10 New Artists to Watch in 2016
New artists find it hard to make a mark nowadays. In spite of Twitter, Facebook and all of the other social marketing tools available competition is intense, not just against other newcomers but against established artists who gobble up all of the publicity when they tour or release new material. I mean no offence to Coldplay or their fans but do we really need to hear about them playing the Superbowl on every channel? Then there are all those TV talent shows where up-and-coming artists are promised instant fame without the traditional touring treadmill taken by most new artists and the inevitable one-dimensional (One Direction?!) music this produces. Anyway, in no particular order, here are ten new artists that we’ve heard in the last year who we think have what it takes to make it in 2016.
The man behind Color Theory is the multi-talented synthpop genius Brian Hazard. Coming from a classically trained background, Brian swapped Debussy for Depeche Mode and started creating excellent synthesizer-driven pop music. The classical base shows through though and this helps make Color Theory stand apart.
The Depeche Mode influences are so strong that Color Theory’s Ponytail Girl was widely reported to be a Depeche Mode song. An error that both camps were forced to publicly correct. This inspired an excellent Depeche Mode tribute album. However, listen to Color Theory’s recent releases and most notably November’s Adjustments Pt. 3 and it’s clear that this is an artist in his own right making great music. Hardly a new artist; Color Theory has a whole army of fans, but if there is any justice, the new Color Theory Adjustments Pt. 3 release will soar in 2016. If you’ve never heard Color Theory before, we have pleasure introducing the world of Brian Hazard as one of our very best new artists to hear in 2016.
You can listen to Brian Hazard’s Color Theory songs at music.colortheory.com.
Eva Rubin is one of the best new artists we’ve heard in a long time. Based in New York, Eva plays a compelling blend of indie/alt-country tinged with folk. Her acerbic yet sensitive lyrics are complemented by a subtle musical backdrop with a little help from the talented multi-instrumentalist and producer, Dave McNamara. Then there’s Eva’s voice, able to convey her message during quiet, whispery moments then soaring at other times. This talent deserves a wider audience and gives us faith that there are gifted new artists out there waiting to be discovered.
We reviewed Eva Rubin’s excellent recent releases Hard Decline and King For a While and loved them. The acoustic-led music brings to mind Elliot Smith – good company in which to be and we were even reminded of the Rolling Stones more country-inspired moments. The promise of new material and a licensing deal with Life Science records bodes very well for a triumphant 2016 for Eva Rubin. We can’t wait.
You can listen to Eva Rubin at her Band Camp page.
Jay Wallace has been making music for a little while now but his message has been gathering momentum recently and could be set for a bigger stage. It’s an uncompromising message and Jay’s delivery is commendably unflinching in its honesty. There is subtlety and verve to Jay’s beats and a jagged poetry to his rhymes that elevate the overall package to a higher level. Jay’s tales from the streets don’t shy away from the grit and grime but offer a positive solution to the problem.
The music contains all the right influences from Eminem to Kendrick Lamar and fuse rap, hip hop, soul and while the spirit of the blues permeates throughout. For anthems of the downtrodden and disenfranchised listen to Falling From Grace and Rap Nation. Jay Wallace is one of our new artists tackling an old problem with a new slant and in his own unique style and we look forward to new releases in 2016.
Check out Jay Wallace at his YouTube channel.
Mike Clifford is a new artist to Rated Sound, although he has been around for a little while. This Brooklyn-based musician teaches in a New York elementary school and has toured as far as Australia. Mike partnered with The Tales of Reese charitable organisation in 2014 to donate a set of his songs to help children with serious illnesses. As a member of The District, he knocks out authentic country and bluegrass. As a solo artist, he refines this sound somewhat and adds a touch of classic soul.
Mike possess a confident voice and puts his music over in a that simple yet hard-to-achieve way that brings an honesty to the songs. We first heard his Among the Evergreens EP in November 2015 and gave it a rave review. The EP has a fine pedigree and is produced by Grammy award-winning sound engineer Ted Young. Mike’s musical career is building momentum and its surely a matter of time before he reaches a wider audience.
Daniel Wilson is a brilliant new talent from Michigan. Daniel’s unique voice immediately sets him apart from his peers with a vocal range capable of taking us from a soothing croon to a dramatic falsetto in a heartbeat. Raised on religious music, the soul and gospel influences remain but are coloured by the influence of pop with a natural melody that runs through the music. Meanwhile, Daniel’s inventive and often funky synth arrangements make for a fascinating musical backing.
Daniel is signed to London-based Supersonic Management and the Zap records label. To date, Daniel has released two EP’s; his debut Young Rubbish was released in early 2014 and the superb follow-up, Boy Who Cried Thunder, was released in November 2014. It may sound like something of a cliché but when we first heard this Daniel Wilson, it was like a breath of fresh air, he really is one of the best new artists we’ve heard. We Challenge you to listen to songs like Killed Ya and If You Went Away from the Boy Who Cried Thunder EP or the title track and not feel the same.
Listen to Daniel Wilson at his Soundcloud page.
Sick Bird is an alternative hip hop artist based in California. Another native of Michigan, Sick Bird moved to California while still at high school and now operated from Chico. An early starter, he recorded an album as Jel the Fresh Greenery at high school. Sadly this early work remains unreleased. Sick Bird released his debut album proper in 2008 and has been prolific ever since and was also a member of the group Cypher Active.
2015 was a busy year for Sick Bird, releasing two albums; Midnight Raven and his excellent self titled album, Sick Bird’s eighth, was released in October. We’ve included Sick Bird as one of our new artists even though he is already well-respected in hip hop circles but we feel that the quality of Sick Bird’s beats deserve much wider recognition. That’s why we’re tipping this Sick Bird to fly high in 2016!
You can listen to Sick Bird at his Soundcloud page.
Profumo is a four-piece indie outfit from the north-east of England and one of the wave of exciting new artists to come from northern England. Showing all the right influences, their music can be compared to Suede, The Go-Betweens and The Smiths, before Morrissey started to disappear up his own fundament. One of the most exiting new bands we’ve heard in a while, frontman Jack Bates delivers his intelligent, witty and often biting lyrics with a rare confidence and conviction that makes you believe every word.
That conviction is not misplaced, Profumo is the real deal. We reviewed their stellar Brutalism EP back in September and we’re still as enthusiastic about it now as we were back then. The aforementioned Bates’ lyrics are matched by an engaging musical backdrop over the course of six eclectic tracks. Profumo are already playing to good crowds in their native north-east and its only a matter of time before this talented group go national and probably even bigger.
You can listen to Profumo at their Bandcamp page.
Rafiki Jazz are the most culturally diverse band on this list. Actually, you’d have to a long way to find a more culturally diverse outfit on any list with music representations from Brazil, India, Egypt, Bengal, Senegal among others. These seemingly disparate elements were brought together by a desire to make music in the UK at Sheffield. The results are superb as an evolving cast of talented musicians bring us ethnic folk, rap, dance beats and more.
Already two albums into a burgeoning career, Rafiki Jazz followed up the release of their debut, More Big Muzik from Over There by crossing some more frontiers with the follow-up At Kriol Junction in 2014. Region-specific instruments are used to superb effect and melded into a whole that is even more than the sum of its parts. New artists using old music to create new music, Rafiki Jazz are a wonderful representation of multicultural Britain today and a reminder of how exciting “world music” can be.
Twist Helix are another exciting new band from the north of England. The band consists of; Bea (vocals/keyboards), Andy (guitar), Michael (bass) and James (drums). Twist Helix play a unique brand of alternative indie synth pop that mixes strong melodies with a clever narrative lyrical style through songs that spin a compelling yarn. It’s refreshing to find a new band that are a group of highly competent musicians at such an early stage in their development. Twist Helix manage to combine the enthusiasm of a new artist with the polish of a much more experience outfit.
A series of high-profile local shows have seen Twist Helix win rave reviews and build a strong following at a local level and we can see the boundaries of this following expanding. After releasing several demos on Soundcloud, the band completed recorded their debut album, Manifesto, which is due for release in 2016. On the evidence of what we’ve heard so far, 2016 should be a big year for Twist Helix and they are surely set for a big step towards stardom.
Vito are an indie rock band from Gateshead in the UK consisting of; Tom Conway (guitar/vocals), Andy Bell (guitar), Ben Houlton (bass) and Dom Willis (drums). With a sound reminiscent of the Strokes, Foo Fighters with a hint of the Rolling Stones, this band have a satisfying garage sound played with the sort of raw enthusiastic intensity of four young men who know they are on the right path. It’s not just dumb rock n’ roll either, Vito display promise in their lyrics which lift them well above the usual clichés stitched together in haste.
Currently unsigned, Vito have started to gain a loyal following on a local level and have played gigs in some good venues already. Hopefully this band of young talent can use the momentum gathered in the last twelve months to get a recording contract and publish their material. Vito are still very much new artists finding their true sound but they are already well on their way. This is a great time to catch this new band and we look forward to watching the development of Vito in 2016 with a sense of anticipation.
Find out more about Vito at their Facebook page.
So that’s our pick of the new artists we’ve heard this year. We’d like to point out once again that they are presented in no particular order. Strictly speaking, some of them aren’t new artists but they’re new to us and have perhaps slipped under the radar so far. We hope you enjoy hearing these new artists for the first time and if you do, you can say thanks in the comments box below!