‘New music’ is a phrase that underpins what we’re about at Bristol in Stereo. We may sometimes present reviews of longer-standing acts, but frequently those who have helped shape the course of the current scene, not to mention longer-standing artists who truly innovate.
Here, we have teamed up with London in Stereo to give you our New Sounds 2019 – our ones to watch in the coming twelve months. The excited anticipation of waiting for these artists to take off in a very big way is not too different from waiting for Father Christmas as a small child. We’re just a different sort of starry-eyed devotee.
As well as January’s two interviewees, Flohio and Slowthai, here are our picks:
Tinder’s a weird place for lesbians. When King Princess, aka 19-year-old Mikaela Straus, released ‘Pussy Is God’, the feed lit up with girls who like girls posting it as their anthem, just to confirm that they too like “pussy”. Torres, St. Vincent, Anna Calvi walked so that King Princess could run. She is, and will continue to be the icon and image for women desiring women, because God knows, we need it.
Girls who like girls are notoriously timid, and having a song as brazen as ‘Pussy Is God’ conjures up the daydream of a world in which our desire can be less passive. Is the music good? Yes, but at this point, that seems secondary. Until we get her debut album — probably sometime in 2019 — then we’ll really get to appreciate the bops.
Her singles so far have followed a similar methodology. She borrows modish chart tropes — vocal drops and staccatos, chill electro-house beats, ‘70s influenced funk basslines — and queers them. And what makes KP so irresistible is her very blatant ambition to be desired. She sings in a voice that sounds as though she’s just woken up, in swoon-inducing lullabies, while backed by beats to make the stiffest of hips gyrate.
And sure, she looks good on the Gram, but Straus deserves far more credit than that. Her self-produced debut single, ‘1950’ which blew up earlier this year, showcased KP’s talents as a primed pop creator. It’s a cleverly contrived single inspired by Patricia Highsmith’s memeably sapphic novel, The Price of Salt — and it sounds a bit like Billie Eilish giving a Women’s Studies class. That’s a good thing, by the way.
It seems as though, at least to the new generation of women loving women, that there’s no one more appealing than King Princess to teach them about the history of their desire. From her run of singles, it’s clear that KP has an intuition for the catchy, hooky, and the popular. So, it’s only a matter of time before the world treats her like the Patron Saint of Gay. Emma Madden
Bristol-based 22-year-old, Mercy’s Cartel, is brand new but already making waves. Her debut EP, Vibes Cartel, snapshotted the singer after her 2017 hospitalisation and departure from university. Its lead single, ‘Feel My Vibe’, creatively took on substance abuse, youth culture and mental health.
Mercy’s ability to convey such complex topics and a broad array of conflicting emotions through her songwriting is impressive. And while Nigerian music heavily impacts Mercy’s output, meaning an infusion of Afrobeat can be heard throughout her songs, the result is a bittersweet relationship between the music and her poignant lyrical content. Co-producing with talented Bristol-based producer, Outhouse, the process sees her Afrobeat married with alternative R&B and often trap, hip-hop and neo-soul influences.
The catchy ‘6 Tears’ stands out as our favourite track thus far; a happy melting pot of Afrobeat, pop and R&B, with the with the lyrics conveying defiance in the face of an unhappy, imbalanced relationship. It’s a welcome soundtrack to anybody’s love life and an impressive lyrical achievement for an artist in their early 20s.
There’s an effortless stage presence and soulful star-quality to Mercy that has fast captured the hearts of the few; soon to be the many in 2019. It’s already earned her slots supporting Kojey Radical, Etta Bond and Yasmin Lacey, as well as more across an array of well-established venues in Bristol and London. Now, having just become the recipient of The MOBO Awards and Help Musicians UK Fund, Mercy and her band will be heading on a four-date tour of the UK in 2019, coinciding with the release of her upcoming second EP.
Fresh from Red Bull Studios and with so much ahead of her in 2019, we can’t wait to hear more. Beth Sheldrick
If you’re like me, the first time you heard a Jimothy Lacoste (not his real name) song you were probably left feeling a little bemused. Like a joke you hadn’t been let in on. He was Poundland Bandit’s mate and it couldn’t feel more modern. But before the end of the song something suddenly clicks, and it makes perfect sense. His deadpan delivery – speak-rapping over catchy-as-hell bedroom synths – suddenly hits, and your synapses flare as he offers his unique brand of fresh, homespun wisdom. Listen and you’ll learn about: not doing drugs (‘Drugs’), love and commitment (‘Future Bae’) and the joys of the efficiency of the Tube (‘Subway System’).
His star is rising fast. He’s racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube with his brilliant lo-fi videos featuring his enigmatic dance moves, bopping on top of double decker buses, and hanging onto the back of trains, but he’s a lot more than a mere meme. He’s too clever, too funny and too sincere for that. There’s a joy and freshness to the songs that overtakes you, like when you first listened to the Streets. Like Mike Skinner, he’s also funny, really funny. His dapper style might see him dismissed but his music is more than a one-trick joke. There is substance behind the style, and songs are bursting at the seams with ideas (editor: put down The Big Book of Fashion Idioms, Danny). As, erm, Chase and Status have said: “Vibe, sound, look – it’s all running.”
The overwhelming impression is that this is what it’s like to be young and living in London. Or at least one wonkily, witty take on life in the capital. “Life is getting quite exciting,” he sang on his 2017 breakout track ‘Getting Busy!’ A self-fulfilling prophecy that shows he’s always one step ahead and as smart as his surname suggests. In 2019 get ready to see a lot more Lacoste on the streets. Danny Wright
No music ever arrives fully formed. Bristol duo INDIGOs may have caught your ear a while ago, when they played a slew of shows before disappearing as mysteriously as they appeared. But the tailend of 2018 saw the pair emerge from their cocoon, as a multi-coloured, multi-layered mix of shoegaze and psychedia.
Their sound is dense yet pure, with the lushly-layered guitars not quite smothering the exceptional songwriting. INDIGOs have been taken under the wing of IDLES guitarist Lee Kiernan, who helped them capture their expansive and ambitious sound in all its glory. The result of these sessions – ‘Breathe In’ and ‘Rebirth’ – vary wildly but share common ground; grimey, thick guitars and dreamy, intertwining vocals. But where ‘Breathe In’ only gets sharper and more chaotic, ‘Rebirth’ veers into washed-out dream-pop. In only two songs, the band have managed to blow us away with their sonic spectrum, and it’s more than likely they’ll be blowing more heads off throughout 2019. Christian Northwood
The term ‘selector’, it’s been argued, has been thrown around far too liberally in recent times. Purists insist the art of crate-digging is fading due to a new crop of DJs bubbling to the surface. You do wonder if those same gatekeepers have been lucky enough to catch a HAAi set before.
By the time her Phonox residency came to an end earlier this year, each show was attracting critical acclaim, famed for a vibrant melding of styles and Haai’s ear for an irresistible banger. Slots on the most prestigious of stages followed throughout summer, as well as genre-spanning releases on her Coconut Beats imprint, the Motorik Voodoo Bush Doof Musik EP flirting with menacing techno and psychedelic breakbeats.
Further releases and remixes are promised for 2019, each surely more batshit than the last. While her own sound may evolve, Haai’s passion for unearthing forgotten sounds from across the globe remains, bleeding into every selection and proving digging is far from dead. Lee Wakefield
Wych Elm have been brewing for some time, but their output so far has been a tease to say the least. Piquing our interest a year ago with ‘School Shooter’ and subsequently tearing up a string of support slots, their promise was one of a pixies-esque dissonance and quiet-loud abandon, complete with twisted tales and, soon, casual monkey references.
Opening the advance copy BiS was slipped last month, the forthcoming ‘Monkey Jaw’ embodies their penchant for idiosyncratic lead lines and slicing up bars, swimming in a fine layer of tape-y, slacker goodness. If that’s not enough for you, their debut EP is due in March, which we guarantee will propel them to the forefront of our city’s music scene. It just goes to show what one year of careful tinkering can earn you. Loki Lillistone
If the comments on UK drill videos are anything to go by, South London’s Kwengface is someone a lot of fans are expecting big things from. A key member of Peckham group Zone 2, who have long established themselves as consistent proprietors of gutter- born speed drill, Kwengface’s athletic flow is best demonstrated on his Behind Bars freestyle for Link Up TV.
He remains a mysterious figure and like a large majority of drill rappers is rarely to be seen without a mask on. There are rumours that he may be quitting music entirely after his hotly anticipated single ‘Split Personality’ comes out in 2019, but this only adds further intrigue to this much talked about MC. Hassan Anderson
E B U
Effervescing with ethereal and eerie dynamism, E B U proffers hypnotising and potent electronica from outer-space. An enigmatic intermediary, purveying brooding and pulsating sounds, E B U, the moniker of Ella Paine, crafts layers of rippling electro-pop melded with manipulated, cascading vocals that at once enchant and unsettle, drawing you into her disarming, off-kilter sonic cosmos.
A stark metamorphosis from previous alt-folk sounds under the same alias, the past year has seen E B U emerge and evolve with striking brilliance. Her live shows are an entrancing force to be reckoned with, and only keep getting better as she combines her immersive, distorted compositions with strident, mesmerising performance art. Having performed at Simple Things, The Bristol Germ, and Dialogue last year as well as playing shows with the likes of Housewives and Spectres, exciting things are in the works with E B U and you won’t want to miss out. Kezia Cochrane
At first glance, a stinging critique of Donald Trump may feel like it’s aimed at a far-too-predictable punchbag but, with Wynne, it’s all in the delivery. Her takedown on ‘An Open Letter To Donald Trump’ is thought-provoking, uncompromising and unexpectedly poignant, not allowing her rapid-fire flow to eclipse the captivating lyricism she’s quickly gaining a reputation for.
It shone again on ‘Buzzer’, a blistering, two-minute spit of political commentary, while latest track ‘Don’t Touch’, built on a brooding synth and sparse beat, explores themes of loneliness and blazing her own trail, as well as serving a stark warning to any doubters that might remain. If Wynne continues on this ascent in 2019, you suspect there won’t be many left. Lee Wakefield
Bristol is host to vast swathes of incredible music, but one thing that it is quite frankly lacking, is some great pop. Not guitar-pop, not indie-pop not anything else with pop as a suffix, but proper, balls-to-the-wall, hands-in-the-air pop. Luckily, Mouse is set to make 2019 her own by doing just that.
Coming to Bristol via Scotland, Mouse creates boisterous punchy beats that her soaring vocals can dominate, and has shown on the two singles she’s released so far that she can not only mix it with the best in terms of earworms, but that her songs also have substance and depth, with lyrical turns that allow you to dig deeper. ‘3 Weeks’ and ‘Escape’ are a whole load of fun, and with a support slot for Dua Lipa already under her belt, Mouse will be confidently striding into 2019. Christian Northwood
Grime is always different, always the same. Stylistically impossible to pin down, it’s nonetheless an ever-present part of British youth culture. Put simply: when you hear it, you know.
Lewisham’s Yizzy is someone who knows a lot about grime. It’s in his DNA, and it’s something he wants to protect with every muscle in his body.
The S.O.S. – Save Our Sound – EP was a bold introduction, tapping into the white heat of grime’s first wave while offering something new. The aptly-titled single ‘HYPE TING’ ramped up expectations even further, the sound of an incendiary MC setting his sights high, and matching expectations at every turn. Bold, brash, and idealistic, Yizzy’s stunning ambition is set to scorch a trail across the next 12 months. Robin Murray
You’re playing Bristol Bands Top Trumps. You’ve been dealt Massive Attack and Portishead. You’re pretty happy with that. Within their city, they’re hard acts to beat. Within their genre, they’re hard acts to follow. So the fact that Bristol’s The Desert have dared to dabble and dwell on such hallowed turf, and done so with such initial promise, shows that fortune favours the brave.
If it’s dazzling introspection you’re after, then recent release, ‘Distract Me’ is ideal sustenance. Depicting the all-too-familiar process of deliberately obfuscating rather than facing a difficult decision, it’s emotionally astute – liable to engage you viscerally first and cerebrally thereafter. Gina Leonard’s crisp, unaffected, beautiful vocals interpret the lyrics with a storyteller’s acumen. And they’ve got one hell of an eye for a music video.
Rather than being like a toddler trying on a parent’s footwear, there’s no stumbling sense of ‘filling big shoes’. The four-piece have taken elements of ambient electronica and trip-hop, but allowed strains of late-night jazz, urban folk and cinematic soundscapes to permeate, bringing a sound that stands tall on its own merits. Jon Kean
With a name, look and sound that all work as wonderful compliments to each other, Aria – aka Greentea Peng – might just be the warm remedy you need to get through the long winter months.
Her debut EP Sensi dropped in October and on it her dub-influenced, ad-lib style vocals waft over wavy instrumentals like incense across a low-lit room. Standout track ‘Moonchild’ sees Aria reflecting on her past life while an almost anxious synth throbs in the background.
Though everything written about Greentea Peng mentions the relaxing nature of her music, there is an unsettling edge to her sound too, that comes from her lyrical laments and woozy production. “Looking through my phone, why can’t I be alone?”, Aria croons on the intro to ‘Loving Kind’, another track from her debut EP. It’s this rich tapestry of anxiety and relaxation, diagnosis and antidote, that absolutely makes Greentea Peng someone to watch real close in 2019. Hassan Anderson
And one rather glorious thing about writing this list isn’t seeing if we were right or wrong next December, it’s knowing that we can get excited about a whole new batch of artists at the end of 2019. We wish all the featured artists above the very best for the coming year.