Following up GIITTV’s sound of 2017. Here is my personal tip tape for 2017, an eclectic mix of sounds and artists. Some are fresh and tipped on the basis of one track, others have been working to establish themselves for a year or more. They are united in the fact that their work excites me; I hope you find a new act you will enjoy.
Mysterious Cardiff noise-two piece A Hundred Million emerged last year with their debut track ‘Master of the ship you painted’.
Ushered in by double-barrel drum hits that fire off like an ever-shifting battalion of assault weapons, snaking keyboard lines slither across a bed of simmering guitars before the entire piece explodes into a crescendo; it’s the glorious sound of an exploding shooting comet. It’s like a forgotten studio cut from Joe Meek‘s loft, laden with petrol and set on fire by gleeful whippersnappers. They recently released their second track ‘I am the Newport Office’ an even more urgent barrage of rhythms, wooshing Hammond organs and hollering vocals; it’s the sound of rushing through a wind tunnel to the abyss and it sounds utterly thrilling! We hope to learn more about and hear more from A Hundred Million in 2017!
2. Dream Wife – Hey Heartbreaker!
A three-piece made up of London-based musicians Alice Go, Bella Podpadec and Icelandic singer Rakel Mjöll who started out life as a fictional Brighton art school project that included a mockumentary and a set of songs. So successful were the trio at playing the part that they decided to make it a reality with their group Dream Wife. Melodic, powerful, fierce and feminist, they gleefully jump into a shapeshifting alt-punk sound that’s possessed of hints of early Blondie, the attitude of Bikini Kill and hooks of Elastica and dripping in personality and attitude.
3. W.H. Lung -Inspiration!
W. H. Lung is a recording project founded in Manchester in mid-2016. Released at the tail end of last year their debut single ‘Inspiration!’ is a cracking seven- minute sonic march on a ‘human’ parliament, recorded at The Nave in Leeds and produced by Matt Peel (Eagulls, Autobahn, Pulled Apart By Horses).
Its rumbling motorik rhythm haunted by the ghosts of ’70s krautrock/psych: is underpinned by an Alesis drum machine rhythm, that’s shattered by lacerating guitar licks and shuddered to its foundations by incendiary vocals that wrestle with issues like “eternity, belonging and meaninglessness.”
Spiralling somewhere between the urgency of Johnny Rotten’s PiL-era and David Byrne of Talking Heads. “We got qualms with the rich/qualms with the ill/qualms with the poor/it’s an honoured agreement,” he sings; it’s a howl of frustration from the margins, a cry against political injustice, a rumbling sonic maelstrom of existentialism and it’s all the more unmissable because of it.
Glasgow couple Happy Meals were the unexpected show-stealers at From Now On festival early in the year, lighting up Chapter’s theatre space in a whirl of rave pumping beats colliding with the sweetly unique Franco-Scots melodies. Their surprising notes scaled the register in a manner reminiscent of early Bjork and Kate Bush. Singer Suzanne Rodden was a true star; she started off behind the decks and danced down to the front of the stage, invading the crowd for dance-offs on excellent cuts like ‘Electronic Disco’ and the enrapturing ‘Le Voyage’.
They’ve already released an album Apero in 2015 and an EP, last year’s Fruit Juice but they’re one of the best live sights I’ve seen in the last few years, so I had to include them, and they’re no less exciting on record. A collision of heady melodies, Happy Meals hit the sweet spot between dance four-to-the-floor beats, infectious samples and artfully seductive melodies that intrigue and entice. Cuts like the infectious ‘If You Want Me Now’ spiralling somewhere between the clever bilingual pop of Stereolab and the cut and paste disco suave pop of Broadcast, they’re threatening two albums in 2017, we can hardly wait!
5. HMS MORRIS – Interior Design
HMS MORRIS: Making giant leaps over the last 18 months, the trio have played BBC Introducing Stage Glastonbury, Festival Number 6, Truck Festival, Canadian Music Week, The Great Escape, Wales’ largest music festival Maes B and Green Man. Their debut album Interior Design is a brilliantly varied LP, that delights and surprises from track to track. With its wonderful swirling bricolage of melodies, fuzzy guitars, woozy synths: all shot through with a vivid off-kilter imagination and knowing wit. HMS Morris sit somewhere between the work of Stereolab, Stealing Sheep, and Elastica, but all wrapped in a unique imagination.
6. Fauna Twin – Edge of the Coin
Fauna Twin are Parisienne singer Claire Jacquemard and Welsh guitarist/producer Owain Ginsberg (of post-punk band Hippies Vs. Ghosts + We are Animal). Their debut EP Hydra recently came out on Crammed Discs. Lead track ‘Edge of the Coin’ is a deliciously dizzying enigmatic pop song, vivid lyrics swirl through a flight of fancy set on escaping a bad situation. Dramatic, evocative and mysterious, Fauna Twin’s exquisite shapeshifting sound intrigues and delights and marks them out as a mysterious yet enticing prospect for 2017.
French duo Agar Agar emerged last year with ‘Prettiest Virgin’ an exquisite, sultry slice of melancholic late night disco pop. “Come on dance with me/Give me a wink if you want me to faint/And I know you want me,” sighs Clara in a mournful yet come hither tone that encapsulates the push and pull of unrequited dance-floor seduction that’s underscored with disappointment.
Her Parisienne pop tone, laced with the ghosts of Grace Jones and Lana Del Rey is sensual yet bittersweet casting a wistful sigh to the heartbroken come down later on. Her accomplice Armand meanwhile lays down a precise minimal rhythm that’s laced with layers of instrumentation, wonderfully rippling keyboard motifs, twitching samples that dance across each 1980s flecked house disco beats. It’s an intoxicating cut. ‘Prettiest Virgin’ was the first track from their debut Cardan EP on Cracki records.
Afro Cluster are a hip-hop/funk crossover collective from Cardiff who have been bubbling under the scene for the past few years or so. They were one of the Horizon acts last year (a group of artists handpicked to watch by BBC Wales) ‘Love Thing’ was the vibrant first track from their debut EP We Don Land. A deliciously rambunctious party tune that sways between the funky horns of The Average White Band and the joyous work of positive old school organic hip-hop acts like the Roots or De La Soul.
It’s laced with the personal and politically conscious rhymes of leader Skunkadelic whose self-aware vocals survey the damage around him – “All they want is segregation/Replace love with hatred/To generate paper/Create war amongst third nations/And take from them… Then looks skyward/Gimmie that one thing’s/Better than nothing/All of my people!” he sings, infusing positivity and collectivism into the gloomiest of world situations. With a recent session for Maida Vale and a debut album planned for later this year, Afro Cluster could unify even the hardest of hearts.
9. Cherryshoes – Justice
Cherryshoes resides in the shadow of the Black Mountains on the Welsh borders. They recently performed two sets at Latitude festival, appeared at T in the Park 2016 on the BBC Introducing stage and played Nozstock and How the Light Gets In festivals
Their first release Ride On set the tone for their evocative brand of gaze pop that’s darkly mysterious sound that recalls the likes of Mazzy Star or Curve. New single ‘Justice’ is even better, taking the hypnotic trip-hop rhythms reminiscent of Portishead and fuses them to singer LJ’s haunted exhaling delivery that harks back to the work of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins only more productionally sheened.
10.Hotel Del Salto – Bigger than Elvis
Hotel Del Salto is multi-instrumentalist J Francis from the West of Wales. His debut single ‘Bigger Than Elvis’ is a playful cut and paste pop song, laced with bountiful beats, zipping keyboards and fragments of melody, it’s like Beck being filtered through the imagination of a Welsh man who is pondering on the Americanisation and turning it into our own thing. It’s also a “character tale of unnecessary egotism which is used to hide ones true feelings and raw emotions.” We are promised by his label Decidedly that there is even more in-store from Hotel Del Salto in 2017, with a series of single releases.
“Take yourself to the river and throw your body in,” exclaims Rosie Smith aka sad Cardiff bedroom pop artist Oh Peas! on ‘A Day Out‘. Rickety existential odd-pop doesn’t get more delicious than this. A seesawing bittersweet ode to despair, all of life’s detritus and the tiny moments of joy that make life worth living. It’s the lead track from her recent EP the snappily titled ‘How to come back from the Annihilation of yourself.’
Rosie is a unique if off-kilter proposition fusing the lo-fi guitar motifs that snake across the pavement like glistening snail trails, minimal percussion, with an almost anti -pop vocal style that switches from unassumingly melodic and spoken word: residing somewhere between the down tempo melancholia of Kimbya Dawson, the spoken stream of consciousness of Adam Green or Jeffrey Lewis but ladled with a very British kind of pathos and irony. Showing her range she recently released an excellent EP alongside Gorky‘s very own Euros Childs under the punning name Tim’s Rice.
Chester trio Peaness have been carving a niche for themselves since the release of their ace garage-pop debut EP ‘No Fun’ 18 months ago. Spiky, witty, smart and smeared in personality, it exhibited a girl gang with the tunes and chops to back it up. They followed this up with the melodic toe kick in George Osbourne’s nuts ‘Oh George‘ that showed they had as much in common with Elastica as they did the likes of the Vivian Girls.
Now they are releasing double single ‘Same Place’ and ‘Seafoam Islands’ as part of the Oddbox singles club. Both tracks show a progression in their songwriting, Seaform Islands angular rhythms and twitching percussion woven with their three-part vocal harmonies, possesses the kind of songwriting nous exhibited by the likes of Belly or the Breeders. It sounds marvellous. They’ve just announced their signing to Alcopop for a forthcoming new EP ‘Are you Sure?’ plus they are on tour in the UK this February you better rush to keep up with Peaness.
13. Lowly – Word
LOWLY release their debut album Heba through Bella Union on 10th February, a hotly-tipped Danish quintet ‘s ‘Word’ is a sweeping cinematic gorgeous indication of their sound. Anchored by wonderful vocals and an enveloping melodrama, with electronic sweeps and grand percussion. It’s like the meeting point between mid-period Bjork and the epic scope of Mew or Sigur Ros it’s “addressing the global issue of how we vocalise the debate about the humanitarian catastrophe that is the war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe.”
Lowly have also just announced news of a six-date UK in May to support the release of debut Heba.
14. Skott – Porcelain
“I’m like porcelain,” emotes Skott teetering exquisitely at the top of a brittle crystalline upper register, amid a perfectly manicured bed of thumping heart beats, Hammond organ slithers. A deliciously cracked ode about “how you can spend limitless time creating something – trust, for example – but you can also let it fall to the ground in a second.” This was her outstanding debut track.
‘Porcelain’ sounds so fresh, clearly well-crafted pop yet so unfettered by gimmicks her voice is pure, crisp and emotional inner dialogue is laid bare, skating the line between the epic choruses of Lykki Li, the vocal scope of Soap&Skin and the relationship melodramas of Lana Del Rey. As the track climbs to a crescendo, she reverts to the universal “just a million ways to harm you,” her vocals now double tracked reverb sounding as if it could take shoulders-in-arms with fellow victims of emotional carelessness. With other cuts like ‘Wolf’ proving that ‘Porcelain’ isn’t a one off, and part of a set of pearlers she’s set to unfurl in 2017.