Monday, 20 January 2014
Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to The Ephemeric. Over the next few weeks we will be rolling out The Hot List, the essential guide to your year ahead. This week we begin with a look at the most exciting new music set to hit the airwaves in 2014.
2013 was by all accounts a blockbuster year for music; heavily dominated by established megastars like David Bowie, Daft Punk and Arcade Fire, but arguably lacking when it came to new artists and debut albums. 2014 looks set to be the exact opposite, with some of the most exciting acts coming from newcomers and unknowns.
It's going to be an exciting year for music, so without further ado here is the top ten list of albums to keep an eye on in the coming year, starting with number 10:
10. Brandon Flowers
The Killers may have cemented their position as one of pop music's megastar bands, but when frontman Brandon Flowers decided to bud off into solo work his debut album Flamingo was met with lukewarm reception.
With his notoriously off-the-wall creative stylings free from the shackles of his fellow band mates the result was as variable as one would expect. Some songs were a hit, like Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts and lead single Crossfire, while others smacked of pretention and over-the-top production, case and point: Only the Young.
Mid way through last year Flowers announced his intention to release an as yet untitled sophomore album in 2014. If the promising new tracks on last year's Killers greatest hits compilation are anything to go by then it's certainly one to watch out for. The good news is even if the album is no better than his first, that means it will still have at least one or two great songs on it.
Release Date: TBA 2014
9. Luke Sital-Singh (New band)
This one has been coming for a long time. Luke Sital-Singh first came to our attention in 2012 with his much acclaimed EP Fail For You. Since then the music world has been licking its lips at the prospect of a full album. Many expected it to come in 2013 but no album materialised, just a smattering of new singles.
His music has been described as "soulful", "intoxicating" and "a breath of fresh air in the folk music scene". This high praise that has attained him an unusual level of recognition despite never having released a full LP.
With the long awaited debut album now due in Spring 2014, and with his recently being featured on BBC's Sound of 2014 poll, big things are expected for this young man in the coming twelve months.
Release Date: Spring 2014
8. "Innocence" by Electric Youth (New band)
If this Swedish pop band sounds familiar on first listen that's because you've probably heard them before without realising. Electric Youth collaborated with College on 2011 hit A Real Hero, which was notably featured on the movie Drive and achieved a fair amount of widespread success.
Now the band has signed on with record label Last Gang Records and are prepping a debut LP for release sometime in 2014.
So far only one song has been revealed from the upcoming album Innocence, and it's clear the band intends to maintain their dreamy, 1980s-tinged image going forward. It's also quite a beautiful track, sounding a lot like A Real Hero except better because it has actual music in the background. Definitely a hot property to watch out for in 2014.
Release Date: Spring 2014
7. Girl Talk
The art of the mash-up, creating new songs by piecing bits of old ones together, is hardly a new idea. But few have taken the idea to such an extreme, and such mainstream success, as Girl Talk.
Girl Talk in particular is known for his blending of genres, a rap vocal track with a 1960s pop guitar riff for example, and in particular for his schizophrenic style of production, jumping between different sections of music every few seconds in a way that renders his albums less a collection of different songs than one long single mix.
It's a unique style that hit its peak with 2008's Feed the Animals, a mash-up of such singular quality and perfectly honed production that it simply flows and holds up better than anything else in the genre. Now a new album is due in 2014, but as his most recent album All Day shows it will be difficult to top Feed the Animals.
Rumours suggest this album could see quite a drastic departure for the artist, including potentially writing original songs rather than simply taping bits of existing ones together. Only time will tell if it works.
Release Date: TBA 2014
6. The Avalanches
We're hesitant to even put this one on the list as there have been so many false starts before. A second album has been rumoured ever since the band's critically acclaimed debut fourteen years ago, and its continual delays, allegedly due to copyright issues, have earned it an almost mythical status.
Also a mash-up artist of sorts; but whereas Girl Talk staple bits of songs together in a fairly Frankenstein manner (brilliant though it may be), The Avalances are more like Daft Punk, using samples from existing songs as the basis for wholly original compositions. On their first album they used this to stunningly unique effect with classic tracks like Since I Left You, Frontier Psychiatrist and Electricity. It's no wonder anticipation is so high.
Recently there has been a lot of whispering that this sophomore LP may finally be close to a release. A short demo was released in 2012, followed by numerous collaborators indicating that they have contributed towards new tracks, including rapper Danny Brown and psychedelic pop group Ariel Pink. One journalist even went so far as to suggest that a February 2014 release was on the cards. However the radio silence that has permeated since then leads us to doubt this claim, but nevertheless it does seem that we may be getting closer.
This time last year The Ephemeric made a much derided, audacious claim that a Daft Punk return was on the cards and it came true. This year The Ephemeric is making the same prediction for The Avalanches.
Release Date: TBA 2014
5. RAC (New band)
Once upon a time there was a loose affiliation of DJs and musicians referred to as the Remix Artist Collective or RAC for short. These days that title refers to the solo work of a single man, André Anjos.
RAC has become one of the industry's pre-eminent remix artists, transforming over two hundred songs that vary from chart topping hits to more obscure singles into a final product that's almost always an improvement on the original, often in ways that surprise and delight. Such is RAC's prolificacy that the chances are you've heard some of their work at some point.
Dreamy acoustic track Sleeping Lessons by The Shins converted into a soaring pop gem; Dirgy Theophilus London rap track Why Even Try? transformed into something delicate and playful; and Au Revoir Simeone's introverted pop stylings of Sad Song turned into something with drive and passion. RAC has the knack of focusing the most evocative elements of any song, while adding his own unique twist.
More recently RAC has begun to focus on completely original tracks, often with prominent collaborators, and so far this work has been excellent. Let Go featuring MNDR and Kele of Bloc Party fame is just an instant hit, while Tourist, featuring Tokyo Police Club has made an early claim for favourite song of 2014 so far. The album is due to be released by the middle of this year, and it sounds pretty wonderful.
Release Date: Summer 2014
4. Say Lou Lou (New band)
It seems every year there's some new Scandinavian band threatening to take the pop music world by storm, but Say Lou Lou is not just your average by-the-numbers affair.
The duo's shimmering dream-pop has caught the attention of just about every industry insider and found it's way unanimously into all the most prominent 2014 music previews. Say Lou Lou is arguably one of the most hyped bands in Europe right now.
So far the signs are there that the hype is justified. Only a handful of songs have been revealed and they're all gorgeous, slow-burning pieces of music, beginning with their first single from a few years back Maybe You, and continuing with their more recent EP releases Better in the Dark and Julian.
Say Lou Lou's as yet untitled debut album is due this June, and the buzz is that they are set to make a massive impact on 2014.
Release Date: June 23rd, 2014
Getting a bit speculative now, but massive if true. Coldplay are allegedly due to release their sixth studio album in 2014. I don't think we really need a blurb about what these guys are all about, one of the biggest bands in the world for many years and fine purveyors of both stadium-sized rock and intimate chamber-pop.
Little has been revealed so far, but frontman Chris Martin has suggested that the new album will mark a return to the band's more understated origins, which saw more songs like Yellow and The Scientist, in order to avoid becoming too "pompous", a welcome change in direction.
Otherwise there has been little hint of what we will get or when we will get it. Sources close to the group have indicated "hopefully 2014", which means at best we're looking at a release towards the end of this year. Watch this space..
Release Date: Winter 2014
2. "After the Disco" by Broken Bells
For anyone not familiar, Broken Bells is the collaborative project of Brian Burton, better known as the superstar producer Danger Mouse, and James Mercer, frontman of popular indie rock band The Shins.
Their eponymous debut LP in 2010 was met with critical acclaim as well as decent chart success in America, featuring some pretty great songs such as High Road and Your Head is on Fire.
The highly anticipated sophomore album After the Disco releases this February and so far it sounds like the band could be onto another winner. Out of the two tracks revealed so far, title track After the Disco in particular sounds like an early contender for the year's top songs.
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
1. "Everyday Robots" Damon Albarn (New band - sort of)
Which brings us to our choice for the number 1 most hotly anticipated album of 2014. This year the award goes to Damon Albarn for his upcoming debut solo album Everyday Robots.
While this may be Albarn's first solo album he will no doubt already be known to most of you as the frontman of Britpop group Blur which has produced classics such as Coffee and TV and Song 2, and more recently as the driving force behind experimental project Gorillaz, which has achieved worldwide fame through songs like On Melancholy Hill, Feel Good Inc., and 19-2000. That's not even mentioning theatre and soundtrack work.
So far only the title track, Everyday Robots, has been revealed, and if it's anything to go by it looks like Damon will be aiming for a unique marriage of his steady Blur pop-stylings and more adventurous Gorillaz production. Damon Albarn has truly earned a reputation as one of the most innovative British songwriters of his generation, so it is with great anticipation that we await his first solo LP.
Release Date: April 28th, 2014
So there you have it folks: 2014 in music. Tune in next week for the essential new television shows of the year!