Welcome to the 2012 edition of Rhapsody Radar, our annual survey of 25 up-and-coming artists we love, from hip-hop to indie rock, trad country to stoner metal, Latin pop to EDM. Every weekday for the next month or so we'll be unveiling a new name Enjoy.
Daughn Gibson's debut sounds like absolutely nothing you have ever heard, which is a herculean feat in jaded, retromaniacal, seen-it-all 2012. The quickest way to describe it, and please bear with me here, is "trip-hop country," which may strike you as a terrible idea, and would have been if anyone else on earth had attempted it. But on All Hell, the effect is just startling, otherworldly, thoroughly mesmerizing: Consider " Ray," a gorgeous, string-laden ballad with a sense of atmospheric portent worthy of Portishead, wherein he bellows, in a booming baritone to rival both Johnny Cash and that dude from Crash Test Dummies, sad-sack lyrics that, in the fine country music tradition, are both exquisitely melancholy and slyly ridiculous:
My first child stumbled home, and
Woke me up when he hit the floor
He looked like a movie star
But he grew up to be totally worthless
"Tiffany Lou" is arguably even better, a crawling electro-weeper buoyed by disembodied vocal samples that sounds like basso profundo '60s weirdo Scott Walker hooking up with current "cloud rap" producer star Clams Casino, and seems to concern a young woman embarrassed that her father is always getting arrested on COPS. This is a delicate balance, between dream-pop ethereality and truck-driver grit (Gibson, a native Pennsylvanian and drummer for stoner-metal dudes Pearls & Brass, used to be a truck driver, in fact), between pathos and absurdity. His voice helps, those impossible Grand Canyon lows. Check out the spoken-word intro to " A Young Girl's World": "I SAW HIM. UNDERNEATH THE NEON LIGHTS OF A CORNER BAR. CRYIN' LIKE A CHILD. [Bell tolls.]" It's a bizarro universe all his own; you never thought you'd find yourself there, and you'll never want to leave.