The 405 'Ones To Watch' for 2013
The 405 Ones to Watch list showcases 15 new artists fascinated by rhythm, graduating from bedroom hip hop and taking laptop beats into more cerebral surroundings. As staunch champions of new music, The 405 isn't primarily concerned with the next Mercury winner or safe bet. We support future leaders of the French and Scandanavian electronic scenes, artists that are hyped as well as those sitting comfortably under the radar. This is our insight into the future of new music and it's an intoxicating space to share.
2012 saw artists such as Alt-J perform to several hundred unassuming fans in a disused office in Manchester in May and win the Mercury prize by November. We watched as Doldrums emerged from the Montreal arts music scene to charm everyone in its wake; and opened our collective minds and ears to the gothic krautrock edge that Savages have brought to a post-punk aesthetic.
For those waiting to enter the stage at Brixton Academy in January, will they pack out the O2 by December? Who will be the next indie phenomenon? Perhaps you want to share a vibe with obscure, unpronounceably-named bands that hint at the brilliance within. We collated a list of beings so mysterious, talented and exciting that the first listen will send you into a state of aural arousal.
The thrill of the new and anticipation of the unknown is what makes the Ones to Watch compilation so special. It's the seduction of hope that music has the power to move us, to be visceral and raw and a thrilling experience.
The grit, the energy, the people and the performance continue to make music real and interesting. Your interest in new music shapes the future of intergalactic R&B, Nu Soul, indie, electronica, pop and second wave krautrock. Whatever your preferences, it's already happening. Are you ready?
Eden Keane, Deputy Editor
You could be excused for having missed the xxyyxx memo in what has been a frankly x-hausting year. With the blog world simultaneously selling XXXY, XV, The XX, Charli XCX, and of course, DMX and his brief (but brilliant) foray into the world of Christmas carolling, the bottom left corner of your keyboard hasn't seen this much action since straight edge hardcore was like, a thing.
xxyyxx's debut effort Still Sound dropped all the way back in 2011, a 10-track LP of bedroom-produced hip-hop instrumentals which, although displaying promise, ultimately felt incomplete and lacked the edge needed to make a real impact. When the teen-producer returned earlier this year however, it was clear that his sound had undergone some serious development. With bleak, atmospheric soundscapes and enough R&B vocal samples to make a Now That's What I Call Music! compilation jealous, 2012 has seen this once ignorable lo-fi bedroom project blossom into something vastly more substantial. It certainly feels like the producer has found what works from him, and the project is crying out for a more definitive release (everything to date has been offered up for free via Bandcamp). Considering the progress made over the last twelve months, it's almost impossible not to be excited about the twelve that xxyyxx now has ahead of him - one to keep and eye on, for sure. - Jazz Atkin
To watch Vision Fortune live is to have the senses of vision and sound overloaded to the point of discomfort and that is absolutely fucking wonderful. Playing with a strobe light behind them the trio assault the crowd with intensely loud layered guitar lines, heavy bass and pounding drums that all serve to assault the eyes and ears of the audience.
They carry that over to record as well - their split with Meddicine on Italian Beach Babes is one of a handful of records that demands attention and to be played as loud as possible without notes about disturbing the peace from your neighbour. Actually, scratch that, their recorded output is heavy enough to deserve that fine - it bears that rare intensity that at once scares and intrigues the listener, who ends up in a state of shock. - James Canham
Twigs is perhaps the most intriguing new artist of 2012, and definitely the least google friendly. Think 'haunting experimental R&B pop', similar to the likes of AlunaGeorge and even James Blake.
The 22-year-old Londoner's soft, albeit almost entirely distant vocal haze tip toes around the down-tempo bass that is Twigs' standard accompaniment, a far cry from her earlier days as a back-up dancer for the opposite end of the pop spectrum, Jessie J. If she can keep up the consistency of 'Ache' and 'Hide', then 2013 could be a big year for this mysterious artist. - Charlotte Stones
Imagine being Beyonce's sister. Sure there would be plenty of benefits, but when trying to establish yourself as a musician that's quite a shadow to come out of. After two albums that showed promise if not final product, Solange seems to have found her muse in latest collaborator Dev Hynes and is set to make her own name. The Truth EP, which was released in November, points towards a very exciting time for the younger Knowles. It included one of the best pops songs of 2012 in 'Losing You', and showcased an amazing soft lyrical style over dreamy beats. Two sold out nights in London early January is only the start. - Tim Brown
This year, Canada gladly gave us Visions, Celebration Rock and 'Call Me Maybe', which was very kind of them indeed. We can only hope that they're as philanthropic in 2013.
One man who will be hoping to win your affections over the next 12 months is Nova Scotian producer Ryan Hemsworth. He's spent his time proving his versatility with genres, although his favourite thing to do is to give hip-hop artists a dream pop makeover, and to much success. Unsurprisingly there have been several attempts to define his music with a genre, and so far the two that seem to be sticking are "chill-trap" and "cloud rap", although you can read into that as much or as little as you like. The important thing is that he's a lot more exciting than half the bands you'll see on 2013 predictions, so here's to hoping he can allure the pants off us all this year. - Jack McKenna
With an astounding voice, Rainy Milo should really be a star already. Instead she's decided to spurn record deals in favour of building her name doing things how she wants to rather than how others tell her to. Self-released EP Limey put her in a very strong position going forward. When the inevitable deal comes nobody is going to stand a chance telling her to take any direction that she doesn't want to take. Highlight 'Bout Me' filters through your entire body as the slow atmospheric beats are the perfect accompaniment to that voice. - Tim Brown
Playlounge make the sort of music Brett Easton Ellis protagonists would listen to if they were poor and lived in suburban England. Everything holds a tune and sounds thought of and pulled together but the tension that underlies the duo's fast pace drum and guitar onslaught has that certain rawness that implies an imminent collapse.
While Laurie and Sam aren't exactly groundbreaking they're doing what they do in a far more accomplished way with more longevity than a lot of bands at the moment. They have the hooks and the rawness but they have this substance, no matter how fragile it may seem in certain tracks, that serves to form a scaffold for a band that are much more than meets the eye. - James Canham
Releasing a mixtape before you're legally allowed to have sex ain't really no thing anymore, and love it or hate it there's only so much blame you can place on Will Smith and his demon spawn. The issue with this wave of underage artists is that rather than opening doors for them, their youth is actually a constriction, one that's accompanied by a loudly ticking time-bomb.
While odes to Justin Bieber and anti-school anthems are all well and good for a teenager, the whole situation grows pretty uncomfortable once the artist has, y'know, hit puberty (google search: Blink-182). What sets Haleek Maul apart from his peers, is that his talent and the fact he can't purchase alcohol really have nothing to do with one another; both Oxyconteen and Chrome Lips would be just as impressive if they'd come from someone twice his age, and in fact both sound as if they have done. In contrast with those dependent upon their teen-status, Haleek's relative youth offers him a different opportunity: an abundance of time within which to develop his sound. When you consider that his lauded Oxyconteen EP is the starting point for said development, then this Barbados rapper's prospects start to look pretty fucking exciting. Fingers crossed for a full-length debut, hey Haleek? - Jazz Atkin
'Mysterious Musician' syndrome has been at large for the past couple of years - with artists falling over themselves to provide us with little to no information about who they are in an attempt to 'not play the game' (ironically that's the new 'game'). Arguably the best artist of 2012 to fall within these guidelines (besides Twigs) was Of Empress, though her particular tale unravelled itself quite quickly (Lorely Rodriguez from Brooklyn). Teasing us with samplers she dubbed 'Colorminutes', she soon brought out a couple of longer tracks in the form of 'Don't Tell Me' and 'Champagne' which showcased this young Brooklynites huge potential. We'd like to see how this plays out in 2013.
Michigan rapper Angel Haze comes into 2013 with a newly penned record deal, four mixtapes in her back catalogue and genius producer Lunice cheering her on. If ever there was a sure thing, Haze is it. A quick listen to mixtape number three, Reservation, should be all you really need to know that though. Her voice effortlessly moves from dirty synth to almost ballady. Rapping about her own experiences and staying well away from cliches that female MCs fell into a few years ago, Haze is firmly set to be 2013's Azealia Banks. - Tim Brown
It's not every day a band releases a slice of pure pop so perfect that it felt like you'd heard it a million times before, you just weren't sure when. But Chvrches (they put the "v" in their name because they were "tired of competing with Jesus for internet hits") managed it with 'The Mother We Share'. And the fact that they created it so early in their career has meant that internet buzz and broadsheet praise was heaped on them straight away. 'Mother' was an effortlessly infectious anthem of bouncing synths and underlying melancholy and recent live shows have shown a band with the potential to build on that promise. They seem to have developed a template that promises pop behemoths, part messy, part systematic – and already they have more stick-in-the-head melodies than you could shake a Yamaha DX7 at.
Taking influences from The Knife, 80s pop and their hero Prince (their cover of 'I Would Die 4 U' is ace) they make technicolor synth pop that's beautifully augmented by Lauren Mayberry's voice, which propels it in new, interesting directions. It seems all that's missing (judging from their live performance) is a bit of self belief and the ambition to push things a bit further. But if they do, there's no telling how far they could go. - Danny Wright
In spite of a 2010 debut under the moniker of Teen Inc, and a 3-track EP released through 4AD over a year ago, you'd be forgiven for not having heard of LA brothers inc. until like, right now. On first listen, the band's discography screams of a B-sides-only Prince tribute act, and not an especially great one at that (I'm being nice, third, fourth, and fifth listens do nothing to alleviate the comparison either). Whilst their 3 EP may not have made the waves they'd intended, it certainly seems that third time's the charm for the Aged brothers, and when previews of a forthcoming full-length started to appear it became apparent that the band's as-good-as crushed velvet stage ensembles had finally been laid to rest (ish).
inc.'s debut album, no world, is set for a February 2013 release on 4AD - with two tracks, 'The Place' and '5 Days', having made their way online already. The Artist's influence still presents itself with little shame, but the brothers seem to have finally mastered the skill of paying homage without imitation, and by introducing a more prominent sense of melancholy in place of the "funk" that had dominated their previous releases, the sound is given a much needed update. After all, what's more 21st century than overwhelming misery? The result is candle-lit, crotch-sweatingly smooth perfection, and the more blatant references to the late-90's offer a refreshing change from the acts riding the R&B revival wave alongside them. Judging from no world's previews, the brothers' swoon-worthy UK debut, and the backing of a great label - inc. show a hell of a lot of promise for 2013, with enough talent to very quickly eclipse their "The Artist Formerly Known as the Prince Cover Band" status. - Jazz Atkin
It's been almost a year since we first spoke about Gothic Tropic - claiming their music was "as refreshingly original as it is pure fun," which is still true 12 months on. However, we'd be doing a huge disservice to the band by bending them over our knees and branding them with the 'Tropical Pop' iron (plus we're pretty sure that's illegal).
Despite not being too prolific over the past year, they've spent that time expanding and developing their 'sound', adding elements of krautrock and pure 'whig out' moments that bands twice their age have yet to master. Basically it's about time the world woke up to just how incredible this lot are, and we feel 2013 might be the year that happens.
East India Youth is the moniker of bright young thing William Doyle, formally of guitar-pop four piece Doyle & The Fourfathers. It’s a tricky task to articulate in succinct terms as to what the sound of EIY is - the yet to be released debut album TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER (that was up on his Soundcloud for a month or so recently) ambitiously covers an enormous amount of styles and genres, but manages to nail every single one whilst paradoxically the whole package possess a specific sui generis vibe.
Consequently it's a wonderfully heterogeneous entity that's as comfortable in avant-garde Krautrock territory as it is on a contemporary dancefloor, in a pop-meets-ambient melange; this is work from someone obviously in love with music. The track here, 'Heaven, How Long', hits the stratosphere as the chorus glides in after an elongated graceful build that will make you wanna spoon the sky and dance with the moon. Expect to hear a lot more from him in 2013 where we should be seeing a 'proper' release alongside live shows. - Tim Boddy
Formed from the ashes of Chicago's Scattered Trees, On An On have certainly made an impression recently. Their debut single 'Ghosts' is a hazy blend of glitchy electronics, reverberated vocals and shimmery guitars that have already been racking up the Youtube views thanks to a recent inclusion on Grey's Anatomy.
January 29th sees the release of their debut album Give In on Roll Call Records, overseen by production wizard Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene) - and if their enthusiastic Facebook post is anything to go by ("...so tempted to leak this album right now") then 2013 may be the year that On An On become a rather big deal. - James Brown
The 405 'Ones To Watch' for 2013 Playlist
As is tradition at The 405, we're happy to present you with a playlist of all the artists on our 'Ones To Watch' list. All you have to do is press play on the player below, then sit back and enjoy.
Releasing an album for free in an attempt to hook potential fans in is hardly a new concept, but as technology continues to cheapen whilst still managing to increase in quality (thank you Moore's Law) it's fair to say that the ever capricious musical landscape is pretty crowded. We're not here to discuss the pros and cons of accessibility though, but to celebrate the people that managed to rise above their peers to create something special. [read more]
Welcome to our 'Ones to Watch' list for 2012. Much like our list last year, or any list like this in the future, it isn't about trying to prove how great we are at predicting who's going to sell the most records next year. If you want that list, feel free to email us. No, this list is about providing you with a bunch of bands/artists we feel could release something special over the course of 2012. [read more]
One of my earliest memories of music, and the mystery it seemed to hold, is of sitting cross-legged in front of my parent's record player, flipping through LPs. Alongside albums by Kris Kristofferson and Barbera Dickinson, they had some future classics: Sgt. Pepper, Tubular Bells and Dark Side of the Moon. I remember being captivated by the stiff, glossy cardboard, the dense colours, the exotic imagery. [read more]