GIHE: Ones To Watch 2021

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.

Following our Tracks, Albums and Highlights of 2020, here’s our Ones To Watch in 2021…

deep tan
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)

CMAT
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)

Amaroun
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.
(KC)

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)

KIN
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)

ZAND
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)

King Hannah
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)

CIRCE
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)

Ailbhe Reddy
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)

New Pagans
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)

Fräulein
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) 

PLAYLIST: November 2020

We’re almost out of Lockdown 2.0 here in the UK, but whether you’re feeling excited or apprehensive about the changes the new government measures will bring, our November playlist is here to help distract you. There’s an eclectic mix of alt-pop delights, atmospheric electronic soundscapes and some shimmering indie and alternative guitar tunes. Take some time to scroll through our track choices below and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post.

GENN – ’23rd March’
The latest single from Brighton based trans-national band Ġenn, ‘23rd March’ is propelled by whirring hooks, capturing the charismatic energy of the band’s magnificent live show, as it builds with a sultry power to a gritty grunge-fueled seething anthem. ‘23rd March’ is taken from Ġenn’s upcoming EP Liminal, set for release next year on Everything Sucks Music. (Mari Lane)

Nervous Twitch – ‘Tongue Tied’
The latest single from the Leeds three-piece, ‘Tongue Tied’ is a comforting ode to “Self-reflection and amazement over the contradictions in life”. Propelled by scuzzy surf-rock inspired hooks and an instantly catchy uptempo musicality, it’s a colourfully retro slice of uplifting punk-pop. ‘Tongue Tied’ is out now via Reckless Yes. (ML)

Tired Lion – ‘~Cya Later~’
Aussie band Tired Lion have just shared their new album Breakfast For Pathetics and it is SO. GOOD. I love frontwoman & guitarist Sophie Hopes’ voice and this track is apparently one of her favourites on the record – it also happens to be one of mine too. (Kate Crudgington)

Francis of Delirium – ‘Lakes’
“The main idea in ‘Lakes’ is that we are all fed by other people (or other “rivers”) to eventually form who we are, one large lake fed by other water streams, one community,” explains Francis of Delirium’s songwriter Jana Bahrich. Taken from their upcoming EP Wading, which is set for release next February, this single continues to show Bahrich’s talent for writing poignant guitar tunes about the interweaving nature of life. (KC)

King Hannah – ‘Meal Deal’
Liverpool’s King Hannah have just released a complete beaut of a debut EP, the magnificence of which is showcased perfectly in ‘Meal Deal’. Inspired by an unsuccessful flat-hunting mission, it’s steeped in an all-encompassing ethereal splendour as the utterly spellbinding majesty of Hannah Merrick’s vocals flow alongside swirling War On Drugs-reminiscent hooks. Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine, the new EP from King Hannah, is out now via City Slang. Watch the homevideo for ‘Meal Deal’ here. (ML)

Serena Isioma – ‘Stop Calling The Police On Me’
“This song is about searching for peace outside of the society that doesn’t understand you,” explains Chicago-based musician Serena Isioma. “There was a heavy police presence in my household growing up. It was very toxic. Eventually, I stopped coming home altogether. I was much happier hanging out with my friends.” Isioma, a first generation Nigerian-American, neutralizes these hostile memories via ambient guitars and honeyed vocals. I’m so excited to hear their new EP The Leo Sun Sets, which is set for release later this year. (KC)

Amaroun & Jung Mergs – ‘Highest Head’
GIHE fave Amaroun’s latest offering sees the London artist teaming up with rapper Jung Mergs. Switching between the rich, smooth power of Amaroun’s soulful refrains and the fast-paced poignant spoken-word lyricism of Mergs, it builds with a gritty, grimey groove and whirring, fuzzy energy. (ML)

Rosé Petal – ‘Dripping’
I love this hypnotic new single from Rhode Island-based, alternative R&B/electro-pop producer and songwriter Rosé Petal. It’s a beautiful combination of sweet vocals, sultry beats and atmospheric electronics. (KC)

ZAND – ‘Inappropriate’
Self proclaimed “ugly popstar” ZAND has just released their new EP Ugly Pop, and ‘Inappropriate’ is one of several savage bangers on the record. ZAND’s wit and defiance in the face of their critics shines through in their candid lyricism and polished, yet punishing beats. (KC)

STRAIGHT GIRL – ‘Limón’
A vibrant, jagged electronic soundscape inspired by disjointed and self-critical thoughts, ‘Limón’ is the latest single from Leeds-based electropunk STRAIGHT GIRL. Released via Come Play With Me, the track is a cathartic new offering that sees the artist confront the darker parts of themselves and transform them into energetic, intensely danceable beats. (KC)

CIRCE – ‘Dancer’
An evocative dark-pop gem inspired by a morbid fascination with an infamous cult, London-based Circe’s latest single ‘Dancer’ is taken from her debut EP, She’s Made of Saints. The track is a sultry, cinematic tune exploring the dangerous allure of Californian cult The Source Family. I wholeheartedly recommend you listen to Circe’s EP if you’re a fan of any of the following: The Handmaid’s Tale, David Lynch or Stranger Things. (KC)

October and The Eyes – ‘Dark Dog’
New Zealand-born, London-based songwriter October and The Eyes recently shared her debut EP Dogs and Gods, and this dark, sultry single is lifted from it. Speaking about the track, October explains: “It’s about the uneasy feeling of being watched, that at any moment something bad could happen. There’s an anecdotal malformed dog who’s always near – limping, snarling, growling and drooling. It’s one you feel equally sorry for as you do fear it. You cannot outrun this dark dog, so you decide to make peace.” (KC)

Yumi And The Weather – ‘What Will Become Of The Wishing Well’
The latest single from Brighton based artist Yumi And The Weather, ‘What Will Become Of The Wishing Well’ flows with soaring rich vocals and twinkling uptempo vibes alongside glitchy beats and a driving energy. A soothing slice of alt-pop reminiscent of the electro-strewn grandeur of The Postal Service. (ML)

Elaine Malone – ‘You’ (1000 Beasts Remix)
A captivating, blissful lo-fi new offering from two of Cork’s freshest talents, ‘You’ is a beaut collaboration between songwriter & multi-instrumentalist Elaine Malone and electronic artist & producer 1000 Beasts. Led by Malone’s original beguiling vocals and lullaby-esque lyrics, 1000 Beasts has tentatively transformed the track with his distinctive percussion and the result is a magnetic soundscape that acts as an aural tonic for testing times. (KC)

Smoothboi Ezra – ‘My Own Person’
Smoothboi Ezra is an 18 year old songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Greystones, Ireland. This song is about “not being happy but not being able to do anything about it” which is the over-riding sentiment for most of 2020. I love this track and can’t wait to hear more from them in the future. (KC)

Hearts Beating In Time – ‘Simone’s’
The latest single from Berlin-based Hearts Beating In Time, ‘Simone’s’ offers a totally dreamy, twinkling soundscape. With elegant layers of shimmering synths alongside the glistening charm of Rebecca Theuma’s vocals, it’s an instantly captivating slice of immersive electro-pop. (ML)

Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business – ‘I Am Afraid’
Reflecting on how being alone as a female identifying person can be both scary and exciting, ‘I Am Afraid’ is propelled by funk-fuelled bass-lines and an empowering, shimmering energy. As it builds with the twinkling power of voices uniting together in harmony and jangling, playful percussion, it’s a poignant, impassioned ode to female strength and resilience. ‘I Am Afraid’ is out now via Lost Map Records. Watch the joyous new video here. (ML)

Pinlight – ‘Grow Slow’
The new single from Edinburgh-based hearing-impaired artist Jenny Laahs, aka Pinlight, ‘Grow Slow’ flows with an uplifting twinkling energy and luscious honey-sweet vocals. A refreshingly uptempo slice of sunny alt-pop, it’s the perfect danceable accompaniment to a solo lockdown living room rave. (ML)

Kama Vardi – ‘The Gate’
An uplifting slice of folk-pop, Kama Vardi’s ‘The Gate’ flows with a twinkling romanticism and joy-tinged lilting musicality. Oozing a captivating allure alongside the soothing splendour of Vardi’s vocals. Moonticket, the upcoming new album from Kama Vardi, is out now via Bread For Eskimos. (ML)

EP: King Hannah – ‘Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine’

More than three years ago, I saw King Hannah for the first time. Way down on the bill, in a support slot at what, I later found out, was only their third ever gig. Mesmerised, I wrote a live review that termed them “real music for grown-ups”. Fast forward to just a couple of months ago, and they’d signed to the Berlin indie stalwart, City Slang (home of Anna Von Hauswolff, Arcade Fire, Lambchop, and more). That same day, they dropped their first video for the re-issued ‘Crème Brûlée’ and now comes their debut physical release, a six-track EP with a natty special coloured vinyl edition that comes in cream. Along with another video for second single ‘Meal Deal’, the EP’s release finds the band, whose music centres around lead singer Hannah Merrick and guitarist Craig Whittle, in form that’s as stunning as their live set from the days of Summer 2017.

Longer than some albums, calling Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine an EP is a reflection of King Hannah’s capacity for understatement, with its two singles both more than six minutes, and understandably dominating the record. ‘Crème Brûlée’ is still the standout, for me, despite the band’s insistence that the song really is simply about how much Hannah likes the titular dessert.  It seems likely to have been the song that most prompted the band’s comparisons to Mazzy Star, but there’s also a wry, detached sense of longing in the vocals’ laconic Nico-drawl. Much like the dessert itself, the song’s exterior shell is a thin covering over something far deeper – in this case, Hannah’s lyrics sit on top amongst its opening, but once they drop a little over halfway in, the layers of instrumentation spill out, led by a crooning, carousing, alt.country guitar line courtesy of Craig.  

Either side of ‘Creme Brûlée’ are two tracks that demonstrate opposing sides of King Hannah’s take on the genre. The upbeat ‘Bill Tench’ finds Hannah musing on a possible future life in Paris, but veers more towards mature US alt.rock. There’s a sense of road journeys, with the feel of a car passing distant landscapes, in the taut lines of lead guitar, the acoustic giving pace, and the bass sketching out melodic rhythms. Perhaps the neatest trick of all is the way in which Hannah’s lingering, longing vocals make words rhyme, even when they have no business doing so. 

Penultimate track, ‘The Sea Has Stretch Marks’, is a much sadder, slower number, with more lilting guitars and a semi-spoken section from which the EP takes its title. That being said, there’s a picture painted here too, with the song’s flow of guitars into and out of  electronic reverb mimicking the waves of the sea in its title.

‘Meal Deal’, at some seven and a half minutes, is the more epic of the two singles, combining observational story-telling in its Courtney Barnett-esque lyrics with a sound that’s more reminiscent of The Handsome Family. Underpinned by low-slung bass, and led by twangy acoustic and electric guitar, it’s a song in three parts – which may give some explanation to the ‘sandwich, snack and a drink’ combo referenced by its title. Starting as a light-hearted tale of moving houses and spiders in the bath that need a feed, its meandering style comes to a more dramatic mid-point, at which Hannah’s vocals become doubled and echoey. “I can’t keep a secret”, she intones, as the guitar sounds grow more ominous, before an instrumental two minutes rounds out the track.  

The remaining songs showcase the band’s ability to create atmosphere – opener ‘And Then Out of Nowhere It Rained’ commences the EP, with its sounds of rain and gently strummed guitar that build to something more broodingly oppressive, whilst Hannah’s voice rolls around the track. Closer ‘Reprise (Moving Day)’ embodies the post-rock tendencies that King Hannah flirt with throughout the EP, with a swirl of garbled recorded voice, thudding percussion and a deep bassy electronic sound, followed by a largely instrumental opening two minutes.  It shifts style after that to a single strummed guitar and Hannah repeating the lines “Moving Day will come a little closer / I got some moving for you” before a feedback whine closes things out.  

There was always something real about King Hannah. In the video for ‘Meal Deal’, Merrick stares at herself in the mirror, backstage at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, looking every inch the alt.rock star in the making, like the hybrid offspring of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. And, with a lead guitarist as gifted as Craig Whittle, steeped in the kind of musicianship that comes from growing up listening to Jackson Browne and Neil Young, she has the perfect foil. Already capable of producing the kind of songs that it takes most acts years to craft, King Hannah might just be about to tell the world what’s on their mind.

Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine is out now via City Slang Records. And make sure you catch King Hannah taking over our Instagram this Wednesday, 25th November from 6pm!

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Lucy Mclachlan

Track Of The Day: King Hannah – ‘Crème Brûlée’

We have actually previously featured this song from Liverpool duo King Hannah as Track Of The Day way back when it was first brought to our attention in July last year, but – with its official release having just been announced on City Slang Records – we felt it only right to sing its praises once again.

In fact, ‘Crème Brûlée’ had me so completely hooked the first time around that the band even featured in my Ones To Watch for 2020 (hate to say I told you so…). It just completely cast me under its spell on first listen.

With a sweeping, ethereal power and the longing, impassioned vocals of Hannah Merrick that flow with a majestic musicality, it’s just utterly compelling; a stunning introduction to the band who I hope to hear a lot more from over the coming months. Although they’re just one single down, with already over 11,000 streams on Spotify and a sound as captivating and original as this, I have a feeling that they’ll be enchanting many more ears.

And now ‘Crème Brûlée’ comes complete with its own beautifully homemade, documentary-style new video. Watch now:

‘Crème Brûlée’ is out now via City Slang. Listen on Spotify.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Lucy Mclachlan