Every day this week, NME is profiling one of its five big picks for 2016 – check out Ratboy and Sunflower Bean here. In this gallery, we run down a longer list of 25 brand new acts poised to take this year by storm.
Is 2016 Jordan Cardy’s for the taking? As Rat Boy he’s in pole position to ‘do a Slaves’ and hit the mainstream. The social adulation is there – he’s got more pull than other bands who’ve been around years – and now his songs look like making the grade too. While early material recalled Jamie T, recent tracks like ‘Sign On’ add in Alex Turner’s teenage magic.
One of the best indie bands to emerge from Brooklyn in Diiv’s wake are this trio. Equal parts Blondie, The Cure and Tame Impala, their brand of blissed out indie sounds exhilarating, while debut album Human Ceremony has barely left NME’s stereo since advance copies came in last month. New single ‘Easily Said’, meanwhile, is jangle pop perfection.
London dance duo Formation take a leaf out of Massive Attack and Portishead’s book, performing mostly live. While there’s a bit of Fat White Family’s antagonism in there visually too, musically they’re poles apart – this is anthemic, hands in the air party music at its most invigorating.
Nao first aced it with 2014's ‘So Good’, her wonky collaboration with Jai Paul’s brother, AK Paul. Silky vocals and slanted melodies were the order of the day on that, and everything she’s done since. She’s fast marking herself out as a master when it comes to creating stuttering pop classics.
This lot blew everybody away at SXSW and haven’t stopped touring since. Unfortunately they haven’t signed a record deal either, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll be going overground any time soon. But the facts is this: Sheer Mag play punk rock the way it should be played, and they haven’t released a duff song yet. 2016 could be theirs… if they want it.
Bugzy Malone was just a kid when the first wave of grime exploded in London at the turn of the century, but it wasn’t the capital that he called home. Two hundred miles away in Manchester, the then 13-year-old was gorging on the seminal Risky Roadz DVD series that helped launch Dizzee, Skepta and co. He’s now risen to become his city’s key player in the genre…
Lets Eat Grandma
Two lookalike freaky kids who made one of the most lush, organic songs of the year in 2015, the mesmerising Deep Six Textbook. Their music is as icy as PJ Harvey and as random as Bjork or Dean Blunt, arriving complete with coordinated handclaps, sax solos, wilfully obscure lyrics and jaw-dropping harmonies.
Public Access TV
Another New York act, this lot stepped up their game recently with a brilliant single on Terrible Records called ‘In Love And Alone’ – culled from their forthcoming debut album, it was one of the strongest guitar tracks of the past 12 months.
'Golden Boy' by Elf Kid went viral at the start of December and proved itself to be one of the best party songs of the year. The Lewisham rapper is still relatively new to the game, but if he’s got more material on a par with that, things are looking rosy.
If you’re into Jeff Buckley and Willy Mason, then look no further than Isaac Gracie. His forlorn, lo-fi tearjerker ‘Last Words’ sounds like a sadder, more blues-obsessed Jake Bugg and has racked up 65,000 SoundCloud plays despite little label help.
This lot are the band everyone’s tipping to be the new Jungle. That is, create massive tunes fit for 10,000 people to lose their shit to over at the Park Stage at this year’s Glastonbury. The epic ‘Priestess’ is a giant leap in that direction for them.
Denmark’s not been short of great new bands these past few years, but Liss are doing something different to the usual punk crowd. More D’Angelo than Dead Kennedys, Liss vocalist Soren sounds utterly unique, while his bandmates create perfect indie-flecked R&B. It's a killer combination.
After years slumming it at the bottom of bills, 2016 is Spring King’s big chance. Zane Lowe’s patronage on Beats 1 has helped, but really it’s the supreme talents of singing drummer (and producer, and songwriter) Tarek Musa that make them so special. ‘Who Are You?’ and ‘City’ were two of 2015’s best singles: the next 12 months deserve to be a rollercoaster.
Comprising former members of Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Chicago’s Whitney also feature a singing drummer, but unlike Spring King they’re a much more blissful affair. They cover the late, great Allen Toussaint and make blue-eyed indie-soul like they’ve just invented it.
Liverpool-based Lapsley got snapped up by XL Recordings last year and has been quietly building up to a big 2016 ever since. Early singles like the yearning ‘Hurt Me’ and ‘Burn’ pitch her somewhere between two other XL-affiliated acts you might have heard of already - Adele and FKA Twigs.
Tipped by Grimes, She-Devils are an icy, untamed Montréal duo whose sample-heavy output made our jaws drop at the tail end of 2015. Singer Audrey Ann has one of the most mesmerising voices around, and there’s a dreamlike quality to their material that feels coolly cinematic.
Aaron Maine has been making gloriously affecting sad pop for a while now, with 2013’s Slow Dance In The Cosmos album a particular highpoint. Last year he announced his signing to Domino Records, alongside a superb new track called ‘Hour’, featuring his girlfriend and musical collaborator Frankie Cosmos. He’ll follow it up with a hotly-anticipated new album this year.
Another Danish act, but far more abrasive than the poppy Liss. Key track ‘Nobody Cares’ sounded uncannily Nirvana-esque, but since then they’ve branched out, with tracks taking in hardcore elements, as well as Smithsy jangle.
The Big Moon
The Londoners haven’t put a step wrong in the UK yet, with a brace of anthemic, catchy tunes doing the rounds on Soundcloud over the past six months. Onstage they’ve got a devoutly British demeanour, jolting into each other and turning Madonna’s sickly sweet 1999 hit ‘Beautiful Stranger’ into a wide-eyed indie staple.
Providence punks Downtown Boys' second album ‘Full Communism’ was absolutely essential in 2015 - an eyeballing thriller that dealt with race troubles, class war, the failure of the US healthcare system, youth alienation and a lack of any real family heritage. This year they need to bring it to the UK.
The Australian act come from the same scene that gave us DZ Deathrays, but go for a much more retro sound. Their choice of Kappa hats and cagoules constantly sees them compared to Oasis, but really there’s a whole host of other 90s bands in the DNA of their music – from Pavement to Blur.
Twinning Western-spiked guitars and femme fatale vocals, Black Honey are Brighton’s brightest hopes for 2016. While singer Izzy B Phillips’ stage presence has led to lazy comparisons to Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, in reality she’s a different beast altogether, obsessed with Nancy Sinatra, Debbie Harry and Lana Del Rey.
4AD newcomer Pixx’ July single ‘Fall In’ was one of 2015’s most striking, a downward-looking beachside lament almost drowning in Autumn tones and doomy aesthetics. That’s what makes 19-year-old Hannah Rodgers so special – with her music, there’s almost always a sense of solemn beauty.
Car Seat Headrest
After toiling away for years releasing Bandcamp album after Bandcamp album, Will Toledo has finally signed a decent deal (with Matador) that will see him given proper backing for the first proper time. Last October’s CMJ festival in New York was effectively his going overground moment, his brand of lo-fi garage rock winning over many.
Perhaps the biggest problem former Wu Lyf singer Ellery Roberts is facing is whether his public still care. It’s been over three years since the cult Manchester act split, and entire scenes have come and gone. Certainly, Roberts’ music is still up to scratch – his and LUH collaborator Ebony Hoorn's last track ‘Lost Under Heaven’ was a total thriller, and gloriously intense.