Liverpool music enters a transitional phase, which as Getintothis’ Peter Guy explains makes this year’s annual Ones To Watch list even more intriguing.
What is a One To Watch in music these days?
That’s the question which Liverpool Music Week‘s Mike Deane posed at a recent GIT Award judges meeting. He quickly followed it up with another question; what is it you want it to be? And the answer is, we’re still not entirely sure.
In an age where it’s almost compulsory for websites, the print press, TV channels, Charles Saatchi, Ukip twats, my neighbour’s cat and The ECHO offices’ cleaners to select their very own One To Watch, the phrase has been reinterpreted and remoulded far beyond it’s origins.
No longer is it simply a tip off – the One To Watch is selected almost to fit the brand and individual setting the agenda rather than the subject. At least in part, anyway.
In the recent BBC Sound Poll of 2015 (essentially their annual OTW list dominated by upper-middle-class Urban Outfitters sales reps) complete beginners were pitched against artists with huge international reputations. It was like Sad Ken the three-legged horse in Bottom going up against Red Rum in the National.
Then there’s bands like Years & Years – who weren’t so much Ones To Watch – but Ones Literally Every Fucker Was Already Watching as they were named in lists including VEVO, Q, The Guardian, Hype Machine, MTV, The Telegraph, [insert any media you’ve heard of…]. And it was only a surprise to the myopic soothsayer Phineas in Jason and the Argonauts that wanders around having his food robbed by two Harpies that Years & Years were named eventually ‘winner’ in the aforementioned Beeb Sound Poll.
So, what about on Merseyside? Well, this is our fourth annual list, and we’re attempting to select merely on the criteria we’ve always adhered to: Ones To Watch = Good Music.
This year, however, we’ve chosen to select artists who have yet to be featured in any other Getintothis One To Watch poll in previous years. So while it’s patently obvious the likes of Tear Talk, Etches, Sugarmen, Natalie McCool, D R O H N E, or:la and more are gearing up for significant years in their development – we’ve already given them shouts in our 2014 list.
Similarly, The Sundowners, MiC LOWRY and Death At Sea, our picks back in 2013, are all building up smartly for an intriguing twelve months. And that’s not to mention the city’s brightest hopes of all – All We Are, Circa Waves and winner of our inaugural GIT Award 2014 One To Watch, Låpsley – all of which were represented here last year.
So onto the 2015 list – a motley crew: some fresh-faced, others damaged and bust-up already; several deep into substance abuse others barely able to get served in SPAR; a handful with deals others with everything to play for; a fair few with an EP in the can, many still penning demos. One thing they all have in common – bags of potential.
Where they go from here is a complete unknown – but they’re all starting off on the right passage. Get to know this year’s Ones To Watch.
1. Hooton Tennis Club
2. Strange Collective
When did rock and roll get so dull?
With Kasabian‘s joke shop rock the flagbearer for UK guitar music and Ed Sheeran‘s insipid MoR drawing in the biggest listening figures in 2014 you have to wonder where it all went wrong.
Step forward, Strange Collective. The sound of the greatest party you’ve yet to be invited to.
Breezeblock riffs, pummelling percussion, excitable vocal yelps and a set of songs tailor-made to whip up a storm. They are the North West’s finest new rock and roll rabble.
Signed to independent label Salvation Records, the quartet have built up a healthy following in the North West playing alongside krautrock icons Silver Apples and US garage lunatics The Black Lips. They were also one of the stand out drawers at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia last September.
Having played whistle-stop dates in London and Manchester they’re ramping things up in 2015 with debut single Sun out on February 28 and a host of tour dates to follow.
Getintothis on Strange Collective
3. Washington Reed
Washington Reed have got it bad. Washed up on a broken sofa, skint and stinking of last night’s misjudged lunacy theirs is the sound of shit gone wrong. A maelstrom of mighty fuzz-drenched licks, Tom Kerr‘s glass-shattering rhythms and James Martin‘s cracked baritone, there’s a primal wasted energy aligned to powerful melancholy which sucks you deep into their whirlwind bar-room frenzy.
Blending Howlin Wolf blues with the muddied sludge of Dead Weather and Mark Lanegan, this Warrington-based duo, who’ve cut their teeth on the Liverpool and Manchester scene with a handful of shows, could be one of the most intriguing propositions of the year. We can’t wait to hear more.
Emerging radio-ready with lead track Emitter last September, Gulf are one of Liverpool’s hottest new properties.
Adopting the summer-coated hazy-pop template of Tame Impala they quickly caught the attention of both the national web and print press – better still, their debut show at the Epstein Theatre alongside By The Sea displayed a maturity and pop verve beyond their years. With independent labels circling it seems just a matter of time before they engulf a much wider audience.
Getintothis on Gulf
5. Holy Thursday
Like a gaggle of shaman cutting desert-storm anthems, Holy Thursday are slicing through 2015 with swaggering aplomb. Their opening two sluggers – the chiming Hurricane with it’s intricate layers like a Byzantine duomo and the lolloping Eastern wig-out She – marked them out as serious ones to watch midway through last year.
Having pricked the ears of the national print press, they’ve a handful of new tracks ready for public consumption soon but before then they play the Harvest Sun hosted gig with Paperhead on January 30.
Getintothis on Holy Thursday
6. Louis Berry
Channelling the energy of Jerry Lee Lewis through the story-telling of Dylan, Louis Berry blitzed outta nowhere a little over a year ago and then vanished amid a plume of dusty smoke. Few youngsters harness this charisma, vocal and spirit so it was baffling to see him arrive and depart in such fashion. Thankfully, as his official Facebook page explains, there’s a reason behind his disappearance, ‘a chance conversation led to a meeting with a producer that led to a studio session that led to a band‘ *plus* a publishing deal. In September 2014 we bore witness to the first fruits of his honing hibernation – the rip-snorting barn-door buster, .45.
‘Well I think I would like to play chess with the devil. Yes I would like to play cards with the pope,’ came his opening gambit before a frenetic whirlwind unfurled in 170 seconds of golden rock & roll bagging him hottest record in the world on Radio One.
Explosive, guttural and as Liverpool as they come – Louis Berry has only just arrived.
Getintothis on Louis Berry
7. Paddy Clegg
At 17-years-old Paddy Clegg is one of the city’s most promising raw diamonds.
An ear for a hook, a disarming vocal and an artistic intelligence beyond his years, the Huyton teenager displayed his talent over a year ago on the rough-and-ready skiffle of Back To The Start.
But in the space of a year he’s grown immeasurably, most notably on the recently debuted, Let’s Get By, which recalls those early Liam vocal demos on Live Forever twinned to a careering guitar shuffle – it positively boots! Next up a date with Sankofa and friends at the Zanzibar on January 30.
Getintothis on Paddy Clegg
Perhaps the most enigmatic of all Merseyside’s new artists, emcee Nelson flits between shadows emerging only when he’s ready.
In just over 18 months he’s dropped a mere two tracks; the John Coltrane infused jazz-hop opener Rhapsody and more recently the dusty urban stew-funk of Grey – a track which showcased just how profoundly impressive his flow truly is. What’s next? Only he knows. Let’s hope he doesn’t slink back into the shadows for too long.
Getintothis on Nelson
9. The Floormen
Feral and untamed, The Floormen are one of a handful of young rock & rollers shaping vigorously frenetic kaleidoscopic garage music which owes something to the past yet sounds frightfully new.
Alongside the likes of Strange Collective, Holy Thursday plus newcomers Comanche Moon and Ohmns there’s a mini scene within a scene of bands who’s raw vitality is suddenly making Merseyside guitar music pretty exciting once again. Next up, that aforementioned Paperhead show at the end of January.
Getintothis on The Floormen
10. Katy Alex
Seeking comfort from a characteristically soggy British summer, we caught Katy Alex last August in Sefton Palm House and the youngster proved little short of revelatory.
Sassy, almost fully-formed pop gems aligned to a vocalist clearly comfortable with being out front, Katy was one of the stand outs amid a strong LIMF Academy line up. There’s clearly work to be done on her early demos but there’s enough raw talent here to whet our appetite. Expect much more in 2015.
Getintothis on Katy Alex
11. A Lovely War
We’ve drawn upon it numerous times before, but perhaps the reason for Liverpool’s sustained resurgence in awesome new music, is its diversity – the shape-shifting, unclassifiable pool makes it harder for it to seem transient and on-trend. Add to this richness, A Lovely War.
Piano-led wistful lullabies are beautifully wrapped around Sean Keogh‘s vocal straddling the quirky Englishness of XTC and the literate loveliness of The Decemberists. There’s really no one quite like them emerging out of the city, and that’s why we love them.
Getintothis on A Lovely War
Continuing Liverpool’s disparate alt-rock non-scene, comes RongoRongo – a rabble that thankfully sound unlike any other; all slithering viscous grooves and spidery guitar motifs, their’s is a sound which slowly itches the senses before burning the soul.
Getintothis on RongoRongo
13. Beyond Average
There’s little doubt Merseyside is enjoying somewhat of a hip hop resurgence. And while we’re yet to be convinced there’s a well of untapped talent, there is certainly a handful of rising artists to keep a trained ear on. Beyond Average are leading that charge.
Led by MC’s Big O and Jeopardy, their tongue-firmly-in-cheek break through Scouse Ebonics brought national heat with airplay on 1Xtra but it’s their grime-induced Fuck The Feds and heavy-hitter Hold Up which display serious weight. Support slots including Dead Prez and Ghostface followed by the release of their self-titled debut album rounded off a fine 2014 and with the newly-released Kof-directed video of Great Minds Think Alike 2015 is shaping up just nicely. Get on ’em.
Getintothis on Beyond Average
14. Blue Saint
Daniel Sebuyange is the kind of artist that when you attempt to describe him to someone it’s like you’re making this shit up. A Congolese-born, Liverpool-bred MC who’s knocked up a cinematic concept album which embraces neo-soul, hip hop, jazz, warped beats, wonky pop and disturbing aeroplane adventures. If that’s a lot to take in you want to hear his music.
On first listen it’s largely baffling but allow it soak in and you become absorbed into this mechanoid otherworldly universe of sounds and fantastical imagery. And while the template needs a little work, the scope is unreal. Frighteningly, this is the mere beginning, it’s hard to imagine where he goes next.
Getintothis on Blue Saint
15. Glue Moon
Alienation and otherness runs through trio Glue Moon‘s affecting music. Built on trembling textures of keys, guitar and glitchy electronics they specialise in a gradual reveal; teasing with delicate melodies.
Despite their relative newcomer status, Will Hall, Paul Brown and Owen Lennon have earned national acclaim online and in Stockholm Zone they’ve already a winner in their armoury; metallic keyboard shifts and a searing guitar-beam align to a snaking vocal concerning ‘wrong-turns’ and premature death – we’re pretty sure Thom Yorke would approve.
Getintothis on Glue Moon
Probably Liverpool’s most on-it producer and certainly our most-go-to Merseyside electronica label; ASOK the man behind Scenery Records is a familiar name to followers of the likes of Getintothis‘ favourites John Heckle, Bantam Lions and The Cyclist – however, he’s yet to ‘break through’ into the wider consciousness. Specialising in sheet-metal grooves, angular rhythms, infectious beats and *tunes* (all out tunes) – his finest work thus far dropped the back end of 2014 with the Hunter EP – four tight magnificent, liquid-like belters to truly get lost in.
We’d recommend you visit the entire Scenery collection though with former One To Watch Bantam Lions‘ easy-on-the-ear Recollections EP another bona fide winner.
Getintothis on ASOK
17. Roxanne L. Jones
One-woman soul power leviathan, Roxanne L. Jones has been on our radar for sometime – but it was the release of her new material late in 2014 which cemented her status as a serious one to watch.
I Am A Woman was a fiercely-crafted wrecking ball of intent showcasing the Toxteth youngsters’ rich Monae-like prowess aligned to a deep south rhythm & blues shuffle. We’ve not been this excited about a voice this good in a very long time.
Getintothis on Roxanne Jones
18. Lo Five
Lo Five is guise of one-man electronica conveyor belt Neil Grant. Spitting out tunes on an almost weekly basis it’s a wonder he finds the time to sleep – yet there’s a remarkable consistency and coherency to this machine-gun approach with sounds veering from 80s John Carpenter, early Four Tet and minimalist techno.
His Future’s Promise of Salvation EP released in March 2014 remains his finest work but the October-released It’s Alright EP is also worthy of investigation. Following a fine introduction at the Getintothis website relaunch at the Kazimier last September, let’s hope there’s more live dates in the offing in 2015.
Getintothis on Lo Five
Loveless are another of the city’s emerging alt-pop units – tight, slick, slightly unnerving and with hooks in abundance you’d be forgiven for thinking on the evidence of their opening salvo they’re almost too good to be true. The truth is they’ve been here before with another band ready to break – only this time they’ve ironed out the naive creases and are ready to go.
Said track, Skin, is a white-hot funk of rubbery rhythms, falsetto vocals and subtle harmonies which are guaranteed to have you gravitating towards the dance-floor. Buzz blog and GIT Award judge, Disco Naïveté have already been taking notes and with new tunes and a headline show at 24 Kitchen St in the offing we’re sure they’re the first of many.
Getintothis on Loveless
One of Liverpool’s most exciting guitar outfits have been a name on numerous people’s lips for a little over a year now. Those opening yelping pop ditties which dropped in 2014 sent mini shock waves through the city and since then – save for a handful of fine introductory live outings; most notably at last summer’s FestEVOL – they’ve wisely retreated crafting their sound with management and an increasing knowledge of the studio.
There’s new material waiting to be unveiled, and we’re itching for the next taste.
Getintothis on LIVES
21. She Drew The Gun
Louisa Roach, aka She Drew The Gun, has been on our radar for sometime; in fact we can distinctly remember when a sepia-coloured CD case, depicting a lovingly-drawn purple figure racing off into the distance, dropped on to our desk. Inside were four sparse yet beautifully crafted fragile odes which pointed to something special.
Almost a year on, and she’s back. Teaming up with Skeleton Key Records she’s honed her desolation blues and ramped things up a touch with a ghostly celestial sheen; the searching vocal remains and so too a talent waiting to reach out and find a wider audience. The first fruits of what promises to be a busy year is the spine-tingling If You Could See – catch her supporting The Sundowners on February 20 at The Kazimier.
Getintothis on She Drew The Gun
22. Xam Volo
The final name on this year’s Ones To Watch list is perhaps the most intriguing. An unknown quantity in terms of stamping his name on Merseyside, 20-year-old Xam Volo is just waiting to mix it up. And boy is his mix cooking. Neo-soul rubs shoulders with a Galaxy chocolate smooth vocal tone, stomping beats and a dusty vintage vibe. The results are near radio-ready pop.
With a place in last year’s LIMF Academy under his belt and the wheels in motion behind the scenes for live dates in 2015, Xam Volo is a name you should be hearing more of.