20 for 2013: Top new songwriters

31 January, 2013 in Features

2013 header

Did you really think we were going to let January slip by without bringing you our Top Tips for 2013?

es, it’s that time of year again, when everyone scrambles eagerly to predict the future and tell all, willing to bend their ears far enough, who will be the ‘next big thing’. We’ve kept our powder dry so far, but now we thought we’d throw in our twopenn’orth.

We’re not ones to suggest we’ve just discovered the next John Lennon, but needless to say there are a number of artists that we’re pretty excited about and have real expectations regarding their potential to ‘break on through’ this year. So here, in no particular order, are 20 artists that, if there’s any justice, are going to be enormous in 2013.

Valerie June
Along with King Krule (see below), Valerie June is one of the singer-songwriters we’re most excited about right now. The minute we heard debut single Working Woman Blues we were on the phone for an interview, an appearance on Later… soon after showed we weren’t the only ones getting excited and second single You Can’t Be Told confirmed her debut was no one-off! With the album Pushin’ Against A Stone coming soon and a tour with Jake Bugg in the offing, expect this Tennessee blues-folk-soul balladeer to be HUGE this year.

Gabrielle Aplin
You might… no, let’s start again, you definitely have heard Gabrielle Aplin. The John Lewis ad-featured The Power Of Love gave the Wiltshire songwriter a 2012 number one single. With her debut LP English Rain out just before May Day you’d be an April fool to bet against 2013 giving her a number one album too.

Cheatahs
We’ve been championing the virtues of this multi-national, London-based shoegrunge four-piece for almost as long as it’s been since flannel shirts were in fashion. Their music is not unlike squashing your head in-between Loveless and Nevermind; in short, Cheatahs are an alternative rock fan’s dream.

Rainy Milo
Following Frank Ocean’s sublime debut album Orange, R&B has begun to wrestle back a bit of credibility after years spent sitting in the middle of the road. Rainy Milo continues the fight, with songs as smooth as Milk Tray and a voice that sounds like a smokey, sincere Lily Allen.

The Weeknd
And while we’re on a credible R&B/neo-soul tip let’s not forget about The Weeknd. 22-year-old Abel Tesfaye, also featured in the BBC’s Sound Of 2013, comes on like a young Marvin Gaye given the 21st century pop sensibilities of Cee-Lo Green.

Swim Deep
If you like your shoegaze shot through with the spirit of Echo & The Bunnymen and The Cure then these guys are definitely for you. Swim Deep have all the requisite elements present to be the band of 2013. They write songs with brilliant pop sensibility, while remaining achingly cool.

Jessica Pratt
Here’s one for those among us who’ve been crying out for the next Joni Mitchell, Carol King or Sandy Denny. Pratt’s songs seem not so much written but, rather, carved from the wood of folk’s celestial forest.

King Krule
The expectation building up around this London 18-year-old is quite phenomenal, with the silent mountain of hype at near Olympus Mons levels. What’s more phenomenal is that it’s all entirely merited! King Krule takes the inspiration for his name from the video game Donkey Kong Country. Musically he comes across like a warmer, less sombre version of The XX, driven by the energy of The Clash and shot through with the delivery of a generation’s hero in the making.

Little Green Cars
Ever wondered what Mumford & Sons might sound like with their guitars given a crisp blanket of distortion? Well, wonder no more. Though there might not be quite the breadth in their harmonisation; the vocals soar in a way that’s touchingly emotive and augments Little Green Cars’ excellent folk-rock songs.

Stealing Sheep
One of our own christened these three Liverpudlian ladies ‘the credible Sugababes’. It’s a description which, though perhaps eyebrow-raising at first, pays homage to the trio’s ability to write indie-pop songs that are both extremely catchy and a little bit sinister.

Nina Nesbitt
We saw Nina Nesbitt in a performance that not just took the house down, but made apparent the level of devotion showed to the songwriter by her ‘Nesbians’. Jake Bugg became a star towards the end of 2012; Nina Nesbitt has the foundations in place for a similar level of celebrity.

Aaron Espe
Following on from having his song Through Frozen Forests feature in a Sainsburys commercial last year, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more of Espe’s delicate, affecting indie-folk. He may have been around a little longer than some on this list but 2013 could just be his year.

Marika Hackman
“What, yet another earnest, winsome young woman with an acoustic guitar?” we hear you cry. Yes, absolutely yes. Bristol’s Marika Hackman writes songs that couple sweet and poignant melodies with morose lyrics. Married with her haunting voice, Hackman’s music is not easy listening but it’s utterly addictive.

MS MR
Described as a mixture of Lana Del Ray and Florence & The Machine. MS MR’s music is all frosty atmospherics and moody synths, with an 80s vibe that recalls Cocteau Twins. They also write songs that have a remarkable knack of ingraining themselves into your mind.

Lauren Aquilina
Towards the end of 2012, Aquilina was Ellie Goulding’s ‘One To Watch’ and saw her song Fools played by Radio 1’s Jen Long, as part of her ‘best new music of 2012’. Strong words from influential figures, but Aquilina’s songs – think Nina Nesbitt with a piano – merit these high expectations.

Lewis Watson
It’s not just any artist who sees their debut release top the iTunes singer-songwriter chart and out-sell Adele, Madonna and Ed Sheeran. With an album due out in 2013, Watson’s heart wrenching yet stoic indie-folk, which recalls the aforementioned Sheeran, could be set to top yet more charts.

Tom Odell
This singer-songwriter from Chichester has already been hotly-tipped by the BBC and won the Brits Critics’ Choice award… as you probably know. But we’re not bandwagon-jumping here: Andy Burrows had already told us about “…a kid I’ve been writing with called Tom Odell” when we interviewed him back in July. “He’s a great talent” he said, and, when we’d heard the raw piano-led beauty of Another Love and watched his flawless performance on Later with Jools Holland, we had to agree.

Haim
Three talented sisters from LA who are taking the world by storm with punchy imaginative songs and skilled musicianship, rather than short dresses and dance routines. It’s clear they’re obsessed with vintage rock and, with a nod in the direction of Fleetwood Mac and The Police, Haim show the energy, creativity and ambition to go a long way.

The 1975
Not the newest act here, but we’ll bet that most haven’t stumbled across this Manchester four-piece until very recently. BBC R1 made their single Chocolate their ‘Hottest Track In The World’ and we’re betting there’s more guitar-pop dynamite up their sleeves for the debut LP.

Ryan Keen
2012 proved a positive step into the fringes of the limelight for this singer-songwriter. From supporting Ed Sheeran to putting out the anthemic ballad Focus with a cute video by the animators of Rastamouse, Ryan’s on the right path to success this year.

Well that’s it folks: our 20 for 2013. There were, of course, other artists we have great affection for that just didn’t quite make it into the top 20. So honourable mentions go to…

Glass Animals, who are not unlike a more sinister version of Alt-J.
Savages, with their post-punk par excellence.
Florrie, whose brilliant ’80s inspired synth-pop is catchy enough to be the musical backdrop for the adverts she models in.
Mikky Echo, who’s just featured on Rihanna’s song Stay
Adam Barnes, a songwriter of supreme emotive qualities.
, whose silky electro has enough pop sensibility to creep into the mainstream.

So, let’s regroup in a year’s time, and either you can laugh at us for getting this list entirely wrong… or we can smile smugly, secure in the knowledge that each of the 20 artists above has now gone stratospheric. Only time will tell!

Words: Damien Girling

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