Whilst 2021 may not be looking too promising in the grand scheme of things at the moment, the array of amazing new music to look forward to is giving us some hope. So many fantastic bands and artists over the last year have been getting us through the nightmare of 2020, and here we’ve selected just a few who’ve made a particularly lasting impression, and who we’re hoping to hear a lot more from over the next twelve months.
With acclaim from the likes of The Quietus, NME, So Young and BBC 6Music already under their belts, Hackney based trio deep tan have been enchanting our ears this year with their immersive, hypnotic splendour. First capturing our attention with the swirling grace of 2019’s ‘Air’, they continued to cast their majestic spell over us with this year’s ‘deepfake’ – a poignant comment on the worryingly sexist ways the strange internet phenomenon is used in society. Fusing together the cold-wave side of post-punk with their trademark eerily captivating allure and illustrious, swooning French and English vocals, deep tan have already shown their knack for creating utterly bewitching, sonically complex, soundscapes. I expect their dreamy, effervescent charm to continue drawing in more listeners throughout 2021.
Listen to deep tan on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(Mari Lane: Co-Founder/Managing Editor)
I have The Irish Jam radio show to thank for introducing me to CMAT! The pop sensation released some stellar singles throughout 2020, including ‘Another Day (KFC)’ – a bop about crying your drunken heart out in a chicken shop – and ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ – a witty, melancholic anthem about struggling with urban isolation. I interviewed her via Zoom earlier this year and she was just a joy to chat with (read the full thing here.) Even though things still look shaky for the music industry in 2021, I reckon CMAT will release more singles that manage to hit the nail on the head, and I hope that she’ll continue to be a stand-up comedian via her Twitter and Instagram accounts too.
Listen to CMAT on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(Kate Crudgington: Co-Founder/Features Editor)
Having already caught the attention of BBC 6Music and BBC Introducing, Jay Brown – aka Amaroun – spent the first part of 2020 releasing a new single each month. With each single touching on a different theme surrounding life as a queer woman, she has had us hooked on her scintillating alt-pop. From the poignant, swirling power of ‘Rise’ to the gentle romanticism and playful wit of love song ‘Scarlet’, and the grimey groove of latest single ‘Highest Head’ (a collaboration with Jung Mergs), Amaroun never fails to impress with her unique creations – in equal parts soulful and gritty. I can’t get enough of her stirring, effervescent power, and I’m excited to hear what she has in store for us in 2021.
Listen to Amaroun on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)
Divide and Dissolve
Formed of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, Divide and Dissolve create eerie, thunderous instrumentals designed to rouse their listener’s state of awareness into questioning what it means to be truly free. I was thrilled to see the duo were back releasing new music this year and that their new album Gas Lit – the follow up to 2018’s Abomination – will be released in January 2021. With their dense and intriguing sounds, Divide and Dissolve are instrumental activists who seek to disrupt toxic white supremacy, reclaim indigenous rights and invite others to join their fight. Their elegant, doomy battle cries will be the perfect soundtrack to 2021.
Listen to Divide and Dissolve on Spotify or bandcamp now.
Nuha Ruby Ra
With her diverse range of influences, background in art and satire, and the unique style of both her fashion choices and music videos, Nuha Ruby Ra feels at once a familiar composite of acts from the darker end of alt-pop, and something completely fresh. With two singles released earlier this year, Ra has recently dropped what looks to be a breakthrough. ‘Sparky’ is a tale of escapades in a post-punk, dark synth-pop style, the track is her first release on her new label, Brace Yourself Records, and is taken from the forthcoming EP, How to Move. Ra has been a burgeoning, if slightly less prominent artist for sometime, having appeared on stage with a number of indie favourites, including Warmduscher, but the spotlight seems to suit her perfectly. With her latest release having got radio airplay almost from the minute it was released, and a string of tour dates already planned for live return, don’t be surprised to see Nuha Ruby Ra’s name up in lights in 2021.
Listen to Nuha Ruby Ra on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(John McGovern: Contributor)
Having first charmed our ears when they played their second ever gig for us at The Finsbury back in January 2019, London trio KIN are already receiving plenty of acclaim for their euphoric alt-pop sounds. As evidenced by receiving over 70,000 streams on Spotify for recent bewitching single ‘Sharing Light’ (and nearly that many for other singles ‘L.O.V.E’ and ‘Wander & Lost’), they seem to be quickly rising to success; their alluring majesty providing a soothingly cathartic listen for fans of all genres. Consisting of Grace, Ritu and Adam, KIN have already completely stolen our hearts, both with their exquisite celestial soundscapes and their unwavering dedication to consistently championing fellow females in the industry. I cannot wait to hear more from them in 2021, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in my excitement!
Listen to Kin on Spotify now. (ML)
Self-proclaimed “ugly pop” star ZAND creates delightfully wicked tunes that take down slut-shamers and whorephobes, whilst revelling in the joyful feeling of not fitting the mould. The Blackpool-based artist has cultivated a defiant sound and image for themselves, mixing their sweet vocals with savage rap verses laid across warped and wonderful electronics. They’ve got a lot to say and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021.
Listen to Zand on Spotify now.(KC)
Although I did feature King Hannah as One To Watch last year too, I think it’s completely necessary to include them again. Not only does 2020 not really count anyway, but I think it’s fair to say that, with the immediate success of their recently released debut EP Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine and signing to City Slang Records (also home to Noga Erez, Lampchop and Laura Gibson), King Hannah are now on the cusp of something very, very exciting… I first fell in love with the Liverpool band (thanks to our writer, John!) on hearing their debut single ‘Crème Brûlée’ (which now has over 60,000 streams on Spotify) back in 2019 – its sweeping, ethereal power and majestic musicality completely casting me under its spell on first listen. And now the entirety of the EP remains utterly compelling; with shades of the likes of War On Drugs propelled by the unique melancholic splendour of Hannah Merrick’s vocals, it’s an emotion strewn listen, oozing a stirring, bewitching allure.
Listen to King Hannah on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)
London-based dark-pop artist CIRCE had me under her spell from the moment I read that her track ‘Ten Girls’ was inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Her debut EP She’s Made Of Saints is a majestic blend of her bittersweet vocals, cinematic electronics, her feminist awakenings and obsession with the dark side of LA glamour, epitomised by tracks like ‘Dancer’ on which she explores the dangerous allure of Californian cult The Source Family. She’s crafted this mysterious, David Lynch inspired image that fits her sound perfectly too.
Listen to Circe on Spotify or bandcamp now. (KC)
Ireland-based artist Ailbhe Reddy made her debut appearance on the indie circuit in 2016. However, it was 2018’s beautifully poignant single ‘Shame’ which introduced me to Reddy’s sharp songwriting. Having completed the checklist of performing at various UK festivals, Ailbhe Reddy was poised to make the leap across the pond with a slot at SXSW festival before 2020 pressed pause on the live music industry. Despite the setback, Ailbhe Reddy provided the soundtrack of my lockdown 2.0 with her debut album Personal History. An introspective snapshot of everyday emotional turmoils, coupled with a polished production, Personal History is Ailbhe Reddy’s armour to march back into the live music scene in 2021.
Listen to Ailbhe Reddy on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(Nicky Lee-Delisle: Contributor)
Another Irish Jam find! Belfast-based New Pagans’ debut EP Glacial Erratic is an impressive collection of urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history and gender roles. The band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge and indie rock and transform them into beautifully melodic noise, and this is epitomised on ‘Yellow Room’, the single they released shortly after their EP. They’re currently working on a full length record, so fingers crossed they’ll be able to share that with us in 2021.
Listen to New Pagans on Spotify or bandcamp now. (KC)
Having only come across Fräulein earlier this year, through seeing them perform a stripped back ‘live’ set for Hanni from ARXX’s Coming Out Staying In festival back in April, I’m already a big fan of the duo’s raw, visceral sound. Oozing a captivating dark energy, this year’s singles ‘Drag Behind’ and ‘Mary’ are propelled by the gritty power of Joni’s raw sweeping vocals, as abrasive, grunge-infused hooks steadily build an increasing tension with the help of Karsten’s immense beats. With shades of the mysterious allure of underrated ’90s band Slint, Fräulein offer a unique, spellbinding majesty. A new favourite, in ‘normal’ times, I’d be booking Fräulein for a gig with us at The Finsbury as soon as possible, but for now I will have to settle for listening to ‘Drag Behind’ on repeat, and dreaming of the day I can witness their dark energy live in a room full of sweaty fans.
Listen to Fräulein on bandcamp now. (ML)