NME's pick of the bands you shouldn't miss at Europe's biggest start-of-year showcase festival
Legend has it that if you were to say the names of all of the NME’s recent 100 new bands for 2019 list in the mirror three times, you’d be instantly transported to Eurosonic. Because if our list is where you come to first hear about the bands to look out for this year, Groningen’s annual showcase festival is where you go to see them. For three days the music industry swarms around this picturesque Dutch city signing the hottest names, filling gaps in their festival bills and checking out the finest new European acts that will be struggling to afford the UK visa fees come April. Here’s the hot tips we’ll be checking out next weekend.
Hands down the psych-pop find of 2019 already, Amsterdam’s Tessa Rose Jackson – aka Someone – channels the Perthadelic vibes of Tame Impala and Pond, plus hefty gulps of Air, into her second EP ‘Orbit’, and will even be putting on an augmented reality exhibition of her music during the festival, involving abstract works of art that react to the music via phone or tablet apps. Mark our words, Someone is gonna be someone.
Also part of what everyone will be calling the Amsterwham! scene by the end of Eurosonic if we have anything to do with it, EUT are a crankily melodic mash-up of Hole, Blur and Pixies that somehow end up grooving on up into the slipstream of Bad Sounds and Slotface. Between the slinky indiepop of ‘Supplies’ and the shoey nu grunge of next single ‘Crack The Password’ they’ve already hacked our hearts.
Like Alt-J, Wu Lyf and Jungle before them, Black Midi cracked the online enigma code. With tour-mates Shame declaring them the best band in Britain, they played underground gigs with virtually no online presence or promotion, building a devout in-the-know fanbase and a mystique that made Keyser Soze look like Dara O’Briain.
When they finally released some music, it was every bit as cranky, crazed and viscerally volatile as the build-up suggested. ‘Bmbmbmbm’ – pronounced “boom boom boom boom” but bearing little other similarity to Baldrick’s ‘The German Guns’ – is a maniacal noise rock behemoth. Live it opens with the sort of psychedelic screefest that’d have Sunn 0))) whistling along; on record it starts with a stalking bassline and echoes of traumatic television clips, and builds to a synthetic post-punk cataclysm with singer Geordie Greep repeating “she moves with a purpose, such a purpose, what a magnificent purpose” like the in-house poet at Shutter Island slowly losing even more of his mind throughout.
If Idles are the inclusive champions of the new wave of Woke Punk, Fontaines D.C. – the mainstays of Dublin’s burgeoning noise rock scene – are its intellectual art wing. Like a cross between a subconscious art prank and a student drinking game, they construct the lyrics to their compulsive nuggets of existential punk by going to bars, knocking pieces of poetry around the table until the black stuff works its magic and then refusing to edit anything once it was on the page. If they’re lucky, singer Grian Chatten might even wake up having written more lyrics in his sleep, having channelled what he calls “the dream consciousness”. Better than finding you’ve shat in the wardrobe, we say.
‘Too Real’ epitomises the surrealist drone punk headrush they’re going for – urgent grunge pop with hints of Joy Division, The Fall, Wire and Sleaford Mods. Chatten’s cry of “I’m about to make a lot of money” might be a bit optimistic in the current climate, but at least moderately big things await.
Swarmed by mysterious figures in hazmat suits, backed by a futuristic sci-fi altar, a boiler suited panzer squadron of fuzz-pop mania ricochet around the stage playing what they describe as ‘a no-holds-barred aural assault of Anarchic Electro Psych Punk Noise that is something like Death From Above and the Chemical Brothers’ bastard offspring”. And you’re going to watch some Latvian singer-songwriter across the road? Get hyper-real.
Once the enigmatic bass queen of JJ72 (ask your glassy-eyed, post-Britpop uncle), Hilary Woods emerged from decade in the wilderness in 2014 with a solo EP of misty piano balladry, and honed those sumptuous, spectral atmospherics to near-Lana levels on last year’s ‘Colt’ album. All-round gothic gorgeousness, made all the darker by videos full of monochrome ickiness and Hilary seemingly sharing a hairdresser with Yolandi from Die Antwoord.
The Slow Readers Club
In an age when the most ‘hype’ you can hope for is being spoken of in hushed tones by Shame, the honest old practice of northern bands getting in a van and playing their way to a municipal park-sized audience feels all the more noble. Manchester’s The Slow Reader’s Club aren’t your average Manc overcoat rockers – they’re far too electro-noir for that, with their hints of xx, Depeche Mode, The Maccabees and Alt-J – but they’ve paid more dues than a 60-year-old cub scout. They’ve toured and self-released their way to 2000-capacity hometown shows over the past decade, and finally look set to break through, Blossoms style, thanks to last year’s timely mood-pop third album ‘Build A Tower’, an exploration of personal and political turmoil touching on mental health issues, Brexit, Trump and how “the world is on fire”. The next northern pop powerhouse. Writ large.
If you’ve ever thought that studying at Cambridge instils a deep-seated sense of entitlement, Sports Team are living proof – they booked a Scala gig after just one EP and, when they sold it out, immediately phoned Wembley to enquire about free nights in 2021. Scratchy, ambitious indie pop tunes about Ashton Kutcher and Margate in the vein of a Britpop Pavement might not sound like instant arena filler, but hey, nobody told (the like-minded) Pulp that…