Sounding a bit like Coldplay covering M83, Chicagoan Andrew Belle's sophomore album, Black Bear, ditches the wholesome acoustic sound of 2010 debut Ladders in favor of tones far more sleek and synthetic. While occasionally too smooth for their own good, Belle's gentle grooves and dulcet vocals prove irresistible over the long haul, and leave the 29-year-old rising talent well positioned to break big in 2014. -- Rob van Alstyne
If you've been into the EDM thing for more than a few minutes, you've heard about the Mad Decent Block Party the last couple years. Heard about the great performances by the label's regulars like Diplo, Dillon Francis, and Major Lazer. Heard the tales of wild crowds and even wilder debauchery. And probably heard locals bitch about how the block parties only goes to big cities and never hits up places like Phoenix. Well, that particular bit of bitch is about to stop as Mad Decent, the notorious L.A.-based label that promotes the tour will bring it to the Rawhide theme park on September 12. As its name implies, the Mad Decent Block Party features a long lineup of DJs, producers, and EDM artists from the Diplo-founded label, including Big Gigantic, Cashmere Cat, Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, STRFKER, Thurz, and Zeds Dead. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Few bands can boast as impressive a second act as Seattle drone rockers Earth. Led by guitarist Dylan Carlson, the early discography for Sub Pop defined the distorted doom/drone metal sound that inspired Sunn O))) (named in relation to "Earth") and the Southern Lord label.
Following nearly a decade devoted to overcoming addiction and legal problems, Carlson returned with Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method in 2005. It marked a seismic shift in Earth's sound, embracing a distant, sunbaked tone that incorporated elements of country, blues, folk, and jazz. Carlson was afforded sure footing by methodical drummer Adrienne Davies, who's remained a constant since. The band's maintained a steady clip: 2008's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull was a biblical masterpiece, and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Vol. 1 and 2 (released in 2011 and 2012, respectively) brought in elements of funk and English folk rock. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Whether it's through his digital design work or his post-rock music outfit, A Cloud for Climbing (AC4C), Brock Lefferts has one goal in mind: "organically distorting what is perfect." In AC4C, Lefferts flies solo, using audio software Ableton Live to manufacture loops and beats for him to play alongside on acoustic or electric guitar. Crafting layered instrumental ascensions in the same vein as Tycho or Four Tet, the 26-year-old musician builds progressive soundscapes as crisp as they are delicate. -- Troy Farah