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.
But it’s the end of the year and caveats such as these are thrown out the window along with a few reindeers and the Christmas decorations. Everyone wants to play the game. Even Shazam, the music ID service, is throwing its hat in the ring with predictions about 2014’s hits based on the data they’ve collected in the last few months. It’s like race day at the Curragh or Punchestown.
So, OK, we’re also in. We promised you a list and a list is what you’re going to get. Bearing in mind all we’ve said above, here are 14 acts we’re looking forward to hearing from in 2014. Some are brand new, some are already in the pack and there are one or two curveballs in the mix. Check them out – and make sure to check out On the Record in The Ticket for the best in new music tips every week.
Hugely talented Cork producer and member of Young Wonder, Ian Ring has shown his smarts on new material from Daithí and some other as-yet-unreleased projects. One to definitely watch out for in the future.
It’s time for Schoolboy Q’s close-up. The Los Angeles rapper and Black Hippy collective dude (alongside Kendrick Lamar) releases his major label debut album Oxymoron in February. We’re expecting fireworks from the man born Quincy Hanley, if album teasers Banger, Man of the Year and Collard Greens are anything to go by.
KIDS OF THE APOCALYPSE
There will always be at least one act in these lists trying to stay in the shadows. In this case, Kids of the Apocalypse are the ones trying to stay mysterious and enigmatic. Tracks to date such as Empire and Masters of the Sun indicate a crew very much at home pushing the envelope when it comes to widescreen electropop.
The shorthand here could be “if you like Disclosure, you’ll dig Bondax”. We’re talking another pair of kids – Adam Kaye and George Townsend – who have been producing smashing house cuts and low-slung electropop sweetness to get the connoisseurs swooning. They tour with London Grammar in 2014.
Anyone who saw this Australian singer-
songwriter at Other Voices in Dingle last month went home singing Salvat’s praises. We’re longtime fans of the man in the blue suit, a musician with a great ear for glitzy pop heartbreakers full of sophisticated heart and soul.
You’ve probably not realised it, but you’ve heard this Swedish trio already thanks to their hands-in-the-air pop belter Pumpin’ Blood being used to soundtrack TV sporting
highlights in the last few months. There’s much more where that comes from too.
One for fans of The Knife and Oh Land.
Manchester-based Adio Marchant got a good run going in 2013 with mesmeric, enchanting tracks such as Fire and Rivers, which were chockablock with early potential. The latest track we heard from him, Love More Worry Less, had radio airplay written all over it.
The Bristol-based singer-songwriter with the soulful, sand-blasted, blues voice and sparse, spine-tingling, elegant songs to match has been on our radar since 2012. Now, thanks to the BBC Sound Of poll, everyone else has cottoned on to his appeals and charm.
One of the acts who really impressed us with her tunes and chutzpah at last spring’s Great Escape, Chloe Howl is a teenager on a mission. Tunes such as No Strings were strong and bold and showed that she was capable to penning and performing bright, sassy earworms.
New York trio by way of Los Angeles, Wet received a lot of attention in and around last year’s CMJ festival. Their four-track EP is one which gets better and better with every listen, a collection of hushed, minimal, tender tunes which really get under your skin.
Highlighted in On the Record elsewhere in The Ticket this week, Broods are New Zealand brother and sister Georgia and Caleb Nott who are sure to receive all the “new Lorde” noise in the months ahead. We like what we’ve heard from to far, especially the broody (sorry!) Bridge.
Mullingar teens making bright, radio-friendly alternative pop with plenty of hooks and bubbly tunes in the mix. Very early days but there’s a lot of potential here so expect a lot of A&R trips to the midlands in 2014.
French producer Mie Levy was in the spotlight in 2013 thanks to his Aleph debut album and work for Kanye West on Yeezus. The Lyon native has a great ability to create intense, infectious techno-noir. Expect him to be producing tracks full of grandstanding and pomp for some years to come.
One of the big stories to watch in 2014 will be the return of Neneh Cherry to the pop fray. Her daughter Tyson McVey is also worth noting, as she makes moves with producer Shaun Savage under the PANES moniker. Expect dark, dramatic r’n’b from the pair.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
The Columbus, Ohio, duo have several things going for them: a superb live reputation, some brilliant mesmeric tunes such as Car Radio (and a fantastic video to go with it) and a slow, steady build in the United States. Expect many over here to go nuts for their crunchy, idiosyncratic, full-bodied sound in 2014.