Photograph: Zoran Orlic
Kids These Days. Chief Keef. Purple Apple. Mister Lies. Chicago has an impressive roster of tween talent—some of the young groups’ sellout shows have overtaken headlines from our city’s veteran acts in recent months. At this rate, Chicago is practically running its own Kidzapalooza.
In March, retro-pop singer Kirby Kaiser is leading the pack with the release of her new EP. At just 20 years old, the Lincoln Park High School alum first found recognition with her 2011 self-titled debut, a collection of girl group zingers with Shangri-Las harmonies and heart-crushing diary odes. Her new single “A Little Longer” takes that foundation a step farther by adding in more dreamscapes to make her the latest teen angel, seen in a recent feature in Nylon magazine.
Who will break big next?
Like father, like son. The Blisters’ drummer and founding member Spencer Tweedy is Jeff Tweedy’s kid, and it shows in the group’s well-informed alt-country-meets-irreverent-indie style. Solid guitar work and lyrical footnotes are just two cornerstones of this teenage group, as heard on “One Day.”
MaeYa Carter Ryan
Last week the Chicago Reader ran a story about this incredible 11-year-old gospel/jazz singer from Bronzeville, whose booming voice has recalled Mahalia Jackson and Sarah Vaughn. Check out her powerful instrument on this recent episode of The Chicagoans.
At only 14, Baldwin has already amassed a catalog of 10 original songs, many of them co-written with Chicago veteran Brad Nye (frontman for Dick Holliday and the Bamboo Gang). Baldwin’s rich vocals (a mix of blues and rock) are further exemplified on tracks like “Every Day” through his impressive backing band, which includes BoDeans drummer Nick Kitsos and Van Ghost members Grant Tye and Klem Hayes. Look for his debut EP this spring.
This all-girl punk group bears members Rickee Divine, Ana Apollo, Kat Cannons, and Casey Icky, and they’re reminiscent of legendary femme fatales the Runaways, not only for their barely-out-of-high-school status (the oldest member is 17) but for the ball-busting riffs they write. Their Dark Star Records debut Coming Of Age was released in February.
WGN anchorman Mark Suppelsa’s daughter is often compared to Taylor Swift (she likes to write about boys), but the budding artist also crafts poignant numbers like “Not Today,” dedicated to a fellow Evanston Township High School student who was killed earlier this year. Expect her songwriting to become more informed; the 15-year-old was just accepted to Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine.