Since forming in 2008, this drone-rock group has proved anything but a vanishing act: issuing two critically acclaimed albums (a third release, Pre Language, debuts March 1 on Kranky Records), snagging a coveted spot on Lollapalooza’s 2011 schedule, and opening for heavy hitters such as the Arctic Monkeys, Deerhunter, and the Fresh & Onlys. Featuring talent from the beloved Chicago indie-rock staples the Ponys and 90 Day Men, Disappears inducted its biggest name yet in late 2010. Since signing on as drummer, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley has rocketed the band to national attention from what some might call thin air.

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Photograph: Drew Reynolds

Hollywood Holt

A few months ago, just as the rapper Nigel “Hollywood” Holt was about to release his debut album on a local imprint, word about him began to get out. Major labels and boldface-name MCs started calling—and then Rob Light, head of music at CAA, signed the 29-year-old Chica­goan to the powerhouse talent agency. Holt, who grew up on 107th Street and started rapping when he was 12, made his to-be-named album with help from Kanye West’s DJ, Million Dollar Mano, who is also Holt’s cousin. Once Holt settles on a record deal, the al­bum, originally slated for March, will get a release date—likely this summer and likely with some VIP guest stars added to the mix.

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Photograph: Pat Stevenson


For any budding musician, March is synonymous with South by Southwest. At the annual music festival in Austin, Texas, bands, labels, agents, and talent bookers convene to size one another up—in other words, it’s a highly competitive gig. One of the first acts to be officially announced for 2012 was the Chicago folk troubadour Mike Musikanto, or simply Musikanto. His latest album, Sky of Dresses, released last year by the local Grape Juice Records, earned positive reviews from the likes of NPR and Paste for its soulful reflection on traditional Americana—a style the singer-songwriter adopted after studying painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Catch him at the Hideout’s SXSW Sendoff Party on March 10 (hideoutchicago.com).

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Photograph: Stephanie Bassos