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The Top 10: Strictly New Bands

Who knew Strictly Reading and Leeds, let alone Strictly New Bands, would be able to reach 100 editions of anything when the site opened for business two and quarter years ago – but here we are. Thanks to loyal readers and an ever changing team of festival devotees the site has managed to stumble forward and go from strength to strength.

When site editor David Hayter and indie insider Simone F started this column the goal was simply to praise the brilliant exciting bands who were catching our eye on a daily basis. They didn’t fit into the our traditional Reading coverage (they were yet to become Reading bands), but as we look back, two years down the line, we’re happy to report that many of the acts have gone on to play the festival and a select bunch are coming back for their second bite of the apple in 2013.

Today the goal is to celebrate the creme of a stil emerging crop – many of the bands are still preparing the world for their debut albums – by singling out the Top 10 Strictly New Bands. So let’s have some fun, and here’s to the next 100!

The Honourable Mentions: Wolf Alice are destined for superstardom try and resist “Fluffy”. Diiv have already released a critical acclaimed indie masterpiece of a debut album. Scandi-pop star Elliphant delivered a killer club hit in the form of “Down On Life” that everyone needs to hear. Purity Ring quickly became Pitchfork favourites while Jagwar Ma already has the Guardian purring and The 1975 had a huge crossover hit with “Chocolate”.

So with out further ado let’s look back at the extraordinary achievers, as Simone and David each pick their five favourite SNBs.

10. Swim Deep (no.48)

Of all the bands in my top 5, Swim Deep are the only ones yet to release their debut album, which am sure is going to blow those waves away. Swim Deep got together because they wanted to escape from B-Town (Birmingham), they wanted the babes and just needed to do something. They had few troubles with drummers, but hey, Swim Deep became a real band. Since the band released their debut single ‘King City’ via Chess Club, they have been busy making non-stop new connections within the industry, this has lead them to support Spector, Two Door Cinema Club and Mystery Jets in big venues, while finding time for their own headline shows. Their debut album has been recorded in Brussels with producer Charlie Hugall who has worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Florence and 2:54. Where the Heaven Are We is going to be released in July 2012, just in time for their summer festival shows. I am yet to hear a bad word against the California dreamer’s band. Simone F

What We Said Originally: “the band have made “King City” feel like a life escape; an escape to the beach with the sun on your face, without a single bad vibe in sight, instantly makes the listener a little more chirpy”.

9. Charli XCX (No.9)

The first time I saw Charli XCX was at a Lost Boys themed Hollywood rave at Efes pool club in Dalston – I’ve since been reliable informed by Simone that Efes has been raided by the police and had its nocturnal activities hamstrung. Was it a mind blowing show that singled her out for superstardom? Well I don’t know. I was completely wasted and we either arrived too late or left too early for her set, but I did literally bump into her and mumble some along the lines of “Hey Charli”.

The next time I had the pleasure of watching her live came six months later at The Lexington. She was trying to transform herself from adolescent rave chick into credible popstar and it was clear she was still working out the kinks. Infront of a small crowd of industry types (the worst type of crowd for the record) she gave it her all, powering through a 40 minute set dance moves and all. The material was shaky but the commitment and professionalism was staggering. In the subsequent two years, she played it coy, slowly working on an excellent debut album that was impulsive, naggingly addictive, and a surprisingly honest reflection on a woman who has been trying to find her way in the world since the age of 16. David Hayter

What We Said Originally: “It’s a enticing mix, a girl who knows how to strike a pose and play it cool on the dancefloor, but isn’t afraid to deliver the kind of sugary hooks that reeks of pure abandon”

8. Palma Violets (No.55)

At the time when I first wrote about Palma Violets, the secret was out; they were being released, full on, in your face to the press. The once secret studio 180 band were let loose thanks to the power of the internet, like the Arctic Monkeys before them, this is how people had come know about Palma Violets by shoddy live music clippings of their sweaty overcrowded gigs. ‘Best of Friends’ was their official debut single which, let’s face it, smashes the phrase ‘catchy chorus’ in the face – a tag the band originally hated. In the wake of this massive outburst of The Libertines style swagger, Palma Violets signed to Rough Trades, and seemed to be always on tour or doing something other than ‘not being in the band’ – Palma Violets live sets are known to end in stage invasions, or band+crowd invasions to be precise, it’s almost impossible to not feel the band’s sweat.  Having played Reading and Leeds last year to a rather small(ish) crowd in the Festival Republic tent, this time the boys are back with debut album 180 and a genuine fan-base, not just those ‘who just kind of heard about them’ onlookers. Simone F

What We Said Originally: “Frontman Sam Fryers vocals come at you like Jim Morrison fronting Joy Division, with bass lines set to cause instant hair erections”

7. Angel Haze (No.58)

When Angel Haze became a SNB in early 2012 I never imagined she’d be playing Reading and Leeds a year later but, as we all know, the game done changed…Reading Festival done changed. Today Reading is not only headlined by the mighty Eminem, it has its own dedicated rap/grime stage. Angel Haze was a must have from the minute she stepped onto the scene, despite having a bizarre background (raised by religious fanatics), she left Detroit in favour of New York and became one of the hottest MCs in the game. She’s already crushed Azealia Banks in a pitiful online feud – Angel finished the increasingly loopy Banks with a killer verse which concluded with Haze declaring that her opponent was so insignificant that she wouldn’t even send the track to the studio to finish the production.

Why was this diss track so important? Because it summed up why Angel is such a precocious talent. Strip away the killer beats and the streamlined hooks, and Angel Haze has the slickest and knottiest flow. Her punchlines and metaphors are sensational and Angel really knows how to twist the knife. When you mix in a flair for ear grabbing off centre beats and a smattering of crafty hooks, you have the most exciting female MC in a generation and NYC’s hotest young rapper. David Hayter

What We Said Originally: “It’s the perfect marriage of innocence and menace; you can imagine the steely Angel Haze darkly prowling and safe guarding the streets she owns.”

6. Peace (No.44)

Peace broke their hometown, Birmingham, into the music scene last year; they were hyped from all angles and every part of the media as anyone who was anyone tipped them for success. Having formed late in 2010 for fun, a bedroom band, the band released their demo ‘Bblood’ in January 2012, which instantly stole the hearts of bloggers. The band went on to gain followers, especially those in the industry, for their live sets and pop twinkle songs. They have toured restlessly over the past few months, played this year’s NME Tour Awards, had three songs in ‘NME’S top 50 songs of 2012’ and released an album In Love, which debuted at number 16 in the UK charts. Peace are still relatively lesser known despite being on BBC Radio One playlist and on Jools Holland, over the years we will see them rise from their lovesick pits and take rock n roll on with a bullet to their heads. Simone F

What We Said Originally: “Peace’s sound bounces like melodic dark techno indie”

5. Savages (No.56)

Savages bowled Strictly over in 2012. When they dropped their debut single “Husbands” we were taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the track. This all female four-piece felt so dark and murderously determined that all the other rock bands we were promoting suddenly felt shallow, false and irrelevant. Savages were bloody minded and they captured the dynamism and entirely un-ironic spirit of the post-puk era. Live they were even better pulling off irresistible performances at Reading Festival (where Jehnny Beth starred daggers at each audience member) and at Electrowerkz in London (which showcased their aesthetic potential as they played drenched in smoke and cast in silhouette). The momentum only continued to build as one scarring single followed the next and the band forgoed traditional album PR. Instead of telling the world how excited they were to release new material, each Savages’ track came complete with manifesto raging against the state of the industry and the mindless deluge of twitter. This band was too dark for proper mainstream success, but they made exciting records and gave the industry the sense of purpose it had sorely lacked. David Hayter

What We Said Originally: “The track is gorgeously demented, managing to occupy the illusive territory between deranged mental fragility and ominous thudding brawn.”

4. Spector (No.11)

Like Tribes, Spector were one the first bands Strictly wrote about. Their slicked back hair, gentleman’s suits and dry sense of humour is still living and breathing two and a half years later. Since we first bigged them up Spector have released an album Enjoy It While It Lasts (a slight dig towards frontman Fred’s other ‘bands’ how funny) toured like crazy, supported Florence and The Machine, played Coachella and were nominated for the BBC Sound 2012. 2011 saw Spector play the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds, last year saw them play the NME Tent, this year they’re back headling the Festival Republic Tent, huge no? Spector may not be to everyone’s taste, you need to understand the whole ‘glad we here’ motto of the band, sarcasm runs through their veins. Spector are a fun, catchy chorus in your throat kind of band, as long you can appreciate their art of ‘mehz’ Spector will comply with your tastes.  Simone F

3. Django Django (No.34)

Finally some love for a band ranked between the teens and the fifties. Django Django, despite being mildly hyped for quite some time, took everyone by surprised in late 2011/2012. Compared to Tribes and Spector they were a second tier hype band, expected to make a moderate splash and trudge away on the Scottish scene, but they dismissed that destiny when they released their masterful psychedelic debut. Charged with the irrepressible beat of the nation’s indie dance floors, this wasn’t stoned noodling, this was zany mayhem and killers riffs that lug heads and hipsters could dance to in union. Django Django found themselves on Fifa soundtracks and on the playlists of the London’s most fashionable cocktail bars without sacrificing even a jot of individuality. On “Default” they made schizophrenic blurts sexy and by the time “WOR” rolled around they had dismissed any nagging doubts – this collection of cooks were innovators of the highest order. Django Django are the witty, sexy, nerdy heirs to Franz Ferdinand’s empire. David Hayter.

What We Said Originally: “Edinburgh and London’s Django Django are fiendishly clever and funny bunch, one of 2012’s most intriguing propositions, let’s just hope their debut album (due 30th January) delivers”

2. Tribes (No.6)

Having just witnessed Tribes absolutely nail The Roundhouse in Camden, looking back at their rise to fame feels bizarre. I have been writing about Tribes since  Strictly’s birth (thanks Dave). Tribes were a band from the underground who literally came about by word of mouth and handing out demo CD’s. Since we first did SNB piece in November 2011, Tribes have gone on to release two albums Baby and Wish To Scream via Island Records, brought Camden to a standstill on Mother’s Day (2011), played their first Reading and Leeds, toured the UK, America, and Europe, and achieved their dream of headlining The Roundhouse across the road from old their drinking grounds. Tribes have nailed every show with a smile, without fail.  Despite all of this Tribes popularity still feels quite minor in comparison to their potential as a no thrills, good old fashioned rock n roll band.  The industry is whispering about their second album, ignore them. Tribes are here to stay, you heard it from frontman Johnny’s very own mouth. Tribes are one of this generation’s great guitar bands, you just don’t even know it yet. Simone F

1. Grimes (No.33)

Truth be told (and I assure you this isn’t some lame hipster credibility land grab), I had been listening to Grimes for well over a year before Simone made her our 33rd Strictly New Band. Grimes, aka the adorably brilliant Claire Boucher, had already released three stunning albums before we labelled her a new band. It was part of the reason I hadn’t selected her as a Strictly New Band, but Simone astutely read into Claire’s interviews which promised a new dawn, a new sound, and a revolution in her outsider indie aesthetic. Grimes promised that her next release would represent her proper debut and the world would understand exactly what she meant when Visions hit the web.

I raised an eyebrow, how could she do anything to top 2011′s stunning single “Vanessa”, I was excited for her new album, but she’d already established herself –  this must just be a PR campaign, right? Wrong, very, very wrong. Visions was a work of singular brilliance. This Canadian pixie was clearly occupying a different plane of existence to her pop peers. While the world dabbled in dub and 90s R’n’B Grimes blended ethereal flightiness with chunky satisfying qausi-industrial club beats. She zipped around pressing repeater pedals and smashing keys, speaking in Grimes-glish like a sugar coated Geisha-ed up Madonna. It was barmy, but it was undeniably beautiful. “Genesis” displayed a deft touch, it was a wimpish embrace like the refreshing glow of Kyoto rain on an unseasonably hot day. Grimes represented ingenuity in all it’s forms, creating a sound that would inspire a legion on imitators and, remarkably, two years on, no one in the world sounds remotely like Grimes. She is brilliant as brilliant as she is impossible to pin down and, best of all, she absolutely rocked the shit out of Reading’s Dance Tent. David Hayter

What We Said Originally: “Her half-hearted ghostly vocals which weave in and out of her dark, atmospheric, minimally rhythmic beats to set her above the rest”



Author: david

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