IoS pop preview of 2013: Time to round up the usual suspects
The next generation struggles to be heard as a tide of old-timers fill the giant venues. But there are a few laudable exceptions
Sunday 06 January 2013
With the grim certainty of Seventies school dinner ladies telling you what's on the menu today, the movers and shakers of the music industry have emerged from rooms which can no longer be described as "smoke-filled" to inform us which new artists they have predetermined to be the hot new things for 2013.
The BBC's Sound of 2013 poll came up with a Top 10 of, alphabetically: Aluna George, A*M*E, Angel Haze, Arlissa, Chvrches, Haim, King Krule, Kodaline, Laura Mvula, Little Green Cars, Palma Violets, Peace, Savages, The Weeknd and Tom Odell. Three of those – Aluna George, Mvula and Odell – were also shortlisted for the Critics' Choice award at the 2013 Brits. Anyone would think a hive-mind, a herd mentality, or a headless chicken effect was at play. A cynic would say all three.
The BBC poll was topped by Haim, a lightweight female pop-rock trio from Los Angeles who sound like a cross between Hepburn and Wilson-Phillips. The anointed winner of the Brits version, meanwhile, is Tom Odell, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Chichester who was educated at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music and signed to Lily Allen's imprint on Columbia, and who fortuitously performed his winsomely wet debut single "Another Love" on Later... With Jools Holland just when the voting for the aforementioned awards was in full swing. And if there's one thing we've had enough of, it's winsomely wet, well-connected, talent-schooled early twentysomething singer-songwriters from the south of England recording under their given names, and lightweight female-fronted pop-rock. Bravo, everyone.
Meanwhile, the live calendar shakes off its new year torpor with several excellent tours. Plan B's begins in Newcastle on 1 February, Bellowhead's in Oxford on 13 February, Richard Hawley's in Buxton on 17 February, the reunited Girls Aloud's in Newcastle on 21 February, The Darkness's in Sheffield on 1 March, Foals's in Manchester on 2 March, and Amanda Palmer's in Edinburgh on 22 March.
Rude boys and rude girls of a certain age will be doing the skinhead moonstomp once more when The Specials tour the UK in May. They aren't the only veterans on the road. Suede play London's Alexandra Palace on 30 March; Blondie play the Roundhouse on 7 July and, incredibly, tickets are already on sale, nine months in advance, for Roger Waters' umpteenth recreation of Pink Floyd's The Wall, this time at Wembley Stadium on 14 September.
The entity now calling itself Kraftwerk may consist only of Ralf Hütter and a handful of hired button-pushers (the classic line-up having been steadily edged out over the years), but that hasn't prevented the German electro pioneers' residency at Tate Modern in February from being the hottest ticket in town.
There's no shame, necessarily, in all this nostalgia. If we're honest with ourselves, a large part of enjoying rock'n'roll is about historical curatorship, living in a museum as much as living in the moment. With that in mind, the most inspiring exhibition of 2013 looks sure to be David Bowie Is, a thought-provoking multidisciplinary instalment launching on 23 March at the V&A, which has been granted unique access to the singer's enormous archive. Even seeing the handful of exhibits at the press launch – scribbled lyrics for "Five Years" in an exercise book, the actual "Ashes to Ashes" harlequin costume – was an emotional experience for this writer. Meanwhile, in terms of the written word, Bob Stanley's Do You Believe in Magic? A Complete History of Pop (from Faber & Faber in July) is certain to be a volume to savour.
You can work up a rough index of who's big and who isn't by looking at the listings for enormo-domes such as the 02. Amazingly, The Vaccines are now big enough to fill it. And if you thought Pink was past it, think again: she's booked in for an astonishing three nights there.
However, the biggest musical event of 2013, in terms of numbers, is Glastonbury. Headliners are yet to be announced, but the most persistent rumour is that their lead singer was born in a crossfire hurricane and raised by a toothless bearded hag.
Face to watch
You don't need a Nostradamus to predict big things for Stooshe: they've already had two Top 5 hits with "Love Me" and "Black Heart" (as well as a lower-charting cover of TLC's "Waterfall"). Their self-titled debut album, held back for months but finally due in March, should help the south London trio to seize the mantle as saviours of British girl-pop: an antidote to the sappy Saturdays, and spiritual successors to the Sugababes. (The original Sugababes – now called Mutya Keisha Siobhan – are coming back too. But that's another story.)
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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