List season BEGINS. Surprisingly, the main reason I look forward to the Christmas season Isn’t the inevitable culinary disappointment (sorry mum) or family arguments (sorry mum) it’s because people start saying certain music is better than other music AND THAT GETS ME ALL FIRED UP. I love a good debate and this time of year they fall into two categories: What was good last year and what’s going to be good this year. In the UK the BBC sound of 2014 is the seminal list for the latter and whilst many would argue that it succeeds in nothing more allowing industry folk a chance to get other industry folk excited about their acts, you can’t argue with results and HAIM, Adele etc have shown that this is a fairly accurate foresight. It might well be music’s ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anyway without further ado I will dive straight into my thoughts on the list which will be heavily peppered with ignorance, prejudice and an unquestioning love of Chance The Rapper.
Starting with the artists my ignorance will ultimately be most apparent, the two I know absolutely nothing about, MNEK & Say Lou Lou. At a quick listen, MNEK sounds like a fair bet for constant Radio 1 A list rotation, continuing the motions that Disclosure and Aluna George put in place last year and an area where I couldn’t even pretend to sound clued up if I tried so that’s enough on that. Say Lou Lou are instant winners of worst name on this list by a long margin and I was actually pleasantly surprised by their icy dream pop. Its hardly as raw or emotionally challenging as I would usually want from this type of music but if a bit of emotional flattening get’s this kind of thing on radio one then who am I to judge.
Royal Blood’s presence on this list was inevitable as it seems that anyone even vaguely affiliated with the music industry hasn’t shut the fuck up about them for near on two months – I was sick of the sound of them before I’d even heard their music. They also win the honor of being the only band (in the traditional sense) on the list which is a probably a good sign that maybe people have stopped kidding themselves by claiming that guitar music is going to rise up and sell Oasis units again. It’s actually refreshing to hear something so heavy (by this list’s standards) on here rather than the usual 15th wave indie-landfill bands and with some tunes in their arsenal and (from what i’ve heard) an unstoppable live show, it’ll be interesting to see how these guys progress.
Tell you what there is no lack of on this list though, male singer songwriters. They seem to be of a more credible ilk this year maybe as a response to the universal disdain that anyone over the age of 11 feels towards Ed Sheeran. Elliot tipped me off on George Ezra probably well only a year ago and he had the rare bonus of having a voice like no other. Seriously listen to his voice. His early work seemed to reflect the raw passion in his voice however later material has been a lot more…let’s say generic. Whilst this will obviously be appealing to a wider audience, he might lose a few of his credibility tokens. Nick Mulvey comes with instant cred from his work with the Portico Quartet, a chin stroking experimental jazz outfit for Guardian Readers. And Luke Sital-Singh has glasses so I can only assume he’s #SUPERCREDIBLE!?!?. Honestly I’m probably the worst person to comment on this kind of stuff though because if it isn’t Daniel Johnston raw, it sounds weak to me.
A few of these acts have already had some quite notable chart success. We all loved ‘Latch’ right? Well Sam Smith’s poised to aim at the charts with his own solo stuff. He has a great sounding production team behind him and with people like John Newman coming from guest feature success to solo fame this year he’s in a great position to do just that. Ella Eyre may as well be Sam’s female counterpart, with a similarly soulful and unmistakably British voice, with the right songs behind her will probably be charting left right and center.
Right we’re nearing the bit where I just get to talk at length about the artists on here that I already adore and you’re forced to listen while I use phrases like ‘Game-changing’ and make increasingly bad punctuation decisions %%%%. There’s a few more to get through first.
I think Banks was straight-up dead cert to end up on this list and it’s dead easy to see why. This is just the kind sensual minimalist indie RnB stuff that lights Hype Machine on fire and her recent support slots with The Weeknd show the kind of direction she’s heading. Collaborators come as diverse as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs to 4AD’s future star SOHN (many are questioning his absence on this list) and it will be interesting to see how(or if) she transitions from blogger’s darling, to crossover star. Chloe Howl makes Pop with a capital P and I respect that. I would say more but my tea has gone cold and I have to take that out on someone. Jungle are the mysterious group who are at least as renowned for their unique videos as they are for their sunny-day funk productions. Every one of their singles has set the world on fire and with the attention to detail in their production being matched only by their pop instincts they will definitely do well.
Time for me to fanboy out. Kelela only jumped onto my radar a few weeks back by featuring on the stand out tracks of the incredible Saint Heron compilation. The Saint Heron compilation is probably the single most important document of where this alt-RnB stuff is heading, masterfully curated by Solange it represents this sound so well that if the BBC had simply published this compilation as its Sound of 2014 it would have been hard to argue. (BONUS: Jhene Aiko features on that compilation who I think might end up being Rhianna big – check it now).
As a testament to how current that compilation is, it also features UK soul wonder boy Sampha, whose subtle compositions and genuinely unique voice might make him the real critical darling here. He makes music that just couldn’t have existed a few years ago and might already have a head start on the rest of this list with his RIDICULOUSLY high profile collaboration with Drake this year, a move that’s probably seen his voice heard by more people than the rest of the artists on this list combined.
FKA Twigs is by far and away the most visually rewarding artist on this list. By harnessing the power of video, she has created some of the most additively disturbing music videos of this year, highlighting the mysterious shadows that lurk in her futurist compositions. This is so cutting edge that it genuinely sounds too future thinking for this list. Every little glitch and synth squelch that creeps through her tracks sounds positively otherworldly and makes the rest of this list feel positively nostalgic.
And then there’s Chance The Rapper. Its hard to see why Chance is even on this list when he’s probably had a bigger 2013 than most established artists. Dropping undeniably the most anticipated mixtape of the year in the form of ‘Acid Rap’, Chance delivered so strongly on his initial promise than he’s been able to tour non-stop the rest of the year stopping only to drop high profile collaborations with artists like James Blake and Lil Wayne (yeah you might not like him but it’s still a big fucking deal). He has done all of this without a record deal. He has regularly said that he has no plans to sign anything even after receiving offers from places like TDE, instead claiming that he will sustain a career through touring and never charge for his music. Its this mindset that makes him arguably the most ‘2014’ on here by a long way.
Ultimately the thing with this list is you have to wonder if people are voting for new talent that they hope will do well this year or just confirming what the industry knows is going to do well. There is nothing wildly unpredictable on this list and, although I’m actually really damn impressed with the quality all over this list, you have to wonder what would happen if some truly low level artists were receiving this kind of coverage. But yeah judging from this, the music industry has finally caught up with itself and this lists sounds refreshingly modern – should be a good year.
Let’s hear your thoughts then?