Running the numbers on the new kids on the block
The Ticket’s new music spotter Jim Carroll analyses the data and lists 14 acts to watch in 2014 and beyond
This is the season when experienced new-music watchers feel a little like pub regulars watching the arrival of the Twelve Pubs of Christmas idiots. Oh no, here they come. The once-a-year merchants. The bandwagon jumpers in their stupid jumpers. The lightweights. The lads who will be spewing their guts up in the streets in a few hours. The know-nothings. What the hell do they know about new music anyway?
But as one year ends and another one begins, everyone turns into a pundit. Over the past decade, it’s become customary for anyone who writes about or talks about music to write about or talk about what’s next. Despite the fact that many of these writers and talkers don’t cover new music week in or week out, they’re still expected to make a stab at predictions.
You can blame the BBC Sound Of Next Year poll for this state of affairs. It’s become the gold standard for what’s next music-wise and has successfully predicted great things in the past for Haim, Mika, Ellie Goulding, Adele, Mumford & Sons, Florence & The Machine, Lady Gaga and many others. It has also, alas, unsuccessfully predicted great things for Kubb, Marcos Hernandez and Rox, proving that you can’t win them all.
Such a poll, though, needs data and votes, which is where the talking-about-music and writing-about-music classes come in. It’s noticeable that a consensus usually arises at this stage and that consensus will always hone in on a rake of acts already signed to record labels and with music primed and loaded for release in the coming months. You can assume that calls have been made and emails have been sent by clued-in PRs canvasing for their acts.
This, of course, is no coincidence. In order for these polls to have traction and be able to claim they’re doing their job, the acts at the top of he poll need to be ones with heavily promoted releases on the way with a good chance of immediate success.
It’s worth remembering at this stage of the proceedings that there wasn’t sight nor sound of two of 2013’s biggest acts in any of last year’s polls or predictions. Instead, Lorde and London Grammar were biding their time, fine-tuning their sound and allowing things to develop away from the promo circus. When they did release Royals and Metal & Dust respectively, people sat up and paid attention. It didn’t matter a jot that they didn’t feature on some poll a few months’ earlier – the songs did all the work.
Furthermore, remember that many acts take their own sweet time to come good or even get around to a release. Looking back on my own predictions for the last few years, I’ve tipped the debut album from The Gloaming as a potential release of the year in 2012 and 2013. That album finally arrives in January 2014 – honest Injun – and it’s just sensational.
The art of making music doesn’t fit neatly into the orthodoxy of 12-month calendars. While many will tip acts because they see that a plan for 2014’s releases are in place, others will select a brand new act who simply excites the hell out of them and will take time to develop. Case in point are acts such as Bleeding Heart Pigeons and Rosie Carney, two Irish acts tipped in these pages a year ago and who are still very much on the developmental curve.