Writers of The Courier Music and presenters from Newcastle Student Radio have come together to pick the Top 10 Sounds of 2018. These are the artists that we believe have a big year ahead of them and you should keep you eyes and ears on…
1. Rex Orange County
A mere 19-years-old, Alex O’Connor, better known as Rex Orange County, had quite the 2017. Apricot Princess, his second album in as many years, had critics’ tastebuds tingling and a series of singles towards the back end of the year made it clear that O’Connor has more in the pipeline.
Having first caught the attention of Tyler, the Creator through SoundCloud in 2016, the unsigned musician was flown out to LA to collaborate on two songs from Tyler’s highly acclaimed album Flower Boy. Since then his songwriting prestige has been well sought after and the youngster has gone on to work with the likes of Frank Ocean, as well as having great success with Apricot Princess.
His lyrics are simple, yet striking – they are a beautifully honest, sometimes brutal, testimony to being young and in love.
A self-taught drummer, Surrey-born Alex, studied at the BRIT School, which over the years has produced the likes of Adele, Amy Winehouse and King Krule, among others. It was during his time here that he decided he was better suited as a singer-song writer rather than being on the drums. “It felt like the exact right time to be myself and not just the guy at the back of the stage. I like being at the front – it’s where I’m meant to be”, he told NME.
His lyrics are simple, yet striking – they are a beautifully honest, sometimes brutal, testimony to being young and in love. This, along with his songs’ blissfully sweet sound is what makes him a breath of fresh air. When speaking to The Guardian Rex Orange County reflected,“I’ve never been uncomfortable sharing stuff. It’s almost the opposite. I’ll say the most blunt, brutally honest thing about any situation. I won’t be the kind of artist speaking in riddles all the time – it will be lyrics that make sense the moment I say them.”
He is currently on tour in America, with a few UK dates coming up later this month, along with featuring on several festival line ups, including Primavera in Barcelona and All Points East, in London. With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why Rex Orange County has been voted our Sound Of 2018.
Brockhampton is a self-stylised, modern boyband, full of diverse identities. They create rap music about a range of prevalent topics such as rape culture and homophobia, all whilst oozing a refreshing, creative spirit layered in fun!
The group met on a Kanye West fan forum, moved in together and are now living in the same house making music together whilst working jobs. Last year they exploded and dropped three (yep, really) fully fledged albums that are full of some of the best music you will have heard in decades.
We’ve got a walking millenial phenomenon on our hands that are still flying under the radar
On top of that, count a TV show on Viceland, two tours, a documentary, merch drops and a boxset and we’ve got a walking millenial phenomenon on our hands that are still flying under the radar. Channelling influences such as Frank Ocean, Kanye and Wu-tang, as well as Tyler the Creator (through whom they now have a co-sign), Brockhampton have evolved from humble beginnings, using their hustle to reach the pinnacle of progressive music in their genre.
They’ve already announced a new album, Team Effort, coming this year and look set to continue their rapid rise of 2017.
3. SG Lewis
You’ll struggle to find an artist who has honed their own style more than SG Lewis with his silky-smooth sound. The 21-year-old producer and vocalist has announced his three-part debut album Dusk, Dark, Dawn and a headline tour for April this year, marking 2018 as his biggest year to date.
SG rose to prominence after his sensual single ‘Warm’ was uncovered for Victoria Secret’s 2016 campaign and a first EP featuring the singles ‘No Less’, recently sampled by American rapper G-Eazy, and ‘Shivers’, with JP Cooper’s phenomenal vocals, came shortly after. From that point on the music came thick and fast with the Yours – EP and a sell-out slot at London’s Koko cementing his place as a first-rate artist. 2017 was a quieter year for SG with only the spiralling ‘Times We Had’ and funky ‘Smart Aleck Kill’ being released but, with last month’s album announcement, it is clear to see why.
Moving in the same circles as and working with the likes of Gallant, Ray BLK and Raye, as well as being chummy with last year’s breakthrough star Dua Lipa, everything seems to be falling into place for SG Lewis. If the uber-groovy ‘Aura’, the lead-single from Dusk, Dark, Dawn, is anything to go by, this debut album is primed for a huge impact.
YONAKA are on everybody’s ‘Sound of 2018’ list, so it would be rude not to include them on this one. The Brighton band caught fire in 2017 and it is a fire that is sure to only spread in 2018. Playing shows with The Libertines and The Cribs, hitting the main stages at festivals and headlining the first ever Hopscotch tour, everybody wants a bit of YONAKA.
YONAKA have one of the most diverse, fresh and exciting sounds out there
Mixing influences from grime, hip-hop, grunge, pop, punk and classic indie rock, YONAKA have one of the most diverse, fresh and exciting sounds out there. In a live setting their energy is unrivalled, with Theresa Jarvis’ towering vocals matching her infectious dancing.
Their live shows will inevitably get better in 2018, a year which will culminate with their debut LP, as they revealed to NSR in an interview conducted last year.
5. Pale Waves
The gothic-glitter pop of Pale Waves has meant their rise to the top has been short and sharp. Mentored by The 1975’s Matt Healy, the Dirty Hit band are flying high and get better with each release.
Their brand of pop is unique but accessible, mixing emo stories with sparkling party riffs, they are perfect for every mood. After a sell-out, debut, headline hometown show in Manchester in 2016, Pale Waves formally announced themselves at the beginning of 2017, but it has been non-stop success since. They began by playing the inaugural Dirty Hit tour before heading out to America with label-mates The 1975, playing arenas such as Madison Square Garden. They then followed this with their debut headline tour, which was a huge success. With their debut EP on the horizon, the success will only continue to follow them. They’re a band who get bigger with each show and each release – stardom is inevitable.
Having grown up as a presenter on CBBC, Hrvy may be a face you vaguely recognise. Now focusing on his music career, the 19-year-old’s infectious pop looks set to switch from guilty-pleasure to number one hit in 2018.
Hrvy’s sugar-sweet pop has huge potential and is not something to be laughed off.
Comparisons between Hrvy and a certain Justin Bieber have been made by many and rightly so. Both fresh-faced teens when enjoying their breakthrough, the way ‘One Time’ fired Bieber into the mainstream is just the same was as Hrvy’s huge hit, and Radio 1’s recent Track of the Week, ‘Personal’ is doing.
The pop industry may be undergoing an evolution to a new, electronic sound but, with an incredibly fast-growing following and a number of catchy bops to his name already, Hrvy’s sugar-sweet pop has huge potential and is not something to be laughed off.
7. The Japanese House
The Japanese House is the solo project of London-based singer/songwriter Amber Bain. Brooding and obscure, the Japanese House commands the attention of listeners with poetic lyrics that resonate from within the dream-like melodies of her songs. With inspiration from Radiohead and Bon Iver, the musician possesses a similar, relaxed transience that becomes all the more affecting with the tonally varied and androgynous sound of her voice. Big things lie in The Japanese House’s path. It seems headlining festivals is a regular occurrence and with the release of most recent EP Saw You in a Dream, they promise more of this novel brand of touching synth pop in the upcoming album.
8. Jacob Banks
Ablissful soulful sound, with blends of R and B and Hip Hop, singer-songwriter Jacob Banks is someone to watch after being on the radar ever since winning the MOBO UnSung regional competition in 2012.
His debut EP, released in 2017, The Boy Who Cried Freedom, resonates with a mix of piano and electric guitar riffs which are digitally touched to give that perfect electronic sound. ‘Mercy’, the EP’s standout track, is enchanting in sound, boasting gospel-like crescendos and incredible song writing.
Having supported the likes of Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and Emily Sande, he now embarks on a headline tour of his own with a new record, Village, announced early this year.
Living in Berlin but originally hailing from Byron Bay, Australian funk-pop band Parcels are certainly one to keep an eye on in 2018. If you enjoy your tunes with a dose of groove and an injection of late 70s influences such as Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and Nile Rogers then we couldn’t recommend them more.
Not only are their recordings fantastic, but they are also an incredibly tight, professional live act.
Their sophomore EP, Hideout is a gorgeous blend of pop, dance, funk and even a smattering of jazz with production by the likes of Daft Punk. Not only are their recordings fantastic, but they are also an incredibly tight, professional live act.
With a number of songs with more than one million streams on Spotify, it is looking highly likely that 2018 will be the year that Parcels really start to make an impression in the mainstream.
Self-proclaimed ‘dark electro pop’ artist Zand, formerly known as Seafoal, is set to make waves in 2018. Their name change accompanies their confidence in their gender non-binarity, paralleling their personal name ‘Zander’.
Zand’s musical journey has seen a shift in style, ranging from the deeply dark and delicate earlier acoustic EP Lucid Living, up to their newer releases which boast more rock and punk musical influences.
After touring in November, Zand has only grown in popularity. If you don’t remember the artist stopping by Newcastle on the 9th, you’d be correct. After having car problems travelling down from Glasgow, the Newcastle date was unfortunately cancelled, although we can only hope for a postponed date or a slot on a forthcoming tour.