Welcome to Rhapsody Radar, our annual survey of 25 up-and-coming artists we love, spanning everything from hip-hop to indie rock, trad country to stoner metal, Latin pop to EDM. For the full 2012 roster, along with exclusive video interviews and more, go here.
Formed in Nashville in 2006, Love and Theft started out as a trio, with Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson joined by Brian Bandas. Three years later, the group signed to Lyric Street Records; with the hot single "Runaway" burning up the country charts and triggering a high-profile tour with Taylor Swift, things appeared warm and fuzzy for the band, whose celebrity factor was upped further when Swift, long famous for writing songs about her crushes, got tongues wagging when the track "Hey Stephen" showed up on her 2008 album, Fearless.
But in 2010, Lyric Street folded, leaving the band without a label. It didn't take long for RCA to come knocking, though, and in 2011 Love and Theft -- now a twosome, with Bandas bowing out -- released the rootsy, jangling single "Angel Eyes," which took country radio by storm.
Stephen and Eric are sons of pastors, but don't expect new songs like "Amen" or "Angel Eyes" to be righteous reflections of that fact. In fact, their self-titled sophomore album is full of rebelliousness and sly winks, both as integral to the duo's sound as their vocal harmonies, which stand out amid the album's crisp, uncluttered sound and sing-along choruses. I mean, the harmonies are reallythistight! In fact, the way both singers switch off on lead vocals, it's sometimes hard to figure out who's singing what. But in Love and Theft's case, it doesn't matter: You'll probably end up with a crush on both of them.