It has been one of the most remarkable, triumphant comebacks in pop history. They were that rarity and apparent pop contradiction, a thoughtful band who also created glorious dance music, and created a mass movement of their own. After over 100 concerts and after extensive tours since reforming in 2008, the present-day Specials are still one of the greatest and most distinctive English bands, and as energetic and enthusiastic as they were in the early days and are now playing to bigger audiences than ever before.
When James got back together in 2007 after a six-year sabbatical, it was on the clear understanding that the reunion wasn’t to be a mere victory lap. The Manchester seven-piece had become international stars by challenging conventional wisdom and charting their own course with literate, rousing anthems like Sit Down, Laid and She’s A Star. A pat on the back and a chance to relive the glory days would have been understandable. After all, that’s what many groups of their vintage have been doing. But James wanted more. A band whose beating heart has always been about feeling the groove and making an emotional connection with their audience, the ‘magnificent seven’ – the classic line-up of singer Tim Booth, bassist Jim Glennie, guitarist Larry Gott, multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies, keyboardist Mark Hunter, drummer David Baynton-Power and trumpeter Andy Diagram – knew they could only pick up the baton by staying true to the restless spirit of their best work.
Bananarama were three friends who came from the London Club scene with a Punk attitude and were always in control of their own destiny, and their achievements speak for themselves. Two Band Aid appearances, an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful female band worldwide with the most charting singles, all of which were international hits, four hitting the US Billboard Top 10 including a No.1 with Venus. To date they have had 32 Top 40 UK hits. They have released 10 albums and sold 30 million records.
You’ve already heard the 24 year-old’s richly evocative voice on Clean Bandit’s No.1 classical-dance smash ‘Rather Be’, which is the highest selling January No.1 since 1996 with sales in the UK alone of over 600,000, earning platinum status. Now it’s time for Jess to introduce her own sound, a distinguished mix of “Hip Hop with a soul voice and a sprinkling of pop.” Jess’s debut album will be out later this year, proceeded by live shows this summer: “I know that I’m one of a number of British girls to release this year,” says Jess. “But I’m confident in who I am. What makes me different is my experiences, my personality, my songwriting. I’ve had different life experiences, like we all have, and all of that makes me who I am – me.”
Named after the surgeon who performed a life-saving operation on frontman Andy Brown, Lawson spent two years paying their dues with pub gigs and a string of support slots. The band played their first headline show in Brighton in the summer of 2011 and having impressed a talent scout in the audience, they were signed to their record label Polydor almost immediately. Since their launch in 2012, Lawson have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with, netting five Top 10 singles from their Top 5 gold selling debut album, Chapman Square. Within a year the London-based band have sold out five headline tours, packed out crowds at the Isle Of Wight Festival, T In The Park and Hard Rock Calling, collaborated and performed with US rapper B.o.B at Wembley Stadium and earned praise from Grammy award winner Taylor Swift. Having triumphed through hard work and determination, 2015 looks set to be an even more successful year for Andy, Joel, Ryan and Adam as they work on their eagerly anticipated second album.
Blending the big guitars and emotional swagger of Brit-pop with a subtle but clearly felt dance-friendly pulse, the Twang have quickly risen to fame in the U.K. after making a splash on the club scene and earning the respect of the music press. The Twang were formed in 2004 in Birmingham by singer Phil Etheridge and bassist Jon Watkin under the name Neon Twang. Inspired by guitar bands such as Oasis and the Streets as well as “Madchester” acts like Happy Mondays, Neon Twang were created as a reaction to the dance music that was sweeping the U.K. at the time, and the band developed a reputation for melodic but straightforward guitar-based rock and an unpretentious approach.
Creating their own take on Traditional Celtic folk, Ferocious Dog takes the traditional instruments; fiddles, whistles, mandolins and mixes them up with a bit of, raw, buzz saw rock n’ roll attitude. With their unique, aggressive yet feel-good music they tear up venues across the country often bringing their faithful Hell Hounds along for the ride. They made history this year by become the only unsigned act to ever sell out the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, not only once but twice. With a successful 2014 autumn tour including sold-out shows, and with their new guitarist, 2015 is looking bright, catch this band whilst you can – you will not be disappointed.
British rapper/producer Rodney Smith established himself as Roots Manuva in the late ’90s and began releasing a series of highly regarded albums through Big Dada. Smith’s work was firmly rooted in dub and ragga but also incorporated much of the trip-hop style often associated with Ninja Tune, the U.K. imprint that often distributed Big Dada releases. The MC debuted in 1999 with Brand New Second Hand, a promising album that garnered a sizable amount of attention from the international hip-hop crowd and won Britain’s coveted MOBO award.
Amber Run are a British band from Nottingham, composed of Joe Keogh, Will Jones, Tom Sperring, Felix Archer, and Henry Wyeth. Originally friends from Buckinghamshire they decided to form a band while studying at University of Nottingham. Having deliberately chosen a name with no obvious connotations, Amber Run are determined to stand aside from the herd. “I’d rather be timeless than cool,” says Joe. “We’re not writing edgy music that sounds like 2014 – it’s music for the whole decade, not just for now. We want people to be coming back to our music in 20 years.”
To Kill A King
Like their Xtra Mile label mate Frank Turner, To Kill A King are never happier than when they are on the road. Since forming in 2009 the band haven’t stopped touring, gradually headlining bigger and bigger venues. 2014 was an incredible year for the band who played at SXSW and toured with both Bastille and Frank Turner across North America. They joined Neil Young & Crazy Horse and The National at Hyde Park in July and completed a short run supporting Paul Heaton. Their EP Exit, Pursued By A Bear came out in October and marked a slight change of musical styles – a beautiful taster to what will come with their much anticipated second album due out in the new year.
As effortless as it sounds, Iris Gold’s synthesis of sunshine pop and block party hip hop can’t be pulled off by just anyone. The wide afro’d wordsmith is something special, with a killer back story and an arsenal of tunes set to rain down upon the world this year. 2015 has Iris’ name all over it. with live shows in London, New York and LA’s School Night in May. The Taste Maker EP drops in Spring, setting up a Summer in which she will support Taylor Swift at Hyde Park and ready her debut LP for a fall release.
Keto is the name given to the new project of Leah Sinead. As a solo artist Leah has built a reputation playing shows in her hometown of Nottingham, including performing alongside Stu Larson, JP Cooper and Mick Flannery. More recently she joined Sun Kil Moon on stage for a duet of I Got You Babe, with Kozelek describing Leah’s performance as “beautiful”. Keto is still very much the work of Leah, but with a 3-piece band joining her to expand her atmospheric soundscapes. Keto released her debut single ‘Change’ on Feb 23rd 2015 on tastemaker label Denizen Recordings. She has also found fans with BBC Introducing and XFM who have both played the single. Her gorgeous vocals have been described in the local press as “laden with fragility, mixing old school charisma of Joni Mitchell with a modern twist” – NUSIC.
When a new band suddenly pops out of seemingly nowhere and has already supported full UK tours with the likes of The Rifles and have played shows with Reverend and the Makers, the subways, Dexters , blossoms, Gaz Coombes and Circa Waves, you could be forgiven for assuming they were being forced on an unsuspecting public. Not so for The Swiines for in each case, just like their last tour dates as support to Jake Bugg, they have played at the direct request of the bands they supported. Presently writing towards their debut album, the band now look forward to their summer tour which will be announced in the near future. With support already coming from other quarters such as BBC 6 Music, and with Click Music predicting a rise similar to that of Arctic Monkeys, the future looks very promising from this Nottingham bunch and their bombastic, swagger laden rock.
Heralding from the burgeoning music scene in Nottingham, Georgie, fronting a 5 piece band, looks set to take the scene by storm with west coast inspired Fleetwood Mac stylings, cut alongside a contemporary backdrop. Whilst Georgie’s vocals are at her best yet, it’s hard to ignore the winding guitar lines, fine Stevie Nicks-esque harmonies and songs that sound familiar on first listen. ‘Seriously talented, sublime songwriting and 100% destined for success’ – Nottingham Contemporary
Martin Luke Brown
Blessed with a voice that’s equally adept at delivering gritty soul as it is with his folk-infused falsetto, Martin’s songwriting represents the pure essence of his classic influences. It’s a trait that’s particularly evident in his first single, Nostalgia – a song that reflected the experiences of his friends who were finishing university or leaving home, but which possesses a universal theme that reflects the experiences that almost everyone shares.
Pierce Brothers have taken their music from busking on the streets of Melbourne to the world. Their irresistible energy and world-class live show has been shaking dance floors and selling out rooms from England to the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada and Australia wide. Comprising of twin brothers Jack and Pat, multi instrumentalists Pierce Brothers have sold over 40,000 EP’s independently and recently sold out a record 5 shows in their hometown of Melbourne.