Saturday, January 7, 2012

London Rocks in 2012

London Rocks In 2012
by Linn Branson*

We may still be in the throes of an icy winter, but looking ahead to 2012 there are some very hot musical prospects emerging to melt your eardrums and warm your soul. And, pleasingly for this particular Londoner, the capital appears to be hothousing a thrusting multitude of artists ready to break out of their cocoons and spread their indie wings far and wide over the next 12 months.

So if you want to know what is making London’s heart beat – and hopefully will do yours too – here are 20 of our most brightly shining stars right now. And for our US friends, take note of those with an * by their name. These are amongst the 75-plus artists from the UK who will be winging their way Stateside in March to showcase at SXSW (March 13 – 18) in Austin, Texas.

(Click on each band name to visit their websites)


Brother and sister David and Elise Commathe – aka Au Palais - may be strictly Canadians, but as they are now London-domiciled – and we love them (especially since David has commented on how the city is “one that truly is at the forefront of music”) – the Toronto duo meet the cut. The dark, synth/poppers shimmer brightly in a similar vein to fellow N. Americans, Austra. Smoothly rich sounds of electronica – as evidenced on their recent Tender Mercy EP – over which Elise’s vocals glide like an ethereal angel. Tracks such as ‘Tender Mercy’ itself and the equally sublime ‘Pathos’ send a shiver of excitement down the spine for their 2012 debut album.


Five-piece south London-based enigmatic arty electronica outfit who combine elements of electro and math-rock into something that is both unique and atmospheric. Multi-instrumentalists, indie film-makers and audio-visualists and remixers (they’ve remixed the likes of Chapel Club and Local Natives), their style has been described as a ‘multimedia Massive Attack’. ‘Edward the Confessor’ was the first single taken from their forthcoming album Other People’s Problems which they will be headlining their first UK shows in support of from March 28.


Clock Opera's sound is focused around an array of sampling, falsetto vocals and Guy Connelly's pioneering of 'chop pop' (breaking up sounds to create songs and hitting on metal objects purloined from skips, or his own kitchen). Signed to Moshi Moshi/Island, they last year won fans and hearts a-plenty with their upbeat, catchy rhythms when they played support dates with Metronomy, Crystal Fighters and Chapel Club; released the acclaimed ‘Lesson No. 7’, as well as provided remixes for Everything Everything and Feist, amongst others. Their first single of 2012, "Once And For All," is released on January 30, to be followed by Ways To Forget, their debut album, on April 9.


Lo-fi guitar and drums duo, Matthew Poile and Alex Morris, started out as a bedroom project in 2010. Their music based around wildly distorted and lushly hook-filled swirling melodies, via which they create a ‘fuzzy wall of noise’, is described by Poile as aiming to ‘make a huge pulsing soundwash, a panoramic sound that envelops the listener’. They released their debut single ‘Close Ups’/’Sun Dogs’ last November. Their next London show is on February 13 (with Fairewell).


Via a series of demos in late 2010, word soon got around last year about this folk ensemble fronted by the engaging Elena Tonra that weaves in a glacial soundscape along the lines of Bjork. With sessions on BBC 6 Music, Radio 1 and support shows to Benjamin Francis Leftwich and John Grant, they packed a full 2011 with playing the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading/Leeds festivals and released the EPs His Young Heart in April and The Wild Youth in November. They kick of 2012 playing Eurosonic festival on January 11, before further UK dates with Ben Howard.


“Emotive, lilting folk and upbeat impassioned rock”, is how Dry The River was described by Q magazine. Longlisted in BBC’s Sound of 2012, appearances at SXSW last year, together with festival touring during the summer and the completion of their debut EP, have won them over many new converts. With No Rest being glowingly hailed, expect to be hearing a lot more of this east London-based quintet. They kick off the new year with dates in the US (Jan 25 – The Troubadour, LA w/ Alabama Shakes; 26 – The Independent, San Francisco w/ Alabama Shakes; 30 – Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn; Jan 31 – The Mercury Lounge, NY), before heading back to the UK for a headlining tour in the spring.


BBC Sound of 2012 longlister, Commons is a 22-year-old Bristolian, now London-based (by way of Chicago and the West Country) singer/songwriter, who blasts out a growl-driven vocal in the style of a fortysomething Delta bluesman. Style, youth, a passion for lyrical intensity across themes of violence and Old Testament retribution, and a debut EP, The Baron released in October, all make Commons a name to sit up and listen to.


Sensual gilded electro-pop soul, with an M83 feel, Kindness – aka Adam Bainbridge, whom some may recall from his 2009 emergence with The Replacements – was brought to label Moshi Moshi’s attention via a mixtape compiled by Concrete’s Lisa Milberg. Kindness is the working name of With just the total of two gigs (including a London squat eviction part), on the basis of these and two aired tracks last year, ‘Cyan’ and ‘SEOD’, the March 19 release of his debut album, World, You Need A Change Of Mind (through his own Female Energy label) is one to welcome expectently.


Winner of BBC's Sound of 2012 is Michael Kiwanuka. The 24-year-old north London-born son of Ugandan parents, Kiwanuka is something of a folk/soul prodigy, compared to Bill Withers and Otis Redding. His debut EP Tell Me A Tale was released last June, followed by the second, I’m Getting Ready. His much-anticipated debut album Home Again arrives on March 26.


Rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ country ‘n’ blues rousing quartet formed in 2009 during a sojourn on a houseboat in Lafayette, Louisiana, before de-camping to London. Their self0-titled debut album came out last year, along with the ‘Gulf Of Mexico’ single and Sniff It Up EP. They ended 2011 supporting The Kooks, and start of the new year with a January (22nd) show in Newcastle.


Post-punk art rock Whitechapel quintet, whose bassist Huw Webb is the brother of The Horrors’ Rhys – and there is a fair similarity between the musical styles of the two bands: dark, atmosheric, trippy. S.C.U.M released their debut album Again Into Eyes in 2011. They head out to Europe for late January/February dates, before returning to London for the NME Awards Show on February 24.


Nominated in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 longlist, an appearance on Later…with Jools Holland and the launch of their ‘Never Fade’ last June being attended by the great and the good (and not to mention frontman Fred MacPherson making NME’s ‘Cool List’), this is a band well on its way. With a debut album and UK tour with Florence and The Machine (March 2-16), much is expected of the Dalston hipsters and their indie soul vibe.


Shoegaze returns with this London-based outfit SULK. On their second single release, 'Back In Bloom', they are seemingly aiming to revitalise the genre in a psychedelic, dreamy kind of way that reminds of the baggy grooves of Primal Scream, Ride and the Stone Roses, with a sound filled with melliferous reverb-laced guitars.


Formed at the end of 2010 by Alex Starling, formerly the of Ou Est le Swimming Pool, with drummer Ian Palmer (to be later joined by Rayna Ferner and Alex Sharman on keys, plus Dan Whiffin, guitar), after OELSP's vocalist Charles Haddon took his own life at Belgium's Pukkelpop festival that August. Their first single ‘Enough Time’ (produced by Tim Bran - The Charlatans, La Roux - is an enticing foretaste of what to expect on their first album, The End set for an April release: darkly sweet and seductive lyrics, layers of pounding drum beats, luxuriant guitar chords and arrangements that swell on big choruses. Think part Empire Of The Sun, part MGMT.


Much touted four-piece indie funk-rock band (that air a nod to Talking Heads) comprising of brothers Miles (vocals, guitar) and Marcus Haughton (vocals, guitar); Louis Bhose (bass) and Oscar Manthorpe (guitar). Signed to Luv Luv Luv Records, they have just finished recording their debut album, a follow-on from the much-praised ‘Milk’ single release of December. From their first live show only last August, they have since supported Bombay Bicycle Club and Spector, with an upcoming opening date at Alexandra Palace on March 9 for Florence and The Machine.


The Milk started out as teen punksters, then reformed and came back with a change of style that bleeds a mix of soul, funk and hip-hop. And it looks like they have hit on a winning formula. Nominated for 'Best Breakthrough Artist' at the UK Festivals Awards last year, they have already played sell-out shows around London at venues like Camden Barfly and Jazz Café. With a big UK tour lined up for March/ April, and the release of their debut album, The Milk look like the cream of the crop right now.


Complete with big choruses, interesting lyrics and energetic guitar riffs, Tribes created traffic chaos last summer on a video shoot on the streets of their native Camden, and now the four-piece grunge-pop outfit are likely to set 2012 on fire, a year after their formation. 2011 saw the release of the singles ‘We Were Children’, ‘Sappho’ and ‘When The Day Comes’. The new year begins with the arrival of their Nirvana/Lemonheads twinged debut album Baby on January 16, before they embark on the NME Awards Tour around the UK from February 8.


Named after a painting by American Art Pop exponent Edward Ruscha, Various Cruelties are a quartet, orginally from Leeds and now London-based, with a Northern Soul/ mod pop feel that’s somewhere in the mid 60s – 70s (they describe themselves as ‘shabby Motown pop’). They have supported The Vaccines and Mumford & Sons and appeared on Later…With Jools Holland, playing the title track – and just released single – of their April dropping debut album Great Unknown. Next scheduled are five UK dates between January 16 – 21.


Five-piece post hardcore band from the Essex reaches (Loughton) of London, 2011 saw the release of their second album Go Now And Live and singles ‘What It Feels Like’, ‘The Waiting Room’ and ‘Runaway’ all Radio 1 playlisted. They play a few UK dates this month, before embarking on a coast-to-coast US tour from January 24.


London-based quintet Zulu Winter have come from nowhere (if you discount their earlier incarnation as The Molotovs) in under a year to be on course to rival both their management stable-mates, The Vaccines and White Lies, and gather up a following by largely word-of-mouth following with their Friendly Fires/Wild Beasts brand of indie-pop. Following up their first single release ‘Never Leave’, Zulu Winter are currently working on their debut album with Tom Morris (due in May). They start off 2012 with an appearance at Eurosonic and a London date at XOYO as part of the Q magazine sessions.

*Linn Branson is Officially A Yuppie's UK Correspondent, her other work for the site includes her December review of Smith and Burrows at Union Chapel.