The artists to watch in 2015...
Thanks to Nicki Minajs undeniable reign, female rappers arent a new thing. In 2014 we had Angel Haze, Azealia Banks, Tink, Little Simz and plenty more show that they can rap just as fiercely as the boys. Dej Loaf isnt an aggressive rapper. Shes a finessed rapper. One that trades in ferocity for subtlety, carefully weaving her raps around delectable melodies in the way that Drake does when he trades rapping for singing. She too, flicks between rapping and singing meaning that even her harder tracks have a warmth to them. Try Me peaked within the top 50 in America after Drake quotes its lyrics in an Instagram post. It takes more than that though, to get audiences to fork out money for a song. The songs got to have personality. And Dej Loafs songs have plenty of that.
The PC Music Soundcloud label was a revelation in 2014. It sounded like the future but it also reeked of 90s nostalgia, like Siri meeting Sega. One of the artists on that Soundcloud that churned out consistently brilliant material was Hannah Diamond. Best described as a digital popstar, she is the best one to carry the PC Music movement further. While tracks like Attachment and Pink and Blue were a little polarising (for those not already enamoured by PC Music), Every Night, dropped in the dying months of 2014, has the appeal of a bonafide pop smash. Just like Hey QT, it takes the foundations of a pop song (sugary verse, big, bass-heavy chorus) and runs it through the PC Music filter. Shes confusing, enticing and addictive. All of which lead to one action: repeat.
Theres one Like A Version that stands out firmly in our minds this year and thats Peking Duks. Not because of Peking Duk themselves but because of their feature artist JOY. The 17 year-old from Brisbane who steadily grew her profile in 2014, stole the spotlight with her vocals on a cover of Kylie Minogues, Cant Get You Out Of My Head. Like Kylie, JOY. doesnt have a big voice, but she has a great one. Its smokey and ethereal, best delivered atop shimmering electronic beats. Her solo work is just as impressive. Stone, is a brooding, after-dark number with brass stylings while her cover of Drakes Marvins Room is haunting. With the right producers around her, JOY. could churn out some of the best material to come out of Australia in 2015.
We are severely craving a new record by Grimes, but we may now have somebody capable of delivering something just as good. KU?KA is the moniker of Laura Jane Lowther from Perth whos making, haunting, after-dark tunes built on interesting electronic landscapes. She has a bit of Bjork running through her veins, meaning she treads a careful line between heavenly and hellish. She just keeps getting better and her latest track, Divinity, is her most accessible yet. Its a twinkling pop song that allows us to hear the different textures in her voice as she weaves her way through a slinky melody. Its hard to remember the last time we had a female artist in Australia with the potential to be as captivating as KU?KA could be.
It seems for the moment, that electronica in 2015 will continue to head down the path of kitsch and kawaii, but one producer that defies that is Seattle producer, Lucas. Lucas has the stamp of approval from Ryan Hemsworth and has littered 2014 with atmospheric, dark electronic songs that have captured the spirit of lo-fi indie rock. His remix of Hemsworths, One For Me is one of the most heartbreaking things we heard all year and his contribution to Secret Songs, Keep U Warm struck us with its effortless warmth. Amongst all those saccharine tracks, we may just need some melancholy to bring us back down to earth. Lucas is the man for that job.
Really how long till the world realise/ Yes, Yes, Im the best fuck what you heard, Shamir declares on his debut single for XL Records, On The Regular. It was a latecomer for the best single of 2014- an unexpected, pop manifesto which introduced him to the music world with the same youthful energy as Azealia Banks in 2014. In 2014, this Las-Vegas artist released his disco-tinged EP, Northtown, and then followed it with On The Regular which wouldve sounded completely out of place on the EP. Whats so exciting about Shamir in 2015? We have no idea what road hes going to take, but hes nailed so many genres at this point it doesnt really matter. Well see how long it takes until the world realises hes the best fuck, but we suspect it may take less time for them to see him as the greatest thing to grace pop in 2015.
We heard a lot of wispy female artists in 2014 and quite frankly weve grown a little bit sick of it. So many of them slip into the mundane, without any emotional commitment. London songstress, Shura, is an artist who does none of the aforementioned. In 2014, she dropped three perfect, dimly-lit pop songs (Touch, Just Once, Indecision) and made us fall in love with her careful melodies and finessed lyrics. Her first single, Touch, remains her greatest asset at this point. Theres a love between us still but somethings change and I dont know why, she sings with the intimacy of two naked bodies standing side by side. Her latest single, Indecision, proves she can bring a bit of nouveau-disco funk to the table, making us even more excited for an album which will probably break our hearts.
It seems that the traditional singer/songwriter is back in vogue, if the success of Hozier and George Ezra is anything to go by. Tobias Jesso Jr. is a far more subtle, nuanced songwriter than the aforementioned with the voice of John Lennon. Theres nothing tricky about Tobias Jesso Jr. When youve nailed the melody and have the vocal chops to deliver, sometimes all you need to do is sit at the piano and churn it out. It worked for Lana Del Reys Video Games and for Bat For Lashes Laura. His greatest opus, Hollywood, matches the strength of those two songs. For six minutes he sits at a lonely piano, lamenting about whether showbizz is worth it: I dont know if Ill make it/ and I dont know If I should. His debut album, Goon, is out in March and were expecting it to be timeless.
Californian rapper Vince Staples has been releasing tracks since 2012, but 2014 felt like the first year he truly made an impact. The 21 year-old released his EP, Hell Can Wait, which was a vicious display of industrial beats and a relentless flow. Blue Suede sounds like an alarm piercing at the ears, yet somehow manages to draw you in with a simple hook and aggressive verses. Staples is the kind of rapper who will release an album like Kendrick Lamars Good Kid Maad City, rather than play a feature rapper to popstars. Theres only one guest spot on the EP and thats because hes a rapper with enough skill and charisma to hold the show himself.
This British three-piece chipped away at the music scene, track-by-track in 2014. While there was some brilliant material, none of it really tore apart the charts in the way that it should (their single, Desire, deserved far more attention). Thats not to say Years & Years are a band that have been manicured by labels for a hit. This is a band that will reach the top of the charts purely on the strength of their tracks. Their latest single, King, seems to be the one poised to do that. Their perfect amalgamation of soul, pop and dance genres makes them susceptible to a number of different audiences- the type of band we could see playing Laneway Festival the same day they were interviewed by Kyle and Jackie O.