Preview: New Acts To Watch 2008

As we all heave ourselves out of Christmas corpulence and turn our attention from the year just gone to the year just started, ubiquitous lists abound.

Rather like this one, in fact. It consists of new acts we reckon will make themselves known to you during the course of 2008. None of them have yet released an album, though some have put out singles or EPs. This wide-ranging list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but rather it should provide pointers to this year’s unmissables.
2007 was marked by the emergence of young female singer-songwriters who garnered adulation and ire in roughly equal proportion. This year will see several new talented ladies take to the airwaves with soul, ’60s pop and myriad other styles imbued with contemporary twists.

Foremost amongst them, nineteen-year old Adele, signed to Jamie T‘s Pacemaker imprint of XL, has released several taster tracks ahead of her debut album 19, due at the end of January. Hometown Glory’s dramatic piano works a treat with her impressive, soulful vocals to create a thrilling taster of what’s to come. Several of her other tracks are quieter affairs. Daydreamer marries the south Londoner’s robust voice to acoustic guitar plucks, while Best For Last intriguingly features an acoustic bass.

Duffy is signed to Polydor and, like Adele, already has a Later with Jools Holland spot under her belt. Hailing from north Wales, she’s been working on her debut album with Bernard Butler, the first slice of which, Rockferry, slipped out as a download at the end of last year and set jaws dropping. To these ears she has a unique vocal talent, and live she’s glamorous enough – and retro enough – to remind of Nancy Sinatra. Ladies and gentlemen in their 30s and above will love her soul-tinged ear for melody. She plays a four-week residency at London’s Pigalle Club in January to get momentum building ahead of a nationwide tour.

Talking of unique voices, sassy hat-wearing Brooklynite Santogold, aka Santi White, is still putting her material together. At a recent M.I.A. support slot she spoke of needing to pad out her set. But what she has so far was enough to get her signed to Atlantic, and her live show has already markedly improved, now with added dancers, in just a couple of months. Once she works out how best to present her idiosyncratic music in a live setting, and once she sorts out a band, she’s got the attitude to take over. In the meantime, M.I.A. fanciers will take to her rap-shriek-bootyshaking. Les Artistes and Shove It already provoke singalongs.

Laura Marling‘s literate, acoustic-based ouevre is about as different to Santogold’s sound as it’s possible to be, but she looks like a good bet to join the massed ranks of sassy lassies set to dominate the year. Like Duffy, her voice evokes another era when singers actually sang rather than spoke. Her trick to pull off this year will be to make sure she’s loved by more than Radio 2 and isn’t labelled the new Eva Cassidy.

Away from girls doing solos, it seems as though Foals have been around forever already. We first met them last May, and singles Mathletics, Balloons and Hummer – one of the most memorable tracks of the year – have helped to focus attention on their incendiary live shows. The band, signed to Transgressive, have toured relentlessly during 2007 and look set for more of the same this year ahead of the release of their debut album, produced by Dave Sitek.

Two boy-girl duos should make a splash this year. Heading around the country from the end of the month on an NME tour, Katie and Jules, aka The Ting Tings, blend analogue synths, guitars, happy claps and killer hooks on tracks like Good DJ and the irresistable That’s Not My Name. Occupying missing link space between Talking Heads and Nico, they’re sure to be inevitable. Sheffield boy-girl duo Slow Club caught our attention at several gigs in 2007 and are set to release their debut album in late spring. Prior to that they head out on a short nationwide tour at the end of January to prove themselves just as exciting a prospect.

Depending on what their finished recordings – and debut album – sound like, Crystal Castles have the potential to blow the electronic world apart in 2008. The Canadians, fronted by kohl-eyed portable strobe wielder Alice Glass, were incendiary every time we saw them in 2007. Their Atari-trapped-in-an-analogue-synth sound could only be from now.

Parlophone-signed Late Of The Pier, formerly of Moshi Moshi, with their synths-to-the-fore glam rock mash-up, are a genuinely exciting prospect for anyone seeing too much mid-tempo ladysoul on the horizon. They’ve clearly been listening to Crystal Castles and, if Space In The Woods is anything to go by, Gary Numan. Check them out on their forthcoming tour which begins in February. Less noirish but no less good, the ridiculously young Clarky Cat are signed to EMI and already have a honed, synth-centric live show. Watch them build momentum this year too.

Autokratz have plenty of material to their name and, now signed to Kitsun, the London electronica duo could be the standard bearers of synth playing this year. The label have also recently signed Cazals who, almost instantly, headed off to Japan to tour with Daft Punk. Their debut is due during 2008.

Columbia have signed MGMT, who start the year touring with fellow hot tips Yeasayer over the pond. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser’s music isn’t as immediate as that of some of the acts mentioned on this page, but it’s intricate enough to hold interest over repeat listens. Formed in Connecticut, the duo’s debut album Oracular Spectacular is available on iTunes now and gets a physical release later this month. Time To Pretend is the track that’ll determine whether they’re for you as they sing about the drugs’n’roll lifestyle over whooshing synth noise.

Also from Stateside, this time Florida, five-piece Black Kids have enjoyed blog comparisons to The Cure and Arcade Fire. They tour the UK at the end of January, including two London dates in their schedule. At least part of that blogging noise around the band has been down to their decision to give away an entire EP online. Expect plenty of people to know their songs when they rock up for gigs.

Touring with Black Kids as part of Vice’s latest indie takeover, Friendly Fires have a couple of bona fide anthems hidden amongst their set. A room full of people in New Cross last year instantly got the ridiculously catchy Paris, the song most likely to make them big.

Away from black kids, Berlin-based The Whitest Boy Alive could have Europe in the palm of their hands. Starting life as an electro act, the band has metamorphosised into a current incarnation that eschews programmed elements entirely in favour of melodious indie-pop, typified by Fireworks and the Modular-released single Burning.

Back to these shores, Glasvegas, as the name suggests, are from Glasgow and at the time of writing are unsigned. That’s not stopped NME adding them to tour after tour for early 2008, or Alan McGee championing them like his life depended on it. Debut single Daddy’s Gone caused a stir at the end of last year, with a basic blues-based chord structure and reverb-laden atmosphere sounding quite unlike anything else clogging up the airwaves. That gets followed in February by It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry, another dollop of retro rock. They’re unlikely to stay unsigned much longer.

Last year’s cover girl Kate Nash would have you believe that Peggy Sue And The Pirates will step up a gear in 2008. She may well be right. Sounding nothing like Pete And The Pirates, this girly romp of a group is actually a duo. The Nash-a-like vocals have the potential to drive listeners to distraction, but their cutesy acoustica should find a loyal audience. Another of Nash’s tips, Florence And The Machine, look set to steadily build their fanbase too.

London’s burgeoning folk-country scene looks like unleashing several new names this year. Jay Jay Pistolet released his debut single We Are Free at the tail end of 2007. His country-tinged folksy balladry should appeal to fans of Kid Harpoon, who should finally get around to a full length album release of his own following two well-received EPs. Noah And The Whale started to make a splash late in 2007 too, and Mumford & Sons are also playing the right places with their harmonious dramatic tales. And he’s not quite a new artist, but with a new outfit The Pan I Am, sometime Larrikin Love frontman Ed Larrikin’s new project has already chalked up a smattering of one-off shows, including at London’s Lyric Hammersmith. All these boys should go some way to ensuring that 2008’s new names won’t be entirely dominated by redoubtable ladies.

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