There are a few countries widely recognised as hotbeds of musical innovation, one of which is undeniably the UK from which has sprung major acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys to name just a few.
If you thought for a moment, and for shame why would you, that the UK’s time as a musical powerhouse was spent, these five acts, and so many more beside, will quickly change your mind offering a dizzying array of fresh sounds, lifechanging insights and catchy aesthetics.
It’s a smorgasbord of riches which can prove daunting but start with these five exceptional artists and see where the musical rabbit hole takes you.
“Pasta” by AJ Tracey
Known to his parents as Ché Wolton Grant, AJ Tracey is an English rapper, grime MC and record producer who creates a wonderful sense of brooding atmosphere in his songs that are never less than deeply and utterly immersive.
“Pasta” is a perfect example, bringing together lo-fi melodies, insistent beats, social commentary and evocative rapping into one brilliantly-listenable track.
The recipient of a shoutout from US music superstar Drake, AJ Tracey is the king of gloriously good flow, so good that Fader, which profiled him in 2017, had this to say about him:
“The 24 year-old MC has a quick mind and a quicker mouth. The flow that catapulted him to fame over the past couple of years is distinctively, dexterously fast, bars rammed with strings of syllables spat at motormouth speed over sparse, trap-influenced beats.”
He offers up absolute poetry with a message and you would do well to check out this talented artist’s meaningfully catchy songs.
“Skwod” by Nadia Rose
Hailing from Croydon in London, Nadia Rose made a name for herself really quickly, releasing her debut EP Highly Flammable in January 2017 and making it onto the shortlist for BBC Sounds of 2017.
That’s some trajectory but one listen to the catchiness of “Swkod” and you’ll know immediately what’s behind the meteoric rise.
Her music is what The Culture Trip calls “an energetic mix of dancehall, reggae and rap”, an output made all the more impressive by the fact that she wrote her lyrics while working 12-hour shifts in that bastion of great creativity, the British betting shop.
Not exactly muse central and yet Nadia Rose made lemonade with her working life lemons, offering up songs drawn from a “cauldron of situations” that skip, swagger and slide in a melodic intensity that is never less than entirely captivating.
“Trouble” by Girl Ray
There is something utterly langorous about loping lo-fi pop, the kind of songs that slide over and around you, and which, far from being missable by their lack of intensity, burrow their way into your very soul with their chilled insistence.
Girl Ray, made up of one-time school mates Poppy Hankin (vocals/guitar), Iris McConnell (drums), Sophie Moss (bass), are specialists of the genre, delivering up what The Guardian calls “wan, winsome heartache”.
And honestly, if you’re going to have heartache, don’t you want the wan, winsome kind, preferably soundtracked by a North London trio like Girl Ray?
Of course you do, with some deliciously retro, early-70s flourishes which it turns out were not the result of some great creative decision but just happened, happily for us all.
“It wasn’t purposefully indie or lo-fi,” explains Hankin. “We weren’t exactly trying hard to do it, that’s just how I wrote the song and the way it was produced.”
Here’s the happy accidents and the beautiful music that results!
“Twice” by S4U
“Twice” kicks in with all kinds of off-kilter, melodically-rich ethereal distortions and otherworldly vocals that feel somehow feel simultaneously grounded and real.
This, my friends, is S4U, “a London collective of artists headed up by Rosita Bonita and Prinz George”, who deliver R & B with a slinky, chilled originality that sounds like everything and yet nothing you’ve heard before.
Quite how they came together we don’t know but I rather like Noisey‘s take on the genesis of the group:
“Imagine there’s a machine that creates pop groups. Inside it, someone has planted DNA strands from all three members of TLC, the most sublime All Saints track, and a bedrock of 1990s rap production by way of The Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief. The end result? S4U and their debut single ‘Twice.”
That’s almost as good as S4U themselves who came up with a thoroughly creative take on how this most seductive and caressing of songs came to be:
“We made this over the space of an eternity and rejoice as we still believe it’s being made elsewhere, by somewhere else, with clearer intentions. It hasn’t changed much since we started this thing of ours and for that we are grateful, we just hope you enjoy as much as we do.”
We do, and your fabulously offbeat quirky approach too. Long may it and you reign.
“Nothing Solutions” by Georgia
I have featured Georgia on the blog before with the artist engendering this piece of enthusiastic prose from me (Now this is music #35):
“What is most appealing about the track [“Be Ache”] is that, for all its influences, it sounds like nothing else around at the moment, proof positive that this talented artist-on-the-rise is very much fashioning her own artistic statements, beholding to nothing but her own vision.”
The daughter of Neil Barnes, one half of ’90s dance act Leftfield, Georgia’s is a distinctive voice, with the talented singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist once describing herself as “a bit of a melting pot myself” with a sound that is “post-punky hip-hop soul”.
However you describe it, and that seems as apt a description as any, Georgia creates music with sizzling energy and passion, gloriously-catchy faroff vocals creating melodically-intense music that is utterly unique and alive with all kinds of freshness and intensity.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
Ever wondered why the four-chord arrangement is so prevalent in modern pop music? This fascinating video by Ethen of the Sideways explains it beautifully …