The real sound of 2012

From hip-hop to folk-pop, Elisa Bray highlights 10 of the exciting acts we'd like to see make it big this year



Azealia Banks

If hip-hop is going to continue to enjoy a resurgence this year, it will, mostly, be thanks to Azealia Banks. When the little-known teenager topped the NME's Cool List in November, people quickly turned to YouTube to hear "212", a punchy hip-hop song with filthy lyrics and a bold, belting voice set to electro beats. Then followed a place on the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll. The New Yorker's knack for melody and inventive rapping have led to comparisons with Missy Elliott and she has been working on her debut album with award-winning producer Paul Epworth, famous for work with Florence and the Machine and Adele.

For fans of Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliott


The 2 Bears

The various talented members of electronic band Hot Chip are no strangers to side projects, with Alexis Taylor's jazz impro outfit About Group, and Al Doyle and Felix Martin forming New Build. Founder Joe Goddard has teamed up with Greco-Roman's Raf Rundell to form The 2 Bears (above), creating upbeat electro-house – and dance music's hottest new property. The outfit has unlikely fans in Elton John and Paul McCartney. A guest at Kate Moss's wedding, Paul McCartney is said to have heard DJ Nick Grimshaw play their song "Bear Hug" and told him how he loved it and it sounded amazing on the dance floor. The 2 Bears have been storming festival stages and DJ booths for the past 18 months, while tracks from their first three EPs have become mainstays in clubs and on radio with Andrew Weatherall, Erol Alkan and Pete Tong playing them. The album Be Strong is out on 30 January on Southern Fried.

For fans of Hot Chip, Leftfield


Lana Del Rey

Del Rey became the internet sensation of the year after the video for her song "Video Games" racked up millions of views on YouTube and led her first gig to sell out within half an hour. Del Rey's internet hit was also hailed by many as the song of the year. A performance on Later... with Jools Holland proved her ability to recreate her recording live, her intoxicating voice recalling Stevie Nicks and Nancy Sinatra, while her first UK gig, at the Scala, displayed more of her self-dubbed "Hollywood sadcore" that bodes well for the self-styled "gangsta Nancy Sinatra"'s debut album Born to Die , which is out on 30 January, on Polydor.

For fans of Julee Cruise, Nancy Sinatra


I Break Horses

The Swedish duo made many critics' and blogs' end of year lists for their shoegazey electro-dream pop debut album that strikes a chord with fans of M83, fellow Bella Union label mates Beach House and The Antlers. Real life couple Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck named themselves after a Smog song, and their dramatic, captivating debut album Hearts trades in whispered ethereal harmonies, lush swathes of synths and glistening electronics. They also have a fan in Batman actor Cillian Murphy, so much so that he stars in the video to their anthemic single "Winter Beats".

For fans of M83, Beach House, the Antlers



Formed in September 2010, Brooklyn band Friends played their first show – for their sassy singer Samantha Urbani's birthday party in her backyard – six days later. They found themselves thrust into a showcase at the annual CMJ festival shortly after and have been receiving offers to play hip spots all over New York – and now the UK – ever since. 23-year-old Urbani was home-schooled by her artistic single mother, always encouraged to be creatively expressive, and that sense of joyous free spirit has transferred to the music – light, fresh, loose, but percussive, synth pop with slinky basslines and some rhythmic cowbell. Glowing praise has centred around the single "I'm His Girl", which has received much airplay on Radio 1 and 6 Music, and they were the one act on an independent label to be tipped by the BBC Sound of 2012 poll. They quickly sold out a London gig for February, but another date has been added.

For fans of Neneh Cherry, Sleigh Bells


Beth Jeans Houghton

Houghton began songwriting aged 16, after she fell in love with a Japanese Fender Stratocaster in a shop window. Her debut album has been a long time in the making. The quirky Newcastle singer-songwriter has taken nearly four years to put out Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, and was heavily tipped – by myself included – back in 2009, when, aged 19, she released her first EP, which was laden with mesmerising, idiosyncratic psych-folk arrangements incorporating layers of shimmering piano, guitar and delicate vocals, and warm brass all delivered by her band The Hooves of Destiny. But the wait, which ends on 6 February with the Mute release, is well worth it, following up her EPs with more shimmering loveliness in songs such as "Sweet Tooth Bird".

For fans of Laura Marling, St Vincent

Jodie Marie

The story of how the Welsh folk-pop singer was discovered is the stuff of fairytales. Although she had been singing since she was just six, it was a landlady at a pub where Marie's plumber father was working who told a guest about the girl's voice. Next, she found herself with a manager at the age of 16, and a record deal followed. Marie's voice really is that captivating: pure, and lilting. Now 21, having been working with singer songwriter producer Ed Harcourt, she is preparing to release her album, which includes single "Single Blank Canvas", on 5 March.

For fans of Adele, Carole King, Patsy Cline

Boy & Bear

Dubbed the Australian Mumford and Sons for melodic folk-pop which wears its heart boldly on its sleeve, Boy & Bear are already huge stars in their home country, where they've just won a string of Arias, the Australian equivalent of the Brit Awards. They're also a success in America, where they supported Mumford and Sons. With their debut album Moonfire set for release on 16 January on V2 Records, and a tour to follow in spring, it's only time before they repeat that success here.

For fans of Mumford and Sons, Crowded House



It's hard to believe that Caveman remain such a secret, recalling as they do Merriweather Post Pavilion-era Animal Collective with the infectious melodies of The Shins. Risen from ashes of indie-rock band The Subjects, Matthew Iwanusa, main singer songwriter, and guitarist Jimmy "Cobra" Carbonetti formed Caveman, a New York-based five-piece. Tribal drumming drives their sound, but four-part harmonies, spaced-out guitars and synths are just as integral. They released their debut album CoCo Beware on their own label and have just signed with Fat Possum in America, and have shared the stage with bands including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Here We Go Magic, among others. There's a chance to see Caveman next month when they make their debut appearance in London, at the Macbeth.

For fans of The Shins, Animal Collective


Following in the tradition of experimental art-rock bands such as !!!, this band chose a symbol for their name (except they're not called Triangle, but Alt-J – the keys you hit on an Apple keyboard to create the symbol). They've already been hailed "the lifeblood of new music" by Radio 1's Zane Lowe; the Leeds quartet are inventive, melding reverb-drenched blues-soul vocals with a variety of playful percussion and dissonant melodies. They've also been a hit online, gathering 2,500 Facebook fans and nearly 50,000 plays of their songs on Soundcloud within months.

For fans of Foals, !!!

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