Friday, 13 December 2013

Ones To Watch 2014

Nobody can predict the future, but there are plenty of pop acts who broke into the music industry this year with incredibly promising careers ahead of them in 2014.  Here's a look, in no particular order, at some of the ones to watch out for...

1. Chlöe Howl

If you don't know who Chlöe Howl is, then where the HELL have you been for the past year, if not the past week or so at least?  No Strings was released at the tail-end of 2012, followed by Rumour and more recently Paper Heart, leading to a spot on the BBCSO2014 list and a nomination for the Brits Critic's Choice Award 2014 - how she didn't win is beyond me.

Reminiscent of Lily Allen with her very British vocals, lyrically Howl is full of youthful angst and biting humour - is there any lyric more cutting than on her snarling debut, "you don't even know if I'm the right sex do you"?  Beneath it all is pounding synth production that's as hook-laden and infectious as it gets.  This is mainstream pop at its most brutal and honest.  The full album can't come soon enough.

2. Lulu James

As with every other year, 2013 has been full of trends - soul, disco and futuristic electro being three that culminate in singer Lulu James.  Originally from Tanzania, she now resides in Newcastle where it's only recently that she's honed her musical abilities.  Her earlier material was heavily influenced by dub-step, notably her 2012 EP 'Rope Mirage', but over the past year she's released the bubbling Closer, the futuristic club beats of Step By Step and the cooing mid-tempo jam Sweetest Thing to rave reviews.  The combination of electronic production and slinky, soulful vocals certainly brings to mind the likes of Jessie Ware and AlunaGeorge, but James is slowly carving out a sound that's all her own - expect to hear plenty of it in 2014.

3. Clean Bandit

Clean Bandit have already released a number of singles this year but are still yet to release a full album.  When it finally arrives in 2014 it should be worth the wait.

"So you think electro music is boring?", the vocals question on Mozart's House.  Not with this band.  The deep house and garage infused production on each of their singles is full of glitchy beats and soulful vocals - so far so 2013.  And then the string quartet comes in...sorry what?!  You wouldn't think classical music and dance music would mix, but with Clean Bandit it absolutely does.  It's this exciting fusion that makes the band a unique prospect for next year.

4. Say Lou Lou

No act this year has done dreamy melancholy quite like Swedish-Australian sisterly duo Say Lou Lou and that's purely off the back of a handful of singles: last year's Maybe You, and 2013's Julian and Better In The Dark (plus its arguably superior B-side Beloved).  The sisters' subdued vocals and yearning melodies settle into richly textured dreamscapes of glittering synths and muted drums, wrapped up in a sad-pop package of heartbreaking lyrics ("and if I'm your beloved then why don't I fit?").  Their future album will surely make for an ethereal, mesmeric experience.

5. Betty Who

Also hailing from Australia, Betty Who's music couldn't be more different.  Indebted to Whitney's 80s pop, Who released her EP 'The Movement' earlier in the year in an explosion of hooky, bubblegum melodies and colourful production that sparkles from start to finish.  Somebody Loves You and You're In Love feature incredibly catchy choruses, whilst Right Here proves she can do poignant ballad just as well.  Who began the year unsigned but has since joined RCA Records, with a full album in the pipeline for 2014.

6. Tom Aspaul

That Aspaul is the first signing on Little Boots' record label On Repeat should be enough to get any pop fan excited.  That his debut single Indiana is a stonking pop track is the icing on the cake.

Produced by MNEK, the Sam Sparro-indebted pop-disco sound features layers of synths and a shuffling beat, above which Aspaul soulfully intones "and it feels, yeah it feels so good when you're here".  It might be about all we've got to go on right now, but with such an experienced team behind his career you can bet there's plenty more where that came from.

7. MØ

Danish singer-songwriter Karen Marie Ørsted recently announced the release date of her debut album 'No Mythologies To Follow' (February 24th 2014) and it'll definitely be one to look out for.  At the start of this year, tracks like Pilgrim, Waste Of Time and Glass put MØ firmly into the minds of music bloggers - all songs that will appear on the album, in addition to the Diplo produced XXX 88 and the (annoying) Never Wanna Know taken from her slightly disappointing EP 'Bikini Daze'.  As a whole, though, the album is an exciting prospect, full of uniquely produced, quirky and lurching Scandinavian pop.

8. Little Daylight

Brooklyn trio Little Daylight have a sound that's perhaps the most familiar on this list: pounding electro power pop full of glittering synths and catchy hooks indebted to many other acts (Chvrches especially).  Yet their songs are so accomplished that they're hard to ignore.  Their debut EP 'Tunnel Vision' is yet to see release in the UK, but tracks like Glitter and Gold and Overdose are polished efforts with plenty of transatlantic appeal.

9. Luke Sital-Singh

The Gizzle first reviewed Sital-Singh's debut EP 'Fail For You' way back in August 2012 and it seems that in 2014 he'll be receiving the attention he deserves.  Far from just another troubadour songwriter with a guitar, his softly plucked acoustic patterns form a bed for his heart-breaking lyrics.  On the EP's title track for instance, he sings beautifully of a broken relationship with the chorus lyric "I bought you the sky and the oceans too, by the look in your eye the only thing I couldn't do is fail for you".

2013 saw the release of two more EPs, 'Old Flint' and 'Tornadoes', that continued his delicate and sincere songwriting.  Even if a future album merely takes the best bits from his EPs, it'll be a stunning collection of songs.

10. ???

It might be a cop out, but the tenth spot on this list is saved for the unknown.  There are bound to be plenty of new artists breaking in 2014 who will surprise and delight our ears - who knows what treasures record labels from around the world have up their sleeves, not to mention independent acts?  2013 will be a tough act to follow, but the future is certainly bright.