Ah. A new artists piece. The perennial opportunity for any budding writer to prove his credentials as a hipster-come-music bod of the highest order, consciously shoe-horning every last drop of pretentiousness he possesses into several hundred words of “who’s that” and “never heard of ‘em” journalistic gold. Who cares, right? Well, anyway, a smattering of bands and solo artists are making waves in the industry currently, from Scandinavian pop princesses to young hip hop generals from the Big Apple, and in the least pompous way, here they are.
First up are post-punk Danish trio, Shiny Darkly. Although the holders of perhaps the worst band name since Alex Turner and co. thought Arctic Monkeys was an apt description of four scrawny loons from Sheffield, Shiny Darkly produce a sound that sits somewhere between the broody, sinister gothic rock of Joy Division, and Jesus and the Mary Chain’s apocalyptic blaze of feedback and general anarchy. Early tracks ‘He’s Suicidal’ and ‘Dead Stars’ add new life to a genre long bereft of any originality, and set the tone for the highly anticipated release of these guitar-Vikings’ debut EP Little Earth, out March 31 2014.
Next in the six-string arena are late bloomers Posse. Purveyors of slacker, indie-rock a la Songs: Ohia, this trio from Seattle have just released their sophomore album on the rather tellingly named label, Beating a Dead Horse. Speaking about the eight-track effort, Soft Opening, singer Paul Wittman-Todd describes his inspiration as coming from “delay pedals and 27 years of disappointment,” hardly the talk of a band enamoured with their own success. Yet it’s undeniable that Soft Opening is an exquisite melange of blooming, rippling guitar lines and intricate vocal interplay between song-writing duo Witman-Todd and Sacha Maxim, that transcends a tired genre in a similar way to the Danes, Shiny Darkly, except they don’t sound ever so slightly like a cheap Lou Reed knockoff, albeit in a good way, and without the sarcasm.
Following in the footsteps of fellow pop-noir darling Lana Del Rey is the glamorous Dutch vixen, BEA. The twenty two-year old chanteuse is of British parentage making music in Amsterdam, and is in possession of perhaps the silkiest and smoothest cat-like croon of her generation. Something of an industry secret, her PR people have been scrambling to keep BEA’s own brand of cathedral-pop under-wraps as much as possible. Only one track, ‘Breadwinner’, three minutes of haunting, synth-laden R&B, has seen the light of day (or the internet); yet this has been sufficient to cause many a Pitchfork executive’s head to explode all over their precious Macbook screens in outbursts of ‘unsigned’ ecstasy. One thing we do know, though, is hipsters will be wearing clogs come Christmas, and maybe not even metaphorically, you never know with them.
As for hip hop, after the revolutionary explosion of new artists in 2013, things have gone a bit quiet on the rap front. Of course Chance the Rapper has jumped to the forefront of the genre, yet many of the other ‘next big things’ of yesteryear have been revealed as slightly less incendiary than first thought. Many of the Pro Era collective have dropped off the map since Joey Badass put them there single-handedly in 2012, although the much anticipated follow-up to P.E.E.P : the aPROcalypse is definitely worthy of attention (The Secc$ Tap,e 2, released February 14), despite the lack of solo material recently.
Perhaps the biggest news item on the agenda is the continued collaboration between young gun Bishop Nehru and hip hop titan and mask-toting nut, MF Doom. Thankfully putting the lyrical trash of fellow hype-men Dillan Cooper and Vic Mensa in the shade, the rapper from Rockland County’s joint-album with Doom is due out later this year, and just might be possibly maybe the best hip hop album since Doom’s own 2004 effort Madvillainy. Perhaps the most impressive endorsement of Nehru’s talents are legendary wordsmith Nas’s recent declarations that Bishop is “the future of music.” It appears the world is yours, Mr Nehru, don’t blow it like so many of your peers appear to have done.
In other, more high profile news, Kanye West continues to be the hardest working moron in music, although a misunderstood one at that, and Win Butler still hasn’t washed his hair, despite my complaints.