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The best new music

Time Out rounds up the best and latest new albums, releases, songs, bands and artists

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Welcome to our new music page: a rolling guide to the best new sounds around. Read about our favourite new artists below, or scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to our latest album reviews – you might discover a new favourite band, or at least find something to spice up that ‘new music’ playlist you’ve been listening to for the last 18 months. Go on: your ears deserve something fresh.

The best new music

Kelsey Lu, press 2016

Kelsey Lu

Kelsey who?

Meet Kelsey Lu McJunkins, or Kelsey Lu for short. She’s an incredibly talented classically trained cellist and composer who’s started making some pretty big waves, musically speaking.

We’re talking Elgar, right?

Wrong. She may have studied cello at the North Carolina School of the Arts (not far from her home town of Charlotte), but she’s played with hip hop crews and pace-setting indie artists like Blood Orange, Kelela and Chairlift, appeared on the ridiculously cool Young Turks show on NTS radio, and written her own shape-shifting songs – six of which have just seen the light of day on her debut EP, ‘Church’.

‘Church’? She must be kind of Goddy.

On the contrary. Although she was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, Lu swapped religion for music after her older sister was ‘disfellowshipped’ (expelled from the church). That EP title refers to the Roman Catholic Church of Holy Family in Williamsburg where she recorded it, capturing a live solo performance: just her, her cello and a loop pedal.

Wow. So what does she sound like?

Dreamy. Six tracks become a seamless tapestry of eerily pretty sound, with Lu’s voice pirouetting across octaves as she extracts beautiful and unconventional noises from her instrument. It’s a faithful version of her hypnotic live set, minus the self-deprecating comments and occasional political interjections.

Don’t tell me – she’s a Brexiteer.

Nope, an outspoken Black Lives Matter activist and Bernie Sanders supporter. She’s also appeared in a lingerie campaign that celebrated imperfections such as scarring and body hair. In fact, for a cellist, Kelsey Lu has an awful lot of strings to her bow.

By James Manning

Clams Casino, press 2016
© Timothy Saccenti

Clams Casino

Huh? ‘Clams Casino’? Sounds like the title of a new Disney-Pixar movie.

Well, it isn’t. It’s actually the stage name of Mike Volpe, a hip hop producer from New Jersey who’s been building buzz since 2011. At the time, he was making beats on the side while studying physical therapy, but these days he’s all about the music.

Sorry to sound like grandma, but has he done anything we’d know?

Probably. He’s produced tracks for A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd and FKA Twigs, as well as remixing hits by Sia (‘Elastic Heart’) and Lana Del Rey (‘Born to Die’).

Bloody hell, we’d love a rummage through his WhatsApp history. Why’s he so in demand?

Because his signature sound – trippy, wistful and affecting – has made him a pioneer of something the kids (okay, journalists) are calling ‘cloud rap’. Think off-kilter hip hop with a spacey, psychedelic edge.

So should we call him ‘cloud rap’s backroom boy’?

Erm, no. Because a) that sounds rubbish, and b) after releasing a trio of mixtapes, he’s dropping his debut album proper, ‘32 Levels’, this Friday (July 15). Check out the brilliant single ‘A Breath Away’, an airily atmospheric collaboration with the fantastic R&B singer Kelela – and the weirdly ‘Game of Thrones’-esque cover art.

Okay, colour us intrigued. But is this just an internet thing?

Nope. You can catch Clams live IRL at Village Underground on August 11. Just don’t expect any ironic Disney covers.

By Nick Levine

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LA Salami, press 2016
© Diane Sagnier

LA Salami

So what’s his real name then? Something really dull, right?

Nope, his full name is Lookman Adekunle Salami.

He looks like the coolest guy at a ’70s folk festival.

Well, actually, yes, his music is heavily inspired by Bob Dylan and other folk giants of that era. But rather than just making a straight tribute to the past, Salami can switch from the bittersweet, floaty, folksy strumming of ‘Just Wasting Time’ to the polemic, Kate Tempest-style storytelling of ‘The City Nowadays’, in which he name checks Jeremy Corbyn.

So he’s a Londoner?

Born in Peckham, mate. He split his childhood between south London and his foster family in Kent. He also wrote ‘Nazis on the Northern Line’, a shuffling, bluesy ode to dodgy characters around this beautiful city that we can all recognise. There’s a lot of folklore around the enigmatic singer – tales of sleeping rough in cinemas, learning to play the guitar aged 21 and creating fully fledged, not-actually-embarrassing songs within months.

He doesn’t hang around then?

Word goes that debut album ‘Dancing with Bad Grammar’ (out on August 29) was recorded at Hackney’s Urchin Studios in a week.

One last thing, with that name: is he vegetarian?

C’mon, this is not about his name! This guy supported Lianne La Havas, opened the Burberry men’s spring/summer 2014 show and has been compared to Joni Mitchell. Also, despite extensive research into his eating habits, we just don’t know.

By Amy Smith.

The best new music: Bibi Bourelly

Bibi Bourelly

Who is she? She looks like a badass.
She is. She’s the badass who co-wrote Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ and three other tracks on RiRi’s ‘Anti’ album.

Respect. So she’s a songwriter, then?
Well, yes and no. Bibi’s been writing songs since she was four years old, but she’s also a performer in her own right.

Wait, did you say four years old?
Yup. Bibi’s father is revered jazz guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, so she was raised in a musical household. She grew up in Berlin and moved to the US as a teenager to pursue a career in music.

Sounds like she’s smashing it so far.
She sure is. Bibi’s just dropped her debut EP ‘Free the Real’ and it’s a gripping introduction to her gritty voice, bluesy guitar sounds and sassy take-me-as-I-am lyrics.

Hmm. How sassy exactly?
‘They want me to be this picture-perfect girl/In a little picture-perfect world/But I cuss when I talk/And I lean when I walk,’ she sings on ‘Ego’. As if to prove her point, she drops the F-bomb liberally throughout the song.

Okay, but can she walk the walk?
See for yourself when she plays her first London headline show on Monday May 23 2016. But you’ll need to find out the ‘secret location’ first.

Secret location, eh? That’s pretty badass.
Precisely. You don’t get this kind of thing from Meghan Trainor. (Love you really, M-Trainz.) 

By Nick Levine, Tuesday 17 May

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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Jamie Wdziekonski

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Open your third eye to these psych-rock adventurers

King Gizzard and the what now?
Sigh… the Lizard Wizard. Okay, so the band name these Aussie freaks have lumbered themselves with flat-out stinks. But, c’mon, isn’t it all about the music, maaan?

I suppose… so what do they sound like?
The ’60s. Well, the acid-streaked end of it, anyway. In the half-decade since they formed, King Gizzard have dabbled in fuzzed-up freakbeat and flute-happy whimsical psych, and fired off a ‘spaghetti western audiobook’ and a five-track jazz-rock odyssey on which all the songs clocked in at 10:10. Their upcoming album ‘Nonagon Infinity’ features nine tracks sequenced to run in an endless sonic loop.

Ten out of ten for effort, lads. Quite the work rate.
Yep, especially when you consider they probably spend whole days giggling and staring in wonder at a pint of milk. Their latest trip is into the realm of high-octane space rock, with new Iggy Pop-approved single ‘People-Vultures’ following Hawkwind and Pink Floyd into interstellar overdrive. They’ve also found time to tour, hitting UK shores later in the year.

They sound cool. But do I really need to see another retro band?
Ah, rock music: the bandana-wearing serpent forever munching on its own tail. But KG are talented enough to transcend their influences and, like their fellow countrymen Tame Impala, they really pull out all the stops live. Plus they’ve got two drummers. All the best bands have two drummers.

By Michael Curle, Tuesday 12 April.

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa

An elegant electro-popper with seriously good songs

Wow. She looks like she just stepped out of a fashion mag.
Yup. Serious #SummerFestivalStyleGoals here. No wonder she has 87,000 Instagram followers.

Is she a model, then?
Nah. She used to be, but Dua gave modeling the elbow when she was told to lose weight. This London-born daughter of Albanian parents is a singer-songwriter with some seriously good material.

That’s a bold claim. Be real, though: how good are we talking?
Not just internet good. You’ll want to put her recent singles ‘Be the One’ and ‘Last Dance’ on your morning commute playlist.

What do the singles sound like?
Though Dua calls her music ‘dark pop’, she’s hardly a goth. She makes elegantly trendy electro tunes with ear-snagging choruses and emotionally resonant lyrics. ‘Be the One’ is about fighting to save a broken relationship, while ‘Last Dance’ was written in Toronto when Dua was feeling super-homesick.

Erm, sorry to ask an old-fashioned question, but is her voice any good?
It’s really, really good: deep and dusky like a whisky cocktail. Hear for yourself on March 31 when Dua plays a huge headline show at Heaven.

Okay, we’re sold. One last thing: how do we say her name?
It’s pronounced ‘Doer Leaper’. But we reckon she’ll be a mononym soon enough: Madonna. Kylie. Rihanna. Dua.

By Nick Levine, Tuesday 29 March 2016.

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The best new music: Let's Eat Grandma
© Francesca Al

Let's Eat Grandma

Woozy synthpop, creepy rituals, abundant hair

Is that by the Chapman Brothers?
Nope, this is Rosa and Jenny. They’re not two-headed. They’re not twins. They’re not even sisters. They’re from Norwich, and a living testament to East Anglia’s gigantic gene pool (joke!). They’ve been best friends since the age of four and now, at 16 and 17, are making some great music as Let’s Eat Grandma.

Sounds like a right gimmick.
I know, but it’s really not. The pair’s relationship is at the heart of what makes their music so special. Most teenagers can’t wait to be adults, or at least pretend to be. LEG, though, inhabit a spectral interzone between the solemn rituals of childhood and the solemn rituals of being in a band.

Whoa! What?
Their patacake routine at the beginning of live performances of debut single ‘Deep Six Textbook’ sums up their cool/not cool thing. Let’s Eat Grandma gigs have the atmosphere of a troubling childhood dream being reenacted. And sometimes they wear big Rick Wakeman cloaks. They’re living proof that irony really is some kind of dismal adult affliction.

Okay, enough with the tics. Is the music any good?
Thankfully, yes. It’s warm, wonky and engaging. There are hints of Kate Bush and a lot of synthy swooshing about, and for every perfect, stilled, cathedral echo there’s a saxophone break that should never have made it out of a Year 9 music lesson. Lyricwise, they’re also pretty funny. Their B-side ‘Sink’ has the great line ‘Create a basin, and put your face in… I need your help to unblock it.’ Shouldn’t wash your hair so often.

By Chris Waywell, Friday March 18 2016.

Spring King

Spring King

Punk-popping indie with hella bounce

Spring’s getting nearer!
Indeed. And Manchester indie four-piece Spring King are getting bigger.

Who?
You haven’t heard of them? Come on, they were the first band ever to be played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio. 

Wow. That is, in a slightly sad way, an actual historic achievement.
Hey, don’t be downcast about a society at the mercy of tech corporations! Instead, plug into Spring King’s bolshy, turbo-charged stomp-alongs that pull together Arcade Fire, The Strokes and The Ramones.

That’s quite a gap to bridge.
They make it sound effortless. It isn’t. There’s some serious graft behind the band’s music, most of which was recorded at home in Manchester by SK’s mastermind Tarek Musa. In 2012, recently graduated from a music degree and faced with a crumbling music industry, Musa started Spring King as a hands-on solo project at his mum’s house.

Yawn. The world is full of bedroom producers these days.
But how many of them put a drum kit in the bathroom? Spring King isn’t a namby-pamby laptop project; it’s a full-on band, which is a much more expensive proposition. Undaunted, Spring King fleshed itself out into a touring four-piece and started supporting acts like Mac DeMarco and Courtney Barnett and building a decent following. 

Fans, check. Fame, check. Time to cash in, right?
Hold up. Spring King may have made music streaming history, but they’ve hardly earned a penny from it so far. As with so many theoretically successful bands these days, music just isn’t enough to live on any more: most of their income so far has come from merch sales. They’ve just signed to Island Records, so maybe that’ll change. But if you’re heading down to their next London show then buy a damn T-shirt, okay?


James Manning, Thursday 25 February 2016

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The best new music: Money
© Joe Wilson

Money

A genuinely great new British indie band. No, seriously!

Money? What is this, Time Out’s new financial section?
No, it’s another indie act sticking two fingers up at SEO. Of course.

Have I heard of them before?
Possibly: they’ve been around for a few years. They started out in Manchester in 2011, and quickly attracted a fervid following with some heavily mythologised early shows in a church and an abandoned factory. Their singer Jamie Lee is a man with the voice and haircut of a choirboy and the posturing poeticism of Morrissey and Shane McGowan having a camp row over a bottle of red wine. He quickly became known for walking through the crowd during gigs dishing out sloppy kisses to audience members of both sexes, and picked up further press with quotable cod-philosophical declarations like ‘celebration is at the heart of doom’ and ‘Manchester is paradise’.

Come off it. They’re awful, right?
They would be if their music wasn’t so good. Their debut album ‘The Shadow of Heaven’ was a stunner, and deserved ten times as much recognition as it got when it came out in 2013. (We’re still holding out for it to become a cult classic.) Now they’re back: their second album ‘Suicide Songs’ (creepy sleeve pictured below) is out on Friday January 29, and it’s just as great as the debut.

You’ve got me interested now. What do they actually sound like?
Like Spiritualized and The Brian Jonestown Massacre jamming at the bottom of a very deep well. Or like Radiohead or The Verve, or Arcade Fire or New Order or James or Suede – it depends on which magazines you read. In a word, they’re expert purveyors of massive, floaty indie tunes that sweep you up and along with their sheer echoey grandeur. In fact they’re a fully formed Great British Indie Band. Call them the Manc Street Preachers.

Basically, they’re throwbacks.
Four young men writing epic songs with grand, poetic lyrics and just a hint of tongue-in-cheek? Yes, there is something old-school about Money. You might think they’re an anachronism. You might also think they’re insufferably pretentious. That’s fine by us. After all, a cult’s not a cult if everyone’s invited.

By James Manning, Monday January 25 2016.

the best new music: Section Boyz

Section Boyz

Boyz with all the chopz to rival the grime greatz.

Who are this semi-smiling sextet?
A hot-topic grime and hip hop crew from south London who you’ll see and hear a lot more of in 2016.

Okay, but what exactly will I 
be hearing?
In-yer-grill grime bangers like ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’, but also future R&B-influenced cuts like ‘Brand New’ and ‘Don’t Panic’. These Boyz have range.

But what makes this crowd 
stand out from the… crowd? 
Well, Skepta doesn’t freestyle over just any new grime track before airing it on the internet, does he? He did with Section Boyz’s excellent moody jam ‘Lock Arf’.

Hey, what’s good enough for Skeps… Anything else, though?
They were a welcome breath of edgy, underground fresh air on the somewhat vanilla longlist in the BBC’s recent Sound of 2016 poll. And speaking of industry recognition, they also scooped the award for ‘Best Newcomer’ at the MOBOs back in November.

Sold! So, where can I see them 
in action?
Their #Sectioned: 2016 Tour hits Village Underground on February 24 next year. It’s a while to wait, but it should be wild.

By Tristan Parker Tuesday 15 December 

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The best new music: Archy Marshall

Archy Marshall

A right royal return for this king of the everyday

Hold up, buster, that’s two people. Is one Archy and one Marshall?
Nope. On the right is Archy Marshall, aka achingly hip urban troubadour King Krule. His debut album ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’ caused hella buzz in 2013, but he’s been mysteriously quiet ever since.

And the fella on the left?
His bro Jack. As in, actual sibling, not a 
beer pong teammate.

What’s their chat? 
Archy and Jack have collaborated on a project, ‘A New Place 2 Drown’, comprising a hefty book of photography and poetry, a new album from Archy and an arty short film, released on Thursday December 10.

Is it still as cool as Krule?
It sure is, but also shows Archy’s musical evolution. Rather than stick to the rugged, lo-fi, bluesy ballads of his debut, his current sound melts into the dubbed-out electronics and gentle hip hop beats he toyed with on his earliest releases. 

Ah, so it’s a dance album...
It sure isn’t. More of a stoner-friendly but insightful soundtrack, given weird warmth by Archy’s gravelly tones. His raspy voice still sounds wizened way beyond its young years, throwing around cutting observations and smart cultural references 
from Barry White to
 JD Salinger. 

Those guys should 
have collaborated. 
How about the 
book and film?
Both are all arty amateur visuals, showing south London’s parks, streets and chicken shops at their moodiest, plus Archy, Jack and pals larking around. Suitably atmospheric stuff for Archy’s excellent, engulfing songs.

Will it make me want to roam across south London, writing poetry and reading Salinger?

Yes, while eating a lot of chicken.

By Tristan Parker Tuesday 8 December

Best new music: Wstrn

Wstrn

Yr nw jm. Myb?

Let me guess. A dating app for Clint Eastwood fans?
If only. Wstrn are a new British R&B trio: cousins Haile and Akelle Charles plus Louis Rei. They have nothing to do with cowboys, except for wearing a lot of denim (see picture). 

So why the name?
It’s a shout-out to their west London origins, and a declaration that it’s ‘West’s turn to shut down the scene and take over!’

And what does that involve exactly?
Their plan for world domination has already begun with their debut single ‘In 2’, which you’ve probably heard on the radio.

Oh, that one. It’s catchy!
Isn’t it? It’s been in the Top Ten for the last two weeks, which is incredible considering it was recorded this summer during Wstrn’s first ever session as a trio. It’s also ticked all the 2015 hit song boxes: Shazam charts, Apple Music playlists, amateur cover versions on YouTube… We wouldn’t bet against an ‘X Factor’ finalist giving it an ill-advised stab before the year is out.

Er, is that good or bad?
Well, Wstrn have namedropped some pretty big acts as influences, including Drake and The Weeknd. But their boyband steez is less OVO and more JLS – and the whole no-vowels thing is so 2010.

Bit harsh.
Hey, what do we know? We’ve never got a debut single into the charts. If Wstrn can keep hitting that sweet spot, they’ll earn themselves (and their new label Atlantic Records) a fistful of dollars.

By James Manning Tuesday 1 December 

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Hiatus Kaiyote

Clock this cosmic soul music

Any relation to Wile E Coyote?
We doubt it – these guys are way too good at what they do. Hiatus Kaiyote are a slinky, genre-fluid four-piece soul crew from Australia who have been building up a word-of-mouth following since 2011. Prince, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Animal Collective and Questlove are all card-carrying Hiatus Kaiyote-ites.

That’s what their fans are called?
It is now. And if you want to join the cult, you’d better hurry: the band’s show at Koko this week has been sold out for months, though you can still book for their next London show at The Forum April 29 2016. 

Impressive. This lot must be pretty special.
They are. Formed in a shared house in the arty Melbourne suburb of Northcote, HK self-released their debut album in 2011. They caught their big break supporting Taylor McFerrin (son of Bobby ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ McFerrin) last year. Then their second album ‘Choose Your Weapon’ became one of 2015’s biggest sleeper hits – expect it to turn up on plenty of end-of-year lists, accompanied by journos pretending that they were into Hiatus Kaiyote before they got big.

I see. But you still haven’t told me what it actually sounds like.
That’s because they’re actually pretty tough to pin down. Apart from Nai Palm’s stunningly pretty vocals, the only things tying their sound together are super-stylin’ sophistication and incredible tightness. Over its 18 tracks, ‘Choose Your Weapon’ floats from soul, jazz and funk to R&B, pure pop and beyond. Your mum would like it. So would your cool friends. It’s no wonder Hiatus Kaiyote are finally blowing up.

Like a box of Acme Corporation TNT?
If you must. Meep-meep.

By James Manning Monday 16 November 2015 

New Music: Tala

Tālā

Box-fresh exotic beats should make her a true global concern

Tālā is a pretty distinctive name. Where does it come from? 
Well, that depends. Tālā is a type of rhythm in Indian, but also means ‘palm tree’ in Sanskrit and ‘gold’ in Farsi.  

Which of these applies to the woman in the picture?
All of them. She was born and raised in south-west London, but decided the name Tālā was meant for her musical project after hearing an aunt use it in conversation and investigating its etymology.

Etymology, eh? But is her music as interesting as her name suggests?
Absolutely. This forward-thinking singer-songwriter-producer melds Middle Eastern influences with fresh, inventive beats and melodies that hark back to early noughties chart pop – but think Timbaland and UK garage, not Vengaboys and Westlife.

Oi! Some of us are partial to a boyband ballad.
As is Tālā. Her dreamy collaboration with south London duo Sylas, ‘Praise’, is based on a looped sample from Boyz II Men slowie ‘You’re Not Alone’.  

Okay, so we’re guessing she might be kind of eclectic.
Great work, Sherlock! Tālā’s latest EP ‘Malika’ also features LA-based diva Banks, Korean girl group Wa$$up, Turkish pop singer Atiye and Egyptian rap pioneers Sadat and Alaa Fifty.

Wow. She must have racked up some serious air miles.
For sure. The EP even features a track called ‘Passport Pimpin’. But Tālā will be back in London for a one-off gig at the ICA on November 11.

Given her musical diversity, what the hell is her live show actually like?
Expect a feast for the senses. Guests at her last gig were given vials of fragrance to open at a specific point in the performance. You don’t get that from Meghan Trainor. 

By Oli Keens Monday 26 October 2015 

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Girl Band
© Steve Gullick

Girl Band

Superbly surreal alt rock that’s edgy enough to give David Lynch the willies

I’m on it – I bet there are no females in Girl Band. Wait… Maybe it’s a post-ironic double bluff and they’re actually all girls?
Triple bluff; you were right the first time. Girl Band are four young lads from Dublin, to be precise, making gravelly, droney, angry and seriously weird noise rock.

Of course. So are they trying to be un-Googleable with that name?
Maybe when they started out in 2011, but they now have a decent web presence, probably because they’re really, really good.

Oh yeah? Impress me.
Well, their guttural, guitar-mangling riffs are gritty enough to asphyxiate an industrial cement mixer. Plus they broke through by fearlessly covering underground techno overlord Blawan’s beastly track ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’ in 2013, sounding even more fearsome than the original.

Props to them. But what have they done recently?
A lot of touring – including a stint in the US – and a bit of album releasing with recent debut full-length ‘Holding Hands with Jamie’. Sample lyric, from single ‘Pears for Lunch’: ‘Spend my time watching “Top Gear” with my trousers down, covered in Sudocrem and talking to myself – garlic, curry, cheese, chips.’

Sounds like a Chas & Dave lyric…
Chas & Dave after a three-day absinthe bender, maybe... But Girl Band’s song has the rhythmical insistence of punk-funk act Factory Floor slathered in stomach-churning guitar attacks beloved of acts like industrial rockers Swans.

Not bedtime music, then?
Not unless you want weirder dreams than that time you demolished a whole wheel of brie. Everything Girl Band does ends up sounding wholly unsettling. At any point you’re never sure if singer Dara Kiely is about to have a teary breakdown or punch you in the throat. But morbid as it is, you’ll want to find out.

He won’t really punch me, will he?
Probably not. But find out by seeing the band live; they’re currently touring Europe, the UK and the US. They'll be charging through their terminally twitchy tunes with frightening amounts of nervous energy – not to be missed.

By Tristan Parker, Tuesday October 6.

Sexwitch artwork by Neil Krug & Natas

Sexwitch

Thrilling new sounds by Bat For Lashes and Toy

Don't tell me. A sexy sandwich?
What? No. Gross.

So we're talking wicked witchcraft.
Kind of. Sexwitch is a new band/ project/supergroup thing involving two cool London artists, one of whom is the shamanic singer Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. She's backed by Toy, an east London band who've released two throbbing psychedelic albums of their own.

Odd couple. How did they hook up?
Via Speedy Wunderground, the label run by Toy's producer. Khan and Toy got together in Dan Carey's studio in 2013 to cover an old Iranian ‘The Bride’. Now they've made a whole Sexwitch mini-album: six interpretations of obscure songs from around the world, translated into English.

So it's a world music covers album? I'm not exactly sold. 
Open your mind, man: ‘Sexwitch’ is a spinetingling listen. The laconic longhairs in Toy sound like they've had a couple of thousand volts shot through them, trading dubby bass and thudding drums with needling guitar lines and ominous layers of synths. And Khan sounds scarier than we've ever heard her, channelling weird forces as she shrieks, growls and whistles these half-forgotten words from Morocco, Thailand, Iran and even the USA.

Sounds like a tough listen.
No way: ‘Sexwitch’ slips down easy, partly because it sounds so urgent. The band learned the songs in one day and recorded them in one take the next – no messing about.

Very cool. So is it just the album?
Nope. They made their live debut at Green Man festival last month and they're touring over the next few months. Catch them while you can – there's a proper new Bat For Lashes album due next year, so you might only have the winter to get freaky with Sexwitch. 

By James Manning Tuesday September 15

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Little Simz
Little Simz

Little Simz

MC talent from N1 who is set to steal the throne 

Ah, excellent, a talented new female ra... 
Watch it: 'female rapper' is the only tag this 21-year-old from Islington hates more than 'grime artist'. She's a shit-hot MC with a sweet 'n' spiky flow, and the world is putty in her syllables. 

We're rather reminded of a young Lauryn Hill.
Now that's a label she'll happily take. Kendrick Lamar got there with the comparison first, though. He invited Little Simz into his studio on the back of a series of audacious mixtapes made at her mum's house. Jay Z, Timbaland, Mos Def, Dizzee and Andre 3000 are also fans.

What gritty, cut-throat scene should we thank for forging such a fierce talent?
Erm, St Mary's Church Youth Club, N1. Little Simz made her live debut there aged nine, hair still in bunches. After that, it was a toss- up between music and acting (as viewers of supernatural kids' TV drama 'Spirit Warriors'will know). But the beats - 'the weirder the better'- won out.

Are the majors going duly crazy?
Most have already been told to go swivel. Her debut album, 'A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons', is self-released on September 18. Statement lyric: "Everybody should know that I'm king now."

By Bella Todd, Thu Sept 10 2015 

Beth Jeans Houghton of Du Blonde

Du Blonde

The raucous return of Beth Jeans Houghton

Du Blonde? Is she the UK’s premier Lady Gaga tribute act?
Just because a woman chooses to wear a furry merkin and dress like an afghan hound doesn’t mean she’s gaga for Gaga, okay?

Point taken. So who is she?
Say hello to 25-year-old Beth Jeans Houghton, formerly a delicate chamber-folk singer and leader of The Hooves Of Destiny. She’s recently changed direction somewhat, reinventing herself as an outspoken, glammed-up hard rock goddess.

No kidding. Vashti Bunyan never dressed like that.
That’s the whole point. This is Du Blonde: new look, new sound, new approach. While recording latest album ‘Welcome Back to Milk’, Houghton ditched the whimsical trilling of her old project and immersed herself in the heavy rock sounds and stylings of AC/DC, Black Flag and GG Allin.

Who’s GG Allin? 
You really don’t want to know. Let’s just call him a ‘scatological punk provocateur’ and leave it at that.

Yikes! So does the album deliver?
Yes and no. Bad news first: despite a muscular rhythm section (including Jim Sclavunos of The Bad Seeds on drums) the merkin-out rawk tracks feel a bit phoned-in.

And the good new?
She’s got some much better songs like ‘Raw Honey’, which give her clever melodies and charming voice the breathing space they deserve. Plus we hear she’s a riot live.

By Michael Curle on Sat 25 Jul 

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gengahr

Gengahr

The new sound of young Stoke Newington

What’s in a name?
Quite a lot. Gengahr are the first indie band named after a Pokémon. That’s a minor cultural watershed as well as a clue to their age.

They do look fresh-faced. Who are these kids?
Four nice north London boys. Felix, Hugh and Danny met at school in Stoke Newington when they were 11. They later picked up their guitarist John in The Rochester pub, suggesting they are in fact old enough to get served.

So what’s the music like?
It’s heavily influenced by hip US indie – Ariel Pink, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Real Estate – and ‘Pablo Honey’-era Radiohead. Basically we’re talking sparkly guitars, wide-eyed falsetto vocals and wobbly, rhythmical messing about.

That sounds rather appealing.
It is quite. Their debut album ‘A Dream Outside’ (out this week) is a sweet indie treat that’ll slip down easily. But you don’t have to believe us: ask Alt-J and The Maccabees, two bands of indie heroes whom Gengahr have already supported.

So do they have any more tour dates coming up?
Plenty. And if you like ‘A Dream Outside’, you’ve gotta catch ’em all.

By James Manning, Thurs June 4 2015

Lion Babe

Lion Babe

Slinky R&B so good you’ll roar for more

Er, ‘Lion Babe’. Don’t you just mean a cub?
Nope, we mean New York electronic soul duo Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman. She’s a singer-songwriter with amazing mane-like hair. He’s an instrumentalist and producer with a Leo star sign. Hence the whole big-cat schtick.

Jillian looks kinda familiar…
No, she’s not Ella Eyre. She’s actually the daughter of Vanessa Williams – former Miss America, and singer of Magic FM mainstay ‘Save the Best for Last’ and Pocahontas theme ‘Colours of the Wind’. You know, Wilhelmina from ‘Ugly Betty’.

Do they do loads of epic ballads then?
No, but their music definitely has throwback vibes. Jillian grew up listening to Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner, and their influences range from A Tribe Called Quest to The Beatles.

So what do they actually sound like?
They do trippy, down-tempo R&B with high-energy vocals and some empowering lyrics. Think an after-hours Disclosure, or a more sassy Chet Faker, mixed with touches of Blood Orange and J Dilla.

Sounds great. Should I have heard of them already?
Well, their punchy breakthrough single ‘Treat Me Like Fire’ made them internet famous in 2012. But they kept a low profile till they released their debut EP in late 2014. You might have heard their bouncy hit ‘Jump Hi’ – which features a Nina Simone sample and a guest verse from Childish Gambino. 

So they keep good company, eh?
Yep. They’ve also toured with The Roots, while Mark Ronson gave them a hand with their forthcoming debut LP. Plus, Pharrell Williams produced new single ‘Wonder Woman’. Don’t hate them cos they’re popular.

By Kate Lloyd, Tue May 19 2015

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Petite Meller

Petite Meller

Gallic pop with an IQ

Given her name, are we right to presume she’s French?
You are indeed. Petite Meller is a Paris-born singer-songwriter who makes what she calls ‘le nouveau jazzy pop’.

Oh God, that sounds kind of horrible.
It’s not, though. Last year’s ‘Backpack’ and ‘NYC Time’ introduced us to Meller’s super-cute songwriting and distinctive girlish voice – seriously, she makes Carly Rae Jepsen sound butch. And new single ‘Baby Love’ sounds like a summer smash.

What’s so great about it?
It’s a house-influenced pop banger with a chorus as joyous as Friday night on a bank holiday weekend. Honestly, Kylie would flog her gold pants for this song.

Erm, what happened to ‘le nouveau jazzy pop’, though?
Don’t worry, ‘Baby Love’ still sounds like her – there’s an awesome sax breakdown and the lyrics aren’t exactly pop fluff. Meller says on Facebook that ‘Baby Love’ is my Freudianic term for “jouissance” (enjoyment) – a transcendental dance of love, an a cappella to convey pleasure out of pain.’

‘Freudianic’... really?
Really. When Meller isn’t making music, she’s studying for a masters in philosophy at the Sorbonne. She says she writes most of her songs during her classes, presumably as her mind wanders from Plato to disco.

Lol. She’s a real one-off, isn’t she?
For sure. Check her out posing with flamingos and kissing a giraffe in the ‘Baby Love’ video. Or even better, when she brings her unique fusion of pop and philosophy to The Victoria in Dalston on May 27. If you fancy recreating the Petite Meller look for the occasion, simply raid your nan’s make-up bag for some bright pink blusher, et voilà!

By Nick Levine, Wed May 13 2015

Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt

A hip and soulful Jack of all trades

That name makes him sound like my dad’s mate from down the pub.
Well, unless your dad hangs at the Shacklewell Arms and drinks pale ale with bearded electronic producers in their early twenties, it’s probably not him. 

Got it. So you’re saying that this guy’s a total hipster, then?
Sure, he may rock a beanie and sport facial hair that’s bang on trend, but the 23-year-old is not just for show, y’know? He writes, sings, and plays the guitar, drums, keyboard, trombone and mandolin. And that’s just for starters.

The mandolin? WTF?
Don’t worry, the mandolin doesn’t feature heavily on his recent ‘Synesthesiac’ EP. It does however boast Garratt’s soft, sweet vocals, dainty piano riffs and a shedload of juddering synth crescendos.

Not a bad combo. I’ll Spotify him.
Yes, do. Lead single ‘The Love You’re Given’ is an absolute banger. Sampling some haunting vocals from singer Lisa Fischer (which Garratt took from music documentary ‘20 Feet from Stardom’), the track’s refined R&B-like beats help drive it towards a teeth-chattering, window-shattering climax. 

Okay, that sounds impressive.
Oh, it is. See Mr G live and witness the greatest example of male multi-tasking you’ve ever seen. A strictly one-man show, he’ll switch from keyboard to guitar to electronic drums, looping and layering while belting out a damn fine falsetto. His two shows at Village Underground this May are already sold out, but you’ll find him performing at Field Day festival this summer.

By Liz Darke, Wed May 6 2015

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Eska
© Jaroslav Moravec

Eska

Your new favourite soul star

Wait – ‘Eska’. I’ve heard that name before, right?
Yes, very likely. London-based vocalist Eska Mtungwazi has been working in the music industry for years, making jaw-dropping live appearances as well as being a highly sought-after writer/collaborator. She’s worked with Grace Jones, Zero 7, The Cinematic Orchestra and Bobby McFerrin.

Wow. So she must have made a few albums of her own too.
Nope. Surprisingly, she’s only just releasing her (self-titled) debut, out on April 27. Her first record was an EP in 2013, and fans of her insane vocal talent have been eagerly awaiting a full album ever since.

So does the album sound like a mixture of Grace Jones and Bobby McFerrin?
Sadly, no. But you can definitely hear all her different influences throughout the album: there are hints of pop, jazz, folk and soul, all done in her own authentic and inimitable style.

So it’s pretty damn good, then.
Totally. She’s empowering to listen to and the whole album is a wonderfully emotive affair. What stands out most though, is her incredible voice – it’s instantly recognisable and utterly engaging.

Well, yeah, okay, but I’ve heard that a hundred times before…
Believe us: this woman has serious skills. She’s spent years teaching vocals at Goldsmiths College, and counts Gilles Peterson and Lauren Laverne among her fans. 

Okay, I believe you. Anything else I should know about the album?
Yes: it comes with production credits for electronic artist Matthew Herbert (who’s worked on albums by Björk, REM and Yoko Ono) and The Invisible’s Dave Okumu (also known for his slinky tracks for Jessie Ware).

That’s pretty impressive. This Eska clearly hangs with the cool kids.
She certainly does. But now she’s finally making an outing under her own name, she can deservedly step into the spotlight. Catch her live and hear those astonishing vocals first-hand. 

By Roseanne Hanley, Tue Apr 22 2015

Olivia Chaney
© Ellen Nolan

Olivia Chaney

Unabashed folk that’s bang up to date

What have you got for me today, then? Future-funk? Electro-trap? Nu-retro-wave-rave?
How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?

What?
How many dark ships sail the forest?

Is this a riddle contest?
No. I’m attempting to make covert contact with your inner folk fan. Olivia Chaney is a folk singer. That’s ‘folk’ with no need for a trendy qualifying adjective. She sounds like Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell, and opens her debut album ‘The Longest River’ with an unadorned version of doomed-lady trad-ballad ‘False Bride’ – the one with the strawberries and the ships.

Is she living in the past?
No. She makes old ballads ring urgently across the centuries, and her own songs – in which people lose their phones, do their laundry, and lie on a gay friend’s sofa in New York after one too many manhattans – have the dignified beauty of traditionals.

‘Dignified beauty’ is good. What’s she like live?
Transfixing. At an early London gig she sat straight-backed in an elegant vintage dress, unwinding her tales of love and longing to the slow drone of a harmonium. Led Zep legend Robert Plant caught one of her gigs last year and immediately invited her to open for him the following week.

So why has her debut album taken so long?
Men, apparently, and the creative chaos of late youth. On ‘Too Social’, Chaney prepares for a lover’s visit to her untidy shared house by trying to suck up seashells with her landlord’s dodgy hoover. That might just be our favourite image in contemporary folk.

By Bella Todd, Tue Apr 14 2015

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Lonelady

LoneLady

Like a one-woman LCD Soundsystem

This is an easy one. I’ll guess that LoneLady = a solo female musician.
Congratulations, Columbo, that’s right. But do you know what kind of music she makes?

Judging by her snappy attire, hip haircut and moody stare, I’ll say it isn’t bluegrass Abba covers.
Props, again, for stating the flipping obvious. In case you want any, y’know, useful info, Manchester native LoneLady actually makes punchy, funky, post-punk-inspired alt indie.

That was my next guess. Now I’m thinking she’ll be signed to a super-cool indie label – Rough Trade?
A good guess – for once – but the cool indie is actually Warp Records, home to avant-electronica geniuses Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.

So she’s all about the bleeps and blips and raving until dawn?
She certainly dabbles with a few gentle beats, but the LoneLady sound is far more about plucking Telecasters than twiddling knobs.

Telecasters? So she sounds like Status Quo?
No. God, no. Think the punk-funk of fellow Warp act !!! and the lo-fi disco riffing of LCD Soundsystem. Her catchy 2014 single ‘Groove It Out’ sounds like Talking Heads covering Arrested Development’s ‘Mr Wendal’.

And that’s a good thing?
It absolutely is, yes.

Fair enough. But wait... 2014? That’s so last year. What’s she done recently?
Latest single ‘Bunkerpop’ is grooving, infectious art pop and features on her excellent new album ‘Hinterland’.

And what’s she doing in the future?
A lot of touring around the UK and Europe, including a show at Hackney venue Oslo on April 10. For anything further ahead than that you’ll have to consult Mystic Meg. Or the internet.

By Tristan Parker, Mon Mar 30 2015

Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges

A Texan taking soul music back to its roots

Poor chap’s locked out. Who’s got a spare key?
Don’t worry, such is the hype around this 25-year-old retro-soul sensation, a grinning music exec will be along soon with the keys to a much bigger pad. Yep, Bridges’s debut EP is causing quite a buzz on the old social media.

So what’s the good word?
That ‘Coming Home’, recorded with the help of two members of garage rockers White Denim, is a delicious throwback to the old school. That if you like good music, that sweet soul music, look no further.

But what kind of soul? Be more specific!
Think the sweet sound of early ’60s soul before James Brown doused it in cold sweat, before the soul-cial conscience of Messrs Mayfield and Gaye. We’re talking the gospel-tinged pop of Sam Cooke and Percy Sledge. All backed by clean guitar and pitter-patter drums – the kind that let the voice do the talking.

Sounds good. But why should I care about a new version of something old?
Because talent is talent. And besides, how can you resist that honeyed voice? It’s smoother than a Barry White chat-up line. Then there are endorsements from actor and rock-dabbler Russell Crowe and indie director Spike Lee, who was wowed by Bridges’s live appearance at Sundance.

That’s in the US. When can I see him in London?
The bad news is his first gig here sold out in under an hour. But keep an eye out: we’re expecting more London dates very soon. How do we know? Let’s just say we heard it through the grapevine.

By Michael Curle, Mon Feb 23 2015

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Ibeyi
© Flavien Prioreau

Ibeyi

The coolest set of musical twins since Kim and Kelley Deal

Am I right in thinking these two are twin sisters?
You are. Specifically, French-Cuban twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, the daughters of a revered Cuban percussionist who used to play with Buena Vista Social Club.

So do they sing in French or Spanish?
Neither. Ibeyi sing in English with bursts of Yoruba, a Nigerian language that travelled to Cuba in the 1700s. Though Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi have lived in Paris since they were kids, their mum made sure they were raised on Yoruba folk songs.

You’re going to say their sound is a ‘melting pot’ now, aren’t you?
Well, sorry, but it is. Their self-titled debut album contains elements of Parisian jazz, Yoruba folk music and modern-day electronica, all held together by Ibeyi’s strong, soulful melodies. One of the standout tracks, ‘River’ is a hymn-like tribute to Yoruba’s river goddess delivered over a minimal hip hop beat.

Oh God, it sounds a bit like Enya for the Dalston crowd.
Not at all. Ibeyi have all four feet planted firmly on the ground. Their song ‘Ghosts’, is a vulnerable plea to ‘give our love another try’ following a period of ‘fighting, full of lying and denying’. And ‘Mama Says’ is a track about a woman devastated by a break-up, sung from the perspective of her frustrated child.

It sounds pretty intense.
Try this for a couplet: ‘It pisses me off, it drives me mad/That she lets herself feel so bad.’ No wonder Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi say their live shows can be ‘like therapy’.

Ooh, when can I catch them?
They’re playing Bush Hall on Thursday. Just remember that it’s pronounced ‘ee-bay-ee’, so you don’t make a tit of yourself when you rave about them afterwards.

By Oliver Keens, Mon Feb 16 2015

Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson

Britain’s weirdest (and probably best) folk singer

Didn’t I book this bloke for Pashmina’s fifth birthday party?
Props to you if you did. Dawson, from Newcastle, isn’t a clown, but a stunningly instinctive guitar player, full-throated singer and Wire cover star who’s taking folk music in strange new directions.

Oh, like Lindisfarne? ‘Fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine…’
Sort of. Dawson is rooted in a rich north-east folksong tradition, whose staple subjects are drink, violence and workplace accidents. He tempers this with a disarmingly frank beauty, lyrical playing which takes in ragas, post-rock and Bert Jansch, plus some really fucking weird shit. But no Gazza (as yet).

Weird shit such as?
‘My bedroom walls are papered with the stripes of Newcastle United/Between which I perceive the presence of a horse-headed figure/Holding aloft a flaming quiver of bramble silhouettes/He is the King of Children!’ That’s from 16-minute track ‘The Vile Stuff’ off last year’s Domino LP ‘Nothing Important’.

Does he play this stuff live? Like Ed Sheeran?
Yes, but while wee Ed packs out stadiums, Dawson is a bit more a) intimate and b) good. With his knackered guitars, tinny amps and inter-song comedy, his gigs are loud and unpredictable. One minute he’s charming the socks and sandals off his audience, the next he’ll do ‘Poor Old Horse’, a traditional folk song about three idiots trying to kill a nag with an iron bar, which goes on for ages and is completely harrowing.

Oh.
Just warning you. Convention demands this pay-off: ‘Catch him before his shows get so packed you’ll have to stand on the corpses of Mumford & Sons to see him.’ But he won’t ever get that popular: he’s far too good.

By Chris Waywell, Mon Feb 9 2015

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Natalie Prass
© Ryan Patterson

Natalie Prass

A country crooner and a canine couturier all in one

Does the world need another songwriter with a first name, a surname, and a guitar?
Make that a horn section, a harp, a piano and an orchestra for good measure. When this Nashville-based 28-year-old sings about departed love on her eponymous debut album, she does so to spring-green strings, sunbursts of brass and bright flowerings of keys and flute.

That sounds expensive. Has she been robbing banks on the side?
No, just befriending the right people. Prass was in the eighth grade with singer/songwriter Matthew E White, whose Virginia-based indie label Spacebomb operates a house band in the manner of Stax or Motown.
He also drafted in buddies from his old university jazz programme to help out.

So how come I didn’t get to hear of her before?
Because her album release was postponed when White’s own debut album, ‘Big Inner’ started topping all those ‘Album of 2013’ lists. Prass was cool with that. She just joined her teenage hero Jenny Lewis’s band on keyboard for a bit, and set up a company making outfits for dogs.

Sorry, she makes clothes for dogs?
Well, judging by Analog Dog’s Facebook page, she used to specialise in canine hoodies in tastefully clashing hues. Sadly they weren’t on the merch stand when she played The Lexington in January.

You mean even her dog clothing is appealing?
Quite so. Mark our words, this is a woman of rare talent.

I don’t know. It sounds a bit… overdressed.
The music or the mutts? Musically, her high, sweet voice is gluey with restrained emotion. You can hear it on ‘Why Don’t You Believe in Me’, which does seriously, silkily funky things with a driving bass note. This is classily understated country-soul, to the degree where you can imagine her covering Dusty Springfield and actually getting away with it. As for the canine clobber, she also made hoodies for three-legged dogs, and ones with extra-wide hoods for bulldogs. Which is also one of the nicest things we’ve heard in ages.

By Bella Todd, Thu Jan 29 2015

Hinds (fka Deers)
© Carolina Faruolo

Hinds

This new indie gang will be deerly beloved

I’m just guessing, but are these guys the four musical daughters of the scary Irish actor Ciarán Hinds?
Don’t be daft. Hinds – Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials, Ade Martin and Amber Grimbergen – are an awesome new Spanish indie band.They make a brilliant jangly punk racket, and they’ve been all over the blogs as ones to watch in 2015.

Oh yeah? So how come I haven’t heard of them?
Probably because they’ve only been called Hinds for about a week. Before that they were called Deers, but they changed their name just as they were about to set off on a major European tour.

How confusing. Why on earth did they do a silly thing like that?
Because of a badly timed prod by the long arm of the law. The band were told by a Canadian lawyer that the name ‘Deers’ created confusion with the name of a band he represented. We’re just guessing, but he might have been employed by the Montreal-based band The Dears, who’ve been making middle-of-the-road indie rock since 1995.

But that’s not even the same spelling as Deers!
Correct, but the Spanish Deers still had to change their name. In the end they went for Hinds, although they also released a hilarious picture of a chalkboard full of alternative name suggestions – some of the best  ‘Dudes’, ‘Deets’, ‘Deerios’, ‘Fat Fawns’, ‘Nike’ and ‘The Strokes’.

Cute. But why should I care about yet another indie band with a deer-themed name?
Because, like we said, Hinds are really great. They create homemade music videos of themselves messing about on bikes and swing sets, and take pains to point out ‘we’re a band, not a girl band’. Their energetic, lo-fi recordings have a smack of the Velvet Underground and ramshackle riot grrrl bands like Bratmobile. And their live shows are loud, spiky and infectiously happy: the perfect antidote to gloomy January.

Sounds great! How can I get involved?
Sadly, you’re too late to catch their two shows in London this week: Wednesday at the Boston Arms and Thursday at Electrowerkz both sold out back in the Deers days. But you can listen to their ‘Demo’ and ‘Barn’ singles on repeat, and be quick off the mark next time Hinds play London. They’ll be big news this year, as long as they can hang on to their name – we hear Chrissie Hynde has already phoned her solicitor.

By James Manning, Tue Jan 20 2015

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Findlay

Findlay

Plenty of attitude, and the songs to back it up

Findlay? That sounds like it could be a surname or forename. Or neither. Or both.
Both? Really? It’s actually the surname of Natalie Findlay, a Dalston-based singer and musician originally from Stockport, in Greater Manchester.

Manchester, I know that one! So, she must sound like Oasis and Happy Mondays, right?
Heck no, Findlay’s scruffy indie-blues is more an intriguing mishmash of The White Stripes, The Strokes and Regina Spektor, all of whom she grew up listening to.

I see. How might I have encountered this heady combo in action?
Maybe you saw her play live when she toured with fellow Mancunians The Courteeners?

Definitely not.
Or with moody singer-songwriter Jake Bugg? She once took a punch for the singer, bodyguard-style, when a fan got rowdy during an after-show party in that most hedonistic of locations: a Travelodge.

Blimey, what a trouper. But still no.
Well, you might have heard fuzzy noir-pop track ‘Greasy Love’.

Is that about Vaseline?
Let’s not go there.

Hey, we were all thinking it. Anything else I should know?
Her big song ‘Off & On’ is hard to ignore – it’s a rip-roarin’ rock ’n’ roller, kinda like Findlay herself.

How so?
She likes to party, does our Nat, and she’s not afraid of saying so in expletive-strewn interviews: ‘I just think: Fuck it, let’s have a drink,’ are her thoughts on free tour booze.

Bloody brilliant. Musicians are so boring these days.
Well, potty-mouth, that’s one thing Findlay isn’t.

By Tristan Parker, Tue Dec 16 2014

George The Poet

George The Poet

Politically conscious wordplay that’s well informed, well produced and well good

Poetry is booooring. Next!
Woah, hold on. This Harlesden lad has loads to say. Aren’t you even a little curious?

Well, I am intrigued by that hunk in the picture.
That’s him! 23-year-old wordsmith George Mpanga, who’s slyly presenting a new and fresh perspective on rap music and has just picked up a BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice nomination for his trouble.

Okay, I’m listening…
Rather than the sort of quick-fire lines about bitches and riches that used to define hip hop, Mpanga rhymes about race, class and family struggles in a conversational tone and with a steady flow.

He’s conversational, but is he confrontational?
Not really, though he has featured on tracks by Naughty Boy, Labrinth and Wretch 32.

Sweet. What else makes gorgeous George noteworthy?
Apart from recently graduating from Cambridge University, Mpanga leads poetry workshops for underprivileged kids called The Jubilee Line. And this week the young Londoner also celebrates the physical release of his EP, ‘The Chicken and the Egg’.

I still don’t think I can sit through a whole record of talking.
You don’t have to. Mpanga backs his narrative about the damaging effects of premature parenthood with haunting guitar strums and on-trend muffled, bassy beats.

But is that something you can dance to?
The EP will make you think, but his singles ‘My City’ and ‘1, 2, 1, 2’ – both produced by house duo Bodhi – provide plentiful hooks and supreme Carnival vibes. So if you catch his headline show at Oslo in February, this modern bard will not only inspire you to shake it, but re-evaluate gender equality while you’re at it.

By Danielle Goldstein, Mon Dec 1 2014

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Curtis Harding
Hedi Slimane

Curtis Harding

A soulful crusader who’s not afraid of a little refined rocking out

This guy looks like a real cool cat.
Forgoing the fact that nobody’s used that expression non-ironically since the 1950s, you’re right. Shirt off, neck tats, smoking: Curtis Harding is just begging to be expelled.

Wait. He’s still at school?
No, but if he were he’d be way popular. That shot above was taken by Hedi Slimane, fashion designer and creative director at Saint Laurent Paris.

Très bien. But the only Curtises I know are Curtis ‘Fiddy Cent’ Jackson and Curtis Mayfield. Any sonic similarities there?
There’s very little of Fiddy, fortunately, but as it happens, Curtis Harding’s soulful songwriting and funky riffs do resonate strongly with Mr Mayfield’s classic sound.

That’s a relief, otherwise my tenuous comparison would have been completely pointless.
It sure would’ve been. But let’s focus on our Curtis and his impressive debut album, ‘Soul Power’, which is scheduled for a UK release in January.

Ooh, that’s a bold title. Does he pull it off?
Naturally. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s one of the current crop of lo-fi, beat-dabbling neo-soul artists. Born in Michigan and schooled by the likes of Outkast and Cee Lo Green in Atlanta, Harding mixes classic, heartfelt soul with scruffy blues, ’70s garage rock, whispers of disco and his raw, gospel-influenced vocals.

That’s kind of refreshing, in a retro sort of way.
Vintage king Jack White and Cole Alexander of Black Lips would no doubt agree. Harding has toured and collaborated with both of them.

I knew he was super-cool. So where can I see this hepcat in all his groovy glory?
He’s rocking up to Electrowerkz in Islington on Wednesday November 26, so you could catch him then. Now please stop with the outdated slang – it’s a real drag.

By Tristan Parker, Mon Nov 24 2014

Soak

Soak

The Londonderry singer-songwriter is fragile in a good way

Whoa. She makes me feel old.
Well, she’s certainly no veteran, but fresh-faced, flesh-tunnelled, Bridie Monds-Watson (aka Soak) is no child either – and has just hit adulthood. That is, legal drinking age.
           
So what’s with the soapy name?
It’s simple: like rockabilly, drumstep or ghettotech (yep, that’s a thing), it’s a portmanteau. Soak = ‘soul’ plus ‘folk’. Sadly, her sound doesn’t really fit into that category either.
 
Right. So what does she sound like?
Over gentle riffs – acoustic and electronic – Bridie sings in a soft Irish accent about the pains of adolescence. It’s like a stripped-back female Foals, with echoing, drawn-out guitars akin to a Beach House track.
 
A singer-songwriter! Wait, why should I care?
Because there’s something pretty special about Soak; her vulnerable vocal and honest, angst-ridden lyrics are somewhat unique amongst the other kids with guitars.
 
Okay, okay. So how did she get noticed?
Chvrches had a lot to do with it. Soak was the first artist to be signed to their Goodbye Records label last year. The Glaswegian trio covered her song ‘Blud’ – and she later returned the favour with a raspy, slowed-down cover of their track ‘The Mother We Share’. She also supported George Ezra and has been getting some air-time on Radio 1 for her single ‘B a Nobody.’
 
Pretty popular then. What’s she working on now?
After just completing a small UK tour, she’s now recording her debut album with Rough Trade Records, the indie label home to Warpaint and The Libertines. Watch this space.

By Lucie Horton, Mon Nov 24 2014

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