5. Bryson Cone
SOUNDS LIKE: A lucid dream world where bright, active colors battle with every inner demon that's ever kept you up at night.
Bryson Cone really wants people to know that none of this is should be about him.
"I know [the poll] is a tradition, but it just feels like white artists should be stepping aside and Black voices should be stepping forward," says Cone. "This is a critical moment, culturally."
He's not wrong. And to be fair, he and the rest of the Bryson Cone band—Bambi Browning on bass and vocals, Hannah Billie on drums and Ben Steinmetz on guitar and synths—is more than grateful for these praises and palms. But they also understand the power of a platform many Black artists aren't afforded to speak or even stand on.
Instead of focusing on their output as a band, Cone wants the focus to shift to the artists, musicians and overall movement that allowed them to make the music they do in the first place. Without Black people and their creative expression used to cope with endless racism and adversity, Cone and his band wouldn't be who or where they are today—after all, Cone's music is self-described as "if the Cure covered a Sade song."
Cone isn't just waxing wokeness here—a mere run-through of the latest Bryson Cone record, Magnetism, shows the ways in which he and the rest of the band have listened and learned from many of the Black artists who have come before them. "Pastel jazz goth" is a fitting description of their productions as emotive horns carry rhythm throughout the record, with slinky synths and hushed, bated vocals that hark back to the dramatics of old school R&B (especially on "Devotion," "Desire" and "Nothing").
Even where unexpected, Black influence peeks around walls of gothy moodiness and lyrical sentiments—Cone has made a sound very much his own, though it comes from a familiar recipe. At face value, it may seem like it's just about the music, but recognizing society's debt to Black culture is inherently political.
"Stevie Wonder is my biggest songwriter influence of all time, and as a band, we're influenced by a lot of disco," he says. "I can't have influences like that and not say something about what's going on. If you're watching, it should have an effect on you."
On a local level, Cone shouts out Hornet Leg, Ripley Snell and Crème Brûlée, though he urges supporting the Black community in every possible facet.
"Please go to protests," he says. "Donate money, sign petitions, research privilege, listen to Black voices, and make sure to support local BIPOC music!"
Best New Bands 2020