It’s the time of year for resolutions and fresh beginnings, so where better to start than with a brand new playlist of the finest music that 2015 has to offer.
Years & Years
I first saw Years & Years this year as the supporting act for Clean Bandit’s UK tour and was instantly blown away by front man Olly’s voice and the strength of their songs. Since then I’ve been nothing short of addicted to their EPs, which manage to combine electro-dance beats with soulful, often vulnerable lyrics, not forgetting a rather catchy cover of Blu Cantrell’s ‘Breathe’. For fans of Friendly Fires, this London-based 3-piece may just be what you’ve been waiting for.
Song to check out: Desire
Rae Morris is a 21 year old singer-songwriter from Blackpool who has already collaborated with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Fryars and Clean Bandit, all while developing an ever-growing solo portfolio of timeless, catchy piano pop. Her upcoming album, ‘Unguarded’, is said to be a coming-of-age self-portrait, touching on heartbreak in songs like ‘Cold’ to feeling misunderstood in ‘Do You Even Know?’. With an ethereal voice that lends itself just as well to the melancholic ballad as it does to the infectious pop melody, Rae Morris is definitely one versatile and enchanting new musical talent to watch.
Song to check out: Closer
Kwabs, full name Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong’s, has been dubbed ‘the new Seal’. No pressure then. But then, when you have a voice as deep and smooth as Kwabs, a rich gospel baritone, mixed in with electronic, synth-heavy production, or “synth&b” as it is so called, you’re not going to go unnoticed for very long.
Song to check out: Wrong or Right
Shura may currently only have one single on her Spotify page, but this 23 year old’s 80s-tinged, dreamy music has rapidly gained fans in and out of the industry, and a rare remix courtesy of the funk collective, Jungle. Her love songs draw from a childhood of listening to Janet Jackson and Madonna, mixed in with modern touches, such as the background noise of a party on ‘Touch’. And Shura is completely in control of her creative process: from writing to producing, remixing and directing, she does it all to a T.
Song to check out: Indecision
With the blossoming of bedroom-produced music, we now have an ever-growing number of talented and increasingly young singer-songwriters on the scene, astounding and making the rest of us feel just a little bit inferior in the process. Låpsley is a prime example of this. Aged 18, she is probably one of the most talked about artists tipped for success in 2015. Classically trained, the otherwise known Holly Fletcher began to write songs in her early teens, moving on to electronic production in her bedroom before uploading her material to SoundCloud and BBC Introducing. Her music is sparse but soothing, and it’s this unique quality that quickly attracted a number of high profile fans, leading to a performance at Glastonbury, which was to only be Låpsley’s second gig at the time. Feeling inspired yet? Be sure to look out for her debut album, which is said to be on the way this year.
Song to check out: Falling Short
With the recent renaissance in UK dance music, it wouldn’t go amiss to include a bit of EDM in your New Year playlist. Tourist, a.k.a William Phillips, is a London-based producer who has gone from building up a string of remixes to successfully creating his own sound, complete with long intros, delayed drops and a penchant for field recordings. He may not quite yet have reached the heights of Disclosure – who recently signed Tourist to their label, Method Records – but recent collaborations , including the standout ‘Patterns’ with Lianne La Havis, show a lot of promise, managing to mix gospel choruses into his up-tempo electronica.
Song to check out: Illuminate (collaboration with Years & Years)
If you like Coldplay or Ben Howard, I think you’re going to be a fan of Rhodes. He’s been quietly working away with members of Noah and the Whale and London Grammar’s producers on his EPs, creating a spaced-out, echoing collection of anthemic folk. It’s hard to pick out a standout song from his latest releases, as they all sound pretty classic; anything from ‘Raise Your Love’, ‘Your Soul’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘The Lakes’ will no doubt guarantee a moment of serenity for the New Year.
Song to check out: Your Soul
Eighteen-year-old Atlantan Raury wants to start a revolution. He sees his music as a manifestation of the “millennials” or, as he dubs it, the “Indigo children” – his vision of our generation, capable of dramatically changing the world through the powers of technology and the Internet. As a result, his branding is enshrouded with quotes of “we are the youth, we are the truth”, his videos focus on rebellion, and he declares his music to be “genreless”. Whether or not you buy into the politics, his music is indeed excellent – a mix of heavy guitar riffs, rap and smooth R&B vocals, inspired by everything and everyone.
Song to check out: Cigarette Song
People have a tendency to compare Saint Raymond to Jake Bugg, and I think he’s probably getting a bit fed up about it. True, they’re two young, talented indie singer-songwriters, both from Nottingham, and both lucky enough to have had considerable success, supporting the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and HAIM on tour. But the similarities stop there; Saint Raymond’s signature sunny, guitar-tunes couldn’t be more different to Bugg’s throwback rock, and it’s not a bad thing. Big anthems and catchy hooks are what he does best – the kind of music that’s dying to be played at festivals, to be sung along to and to be played non-stop come summer.
Song to check out: Fall At Your Feet
After a last-minute Radio One Live Lounge last September, several sold-out UK shows and a spot on America’s ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’, it seems that James Bay is starting to hit the big-time, and deservedly so. Armed with his guitar and signature hat, he may be skinny as a rake, but his voice is powerful and ragged, managing to blend folk, gospel and rock in songs which are just as moving in the emotional stakes. If you’re inclined to the odd essay breakdown, put on ‘Let it Go’ and let the emotions pour out, my friend.
Song to check out: Hold Back The River
George the Poet
Speaking of essays, put on George the Poet’s ‘1, 2, 1, 2’ and HELLO instant motivation! Spoken word artist, public speaker and Brit-nominated rapper, George Mpanga, combines his inner-city London upbringing and Cambridge education to create a new kind of music: grime, rap and spoken word fused together, with a focus on accessible social commentary. As an artist, George the Poet aspires to defy the negative clichés associated with rap – the avocation of drugs, violence – and instead writes about the elitism of British universities and his vision of London during the Olympics. The message is always deep, engaging, but his songs are by no means lacking in strong beats and musical layering. And this is where George the Poet separates himself from many other spoken word performers; he is unlike anything else you will hear this year, in the best way possible.
Song to check out: My City