ShadWhy he rules:As far as Canadian rappers go, the conversation generally starts and ends with Drake. But it was Shadrach Kabango's album TSOL and not Thank Me Later that took the Juno Prize for the country's "Best Rap Album" in 2011 (I see that eyebrow raising). To be fair, they're MCs of a different ilk. Shad comes from the tradition of heady, conscious wordsmiths like Common and Talib Kweli, bringing a playfulness and a spoken-word edge to his rhymes. His newest effort, Flying Colours (out Oct 15), is a worthy listen. Essential track: "Stylin" (feat. Saukrates)
Potty MouthWhy they rule: The promising Western Mass. quartet pens poppy guitar-rock that shares DNA (and a geographic affinity) with veteran hook-peddlers Dinosaur Jr. Similar to J. Mascis's mopey croon, singer Ally Einbinder works her way through relationship quagmires, crippling self-doubt and social anxiety on their powerhouse, newly released second record, Hell Bent. Essential track: "Damage"
Public Service BroadcastingWhy they rule: The sample-hungry duo out of London cobbled together their debut record, Inform - Educate – Entertain, by mining old film archives, vintage agit-prop clips and other audio ephemera. Underneath that, a steady post-rock soundtrack surges, creating inspired sonic epiphanies from the interplay. Though their debut got a UK release in May, it doesn't come to the US till November (though it's already on Spotify). Essential track: "Night Mail"
KelelaWhy she rules: For her debut mixtape, CUT 4 MELA, fresh-faced singer Kelela Mizanekristos teamed up with producers from UK bass music label Night Slugs and its stateside sister imprint Fade to Mind The resulting collection, out earlier this month, pairs the newcomer's soulful coo with minimal, futuristic beats that touch on spacey house, sex-dripping R&B and trap-infused slow jams. Essential track: "Bank Head"
Dismemberment PlanWhy they rule: From 1993 to 2003, D.C. post-punk group produced albums of rhythmically complex dance-punk, fusing math-rocky arrangements, funkified Fugazi bass and sugar-hyped high school poetry. Their first release in 12 years, Uncanney Valley (out Oct 15), is an album without any filter: Frontman Travis Morrison tosses off ebullient lyrical over-shares as the music unfolds into several unexpected, thrilling directions at once. Essential track: "Invisible"