As 2017 nears its end, we’re both reflecting on the year’s musical positives and looking ahead expectantly to a new year, that we’re certain will be packed with phenomenal live music, a wealth of great new records and plenty of new development throughout the arts. We hope that independent artists, labels and music venues can continue their incredible work and make for a vibrant music and arts scene, across the country.
Without further ado, here’s our list of ‘ones to watch’ in 2018, an overview of musicians, based both in the UK and internationally, who we’re hoping take it to the next level in 2018.
Brighton-based duo AK/DK are students of the Düsseldorf school, with a synth-heavy sound that brings rhythm and cosmic processing to the fore. Their exceptional LP Patterns/Harmonics was BBC Radio 6 Music’s album of the day back in October and The Arts Desk described it as “one of the year’s most vital albums”, praising its “…multifarious frequencies” and “sweaty rock’n’roll humanity”. Their pop and rock sensibility is clear in their melodies and song structures, but too is their appreciation for ambient and psychedelic soundscapes. Fans of Neu!, Hookworms, Warm Digits and Harald Grosskopf will no doubt find something to savour in their music and we’re hoping for big things from them in 2018. They play at the Castle Hotel on 1st March.
Photo credit Susan Dale
An appreciation of traditional Japanese aesthetics is but one of the things drawing us to this über cool RnB singer, who too possesses an irresistible falsetto and unmistakable artistic identity. London’s music is packed with textures and ideas; sometimes elements that nod to South African kwaito, other times ones that tip a kasa to ‘70s jazz-funk and his voice sounds remarkable atop it all, like that of a Jose James or James Blake. He’s performed for COLORS, Boiler Room, NTS and others this year and we expect to see much more of him over the coming months.
Having participated in the inaugural Jazz Directors series residency at Band on the Wall, shortly succeeding a Manchester Jazz festival show here for BBC Introducing; Ashley Henry is an artist we’re very familiar with now and wishing well in 2018. He can barely get his knees beneath a Steinway grand yet is paradoxically most comfortable at one, having studied the styles of Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock and developed a classic style as a result. He has a major label EP forthcoming and strong links to artists currently breaking in London’s smouldering jazz scene, namely Moses Boyd and Binker Golding, the latter of whom played in his RE:Ensemble at CHICAGOXLONDON alongside Eddie Hicks, Anthony Joseph and others. Fingers crossed the EP makes a huge splash and catapults Henry and his peers to even bigger things! Award winning bassist and composer Daniel Casimir features in Henry’s RE:Ensemble and Casimir is at Band on the Wall next month. Find out more here.
When Stormzy and Skepta, two of the driving forces behind Grime’s 2016/17 resurgence, hop on your track, you know you’re doing something right! Energy, a cut that features on the Fifa 18 video game soundtrack, is finding Avelino the plaudits and airplay he deserved with his prior EP, while subsequent singles Origami, upon which he proclaims ‘I’m the best rapper in the country there’s no one above me’ and ‘1 in a million’ are also landing with the listenership. Style, flow and confidence in abundance, we’re sure you’ve not heard the last from AV.
After an incredibly active 2017, which saw the band supporting The Kills on their fifteenth anniversary tour, heading down to SXSW and releasing their debut LP, Dream Wife are geared up for more madness in 2018. Their sound is a dynamite combination of raucous punk-rock and pop melody; one that can be traced back to the artists of their parents era, like Blondie and The New York Dolls, as well as compared to that of current rockers like The Courtneys and Sleater-Kinney. Energetic live shows will keep their audience coming back for more and exposure courtesy of Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, will surely see the band making further ground in the new year. You can catch Dream Wife at The Deaf Institute in March.
Anthoney Hart is an accomplished DJ and producer, with a wealth of bass music knowledge and pair of strong albums under his Basic Rhythm moniker. His forthcoming East Man album Red, White & Zero, sees him exploring perceptions of working class and mixed race families, with British academic and author Paul Gilroy contributing a written introduction to the LP and MCs like Killa P, Darkos Strife and Irah contributing verse to the project. According to Planet Mu, ‘his unique take on grime reduces the sound to its steely fundamentals, bringing in influences from dancehall, drum and bass and techno to gird the voices of the MCs he works with’. Continual interest in Grime and London bass music history, both within and outside the U.K., will hopefully reap tangible benefits for Hart and his peers.
The Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter and producer has been working diligently since releasing his debut EP, Bishouné: Alma del Huila in 2014 and is surely but one collaboration or impactful single away from a significant breakthrough. Having received early attention from artists such as Drake, his 2017 LP Jardín, crafted masterfully at New York’s beautiful Waterfront studios, was a favourite of KCRW and Billboard among others. He followed it up with a remix of single Bombo Fabrika featuring Little Simz, which made its way on to Apple Music’s ‘New Fire’ playlist. Describing his aesthetic as ‘an extension of his French-Colombian heritage, a pastiche of Bach sonatas, cumbia records, and the machine gun funk that echoes to this day from behind half-rolled tints up and down Nostrand Ave.’; his team are certainly enamoured by his creative work and with the backing of Stones Throw records, good things are surely afoot. Honourable mention too to labelmates Sudan Archives and Jonti for their great 2017 albums.
If AK/DK strive to maximise the duo sound, Her’s are a band quite content with mellow minimalism. Hailing from coastal Cumbria and Kristiansand respectively, Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading layer minipops rhythms, slinky electric guitar and cool electric bass lines with consummate ease and have garnered great praise for the mature and well-realised sound they began crafting casually as students in Liverpool. DIY have them among their class of 2018 for ‘one of the best debuts we’ve heard for quite some time’ and we’re sure that festival crowds awaiting them next Summer will lap up their jangly tones too. If you like Shuggie Otis, Mac Demarco and anything you can plot in-between, you’re going to dig the band.
Little over 12 months elapsed between the publication of IAMDDB’s breakthrough track LEANED OUT and her run of support dates with trapsoul purveyor Bryson Tiller. Her year has been one few unsigned artists could’ve hoped to match; with multiple EP releases, collaborations with Lenzman and The Mouse Outfit, performances for Burberry and Selfridges and shows at Outlook and L’Acqua Testa festival in Croatia and Italy respectively. Filmmaker KC Locke has worked diligently to capture her success and push her online prevalence through music videos and ‘unscripted’ vlogs, while she and fellow artist Sleazy F have collaborated on shoots and appeared on radio together, highlighting each other’s unique styles and outlooks on artistic life. A Vevo dscvr: artist to watch 2018, we’re as certain as we need ever be that next year will hold great things for IAMDDB as well as bringing love to artists affiliated with her, such as the stupendously talented Layfullstop.
The latter part of 2017 has set the tone for KNOWER going forward, with the reception to their live band sessions, Overtime and Time Traveller, exceeding even their expectations! Lead vocalist Genevieve Artadi told us in a recent interview that the band have a ton of shows on the horizon, and that she and co-founder Louis Cole are ‘both working on our solo albums to finish next year’ adding ‘we will begin new KNOWER music as well’. The band recently played a sold out show at Scala for EFG London Jazz festival, toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers and featured on The Lego Ninjago Movie soundtrack and we can’t wait to welcome them back for their UK tour in March. An honourable mention too goes to Manchester’s Skeltr, who supported KNOWER on their London show; an artist KNOWER fans will surely love as well.
Les Amazones D’Afrique
West African music has done much more than uplift the listener in 2017. Ibibio Sound Machine’s Eno Williams has used her mother’s native tongue ‘Ibibio’ to sing of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by extremist group Boko Haram, while Les Amazones D’Afrique, West Africa’s ‘first all-female supergroup’, have used English, French, Bambara and Fon languages to take their musical campaign for gender equality within and beyond the music world, to the widest possible listenership. On the opening cut of their album République Amazone; Pop Matters’ world music album of the year, Angélique Kidjo sings, ‘Let’s speak about your place in society and your need for a greater status’ a poignant line that hammers home their principles without compromising the musicality and celebratory nature of the song. The album has been praised unanimously and producer Liam Farrell, who previously worked on Mbongwana Star’s fantastic LP From Kinshasa, has again made magical contributions. Whatever 2018 holds for these inspiration West African artists, we wish them all the best in taking their message to the world.
There are plenty of notable similarities between IAMDDB and Mabel; both are drawing attention from major retailers (IAMDDB recording sessions for Selfridges and Burberry and Mabel featuring in Topshop’s Christmas campaign), both have supported Bryson Tiller in recent months and both are creating music that outperforms the conventional RnB label. The same critics who praised J Hus for incorporating Afro-Caribbean musical forms into British rap and RnB this year have likely seen to Mabel’s nomination for the Critics Choice award at the 2018 BRITs, and success there would be a great precursor to her European support tour with megastar Harry Styles. Mabel’s breakthrough track Finders Keepers ft. Kojo Funds is an understated yet irrefutable banger that will no doubt have legs well into next year. Mabel performs at Band on the Wall in April.
Sometimes a track just speaks for itself and Mahalia’s Sober, described by the 405 as ‘a directly written, chill listen about the shift in a relationship when the intoxication has passed’ is one such example. Its lolloping beat is velvet-smooth and her smoky tones drift gossamer-like above it; stressing the effortless vocal chops she has no doubt refined since being signed in her early adolescence. Like the aforementioned urban and R&B artists, Mahalia is killing it across the board: having been named Apple Music’s New Artist Of The Week earlier this month, supported Goldlink in London and shot a breathtaking editorial for Hunger magazine, clearly stating her eye for fashion as well as ear for melody. Noisey call the sound of her latest work ‘woozy and warm, wise yet relatable, kind of like Erykah Badu, Sade or Fugees – but with a forward-facing, 2010s R&B spin’ and partner publication i-D have her among their class of 2018. Big things cometh and she’s live at Band on the Wall in March.
The transfixing sound of the hang or ‘handpan’ has become ubiquitous with the tense passages of a Netflix original drama or the sweeping vista shots of your token nature documentary, so as one of its contemporary masters, Manu Delago stands in good stead! His ambitions however are far greater than soundtracking for TV and film; his Alpine expeditions are giving birth to a new audio-visual project of his own and forthcoming collaborations with chamber orchestra promise to bring a new dimension to the electronica-influenced sound he has thus far crafted on his first two Tru Thoughts releases. We’ve been dazzled by his abilities on his previous trips to Band on the Wall and are sure that next year will see him producing awe-inspiring work and reaching a larger receptive audience.
Hailing from Tijuana, Baja California, Mint Field are an indie trio who build chambers of emotion from melancholic musical breezeblocks. They’ve been playlisted by Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1 and profiled by DIY and Noisey among others, ahead of the release of their debut album, via Innovative Leisure in February. Their new single is one you can be completely absorbed by; dive in below. We’re taking Mint Field to Salford’s Eagle Inn in February.
Nadah El Shazly
A recent New York Times travel article described Cairo as ‘vibrant’ and ‘ready again for the world stage’, but mentioned nothing of its music scene. Artists in Egypt’s capital aren’t necessarily met with the support and infrastructure you would expect in a location of such status, but Nadah El Shazly is one progressive artist actively trying to change that. In addition to her efforts to invigorate the live scene, she is releasing challenging and genre-defying electro-acoustic music, reflecting the incredible musician bass that surrounds her. Writing for Cairo scene in 2014, Timmy Mowafi described her as a voice ‘set to redefine independent music in the Arab world’ and Beehype said of her new album “Ahwar brings just 6 tracks, but none of them ends the way it has started, none of them follows a path you could predict, and altogether they offer you an experience worth an album twice this long”. We’re loving her sound and recommend you take a listen below.
Riot Jazz fans will recognise trumpeter Nick Walters, who together with saxophonist, composer and 22a records founder Tenderlonious, drummer Eddie Hick and several other incredible London-based musicians, drives the pure jazz-funk vehicle that is Ruby Rushton. Both volumes of Trudy’s Songbook, their efficiently recorded and mixed second and third LPs, are exceptional jazz-funk groovers that fans of The Headhunters, Kamasi Washington and similar artists will lap up!
The Lone Bellow
Zach Williams, lead vocalist with all-singing, all-songwriting Americana trio The Lone Bellow, found his feet as a songwriter in the wake of a family crisis. When his wife sustained serious injuries in a horseriding accident, from which she thankfully recovered, he channelled his emotions into a journal, which eventually proved the perfect resource for earnest songwriting. He, Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist came together in Brooklyn shortly thereafter and instantly struck a chord as writers and harmony vocalists; their work retaining an earnest quality that many fans and critics identified. 2017 has seen them release an astonishing album with Sony Masterworks entitled Walk into a Storm, recorded at RCA studio A in Nashville with Dave Cobb (producer to Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton). They’ve performed on Kimmel and transmitted their sound across the states, as well as touring relentlessly to take hold in new territories. Their Spotify wrapped reflects their worldwide impact: over a million fans across 61 countries!
We were thrilled to have XamVolo perform at our first Future Vibes show this year and could see the London-based vocalist, who twists jazz and RnB into progressive pop-wise forms, making his mark in a similar way to an artist like Labyrinth; both in the ‘driving seat’ as a solo artist and ‘passenger seat’ as a producer/creative designer with comprehensive understanding of the musical process. His recent singles Feels Good and Old Soul are a masterclass in jazz-influenced vocal and instrumental production, laced with gorgeous contemporary percussion, brass and synth bass. Whether production, design or solo stardom be his calling, he seems set for success whichever route he takes. Xam performs at Sounds from the Other City festival on the Band on the Wall stage in May.
South Korean rapper and DJ Yaeji has racked up 4,000,000+ views on YouTube with her single Drink I’m Sippin On, which was published around the same time she began to considered herself a full-time musician….early October. She had been mixing music and graphic design assistance prior to that and making waves with her bi-lingual bars as well as her DJ’ing. Her mix for Dazed is sheer class and as one of BBC Music’s sounds of 2018, she seems set to entrance many a UK listener.
A part of the ‘future bubblers’ clique affiliated with Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood recordings, Lacey is a vocalist with supreme talent who has supported Fatima at the Union Chapel and featured on Jamz Supernova’s live from Maida Vale jazz special radio show. She comes to Manchester next year for an intimate show at the Castle Hotel and if you like the pure vocal abilities of artist like Laura Mvula and Erykah Badu, you’ll appreciate how good her voice sounds with next to no processing, as on her recent Brownswood basement session – straight vibes!