Last week we shared the first twelve acts in our Eighteen picks for 2018, which we’d highly recommend you look back over HERE.
Today we’re approaching the end of our top tips with five more versatile acts; drifting from noisy-pop to ethereal alt-folk, and most things in between.
Happy Accidents [Alcopop! Records]
Happy Accidents have been around the UK indie-punk scene for a while, releasing their debut album, You Might Be Right, back in 2016. This year promises to ramp things up for the London-trio, with the upcoming release of their second album, Everything But The Here And Now, on the always excellent Alcopop! Records. The album, which was recorded with Hookworm’s front-man turned underground uber-producer MJ, is something of a departure for the band, not least because of the debut of drummer Phoebe’s nonchalant vocal, adding a stunning counter-point to regular front-man Rich’s more emotive, urgent delivery.
The vocal changes aren’t the only progress here though, everything about Happy Accidents now seems more ambitious. The addition of washes of keys, synths and atmospheric studio trickery, creates a more rounded sound without losing their energetic charm, recalling acts like Los Campesinos! or former touring-mates Doe. As well as a more ambitious record, Everything But The Here And Now is also a more versatile one; recent single Text Me When You’re Home is an anti Cat-Calling anthem full of beefy Kamikaze Girls-like guitar lines and contrastingly ethereal vocals, while Wait It Out is a straight forward thrashy punk song, and A Better Plan has a distinct 90’s alt-rock feel to it. Happy Accidents sound better than ever, taking giant strides forward without ever forgetting where it all began.
H.C. McEntire [Merge Records]
You might not have heard of H.C. McEntire, but you’ll almost certainly know her collaborators; Kathleen Hanna, William Tyler and Angel Olsen to name just a few of the stellar accompanying cast. Currently best known as frontwoman of Mount Moriah, stepping out solo feels like a logical next step for H.C, a songwriter with the noble aim of reclaiming country music from, “the hetero-normative, homogenous schtick of tailgates and six-packs and men chasing women”.
The resultant album, LIONHEART, is undeniably a record of turbulence and change – how could any album about America released this year not be – but more than that it is a record about reclaiming your own power. LIONHEART takes all the traditions of the American South, and sets about tearing them to pieces. As H.C. explains, “in music, there are no rules. You make your own language. You can be both the Southern rock outlier and the twangy gospel conduit. You can be both the cherubic, honey-tongued innocent and the ardent punk. To get here—to find my lion heart—I had to become them all”. Mainly though on LIONHEART, despite all her influences, all her outfits, all her collaborators, H.C. McEntire sounds entirely like herself, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Smokey Brights [Freakout Records]
It was back in 2010 than Smokey Brights first formed; Ryan Devlin and Kim West, a new couple with not much money to spare, set about singing Christmas songs to give out as gifts, seven years later they’re stilling singing. They may have been making music for a number of years, however with the release of their upcoming EP, Come To Terms, 2018 looks like being the year when a lot more people notice them doing it.
The recently released title track, Come To Terms, is a fine introduction to the band’s sound, built around reverberating guitars and bombastic drum beats, it finds Ryan’s gravelly, Cold War Kids meets Two Gallants, vocal to the fore, while Kim’s soulful Beth Ditto like backing adds some wonderful depth to the track. Come To Terms is a record of social division, soundtracking the growth of political chasms between alternating view points, and asking how we can go about rising above and starting to heal the wounds; as Devlin sings on the closing track, “This is not the time to turn your back on what you see. Find the strength in you, and I will find the good in me”. There’s plenty of good to be found here, a big bold and important record, Smokey Brights are a band who seven years in have never sounded more important.
Anna Burch [Heavenly Recordings]
Anna Burch may already be familiar to some as the singer in projects such as Frontier Ruckus and Failed Flowers, however, now stepping out as a solo artist in her own right, Anna’s effervescent take on pop seems like the start of a hugely interesting new chapter to her musical career. Anna grew up in Michigan, initially inspired by Disney sing-alongs and Carole King before shifting into angsty teenage exploration by covering Bright Eyes and Fiona Apple at open-mic nights. Perhaps Anna’s solo offerings show the perfect middle ground of those early melodic inspirations and the more nuanced, emotive sounds she grew to love.
Anna is set to release her debut album, Quit The Curse, in March; the result of a drawn out writing and recording process, the record was initially started back in 2014, and the lengthy affair seems to have been time well spent. Quit The Curse, is a sparkling blend of sugary-pop melodies and darker, introspective lyricism. Recalling acts like Hazel English or Amber Arcades, the more you pry into Anna’s work, the more you discover, hers is a world of destructive relationships, substance abuse and paranoia, all hidden beneath the sweet, almost naive sounding melodies. Anna has suggested that writing this record allowed her to leave her demons in the past, escaping her own negative patterns, and simultaneously producing something creative, remarkable, and likely to make huge waves in the year ahead.
BATTS [THAA Records]
Unlike most of the artists on this list, BATTS, the solo project of Melbourne based songwriter Tanya Batt, has already released the record we’re expecting to propel her into a successful 2018. Back in November, to the sound of far too little fanfare, BATTS released the mesmerising debut EP, 62 Moons. The record’s title is named after the moons of Saturn, and throughout this was a record with its head in the stars, it even starts with a recording NASA made of Saturn’s rings. As Tanya explains, “when NASA began to release the sounds of space it blew my mind. Saturn has always been my favourite for many reasons but when I first heard the sound of Saturn’s rings, it really connected”.
Creating music sourced directly from the heavens makes a lot of sense for BATTS, a musician whose sound has an unquestionably spacy feel to it, melding the world of shoe-gaze influenced guitars, soaring, melancholic vocals and ethereal folk, her music nods equally to Sigur Ros and Sinead O’Connor. From the Cat Power-like reflection of Little White Lies to the rich-layering of Somedays, 62 Moons is a record that deserved far more attention that it received, the coming year might just be the chance for the stars to align and right this undeniable wrong.
Come back later this week for an interview with the final artist in our 18 for 2018.