London – The Holidays are a time of good will and perhaps also one when the definition of what precisely constitutes new in the Best New Bands lexicon gets a little clouded. Most stuff is written at least a year before it’s released so who’s counting the days either. In that spirit we present 10 songs that just might have escaped your attention in 2015. The binding thread is that they are all great songs so please read, listen and enjoy! Next time you get upset when someone tells you that the one-trick “Uptown Funk” has had 1.2 billion plays on YouTube, let’s add some real numbers to the tunes below over the festive season. It may be too late for free shipping to kick in but the magic of digital downloads should still allow you to spread a little holiday cash among these sonically deserving causes.
1. Secret Someones – “I Won’t Follow”
Secret Someones, the band formed by Brooklyn-based singer/songwriters Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, and Lelia Broussard and drummer Zach Jones truly hit the spot with its debut album this autumn. The four-piece creates energetic and liberating power pop, blessed with strong melody lines and displaying a mastery of dynamics – just listen to the breakdown towards the end of this song. “I Won’t Follow” is the first song on an album that’s so solid it defies you to pick a favourite track but it makes the perfect smack-you-between-the-ears opener to any ‘Best of 2015’ mixtape. Check our review of the full album here.
2. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – “Just Above Midtown”
“Just Above Midtown” is just about the most immediately accessible song on Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s latest full-length, the enigmatically titled Motorcade Amnesiacs. The quartet of English school friends, comprising singer/guitarist Tim Elsenburg, bassist Anthony Bishop and drummer Alistair Hamer along with US born guitarist and singer Jana Carpenter, has garnered critical acclaim over the years for its compelling blend of art rock, jazz and folk while also carrying something of a flag for progressive rock. The latter may refuse with stoicism to make a proper comeback yet SBP are right up there with 70’s wizards epitomised by Yes.
3. Blooms –“ Fall”
After a debut EP in 2014, Dublin and now London-based singer Louise Cunnane aka Blooms (shown above) followed up with two singles, “Love” and this one, “Fall”. Like Daughter, Blooms is clearly a fan of short song titles but any perceived deficiency in that department should be set aside. “Fall” simply glides over you in all its ambient splendour; warm swirling synth and light-touch guitar underpinned by precise percussion provides an enveloping backdrop for Cunnane’s dreamy vocal, itself belying the search for self-reliance lyrically. From keeping a fairly low profile in her career to date, one can only see the artiste herself really blossoming in 2016.
4. Bearpark – “Boxers”
Bearpark, the solo project of Nicholas Hirst, keyboard player with London band, Revere pulled a veritable rabbit from the hat when dropping debut album Wilderness End in November such is its quality and consistency of songcraft. Opening song “Boxers” provides an ideal introduction to Hirst’s prodigious talents as a songwriter, musician and, not least, wordsmith. The song delivers a knockout blow giving tangible form to the aura of infatuation and sense to the redemptive power of love. Anyone who can internally rhyme ‘missile’ with ‘fissile’ deserves an equal measure of seasonal goodwill too. A review of Wilderness End can be found here.
5. Rachel Sermanni – “Tractor”
At just turned 24, Scottish folk balladeer, Rachel Sermanni, has enjoyed a prolific output to date with two studio albums, a live album and three EPs under her belt. The release of Tied To The Moon this summer signalled an expanded musical palette with the singer-songwriter taking inspiration from the wilds of Nova Scotia rather than her native Highlands. The new album encompasses a much earthier vibe; upon which agricultural sounding note lend you ears to “Tractor”. The brooding rock steady beat doesn’t quite prepare you for the angry discordant guitar solo towards the end but the latter still fits the purpose very well.
6. Little May – “Dust”
OK this one’s a cheat. Christmas spirit and all that, yeah? The only bad thing about Australian trio Little May’s 2015 debut album, For The Company, is that this song, “Dust” from its earlier EP, was not included. The song is a consummate piece; empowering, emotional and charged with inflections that make hairs erect themselves on back of necks. Hannah Field’s sensual lead vocal, complemented by her two band mates’ seamless harmonies, is earnest and reaching and the way the song picks up momentum, not once but twice, is a prime example of how music may suddenly and even unexpectedly elevate the spirit.
7. Morton Valence – “Chinatown”
In a parallel universe Morton Valence, South London purveyors of urban country, is so big that the five members have a residency on the International Space Station and are known to beam concerts live from an adjacent craft. Back on earth it would be a tragedy of interstellar proportions if MV’s talent does not find fame and fortune. Meanwhile we earthlings can rejoice in the terrific noir and underlying wit of songs like “Chinatown” featured here. Morton Valance ’s latest album, Another Country, is packed with strong narratives and a genuine respect for the genre the band works within. Frontman Robert ‘Hacker’ Jessett and vocal partner Anne Gilpin will habitually delight you with their duets too.
8. Summer Camp – “Bad Love”
Since so vividly imagining a mythical US town on its debut album Welcome to Condale, the British husband and wife team of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey aka Summer Camp has been natural bedfellows of the teen movie. The duo’s soundtrack album to the documentary feature Beyond Clueless was indeed a logical outcome of the duo’s penchant for US movies and pop culture. Bad Love is the band’s fourth album and seems to form almost a handbook of failed romances. The title track featured here pretty much provides a summary to an overlooked album that should get listeners matching their own experiences to those documented on the record when they aren’t on their feet dancing to it.
9. Owl & Mouse – “Misfits”
The mellow folk meets indie pop of London-based quintet Owl & Mouse was a midsummer delight in 2015. The band centred on Brisbane songstress and ukulele player, Hannah Botting, released its debut album, Departures to the delight of fans of small stringed instruments and early Belle & Sebastian adopters. “Misfits” charts a gentle path towards finding that special someone; a simple but such a beautifully stated ode that it should resonate with any generation. It has rather fewer plays than Mark Ronson and is needing likes so get to it, good people.
10. Eyes for Gertrude – “Rag and Bone”
January saw the full-length debut of British female duo Eyes for Gertrude with the amusingly titled Residential Bliss. Throughout the album Hannah Dean and Chantelle Pike juxtapose the routines of daily life with loftier thoughts and ambitions, never better realised than here in “Rag and Bone”. It’s a song to plan your escape to should you ever have the opportunity or need an excuse for: “I’ve heard Mexico is lovely in the spring”. Like all the acts featured in this short digest and many more equally worthy contenders, let us hope that 2016 allows more of these hugely talented acts (to paraphrase Weird Al from “Mission Statement”) to leverage their core competencies and monetise their assets.
Photo of Blooms by Chloe Keogan
Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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