New artists had a tough time in 2020. Bands who were poised to become the Next Big Thing found themselves scrapping tours and pushing back albums.
In the past 12 months, though, there are almost too many to choose from, whether it’s jittery post-punk, woozy Welsh rock, or genre-blurring Gen-Z pop. We’re making it a little easier by choosing 10 acts we feel are definitely worth paying attention to in 2022.
A rambunctious group of teenagers from Essex (their drummer is 15 years old), Anorak Patch and fellow female-fronted acts such as Wet Leg are here to shake up the male-dominated post-punk scene. Recent single “Delilah” channels early Bloc Party with its choppy grunge guitars, but also acts such as The Pretenders and Blondie thanks to singer Effie Lawrence’s melodic croons. It looks like those older bands are about to get schooled.
New Jersey-raised, LA-based artist Carol Ades is looking for a new start, following a successful string of songwriting collaborations with pop singers such as Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Ava Max. Her sound is wistful pop-punk balladry. On recent single “Through”, she recalls Avril Lavigne via slacker guitars and her shrugging attitude: “I'm gonna cry if I want to/ Stay up all night if I need to/ I’m gonna die if I have to/ The only way out is through.” Fingers crossed for an album in 2022.
Having experienced one of the fastest ascensions of any UK rapper in recent years, Central Cee now has his eyes fixed firmly on the global stage. His debut mixtape, the independently released Wild West, was a smart, snappy synthesis of drill and trap elements, witty bars and well-chosen samples. Single “Loading” uses a Twenties-era jazz riff, while the viral “Obsessed With You” sampled fellow rising star PinkPantheress’s track “Just For Me”. Earlier this year, he won Best Male Artist and Breakthrough Artist at the GRM Awards; he’s also one of the most-nominated artists at the 2022 Brit Awards. Keep an eye out for his forthcoming 23 mixtape, scheduled for release in February.
Liverpool duo King Hannah are renegades, trading in sharp-toothed Americana and lo-fi, Noughties-indebted indie. Guitarist Craig Whittle and Hannah Merrick first met during a band showcase at college, but formed their own group while working at a bar together. Merrick’s voice is seductively low – think Sharon Van Etten or Lana Del Rey – with an outlaw edge, enhanced by Whittle’s tension-building riffs. Their debut album, I’m Sorry, I Was Just Being Me, is scheduled for release on 25 February.
Are we about to witness Cool Cymru 2.0? These six lovely Cardiff lads are having a splendid time making lopsided pop-rock with lyrics in both English and Welsh. Recent single “Short Haired Lady” coasts along a surf-rock guitar riff and bright keys, while “Dewin Dwl” (“silly wizard” in Welsh) gets its feet on dry land for a stroll around a Tolkein-esque landscape. Look forward to more adventures with them in the new year.
London’s PinkPantheress first caught our attention with the viral clips she posted to TikTok last year. As fans came up with videos to accompany them, she released the full versions of each song, most of which were not much longer than two minutes. They are fragmented – delivered in her laconic whisper-drawl over lo-fi jungle beats – and perfectly capture the jittery, Gen-Z anxiety that permeates much of social media. Her debut album, To Hell With It, impressed us enough to place it on our Albums of the Year list. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
Santino Le Saint
The brilliantly broody Brixton artist Santino Le Saint is bringing rock and hip hop together like no other UK artist right now. The son of UK hip-hop producer Charlie Parker of The 57th Dynasty, he seems to have inherited his father’s sense for innovation. His soundscapes are pensive, dark and glitchy; lyrics are delivered in a sultry murmur or swift half-raps.
Nigerian artist Tems had a huge 2021, with a support slot on Wizkid’s record-breaking shows at the O2 Arena in London and her own headline shows at Lafayette. In the US, she caught the attention of Drake and appeared on his track “Favourites”, from new album Certified Lover Boy, and also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel. She alternates between leisurely ballads backed by warm acoustic guitar, and sun-drenched, empowering anthems such as “Damages”, on which she demands: “So tell me what you need from me now/ I’m not what you need to be now/ ’Cause I’m done with it now.”
London-based artist Tora-i is waving the flag for the UK’s long-awaited R&B renaissance. Recent single “Call Your Name” opens with determined parps of brass, as she uses biblical injury to conjure themes of persecution and burden-carrying. “They don't write stories ’bout women like me/ Say that the floor/ Misses our feet/ Don’t pass go no/ Straight to jail please,” she sings coolly. A naturally creative soul.
By the time they’d dropped their first two singles, Wet Leg seemed to have it wrapped up. The Isle of Wight duo – Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – are a breath of fresh air for a UK post-punk scene that had grown a little stale of late, dominated as it was by squawking blokes (Idles, Black Country, New Road, Black Midi, Sports Team, Shame, Sleaford Mods). Wet Leg’s lyrics are frequently sardonic, witty and tongue-in-cheek. “Chaise Longue” is a skittering joyride that includes an excellent Mean Girls reference. Post-punk feminist anthem “Wet Dream” nods to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as the duo demand: “What makes you think you're good enough/ To think about me when you're touching yourself?” They’re heaps of fun, and their debut album is out on 8 April.
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