Music To Add To Your Playlist
From left: Messrs Paul Jason Klein, Jake Goss and Les Priest from LANY
Adele is an anomaly. A hugely talented and successful anomaly, but an anomaly all the same. Remove the already gargantuan sales of 25 from the British equation and, for the UK record industry, 2015 begins to resemble a post-apocalyptic landscape. A mere three home-grown debutants – Mr James Bay, Ms Jess Glynne and Years & Years – scored a gold disc for album sales (100,000-plus) in the past 12 months, with only Ms Glynne and Mr Bay to upgrade to platinum (300,000). Yet pop music is now more ubiquitous, and consumed more voraciously, than at any time in the history of the planet. To take just one example: almost every television commercial now uses pop to push its wares, be it a bloodless cover version of a blameless classic, or the opportunistic syncing of an earworm such as Mr Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”. And pop has never been so easy to access: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Red, Amazon, Pandora and the like allow us to source music at home and on the move. “That sucks,” say (just about) working musicians, whose incomes are rapidly dwindling. “It’s fine by me,” counter guaranteed bankers such as Ms Taylor Swift and Rihanna, whose impressive online stats are still matched by eye-watering paydays.
And so to another year: more arguments about the viability of streaming, or the lack of a truly original new breakthrough talent, or the hot new names on tastemakers’ lips, or the search for breaking trends and the trashing of others, or the constant hubbub (or should that be hot air?) generated by those who have convinced themselves that they have seen the future of pop, and have the facts to prove it.
As those arguments rage, normal pop life will continue. Adele will outsell every other major artist, and storm the Grammys once more. Fans will keep a vigil for new albums from Messrs Kanye West and Frank Ocean. Ms Taylor Swift will acquire at least 20 new best friends. Ms Miley Cyrus will say – or wear – something controversial. And hyped new acts will hope for, and in some cases deserve, a breakthrough. Here are eight artists we’ll be listening out for this year.
To hear the playlist, head to Spotify.
Formed by singer-songwriter Mr Rupert Blackman (third from left) when he followed his heart and moved to Amsterdam to live with his Dutch girlfriend, Causes takes its cue from London Grammar’s ghostly, pared-down atmospherics, with brutally effective melodies pushed to the forefront. “Teach Me How To Dance With You”, from their recent debut EP, To The River, has already been a huge hit in the Netherlands.
Key track: “To The River”
A three-piece who met in Nashville now recording their debut album on the coast of California, LANY summon the ghosts of Messrs Daryl Hall and John Oates, Mr Don Henley circa “The Boys Of Summer”, and Messrs Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in their Ms Janet Jackson-producing pomp. The 1980s loom large on the band’s online-only releases, and their adopted home of Malibu might just be the perfect place to hear it. Possessing, in Mr Paul Klein (above right), a frontman of chiselled, poster-boy good looks, LANY bring the past gloriously up to date.
Key track: “ILYSB”
Ms Isobel Beardshaw, formerly a member of the failed female pop trio SoundGirl, has dusted herself down, acquired a new stage name and re-emerged with a set of songs that channel her street-smart upbringing in south London and fuse pop, jazz, funk and soul, gilded by a sweeter-than-sugar singing voice that quickly lodges in your head. Radio is getting behind her, the image is strong, the music infectious. Pop, of course, is a capricious business, but Ms Beardshaw is hitting all the right notes.
Key track: “White Tiger”
Twin brothers from south London, Messrs Will (above left) and Matt Ritson’s (above right) LCD Soundsystem-recalling songs and super-physical live performances have won them a lot of fans over the past year. Now signed to Warner Music, the duo is set to reach new levels in 2016.
Key track: “Control”
Anglo-Iranian singer TĀLĀ (her name means “gold” in Farsi) released three EPs on the uber-cool Aesop label before Sony Music snapped her up. The 26-year-old’s multicultural music is thrillingly mongrel (previous collaborators have included Banks, the South Korean girl group Wa$$up and the Egyptian mahragan artists Sadat and Alaa Fifty Cent), with brutal beats and dizzy-making collisions of genre.
Key track: “Tell Me”
Photograph by Mr Daniel Harris
With a Brits Critics’ Choice Award under his belt, not to mention topping the BBC’s Sound of 2016 poll, if some are to be believed, this Buckinghamshire one-man band has the songs and the live show to be a big star. Combining a Mr Ed Sheeran-like way with a heart-tugging melody and the dubby, alt-R&B textures of peers such as Mr James Blake, Mr Garratt is as close as you’ll get to a sure thing.
Key track: “Weathered”
Messrs James Hatcher (above left) and Andy Clutterbuck (above right) caught fire in 2015 with a succession of releases that captured the addictive nature of their smooth urban neo-soul – think Mr Robert Palmer if he’d been produced by Mr Quincy Jones, with guest appearances by Mr Frank Ocean and Mr James Blake. Their one-to-watch-out-for debut album drops in the spring.
Key track: “Love Jobs You Hate”
East London singer Ms Cherie Jones guested on HONNE’s dreamy homage to homesickness, “No Place Like Home”, her smoky vocals matching the duo’s emotional heft every step of the way. Mr Sam Smith bigged-up her EP, Indulge, and she has been prepping her debut album with producers such as Raffertie (Ninja Tune), Mr Rodaidh McDonald (XL) and Mr Jai Paul’s brother Mr AK Paul. Postcards from the edge of young city life, JONES’s pop-soul songs are minimal and spare, giving her bracingly honest lyrics and beautiful vocals even greater impact.
Key track: “Hoops”