Now we’ve kicked 2016 to the curb, it’s time to look forward.
January is all about freshness, so here are 20 acts from around the globe who I reckon you’ll be hearing much more of this year. Some will be familiar to you but I expect to make an even bigger splash and some, I bet are likely to be appreciated by a lot more people by the year’s end. That was the criteria. I avoided any of the obvious ones you’ve seen elsewhere especially the BBC Sound of 2017 poll.
There are also extended playlists featuring the pick of those acts and more (JFDR, Jorja Smith, Declan McKenna, Louis Berry, ABRA, Jamilia Woods, Maggie Rogers, Pumarosa among them) on Soundcloud and Spotify.
Dublin R&B pop trio to hit it big this year.
A regular feature on Nialler9, Hare Squead spent the year building their fanbase in the UK by supporting Dua Lipa and dropping a series of singles and an EP on Columbia Records that suggested that Tony Konstone, E-Knock and singer Jessy Rose’s blend of soul, R&B, rap and pop could cross the Atlantic this year if all goes well.
Scandinavian bright light of pop.
Four songs deep and Scandinavian artist Skott (who apparently “grew up in a remote small town forest commune run by ‘outcast’ folk musicians”) has already received some worthy plaudits – Annie Mac’s Hottest Record In The World, approval from Lorde, plays on Zane Lowe’s Beats show and topping the Hype Machine’s most blogged chart (and featured in their end of year list)
Her songs so far are bright pop nuggets from the sweet melody of ‘Porcelain’ to orchestral finger-clicking ballad ‘Wolf’ and the whistle-assisted electronic pop of ‘Lack Of Emotion’.
Brittle piano balladry with emotive results.
Idaho-born musician Jens Kuross studied Jazz at Berklee college in Boston but last year begun releasing music under his own name on the London-based Aesop label. Now based in LA, Kuross’ six tracks last year were songs of emotion, depth, minimalism and confident songwriting, taking on a singing style that gets more affecting as it opens up, with touches of Radiohead and minimalist songwriters.
UK siblings reaching out with new pop tones.
Cotswold brother and sister Rob and Katy Pearson AKA Ardyn appeared with the smart indie pop song ‘Over The River’, a song close to London Grammar in mood. An EP followed, The Valley, which featured production by James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco, Arctic Monkeys). More of the EP’s arched celestial pop overtones would be welcome in 2017. If you’re in London next week, they play The Line Of Best Fit’s Five Day Forecast.
Dublin singer-songwriter has reached far in a short time.
For a new artist, having your second EP racking up over 1 million streams in your first year is quite an achievement. But Ailbhe Reddy has found fans wherever she has gone – whether its at festivals like Electric Picnic, Other Voices and Body & Soul among them. As she has grown in consciousness, so too has her craft and her live set finds her flanked by a full-band adding depth to already substantial songs. You may have heard her song ‘Seasonal’ in the RTÉ show Striking Out – courtesy of myself and Avant Music Port too.
2017 sees Ailbhe step it up into the wider world, starting with a new single ‘Relent’ and two gigs – The Servant Jazz Quarters in London on 15th February and The Sugar Club in Dublin on 22nd February.
Hear her new song below which Ailbhe says:
‘Relent’ is about looking back on a soured relationship & realising how it could have been, seeing the lessons and my own shortcomings as part of the story. It’s about the guilt that forms part of the natural retrospection on a once loving relationship. Too often these songs can be purely accusatory, whereas I’ve tried to explore the reality that there are two sides to every story and each party has their own narrative as they see it. The inspiration was these feelings and the song was written as an attempt to express this and move forward from it. To sweeten what has soured and move on without guilt”
French R&B duo.
Two French men make up the duo Her, making sensually suggestive R&B pop songs with electronic undertones – reminscent of Rhye with more body (ahem). They’ve had a few memorable songs already in the form of ‘Quite Like’, ‘Five Minutes’ and their most recent single ‘Queens’ featuring Zefire. They’re now signed to Island Records and kick off their year at Eurosonic next week. A debut album is forthcoming.
20-year-old Austrian producer has already worked with D.R.A.M.
Salute is part of the new producer/ songwriter breed who appears to be able to do everything. The 20-year-old Brighton-based Austrian producer released his seven-track LP My Heart last year and it featured collaborations with D.R.A.M. and Krrum. Musically, were talking jazz, hip-hop, electronics and a working knowledge of pop. Catch him at Eurosonic next week, if you are lucky enough to be in Groningen.
Energetic Irish electro-pop.
Dubliner Christy Leech spent last summer playing music and DJing in Brooklyn warehouses, a fine time that lead to some home-recorded dance music with a broken bass, a gutted guitar and some melodic muscle. Now back in Ireland an teaming up with Aimie Mallon, the twosome’s live show is the most energetic and dun around. ‘What We Do is their release so far a single of Hot Chip-style synth-pop and lo-fi dancefloor atmospherics.
Lo-fi house’s leading light.
Lo-fi house it may have been dubbed due to its pisstakey name and peers (Ross From Friends, DJ Boring) but backlash aside, DJ Seinfeld’s music is proven to have a big heart as well as a sense of humour.
DJ Seinfeld plays Cork on Saturday and Dublin at Hangar on January 14th. His recent release on Lobster Theremin. A newer track, ‘U’, is warm and emotive and even manages to turn a Bob Geldof sample into something sweet.
UK Kate-Bush soundalike.
London-based artist and undeniable Kate Bush soundalike Grace Lightman dropped a couple of great singles in 2016 including the full-tilted synth track ‘Faultless’ with sweeping changes and crystalline guitars and mantric synth pop of ‘Repair Repair’.
First featured here back in 2013, Brit School alumni Hannah Rodgers signed to 4AD last year and the label have been giving them time to develop her Grimes-esque blend of alt-pop, which is expected to debut in 2017.
Modern R&B live band.
Having played as a session band with Hare Squead, Soulé, Stay Gold and Farah Elle in the past, Super Silly (Precious, Solbas, Grooves, and Shek) are striking out on their own with original music. ‘No Pressure’ is a suave mix of modern R&B, soul and pop. They are in their element at a live gig.
Avant cellist songwriter on True Panther.
Kelsey Lu is a North Carolinian cellist and singer/songwriter who has released an EP (Church) of orchestrally-arranged ambient folk music on True Panther last year.Comparisons to Alice Coltrane and Bat For Lashes, Lu’s music leans into the avant-garde spectrum yet she has collaborated with artists in the field of pop and R&B like Blood Orange, Kelela and Wet. Church was recorded in one take at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Kelsey singing, playing cello and utilising a loop pedal. ‘Dreams’, from the EP is a highlight from the EP and a spectacular intro to Kelsey Lu. The Alix Brown-directed desert video heightens the song’s unique daydream quality and marks Lu out as a visual artist too.
The creators of thw most beautiful music in Ireland right now.
Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty’s Saint Sister music project marries folk textures with Celtic harp and a dusky shade of atmosphere for a genre theyve named “atmosfolk”. You’d be hard pressed to find any more beautiful music than what these two have concocted. They finished 2016 by releasing their best song yet ‘Tin Man’ on English label Communion, so I expect more from them as 2017 progresses. If you don’t know, get to know. They were included last year, but so what? Theyre brilliant)
Lush Copenhagen trio.
The first thing that hits you about the music of Danish trio IRAH is their lush soundscapes, not far behind are the vocals of Stine Grøn. A mini-debut alum called Into Dimensions just dropped too.
Dublin experimental producer and singer.
Diolmhain Ingram Roche is a young experimental electronic producer and singer who I feel is only getting started. He has collaborated with Bobby Basil and remixed Ruth. Live, his shows are developing into something unique and worthy of further exploration. Check out his trippy video and track for Wonder.
St Francis Hotel
Irish London production duo making slick grooves.
St. Francis Hotel are a new Irish act/producers who met in London after emigrating to Dublin during the recession. They have released three songs thus far but have done enough to be noticed by the wider world via KCRW, The Line of Best Fit, Clash, BBC Six Music and Spotify.
They previously featured here as producers of the song ‘Writer’s Block’ with Lixo and Trim but their own music is much more band-based, psychedelic rock, synth atmosphere with pop tones. ‘You’d Gotta Be Alive’ is the best of the three: a soulful psychedelic groove with falsetto and laid-back atmospheric vibes. A two-part EP arrives on January 27th.