It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?
Once a sharp-tongued duo playing garage punk originals, in the vein of Brody Dalle starting The Distillers in the 1960’s, The Regrettes have since doubled in size after conquering LA’s club scene and released their debut album in January, with the intention of taking their unapologetically honest punk exposé to the masses. The craziest part is most of them are still in their teens. A wealth of unshakable melodies, inescapable energy and refreshingly frank songwriting from the voice of youth, in this postmodern cage of society, awaits listeners that are willing to tune into this spectacularly talented foursome. Some Regrettes are really better than no Regrettes in this instance.
The second wave of psychedelia may be dialling down from its peak a year or so ago, but there are still many hungry, gifted outfits springing up on the radar and London duo Black Doldrums is no exception. Having already filtered into the market Stateside, the release of their debut album is sure to make their grittier wave of hazy guitar-fuelled ambience and entrancing drum performances resonate with a far wider audience. Though psychedelic music’s typical sloshes of colour have been desaturated with a moodier greyscale palette, the same lengthy, swirling passages of sound and noise with sparse vocals that echo into the heavens, remain as inspiring as they did 50 years previous.
Word has already spread like wildfire on the UK punk scene of these four ladies, following an acclaimed slot at Rebellion Festival and being hand selected to play the 40th anniversary of punk at London’s historic Roundhouse, as one of its brightest new hopes. The care-free, do-it-yourself aesthetic remains firmly in tact, with a marriage of the Sex Pistols and Bad Religion serving as the backbone of their fist-pumping, rapid-fire anthems. Their energy is truly infectious and their attitude and work ethic is matched by their charm and wit in the songwriting department, but all parts together, they are amongst the most exciting prospects set to ignite this year.
After three years of slugging it out on the road, Bad Sign’s fearsome live reputation has paid dividends, landing them a record deal with the esteemed Basick Records and airplay support from luminaries such as Radio 1’s Daniel P. Carter. Their emphasis on beating out monstrous riffs while expressing tribulations of the soul, not only makes their music a pulse-raising experience, but a personal one also. Arguably the UK’s answer to Deftones, Bad Sign’s foray into emotionally charged heavy music has quaked the structures of many a venue and floored thousands in attendance, and with their debut album mere weeks away, that ground-shattering performance will inevitably reach greater heights.
The much-fabled fifth album from the Australian songstress, Bitchcraft, still sits tentatively in a 2017 release bracket, while her reputation as one of the most fearless and experimental women in modern pop music continues to proceed her. Recent flavours to emerge from her craft indicate a shift towards a shadow-kissed soul showcase, with touches of electronica filtering through and as always, her trademark sass and razor-sharp remarks sensually strolling from ear to ear. No matter what shape or form her recordings evolve into, Abbe May has proven over the course of a storied career and critical acclaim, that her vocal prowess, skill with six strings and an alchemist’s approach to songwriting, make for some of the most unmissable music found down under.
Randolph & Mortimer
While the great industrial revival’s epicentre is focused in Los Angeles, it is this trio from the industrial heartland of Sheffield who should deservedly kickstart it in the UK. Defiantly old school, from arpeggiated synths and timeless 808 beats against a political backdrop harking back to Thatcherite Britain (an irony almost in itself), Randolph & Mortimer present to you not only a entrancing realm of mechanical rhythms and infectious modular hooks, but a ferocious rallying cry to the disenfranchised. New material has been under way for some time, and with industrial circles fully aware of their presence on the scene, the spotlight seems destined for them very soon.
What could’ve been previously known as an Alcest side-project, took on new life upon Neige’s dismissal from Lantlôs, as its indescribably talented mastermind Markus Siegenhort grasped hold of the vocal reins for the first time in the band’s history. The resulting Melting Sun received glowing reviews and can be considered an absolutely transcendental listening experience. Pulling from the pools of shoegaze, black metal and post-rock to paint one of the most crushing yet ethereal atmospheres ever likely conceived, Lantlôs create music with a pure savage beauty; a rare beast in a genre so diverse and saturated. Simply put, you need to hear this band.
The Siren Tower
A lot can change in the space of five years, especially if you are part of the Australian indie ensemble The Siren Tower. Since 2012’s A History of Houses, multiple periods of scaling and downsizing have hit them, as well as a brief spell in the wilderness, but amongst modest touring schedules, they have always maintained stellar quality in their performance. In what could be described as if Springsteen fronted The Decemberists, this seasoned troupe’s output of powerful, folk-spirited anthems, beautifully and honestly told from all aspects of Australian culture is both inspirational and heartfelt, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find indie delivered with such ardor anywhere else.
In the simplest possible terms, Pryapisme may be the most schizophrenic and batshit band you’ll ever hear in your life. Or maybe that should be catshit, given their due obsession with the feline species. The most apt way to describe the carnage this French fivesome produce is to imagine progressive metal and your favourite 8-bit video games, in a particle accelerator, colliding with an innumerable amount of other genres, under the supervision of a caffeine-addled toddler. That is in no way a bad thing. Bonkers and chaotic their music may be, but utterly unique and brilliant all the same. No other band harnesses such creativity and anarchy so flawlessly.
If you ever could conceive that anyone would piece together an eye for the neo-classical composition, blackened cabaret and melodic death metal together, then Vulture Industries is most certainly for you. Both parts theatrical and grandiose, Norway’s meisters of melodrama generate a poetic landscape of baroque imagery, soaring vocals and stirring musical narrative unlike many you have ever encountered. With album number four wrapping up production, after a triumphant crowd-funding campaign, you can expect more magnificence from these extraordinary gentlemen to surface in the months to come, and a progressive carousel of dark delights to await the uninitiated.
Maryland’s Cavern sound as if Mastodon took their white-hot instrumental cavalcade and married Baroness’ sense of journey and deeply affective storytelling. The result is one of the most spectacularly talented, turbulent and exciting post-rock bands in recent years. The energy that erupts from these three gentlemen could cause a power surge and their knack for conjuring ambience with only a guitar, bass and drums, united in fellowship and fury, is sonically astounding. Work has been long underway on a follow-up to their wildly praised Outsiders, interspersed between regular live dates, but whatever emerges will no doubt be of a similar earth-shattering magnitude.
Take one incredibly dynamic vocalist and one drummer/engineer extraordinaire, and you create magic. Dubbed ‘future rock’ as to classify such a unique premise, Tiny Giant fronts an initial dream-pop facade, bursting with atmosphere and splendour, but can transform at will into a titanic post-rock juggernaut with chords impactful enough to level mountains. Imagine Goldfrapp fronting God Is An Astronaut, and you’re somewhere certainly close. After a foray of superb singles, a debut album is on the cards for 2017, and what promises to be a progressive pop tour de force from two innovative musicians at their creative peak.
Fatal FE (formerly Fail Emotions)
Fail Emotions had an ugly dismantling in the middle of 2016. However, not content with abandoning over half a decade’s worth of work, the principle songwriters, together with freshly inspired session musicians, furiously write and compose while revamping their past catalogue. Their signature combustible blend of trance, metalcore, tech metal, dubstep, drum and bass, and EDM still sounds as immaculate and ingenious with every passing listen, truly separating Fatal FE as an unrivaled entity in the cross-genre arms race. An album is deep in the pipeline from this reborn Russian outfit, and a chance at redemption and reaffirmation comes with it.
The Sun Explodes
Without doubt one of the most proficient and mind-bending progressive rock troupes in the UK today, The Sun Explodes have teased a third album for what seems an eternity, only for it be more imminent than first thought. The Carlisle natives could be name-checked to fill the void left by Fair To Midland, only with far less regard for time signatures. Their musicianship is nothing short of awe-inspiring and what music is produced evolves in such a manner, it becomes spiritually satisfying. Heavy yet stimulating, ever-shifting but never chaotic, gigantic and always impressive, these four gentlemen concoct a musical miasma so alluring it should be widespread.
First Signs of Frost
Nearly a decade or so ago, First Signs of Frost were around at the dawn of the post-hardcore and tech metal explosion, and with a killer debut in the form of Atlantic, they should have been catapulted to super-stardom. Somehow, that never happened. Former vocalist Dan Tompkins went on to front TesseracT and briefly Skyharbor, and the band quietly drifted into other projects, leaving fans in limbo. Now, with studio updates becoming more and more frequent and with a new vocalist in tow, the band are set to channel their unforgettable, slamming grooves and delectable melodies into a brand new EP, for a release real soon.
Little is known about the mysterious tech metal supergroup under the moniker Sleep Token. A sole interview suggests they are UK-based and live to serve a masked prophet by the name of Sleep, and their music is His gospel. Focusing more on the artform than the identity, Sleep Token drags a tried and tested formula into the ether, twisting it into an unrecognisable new form and letting the curious marvel at the creation. Using tech metal as a label is very loose, playing counterpart to more prominent soul/RnB influences and vast ambience, in the most foreboding demeanour possible. Such a tantalising prospect should cement Sleep Token as (pun unintended) the sleeper success story of 2017.
Ice Cream Cathedral
Since the turn of the new millennium, Scandinavia has had a penchant for exporting utterly compelling electronic, indie, and pop music and Denmark’s Ice Cream Cathedral is no exception. Their gentle but gradual evolution of their sound has seen sweetly serene vocals glide across their luscious space-pop daydream, only for the daydream to transition into a darker, colder and ultimately more organic-sounding one as their careers progress. Though a third album presumably lingers in the distance, their recent slew of singles waltz with guitar feedback, greater string arrangements and even some trip-hop bravado, while maintaining the ambient flourish that makes them so revered.
When being a band for a little over eighteen years, one could wonder… are people still interested in our music? Freezepop’s Kickstarter campaign for album number five erased any and all expectations, showing a clear love and adoration worldwide still for the electronica enthusiasts. Despite a rabid cult following and a rich history of video game appearances, they’ve always been commendable as a musical force, on and off the stage. From their impeccably produced synth hooks, infectious choruses and timeless homage to the 80’s sound, with an unashamed geek chic, Freezepop are one of the quintessential electro-pop acts of recent times and the epitome of how fun music should be.
Diablo Swing Orchestra
Little backstory: around 500 years ago, Sweden was home to an orchestra so mighty and prestigious, the church sought to destroy them, because they believed their work was an act of the Devil. The Devil’s Orchestra stuck and after a grand finale, the orchestra dissolved, forming a pact that their descendants would one day continue their work. If a 500 year old orchestra sounds like lunacy, then a modern day metal jazz orchestra is institution-worthy. Self-declared as ‘riot-opera’ by one of its co-founders, the combination of metal, jazz and classical styles of musicians unbelievably make for one of the most aurally palatable assaults on planet Earth.
Bridgend-born multi-instrumentalist Jayce Lewis, also the face of Protafield, is an incredibly busy man. He produces documentaries, built a brand new studio on the ruins of an old monastery himself, and been behind the desk for Burton C. Bell, and multiple world class musicians. And he still has time to make a brand new solo album. Finely blurring the lines between electronica and industrial rock, his punchy beats, thumping riffs and warped synths, with a very human resonance, have a dangerously addictive sensibility and etch the hallmarks of this indescribably talented individual deep into your subconscious.
And that’s your list. If you have enjoyed any or all of the artists found here, then please do support them on their social media and by buying their music, the wonders that money can do for an artist often goes beyond words. Their music can be found on most respectable music retailers. You know where you like to shop.
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(Sorry for being away so long. Life has a funny habit of meandering.)