Music of 2014: Something for Everyone.
I have reflected on 2014 and where new music may head; it seems there is an option for all kinds of music-lover. I focus on a few acts that could be making waves come next year.
THE last few months have provided me with a lot to think about...
With regards to new music. As I type- and as we speak- I am sitting in my cold-ridden state, thinking back at what I have witnessed this year. I have been unanimously impressed by the integrity and ambition of all of the new musicians I have reviewed; their goals and sights have been set firmly on greener grass- I hope that it pays off for all concerned. When looking at the wider sphere- the mainstream for instance- I have been a little less impressed. Those new acts that are lofted atop a plinth and idolised, have not resonated with me: the media have a habit of acting as a centrifuge to these acts; propelling them in undeserved and fickle gravity. The reason I have been more impressed with the merits of 'underground' new music it is this: they do not have the expectation and weight of the media on their shoulders. Whether my attentions have been drawn to Bradford or Edinburgh; London or Surrey, I have always found much to recommend. Many of my musical friends are preparing their calendars for 2014. Between them, there are E.P. releases; album plans; illustrious gigs afoot; new ventures and steps are being plotted- much to be excited about. It is always an extremely difficult transition to bridge between aspiration and reality. A great deal of time and effort needs to be concerted; finances and sufficient funding is paramount, and there are a great deal of stages and peaks one must negotiate before any sounds are committed to tape. Each time I have reviewed and summated a new act, I always take into consideration the fortitude required to get where they have- before I have even assessed the quality of their music. It is even more comforting to me when the music I am faced with is of the highest quality. Few acts manage to get the quality as high as is desired, yet most of the bands and artists I have reviewed have really worked hard to get their songs just right. As the final musical moments of 2013 have been presented and considered, I am looking into the new year and wondering what is coming next.
When looking around for musical inspiration and directionality, there is a little of something for anyone. If you want the sound of San Francisco streets, via some imperious beats then Huntermoore may provide some food for thought (https://soundcloud.com/huntermoore). There is memorability and effectiveness in their mandates, and they manage to fuse edge and melody to create a invigorating blend. I have been alerted to the presence of death metal band Bloodbath as well. In spite of the fact that they are on a hiatus at the moment, they have rekindled in my a desire for something a bit more primal. Perhaps their inflammable tongues and savage strut is not for everyone, yet again there is melody and intelligence in their music. It will be interesting to see if the Swedes will be producing any new music next year; there is certainly room in the market. From Leeds, Andy Doonan is a possible name to watch. If you catch the video for Sky on Fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn50Qt8wGYg) the handsome hero has a voice that is rich and encapsulating. It is going to be interesting to see what is contained within his Sky on Fire E.P. His voice is original and strong, and his music is filled with tenderness and romanticism. Hailing from Leeds, musical neighbours City of Lights (https://www.facebook.com/cityoflightsmusic) have big plans for next year as well. Their music is anthemic as well as ubiquitous and will make a big impact in 2014- a year that will be synonymous with diversity and change. Completing the trifecta of northern beauties is the stunning Jen Armstrong. She has a modern and enlivened voice that has scored tales of love, life and tribulation. From surveying her work on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/JenArmstrongMusic?feature=watch), she comes across as very humble and ambitious. Her music and voice blends together in a symphonic harmony, and she has a very modern sound. In spite of the fact that she has- until now- mostly recorded cover versions, there is enough to suggest that her own work will be impressive and mesmeric. Just from those few names, one can see that there is a range of genres, artists and sounds on offer: whether you like your music raw and carnivorous or soft and soothing, there is much to see.
In my recent reviews, I have featured a few names that are likely to be making huge imprints in 2014. Issimo (https://www.facebook.com/issimomusic) are a band that I have reviewed and evaluated quite a bit recently, and with good reason. The pairing of Abi Uttley and Marc Otway has caused me to smile a lot. Their voices blend superbly, and their individual talents add a lot to their music. Marc is a multi-instrumentalist and striking songwriter, whilst Abi is an alluring heroine with a terrific voice. The duo have offered up a selection of covers and original songs, and have given me a lot to salivate over. I am keen to see if an E.P. or album will be in the offering. I would imagine that whatever is in their minds, will be spectacular indeed. They are a pairing that have a knack of being able to transcend any genre and style, and making it very much their own. The following year will be prosperous and bounteous, indeed. In terms of solo offerings, I have also had a lot to be excited about. Chess is about to launch her E.P. very shortly, and I am one of the lucky ones who has heard it in its entirety. You can follow her progress via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chessofficial); but it is clear that big things await our heroine. Her single Vanity is going to be forthcoming and it is a song that is memorable and bold. Having loved her work in Babygirl, her new E.P. Tuxedo continues the momentum, but offers some edge and punch to the pot. In the same manner that Michael Jackson offered romance, longing, hopefulness and a little self-doubt during Bad; then evolved to hard-edged and impactful punch on the follow-up Dangerous, Chess is providing to be equally intuitive and progressive. Surrey-based Elena Ramona has her own ambition and sounds imminent. Her E.P. Hold On will be the survey and soundtrack of a young woman with a huge desire and hunger. Her previous single Rise has garnered airplay, adulation and respect from many quarters, and follow-up Ok is gathering plaudits and excitement. It seems that the E.P. will be a tantalising offering, and will be the start of a busy year for Elena. In addition to her debut disc, the young star will be looking towards London and destinations far when it comes to performing. I know that she is keen to get her music heard far and wide, and has been surprised and bowled over by the attention it has already received. Keep an eye on her portfolio (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elena-Ramona/323928237668916) and see what is in store for her over the next year. Another group that are sure for some sure-fire success are Universal Thee. The Scottish wonders (https://www.facebook.com/universalthee) are showing new acts how it is done. Recent songs have gone to show how much ambition and focus is at work in their camp. They mix the quality and sensations of Pixies, and provide modern-day updates of the U.S. legends codas. Tied to this, they have an original flair and drive that will see them being adored and adorned on the walls of music fans within the U.K.- as well as the U.S. and Europe. Their sound has the potential to see them as one of the big names to watch in 2014. I know that the gang are preparing to launch more new music, and it will be a joy to see just how far they can go.
I have provided some insight into the worlds of some unique and diverse bands and solo acts. There is pop, rock, punk, grunge, death metal and soul; there are layers of intrigue, romance and forces of nature. My overall point is there is a lot to find if you look hard enough. New music is going to be a specimen that will come under great scrutiny in 2014. Each of my musical friends will be heading in different directions, with differing plans. I am wholly confident that each will be sitting atop a loaded treasure chest this time next year. I have been disappointed with what the mainstream has offered up this year. Aside from some obvious triumphs and notable albums, the output that has been proffered forth has been somewhat underwhelming. This lack of quality has lead my to derisively finger-wag at the musician: wonder what the hell has been going on in their head. I know it is a difficult and cruel industry, yet there is enough scope and wiggle-room to produce something memorable. I feel that too few bold statements have been made; the acts have not really tried to scale heights as heady as one would hope. When I look towards the new musicians making their first tentative steps, it provides me with enough ammunition to reappropriate my pessimism. If we are to purge and overthrow the bland vermin of reality show dirges and tiresome plastic pop idols, then it is these acts that we need to encourage. The ambition and momentum that I have witnesses from the new, young starlets has provided me with the push required to create my own music. I have been pushing myself to be a bolder and more confident songwriter. Artists such as Nightwolf (https://www.facebook.com/nightwolfuk) have shown what results can be produced when splicing and co-mingling genres and sounds. Within the templates and playlets Ryan Wilcox has offered up, there is nuance and complexity: both of which has encouraged me to incorporate this sense of boldness into my own sounds. We have a few more days to go in 2013, yet it is clear that the following year will be more exciting and merit-worthy than the one we have just encountered. It really needs to be too, as I have long-feared that music is de-evolving and collapsing upon itself. If the quantity of new acts is to burgeon with unabated abandon, then the quality needs to be of the highest order. I have seen too many acts buried under the wave of pressure that comes with the territory.
I am excited myself to see what I can do with my own music, in no small part down to the inspiration that new music is offering up. It is worth being introspective and self-examining, and asking yourselves what you desire and crave in terms of new music. Whether it is currently being provided, or whether you are being left unsatisfied, the point is this: there may be redemption and re-evaluation. Of course there is going to be a lot of sub-par meandering, yet amongst this there is going to be revelation and succinct focus. I am publishing one more blog before the year is done, yet I hope that each and everyone that reads this will be looking forward to what is to come in 2014. I am keen for everyone to surmise and evaluate your own musical experiences of this year, and consider whether you have been excited or left cold by what you have heard. I feel that the secret to fulfilment is to seek diversity and difference. I have provided some alternate views and directions one can take, and whatever your personal tastes are, it is boldness and bravery that is required- if you get out of your comfort zones, then you will find much to love and inspire. Take care during the Christmas period, and relax. If you are a musician or merely a music-lover then look forward to a year that will be busy and bustling indeed. I am wishing the best to my musical friends, all of whom are preparing to unleash their own sounds and sights. Follow them as they navigate the stormy and fickle waters, and wish them all the best, as they deserve the support and backing. We shall meet in these pages very soon; talk and evaluate music of all kinds before you know it. For now, however we should keep warm and avoid the weather; give ourselves time to reflect and plan, but above all...
Look forward at what is to come.