Wednesday 19 December 2012

BBC Sound of 2013

Yep, it's that time of year again.  As we look back at the best tracks and albums of the year (including the Gizzle's choice), we also look forward to the year ahead.  What's in store for 2013?

This year's BBC Sound Of list is fairly predictable, with some of 2012's best breakthrough acts inevitably making the cut (Haim, AlunaGeorge and The Weeknd especially).  And, as history continues to reveal, the strongest acts are the women.  Overall, though, it's certainly an exciting list of artists that look to the past and the future for inspiration, fusing genres and breaking rules.  

So, on with the show...

Born in Sierra Leone but raised in London, Amy Kabba (aka A*M*E) is an unabashed pop sensation and having caught the eye of Gary Barlow and toured with the likes of Jessie J, Kabba is well on her way to stardom.  Taking elements from the likes of Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj and Stooshe, her style is brash, colourful and takes no prisoners.  But this isn't mindless pop.  Debut single Play The Game Boy is a stonking piece of electro-pop, with an incredibly catchy hook.  "I'm breaking all the rules, who cares", she sings - expect plenty more rule-breaking in 2013.

Recently revealed to be one of the most blogged about artists this year, it was a foregone conclusion that London duo AlunaGeorge would be included on this list.  George Reid's production stutters and shimmers in an amalgam of RnB and dance, whilst Aluna Francis' vocal brings a touch of soul.  Both You Know You Like It and official debut single Your Drums, Your Love were released this year and received considerable critical acclaim.  In short, AlunaGeorge are set for massive things this year.

Angel Haze
Last year's list had the provocative New York rapper Azealia Banks.  This year's choice from the Big Apple is Angel Haze.  Her hard-edged sound comprises violent beats and a rapid, unflinching vocal flow.  "I run New York" she repeats on single New York - soon she could be queen of hip-hop.  The next Missy Elliott?

Arlissa has come to prominence recently with her collaboration with Nas, Hard To Love Somebody, released on 9th December.  Yet this barely shows the real Arlissa, who's far from another RnB vocalist.  Citing Kate Bush as a key influence, her solo material has a slight Florence or Jessie Ware flavour to it, mixed with reggae and tribal beats.  Vocally, she has a big soulful voice with a unique tone and breathy inflections that lend a jazz feel.  With no solo singles released yet, it's hard to see what direction Arlissa will head in, but she's certainly an interesting prospect for 2013.

With The Mother We Share, CHVRCHES released one of the best electro-pop tracks of 2012.  Equally buoyant yet melancholic, the minimalist glitchy beats, scandi-pop production and catchy melodic riffs are paired with Lauren Mayberry's girlish, fragile vocal.  CHVRCHES are essentially Glasgow's answer to Robyn and the trio certainly have the talent to live up to the comparison.

Haim have created an unlikely crossroads where Americana and Fleetwood Mac folk-rock meet RnB harmonies and beats.  The three sisters from LA have truly broken into the mainstream this year with the release of their 'Forever' EP in February, recent single Don't Save Me and critical acclaim for their live performances, so their inclusion here was inevitable.  And with their debut album arriving next year, the best is yet to come.  If 2013 is set for a renaissance of rock music, then expect Haim to be at the forefront.

King Krule
Can Archy Marshall follow in the footsteps of fellow Brit Schoolers and 'Sound Of' winners Adele and Jessie J?  For a start, Marshall is utterly different - bedroom rock, with a vocal reminiscent of the likes of Morrissey or Get.Cape.Wear.Cape.Fly's Sam Duckworth.  The guitars and misery-soaked vocals are rooted in the past, but the sound is brought up-to-date with modern drum beats.  It's perhaps a sound that's too niche to break into the mainstream though.

This Irish band's debut single All I Want has already notched over a million views on YouTube, but this is perhaps more to do with the sweet video (a story of discrimination in the workplace) than the actual music.  Channelling the likes of Mumford & Sons, Coldplay and The Script, their sound is typical indie-folk-rock that could easily see mainstream success.  There's a fine line between charming and bland though, a line that Kodaline are in danger of crossing.

Laura Mvula
Ever since Adele emerged into the mainstream, labels have been desperate to find the next big soul singer.  Mvula, from Birmingham, is next in a long line of potential candidates.  The self-confessed "geeky kid of RnB" is classically trained, mixing soul and gospel influences in a timeless vocal.  Debut single She layers this vocal in rich harmonies atop minimal accompaniment with stunning effect.  If anyone can rise to Adele's heights, Mvula can.

Little Green Cars
This Irish folk group have probably the worst band name of the list, but they make up for it with their music.  Mumford & Sons certainly have much to answer for and Little Green Cars may seem somewhat indebted to the Mumford sound, but as they've already been together for five years their music is all their own.  Single The John Wayne features folky vocal harmonies accompanied by pulsating percussion and roaring guitars, surely epitomising folk-rock.  With their debut album finally set for release next year, Little Green Cars can hopefully drive some critical and commercial success.

Palma Violets
This band's single Best Of Friends was recently voted NME's track of 2012, but being championed by the renowned magazine is not always a surefire way to success (just look at Brother).  Palma Violets have signed to indie label Rough Trade, whose previous signings include The Strokes and The Libertines, which makes sense considering their low-fi indie-rock sound.  Yet whether the band can bring something new to the genre, or are just another victim of hype, remains to be seen.

Eclectic would be the best word to describe this band's EP 'Delicious'.  Comparisons with the likes of The Doors, Foals and Vampire Weekend are all relevant, from bluesy rock (Ocean's Eye) to calypso surf-pop (Bloodshake) and slow-burning guitar atmospherics (1998 (Delicious)).  It reeks of exciting potential but lacks definition - the band's first step in 2013 needs to cement their sound.

An all-female post-punk band is definitely a unique prospect in the noughties, but alongside Haim, Savages are spearheading a revival of female-driven rock.  Their live shows have garnered rapturous attention throughout the course of the year and for good reason - their driving rhythms, thrashing guitars and wailing vocals are enough to leave you breathless.  Hold on to your plectrums, we could be about to witness the return of punk to the mainstream.

The Weeknd
Abel Tesfaye's inclusion on this list is a curious addition, considering his mixtapes were originally released back in 2011 and his debut album 'Trilogy' was released in November this year.  It's as if the tastemakers are playing catch up.  Yet his inclusion is understandable.  Over the last two years Tesfaye has staked his claim as a true innovator with a stylistically important body of work.  As in the Gizzle's review of 'Trilogy', it "succeeds for its overall mood and originality...With such a huge creative output in just a year and plenty of features and collaborations in the works, let’s hope he hasn’t peaked too early".

Tom Odell
It's an incredibly saturated market for balladeers, but Odell's debut single Another Love is an accomplished and polished release.  It's typically heart-breaking, repeating "all my tears have been used up on another love" in a Chris Martin-esque combination of voice and piano.  There's an innate darkness to the music too as it slowly builds, Odell's vocal soaring above the driving accompaniment.  If Ben Howard played piano, this would likely be the result.

So that's the longlist, but who will make the shortlist?  All will be revealed during the first week of January.  In the meantime, here's the Gizzle's choice: 

* AlunaGeorge
* Chvrches
* Haim
* Savages
* The Weeknd