Psst. Want some new music? Here are our highlights to make sure you stay ahead of the game in 2018.
What the world needs now is...a neon-haired Finnish girl with a soulful voice that hits like Thor's hammer. Well, here's Alma. 21 years old and in full collaboration mode with MNEK, Rudimental, Charli XCX et al, Alma dresses like a sloppy skate-punk, her musical style crossing punk, reggae, soul, pop and techno. She's been singing all her life as an escape, as a security blanket. From 12, when she let her family on on her little singing secret, she devoted herself to YouTube, listening to four or five hours of music in a sitting. She put in the research, boning up on The Jackson 5 and Amy Winehouse. In the meantime she wrote her own material and honed her craft, signing up twin sister as backing singer. Her tongue-in-cheek song Dye My Hair has garnered 35 million plays on Spotify. Her track Knock is the exemplar of her voice and style, an offer of sanctuary to a friend in need. "I want to live in the moment," she says. "I want to be here and be real. I don't want to bullshit anyone or write empty pop bangers. I want to keep the Finnish mind-set, cos I'm just a Finnish girl."
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The already-popular Kaleo are an Icelandic four-piece who sound like Kings of Leon but look healthier and more, well, Scandinavian. They stepped up from Dingwalls to January 2017’s gig at The Forum in just six months. Their track Way Down We Go blew up and has been snagged for the Will Smith film Collateral Beauty. Kaleo are also known for playing inside a volcano and on top of icebergs, which is probably the equivalent of a trip to Tesco if you’re from Iceland but looks pretty spectacular to the rest of us. Debut album A/B is out now.
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To older readers there is only one Iman, and she is the Somali fashion model that became David Bowie’s wife. However, time marches on, and Iman the singer-songwriter is the one that matters now, not least cos she has written for Kanye West. Since then she has written and recorded with Ed Sheeran, recorded and performed with Rudimental and has two songs on Wilkinson’s album. She has started her own record label, Shopfrontrecords, and released two singles – Golden and Naïve – with videos she herself directed and edited. Iman says: “The hardest thing I had to battle was my own self-doubt and low self-esteem. I was constantly trying to silence that inner critic.” Born to a Sudanese father and her mother from Yemen, she was also restricted by her strict upbringing. “The artist I am, writing the music I do right now is a direct product of my foundations, it's from those early days where I had to fight myself, that I was somehow able to dig deep and find myself to then go on and write the songs,” she says.
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One-time cellist and indie band bassist Alison Wonderland is an Australian DJ/producer with a compulsion for music. And is currently working on her second album – “I'm basically sitting in the studio or my bedroom writing most days.” Blending pop with techno, trap and more, she concocts music like full-flavoured liquor: with spice, spirit and fire. When asked about her muse she cites emotions and performing: “No matter where I am, if I'm feeling something extreme it’s usually the main motivation and inspiration for writing music. The thing that inspires me most is definitely the raw energy of a crowd. The sweatier and more primal it is, the more inspired I am to go hard on stage and feed off their vibe. It's the greatest feeling. Very cathartic.”
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Bubbling up for a while, Lady Leshurr surged to the surface when her Queen’s Speech 4 freestyle went viral. Known offstage as Melesha O’Garro, she has supreme gift of the gab. Born in the Midlands to parents from the Caribbean, she geared up from poetry to mixtapes to raps and songs — collaborating with Tinie Tempah and Wiley. Now it’s Timbaland as she prepares to release her debut album. Yeah, her debut. Her second coming is also her first. Cos she’s also acted (in the movie 1 Day) and has stage presence to die for. Her influences include Sister Nancy, Ms Dynamite, Eminem and Lil Wayne. When she was little she had 11 fingers, but not no more. Apart from being cool, she is also very pro other female artists. “We’ve got to stick together,” she says. If you need an introduction, pull up YouTube for her piss-take of Chris Brown’s song Look At Me Now, or with Wiley, Where Are You Now?
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The Nigerian-born, Atlanta-raised LA transplant has been on the rise since he emerged on the web with 'Hello World,' his ethereal first release as an 18-year old attending NYU. Blending buttery choruses with a weighty rap style, it still stands up with the best of his tracks. The 21-year-old already has a rich back catalogue, and has even collaborated with the likes of Killer Mike, one half of rap supergroup Run The Jewels. His style proves hard to pin down, as he transitions from high impulse electronic beats to smooth jazzy grooves; compare Casino and Still Barking to experience his versatility. Jack's debut LP No Data dropped March 2017.
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Listening to George Maple’s debut album Lover is like receiving a series of intimate whispers in the ear. Except George, a soulful Australian inspired by the likes of Donna Summer and FKA Twigs, does more than whisper. She pines, she roars, she compels. Lyrics encompass lust, power, obsession and in Hero, a song about “embracing the strength in fragility”, finding love for oneself. Devotion has gone into the production, too, the music assembled as a dreamlike soundscape, an ethereal easel for the stardust brush of her voice which is sometimes syrupy, sometimes sultry, but always rich. Like its theme, the album often draws a feeling of a moment frozen in time, before building to a heady release as on Sticks and Horses and Kryptonite. Between interludes in the language of love, samples from the likes of philosopher Alan Watts, and collaborations with rappers GoldLink and Rome Fortune, Maple embraces all in pursuit of her subject. Lover is an experience in which even the most inexperienced in love can find something desirable. Even if only in fantasy. Beaux rêves amoureux.
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Born in Hackney, made in Camden (in the same tower block as musician/DJ/actor Goldie), Melisa Whiskey’s musical upbringing came via her local church and its gospel choir. This path, which saw her sign her first publishing deal before she’d even released her first song, has lent her voice, which is naturally strong, both control and fluidity. Nowhere else are these features more apparent than in Billin’, in which she switches from warm, earthy sass – “If a man hasn’t got nothing for me / keep walking” – to elevated chorus. Played, also from her debut EP Moon + The Sky, embodies a similarly infectious spirit, while the James Brown-like funk of Sweetest Cake implies Melisa possesses just as much depth in invention as she does in soul. This is Melisa breaking ground.
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Meet London’s latest dance-pop producers, the vigorous trio Nari, Jordan and Teo, and their in-form outfit Jaded. Not that there’s any malady in their melody. In fact, just try and stop yourself from enjoying the abandon in their music, which is clean, fiery and full of quirks (see samples in 2016 debut, 4000hz, for some “Is that a hawk?” moments). Go on. Just try. Fatboy Slim, David Guetta and Jax Jones certainly can’t, each effusively on-the-record over In the Morning, a summer dance floor smash, upbeat and brash, sampling trumpets and empowering ladies: “I ain’t looking for a ring cos I got what I want / I ain’t looking for a ring cos I got what I need.” Yeah? Well, we ain’t looking for no-thing cos we’re too busy grooving. With its vivacity and spunk, [night] owl symbolism, and three gyrating, “hangry” ladies, In the Morning is an indulgent ode to the colour and variety of inner-city life. What else.
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Girli makes songs that say something. Labelled bratpop for her music and confrontational style (tossing tampons at her audience), the 18-year-old has put in the graft, playing open mic nights and producing her own demos in the three years she’s been creating tunes. Real name Milly Toomey, though don’t use it to her face, Girli has tracks called Girl I Met OnThe Internet and SoYouThinkYou Can Fuck With Me DoYa? that tie up pop, punk and rap. In fact, doesn’t the word “bratty” sound like something the patriarchal press would call a girl with pink hair and metal through her nose? If she were a boy they’d say she was a proper rebel. As you can imagine, she takes some stick. Writes her own material, too – doesn’t’ let some Simon Cowell-type stooge toss off soppy bollocks on her behalf. Gets a bit of social conscience going. She once tweeted: “Someone’s song is like their diary entry, think of that before you slate it.” You go, Girli.
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