2019. It feels cliche to say “this is going to be a big year for music”, but I firmly believe this will be the biggest we’ve had in a few years. After 2018, where The Greatest Showman and Baby Shark clung to the chart, Arctic Monkeys released a right old curve ball of an album and ‘Three Lions’ became the most exciting song of the year, the next twelve months are looking a lot more interesting. Glastonbury returns after a year hiatus and there’s seemingly albums on the horizon from Foals, Grimes, The Chemical Brothers, Kaytranada and Loyle Carner (and that’s just my own little lists of favourites to come). I’ve also got a sneaky suspicion there’ll soon be a revival of indie music to shout about. Maybe it could be in the form of Easy Life, or perhaps something a little further left-field like Bakar or Slowthai.
There’s a heap of good new music out there but for now let me just label it ‘potential’, let the music do the talking and see where they are in twelve months time. I present to you, The VLM’s Eyes On 2019 artists.
Easy Life are arguably the most current band around right now. Bridging together what seems like the most on-trend sound of indie, funk and hip hop, fans of Tom Misch will find solace in this more edgy outfit, whose lead singer takes inspiration from the late Mac Miller (check out their Radio 1 msch-up of Mac Miller and Kanye West). Their debut EP ‘Creature Habits’ dropped in March last year and caught the ears of Jools Holland, the people behind the FIFA soundtrack and steam-rolled them into autumn. The last few months saw a lengthy tour of the UK and they announced another tour right off the back of it. There’s a lot going on live; from slow jams, to melancholic trumpets, to quick witted raps, but one thing’s for sure, you’ve got to get down to one of their shows this year.
Somewhere on the outskirts of London, singer/songwriter Moss Kena had been bubbling away, leaking his music slowly to the public but keeping his identity private. Then, in the last twelve months he’s dropped the curtain as well as his debut EP ‘Found You In ‘06’. To the shock of many Moss Kena was a young man, which shows the ability and maturity to his voice. His powerful vocals are no surprise when you learn of his biggest inspiration – Amy Winehouse, (whom the EP is named after, after first hearing her music in 2006) but from his brooding debut tracks which maybe had more about the Winehouse sound, his most recent music has stuck out for very different reasons. ‘Touch’ is an out and out pop song that Years and Years would be proud of (think ‘Sanctify’) and when Moss Kena recently teamed up with Toddla T on ‘Real Connection’ an instant club banger was made, reminiscent of 90s outfit Moloko.
Rapper Octavian is only in his early twenties and has already received a co-sign from Drake, jumped on one of the songs of last summer with Mura Masa (‘Move Me’) and recently dropped his debut mixtape. The 14-tracks from the France-born, London-raised artist paint a diverse picture of his musical flexibility. Notable tracks from 2018 include the glitchy ‘Lightning’ and ‘Little’ which both received high radio rotation. In 2019 don’t expect Mura Masa to be the only one wanting to collaborate with this exciting prospect.
Being signed to Mark Ronson’s record label is no easy feat, but when you hear Mikaela Strauss’, AKA King Princess, output of the past year you can see why one of the biggest producers in the world wanted to snap her up. ‘1950’ was the breakthrough track for King Princess last year and showcased her bluesy rock tone in the form of a queer love song. ‘Pussy Is God’ on the other hand, is a step up, and not just in its bold choice of lyrics. Here King Princess shows her true ability to mould different sounds the way she’d like them. It’s more glitch-pop than guitar-pluck and if Charli XCX were ever to tone it down just a notch, she’d sound something like this.
Northampton’s Tyrone Frampton picked the moniker of Slowthai after his school nickname ‘Slow Ty’ when he’d zone out and slur his speech. His music on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Abrasive and cutting, the young rapper wields a sharp tongue when it comes to his releases from 2018; ‘Polaroid’ and ‘Rainbow’ are in-your-face jabs whereas the Mura Masa produced ‘Doorman’ sees Slowthai swap his grime roots for a more alternative punk attitude. Reminiscent of early Jamie T, you can see why punk rock band Slaves (who coincidentally broke through while supporting Jamie T) picked Slowthai to support them on their UK tour recently. Funny how things come around.
She may have already supported Rita Ora and Ray BLK but Kara Marni feels like she’s only just started to etch her own path. Radio airplay for her last two singles ‘Love Just Ain’t Enough’ and ‘Move’ have made Marni one of the most exciting pop stars in the UK right now, not just for her ear for a catchy hook but also her range of vocals. Taking inspiration from the likes of Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill, her sassy yet classy tone won’t go unnoticed in 2019.
If you ever questioned what might have happened if Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke had kept up his solo career, Bakar might just have the answer. The Camden musician is quite open to the fact that Okereke is a big inspiration and we’re not complaining either because he’s making us believe that 2019 could be the year indie starts to creep back into the mainstream; the kind that used to excite Frosty Jack’s swigging teens who stuck the backpages of NME up on their wall. Start with ‘Big Dreams’ – the FIFA 19 tune that literally sounds like an anthem plucked from the muddy stands of a Sunday league match.
Singer/songwriter and producer Kathy Yaeji Lee is perhaps the most obscure on our list but perhaps the most exciting. Raised in both the U.S. and Korea, influences of both the New York dance scene and her mother tongue become quickly apparent in her dreamy house music. The beats are subtle yet addictive and Yaeji’s English/Korean vocals are some of the most soothing around, demonstrated early on by her reimagined version of Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’. Want to get the party started? Put on ‘Raingurl’. If it’s time to chill out then play ‘One More’. Fellow Korean Peggy Gou took festivals and clubs by storm last year, Yaeji could just do the same very soon.
When we first heard ‘Heaven’s Only Wishful’ by Toronto’s MorMor, it left us wanting… okay we won’t say it. The debut track from multi-instrumentalist, Seth Nyquist was a multi-layered melancholic journey that’s as flat-out chilled as it is toe-tappingly catchy. It’s hard to place his sound but follow up single ‘Pass the Hours’ gave us another offering of guitar driven R&B and woozy soulful pop. With just two singles and one EP to his name, we’re excited to see where 2019 takes MorMor.
Like what you hear? Then go follow our Eyes on 2019 playlist to keep the music streaming into your ears for as long as you like.