A female-fronted four-piece from North London, Wolf Alice lives up to their moniker – one part savage, one part simple wonder and sweet pop. It’s so ’90s, this grisly grunge oozing from the guitars of Ellie Roswell and her three bandmates, pitted against her alluring, almost-a-whisper vocals; it’s so ’90s, but so improved and so self-aware, it can only be ’90s in the here and now. If you can’t wait for their debut album scheduled to drop this year, listen to 2014’s EP ‘Creature Songs’, which excels at quiet/loud – when she murmurs something beyond hearing, and just as you’re straining to hear it, the rolls and riffs explode back in your ears.
Listen now: ‘Blush’, ‘Heavenly Creatures’, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’
It’s his voice: a distinct, silky falsetto, dripping in androgynous, countertenor charm. Shamir is the heir apparent to Michael Jackson and Prince, if we had expected a 20-year-old dance-pop, disco hipster Nevada native to take the throne. On the trail of the teenager is a five-track EP ‘Northtown’; a signing with XL Recordings, label home to FKA Twigs, Radiohead and The xx; and one of the most aggressive, arresting tracks of 2014, ‘On the Regular’, in which he raps ‘Yes yes I’m the best / anything less is obviously absurd’ over cowbell clashes and sped up synths.
Listen now: ‘If It Wasn’t True’, ‘I Know It’s a Good Thing’, ‘On the Regular’
Liverpool’s Låpsley, real name Holly Lapsley Fletcher, makes melancholy music so featherlight and minimal, there’s little attempt to disguise influences like James Blake and The xx – but her music does make it on its own merits. Take ‘Station’ for instance – over three minutes of calm before the storm, a picture of contemplative, deconstructed restraint over looping samples and synths. She comes highly recommended (notwithstanding us); her gig at Glastonbury was only her second ever, and she’s currently managed by XL Recordings. Did we mention? She’s only 18 years old.
Listen now: ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Falling Short’, ‘Station’
Ben Howard, Ed Sheeran and Jake Bugg have met their match – or at least, a fellow English singer-songwriter made in their mold. On the brink of a breakthrough, nothing and nobody can stop James Bay: He’s got chiseled cheekbones, a raspy, soulful voice, and a debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ due in March. His stripped-back songs possess a heartfelt, raw quality critics have greeted like a long-lost lover. If his Critics’ Choice win at the recent BRIT Awards is any indication (and it’s plenty indication, considering past winners include Adele and Sam Smith), there’s a place for him in our playlists.
Listen now: ‘Hold Back the River’, ‘Let It Go’, ‘Stealing Cars’
KL’s Killeur Calculateur is primitive and punishing; it’s less calculative, and more a flurry of crashing, thrashing drums and guitars. This is music you push and rush to, yes, and yet there’s a strange serenity here, found between the drama and the dexterity. Founded in 2006, the post-punk four-piece only very recently released ‘Book of Flags’, a ten-track LP debut album, late last year. It took them two years, according to vocalist and guitarist Smek Almohdzar, but ‘everything is timely’. We agree, especially since all physical copies of the album are now sold out.
Listen now: ‘Funk Facts’, ‘Golden Triangle’, ‘Red Marquee’
Years & Years
2015 is the year of Years & Years, we think. Here’s what you need to know about the English trio: They’re a Diplo-meets-Flying Lotus-meets-Miguel blend of pop, R&B and soul, slathered with synth lines; or ‘soulful electro pop’, if you will. With a video dripping with neon-saturated, nighttime lust, ‘Real’ is dance-worthy; and ‘Take Shelter’ is anxious, while allowing falsetto frontman Olly Alexander’s vocals to shine through hard-hitting hooks. In our hands we have a curious thing: dance music with a heart, centered on heartbreak and unrequited love.
Listen now: ‘Desire’, ‘Real’, ‘Take Shelter’
The Bohicas swaggered onto the scene seething – all confrontational, fast-paced drumming and possessed, screaming guitars offset by disaffected deadpan vocals; also, we’ve yet to see a picture of the four-piece out of their leather jackets. This is a band that is not only difficult to ignore but demands to be heard; a nice change, you know, from the gentle, harmony-laden rock of recent times (we’re looking at you, Cage The Elephant and co). Plus point: They’re signed to Domino, home to Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Hot Chip.
Listen now: ‘Swarm’, ‘To Die For’, ‘XXX’
Yes, she’s a Burberry model-turned-musician. Yes, she’s a childhood friend of Cara Delevingne. Yes, she toured with Laura Marling, Alt-J and The Antlers as an opening and support act. There’s a buzz building around the 22-year-old Londoner but it’s been a long time coming – since she first emerged in 2012, Marika has released three EPs, each one better than the last, delivered in airy bridges, haunting vocals and off-kilter guitar work. This is indie nu folk at its best – Marika is enchanting, effortless and ethereal, walking the fine line between darkness and light, but oh-so-deftly.
Listen now: ‘Deep Green’, ‘Drown’, ‘You Come Down’
.gif is Din and Weish, a dynamic duo from Singapore. You might have heard of them; they’ve been everywhere these past couple of months, most recently at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, playing music from a strange spectrum. It’s experimental electronic, drawn out and downtempo; a sort of spacey dispatch of looping, yearning vocals layered over sparkling synths. Pity the fool with no patience, because while .gif is at times unsettling, they’re mostly riveting. They’re currently working on a full-length album which – fingers crossed – will be out early this year. Also, it’s pronounced ‘dot gif’.
Listen now: ‘Box Burning’, ‘Diatribe’, ‘Juvenile’
At 18 years old, Raury has a force field of fans and friends – including Kanye West, OutKast and SBTRKT. Then unsigned, the prince of post-genre released a full-length free debut ‘Indigo Child’ last August. At first listen, you’d never believe the 13-track guitar-driven, folk-meets-rap mixtape wasn’t mastered by a major label. In ‘God’s Whisper’, his repeated refrains of ‘I am the saviour’ is loud and proud, almost fantastically ballsy; you’d put it down to his being a teenager, but which other teenager has drawn comparisons to Bon Iver, Frank Ocean and Lorde?
Listen now: ‘Cigarette Song’, ‘God’s Whisper’, ‘Superfly’