Daphne Willis / Eric Stepanian / Mal Blum
In a little more than three years since she grabbed her acoustic guitar and took the stage for the first time, Chicago-based Daphne Willis has grown from a feisty neophyte into a self-assured, marvelously expressive artist with a bracingly seductive sound. The 22-year-old's Vanguard Records debut album, What to Say, documents Willis's voyage of self-discovery and is a captivating introduction to a remarkably fresh voice—one that both reflects and scrutinizes the social patterns of her generation.
Eric Stepanian's Goodnight Scarlett, produced by Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Daniel Lanois), fits a narrative of music which is relevant, immediate, and powerful. Goodnight Scarlett is timeless, pure, American rock music, influenced by Stepanian's twin heroes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, tempered by '70s AM radio fare and personalized by the singer-songwriter's unique history. Stepanian can be tough, but Goodnight Scarlett is often a dark reverie, musing over lost loves, broken hearts, and the misery that ensues.
Mal Blum first appeared on the scene at age 19, with a tongue-in-cheek little ditty about her ukulele; today, tens of thousands have viewed the music video for "Ode to Kulele," which was voted a Top Ten Music Video of 2009 (#10) on LOGO TV's The Click List in January. Since releasing "Ode to Kulele," from her sophomore album, Goodnight Sugarpop (2008), Blum has kept busy. The past two years already saw her snagging opening spots for Melissa Ferrick, Bitch, Amanda Palmer, Kimya Dawson, Hamell on Trial, and more, as well as releasing a new EP.