At the stroke of midnight, the BBC unveiled its yearly Sound Of… list, bringing together industry favourites and exciting acts that tastemakers deem capable of defining the next twelve months. 2014’s shortlist picked out Royal Blood and George Ezra, while also hedging bets on the likes of Sampha and Chlöe Howl, who’ve had a relatively quiet year.
2014’s list represented a diverse bunch of acts. Ella Eyre’s frenzied pop shared the spotlight with FKA twigs’ introverted, hazy experimentalism. It’s the same for 2015. Big stars and surefire bets in the making are sharing column inches with more leftfield favourites. There’s nothing to truly shake up the foundations, like the industrial punch of Girl Band or the raucous glow of Deers, but any list boasting DIY favourites Wolf Alice and wild-ambition’ed Atlantan Raury is worth taking note of. Of the initial fifteen, grime gets a look-in, almost half of the UK picks originally hail from outside of London, and it’s good to see artists with poor taste in hats still getting their dues.
Some names won’t need introducing. They’ve been plastered on these pages for yonks, and that’ll continue for an eternity because they’re brilliant - still, all are worthy of a quick guide, a rundown of why 2015’s set to be their year.
Stay tuned for DIY’s new music special issue, the Class of 2015, this Friday.
George The Poet
Lowdown: BRITs Critics’ Choice nominated Londoner, riding on the poetry hype following Kate Tempest. Instead of placing reality in the hands of witty truths, he’s into offering more positive messages, like ‘1,2,1,2’ chant “seven billion people in the world, and there’s only one you.” Presents himself as a unique talent amongst many, but he’s yet to fully prove it. Boasts a degree from Cambridge, Clean Bandit-style.
Listen: For rough early tracks, including one titled ‘#YOLO’ (a song about go-karting) head here.
Live: A UK tour kicks off 19th February.
What he says: “If I can embody a viable alternative, the idea that it might be OK to stay in school, to aspire to university, then people will hear what I’m saying.”
What we say: A potentially important role model, with more to give musically.
Lowdown: Hat-wearing, gloomy-voiced folksmith. Probably 2015’s biggest dead cert for success, even though he’s offering nothing new. ‘Let It Go’, his breakthrough single, has been floating around for months, but it’s not going away anytime soon. File somewhere between Sheeran and Damien Rice, lacking the former’s unique appeal and the latter’s heartfelt sentiment. He’ll be massive, though.
Listen: New single ‘Hold Back the River’ is Zane-approved.
Live: He’ll play London Shepherd’s Bush Empire as part of a 2015 UK tour.
What he says: “Being exhausted is all part of the fun. I’m cool with it. I’m not going to wish that it would slow down.”
What we say: Wait ’til you have a schedule like Emeli Sandé’s, mate.
Lowdown: A unique talent, with a voice that sends shivers down the spine and minor tremors across the country. Kwabs’ early songs saw him collaborating with go-to producer SOHN, but while maintaining that partnership, he’s gone more gung-ho with chart intentions. Recent single ‘Walk’ is nothing but a monster of a track, no tastemaker cred required. Once performed in front of Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace, so has experience with handling nerves.
Listen: ‘Pray For Love’ remains his best.
Live: No UK dates currently - tour announcement is imminent.
What he says: “I feel like there’s something to be said for having a contrast between what you expect to hear in a voice, and where you end up putting it.”
What we say: Yet to strike a massive audience, but a recent sold out show at London KOKO suggested he’s well on his way.
Lowdown: Only signed as of last month, Låpsley’s rise has been quicker than anticipated. This time last year she was putting out curious dual vocal tracks, inventive but strikingly simple. Since then she’s put together a flawless debut EP with XL’s Rodaidh McDonald - ‘Understudy’ will set the agenda for the coming year.
Listen: ‘Station’ is the track that first turned heads.
Live: Expect to see her at all the city-based UK festivals.
What she says: “I knew that in order for me to achieve what I wanted, I had to get my head around the software.”
What we say: A self-taught bolt out of the blue - deserves to be massive.
Lowdown: 19 year old Lewisham-based MC, and arguably the biggest representation for grime in years. Well deserved, too - ‘Sound Of…’’s recognition for the UK staple has been a long time coming, having slept on ‘German Whip’.
Listen: His ‘Incredible’ freestyle for Radio 1’s Toddla T. Try and phase out Toddla T’s facial expressions.
Live: He plays London Fabric on 26th December.
What he says: “I don’t want to be 34 and still making music myself, I’d rather go out whilst I’m at the top of my game.”
What we say: Bright new hope.
Lowdown: It’s been a long time coming, with a delayed album release shoeing the Blackpool-born newcomer towards Sound Of… inclusion, but things look like coming together for Rae Morris. Working with Ariel Rechtshaid and Fryars, her ghostly take on direct pop isn’t revolutionary, but across an album it’s likely to make a big impact.
Listen: New single ‘Under the Shadows’ is the next roll of the dice.
Live: A UK tour kicks off next February.
What she says: “I want people to know that throughout all this, I first and foremost write the songs.”
What we say: A potential Mercury nod could kickstart a huge year.
Lowdown: Supremely confident, unique Atlantan who claims he speaks for an entire generation. On his ‘Indigo Child’ project, he’s announced himself as someone with the potential to go Chance the Rapper-huge. Hip-hop beginnings have given way to a weird fusion of genres, mixing acoustic guitars with bellowed out, bold chants - his music sounds like the result of someone who’s spent decades scrolling through Spotify related artists and picking up loose ends.
Listen: ‘Cigarette Song’, a track about having sex with a girl and smoking cigarettes on a Wednesday. Pretty simple.
Live: No UK dates (yet) - he recently supported SBTRKT on a regional tour.
What he says: Everything and anything. A quote-machine - “I want to empower my generation. I want to inspire the youth and all other types of artists to create things that are a lot more better for the world.”
What we say: US stardom is a dead cert - whether it translates over here is a bigger question.
Lowdown: Bursting with colour and additive-driven beats, Shamir’s recent ‘On the Regular’ single has ‘212’-levels of catchiness. Baby-voiced but dynamic to the extreme, this current Topshop employee grew up on the Las Vegas suburbs, free from the casino-lined glow. Don’t bet against him being 2015’s biggest breakthrough. A safer choice than a night out with the slot machines.
Listen: ‘I Know It’s A Good Thing’ is a rich, off-kilter piano number.
Live: London’s Courtyard Theatre, 4th December.
What he says: “It’s like I have two voices. It’s so weird to explain or even understand because I don’t even understand it.”
What we say: A completely different prospect to the rest of Sound Of…’s choices.
Lowdown: From Shepherd’s Bush to snog-centric success, Shura’s making waves with classic songwriting, styled with all the 2k14-approved traits. Her direct approach doesn’t mince around. “If you get my name wrong, I won’t get pissed off ‘cause I wish I was somebody else,” remains one of this year’s best chorus lines, and there’s a sense that Shu has plenty more of these in her locker.
Listen: New single ‘Indecision’ is pop with all the right subtleties.
Live: She headlines London’s Village Underground next year.
What she says: “I’m not flowery. The whole mystery thing wouldn’t work for me.”
What we say: We’ll get to the point: She’s brilliant.
Lowdown: They’ll teaaaar you apart, apparently. And Bono isn’t much of a fan - Slaves have one thing on their side, then. The Kent-raised duo thrash with the intensity - and image - of a couple of just outta prison inmates intent on getting revenge. There’s a serious venom defining their live show, and they’re making inroads to translating this raucousness on record.
Listen: Preview new single ‘The Hunter’.
Live: They’ll be everywhere in 2015 - see them at all costs.
What they say: “It’s a bit frustrating that people try and put it in the genre. But when bands like Royal Blood are paving the way, it shows kids that actually, you don’t need to wait around for loads of members.”
What we say: Two-pieces don’t automatically find a magic formula, but they shake the foundations of every venue they play.
Lowdown: It’s in her ‘Blud’. She’s not that great at spelling song titles, she has dinosaur tattoos that she regrets getting (apparently), but SOAK’s pretty good at the songwriting lark. Chased by A&Rs before she did her GCSEs, the Derry resident’s since signed to Rough Trade, following an initial single on CHVRCHES’ label Goodbye Records.
Listen: ‘Blud’ remains a heartbreaker.
Live: No gigs forthcoming, but you’ll often find her gigging in a church.
What she says: “I never actually felt any pressure to do anything. I was never like, ‘I have to do this. I have no other choice’. It was just like, go for it.”
What we say: She’s gonna B a sumBody.
Lowdown: South London rapper put on the map with his Wicked Skengman Freestyles. Closely associated with grime favourite Wiley, he’s already hit #1 in the iTunes hip-hop charts, so it’s more a question of when - not if - this success bleeds through into something bigger.
Listen: His ‘Fire in the Booth’ Radio 1 freestyle.
Live: You just missed him - he did the Macbeth, London on 30th November.
What he says: “Even now I buy UK music. If I see anyone release a project from the UK whether I dig them or not I’ll just support it cos as much as it is about good music we do need to support each other.”
What we say: A UK talent with an eye for breaking big Stateside.
Lowdown: There’s a lot to dislike about Sunset Sons’ ‘On the Road’ video, above. The #banter-loving crowd that flock to their shows, the way they portray girls in bikinis, the dodgy beards they sport - and that’s not forgetting the fairly shite faux Kings of Leon gruff that’s being spouted out musically. An odd inclusion - it’s easy to imagine them resonating, but they won’t be going down a KOL or Mumford-style route.
Listen: Try to forget ‘Remember’.
What they say: “We all snowboard. Rory is a demon on a pair skis! We skate too.”
What we say: Let’s hope this sun’s stopped rising.
Lowdown: Most deserved Sound Of… mention, hands down. Probably verged on being included in 2014’s list, but they signed a deal with Dirty Hit, released the EP of the year with ‘Creature Songs’, and became ten times the force they were this time last year. A gigantic band in the making, and probably the best festival-ready band you could possibly pin your hopes on in years. Convinced yet?
Listen: Turn up ‘Storms’ - go nuts.
Live: 2015 begins with a date at The O2, supporting Alt-J.
What they say: “We’ve been given the ability to have more time than some other bands get with their first record; to really think about it, consolidate it.”
What we say: Believe in this band. They’re the future.
Years & Years
Lowdown: Fast-rising London trio who’ve tried their hand at promising dance-pop demos for a couple of years, before striking gold with ‘Real’, a breakthrough single tagging along with Disclosure’s house-for-the-fests momentum. Since then, they’ve only added more complexities to their dynamic pop, fronted by actor turned soon-to-be superstar Olly Alexander.
Listen: Start with ‘Real’.
Live: They play London Heaven as part of a big UK tour in 2015.
What they say: “Vinyl is selling more than it has in the last twenty-five years. People want a body of work from an act they love.”
What we say: Chart-worthy trio who’ll stick to their values when journeying to the top.
For the full BBC list details, head here.