The exceptional standard of new and emerging musicians never surprises me, and I’m confident that 2019 has been another great year for new music. So as it draws to a close we reveal our annual Alternative Friday Awards… so who are the winners?
Best Rock & Indie EP: The Cheap Thrills – Vue Du Monde
Liverpool 4-piece The Cheap Thrills have produced a stream of great singles over the past couple of years, and they packaged the more recent ones along with a few new tracks in their autumn EP Vue Du Monde. All six tracks highlight their amazing ability to create infectious and singalong tunes. From the more alt rock Codependence to the synths in the danceable Smile When You Sleep, they’ve created an energetic and hugely enjoyable EP. They’re a fabulous live band too, and you can find out more about them in a Q & A I held with them earlier in the year.
Best Soul & RnB EP: I.M the artist – Self-Made
Originally from Gothenburg in Sweden, and now based in London, the singer, songwriter, & musician known as I.M the artist released her debut EP only last month. Her soulful mix of RnB & hip-hop, along with a wonderfully poetic voice, first grabbed me with the emotive 4 A.M. in September, and the subsequent EP was evidence it wasn’t a one-off. Opener Therapy is a stunning and absorbing lyric & vocal, and the quality of the tracks doesn’t dip as you progress. Perfect for a late-night bar.
Best Experimental Synthpop track: Plastic Mermaids – I Still Like Kelis
When you see a band live for the first time with huge expectations, and they surpass them with ease! That was my experience seeing this five-piece band from the Isle of Wight a few months ago. Their album Suddenly Everyone Explodes contains other gems, such as Yoyo and 1996, but this track was my introduction to them earlier this year, and is an amazing 3 1/2 minutes of distorted dancefloor shoegaze brilliance. The video is excellent too, and features both quantum theory and plasticine, which probably doesn’t happen too often.
Best Afro-Latin song: Gizmo Varillas – Saving Grace
The Spanish-Basque songwriter Gizmo Varillas has been releasing a warm array of tropical Latin, funky Afrobeat, and acoustic folk for a couple of years now. He certainly hit the mark again with Saving Grace, which is upbeat and dance friendly, but also a lyrical reflection on parts of his life experience. It also features the legendary Tony Allen on drums. Gizmo Varillas is another wonderful musician who’s taken part in a Q & A this year, which you can find here.
Best Folk & Artpop track: Bloom de Wilde – Rock Plant & Animal
Originally from the Netherlands, this London based singer-songwriter is also a producer and visual artist. Written for her children, this track is a quirky yet forceful message about the world, and involves experimental and powerful melodies, not dissimilar to Björk at her best. The distinctive vocals, added strings, and brass instruments, only add to the ingredients that make this track something very special. I make that sound a yes, yes, yes…!!
The Killer Indie tune: Junodream – Nobody Wants You
Who picks national radio playlists, as my biased view is that every winner here should have been all over the networks in 2019, including this gem. For those who love a bittersweet indie shoegaze sound, with rhythmic guitars, a killer singalong chorus, and some stunning & rhythmic percussion that’s more drum’n’bass than rock, look no further than the London school mates that formed Junodream. Just a wonderfully contagious track. It’s about the beats.
Best Orchestral Pop record: Yes We Mystic – Please Bring Me to Safety
Or is it art rock? This band from Winnipeg in Canada haven’t just hit the jackpot with this song, this year’s Ten Seated Figures album is full of exquisite melodies and barnstorming choruses, such as in the tracks Italics, Vanitas Waltz, & Felsenmeer. With foot-stomping percussion at its spine, a broad sonic landscape, and rich vocals, the band have created a technicoloured pop gem.
Best Post-Punk & New Wave track: Sparkling – It Isn’t True
Cologne trio Sparkling have brought the new wave krautrock sound bang up to date with their melodic blend of guitars, synths, & drums. This track comes from their excellent album, I Want To See Everything, which was released in August, and includes vocals sung in German, French, & English. The album also has a wonderfully continental European feel to it, and one that allows the band to differentiate itself from more traditional rock acts. I’ll leave the final word to the band themselves: I want to see everything, I want to see the world…
To hear some early contenders for next year’s awards, do keep a close watch on the Evolving Tunes playlist in 2020!