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Now And Next: Stereoboard's Ones To Watch In 2021

Thursday, 07 January 2021 Written by Huw Baines

 
It feels like we’re stuck in a holding pattern. Looking ahead is a dangerous business when the present is as perilous as it is. But in 2021 there will be new music, new stars, new favourites. Here are 10 artists to keep an eye on in the coming months as we plot a way out of this whole thing.
 


Arlo Parks

Arlo Parks’ early singles hooked us in quickly, blending crystalline melodies with insistent loops and sinuous guitar lines, and kept us rapt with incisive, empathetic lyrics that could fill a room with thoughts of romance before puncturing the mood with a short, sharp shock of reality. The Londoner’s debut album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ is set to arrive before January is out, but it’ll cast a long shadow across a year that’s got plenty of hurt and healing on the docket.


 

Kiwi Jr.

Jangle, give me more of that jangle. In a year that’s set to host a new Teenage Fanclub record, Toronto’s Kiwi Jr. are ready to elbow in on the wonky indie-pop conversation with their second record in as many years. ‘Cooler Returns’ is funny, weird and catchy as all hell. Showcasing a greater breadth of melodic ideas than its predecessor and boasting a neat line in sardonic vocal delivery, this is the real deal. Totally, completely addictive.


 

Alewya

After breaking through in 2020 with a guest spot on Little Simz’s Where’s My Lighter (from the rapper’s superb EP ‘Drop 6’) and the polyrhythmic Sweating (a club smash in literally any other year), Alewya finds 2021 opening up before her. The west Londoner’s music is bassy, invigorating and eminently remixable, as Honey Dijon’s pop-house take on Sweating proved. When there are dancefloors again, expect her to dominate.


 

Dare

One part of California is usually having a moment when it comes to hardcore, and Dare are out here proving that Fullerton (the Orange County seat of OGs Social Distortion and Adolescents) still has a horse in the race. Fusing their straight edge beliefs with Youth Crew kicks and monster riffs that recall Turnstile’s heady blend of mosh imperatives, this lot have it in their locker to become a crossover success. Their new LP is expected on Revelation shortly.

 

 

Ashnikko

With a viral hit on TikTok in her back pocket and a vibe that mashes together cyberpunk, industrial pop and sex-positive rap, Ashnikko is extremely now. Having already teamed up with Grimes and Princess Nokia, her punchy music has something to offer anyone seeking a DayGlo escape that doesn’t have any interest in minding its manners—it’s loud, often triumphantly so, weird, stupid, funny but maybe not in the way you were thinking, and has views measured in the billions. Now.



Bree Runway

If you want to make something new it helps if you have the guts to deconstruct what’s come before. Bree Runway’s got the guts. Her music is confrontational in its blend of genres, welding searing classic rock guitar licks onto vivid hooks and synthy, bass-driven workouts. Missy Elliott guested on her ‘2000AND4EVA’ EP in 2020 and she already looks at home in exalted company. “Black women in music are always expected to sing R&B or soul: we are always boxed in,” she told NME last year. “I’m always asked if I’m a soul singer and I say, ‘No, actually, I make very in-your-face, destructive pop that is all genres and everything at once.’”



Cuffed Up

Fronted by guitarist-vocalists Sapphire Jewell and Ralph Torrefranca, Cuffed Up play a pleasing blend of post-punk and bullish rock. The Los Angeles band’s self-titled debut EP is set to get a physical release from Hassle Records in the coming weeks, and it offers an instant hit of roiling riffs and potent hooks that emerge from the maelstrom to frequently catch the listener off guard. They cite Sonic Youth and Pixies as influences and they don’t completely get blown out of the water, which is high praise indeed.



Claud

In 2021 is there more valuable indie-pop currency than a Phoebe Bridgers co-sign? Claud is the first artist signed to her Saddest Factory imprint and their debut single Gold displayed the sort of songwriting savvy that can make serious waves. Landing somewhere between the twee indie of those classic early Shins records and a hyper-current playful pop sensibility, Claud has the raw materials to step out from beneath the Bridgers banner soon enough. New album ‘Super Monster’ is out in February.



Enny

Enny scored one of British rap’s more eye-catching 2020 hits with Peng Black Girls, a celebratory track that melded a truckload of charisma with rich, empathetic production and a rapid flow that seemed effortless. The Thamesmead emcee had already turned heads with the jazzy, Noname-recalling, Ludacris-referencing He’s Not Into You and has Jorja Smith in her corner (and on the Peng Black Girls remix) after signing to her FAMM label. Watch this space.



Holly Humberstone

There is plenty to be said for paying attention to the basics. Holly Humberstone’s music is somewhat generic in a very modern way: it’s essentially tasteful alt-pop underpinned by subtle electronics. But what sets it apart is the strength of her melodies and the cut glass nature of her voice. On her debut EP ‘Falling Asleep at the Wheel’ both were in plentiful supply and, having already supported Lewis Capaldi on tour, it’s reasonable to expect that her next moves will reach a lot more ears.


Romero

Hailing from Melbourne, Romero are a tremendously exciting proposition. They trade in high wire indie-rock that owes a debt to classic power-pop, having made waves back home by selling out their debut Honey / Neapolitan 7” at a rapid clip. Vocalist Alanna Oliver’s economical, drawled hooks cut back against the grain of charging guitars that owe a debt to everyone from Radioactivity to Blondie, coalescing into a killer package of studied cool.

 



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