8. Mediocre [Dangerbird Records]
Hailing from Culver City, California, Mediocre are the duo of high school friends turned bandmates Piper Torrison and Keely Martin. Last year saw the band share three singles dotted across the year as part of Dangerbird Records’ Microdose Series. The tracks showcased the progress of a band that have been making music together for half a decade, but only relatively recently getting the attention their songwriting so richly deserves.
Despite probably not being old enough to actually remember the decade, Mediocre’s sound seems heavily indebted to the alternative scene of the 1990s, incorporating everything from the raw post-grunge sounds of Sleater Kinney with the sugary melodies of Ash or Be Your Own Pet. Despite only being three singles in, they’ve already shown some winning variety as well, from the thrashy hooks of Mattress Bitch to the easy flowing dream-pop of Give In reminiscent of Sun June or Lightning Bug. While their exact plans for 2022 remain largely to be confirmed, don’t be at all surprised if a lot more people fall for this duo’s unquestionable charms before the year is out.
9. Buggs [Sad Club Records]
Hailing from South-East London, Buggs (formerly BUGS) first emerged in the Spring of 2020 with their debut single, Nick Gowland, released via Sad Club Records. With a sound pitched somewhere between The Breeders and The Beach Boys, the band have already caught the ear of Greenman Festival who invited them to play last Summer, which coincided with the release of their second single, Flaws.
Flaws felt like a big leap forward for Buggs, songwriter Alice Western digging deep into her relationship with herself, as she explains, “Flaws is about my favourite activity during lockdown – self-loathing“. Despite being a song rooted in self-doubt, it is a remarkably confident sounding piece of songwriting, rich with gorgeous harmonies, wavering keys and a sense of collective togetherness in the face of the nagging voices in the back of everyone’s head. Buggs seem to tap into an array of influences, nodding to modern girl-gangs like Totally or The Wharves, while also touching on more retro influences from The Beach Boys to Sleeper. Buggs plans for 2022 already involve a gig at The Victoria, Dalston with Ex-Vöid, and hopefully a whole lot more besides. Forget the year of the Tiger, 2022 is shaping up to be the year of the Buggs.
10. Flamango Bay [0800-MOSHI-MOSHI]
A trio based out of San Francisco, Flamango Bay formed when they were still in high school, and in their own words their music is, “borne of their immersion in the west coast’s indie and punk community, as well as their activism in fighting for positive change within it”. Recently signed to Moshi Moshi’s digital-only imprint 0800-MOSHI-MOSHI, the band’s debut EP is slated for release early this year, and the band recently shared the first single from it, Fishing For The Sun.
An exciting introduction to Flamango Bay’s musical world of fuzzy guitar pop, Fishing For The Sun is also a song about, “coming to terms with and acknowledging life’s hard realities“. In particular, the track was influenced by band-member Ikaika Gunderson’s gender identity crisis and the importance of the prominent genderqueer and transgender element of the group’s local music scene, “if not for these activists and people of marginalized identities normalizing being themselves, we wouldn’t have had the groundwork to express ourselves and our art”. A celebration of self-discovery and community, set to a backing of soaring vocals and crashing drums, like the middle ground of Lunar Vacation’s enigmatic squall and Clever Girls’ intimate bedroom-pop perfection. If you’re not already in love with Flamango Bay, when their EP arrives you might just have to join the queue of people falling head-over-heels for their charms.
11. Deanna Petcoff [Royal Mountain Records]
Unlike most of the other artists on this list, Deanna Petcoff has actually been on my radar for a few years now with a drip-feed of excellent singles whetting musical appetites on both sides of the Atlantic. That said with her recent signing to Royal Mountain Records, 2022 already feels like it could be a huge year for the Toronto-based songwriter. With new material tantalised as arriving this Spring, Deanna signed off last year with the first taster of it, in the shape of single, I Don’t Wanna Get Over You.
While it was only a brief glimpse of where Deanna Petcoff’s music might be headed next, I Don’t Wanna Get Over You was nonetheless thrilling. The track opens with the sort of driving-guitar lines that would make Interpol and a host of other mid-noughties New Yorkers extremely proud, before taking a turn towards the swoopingly gorgeous on the chorus, Deanna’s rich vocal bringing to mind the likes of Basia Bulat or Natalie Prass. Having previously shared stages with the likes of Molly Burch and Tokyo Police Club, 2022 might just be the year when Deanna Petcoff steps into the limelight and finds an adoring audience of her own.
12. Artsick [Slumberland Records]
Formed back in 2018, this year is shaping up to be a big one for Artsick, with the release of their debut album, Fingers Crossed, due in less than two weeks via Slumberland Records. The band formed when former Burnt Palms member Christina Riley found herself, “artsick”, writing songs but feeling bereft of the inspiration she found in playing music with other people. Christina quickly found she wasn’t the only one and she soon recruited drummer Mario Hernandez and her, “bass idol”, Donna McKean to make her musical dreams come true. The band’s much-adored debut single followed quickly, alongside a number of pre-Covid shows, before the band hunkered down with producer Tim Brown and set to work on the songs that would become Fingers Crossed.
Fittingly for a band that formed with the aim of re-kindling the creative flames, Artsick make music sound an awful lot of fun. Even when they’re singing about the bad times, whether that’s the self-doubt laden Ghost Of Myself or the cutting kiss-off Despise, Artsick never make creating music sound anything less than a complete joy. The band’s sound seem to stretch the annals of indie-pop from the punkier edge of C86, through the poppier edges of Riot Grrrl and more recent contemporaries such as Best Coast or even a touch of Jeffrey Lewis. Discussing the influences behind the record, Christina states she has, “always been drawn to fuzzy guitars, melodies with emotion and songs with urgency”, and if that’s your idea of musical heaven, then Artsick might just be the band for you.
13. Marjorie [Whatever’s Clever]
Marjorie isn’t a solo artist as you might have guessed, rather they are the New York-based duo of vocalist Melodie Stancato and multi-instrumentalist Zachary Taube. Composed from a bedroom in Queens, the pairs debut EP was produced by Mikey Buishas and mixed by Katie von Schleicher, adding to the record a hi-fi sound, way beyond its humble beginnings. The EP is set for release later this month as the latest offering from the fabulous Whatever’s Clever label.
Ahead of the EP’s release the duo have recently shared the first single from it, the title track Doesn’t Exist. Marjorie’s music doesn’t arrive so much with a shout as a gentle sigh, a moment of weary malaise, reflected both in the gentle, jazz-flecked music and the un-histrionic lyricism, as Melodie sings, “oh getting older, not getting wiser, I’m growing backwards, losing time”. Towards the track’s close it seems to gently swell as the saxophone leaps forth from the background, it feels almost like a deep breath, momentarily swelling the chest before gently sinking back down to the repeated refrain, “I’m all disappeared now”. This is music not of life’s grand moments, instead it’s the quiet anti-climax, tired yet but never quite devoid of hope, always guiding the listener away from the brink and back into the comfort of beautifully understated sound.
14. Eve Adams [Basin Rock]
A proponent of the genre she calls Californian folk-noir, Eve Adams doesn’t just write songs, she creates musical worlds, windows to glance through into a voyeuristic world that’s part golden age Hollywood film and part Steinbeck-esque bleak domestic Americana. Metal Bird lifts its name from an old nickname for planes, a mode of transport Eve admits to her, “is symbolic of something very close to death…I’d always write a will everytime I’d board a plane”. Recorded with saxophonist and producer Bryce Cloghesy of the art-punk collective Crack Cloud, the album is set for release next month via the excellent Todmorden-based label, Basin Rock.
There’s a timelessness to the music of Eve Adams, an artist who seems to waft effortlessly through eras and genres, a series of lullabies, gently waltzing dreamscapes, skeletal jazz and spare orchestral flourishes all tied together by her stunning vocal. Recalling acts like Kate Davis or Vera Sola, Eve Adams makes music that seems to creep out of the shadows, walking the creaking floorboards of long emptied rooms as she muses on the age-old mysteries of love, death and connection. Particularly charming is Eve’s latest single, Butterflies, with its arpeggiated guitar line and crisp vocal style, it has a certain mystery to it, as if she’s trying to piece together a story, “just tell me where to go and I’ll find you”. Eve is an artist who seems to thrive in escapism, as she explains, “that’s the beauty of art and music; you can create a new world that exists in this blur between fact and fiction”. Fact, fiction, or the magical in-between, Eve Adams’ art is something that you’re going to want to explore time and time again.
15. Josephine Sillars [Come Play With Me]
Originally from the Scottish Highlands, at the start of 2020 Josephine Sillars set off to pursue her own journey, re-locating to the relatively bright lights of Leeds. At the start of last year, Josephine released the six-track EP, Desperate Characters, which caught the ear of both BBC Introducing and the much-celebrated development label, Come Play With Me. Working with the label, Josephine became the latest act to join their singles club with the December release of her latest single, I’ll See You When I See You.
I’ll See You When I See You is something of a departure for Josephine both sonically and thematically. While Desperate Characters was characterised by a musical urgency and a somewhat damning reflection on the state of wider society, I’ll See You When I See You seemed to fall much closer to the tree. The song is a song of goodbyes and loneliness, Josephine contrasting the joys in walking her own path with the struggles of homesickness and distant friendships, as she sings the off-hand, “I’ll see you when I see you”, before slowly morphing to the choral cacophony of the closing refrain, “please don’t go”. If the message is one of winning simplicity, the music is delightfully complex, as a lonely looping piano-line is joined by intricately programmed beats, orchestral flourishes and the multiple layers of Josephine’s vocals that seem to engulf the listener in a restorative blanket of melodic joy. What exactly Josephine Sillars has in store for 2022 might not yet be confirmed, yet on this evidence, she’s an artist ready to soar.