I don’t know what’s in the New Jersey water, but it’s producing some marvelous musicians, many of which are on the cusp of stardom. While 2020 has been a strange, stressful year for musicians and music lovers alike, artists are coping by giving us virtual shows or producing some of the most energizing tunes to temper our restlessness. The Garden State is no exception, and to say I’m impressed would be a gross understatement. So, I’ve compiled a list of these 10 New Jersey musicians on the rise. Keep your eyes (and ears) open.
1. Sof (aka Sofia Khorosh)
You can’t have a list of New Jersey musicians on the rise and not include Sofia Khorosh. Aka Sof, is an East Brunswick, NJ native that’s been performing since the age of about five. After killing it in local New Jersey venues, and with the viral success of her cover of “Criminal,” she completely reinvented herself with the drop of her 2019 single, “Inertia.” I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sof. We discussed everything from her musical journey, to the crippling doubt that plagues creatives and the strength needed to keep going (YAS QUEEN).
She has an unspeakable amount of talent, and one day, when she nabs that Grammy, it will be well deserved. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and go to her official site for merch, tour dates, and news about what she’s up to.
2. Drew the Recluse
Founder of Black Suburbia Music Group, Drew the Recluse is a soulful surprise of emotionally charged sound. The sorrowful, beautiful vocals resonate with pain and pleasure—dualities we’ve all experienced. This talented artist credits his upbringing in the woods of Jackson, NJ for the ache that he’s etched into his songs. Drew the Recluse is unique for sure, citing musical influences from Bjork to Michael Jackson, Kanye West, and Siouxsie & the Banshees. I’m a sucker for varied tastes, and you can hear these influences and the mixing of R&B, trap, alt-rock, and new wave, in “Sometimes,” and, more specifically, “Everytime,” with its echoing chorus that is as haunting as anything you’d hear off a Cure album. All of which makes me raise my hands up to shout: “Yes, please!”
Asbury Park’s Blaise is an experimental-pop musician who is haunting, honest, and a powerful performer that easily could have crept lusciously out of the 1998 musical drama, Velvet Goldmine. In his Instagram intro, Blaise describes himself as “Venus as a Boy,” (a borrowed term made famous by Bjork) and that’s the perfect description. Blaise’s digital album, “Preface” gives us soothing, velour tunes like “Catch Me If You Can,” and “Trust the Fall.” The whispery vocals are powerful, woven through a tapestry of synths and deep yearning. The latest example of which is “Mr. Terrible,” a ballad for broken, scorned hearts everywhere.
Give Blaise a listen on Band Camp.
4. Little Hag
Previously known as “Avery Mandeville,” Little Hag is a campy indie-rock poetess hailing mysteriously from “the New Jersey coast.” Little Hag is an up-close and personal political lyricist that leaves those from older generations scratching their heads. Take for example, “Blood,” and her “Get Real” single whose fun, upbeat, girl-power attitude is reminiscent of Le Tigre and Veruca Salt. And Little Hag is their redheaded little Gen-Z sister. If you thought riot girl rock was dead, Little Hag says otherwise.
5. Bottled Blonde
Bottled Blonde is from the Jersey Shore and is a reminder that even in the digital age, you can make a place for yourself with mesmerizing guitars. A prominent feature in the song “French Toast,” off of their 2019 EP “Bottled Blonde.” Fronted by Mackenzie Brown, listeners are gifted with her hypnotic voice that is surreal with a folk-edge that can send you into a dreamy hyperspace. There is something nostalgic about Brown’s gentle, doll-like voice, forcing you to lean in closer. Well, as close as Brown will allow. Which is just enough. Keep an eye on this group by visiting their official site or Spotify page. They’re heading in the right direction.
6. J Hacha de Zola
In Jersey City, an “urban junkyard artist” in the vein of Tom Waits colliding with Captain Beefheart and Screaming Jay Hawkins, has placed himself firmly in the center of “manic” music-making. J Hacha de Zola is a New Jersey mystic. The modern equivalent of a 1930s dust-bowl musician, with jumpy, complicated, circus-mad tunes. I love it, and apparently, so does the rest of New Jersey. Look no further than “El Chucho (Hooko)” for this kind of oddly beautiful music that will stick with you long after the circus tents have gone home. J Hacha de Zola’s latest EP, “Icaro Nouveau,” can be found on Spotify and Facebook.
7. AK (Austin Kassabian)
When it comes to promising young rappers, AK is New Jersey’s pride and joy. The rhyming genius hails from South Brunswick and made waves when his cover of Desiigners “Panda” and Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” generated 46 million views. Like several of the New Jersey musicians on the rise, AK is honest and raw, not unlike a fired-up Eminem earlier in his career. But make no mistake, AK has his own lane, with a strong online fanbase that puts him in the running as the nation’s next big rapper. He expresses what is only the beginning of this journey in “Closed Off,” and “Like I Got It” and “Bags to Bags.” As he confesses, you can’t put him in a box. Be sure to listen to AK’s latest song, “Family Tree.” You can find him on Youtube, Twitter, or Instagram.
8. Lex Rex and the Dragons
Alexis Pellegrino aka “Lex Rex” hails from North Jersey, and similarly to her Jersey sis, Sof, has been performing from a young age. Her musical influences range from Madonna to Nirvana, which is evident on her EP called “Tides.” She later admitted that EP was the result of a break-up, but if that shoots her into stardom, well, she doesn’t need ’em. She’s already graced some of the more prestigious stages in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, wrapping up the tail end of Warped Tour in 2018.
Lex is in a league of her own, with catchy dance tunes like, “Ain’t Nothin” that, despite its dreamy soundscape, has an emotional, heart-wrenching ache to it. Then there are the ‘80s pop sounds in the song “Tides,” of which the EP is named after, and is very much a salute to early Madonna. Simply put, Lex has something for everyone. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and check out her official site for tours, merch, and more.
9. The Extensions
Indie rock foursome, The Extensions, are from Asbury Park and amusingly describe their music as “sharper than a box cutter, and hooks as sweet as grape soda.” The Extensions won over a strong, local fan base before their EP, “Bellicose” even dropped in 2019. Expect to hear more from them soon as they recently signed to Mint 400 Records and 3143 Management. Catch their latest demo, “Typical Amerikan” and their EP, “Bellicose” on Spotify.
10. Daughter Vision
Apparently, Asbury Park is a breeding talent for New Jersey musicians on the rise. Daughter Vision is a poppy, alien dance party arriving from both the future and 1985. To add to their mix of synth wails is their fantastic theatricality. Their New Wave, post-punk, and electro-funk sound clashes wondrously with their ruminative lyricism. They’ve chiseled a place for themselves in-between genres of the past and future, making Daughter Vision a refreshing, sharp, artistic experience. The best thing about this group is that you never expect the same thing twice. Their latest EP, “DV-EP “can be found on Spotify. Follow them on Facebook and Daughter Vision.net for news about tour dates and upcoming music.
Looking for a way to support your local music community? Go check out these 10 New Jersey musicians on the rise and let us know below what you think.