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The sound of 2013
7:00am Saturday 29th December 2012 in Music
It's that time of year again - the crystal ball is being dusted off! Andy Welch shares his predictions for the year ahead and picks the new artists to watch out for.
By Andy Welch
"I never make predictions and I never will."
Ah, the unique wisdom and insight of Paul Gascoigne, there for all to see.
But maybe the Geordie genius had a point, whether or not he realised the irony of his statement.
Predictions in music are an odd business. At the end of each year a raft of critics, tastemakers and industry soothsayers proffer their pick of the artists they believe will be big in the subsequent 12 months.
There are even awards in place to back up the claims - the BRITs Critics' Choice Award and The BBC's Sound Of poll, which both showcase promising young talent, as chosen by a panel of journalists, broadcasters and influential music industry workers. (Quick disclaimer: I vote in both.)
Both have an air of the self-fulfilling prophecy about them. After all, if the journalists who single out these artists subsequently write copious amounts about them, surely they're going to succeed?
Well, in the cases of Adele, Florence + The Machine, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J and Emeli Sande, the five recipients of the Critics' Choice BRIT since it was introduced in 2008, that's very much the case.
All five have gone on to massive success, although that was likely to have happened with or without this award.
This year, Tom Odell has beaten off the likes of Laura Mvula and AlunaGeorge to claim the title.
Odell, who also appears on the longlist for the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll, has been championed by Lily Cooper (or Allen as she previously known). He's signed to her label and writes haunting piano ballads, perhaps perfect in the post-Someone Like You musical landscape we now find ourselves in.
The people who signed Mvula, meanwhile, will also be hoping to sell her to the same soulful voice lovers who bought Adele's 21, although Mvula's idiosyncratic, offbeat arrangements make her music more interesting than Adele's, and therefore less palatable to the mass market.
The band most likely to succeed next year, however, aren't British. They're Los Angeles sister trio Haim. Their debut EP Forever was released early in the year, while a string of live shows in the UK over the summer created the kind of music industry buzz that many thought wouldn't happen again.
They eventually signed to Polydor, and will release their debut album in the spring with the help of producers James Ford, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys in the past, and Paul Epworth, who masterminded Adele's 21. If there is going to be a sound of 2013, it's likely to be theirs, like Destiny's Child covering Fleetwood Mac.
Guitar bands haven't been having a good time of it over the past few years. Of course, when we say 'guitar bands', we don't just mean bands who happen to play guitars - that's never going to go out of fashion.
The term more refers to groups, predominantly male, who make attitude-heavy music and wish they'd been old enough to live through Britpop. There are always a handful of exceptions, The Vaccines being the most recent, but on the whole the genre has been in a dire place.
George Ergatoudis recently said he believed guitar bands were on their way back, putting the horse slightly before the cart. After all, he is head of music at BBC Radio 1, the most influential station in the country, and in these days of declining music press circulations one of the few outlets still capable of dictating taste to the nation. If he says guitar bands are coming back, then that's what's going to happen.
Thankfully, there's no shortage in quality, and if the likes of Dog Is Dead, Peace, Swim Deep, Kodaline, Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs, Embers, Temples, Blackeye and The Strypes get the airplay, they'll almost certainly win the fans. Thanks to the success of Tame Impala's second album Lonerism this year, expect a psychedelic tint to any guitar music that breaks through.
In more straightforward pop, there's A*M*E, or Amy Kabba to her friends. Originally from Sierra Leone, Kabba moved to Lewisham in south west London when she was eight. Now, she's signed to Gary Barlow's label Future, and has a batch of quirky, chart-ready pop songs to her name. Game Boy is especially good.
Of all the records I'm excited about being released next year, Night Beds is at the top of the pile. It's the vision of one man, Winston Yellen, a 23-year-old from Colorado Springs who, by the sounds of his debut Country Sleep, owns a lot of music by Jeff Buckley, My Morning Jacket and Big Star.
He must have recently had his heart broken, too, and wants to sing about it. But far from being morose, the album is positively joyous. Make the effort to hear it in February when it's released, you won't be disappointed.
Enough of the new bands. What of established acts returning with new albums?
Everything Everything, The Joy Formidable, Villagers, Adam Ant, Biffy Clyro and Local Natives are all releasing albums in January, putting paid to the idea nothing much happens after Christmas, while February's big releases come from Foals, who unveil their phenomenal new album Holy Fire on the 11th of the month, and Johnny Marr, who delivers The Messenger two weeks later.
It will be the first solo album proper from Marr, who of course cemented himself in musical history as one of The Smiths before going on to join or form a string of other bands such as Electronic, The Pretenders, Modest Mouse and The Cribs.
Seeing him up front and not at the side of the stage might take older fans some getting used to. But having heard the album, it's no vanity project and he definitely deserves his time in the spotlight.
Later in the year there are new releases from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire, Queens Of The Stone Age, Lady Gaga, Eminem and even Jimi Hendrix, whose estate has found an entire album of unreleased material, People, Hell And Angels.
Illegal downloading might be killing the music industry, but on this evidence there's no danger of talent running out. 2013 is going to sound fantastic.
:: Note to editors - This is an amended version of MUSIC 2013 adding the winner of the BRIT Critics' Choice Award
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