Brace yourselves music fans: with the BBC Sound of 2013 list now well on the way to being counted down, and a whole host of names, from the established print press to online sites and the smallest of blogs, having their own say, you’re about to be bombarded with a gluttony of new music to listen out for, to and read about. Will they all be as amazing as their respective champions claim they are? Most likely not, but part of the, uh, ‘fun’ of wading through the endless tips of the year is discovering a song or an artist that - though you’d never heard it before – will go on to provide a soundtrack for, perhaps, the rest of your life.
Here at Contactmusic we’ve attempted to pick out a mix of the names you’ll be seeing in bright lights everywhere else, interspersed with a couple of our own personal favourites who we're keeping a personal eye on over the forthcoming months...
Blogger's Delight - The names that will be everywhere
For 21 year-old Angel Haze – real name Raykeea Wilson – hers is a star that already looks to be in swift ascension, having just been awarded third spot on the BBC Sound of 2013 list. The Detroit-born rapper initially made her name through word-of-mouth, with two mixtapes released in 2011 – Reservation and Classick. She's headed towards much greater things, though, given that she’s recently been signed up by Island Records, and with an emphasis on reaching out to influences far beyond the traditional realm of hip-hop in an attempt to subvert her main genre, we’re expecting Wilson to crossover on a huge scale.
AlunaGeorge comprise of London duo Aluna Francis and George Reid. The pair's modern take on R n' B delves deep into the long-held touchstones of British electronica – influences taken from labels like Ninja Tune, R+S and Warp – yet mixes that with a firm pop nous. With producer Reid governing the beats, Francis comes into her own live as a captivating front woman, blessed with a voice that’s soulful depth belies her tender years.
If Savages spent the past twelve months in the UK steamrollering all in their path live, then 2013’s the year we reckon they’re going to transfer that throttle-neck post-punk energy onto record in a big way. Formed in 2011, the four-piece have played the game exactly right: aware of the speed that the music press jump on new acts, they didn’t dare step out of the rehearsal room until they were a taut, intimidating, fully-formed presence. When they finally did, early last year, they struck like a southpaw blow to the head, bristling with an aggressively focused menace that - when coupled with an unnerringly, relentless motorik style of drumming - blew anyone they shared a stage with away.
Electronic Hardware - Our favourite new synthesized sounds
From the ashes of avant-garde group The Sian Alice Group, London trio Eaux emerged last year with initially little fanfare. However that changed with the release of double A-side Luther/No More Power and follow-up EP i, gaining them radio play and a growing amount of column inches. It was with good reason too; Eaux’s music is enveloping in its beauty, imbued with a nocturnal hue and drifting closely towards European techno sounds without ever quite allowing itself to sit within such an easy pigeonhole.
Anyone who got to see one of last year’s big buzz acts, Purity Ring, in Europe might well have caught the brash, jagged edges of Toronto producer Doldrums’ sample-laden electro. Doldrums – real name Airick Woodhead – was first picked up on by UK experimentalists Portishead, who include his re-work of ‘Chase The Tear’ as the B-side to their single. 12” EP Egypt followed last year, with debut LP Lesser Evil dropping on February 25 this year. Woodhead mixes his frittering, glassy sound with androgynous vocals that combine to create a sound that's sweet, but far too razor-edged to be fully saccharine.
'Guitar Music' Will Never Die, But You Will - Promising UK rock noises...
Manchester four-piece Embers were a name on almost no-one’s lips as they quietly got going last year, before emerging right at the tail end of 2012 to suggest that of all the names currently being tipped by the never-shy north west city – from PINS to Money and Dutch Uncles – they might become the biggest of the lot in 2013. A limited debut 7” sold out sharply, but momentum really picked up with the online premieres of two stunning live videos, which saw the band drop jaws with two sweeping epics, recorded at a monastery and resplendent with choral and string backing. Packed with power, emotion, and an emotional sincerity that marks a fresh change from a UK music scene imbued with self-awareness, both videos are stunning. Given that they're rumoured to have caused a music industry scrum too, we wouldn’t be surprised if Embers profile was to skyrocket this year.
Like Savages, Leeds’ Hookworms spent much of 2012 asserting themselves as one of the best live bands in the UK. On first impressions they’re hewn from psychedelic rock’s great linearity, but dig a little further and it becomes starkly evident that this is a misnomer. This six-piece possess a far harsher, more conflicted edge that pushes in the opposite direction away from the escapism some of their trippier peers might indulge in. We think that makes them intrinsically more exciting as a result; their debut album Pearl Mystic is out in March and sweeps through European koshmische sounds, visceral US punk and UK garage rock, combining them into something that malevolently dares you not to be pulled into it.
Punk Has 37 Lives - A resurgence in North American nihilists...
If you believe that The Ramones were the first punk band (we're not sure ourselves, but quite a few do) then 2013 marks 37 years since the beginning of its movement with their debut album in 1976. How a genre based on such simple musical values continues to remain relevant in the 21st century comes down to many of its best proponents delighting in pushing its limitations as far as they can, whilst their mouthpieces use it as the perfect platform to connect with the social turbulence of their times. Fidlar are hard drinking, hard partying Los Angeles noiseniks, but don’t let thir waster aesthetic act fool you; this is revellry for the no-future generation, a whole load of twenty somethings in the West who’ve arrived to pick up their future only to find that economic recession has led to all the promise of it being broken. Their self-titled debut LP is out this spring.
Much like Fidlar, Canadians Metz are the sort of group who feel like they’re raging against the dying light of day, their robust two minute blasts seemingly shouting in the face of our times. More polished than their west coast peers, the trio are nevertheless a raw, raucous and overwhelming presence live, and though their self-titled debut LP was released on Sub Pop last year, its slowburn success release looks like it’s only just catching on now. Expect much, much more this year.
Second Time’s The Charm - You don't have to be 'new' to make an impact...
One of the downsides to every January's relentless drive for the new is that those acts a couple of albums down the line can get swept away in the rush. We want to redress that balance, and frankly why wouldn’t we want to when we’ve absolute gems like Suuns ready with a such an excellent second album in Images Da Futur. The group met critical acclaim with 2011’s Zeroes QC but found that, at least outside their native Canada, they remained a curio. Their follow-up should change that; Images Da Futur reaches further in every direction than its predecessor, bouncing around between influences veering from early 90s American college rock to more darkly ambient tones and further, to the industrial minimalism of Suicide and the more avant-garde depths of both rock and eletronica.
Bristol, UK three-piece Thought Forms first album came out to little fanfare in 2009. We hope that changes with their second LP Ghost Mountain, which retains the group’s penchant for big, skyscraping atmospherics, but marries them with something harder and more direct. Tracks like 'Sans Soleil' recall the likes of Sebadoh and Sonic Youth, whilst remaining as aggressively charged as any straight-up punk band. What really impresses with this trio though, is the swiftness with which they can coherently turn the scale of their sound from micro to macro - at its best it's nothing short of breathatking.
Raphaelle Standell-Preston initially had to put her electronica side project fully into the shade whilst she concentrated on her band Braids, who in 2011 were gaining a sizeable chunk of blog attention. However 2013 looks to be the year when Blue Hawaii pushes its way centre stage. Standell-Preston is joined by her boyfriend Alexander Cowan, the pair constructing gently nudging and probing, soft-edged electronic melodies that, though swathed in reverb, are never fully let free from the duo's control. Contrastingly, Standell-Preston wilfully wisps her Elvenly dreamlike vocals in and around the minimal rhythms and swelling cadences of sound, creating something that feels like the blissful coming together of not just man and woman, but also man and machine. Their album Untogether is out on February 11.