As I begin to settle into the New Year (i.e. get ready for four months of writing 2013 on everything), I've also done some reflecting on what the year 2013 brought in terms of music (because music is all that really matters). I felt as if this kind of review would be necessary because 2013 did bring a lot of pleasant surprises.
As I take a look at the most interesting artists of 2013, there will be hints of someone old, someone new and even someone who has been on the list before but there's still hope that 2013 wouldn't have been the last that we heard the last of these artists. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here is 2013: Artists on the Scene:
Who? Diana Vickers; a pretty cool lass from Blackburn.
When? Quite a bit happened after she released her debut album in 2010. After the release of the non-album track, 'My Wicked Heart', Vickers started to work on her sophomore album; it wasn't very long after this that we heard about her departing from RCA, which was apparently due to creative differences. After not hearing very much from her after that, I thought that she may end up being one of those artists who we will keep us waiting for years.
Well.. there was that "surprise bitch" moment when I found out that she did get around to releasing her second album, 'Music to Make Boys Cry'. It dropped in September and I had no idea until I saw it on Amazon... or Last.fm... I'm not sure but I was surprised. I didn't exactly rush to buy it but I made sure that I ordered it so that I would be able to get it in time for Christmas.
Why? Music to Make Boys Cry is actually a pretty good album. I hadn't listened to any tracks before I bought the album, and while I wasn't completely taken, I did really love the 80s pop feel of some of the tracks. I thought that departing from RCA would be a big mistake but it's pretty clear that she's actually done quite well for herself. The album did chart quite reasonably for an indie artist who didn't have very much marketing.
Highlight tracks: Cinderella, Mad at Me, Smoke, Music to Make Boys Cry
Who? Natalia Cappuccini; one feisty one from a little bit of everywhere (or maybe just Bradford idk)
When? Quite similar to Lana Del Rey, whereby she went under a variety of alias' and sounds before she became the artist that she is today. Also found out that she had done some acting when she was a young'un as well. Kills kept appearing on my recommendations for a few years before I actually gave her a listen. I wasn't instantly taken but 'Wonderland' and 'Marlboro Lights' did convince me to give her more of a try. Her second studio album, Trouble, was released back in September and I bought it just before Christmas (along with her debut album 'Perfectionist').
Why? I really like what I'm hearing. She's definitely got that 'dark pop' vibe (dark lyrics, 'poppy' beats) that I've taken a liking too. Focusing on 'Trouble', it's definitely a very personal and much more mature album in comparison to 'Perfectionist', which can only suggest that she has refined as an artist. I've watched her live performances and interviews, and while she doesn't really have 'it' in those aspects, her honest tracks really make up for it. I'm not so sure what the new year will bring for her in terms of new material, seeing as she released her album only a few months ago but it would be nice if she got more recognition. 'Trouble' is at times quite risqué but it's nevertheless a beautifully and honestly done autobiographical album.
Highlight tracks: Devils Don't Fly, Outta Time, Saturday Night, Marlboro Lights, Trouble, Stop Me
Who? Charlotte Aitchison; über-cool singer from Herefordshire.
When? Charli XCX is not entirely a stranger to everyone's ears; she wrote that overplayed sleeper hit "I Love It", and quite frankly, I love that she didn't actually sing the song - I can't help but think that she would have been some kind of one hit wonder if she did. Charli's been on the scene for a considerable amount of time; she released an indie album when she was fourteen and, at the time, did a bunch of illegal warehouse raves in London. She also released two mix tapes back in 2012: 'Heartbreaks and Earthquakes' and 'Super Ultra'.
I first heard about her back in September '12 when her track 'Nuclear Seasons' played on the 'Your Mix' (R.I.P. free Last.fm radio service) radio station. I quite liked the sound of it but not enough to even pay a visit to her artist page. Half-way through 2013, I stumbled upon her artist page, realised that she was the girl that I had listened to several months beforehand, saw the encouraging comments and gave her a shot. By giving her a shot, I meant that I watched her live performances on YouTube, and boy was I taken; the girl is a hoot. I sampled her album, got it for my birthday and I was officially a fan.
Why? If she's calling herself 'goth pop', I can't disagree with it because it does seem like an accurate description. Plus, I'd just fight with myself if I try to fit her into some kind of genre. Watch me:
I mean, it is quite an electronic/synth pop sound but it's a lot more than that. The album's a little eclectic - that's not to say that it doesn't flow nicely though (the interludes are a dream). While the sound varies, hints of 'darkness' remains - that's not to say that it's lyrically miserable though, it is quite silly at times ('What I Like', 'Cloud Aura', 'Take My Hand'). There are some 80s pop elements (e.g. Lock You Up) and there are 90s/noughties rap/hip-hop elements too (e.g. 'So Far Away', 'Cloud Aura', 'What I Like', ''Grins'..). She also breaks into these "speak raps" in almost every song (a couple of songs mainly consist of said "speak rapping").
To cut things short: the sound is very distinctive and even more so addictive and you'll never know it unless you hear it. I had no idea that her album would sound the way that it does and even after all of these plays; I'm still discovering new elements to love in each and every track. If you haven't already guessed, Charli and her album are my ultimate 2013 favourites.
Going back to her live performances, the girl might have the ugliest bedroom dance moves that I've ever seen but it's all good; the confidence and energy makes things seem quite cool and her voice always remains pleasant to listen to. Even if I'm just watching in bed, I always feel so involved and energised by her performances.
She released a new track, SuperLove, which is from her new album, towards the end of the year. It still has that 80s/90s vibe but it's definitely a new sound; a new sound that is still quite distinctive and sets her apart from artists of the now (although lyrically, it could have been a little better). I hope to hear that she drops the album pretty sooner in the year rather than later.
Highlight tracks: Lock You Up, So Far Away, You're the One, You (Ha Ha Ha), How Can I, Nuclear Seasons, Stay Away,
Who? It's Britney [Spears], bitch; the princess of pop
When? She dropped her eighth studio album this year, something that I was looking forward to after all of the news about the singing lessons and it being more personal and stuff.
Why? This is going to be a little bit a negative nancy review but I'll start it off by saying: will.i.am. He produced the album and made it a mess. While I'm disappointed, I do hope that things go well for her this year, especially seeing as she has the Las Vegas residency thing going on for her, which kicked off quite well and I hope that she can keep it up.
Who? Amethyst Kelly; Aussie rapper.
When? Listening to her song, since she was sixteen (with no money and no family, in the middle of Miami). She released her first mixtape, 'Ignorant Art' back in 2011, which was followed by the release of the extended play, 'Glory', and a second mixtape, 'Trapgold', in 2012.
Why? She was on last year's list, although I hadn't really listened to her very much. I did download her free (heh heh) mixtapes and EP and I like her. She had a much better year: she got notable recognition, attended notable events, was the photo-bomb in said notable events as she chowed down buffalo wings, released three successful singles and seemed to keep her head screwed on straight (she still comes across as so laidback and likeable in interviews). So, while she didn't drop her album, she did do quite well for herself because she's actually made a name for herself and garnered recognition. Hopefully things will continue to go well for Iggy and we'll get to hear 'The New Classics' this year.
Highlight tracks: Work, Change Your Life, Bounce
Who? Victoria Hesketh; the one with the "little feet"
When? I have her debut album, Hands and it was one of my favourite albums in 2011; it was the soundtrack to my bus journeys. She's not exactly a new girl, there was quite a bit of a buzz about her back in 2008; she was dubbed as one of the artists of the year by critics and her singles, 'New In Town', 'Remedy' and 'Stuck on Repeat', received considerable attention and radio play.
Unfortunately, the buzz fizzled out and I really didn't know what what was going on with her. I didn't really expect anything to be going on either, so I didn't really check up on her. So, when I saw that she had released 'Nocturnes', I was a little surprised because I thought that I would have at least heard something about it. Nevertheless, I gave 'Every Night I Say a Prayer' and 'Motorway' several plays before I bought the CD.
Why? It's definitely a lot more toned down than Hands; it has more a laidback 80s sound - I did find some of the tracks on Hands to be overproduced (e.g. Ghost, Stuck on Repeat). In that sense, I did quite like it, although I wasn't taken straight away. Although, I did come to appreciate the toned down sound of it more and more.
'No Brakes' was slowly becoming my new favourite track on Hands due to how minimalist it was and this album definitely has that aspect to it; I feel as if it's much more raw and [hauntingly] beautiful than Hands. There are about three tracks that I'm not sure about. I have a love/hate relationship with Confusion at the moment; the song is a little annoying but the lyrics are probably one of my favourites of hers ( the repetition of 'never lie to me again' is just..)
Highlight Tracks: Motorway, All For You, Every Night I Say a Prayer
Who? Sky Ferriera; an American singer who took a lifetime to release her debut album.
When? I first heard about her back in 2010 and I thought of her as the American Daisy Dares You. I didn't really like One and it did really seem as if her career wasn't really heading anywhere, so I didn't really bother with her. Last year, if not the year before that, I recognised her in The Guardian and realised what was going on with her regarding her album being repeatedly being held back. It did seem like she managed to get an EP out, 'Ghost'; I listened to a few tracks but I wasn't taken just yet. In September, I did find out that things were definitely happening with her with the definite album release date and album cover, so I decided to give her another try. I liked what I heard. Everything is Embarrassing was like the moody 80s dancefloor solo track. I then decided to give her debut a listen.
Why? Her debut album didn't disappoint either. She stuck with the 80s sound (only that it was much more pop rock oriented) and it really worked for her. Her voice works a lot better with this kind of sound rather than the generic pop that she was doing before. Besides, it showed that she could actually sing.
Who? Lorde; curly from New Zealand.
When? Things apparently all started for her when she was twelve years old. I first learned of her when she started appearing on some of my favourite singers' 'Similar Artists' sections. I just thought that she was kind of like an underground singer with only a few songs, so I didn't really take much notice. I then noticed that a lot of people had her in their signature in an online forum, so I figured that she must be of some sort of significance. I Googled her and apparently there was a lot of hype for her because of her song 'Royals' (I hadn't heard of it).
Why: I didn't jump on the bandwagon straight away but with time, I did eventually sample her album. I didn't like 'Royals' but there were a few tracks that I did like the sound of. I guess that she's just another one of those breaths of fresh air, just coming in and changing things up a little bit in the charts with their honest music. Quite frankly, I don't really care how old she is but I think that her music is good enough to be deserving of some sort of recognition, and I'm silently rooting for her to get the Grammys that she was nominated for. So, when it comes down to what I expect from her in the New Year, it's just: "Get the Grammys, gurl!" and maybe to keep it real too.
Highlight tracks: Buzzcut Season, A World Alone