While 2016 was a bad year in so many ways, it was also a great year when it came to music — I discovered countless amazing indie bands, most from either England, Ireland or Scotland — and I can’t wait to see who 2017 will introduce me too.
I pretty much know on first listen if I’m going to love a band — sometimes within just a few notes. This list of bands I think are destined for big things this year is in no way comprehensive, so please don’t feel snubbed if you aren’t here. Best wishes and lots of blessings to all. Keep the great music coming!
So, in no particular order, I’m expecting big things from …
False Heads – A wickedly brilliant trio out of London, False Heads came out swinging last year and earned the love of the one and only Iggy Pop for their scathing, uncensored look at life around them. One of my favorite frontmen ever, Luke Griffiths holds nothing back – whether performing or in an interview. He is one of the most honest and open people I’ve ever met. “Weigh In” is the latest stomper from them and it’s just massive. False Heads will be releasing its first EP early in the year and it’s easily one to look forward to.
Sly Antics – Manchester area band Sly Antics caught my ear early in the year. They have a hard-hitting, hard rocking sound that is unrivaled by anyone else today. They tore it up during a show in October as part of the Oxjam Leeds Takeover Festival. Sam Hudson has some of the growliest, grittiest vocals I’ve heard and they are just spot on with the touch of blues that permeates the Sly Antics’ sound. Their debut EP “Captive City” was nothing short of genius and I can’t wait to see what they do for a follow-up. “Lights Go Down” is their latest single.
Partisan – One of the most amazing rock bands you will ever hear out of Manchester is Partisan. There is a lot of heart and soul packed into this tight three-piece unit. In the fall, they made their first trip stateside and watching their live show was just incredible. Stuart Armstrong’s songwriting is impeccable – finely-crafted, hook laden songs all around. The crazy circular guitar riffs of “Grounded” caught me on first listen and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Hello Casanova – 2016 was a big year for this pop punk band out of Armagh, Ireland. They released “Pennies,” a punky slam at bureaucracy, then signed a publishing deal with Supersonic Media in London and followed that with a high-profile release of “I’ll Be Waiting,” a right stunner of a tune that’s part love song and part a good old legs-up drinking song. They have all the ingredients necessary to have a breakthrough year – infectious tunes, witty lyrics and a healthy dose of quirkiness.
The Sherlocks – Two sets of Sheffield brothers know the perfect combination to create hit-worthy tunes. They have a big stadium-style sound that just rocks and hooks a plenty, both lyrically and sonically. Soaring guitars, rambunctious drums and solid vocals fill each song from end to end. “Will You Be There” is the latest song in The Sherlocks continuing evolution. Starting in February, the lads will be on their next tour. This is one group you don’t want to miss, so catch them now before they really blow up.
Red Light Revival – Classic Southern-style rock never goes out of style, and Leeds lads Red Light Revival keep that fire stoked with their rhythmic rock and blues sound. There’s something about dancing guitars and rollicking keyboards that gets your toes tapping and makes you feel right at home. “Locked Out” is a great example of how everything comes together just so. Their new album “Infinite Twin” is a classy piece that showcases the lads at their finest.
(IAM)WARFACE – Electro rock is thriving in the music of (IAM) WARFACE. The band from Brighton, England has been making a name for itself throughout the past year, through live performances, streaming videos and various honors, including being named Starlight Music Chronicles 2016 Artist of the Year. I love a high energy band, and these guys are it. Matt Warneford is a brilliant frontman who just gets better with more stage time. It was “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” that sold me on (IAM)WARFACE. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings from them.
Mint – “Elise” is the perfect introduction to the Grimsby, England band Mint – it’s bouncy pop perfection, with bright guitars and hooks galore. Guaranteed, you will be singing along after just one listen. As far as live performance goes, these lads don’t disappoint. The energy bounces around the room and engulfs you. Frontman Zak Rashid is a wonder to watch, unruly curls flying everywhere while he sings and plays guitar. Keep your eyes on Mint.
Judas – The first time I heard “Love is the Enemy,” I knew Judas was destined for greatness. I’m not usually taken in by a ballad, but this one from the London-based band is captivating. It hits all the right buttons – sweeping guitars, sulky vocals and thoughtful lyrics. The guitar riff is eerily haunting and weepy. “Call Me” has a shimmering wall of guitars and great harmonies. Check these lads out.
Cellar Door Moon Crow – As soon as I heard Sheffield brothers Tommy and Phil Goodwin in action, there was no turning back – my mind was blown. Songs like “Backlash” and “Tightrope” are just phenomenal. These two brothers are so tight they could be twins. I never realized how amazing a band could be with just two players until Cellar Door Moon Crow was in my ears. Tommy bashes the skins and tickles the ivories while Phil handles the vocals with ease and has his guitar squealing in joy with riffs and hooks. Cellar Door Moon Crow has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. Look for a full EP this year.
Brightlight City – I was hooked from the first second “The Finish Line” from Surrey, England band Brightlight City, was in my ears. The bright poppy jangly guitars and Jamie Giarraputo’s solid vocals sold me immediately. I couldn’t wait to hear more, so I listened to every track I could find, and even got to see them during a live streamed concert. Their sound was even more dynamic and vibrant live. The latest tunes, “Thieves” and “Good Grief” (an older but just released tune) keep the kinetic energy flowing. Brightlight City has big plans for the new year – keep watching.
The Barmines – One of my favorite bands from Leeds, The Barmines have great energy and vibrancy to their music. Through the year, their sound kept growing until it reached massive proportions. “Reliance,” just released several months ago, has them reaching epic new heights. The energy The Barmines puts out on every recording is pure electricity and stadium-quality sound. It’s mind blowing. Look for them to play a ton of festivals this year.
Forte – London-based rockers Forte stole my heart from the first notes of “Armada.” The guitars chug along like a runaway steam locomotive careening out of control with Daniel’s gritty beer and cigarette-tinged vocals keeping it on track. Lyrically brilliant too, from “Goosebumps” to “The Glue,” there is so much depth going on here it grows on you quickly with just a few listens. I’m eagerly awaiting new music from these guys.
The Dangerhounds – These Leeds lads have it all – whip-smart lyrics, cracking hooks and oodles of flair. Their debut EP “Big Bad Wolf” has three killer tracks that grab your ears on the first listen and won’t let go. Singer/songwriter Adam Hume has a keen sense of songwriting that infuses each tune with a proper dose of panache. For a young band just out of the starting gate, they have a firm grasp on what it takes to write tunes that could well be hits. “Stop Crying” is a belter, complete with cowbell. Look for more excitement from these lads.