This week’s NME profiles the hottest breaking acts in music as the new year gathers pace, from the husky Chicago rap of Chance the Rapper to the down-n-out punk of Brit newcomers Joanna Gruesome. You can listen to 40 new acts we’re championing here – but which new bands are NME staffers personally tipping to explode in 2014?
Onstage nudity, chugging rock riffs and a frontman who's crafted himself a persona that's a magnificently evil combo of Iggy Pop and Tyler, The Creator, The Orwells are about to go from niche to massive as they head out on the road Stateside, opening up for Arctic Monkeys. Four fifths of band might still be in their teens, but these Chicago suburbanites aren't slackers - they've already put out a killer debut and their second album is set to follow this year.
Leonie Cooper, writer
From Brighton, there are two sides to slacker rock newcomer Eugene Quell. One’s sweat-dripped, raucous and in thrall to the sort of 90s grunge noises that rewire your brain with depraved images of E from Eels holding back J. Mascis’s hair as the Dinosaur Jr. man vomits into a waste paper bin; the other, when he gets an acoustic guitar into his hands, is more tender. His debut four song EP, released last week and streaming here, showcases both in a rollercoaster 20 minutes of gruff, big-chorused, no-fi indie. 2014 should bring big things.
Al Horner, NME.com Assistant Editor
St Louis, Missouri is a town so ravaged by rapidly dissolving industry that Eminem regularly fails to mention that he spent a number of his formative years growing up there. Finally, this city of chain Taco restaurants and little else has something to boast about – three brothers, Radkey. Inspired by The Ramones, Foo Fighters and their local metal scene, the trio of home-schooled punk rockers are earning an international following. You may have caught them blowing away the other bands on Later…With Jools Holland last autumn. Read the whole interview with them in this week's issue of NME
Greg Cochrane, NME.com Editor
“DOOF! Na-ra-na-ra-na-ra-na-ra. DOOF! Na-ra-na-ra-na…” The first time you hear Royal Blood’s riff-heavy lead single ‘Out Of The Black’ you’ll not only hear 2014 announcing itself, you’ll feel it like a mighty post-grunge jolt to the heart. The first time you see Royal Blood live, your eyes will sweat, your ears will shudder and your limbs will bruise as they clatter into the limbs of other very excited humans. Eventually you may get a view of the stage where you’ll see just one bearded bassist (Mike Kerr) and one bearded drummer (Ben Thatcher). Two people, one enormous roar.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
I'm super excited about this new jazz-inflected school of hip-hop: Chance The Rapper, Bishop Nehru, Joey Bada$$ and particularly Vic Mensa. Providing an alternative to the rambunctious (often boring) trap and trill of the last few years, Chicagoan Mensa first appeared in hip-hop group Kids These Days and guested on Chance's 'Acid Rap' before releasing his first mixtape 'Innanetape' in September 2013. It's melodic, jazzy, boom-bap, catchy and clever, heavy on instrumentation instead of sampling. Here's hoping for another mixtape or album in 2014.
Lucy Jones, NME.com Deputy Editor
East India Youth
William Doyle's 'Total Strife Forever' is one of the most poignant and original albums I've heard this year. Taking heed from Brian Eno's emotional soundscapes, it's a lesson in how to humanise the cold isolation of a laptop (something few accomplish). Much like Jon Hopkin's 'Immunity', it's a narrative journey. A pick n mix of sounds and textures which blend seamlessly from teeth-gritting sonic assaults ('Total Strife Forever I') to blankets of heartfelt melancholy ('Looking For Someone'). Emotive, disquieting and in some places downright terrifying, it's everything music should be.
Jenny Stevens, Deputy News Editor
SZA and Isaiah Rashad
2014 looks set to be a big year for TDE, Kendrick Lamar's record label and home to the likes of Schoolboy Q. Late last year they added two new acts to their roster in the shape of SZA and Isaiah Rashad. You can get a taste of what both Rashad and SZA are about on the 'Good Kid, Maad City'-esque 'Ronnie Drake'. I'm excited to hear what they both come up with individually in the next twelve months, particularly Rashad whose mixtape 'Cilvia' is due imminently. Don't bet against it being one of the first essential downloads of the year.
David Renshaw, News Reporter
...and finally, some predictions from NME New Music Editor, Matt Wilkinson:
Chicago is hands down the most exciting place in the world for new music right now. Twin Peaks went to school with Chance The Rapper (they were even there with him when he got suspended for smoking weed - which incidentally lead to him kickstarting his music career), and they're also tight with The Orwells and Vic Mensa too. Willis Earl Beal still calls it home every now and then and you've got Smith Westerns and all their mates kicking about as well. Along with countless others. That's some scene – full of variation and young kids who generally don't give a fuck about being cool, which of course makes them very cool indeed.
What I really want in 2014 is for the same thing to start happening in London and New York again. Last year's CMJ was kinda depressing for NYC bands because most of the bands from there who were playing seemed to care more about being famous than they did about being good. Saying that, Parquet Courts (NY via Texas) are still killing it, and Diiv (Brooklyn) – if they can stay out of trouble – will hopefully continue to do great things. In terms of newer stuff from the five boroughs it's all about Spires (Brooklyn's answer to Temples but with way more balls) and Public Access TV (the one band in Lower East Side who actually seem to have something to say - and the songs to say it with). New Captured Tracks signees Perfect Pussy (from Syracuse) are totally exciting too, recalling early Iceage, while even further north (Canada, actually) you have Tobias Jesso Junior - who's kinda like an indie Elton John but in a very, very good way.
As always these days, Australia is worth keeping two eyes firmly on - The Preatures and Gang Of Youths are both being set up to have massive years ahead, while here in the UK, Fat White Family and Eagulls are still ruling the roost by proving that you don't have to stick to the industry treadmill to get a modicum of success. This, in a nutshell, is what I'd like to see a load more artists trying to do in 2014.
Matt Wilkinson, NME New Music Editor