Florence And The Machine
The sound: Sassy, fun rock-soul-folk melange
The story: ‘You hit me once/I hit you back/You gave a kick/I gave a slap,’ warbles Florence Welch at the start of her single ‘Kiss With A Fist’. And between the London accent, the faintly ironic delivery and no-nonsense lyrics you might be forgiven for expecting a Kate Nash-aping atrocity. But then those thumping drums and oh-so-White-Stripes guitar riffs kick in, her voice takes a sassier rockier tone and all doubt evaporates in a blitz of blues-influenced indie fun. She’s no one trick pony, either – listen to the melodic folk of ‘Bird Song’ and the rumbling soul of ‘Between Two Lungs’ for the proof. And it’s all up from here: next month she’ll pick up the Critic’s Choice Award at the British music industry gongs, the Brits, with her first album expected to follow later this year.
The story: Get a blender. Throw in an ’80s computer, a mess of horn samples, a couple of Nerd CDs, some witty MCs, more colours than a children’s TV series and a big bag of artificial food additives. Blend. Add a dash of Scottish humour, put your tongue in your cheek and drink. Taste good? Too right. That’s Young Fathers for you: three lads from Edinburgh finally putting Scotland on the hip hop map. Their first single, the horn-filled fizz-bomb ‘Straight Back On It’, was released in December to big love from the UK press, and their first album, Inconceivable Child… Conceived should only help them grow. We also highly recommend checking out the video to ‘Straight Back On It’, available on YouTube right now, which perfectly captures their combination of shambolic pop fun and youthful enthusiasm.
The sound: Moody, ’80s-influenced pop
The story: Looking at the list of 12 media and management contacts and deluxe debut album box sets on their MySpace, it’s really, really tempting to write off White Lies as yet another bunch of chancers with good label support. But avert your eyes, tune in your ears and let their music wash over you. You’ll find that the hype is justified. Rising from the ashes of their defunct teenage band Fear Of Flying, the boys in White Lies draw heavily on the likes of Joy Division and Echo And The Bunnymen while crafting a very modern rock sound – and putting nu-rave’s shallow view of ’80s pop culture to shame. It’s no surprise to learn that White Lies are signed to Fiction, the label first created to house The Cure, nor that the likes of Morrissey and Nick Cave have been spotted in their audiences. With that kind of financial and intellectual support, how could they not be a success?
The Big Pink
The sound: Haunting soundscapes
The story: A billion miles away from the spangly, shiny Little Boots (see right) lie The Big Pink, curled, in foetal position, in a forgotten crater on a dark, cold planet. The strange brainchild of guitarist Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, owner of Merok Records (of Klaxons and Crystal Castles fame), The Big Pink is wreathed in droning guitars, ghostly white noise, strangled electronic beeps and melancholy chanting. It sounds like a Fly-style mad science melding of Sigur Rós, early Portishead and TV On The Radio, with maybe just the tiniest sliver of Deerhunter’s DNA. Hardly mainstream stuff, you might think, but with the credit crunch grinding inexorably onwards there’s every possibility that this will be the big sound of the 21st century’s great depression. Smile!
The sound: Upfront US rap
The story: Kid Cudi also goes by the name of ‘Man On The Moon’, which is appropriate given that his career in 2008 has been stratospheric. After releasing his digital mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, he found himself guesting on Kanye West’s 808s And Heartbreak and enjoying big success with his first single, ‘Day ’N’ Nite’. It’s not all good times, though – Cudi is angry that the remixes of that song have got more airplay than the original. ‘It’s kinda whack that somebody established with a big name has to jump on your record before motherf*****s start to feel it,’ he told MTV last year. ‘That’s my problem with the game.’ But he’ll take the game to another level this year with the release of debut album, Man On The Moon. As he raps on ‘Cudi Get’: ‘N****s; ‘It’s a different time/F*** ’08 – n****s thinking ’09.’ Can’t argue with that.
The sound: Sharp electro-pop
The story: With Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard in the production booth and a head crackling with electro-pop magic, Little Boots, aka Victoria Hesketh, has already garnered a fair old bit of attention through 2008. But with a third single (following ‘Stuck On Repeat’ and the delectable ‘Meddle’) lined up for 2009, we reckon this glitter-coated popette is going to walk all over our eardrums in the coming year. ‘It was obvious to me that indie was getting boring, and things were going to go more pop,’ she told UK newspaper The Guardian in 2008, ‘so I quit my guitar band and got my hands on a few synths, a stylophone and a Tenori-on [a synthesiser instrument], and started writing very melodic music.’ Calculated? Perhaps. But one visit to her MySpace page should reassure any doubters: Little Boots’ first steps couldn’t be more steady.