The Top Ten Most Exciting British Artists Playing at the Great Escape 2014

by Phil Mason

7 May 2014

 

All We Are

Having already supported Warpaint, Liverpool-based trio All We Are are set to make a real splash in Brighton this week and subsequently across the rest of 2014. 

Consisting of two guys and a girl (all ex-students at Macca’s Institute for Performing Arts) the band deal in pretty-as-hell soul-inflected dreampop, out of which it would be impossible to identify any overriding influence. 

All their singles so far have been cracking, with particular head-turners including “Feel Safe” (woozy, lazy Sunday morning ersatz-disco) and “Cardhouse” (Arcade Fire and Midlake wake up together wondering what happened following a particularly rough night).   

Best of the lot is “Utmost Good”, in which the band slow down “Saturday Night Fever” to a crawl as a background over which to lay their slinkiest Prince falsetto.


 

Jungle

Of all the many phrases in the British pop music lexicon, one guaranteed to get all but the most hardened Radio 1 listener running for the hills is ‘urban collective’. (Three words—So Solid Crew; one and a quarter words—N-Dubz).

Thankfully, Jungle, a publicity-shy duo from London, look like they might be about to break the cycle of mediocrity by (whisper it) actually having a clue.

Since their formation last year, the band has released a string of singles prompting all kinds of internet taste-makers to reach for comparisons ranging from TV on the Radio to Curtis Mayfield. (The eerie, loping “Platoon” is the best so far, but any of them will see you right.)

Live they apparently transform themselves into a seven piece, while they’ve also hinted in interviews that they might be part of a larger movement taking in visuals as well as music. (Their videos are extraordinary). Curiouser and curioser…


 

Woman’s Hour

As listeners of BBC Radio 4 will know, the station (motto: ‘all opera reviews/evensong all the time’) isn’t exactly the most fertile ground for coming up with exciting new band name ideas. (The best anyone’s done up until now is probably spectacularly adequate ‘90s dance punks Radio 4, who went with, well, Radio 4). 

Keeping that in mind, it’s puzzling, not only that Woman’s Hour went to the R4 at all, but that they ended up taking inspiration from the second most un-rock ‘n’ roll programme on the network. (The first most un-rock ‘n’ roll of course being Gardeners’ Question Time).   

Anyway, nomenclature issues aside, the band make a kind of poppy-shoegaze hybrid that occasionally (e.g., the ‘80s Fleetwood Mac-esque “Conversations”) sounds positively Californian. Their first single, “Jenni”, is a paean to Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray. I like them.


 

Honeyblood

You wait all year for the next big rock/art project duo thing to come along, and then two candidates appear at once. (See also Royal Blood, above).

Glasgow all-girl combo Honeyblood formed a couple of years ago over what you can only assume was a mutual love of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub and the Breeders. They have since released a barbed-wire daisy chain of singles, each one a perfectly-formed chunk of beguiling teeth-bared grunge pop. 

Highlights so far have included the irresistible “Bud”, which sounds like The Byrds on a budget, and the aching, paranoid but still sweet-as-honey “Choker”.

PopMatters is particularly fond of the frankly delicious burst of sunshine that is “Kissing on You”, which contains this piece of Zen wisdom - “I can’t think of anything better-to-do than spend my day kissing on you”. 

 

East India Youth

Since it began in 2006, one of the things that The Great Escape has always been good at it is being ahead of the game when it comes to new pop auteurs. (UK-based or not). Last year, for example, witnessed sets by both King Krule and Dan Croll, while in 2012 Grimes heralded her subsequent status with a glittering 30 minutes at one of the smallest venues in the festival. 

This year’s probable big noise is East India Youth (aka William Doyle), a 23-year old from Bournemouth who makes shimmering polymath dance pop, and has already released a contender for album of the year with Total Strife Forever. (See what he did there, Foals fans?)

His instrumental work betrays a range of influences, from Underworld (the diamond-hard, swirly Hinterland) to 20th century classical composition. On the occasions vocals appear meanwhile – such as on the gospel-inflected Dripping Down – we sense exactly the kind of exuberance and vulnerability you would hope for from an intelligent, sensitive young man in his early 20s. 

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