By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.
On the 11th March 2018, something short of ground-breaking was announced on the social media outlets of one of the world’s most renowned progressive metal groups. Tool had entered the studio to record what has become their now fabled follow-up to 2006’s 10,000 Days. While this news has become a revelation and an answer to many a collective prayer (or keyboard warrior whinging, depending on how you view it), Maynard himself put on record at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods ceremony that the new Tool album will most likely see the light of day in 2019. Affirmation is one thing, and commitment another, and while 2019 is just around the corner, chances are that will be the absolute bare minimum Tool’s global cult following will have to wait for a new sonic masterpiece. One more year after the twelve of relentless internet hyperbole and immeasurable anticipation that proceeded it, is surely doable, right?
Instead of preparing for what may end up becoming a mass exodus from the workplace on the day that album is released, and following the unexpected success of this article’s predecessor, The Soundshark has put together ten more bands from the underground, worthy of your time, until the musical gap has been bridged by the band themselves. To touch upon briefly from previous feedback, you won’t find Karnivool on this list, or any other list on this site themed similarly, as while not entirely known around the planet at present, they’ve had large enough worldwide success to be able to tour anywhere they see fit, which surely evolves beyond underground status.
Semantics aside, let’s begin:
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?
I’ve often looked at band names and wondering if there is a market for bands whose names are questions. In a romantic sense, a fictional band in my favourite film ever is called Where’s Fluffy? A band I wish existed due to how obsessed I actually am with that film, so I could find out how awesome their music is/was. They wrote a song called Black Carnage. Do the math. On the other hand, and on a point I may expand upon at a later date, when you name your band something along the lines of Sarah Where Is My Tea or Did You Mean Australia?… yeah, those bands have broken up now. One of my favourite bands ever are Does It Offend You, Yeah?, responsible for one of my favourite albums ever, but sadly they too will be calling it a day this year. Maybe it’s just the irony of having their band name as a question that gets far too much for them. Pure speculation there. So just who exactly is Who Is Louis? And can people count on them to break this unfortunate curse? The answer seems more positive. Who Is Louis are a Danish electronic-pop troupe with a delicately sassy female vocalist and an ear for hypnotic rhythms and chilling, euphoric atmosphere. Singles of theirs currently float around on the internet if you go in pursuit of them, but they’re looking to the immediate future and to the imminent release of their debut album, which has seen more than its fair share of adversity to reach the surface. They have every right to be excited for the future. First single Fancy Me is a shape-shifting head phase of a track, skilfully blending pseudo-EDM hooks with the cool breeze of mellowed guitar ambience. I’m not intentionally writing a drinks commercial here, but it is like asking for a refreshing cocktail and piling on the ice. Synth with an analogue touch, backs the echoes of a femme fatale in the making, all paced by the gentle plucking of bass underneath to lead the track in. Icy, reverb-soaked synth stabs later replace the moderately warmer pads, like ghosts leaving the body of their hosts and give an air of tension and build-up to proceedings. The drums certainly imply as such too. But what happens as you expect the first club hit of 2016 to drop in, is something far more breathtaking. A wave of guitar brushes past, while its synth counterpart elevates the mood to being within a distant but fond, happy memory. Wandering through a realm of the serene if it were. It certainly livens up the track, as synths become far more grander and confident in their presentation in what follows and drums get rowdier, but just enough without becoming overpowering. Vocals are given more freedom and the stabs from before are allowed back into the mix as an extra hook into the skin, to ensure you don’t forget this track in a hurry. It all culminates in a luscious, surprisingly complex and layered, atmospheric pop showcase that displays the talent of three hungry and compelling musicians. So just who are Who Is Louis? A name you need to be paying attention to. The potential for a tantalising world woven together with an inventive twist on electronic pop music is only moments away.
Who Is Louis’ debut album is expected to be released sometime in January/February 2016, with Fancy Me being officially available at the end of this month. In the mean time, occupy yourself with their Alive EP which can be found on most respectable music retailers. It’s full of good music.
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It’s very rare that band names completely nail the sound of the music they make. After all, one of the best practices is to make a band name that entices a potential audience in, but still reflect in some respect the vision of the sounds they make, that will last their lifespan. Some bands do it spectacularly, some bands do it to create a sense of mystery around them, some bands do it mostly to catch your attention, while others… simply don’t try. I’m not going to go into semantics here, as there are plenty of cases for all of these camps, some which may form the basis of an article for the future even, but for now we turn our attention to the antics of Danish synthpop outfit Ice Cream Cathedral and what lurks beneath their exciting moniker. You can picture it. A pristine monument of textures and swirls, chilled and tranquil yet with a grandiose presence that takes your breath away. While this is merely a fantasy, the reality is none too different. Formed in Copenhagen in 2011, the dream state of luscious, sweet but not saccharine pop movements has taken hold of those willing to succumb to the sheer beauty of this music created. Part of the charm lies in the timelessness of the instrumentation, the satisfying plonks, clicks, warm throbs and bass from analogue synthesisers, married with a simple but quietened drums and a soulful 60’s vocal delivery, all unite to form an abstract, space-travelling gem from yesteryear, yet taken from five minutes in the past. Amber Sail, taken from 2013’s The Drowsy Kingdom, taps into this golden formula, a sunshine glazed stroll of jaunty but bright keyboards and smoky ambience, with the echoes of female dulcet tones front and center, guiding a settling path through the near five minute journey. A moment of time is given to showcase each layer of synthesiser and programming, building up a carousel of colours, revolving before your very eyes before letting the vocals take reign once more. The marvel of the ice cream cathedral visual has taken a change recently as most recent album Sudden Anatomy from last year is a darker, icier endeavour, but The Drowsy Kingdom is undeniably the dawn to Sudden Anatomy’s dusk. The points still stands however, that this collective from Denmark are crystallising a blissful realm of pop music, and adorning it into a spectacle that remains cold to the touch, but utterly delicious to consume.
The back catalogue of Ice Cream Cathedral remains torn between their own Bandcamp page and Riot Factory Records’ Bandcamp page, all you should know is if you enjoyed this, it’s all available for a very reasonable fee.