We're not tipping all of these artists for success in 2014, we're just saying you'd do well to keep an eye on them. Some are clearly lining themselves up for a big year, others have just piqued our curiosity with an exciting mixtape or series of tracks. Some of these acts have already 'broken' on one level, and in those cases, we reckon they're poised to become much bigger names very soon.
This list hasn't been carefully assembled like some taste-making exercise. We're throwing ourselves behind these artists only in the sense that we love the music they've already put out, and we're waiting excitedly to see what they do next. Who cares about where they'll be in twelve months time? Right now, it's worth flicking through and seeing if anything grabs you. From noise punk to psych-pop, from shoegaze to avant hip-hop, we've got you covered. Part Two is right here when you're ready.
Quite simply, the band we're most excited to follow this coming year. Their self-titled debut album was released in Canada in October, picking up a bunch of ace reviews. Reservoir came in at #12 on our Tracks of 2013 list - we said it sounds like Japandroids meets The Jesus Lizard, and if that's not enough, it also had one of the year's most awesome music videos. Canada's best new band aren't staying put for long though - the album's getting wider distribution before PUP set out on their first UK tour in February, playing in London and Cambridge as well as a bunch of other cities. Why not head to one and see what all the fuss is about?
Temples have been around for a while now, but they're only just getting around to putting out an album - 'Sun Structures' is out in February, followed up by a tour lasting until the end of March. Tame Impala comparison are inevitable, but they sound more like that band being blinded by the sunlight after finally escaping the rabbit hole. Like Tame Impala, Temples' summery psych-pop (of which Mesmerise is the newest taster) will surely come into its own during festival season.
AK and Issa Gold are the two young MCs who make up Brooklyn's The Underachievers. Part of the Beast Coast collective, along with Pro Era and Flatbush Zombies, they released their incredible debut mixtape 'Indigoism' back at the start of the year. With 'Lords of Flatbush' they showed they could do bangers over Lex Luger's harder production. Now signed to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, their debut album proper, 'The Cellar Door', is expected to drop soon. We'll probably see a return to the third-eye gazing lyrics and psychedelic beats that served them so well when they first emerged.
Future Brown is Fatima Al Qadiri, Nguzunguzu and J-Cush. The former two have released some excellent EPs on the Fade to Mind label, and the latter has been compiling great footwork albums on his Lit City Trax label. The pooling of these talents adds up to one exciting production team. Together, they've already been working closely with UK grime artists from Ruff Sqwad and Roll Deep. R&B star-in-the-making Kelela is tipped to appear on their forthcoming debut album, as well as upcoming Chicago MC Tink. Basically, some of the most exciting underground voices are joining forces, and we can't wait to see what the results are.
Already difficult to ignore with a name like that, Perfect Pussy are picking up a reputation for their blistering live shows. Until you can get yourself to one, you'll have to make do with their first set of demos - four songs simply named I-IV, each one as raw and visceral as the last. The vocals manage to convey something, anything, despite being trapped in a clogged plughole of distorted guitars. There's beauty to be found here though - some of the passages on III even read as 'pretty' if you listen enough times. A bunch of American sites seem to be giving Perfect Pussy a huge push, so hopefully we'll be hearing more soon.
Blessa sound a lot like a less regal Slowdive, or Ride without the bombast. That is to say, they mix shoegaze textures with classic indie-pop songwriting. Not that this is a remotely original template - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are just one of many fine exponents in recent years - but Blessa do it better than most, and with a surging energy so often absent from this kind of music. Between Times is their remarkably confident debut single.
Lil Bibby is managing to stand out in a crowded Chicago rap scene. Bridging the gap between Chance the Rapper's colourful acid rap and the harder drill scene (Chief Keef, King Louie), Bibby is blessed with a throaty voice that makes him sound a good deal older than his 19 years. It's street music, for sure (don't be fooled by that Drake co-sign), but street music that sounds equally at home over militaristic Young Chop production as it does over classic soul samples. Grab the 'Free Crack' mixtape and don't be surprised to see Bibby, and Chicago hip-hop, growing even bigger in 2014.
The solo project of Lorely Rodriguez, the first thing that captivates you about Empress Of is Rodriguez's voice. The handful of tracks that have been released sound a bit like Mercury Rev, or what Cocteau Twins might have been making with the technology available in 2014. Don't Tell Me is the pick of the bunch so far.
Fresh off production credits on Kanye's I'm In It, and now newly signed to his G.O.O.D. Music label, Evian Christ might be the next UK producer to follow Hudson Mohawke to (relative) stardom. The 'Waterfall' EP will be the first project since the 'Kings and Them' mixtape, a collection of anonymous YouTube uploads that had bloggers everywhere going crazy. New track Salt Carousel shows a vast new expansive sound, crisp and clear without sacrificing the darkness that characterised his early tracks. It's a straight banger, especially with that laser-sharp bass and sped-up chatter.
The most abrasive hip-hop release this year didn't come from Death Grips. clipping's 'midcity' mixtape (all lower case) seemed to emerge from the darkest corners of the deep web. The beats are a tangled forest of static interference, breaking glass and glitching equipment. There's very little mid-range to speak of. Parts of it are genuinely difficult to listen to, but it's an incredible experience, especially on headphones. The actual rapping is less experimental, and Sub Pop obviously saw some kind of commercial potential - having already had avant hip-hop success with Shabazz Palaces, they've signed clipping to the label. Let's hope this new platform doesn't force them to compromise their sound.
Already championed by Drowned in Sound's editor as his favourite new band, Parlour have been impressing London with a bunch of shows over the past couple of months. Devil's Eyes sounds a bit like Stereolab by way of Pure X, incorporating a motorik chug in the middle section, and we love it. Excited to see what their next move might be, but the balance and restraint displayed on this track suggests the band aren't going to rush anything.
Maybe the biggest name on this list, Angel Haze is set to get even bigger when her album 'Dirty Gold' drops. It was originally meant to come out in a few months, but the rapper leaked it herself a few days ago as part of a label dispute, and the release date has been brought forward to the end of the month. Cynical marketing ploy? Unlikely, if Angel's no-bullshit rapping style translates to her approach to industry machinations. Refresh yourself with Werkin' Girls, and have a listen to new stomper A Tribe Called Red below.