13. Gold Baby
Formed back in the early months of 2018, Gold Baby are a collection of old friends who met while playing in various bands and solo guises on the North London DIY scene. Through a string of well received shows, and a handful of impressive singles, they have already caught the ear of a burgeoning audience. The band have recently been in the studio working on further material to be shared with the world in the early months of this year.
Gold Baby’s sound is one that fuses slacker-rock and dance floor ready indie; jangling guitar lines and tight rhythms create a base, atop which vocalist Siân Alex’s lush vocals can shimmer and shine. Recent single, Maggots showcased their lyrical sincerity, recalling the likes of Hop Along or Courtney Barnett, as Siân detailed the feeling of never quite living up to your own expectations. With their perfect recollections of the insecurities and instabilities of finding your place in the world, Gold Baby seem to be a band ready to grasp whatever opportunities come their way.
14. Vanessa Anne Redd
Vanessa Anna Redd is a half-German songwriter, based out of London. Having first caugh some attention with debut album, Behind The Wall back in 2016, Vanessa is set to return later this month with a brand new collection, Zumbo Waxes, due out via Sharp Attack Records.
Discussing Zumbo Waxes, Vanessa has suggested the record is a, “gothic folk fairy-tale of sin and salvation”, conceived in the Victoria in Florence, Italy and inspired by Baroque-era sculptor Gaetono Giulio Zumbo. The album is a fine example of the diversity and creativity of Vanessa’s songwriting. From the Tom Waitsian cabaret stomp of What’s Next, to the lo-fi uke-pop of No Sacrifice and the heart-wrenching balladry of Transcendence, Zumbo Waxes is a record that sounds relentlessly intriguing.
Formed back in 2017, Swine Tax are one of the jewels of the North East alternative music scene. The band have caught the ears of bloggers and radio stations alike, and shared stages with the likes of The Orielles, Jeffrey Lewis and Shopping. The band shared a number of stand-alone singles in 2018, and are currently working on new material that should see the light of day in the next few months.
Swine Tax closed off 2018 with quite possibly their finest offering to date, the band’s anthem for the introverted, Conversation, “a tongue-in-cheek tirade against the stilted and soul crushing scenarios”, of having to make awkward small talk. Like much of the band’s output, the track is a blur of angular guitars and driving rhythms, like Pavement if they’d grown up with that distinctly North Eastern view on the world. Loud, politically literate, clever and quite often very funny, Swine Tax are the latest piece of evidence that there’s plenty of life left in scuzzy guitar music yet.
As we enter the New Year, the rise of American songwriter Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, is set to get increasingly rapid. While up until now Ella has been sharing her focus between a burgeoning musical career and university studies, in 2019 Squirrel Flower, and her debut album, are set to take sole focus. Ella will also be starting the year with her first ever UK dates, including shows with Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker.
We’ve long been admirers of Squirrel Flowers music, with two excellent EP’s already under her belt, 2015’s Early Winter Songs From Middle America and Contact Sports which was given a re-issue last year. Even across those two EP’s, the music of Squirrel Flower has already shown wonderful dexterity, from the minimal found-sound style of Early Winter Songs, to the more emotionally wrought electric-guitar driven soundscapes of Contact Sports.We had the pleasure of interviewing Ella last year, and it was clear this is a songwriter with no desire to fall into patterns or repetition; her music could take the listener anywhere, there’s simply no limit to Squirrel Flower’s potential.
London-trio Protection Spells may only just be getting started but they’re already leaving quite the impression. Their 2017 EP, Daughter Of Gold, was an intriguing introduction, while their latest single, Bleed Through Sheet, came good on all that promise. Their take on what they describe as, “witchy dream-pop”, has already seen the band support the likes of Jane Weaver and Jessica Williamson.
Discussing Bleed Through Sheet, chief songwriter Gwen Austin has suggested it’s one of many songs written about the nativity, in her own words, the track, “imagines the relationship between Mary and the Holy Ghost as heard by Mary’s mother Anne through her bedroom wall”. Musically, the track is an intriguing fusing of sounds, Gwen’s folk-tinged vocals are given a more modern spin through the intricate shoe-gazey haze created by her bandmates. There’s something both eerie and intriguing about Protection Spells music, expect a lot more people to fall for their incantations in the coming months.
Savage Mansion is the joyously rambunctious project of Glasgow’s, “scuzzy-slacker” (his words not ours), Craig Angus. Having previously put music out under the pseudonym, Poor Things, Craig has since become a fixture on the Glasgow DIY-scene, helping bands out, putting on shows and generally being passionate about the pursuit of new music. Now returning to his own music, Craig is next month set to release his debut album, Revision Ballads, on the ever brilliant, Lost Map Records.
When it comes to Savage Mansion, Craig is quite happy to be associated with his influences, the sounds of The Velvet Underground, Parquet Floors and REM are all present and correct, yet he finds a way to spin these old sounds into something fresh and exciting. Recent single Elwood, is a lolloping, yelping wonder, while closing track Older and Wiser is like the middle ground between Cate Le Bon and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever we never knew we needed in our life. Best of all is Nudist Beach, with its wonderfully wonky guitar line and comical reflections on the President (“applies his spray tan before breakfast”), the Queen of England (“not a quitter”), and the last King Of Scotland (“Forest, Forest Whitaker”). Funny, different and perfectly unhinged, Savage Mansion night just be your new favourite band.
We must admit we don’t know a great deal about our final entry, Herbal Tea; thankfully when you write songs as good as the few we’ve heard so far, people don’t tend to ask too many questions. The project of Bristol-based songwriter, Helena, who’s also one half of the duo Sleep Radio, Herbal Tea is the sound of Helena growing in confidence and starting to find her feet as a songwriter and a home producer.
Citing influences from Angel Olsen to Elliot Smith, Helena’s shared just a pair of singles to date, both showcase a delightfully lo-fi production, and a vocal capable of carrying an impressive emotional weight. Second Heart has something of Alex G or Magana about the slowly unfurling, slightly unusually paced guitar line, while Kitchen Floor (4am) is a spectacularly dreamy affair, like the middle-ground of an early Sharon Van Etten demo and Sparklehorse at his most dreamy. Already well established in her native Bristol, we’d bet Herbal Tea isn’t going to stay a musical mystery for very long.
You can check out the rest of our 19 for 2019 HERE.