The most exciting new talents, from Beyoncé's mate Boots to rap chameleon Tink and punk provocateurs Perfect Pussy
Roc Nation-signed producer Boots makes music to stalk to, which is appropriate given that ever since Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth album dropped last month, with his mononym all over the production credits, the internet’s been stalking him. Buzzfeed launched an investigation into his identity when the album dropped, digging through RocNation tweets and Boots’ own Soundcloud page for clues. In Beyonce’s own words, the elusive Boots is “a lyricist. He is an innovator, and I’m so proud to work with him.”
The only thing left on the producer's Soundcloud page now (it’s been purged of all the tracks that later became Beyoncé’s) is a moody ballad called "Haunted", which shares a name with the thumping jam he produced for Mrs Carter and has the same obsessive air with its creepy refrain insisting “drop me like an atom bomb”.
Punk is alive and well in the hands of Perfect Pussy. In a breathless attack of shouts, chords and drums that pummel down like fists, the NYC band’s demo cassette I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling took the air right out of the internet in April, with full-frontal confessional lyricism like “I’ve been talking shit about your friend/I’ve been lying to get attention” matched by Meredith Graves’ no-holds-barred screaming vocals; they're now signed to Captured Tracks, so expect big, angry things in 2014.
Filipino artist Eyedress (aka Idris Vicuna) signed to XL imprint Abeano this year to put out his latest EP Supernatural, a collection of otherworldly slices of synth-pop that sound like they came from the mind of Johnny Jewel’s evil twin. Stand-out single "Nature Trips" (below) beats Kavinsky at his own game with the prowling air of late-night driving with sinister intentions, while "No Competition" is a stuttering onslaught of glitchy melodies and rolling bass. Vicuna has always been insanely prolific with his online output, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for another release soon.
Night Slugs-affiliated producer Morri$ was sidelined to a couple of interludes on Kelela’s Cut 4 Me mixtape, in the form of two 1'30" snippets titled "Go All Night (Let Me Roll)" and "Go All Night (Let It Burn)" - and yet he stole the show. Those clips were so tantalising that Kelela eventually released the full version of "Go All Night" via Solange’s Saint Heron Records, giving it the shine it deserved; it’s an infectious stoner pop song, as Morri$ peppers his plush instrumental with splintered hip hop samples and nervy, skittering drums. After years bubbling under the surface, he has an album due in 2014 – this may be the year his spiky and sensual sound dominates the pop landscape.
Noise artist Louis Johnstone used to make scratchy hip hop beats as Dem Hunger for the likes of Leaving Records, but for the past couple of years he’s been stretching soundwaves in whole new directions as WANDA GROUP. His music sounds like it was crafted from field recordings made in another dimension, and has been released on the likes of Opal Tapes, NNA Tapes and Notown Records since 2012, very gradually building a devout following; for one of the most enlightening pieces of music journalism of 2013, check his interview with The Quietus from last June. He’s got a new record called MORE CHINESE MEN SPITTING ALL THE TIME coming out next year, if his Twitter is to be believed.
In a former life Tom McClung (aka Francis Lung) was the bassist for doomed Manchester band Wu Lyf, and his solo project feels just like picking up the pieces after a disaster, all volatile shellshock and simmering disquiet. Still punctured with debris of Wu Lyf’s furious sound, tracks like "Age Limits" are prone to crack open into yells and crashes of discontent, but they build up to these outbursts with a patience not found in the band’s soaring melodramas; older songs like "Cinema Ideals" or "The Son’s Faeher" (below) show McClung’s talent for packing the same ferocity into an unassuming Elliott Smith-like ballad, resulting in a track that never screams, but stings you all the same. The album - Faeher’s Son - is coming, he says: “it should be done in about 3 days. It probably won’t be.”
Whether she’s staring out from behind a desk like your boss, spitting bars with the boys or hitting notes that ain’t even hit by Aretha, chameleonic Chicago rapper and singer Tink has so many facets to her talent it’s hard to keep up. In 2013 she caught attention with her guest spot on Future Brown’s cyber-hedonistic club track "Wanna Party", but to keep you on your toes she’ll be kicking off 2014 with a new classic R&B mixtape titled Winter’s Diary 2. The first track from that – "Treat Me like Somebody", which you can hear below – is about as far from her previous single "Bars" as you could possibly get, and yet through everything she does is a common thread of sincerity, attitude and that syrup-smooth vocal delivery.
If you were hoping that 2014 would be a time for more cats on album covers, songs about the hair follicles of ancient ponies and nightmarish lullabies, Poemss is exactly the project you’ve been waiting for. Made up of prolific Canadian electronic experimentalist Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) and newcomer Joanne Pollock, their self-titled debut album is due on Planet Mu in February, and is a subconscious-plumbing, nerve-rattling experience combining lyricism with warped, dystopic sound. The result of a collaboration based on the sharing of poems and thoughts, it’s sonically flamboyant and adventurous, but it’s also the most moving project Funk has put his name to.
Bringing goofball humour to the jab-between-the-ribs Atlanta hip hop style, Young Thug’s protegee Lil Silk is getting some shine right now for self-aware caricature cuts like "Rapper" (“I’m a rapper!”, he squeals on the chorus) and the frantic "Silent" - which comes complete with the sing-along-friendly hook “Shhh!”. Last month he told Cracked Atoms, “I have a crazy ass verse on a big artist song scheduled to drop January with a video. C-note produced the song and loves my verse so much, he ready to turn up with me from scratch.” Watch this space.
Like Morri$, Napolian is a young producer from LA who also featured on Kelela’s Cut 4 Me in 2013, putting his name to the abrasive opener "Guns And Synths"; but that’s where the similarities between these two end. Having put out the Rejoice EP in 2012 on Mexican Summer and collaborated with Joel Ford as Airbird, Napolian’s sound is altogether more surrealist, meandering off the beat and stirring together field recordings of lapping waves with pneumatic beats in ways that just shouldn’t make sense but totally do. His avant experimentalism suggests a move towards more embracing of “organic” sounds jumping into bed with “electronic” sounds, waving goodbye to false dichotomies and continuing a trend that will hopefully dominate 2014.
Alongside the likes of Jessie Ware and Eliza Doolittle, Sasha Keable was one of the lesser-known voices to surface on Disclosure’s infectious debut album Settle earlier this year, taking the lead on their most recent single "Voices". But back in October, she blazed her own trail with the Black Book EP full of insomniac love songs, all twilight production strokes and tantalisingly restrained vocals. “I could take you there,” she insists on "Careless Over You", her voice full of promise.
London producer MssingNo answered the question this year of what there was left to do with the R&B vocal sample in bass music with his stunningly simple, simply stunning debut EP: the answer being, less is more. His tracks build to the point of ecstasy with no heavy-handed signposts to get you there – eschewing typical structure, his production is intuitive and gradual. Cuts like "XE2" tease out your gratification over a spacious five minutes, never quite giving you what you expect and feeling tense like the heat before a storm.