In the final part of our rundown of artists to watch out for in 2019. We select six acts of diverse and exciting sounds.
Charlotte Adigéry makes her bow this Spring with her excellent multicoloured second EP Zandoli, the Belgian-Caribbean artist proves herself to be a storyteller, dancefloor queen and shapeshifting artist. Having been taught the ropes by her Martinique-born mother – namely rhythm’s relationship to musicality and the importance of a sense of humour – Adigéry is a persuasive young artist who can sing about lizards one moment and latex the next.
A descendant of a Nigerian Yoruba tribe that worked its way out of slavery on the faraway island of Martinique, Adigéry likes to draws inspiration from her Caribbean ancestors’ musical traditions and splices them with the modernity of early Janelle Monae. The strident almost house like beats of genre-blurring opening track ‘Paténipat’ features a bountiful chanted chorus of “zandoli pa té ni pat” –a Creole mnemonic that means “the gecko didn’t have any legs”– which perfectly enunciates the rhythms of the GWO KA dances that would have swayed the islanders of Martinique a century ago.
Infectious lead single ‘High Lights’ is an ode to the transformative power of weaves. (“I know I shouldn’t do it but / I love synthetic wigs a lot.”)Adigéry explains: “Hair is such a powerful organ, and it’s a very powerful way to express yourself. Black women have been playing with their appearance and hair for decades. I want to honour that culture.” Shes just been touring with Nenah Cherry and promises more UK dates this year. Adigéry is a vital artist who embodies female experience and those of a diverse background with her shapeshifting sound she refuses to be categorised, but will get you dancing! (Bill Cummings)
Late Teens was a very, very early contender for album of 2018, now it gets a full UK release at the end of January. The Melbourne-based band spent six weeks writing over 40 songs which have been distilled to the 12 on ‘Late Teens’ – a massive, metallic charge of a record that spits bile as hard as it hits glorious, arcing melodies. This is a furious and fantastic album from a band you need to keep an eye on. They hit the UK for a tour this April. (Michael Hall)
The Icelander, full name Soffia Björg Óðinsdóttir, was a latecomer to the music business and when she appeared at Reykjavik’s Secret Solstice festival a couple of years ago happily tweeted that she was the oldest performer there.
But breaking news has it that she will shortly arrange some foreign shows for this year, hopefully, to include the UK. That should expose her to a much bigger audience, and not before time. Despite its tiny population, the Icelandic market seems to be big enough to support plenty of artists and bands in a country where just about everyone is a musician and few bother to perform abroad. (She’s also a part-time tour guide, working inside a glacier).
Soffia benefits from having some of Iceland’s finest musicians working alongside her in her band, including virtuoso guitarist Pétur Ben, the Italian-Icelandic bassist Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, and unfussy drummer Kristofer Rodriguez Svonuson.
She is often compared with Norah Jones, and there is an earnestness and maturity in her work, underpinned by compelling lyrics. Her style is difficult to pin down. There are elements of folk and Americana but she can rock, too, and the band will go off into an experimental jam on some songs played live, such as on ‘Silence the Voices’ from her debut, eponymous album. (David Bentley)
Openly out and proud girl gang Pillow Queens have steadily been building up their reputation for raucous shows, catchy, bold, feminist anthems all delivered with a thick Irish accent and an irreverent glint in the eye.
The pick of their songs ‘Gay Girls’ which sea saws between wistful verses that tremble with insecurity that speaks to the experiences of LGBT community, before breaking loose into a fantastic self-empowered chorus that’s both anthemic catchy and yet underscored by a grit. You could make comparisons to the kickass patriarchy smashing punk-pop of Camp Cope but they are useless Pillow Queens are utterly irresistible. (BC)
Mart Avi is a mesmerising performance artist; he has caught the attention at European festivals including Tallinn Music Week the last few years. Estonian Avi cracks the artifice of the every day, the unseen and harnesses its throbbing molten underbelly. The hyper-real soul of his latest album Otherworld released at the tail-end of last year is an Avant-Garde gem simmering with both restless anxiety and dystopic sketches of burning urban sprawls. Whilst his baritone might have echoes of Scott Walker or later David Bowie, his work is determinedly futuristic ‘Arcadia’ and ‘Half Life’ in particular are a startlingly illicit fractured bricolage of electronica, neo-classical, and krautrock sprayed it with his imprint. While standout ‘Let Me Be Me’ percolates with a disconnected melodrama underpinned by breakbeats, an array of samples and flecks of modernist jazz, ‘let me be me/in this reality’ he sings a plea for the human in a bewildering artificial landscape. His record constantly catches you off guard, surprises, punctured by operatic moments and layers of sound collage, balancing on the edge of the precipice but always peering into the wilderness. Tall and striking, Mart Avi could be the Soviet spy in a mac and shades if it wasn’t for the sneakers which hint at his humour and no knowledge, his world is the artful pop replete with ambitious intentions.
Displaying another face to their intoxicating sound, six-piece ALASKALASKA returned with the yearning subtlety of ‘Monster’ this year. Sewn with an enveloping atmosphere driven by clipped strums, subtle percussive shifts and Welsh-born singer Lucinda John-Duarte’s evocative vocals that offer vivid chinks in her self identity. Like the addictive ace subtle synth floor filler ‘Maneater’ it was recorded with Oli Barton-Wood – the producer and engineer behind recent releases from Nilüfer Yanya, HMLTD, and Sorry – with whom they, and fellow ascendant South London artist Mellah, now share studio space.
The group’s previous output, ‘Meateater’ and the brilliant 2017 self-titled debut EP, served as the perfect introduction to their genre-blurring sound laced with elements of electro-pop, dance music and jazz-flecked arrangements infused with an intensely personal quality that gives them a distinctive edge. (BC)