Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Ones to watch: Five Artists Who Will Shake the Music Scene Up In 2024

Another year is coming to an end, and even a quick look at the new releases and festival line-ups of the past twelve months is enough to confirm a trend that has been apparent for a while now: the British music scene has rarely been healthier. 

Even at a time that the mainstream pop charts may feel depressingly same-y, one does not need to venture far beneath the surface to encounter a buzzing blend of countercultures, new and hybrid genres, experimentation, performance art, and sheer performing joy. 

With so many new bands producing clever and innovative music, the task of putting together a list of ‘ones to watch’ for the new year might feel daunting: here are five picks from what is shaping up to be a refreshingly broad offering - artists taking the less beaten routes to give us music that feels genuinely new and exciting.

1 - Slate

For those who love a gritty tune and an intense performance, this brand new band out of Cardiff, South Wales is unmissable. In the short time they have spent peddling their music to the masses - they only officially came together as a band next year - Slate have already shown that they have a clear and fully formed voice, mixing the thrumming bass lines and sharp-edged lyrics of punk with the darker, thicker blends of sound of the later New Wave and goth-rock classics. Original touches such as the sampling of unexpected sounds and a strong influence from the spoken word scene elevate the band’s music up to something bolder and more adventurous; the well-regimented chaos of their stage appearances does the rest. Debut single ‘Tabernacl’ made waves when it first came out, and for good reasons: oozing with confidence and memorable in its sound, it was an excellent calling card for a band that clearly has a lot to say.

2 - The New Eves

Also found at the crossroads of poetry and music, The New Eves love an atmospheric set and aim to evoke a very precise mood: something that has its roots in the oldest traditions of folk music, but seen through a lens that is rock through and through, with an almost riot grrl-like edge and no fear of dissonance. Post-folk may not be a musical genre in the sense proper yet, but one listen to stand-out singles like ‘Original Sin’ should be enough to confirm that the New Eves are undoubtedly one of its pioneers, putting together cello and grunge bass into something that, on paper, should not work but, once on stage, absolutely does. The use of voice, versatile and in places deliberately jarring, stands out here as one of the most powerful facets of their music, as well as the deceptive complexity of the composition: for something with so many moving parts, this is music that feels truly visceral, tapping into a vein of unfettered feeling and making it sing. There is nothing quite like them, and there needs to be more. 

3 - Shelf Lives 

The term post-punk has been used and abused so much in recent years that it might as well have lost all meaning, but this may be one of the rare occasions in which it is the most appropriate term to use. Shelf Lives are an English-Canadian duo with a genuinely punk soul and a strong experimental attitude: they are post-punk in the most literal sense of the word, in that they take the punk ethos and push it forward until it gives life to something wholly new. Fast-paced and in-your-face, tracks like ‘Off the Rails’ graft a late 80s punk sound onto an electronic core for an end result that feels both rebellious and joyous, and like it’s made for a live stage. This is music for the slightly sticky dancefloors of grassroots clubs, designed to leave ears ringing and brains buzzing, with remarkable depth behind its immediacy: it is punchy, fearless, and ready to try new things just for the sake of it. There is no better attitude for artists who aim to reinvent punk music.

4 - Umarells

One of the most recent surprises of 2023, Umarells hail from Manchester and take their name from an Italian slang word used to describe pensioners who spend their days watching roadworks. This alone should serve as a clue to this band’s subdued, quiet-but-insightful attitude and sense of humour. At first listen their pair of first releases (‘Closer’ serves as a stand-out, with its steady cavalcade of guitars and just a touch of psychedelia in the hazy instrumental bridges) may seem a classic hybrid of indie rock and dream-pop, but there is more to be found here: in the intuitively memorable tunes, in the sharp, gentle confidence of the vocals, in the rainy-day atmospheres that enfold the music. They may not be as on-the-nose as other up-and-coming acts, but they are precise and polished, and with a lot of soul. It is a great soundtrack for a winter day, and what they have released so far would also work beautifully in a stripped-down acoustic take, which is often one of the hallmarks of good songwriting.

5 - Bishopskin

Also playing with folk sounds and folk ideas, but blending them with a surprising variety of rock, blues, even country, and with a healthy dose of performance art, this London band started out as a duo and evolved into a complex system of many pieces, all coming together to give life to some of the most idiosyncratic and bizarre - in a good way! - music the grassroots circuit has seen in recent years. Filled with striking imagery, gritty bass vocals, virtuoso guitar riffs and unexpected sounds, Bishopskin’s music has incredible depth, due mainly to truly daring composition, playing with layer upon layer of sound but also knowing when to pull back and let the simplest combinations of vocals and rhythm speak. This is a band with truly impressive range: their recently released debut album contains soulful ballads and danceable earworms, roaring folk anthems and a song, ‘Stella Splendens’, which reads like a postmodern take on a genuine Medieval hymn. In Latin. Nothing more needs to be said about what is clearly one of the most innovative new bands out there.

Chiara Strazzulla


Image: Bishopskin ‘Babble’ Official Album Cover


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