Best New Artists

July's Best New Artists feature is here, highlighting rising talents Ethel Cain, Zane Alexander, Blondshell, Coast Contra, and Kevin Holliday.

Best New Artists July 2022
P&P Original

Image by Sho Hanafusa

Best New Artists July 2022

Every month, we round up some of our favorite new music discoveries. Look back at all of our Best New Artists here and keep up with them all on the Best New Artists playlists on Spotify and Apple.

Ethel Cain

Ethel Cain singer The Preacher's Daughter

“MISSING. Ethel Cain was last seen Saturday, January 13 at 3:15 AM being forced into a black, short-bed pickup truck in the old Winn Dixie parking lot on Abrams Street in Arlington, Texas.” A second flyer follows a month later, pasted across Instagram: “So called ‘Gibson Girl’ wanted in connection to local prostitution ring.” Meet Ethel Cain, the all-American teenager, “the wife of a corrupt Preacher,” and bewitching alter ego of 24-year-old songwriter Hayden Anhedönia.

I first came across Ethel in 2019 with her debut EP, Golden Age, offering hazy intimacy and fragments of the persona to come. Now, following on from 2021’s breakout EP Inbred, Ethel Cain experiences life and death on her new album Preacher’s Daughter. In a time where the industry clammers for songs to be no longer than two minutes (two and a half, if you’re lucky), Anhedönia delivers and defies with her debut full-length. At 76 minutes long, it’s essentially a feature film in audio form, each song presenting a new scene.

Whilst she isn’t exactly a new artist—she formerly experimented under the name White Silas—this debut LP feels like a monumental level-up. Extensively detailing religious conflict, sexual trauma, and hard living, it’s orchestrated by anthemic power ballads, rock, indie, dream pop, and gospel stylings. The first in a proposed trilogy of albums, it details grandiose highs, tragedies, and explores the facade of the American Dream whilst she works her way through the family tree—and all of its rooted trauma.

The story is fictionalized, but it draws on Anhedönia’s lived experiences and her strength in storytelling. Born to a Southern Baptist family in rural Florida, her father was a deacon and her mother and Anhedönia sang in choir. She recalls being unable to listen to non-Christian music, pick her own clothes, or go on the internet. At 16, she was ostracized from the church for coming out as gay, and later realized that she was transgender. Three years after that, she began writing Preacher’s Daughter, a project that would take over four years to develop, written primarily in and paying homage to the Southern United States. 

Where will Anhedönia go next? “I exhausted a lot of my ideas and interests in Preacher’s Daughter so it’s time to pull from a whole new well,” she tells us. “As I continue to delve into this story and upwards into the family tree, exploring a new character in the trilogy will bring a whole new visual and sonic landscape. As for what that landscape looks and sounds like, it will most likely surprise me as much as everyone else.”—Rani Boyer

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Zane Alexander

Zane Alexander

Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, 22-year-old Zane Alexander is a DIY artist in every sense of the term. He writes, produces, mixes, and masters his own music, and he likes it that way—it gives him full control. He doesn’t have a label, a lawyer, or even a manager. Alexander shares this matter of factly over the phone before mentioning that the one thing he’d like is some help with is marketing. For now, he’s been printing and distributing flyers in his home city.

His new project My Soul, My Beats is out now, and if you’re listening to it today, you’re early. Alexander currently has 39 monthly listeners on Spotify and no editorial support or noteworthy playlist inclusion, but the project was shared on release day by fellow artist and collaborator G. King. And it kind of blew my mind.

Before taking that as too strong of a co-sign, you should know: Zane Alexander’s music probably isn’t for everyone. But as someone who grew up listening to underground hip-hop and has been craving more experimentation in music lately, this project hit a sweet spot. Dynamic beats and psychedelic swirls on songs like “Fuckas” and “A Hero At A Thousand Paces” evoke the energy of some of the trippiest 2000s Edan production, and Alexander’s intense delivery and in-your-face lyricism hit with the kind of unyielding force that makes artists like Denzel Curry, JPEGMAFIA, and Death Grips so captivating. To make things even more interesting, Alexander veers away from rap completely and explores strange melodies and drum & bass beats on “See You, Cowgirl” and “Running (I Keep On).”

Thank god for word of mouth, because I could never stumble on something like this through TikTok or an algorithm’s recommendations, but it’s one of the coolest new things I’ve heard all year.—Jacob Moore

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Blondeshell best new artist image july 2022

We often get asked where and how we discover music at Pigeons & Planes. (Read some recent thoughts in the Dear Pigeons newsletter here.) It has changed over the years as social platforms have evolved and artists have embraced different technologies, but there’s almost nothing better than getting a great recommendation from a friend whose taste you trust. We’re hoping to be that source for you with features like this, our playlists, Discord, and any music discovery focused initiative, but it’s nice when it works the other way too.

All that to say that a friend shared some Blondshell music earlier this year and their excitement was contagious. Two of those songs are out now—the first two singles from LA-based singer/songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum’s Blondshell project. Music isn’t new to her, but sharing these specific songs wasn’t always in the cards. “I started writing songs when I was a little kid and eventually went to music school when I got older,” Teitelbaum says. “I dropped out after two years and started a pop project, but in my heart of hearts I’m not a pop girl. When Covid hit, I was stuck in my apartment alone, watching 2000s shows and trying to get better at guitar. Without the distractions of normal life my brain started processing things I had avoided for a long time.”

She continues, “Zoom therapy mixed with extreme boredom led to a lot of songwriting. I wasn’t planning on showing these to anyone, but then all my friends reacted the same way: they told me that this music was just like me as a person. I decided to follow this path, put the music out, and see what would happen.”

On the songs we’ve heard so far, Blondshell sings about heavy topics like love, sex, and addiction, but delivers her cutting lyrics with the faintest hint of a smile. She’s also patient with her song structure, often waiting until the latter stages to deliver the big payoff of a wall of wailing guitars or a screamed chorus.

“Kiss City” and “Olympus” are out now and there’s more shows on the way as well as a September tour with Porridge Radio. “You can expect more music, an album in 2023, and many questionable attempts to launch my comedy career on TikTok,” Blondshell summarizes, though I expect she might be a little busy with the music career if things keep moving the way they are.—Alex Gardner

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Coast Contra

Coast Contra

Remember when all your favorite new music discoveries came from late night television performances? No? Me neither, because that has never been the case.

But shout out to The Tonight Show team and Questlove for this one, because Coast Contra’s performance on Fallon’s show last month was one of the most impressive TV debuts in recent memory. The LA-based rap group already had momentum going into the performance, thanks in large part to their freestyle series on YouTube (and of course some TikTok movement), and they kept it moving with their Apt. 505 project in March. After that, Dave Chappelle asked them to open for his Hollywood Bowl show in May. 

Somehow, I missed all of that. The late night performance was my introduction, and maybe that’s for the best, because by the time I caught on, these guys were tighter than any rap group I’ve seen in years. Their style is rooted in tradition, a stark contrast to the free-for-all movement of so many up-and-comers in hip-hop today. Coast Contra is well-rehearsed and exact, without sacrificing essentials like raw energy and spontaneity. It’s the antithesis of most buzzing acts on the rise today, but that’s exactly what makes it stand out.

Check out that Tonight Show performance below.—Jacob Moore

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Kevin Holliday

kevon holliday image bna july allison

Kevin Holliday’s sound is addictive. It’s hard to pin down but it has something to do with the Brooklyn-based artist’s breathy, smooth vocals, funky yet relaxing beats, and endorphin-inducing choruses. 

Inspired by artists including Prince, Pharrell, and Solange, Holliday’s music pulls from different styles and sounds and still manages to flow gracefully. “I feel like a sponge when it comes to my influences,” Holliday shares. “Being in tune with what you are inspired by is so important. I try to find similarities that all great artists have. I’m really just trying to show people how I interpret the world.”

His single “Regrets” speaks to living in the moment and being present, and every piece of the song relays that message. Bright guitar riffs and upbeat drums hold the song together, and it’s wrapped up with Holliday’s down to earth lyrics: “I don’t wanna have no regrets, wake up next to me, your love’s infesting me.” His calm, cool choruses and fresh melodies keep coming, from “Tennis Courts” to “Expensive Taste.”

Holliday released his first song in 2018, then shared his debut EP Space Cadet and opened for Rico Nasty and Japanese Breakfast the next year. His latest single “Out Of Me” just dropped, and there’s more on the way from this ambitious artist who’s thinking beyond just music. “I don’t really consider myself a musician,” he explains. “More than anything, I’m an artist and a creative. I want to take everything around me and create a world around the music that people can connect with on a personal level.”—Sabine Adorney

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