In this week’s NME, we meet some of the names set to dominate the next 12 months in music. From the piano balladry of Tobias Jesso Jr to Vegas newcomer Shamir’s fearless flamboyance, 2015 is in plentiful supply of exciting breakout acts. Here’s 50 we’re hyped to watch blow up this year…
Tobias Jesso Jr: Meet the new king of heartbreaking melody. When LA-based Tobias first uploaded his demo track ‘Just A Dream’ in August 2013, we hailed it as coming from the same school as Harry Nilsson, John Lennon and Elton John. Tender, heartfelt and true, it’s safe to say that his forthcoming debut album, ‘Goon’ will become one of the year’s most acclaimed.
Shamir: Las Vegas wonderkid Shamir released one of 2014’s sleeper hits in his ‘Northtown’ EP. Bubbling for the most part with James Murphy-inspired dance bangers, it showcased his extraordinary vocals, which recall the androgyny of disco legend Sylvester, alongside an intense, personal attachment to the songs – the likes of which we haven’t witnessed for years.
Public Access TV: Had Stiff Records just formed in 2015, it’s highly likely that this New York fourpiece would have become their first signing. Tracks like ‘Monaco’ and ‘In The Mirror’ recall the angsty, pinpointed brilliance of new wave giants like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Led by John Eatherly, they're loved by Weezer, Ex Hex and fellow 2015 hopefuls Deers to name a few.
Hinds: Madrid’s Hinds - the erstwhile Deer - arrived on a wave of hype in the middle of last year, which got so out of hand they even ended up with Vaccines man Freddie Cowan helping out as a roadie at one industry-packed gig in London. Their songs are drenched in the kind of lo-fi, three-chord scrappiness that made Palma Violets and Black Lips so irresistible when they first came out.
Leon Bridges: Texan singer Leon Bridges first appeared at the tail end of 2014, when a couple of his songs went viral on Soundcloud. Sounding remarkably like Sam Cooke and with a back-story to die for, he’s being mentored by White Denim and courted by practically every reputable record label in the world.
Slaves: This Kent duo are already all over music TV and mainstream radio, which is refreshing considering their punk credentials (stand-up drumming, lyrics about running people over, Oi! tendencies). Dapper, jokey and uniquely British in a way that would impress anyone who knows their Billy Childish from Billy Fury, they’re only gonna get bigger…
Bully: Having interned at Steve Albini’s studio, Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno is a musical force to be reckoned with – writing, singing, playing and recording all of Bully’s material. And yes, Albini is a fan of the Nashville-based band too. He told us he’s “rooting” for them in 2015. We can’t argue with that.
Neon Waltz: From Wick and Thurso – pretty much the most northerly towns in Scotland – come Neon Waltz. The sixpiece recall the early excitement of The Coral, back when they used to wig-out in a haze of organ-assisted feedback, with a bit of The National thrown in for good measure.
The Districts: The Philly fourpiece were one of the hits of last year’s SXSW. There, people came away from their gigs saying they sounded like a cross between early Kings Of Leon and Nirvana. On their forthcoming new album ‘A Flourish And A Spoil’ they more than live up the hype - but manage to carve out a niche totally of their own.
Loyle Carner: With links to King Krule and Kate Tempest, Londoner Loyle’s early tracks like ‘Cantona’ and ‘BFG’ dealt tenderly with the death of his stepfather. Intelligent and heartfelt, it’s rare that a young British rapper has managed to come across so deep. A bright future beckons.
The Preatures: Tipped by Anton Newcombe, Brian Jonestown Massacre: “I caught The Preatures’ set at Glastonbury last year, and noticed Isabella [Manfredi, singer] really going for it like only an amazing performer does. They work very hard and it’s interesting to watch them apply that energy to getting out there globally.”
Yung: Fresh out of Copenhagen, Yung are one of Scandinavia’s hottest new prospects, with apparently “hundreds” of songs already written and ready to go. If Iceage covering Nirvana sounds like your thing, then check out ‘Nobody Cares’.
Sheer Mag: Like a more lo-fi Strokes playing T Rex covers, Sheer Mag’s recent self-titled EP was one of last year’s most thrilling listens. Frenetic guitars merge perfectly with singer Christina Halladay's OTT personality, and she has perhaps the best voice in rock since Beth Ditto stepped up to the mic.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Although their sound is remarkably similar to that of fellow Aussies Pond (seriously, what is it with psych bands and flutes?!), King Gizzard are a force to be reckoned with live – two drummers, numerous singers and a blizzard of guitars. Their gigs are an assault on the eyes, ears and senses.
Huw Evans has been making music as H Hawkline for a few years now, but his recent signing to Heavenly signals a big change. Part of the same scene that’s given us Cate Le Bon, his recent release ‘Salt Gall Box Ghouls’ is essential listening.
Soak: Silken-voiced 17-year-old singer-songwriter Soak (aka Bridie Monds-Watson, from Derry) has found her Cat Powerish crooning feted by Chvrches – who signed her to their Goodbye Records label ahead of her current deal with Rough Trade – and lauded as the next phase of Beach House-style chillwave.
Real Lies: Tipped by Harry Koisser, Peace: “Real Lies used to be more electronic, but then they got a drummer and a bassist and changed a bit. The first time I heard them I thought they sounded like Pet Shop Boys! They’ve got a couple of absolutely amazing songs.”
Girl Band: The Dublin band have just signed to Rough Trade after a year of teasing us with some of the most exciting gigs we’ve seen in a long while. Like a heavier Factory Floor but with an undisputed punk streak thrown in for good measure, they’re all about intensity.
Låpsley: Merseyside singer Låpsley bagged the One To Watch prize at last year’s GIT Award for breaking new acts in Liverpool, and she was snapped up by XL shortly after. Melancholic, yet with the technical nous of James Black and Grimes, her track ‘Painter (Valentine)’ was one of 2014’s most rewarding listens.
Alex G: The brilliantly talented songwriter from Philadelphia has been putting out albums online for a while, but he’s just crossed over with his latest one ‘DSU’. If you’re a fan of Pavement and The Flaming Lips, you need to hear him.
Twin Peaks: Twin Peaks may have risen up in the shadow of fellow Chicagoans The Orwells but - whisper it - they’re actually the better songwriters. With an appreciation for classic rock’n’roll from The Kinks to The Strokes, they’re alarmingly prolific, not to mention one of the best live garage acts around today.
Pretty Vicious: Merthyr teens Pretty Vicious channel ’94-era Oasis attitude, but twin it with a mainstream production sound that’s getting a lot of major labels very excited indeed. They’ve only got one track online, ‘Cave Song’, which sounds a little like Jake Bugg fronting Arctic Monkeys.
Gengahr: Tipped by Joel Amey, Wolf Alice: “Gengahr don’t sound like any other band in London right now – outrageous guitar work, crystalline vocals and the grooviest rhythm section together create some beautiful pop music. ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ is a Wolf Alice fave.”
Mark Wynn: Having spent the past year running acoustic nights in York and releasing his music via local ’zines, Wynn has been called the UK’s next great street poet and compared to Mark E Smith. Songs like the Paul McCartney-baiting ‘Battenburg’ stick out brilliantly in the current climate of sanitized, major label fare.
Hippo Campus: Despite the dodgy name, Hippo Campus are one of the biggest word-of-mouth frenzies to emerge from the States over the past six months. Think of them as a Yank Foals, if you will, with killer choruses to boot.
With samples tat sound like they could have been nicked straight off a Libertines record, Essex rapper Rat Boy has clearly been influenced by noughties British indie. But what he does, he does well. ‘Sportswear’ talks of “broken dreams” and has him sounding a little like Mike Skinner back in his early days.
Heat: Canadian newcomers Heat’s debut EP flourishes with touches of Jesus & Mary Chain giddiness, with the whole thing underpinned by singer Susil Sharma’s weird, baritone vocals. He sounds a little like Lou Reed, which is perfectly fine with us.
Torres: Tipped by Sharon Van Etten: “I got to see Torres’ first show in New York at Cake Shop a while back. She was so nervous – she shyly said where she was from and that it was her first show, but as soon as she started playing you could feel that nervousness go away. It reminded me of when I first came to New York. She’s been kicking ass recently though, and I’m really excited for her.”
The Garden: LA twins Fletcher and Wyatt Shears may have modelled for Hedi Slimane, but that doesn’t mean they’re not focused on the music. The band were one of SXSW 2014’s breakout acts, fusing punk and hip hop in a way that recalls the inherent oddness of Beastie Boys in their early days. Confusing then, but gloriously so.
Kwabs: Tipped by Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beasts: “Kwabs is amazing. His voice is incredible – very deep, soulful and beautiful – and he’s had some production done by Dave [Okumu] from The Invisible. It’s really good.”
Viet Cong: With an impressive self-titled album out on Jagjaguwar later this month, Calgary outfit Viet Cong rose from the ashes of cult favourites Women. Post punk but never too retro, their sound slots in perfectly alongside the likes of ‘Pink Flag’-era Wire and early Cure.
Hyena: The Telford newcomers have clearly been looking closely at what Royal Blood did last year – and why not? With songs as good as ‘Mental Home’ they’re certainly doing something right.
Black Honey: A couple of sultry online teasers from Black Honey have provoked comparisons to Lana Del Rey’s school of sensuality, but live, the band are a far more giddy proposition. Shoegaze-tinged but with melodic nous, this is leftfield pop with serious smarts.
Bo En: Bromley producer Bo En’s infrequent yet brilliant remixes single him out as a special talent. There’s a tendency to liken him to PC Music or the game composing scene, but in reality his work offers something more intriguing than that: ambiguity, amazing melody and a knack for eschewing genres that usually tie others down.
Yak: Yak’s gigs are already the stuff of legend, and frontman Oli Burslem is one of the most refreshing interviewees around. Debut song ‘Plastic People’ was one of the best British guitar songs of the past year.
Spring King: Tipped by Kieran Shudall, Circa Waves: “Spring King are a fivepiece based in Manchester. They make cool garage rock and they’re the best live band in the world. So much energy! It’s like five people screaming down the microphone at once. Check out their track ‘Mumma’.”
Demob Happy: Having graduated from the Vines-esque rattle of their earlier output into riff-heavy, Queens Of The Stone Age swagger, Brighton quartet Demob Happy have already penned two fine slices of hedonistic guitar sleaze – ‘Succubus’ and ‘Suffer You’. Lock up your daughters.
Scotty ATL: Tipped by Killer Mike, Run The Jewels: “I say Scotty ATL from Atlanta. I think he’s going to usher in an Atlanta renaissance sound. His music sounds like Atlanta progressed. It’s some real player shit. It sounds like early OutKast.”
Bad Breeding: Stevenage punks Bad Breeding look set to pick up the Brit-punk baton from Eagulls. The band’s live shows are anarchic, their songs fast and their videos – particularly ‘Chains’ – already the stuff of legend.
Jack Garratt: The success of 23-year-old Jack Garratt seems something of a safe bet. Since dropping ‘Worry’ last year (700,000 streams and counting) his star has continued to rise. His sound is a mix of James Blake’s swerving electronics, Pharrell’s falsetto choruses and, occasionally, Future Islands’ growl.
The Magic Gang: From hosting riotous house parties to writing indie earworms like early track ‘Shallow’, The Magic Gang have been quietly staking their claim as new indie stars since forming in Brighton a year ago. See-sawing debut single ‘Babylon’ should boot them further in the right direction.
A Giant Dog: Tipped by Britt Daniel, Spoon: “There’s this band called A Giant Dog from Austin: amazing songs, amazing frontwoman, just so much charisma. They’ve put a couple of albums out and they’re just about to release another. They have a guy and a girl singer [Andrew Cashen and Sabrina Ellis], who write the songs together. It reminds me of [LA punk heroes] X.”
Lief Hall: Berlin-based Lief Hall uses her voice to explore harmony, texture, mood and rhythm. Her solo work outside of Myths – an electronic duo she was in while living in Canada, where she toured with Grimes – is warm, glacial and addictively experimental.
The Goodbye Party: Previously in grizzled Philadelphia pop-punk trio The Ambulars, Michael Cantor’s new solo album ‘Silver Blues’, as The Goodbye Party, has a soft, sun-kissed, Brian Wilson feel to it. It’s a lilting college-rock dream that deserves to be a sleeper hit in 2015.
Virginia Wing: Tipped by Joe Mount, Metronomy: “We’ve taken this band Virginia Wing with us on tour. There’s something of Stereolab to them, with a nice indie girl/boy vocal.”
Only Real: Niall Galvin used to knock about with indie heroes Childhood before striking out on his own as Only Real. Having now signed a deal with Virgin EMI, he’s set to release his debut album – the Mike Skinner influenced ‘Jerk At The End Of The Line’ – in March.
DMA's: An Aussie band who sound like they want to be Oasis in 1995? You’d better believe it. Sydney’s DMA’s caused an industry scrum at last year’s CMJ festival on account of their fondness for a Gallagher-sized chorus, and they’re poised to capitalise on that success in 2015. Just don’t mention ‘Be Here Now’ to them.
Palace: Sounding not unlike Wu Lyf, Palace might just be Jamie T’s favourite new band (he picked them to support him last year). Having initially started playing in a pokey Camden rehearsal space, the fourpiece’s music outgrows that: brooding, atmospheric and full of energy, it’s beguiling to say the least.
Anti-Pony: For some bands, psychedelia is just a flavour of the month. For Stockholm’s Anti Pony, though, it’s an ever-whirring kaleidoscope of sonic potential. Alexander Pierre and Sanna Colling are the duo responsible for creating debut single ‘Cry On The Floor’, which sounds like the primal garage of 13th Floor Elevators stomping all over Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood’s creations.