It’s time, once again, to look at the BBC’s tips for the year – while the Sound Of 2013 poll shouldn’t be considered the be-all and end-all of new music, the list actually does include a few gems this year, and thus is worth taking note of. That’s not to say that everything on the list is worth bothering with, however…
They say never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the your gut instincts don’t lie – A*M*E looks like a teenage Nicki Minaj, and guess what? She sounds like a teenage Nicki Minaj too – maybe there’s a little more of a dancehall influence present, but the brash posturing, bratty rapping and obnoxious backing track are all present and correct. Anyone expecting Laura Mvula (#4) be akin to Grace Jones, however, will be sorely disappointed – she makes it onto the list by sounding like a slightly more interesting version of Adele. Similarly, King Krule might be the splitting image of Frank Carter, but he’s no hardcore punk – though interestingly enough, his sound feels like it’s some sort of unlikely halfway house between The Clash and Jamie T. Going back to sounding like Adele, Tom Odell does a pretty good job of channeling both her and fellow multi-million sellers Coldplay, which is probably why the Brit Awards have named him the first ever male winner of their Critic’s Choice prize. ‘Safe’ is the word.
It’s always obligatory for there to be at least one artist on the list who’s already received boatloads of critical acclaim, and this year it’s Toronto’s The Weeknd, whose mixtapes (beginning with House Of Balloons in 2011) have already had the likes of Pitchfork fawning over him – and to be fair, his desolate take on the kind of R’n’B Frank Ocean has become famous for is sure to take him to even greater heights this year. Meanwhile, Angel Haze (#3) has probably got the style and in-your-face flow (…did I just write that?) to go places, though it remains to be seen whether she’ll be remembered more for her music than for her very public twitter spat with Azealia Banks. And speaking of R’n’B, let’s pause for a moment and pity Arlissa, who really can’t afford to drop the ball when she steps out the shadow of her collaboration with Nas, lest she be consigned to a life of being a featured artist on hip-hop records.
Finally, we have AlunaGeorge (#2), who ruin my black and white dividing line between bands and solo artists thanks to the combination of a) not really being a band in the traditional sense and b) having two members. Their wonky, floaty future-pop might be a little bit of a tough sell for the general public, but then again Alt-J were pretty popular last year (for good reason), so who can bloody tell anymore?
Guitar music is dead! No, it’s coming back! Who knows?! Who cares!? One thing’s for sure, it’s obligatory for the list to have at least one ‘great white hope of British guitar music’ (usually heavily backed by the NME), and this year it’s Palma Violets. While they’ve got more potential for a Vaccines-style success than a (Viva) Brother Brit-flop, I still remain unconvinced about them in general. Elsewhere, there’s the whole ‘B-Town’ scene – which I dislike on principle because it ignores the fact that the best indie band in the country (*cough*JoFo*cough*) has already come out of Birmingham. But regardless, Peace represent the city in this year’s list, and at least they manage to sound like an amalgamation of various other bands I like – Friendly Fires, Foals, The Horrors, even a little Wild Beasts. Not as good as any of those just yet, but hey, they’ve got time – and at least they’re not Swim Deep. There’s also a thriving indie-rock scene in Dublin, if this list is to believed – and while Little Green Cars are a little too Mumford & Sons for my liking, Kodaline at least seem to have the right sort of Beatles-y aspirations to demonstrate a little potential.
If you were worried that electronic bands weren’t getting a look-in, Glasgow’s CHVRCHES (#5) make sleek electro-pop that sounds somewhere between Metric and Purity Ring. Also thoroughly deserving of an inclusion are London’s Savages, a dark, invigorating female post-punk four-piece with echoes of early Joy Division – their live show is utterly captivating, and was captured brilliantly on last year’s I Am Here EP. And then there’s Haim (#1), whose beguilingly slick pop-rock makes them very much deserving of the top spot – I’m kinda kicking myself a bit for not catching them when I was in Iceland, to be honest.
And there you have it – now all that remains is to see how these acts fare over the next 12 months…