethings armed with acoustic guitars and emotional lyrics are about as rare as Dunkin’ Donuts, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from checking out Howard. He’s a Brit who might be gunning for audiences who loved that one David Gray album (but never bought another one) or Damien Rice fans who get tired of waiting eight years between releases. Just two albums in, Howard’s music has sonic nuances that are surprisingly mature. The song “Conrad” is ripe to be plucked for some indie fi lm’s make-out scene and the gorgeously heartbreaking “End of the A¬ air” will surely be in every music geek’s Break-Up Mix by year’s end. Howard recently won the Brit Award— the UK equivalent of a Grammy—for Best Breakthrough Act. See him at Hammerstein Ballroom on Jan 30.

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