Talking Pop: NME Ones to Watch 2014

Sod all the other polls and tip sheets out in January – if you want something to pore over and actually get you excited about music in 2014, then read this.

So here we go again then. The wonderful english music tabloid NME has once again found the ones to watch for the new year. Here’s our take on the bands they think will make it big. Are they worth it? Should you care? Is there anything in there that’s exciting at all?

Chance The Rapper
Yes, he did release a much talked about mixtape last year. It’s good, it’s smoothe and has a nice vibe. Obvious choice though NME. Even the Sun or whatever could have picked that one up!

Courtney Barnett
Psychedelic intro, phasing guitar feedback and some weirdness. Add rather bored vocals and a amateurish strummed electric guitar and you’ve got a great band – not. This is mediocre music for hipsters who think hooks are too pop. Wasn’t this kind of music already outdated when punk came along? Skinny jeans and soja-latte drinkers will probably approve though.

Ok, so why is this so good NME? Is it because of the police siren that’s been buried in the mix? Or because of the hushed vocals? I mean, come on, there’s literally thousands of songs like that out there today. Why Jungle?

Fat White Family
By now, you must already be joking there. A band sounding like a slow-motion version of the Cramps? What the FUCK NME? You told me this list was better than any other, yet only four songs in you’ve given me nothing! What are you smoking??? This song is ridiculously long when you consider it only consists of one riff repeated over and over again for 5 minutes. Then there is a twist at the end. Is that the reason you picked them? Adding a second song after a first without any reason or connection? If this is art, then you should listen to the demos I recorded when I was 15! I dare to say, they were more interesting and energetic than whatever this is. Oh wait, there’s a third part to the song – and it’s all acoustic and quiet and mumbled…

Great, some more stoned female vocals and electronic production. Could they be the new XX? Or Caged Animals or polished Grimes or what was the band that got hyped that one week in March last year? Pointless. I know I was wrong when I ditched Chvrches last year, but if I’m wrong on this one, I should probably go and quit the music industry altogether. Because then I’m clueless.

Finally a catchy song that kicks me. I doubt they’ll get a prize for most innovative band in 2014, but maybe it’s going to be enough to actually have a hookline or two. This is found, reminds me of early Fratellies, Cribs or The Enemy. Good old English Indie then!

Well, hello there Danzig – oh sorry, wrong decade. But this might as well be them. Graveyard rock with a dark zombie voice. Nice guitar work and a garage production. Not a highlight, but something I won’t neglect straight away this year.

The song opens with nice roomey drums and a Cure-esque guitar line. But then the singer’s voice kicks in and I feel little dirty. This is good! As I’m a big fan of northern British accents, the singers Leeds slur does the rest to convince me. He’s angry and his words sound urgent. Brooklyn based Partisan Records seem to have picked them up. Count me in! This one has got something – well-played NME.

Let’s skip this one.

Public Access T.V.
If you were let down by the last Phoenix record, you might want to check this light-hearted indie pop out. Monaco is a song that’ll bring some much-needed sunlight to your wintery room. Bring on the summer, give them a chance. Maybe they can come up with hit or two and I’m thankful for tipping me off NME.

Twin Peaks Dudes
Sorry dudes, but Irene is not a hit single. It’s a badly produced demo. Too hollow, too airy, too irrelevant to remember.

Joanna Gruesome
Yes NME, I’m with you on this one for a change. This totally rocked my world in 2013 – one of those records that seem to be popping up on bandcamp. Swearin’ did it a bit better, but this could be the next in line of 1990s inspired US indie bands. If you like fuzzed out powerpop than this should be your pick. In contrast to Twin Peaks Dudes I don’t mind the rough production, I only miss the crackling of my record player. Top song, top band!

Wolf Alice
I had heard this before and while I’m always a big fan of screaming guitars and a noisy production, I’m not too sure about this one. The lick in the “chorus” is hinting at some post-punk, the female voice is nice, but why is that other guy whispering like a Mark Lanegan imposter? As I said, could turn out decent, could turn out mediocre.

Yeah, some post-punk… I like the song though. Catchy vocals, and the production reminds me of Division of Laura Lee. I’d give the album a chance!

The Orwells
Hmm… I think I get it. According to the NME 60s-garage rock is en vogue again. Cool. After that very exciting (not!) record from Palma Violets or Savages there’s got to be another one of those bands making it in 2014, right? Sorry Orwells, but I’m getting bored – not entirely your fault. Your song is decent.

Royal Blood
A heavy rocker this. I think these are tipped to be the heavy version of the Black Keys, right? I came across their video recently. They could work for me, though they seem a little polished and I doubt they’ll have a big commercial impact. But who gives a fuck about that right?

Perfect Pussy
If you’ve been following our blog, you should already be aware of this noise monster! I fell for them within the first 10 seconds of their EP. If they are to release a full length or a follow-up EP in the vein of their debut, I’m all ears. Raw, angry and very good with words!

Tobias Jesso Jr
When I lived in Liverpool, I found myself drowning in Beatles impersonators, memorabilia and references. But this guy sounds like a Beatle. Lennon piano and McCartney voice, or something. A little detuned and not very original – does anybody still want original? Let us just wait for more.

Vic Mensa
A Chicago rapper. Definitely not one delving into old-school samples and scratches. His beats don’t seem as complex as Kendrick’s or A$ap’s but more like the dreamy stuff Childish Gambino did. Mellow tunes for flaking out on a lazy sunday.

And we’re back to some twangy, garage indie sound. This time a little more jolly, with a high-pitched voice and a post grunge vibe at the end.

This is going to be a big blog thing this year. I’m pretty sure about that. As sure as that belly-tops are coming back this year. Oh and tote bags are being replaced by these leather satchels you only know from the black and white photographs your grandparents still keep from when they went to school. Musically, this is post-R’n’B. Pretty electronic and dreamy, but it’ll get a lot of people excited for a few minutes.

Danish version of the above – just less dreamy and dark but leaning to the sunny vibes in life. Is it a surprise that Banks has signed with Universal, while Mø (say “Mu”) signed with Sony? I thought not.

Speedy Ortiz
Yes, by now, we got it. Really NME, we got it. 2014 will be the year that bands with trashy productions will break the underground surface and sprawl all across the mainstream. Speedy Ortiz sound like a female-fronted version of Pavement. And the production sounds like it was actually produced in the 1990s. But seriously, do you believe that this will be everywhere NME???

Oh, rap! Cool. Ratking sound like a mixture of British rap (especially the broken beats) and Eminem’s early stuff. At least this wasn’t another twangy garage twee pop outfit.

Chlöe Howl
I admit it, I’m in love with this girl. She made almost every shortlist for 2014 and I hope she’ll succeed. It’s obviously a pop singer but she’s quirky enough the set herself apart from the US stars (Perry, Beyoncé, Miley etc) and the UK ones (Adele, Lilly Allen etc.). Funny enough, I get a little excited every time she puts out something new. Call me a fan already.

A pretty decent track from indie-pop outfit Fryars. Not sure where they are going really, but this could either be some Passion Pit single hit band, or a mediocre act drowning in too much pomp and glitter.

All We Are
Booooring. Or wait. Na, this is boring Bee-Gees vocals sung over deep bass lines and some synth.

Yeah, the NME needed someone to replace Tribes, after they disbanded. Darlia are filling the void.

Gang of Youths
Nice indie. Won’t hurt anybody but it doesn’t get me excited. Good voice though!

The Amazing Snakeheads
Drums, bass, crackling Scottish vocals, guys, you have my attention now. It’s quite a dirty punk vibe the band is playing at. The fact they are signed to Domino Records is always a decent indication. Looking forward to hearing more from them.

This reminds me of these old punk compilations I used to listen to, when I was a teenager. There was always that one track on there that sounded a bit odd. Communions are the kind of band that would have sounded odd or surprising. But not in a bad way. I could like that!

Black Gold Buffalo
Well, are they supposed to be the new XX (yes, again). A little more groovy maybe and less minimalistic. Not total crap (as some other stuff in that playlist) to be fair.

The intro sounds like Imogen Heap, then the song drifts off into some feel-good vibe. The voice is comforting and sends you dreaming. I guess the success will depend on the producers though and quite frankly I’m not a big fan of that.

Another example of the current wave of Post-R’n’B that is brewing in the UK. I much prefer this to the Timbaland overdose we all received a couple of years back. We know it’s going to get bigger and bigger. Thanks for reminding us (again!) NME.

I don’t even know what to say to this one. Where does this come from? Why is it here? And since when are synthesized flutes en vogue again? The high-pitched chorus is so 80s, it will get people drooling in their own saliva. Unfortunately I wasn’t born to like the 3rd coming of a re-re-revival. So when will people finally ditch keyboards again and switch to some good distortion? Not that this list includes enough bands, but I hope this sound is over and done with soon!

The Preatures
I was at a gig recently with some colleagues from work and the DJ played this song between two bands. It worked so well in that moment, that we asked the DJ who it was. This isn’t the most inventive stuff but gets my feet moving. A good mixture of (CD-)Haim and the Alabama Shakes soul.

John Wizards
A 50s version of Vampire Weekend or something along those lines.

He’s going to be massive in the blogosphere this year. Promise you that. Similar to Banks. I’m looking forward to his album, even though it’s not really the style of music you’d expect on here. Piano and Soul paired with contemporary production. His first few songs have already been great. May the music live up to his hype!

The Magic Gang
Yeah, this sounds like Surfer Blood or something. To be honest, by now this playlist has made me really tired. I don’t think I’m able to process this list another time now. Just too much going on here.

So this concludes the “unmissable” list – as you might have noticed by now (assuming you’ve made it this far), there are more misses than hits. Thank god there are alternatives to the NME. I don’t want to say I hate it, but this year’s list hasn’t been much of a surprise or eye-opener for me. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that music this year will be more diverse and surprising than this list. Then again, I’m sure it will be!


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