Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS): 10 unmissable artists to catch at the new music showcase

With the European festival heading online once more, here's who you should tune into across the festivities

Eurosonic Noorderslag’s (ESNS) reputation as one of the industry’s most important and influential weekends is well-known: some of music’s biggest and brightest have participated in the festival and conferences in Groningen, Netherlands, every January. 2021 saw the festival host its first virtual event, and next week the festival will repeat the venture, offering up free performances of an array of the hottest talent on the planet. These are the key acts NME will be checking out during the festivities…

Enola Gay

Who: Irish post-punks who favour the scene’s darker, anguished soundscapes
When: Jan 20, 10pm, ESNS 02
Look out for: The band’s debut EP, 2021’s ‘Gransha’, was not only a thrilling listen in the here and now, but showed signs of a group stepping out of their comfort zone and unafraid to take tentative steps into the unknown. As the band approaches their live slate for the year – starting here at Eurosonic ESNS – we could quickly see them make leaps to greatness.

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Smoothboi Ezra

Who: The pains and aches of growing up in County Wicklow, as set to charming bedroom-pop
When: Jan 21, 8.15pm, ESNS 02
Look out for: Plenty of adolescent anguish – there’s little surprise that the Irish artis’s Spotify bio simply reads: “Aaaaaahhhhhhhh”. ‘Without You’, the highlight from their 2021 EP ‘Stuck’, pines for an ex lover who’s long gone; in parts, there’s Olivia Rodrigo-levels of pettiness and bitterness, but the lasting impression is one of resignation and despair but, occasionally, a brighter future.

Unschooling

Who: French indie-rock gang with a relentless, and simply astonishing, energy level
When: Jan 19, 9.40pm, ESNS 01
Look out for: Their debut album ‘Defensive Designs’ raced through nine songs in a mere 25-minutes: it’s the type of speed and intensity that Ty Segall and Jay Reatard would be proud of. Make sure you don’t miss the start, because they probably won’t hang around for long.

Yard Act

Who: Leeds post-punks who prefer wit and warmth than the scene’s trademark bark
When: Jan 21, 9.05pm, ESNS 01
Look out for: A celebratory mood, hopefully, as their appearance at this year’s virtual festival coincides perfectly with the release of the debut album ‘The Overload’ (January 21). Party hats not provided.

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Wet Leg

Who: Future guitar heroes with an infectious and invigorating spirit
When: Jan 19, 9.30pm, ESNS 01
Look out for: Having toured with Eurosonic ESNS alumni Inhaler and Declan McKenna throughout 2021, the Isle Of Wight duo are more than capable of lighting up huge crowds with their whipsmart indie anthems. At this year’s virtual showcase, they’ll be giving fans a taste of what to expect from their highly anticipated debut album, which they’re gearing up to release in April.

Priya Ragu

Who: Swiss-Tamil star carving her own distinct blend of pop, R&B and soul
When: Jan 21, 9.20pm, ESNS 01
Look out for: Priya Ragu’s live shows are a performance masterclass. Across a string of UK dates last year (which include a support slot with dance duo Jungle), the rising artist delivered a commanding stage presence and tightly-rehearsed choreography. You can hear that sharp attention to detail in her boundary-shifting music, too; her debut mixtape, 2021’s ‘damnshestamil’, was gorgeously textured and drenched with feeling.

Berwyn

Who: Poetic rapper and songwriter making sense of an ever-changing world
When: Jan 19, 9.30pm, ESNS 02
Look out for: The Trinidad-born, Romford-raised artist’s music finds power through his electrifying live shows. From the tense and deeply moving mini-epic ‘I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported’ (which we named one of the Best Songs of 2021) to breakout single ‘Rubber Bands’, Berwyn delivers his soul-stirring songs with a rich, impassioned voice. His dexterous piano skills are just as arresting.

The Lounge Society

Who: Yorkshire gang with groove-laden bangers aplenty
When: Jan 20, 9.30pm, ESNS 02
Look out for: These young pals aren’t out to tick any genre boxes; their highly danceable songs veer between skittering punk choruses and fuzzy, swirling breakdowns, as they flex their experimental side to the max. Ahead of a spring stacked with headline shows, Eurosonic ESNS is a great opportunity to witness a band destined to become indie heroes imminently.

ENNY

Who: One of UK rap’s essential new voices
When: Jan 21, 8pm, ESNS 01
Look out for: ENNY’s live performance will no doubt build on her already stellar reputation. Following the viral success of breakout single ‘Peng Black Girls’, the south London artist has deftly toed the line between punchy beats and thoughtful and compassionate lyricism. With a focus on inclusivity, her music is refreshing and exciting – and you can dance to it, too.

Kai Kwasi

Who: Effortlessly cool songwriter bringing together wordplay and unflinching honesty
When: Jan 19, 11.10pm, ESNS 03
Look out for: Kai Kwasi weaves his globe-spanning references – Ghanaian Highlife, soul, grime and indie – into constantly shapeshifting tracks, which explore his experiences of growing up in south London. His stripped back, lo-fi set – which has seen him open up for Joy Crookes in recent months – will be one to soothe souls as the evening unwinds.

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