Ones to watch: the best five up-and-coming acts

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The Independent Culture

Bon Iver

The schtick about being conceived while “hibernating” in a North Wisconsin log cabin may repel some as much as it attracts others, but it becomes rather irrelevant once you hear the resulting album. Justin Vernon, who goes under the bastardised French moniker of Bon Iver, has crafted a collection of first-rate, down-tempo Americana, sung not with the usual gravelly, bourbon sodden bass but more often than not in an unearthly falsetto. Fans of Grizzly Bear or Iron And Wine would do well to take note. The live show impresses too: the band’s triumphant struggle against a ludicrously loud punk rock band was a highlight of this year’s SXSW festival.

The album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ is out on 4AD on 12 May. Bon Iver is on UK tour until 20 May.


A kind of musical Jekyll and Hyde, Mica Levi aka Micachu is associated with various grime collectives but by day studies composition at Guildhall, while Mark Anthony Turnage has commissioned her to write a piece for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Yet it’s her third persona, broadly a kind of experimental pop guise, which is currently getting the most attention: new single “Lone Ranger” was produced by electronica auteur Matthew Herbert, no less, and she’s notched up support slots with Mystery Jets and Five To Watch predecessors Pete And The Pirates. She also has a penchant for making her own instruments, apparently inspired by avant-garde hobo Harry Partch.

The single ‘Lone Ranger’ is out now. Micachu has a string of UK dates until 26 May, including the Stag And Dagger, Dot To Dot and Great Escape festivals.

Midnight Juggernauts

The scene centred around Australian dance label Modular has been the subject of much hype of late, and this Melbourne trio are among its most prominent flag-bearers. Championed by Justice, who invited them on a world tour, they’ve also shared stages with the likes of Klaxons and Digitalism, with whom they have marked similarities, and Pixies, with whom they share almost nothing at all. Their techno tinged take on intergalactic disco is instead more in the tradition of Daft Punk or Giorgio Moroder, whilst debut album, Dystopia, has the odd hint of ELO-style prog. But don’t let that put you off.

The album ‘Dystopia’ is out on Charisma on 19 May. The band is on UK tour from 23-25 May.

Shout Out Louds

Another SXSW tip, this Swedish quintet first appeared on our shores in 2005, notching up a string of impressive supports (The Strokes, The Magic Numbers, Kings Of Leon) while promoting their debut album, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. Now they are back with Our Ill Wills, a darker, more Cure-fixated take on indie pop – anthemic lead single, “Tonight I Have To Leave It” shows just how far they’ve raised the bar. Having recently signed to Arcade Fire’s label, Merge, in the US, they also seem to count The Pogues as fans, the band having joined them on stage at America’s Coachella Festival.

The album ‘Our Ill Wills’ is out on Weekender on 12 May.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums

That Sweden’s Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a husband-and wife duo is unusual, although hardly without precedent. It’s the instrumentation employed by Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin, however, that’s rarer than hen’s teeth, a palette more often than not restricted solely to (her) vocals and (his) drums. The results are unsurprisingly sparse, yet interest is maintained by the parts themselves – as impressive as one would expect from a pair who met at Gothenburg’s Academy of Music and Drama – as well as their often idiosyncratic execution. The overall effect, simultaneously primal and flirting with the avant garde, is utterly bewitching, landing somewhere between pagan blues and skeletal, experimental soul.

Album ‘Heartcore’ is out now on the Leaf label. Wildbirds & Peacedrums are on tour from 14-23 May.

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