Here are fifteen artists and bands that I would personally like to see break through in to the mainstream next year. They’re relatively new acts who have already released some material in one way or another but have not yet released a full length studio album (sorry Clare Maguire, St. Lucia, Frida Sundemo) or scored a UK Top 40 hit. I’ve also avoided relisting the already-familiar names that have appeared on the recently-announced BBC Sound of 2014 long list and the shortlist for the Brits Critics’ Choice, so no BANKS, Say Lou Lou, Chlöe Howl or Sam Smith.
Check out a full playlist at the foot of the post.
New York-based outfit HAERTS continued to make their presence known in 2013 with the US release of their debut EP Hemiplegia, which includes the singles Wings and All The Days. A full length album is in the making with the assistance of St. Lucia frontman Jean-Philip Grobler.
Signed to the UK arm of Atlantic Records, Londoner Kwabs has a booming voice that makes you stop firm in your tracks and get lost in his music; a heady mix of powerful soul and echoing nocturnal production, best demonstrated on the recently-posted, Sohn-produced Soundcloud offering Last Stand.
My Midnight Heart is the name that American singer Angelica Allen goes by when she’s in the studio. Her rich, sonically entrancing voice washes over electronically-enhanced percussion like velvet and can be heard in all its intoxicating beauty on her debut EP Chest of Hearts.
Sheer exuberant fun is at the forefront of up-and-coming Aussie sheila Betty Who’s sound. The twentysomething’s debut EP The Movement, released as a free download earlier this year, is a four track set that packs in bundles of infectious, catchy pop hooks and powerhouse production that could rival any of the big name artists.
BROODS is the alter ego of Auckland-based brother and sister duo Caleb and Georgia Nott, who only had to release one captivating track this year called Bridges to grab the attention of the world’s music blogs and pop sites. The siblings recently returned to New Zealand from a pre-Christmas trip to the States with the exciting news that they’d signed to Capitol Records (US) and Polydor (UK), and will be releasing their debut EP in February, with an album out in August – both helmed by Lorde producer Joel Little.
Earlier this year, Swedish singer Mapei caught the attention of US record label Downtown Records who swiftly signed her to their rosta. In November, she put out her debut single Don’t Wait, a slow-burning, acoustic number peppered with finger snaps and stripped back, lo-fi production, which quickly spread across the blogosphere like wildfire.
Washington-based duo GEMS recently issued their debut EP Medusa, a collection which sees Lindsay Pitt’s sighing vocal gliding ever so smoothly over Clifford John Usher’s icy synths, electronica and percussion.
French producer Monsieur Adi had a busy 2013, providing seriously good remixes for well known artists (Beyoncé, Britney) as well as upcoming talent (Say Lou Lou, Smallpools) but it was his first lead-credited and officially released single that saw him enter the musical fray as a serious artist in his own right. The Monsieur’s work is more often than not an intoxicating dancefloor-ready melée of orchestra and electronica and it was this enthralling blend of styles that materialised beautifully in What’s Going On; a collaboration with A*M*E on vocals, that interpolated Soul II Soul’s 1989 classic Back To Life (However Do You Want Me.
Ballet School are a Berlin-based trio signed to Bella Union, the record label run by former Cocteau Twins member, Simon Raymonde. Listing The Cure, Madonna and Carly Simon amongst their influences, the group delivered a sterling flashback to 80s-esque synthpop with their debut single Heartbeat Overdrive, bolstered by Rosie Blair’s cool glassy vocals and lifted from their Boys Again EP.
MDNGHT proved their worth in 2013 with the release of their debut EP Into The Night which saw the Mancunian four piece perfecting the art of merging frontman Jordan Lewin’s evocative, soulful vocal with influences steeped in 90s house and electronica.
LA-based outfit Smallpools released their debut self-titled EP back in July, and it’s a collection brimming with giddily-exuberant beats and pop-perfect hooks. The Californian foursome are currently putting the final touches to their first full length studio album which they’ll release via RCA next year.
Alluring, spacey synths, David Maddox-Jones’ arresting vocal and a strong ear for a great pop melody provide the benchmark for London-based electronic trio Strangers’ sound, which culminated in the release of the group’s impressive debut EP Close at the back end of 2013.
Magic Man are an American band hailing from Boston whose free download Every Day was one of 2013’s most refreshing combinations of addictive guitar pop and shimmering synths. Signed to Neon Gold, the group released their punchy debut EP You Are Here via Columbia in November and it’s well worth a listen.
If you’re taken by the sultry R&B vocal leanings of BBC Sound of 2014 nominee and LA singer BANKS, you may well find yourself equally hooked on the UK’s very own Charlotte OC, a 22 year old from Blackburn whose music showcases a similar knack for delivering a powerful punch via haunting and rich soul-steeped vocals and nocturnal, melancholy production values. The British songstress has already delivered a couple of intense slow burners – Colour My Heart and Hangover – in 2013, and has been recently working in LA with Tim Anderson, who has previously recorded with Solange and Sia.
Overdose and Glitter and Gold are just two examples of sublime synth-driven, dreamscape pop to be found on the debut EP by New York-based outfit Little Daylight. The trio – made up of Nikki, Eric and Matt – have yet to make Tunnel Vision available to download in the UK but, if you’re a fan of the euphoric electropop output of CHVRCHES, Tegan and Sara and St. Lucia, you’ll be well placed to put some faith in me and keep your ears ready for this new three-piece in 2014.