The thrill of discovery is something that has driven humanity down through the ages.
Whether it’s explorers forging their way into impenetrable jungles or across burning hot deserts, or brilliant scientific minds asking why and doing their utmost to answer those questions, people are a curious bunch, unwilling to simply stand still and eager to see what lays just across the horizon.
Now not all of us are going to have the chance to join those following in the footsteps of Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon in who dug up Tutankhamun’s long lost tomb or Marie Pasteur and her revolutionary discovery of penicillin, but each of us in our small way keep the spirit of discovery alive, in large and small ways, in the decisions we make each and every day.
One thing you can do is make sure you never stop finding and listening to all the amazing new music that is everywhere to be found in this brave new digital world of ours.
These discoveries may not cure cancer but they will make your day infinitely richer and more fulfilling and the best part?
You can start right now with these five impressive new artists …
“False Start” by We Were Evergreen
Ah the curse of constructing perfect pop.
To the cursory listener, and even sometimes the passionate fan, it’s sonic perfection can sound simplistic, thrown together by extremely talented music artists over a few beers and some barbecued salmon on a slow albeit productive Sunday afternoon.
The reality is that really engaging, compelling pop, such as that made by French electro-indie outfit We Were Evergreen (now London-based and made up of Michael Liot, Fabienne Débarre, and William Serfass), is the result of a huge amount of talent (between them the band members play a bewildering array of instruments including ukulele, guitar, trumpet, keyboards, xylophone, and glockenspiel to ahem but a few), dedication and tenacity all coming together until everything sounds just right.
It may sound light and effortless, and of course pop this good is meant to, but don’t mistake this for throwaway, accidental music because it is anything but.
It’s bright, jaunty smart beat-driven synth pop that brims with joie de vivre and a purpose as Liot explained to Q Magazine:
“The whole song takes the idea of what a false start is and what goes on in a runners mind in the ten seconds of a race, when he’s made a false start but he’s the only one to know. Mind versus body.”
Compare to the likes of Metronomy (with whom they have just toured), Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend, and with their first album Towards out now, following a series of EPs released since 2010, We Were Evergreen are the very epitome of intensely likeable, eminently listenable and incredibly clever engaging pop.
“Touch” by Shura
Accepted wisdom suggests that the best way to get noticed is to be big and loud and as obvious as possible.
It works for Hollywood blockbusters, big arena rock bands and even book authors like J K Rowling who became a phenomenon with her larger-than-life tales of boy wizard Harry Potter.
But there are exceptions to every rule and Shura, a talented singer, producer and yes even video editor of mixed Russian and English parentage, is one of them, crafting restrained, delightfully catchy music that you can’t help but notice.
A resident of London, she found her musical voice all way over in South America notes Fashion Soundtrack, turning lengthy stints of social isolation (she couldn’t speak Spanish) into a sound that is equal parts confessional outpourings, a soft but passionately emotive voice and a beguiling swirl of synth magic and hip hop beats.
It is all distilled down into “Touch”, an ethereally chilled track that wafts with the breeze but is grounded by intensely personal, substantial introspection and a beautifully melancholic melody that winds its way deep into your soul.
Shura’s music is unobtrusive in the sense that it doesn’t scream its presence from the rooftops but it is anything but easy to ignore, not that you would ever want to, anchored by a strong sense of who she is and what she wants to say, and the talent to craft it into beautiful, otherworldly, deeply affecting music.
“Coffee” by Sylvan Esso
Having your virtual heart broken and licking the wounds that result, by achingly sad but beautiful music is one of the most profound experiences possible.
And Sylvan Esso, comprised of folk singer Amelia Randall Meath (formerly of Mountain Man) and electronic music producer Nicholas Sanborn, have created in “Coffee” one of the most perfect songs to do that to that I have heard in some time.
It begins with a tremulous, faltering beats and a gentle beat, before building into that most miraculous of musical creatures – warm, intimate, deeply human electronic music that is as much about Sanborn’s intricately-crafted synth melodies as it is about Meath’s sublimely emotive, authentically human voice.
Their music, which NPR notes, “isn’t just folk songs with electronics replacing stringed instruments”, is the result of an expected meeting of artistic outlooks way back in 2012 as they explain on their Facebook page:
“Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had written a song called “Play It Right” and sung it with her trio Mountain Man. She’d met Nick Sanborn, an electronic producer working under the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small club somewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way. He did the obligatory remix, but he sensed that there was something more important here than a one-time handoff: Of all the songs Sanborn had ever recast, this was the first time he felt he’d added to the raw material without subtracting from it, as though, across the unseen wires of online file exchange, he’d found his new collaborator without even looking.”
It is an infinitely rewarding marriage of old world folk and new world electronica that enriches both, giving rise to the 10 gorgeous songs on their just released self-titled debut album that unite humanity and machine in the most beguiling, innovative and affecting way possible.
“Closer” by Thief
Thief (aka PJ Wolf), who hails from relentlessly sunny Sydney, Australia, is a music artist who, in the words of The Guardian, whose quote is prominently displayed on his Facebook page, “… robs from all the right sources…”
This is not to suggest of course that this talented new artist’s music is simply a witches brew of disparate musical elements without any discernible sense of originality or personality.
On the contrary, PJ Wolf has melded influences from artists such as Metronomy, Miike Snow, and N.E.R.D. into a sound most distinctly and entrancingly his own, attracting in the process support from Australia’s national youth broadcaster triple j as well as number of influential music bloggers.
And it’s easy to see why with “Closer”, which has seen Wolf “shortlisted for the prestigious Vanda and Young songwriting competition” (from his Soundcloud bio), whose “synthesizers and smooth, emotive vocals”, music blog Acid Stag notes, “come together to prove that electro based music has heart, sophistication and most importantly, that it does not need a Pitbull feature.”
Thief is the happy coming together of R & B and Electronic Dance Music that gives a warmth and humanity to music that while immersive, can lack both those qualities, and it’s easy to see “Closer” is being hailed as the calling card of a very impressive talent indeed of whom much will likely be heard in coming years.
“Every Little Word You Say” by MNEK
Aged just 19, with his 20th birthday still a good six months off, MNEK (pronounced “em-en-ee-kay”), MNEK, known to his mum and dad as Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike, is an insanely talented young British singer, songwriter and record producer with an enviable list of achievements already to his credit.
Having worked with the likes of Gorgon City, Far East Movement and Rudimental, and mixed tracks by Duran Duran, Ollie Murs and Tinie Tempah, he is finally turning his attention to creating amazing songs of his own, of which the exciting thumping house of “Every Little Word” is one of the first fruits.
A powerful, beat-rich dance floor filler with energy and emotion to burn, and adorned by the smooth, oh so smooth vocals of MNEK, it surges on relentlessly, taking you happily along with it.
It is one of those pure pop songs that enthrals, its heady mix of beats, R & B sensibilities and even yes judiciously used vocoder, right from the very start to its end.
The truly impressive thing is that it is very early days yet for this hugely talented young man, whose more than noteworthy accomplishments to date suggest he has a spectacular career ahead of him.
* Huge thanks to the awesomely good music blog Pigeons and Planes which is the fount of so many of my musical discoveries for bringing these five amazing artists to my attention. You guys rock!!
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
I was thrilled just a few short months ago to come across Pomplamoose, made up of real life Californian couple Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, who mix of original and cover songs were nothing short of an absolute delight.
Combining a fun, candy-coloured aesthetic, harmony filled pop stylings and an innovative use of video clips and social media, their cheeky exuberance is the stuff of which life long fandoms are made.
And in that moment I discovered them, and watched song after song on YouTube – the happiest falling down the YouTube rabbit hole ever – I became an instant fan, my adoration growing with every new song release such as their creative cover of WHAM!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (above).
If you’re serious about following, you should consider supporting them on Patreon, which allows you to support a music artists in an ongoing meaningful way that goes beyond simply buying their next CD.
It’s an innovative concept and if anyone deserves your support, it’s this wonderfully imaginative, musically-talented, fun couple!
* And if you’re in the mood for gloriously silly, smile-inducing fun, then check out these two videos, the first of which features a bird dancing to Daft Punk’s “Something About Us” (via Laughing Squid) while the second shows off that hip duo Darth Vader and Boba Fett getting on down to Michael Jackson’s song “Bad” (via Marc Fennel Twitter account).