All these artists released their debut albums this year and have enjoyed growing success throughout 2010. These are my stand-out new artists of 2010.
There have been so many burgeoning female solo acts over the past couple of years; it could be easy to over-look Marina and the Diamonds as just another quirky female pop act. To do this though would be a huge mistake. Marina has been one of my stand out acts of the year because she really does offer a perfect pop package, but with an awful lot of substance. Marina looks the absolute figure of beauty, and she packages herself in the most gorgeous wardrobe of cute, individual and interesting clothes. Aestheticism is clearly an important aspect of Marina’s act – not only does she look fabulous, but her videos, music sleeves and general promotional material are presented in a way that is fresh, cool and intriguing.
Most importantly, Marina delivers music that is accomplished, heart-felt and captivating. She has a truly magnificent, powerful voice, with a huge range and a very rich tone. Marina really uses her voice – musically it is her biggest attraction and focal point – with curious techniques that enrich her wry, idiosyncratic lyrics. The lyrical content of her work is very personal, yet it speaks of universal feelings, situations, worries and triumphs. Combined with her fantastically on-trend new-new-wave instrumentation of perfectly chosen synth timbres and traditional band instruments, Marina really has been one of this year’s gems (pardon the pun). Here’s to 2011 and hopefully a new album!
Janelle Monae has not become quite as big as Marina this year, here in the UK, but she is currently enjoying a lot of success in her native America. She has been touring and performing in the US for the past five years, but with some helpful input from industry mentors Big Boi and Sean Combs, she has now released her first LP in May this year, which has subsequently been nominated for a Grammy for best R&B album.
The Archandroid is a stupendous debut release, demonstrating good old school R&B as it should be – bouncing, hip and soulful. Most exciting though, there’s not a “slow-jam” in sight! Janelle’s work is upbeat, fun, cool and most importantly not centred purely around the topic of sex and relationships. Indeed, the lyrical content is much more about Janelle as an individual, and individuality in general.
Musically, Janelle’s work is fantastically accomplished and diverse, taking influences from genres and acts as varied as James Brown, David Bowie, OutKast, Debussy, indie-pop, afro-punk, soul, funk, dance-punk, electro, turntablism and jazz.
Even with all these influences though, Janelle still has her own sound and personality, with a delightfully androgynous look and an impulsive, marionette style of dancing. Janelle Monae is pure talent and ingenuity through and through, an added breath of fresh air in the world of R&B.
Pretentious, preppy and very, very cool, The Drums are my favourite new band of 2010. They emerged from the current creative hub that is Brooklyn, NY last year, and have since blossomed into the awkward, lanky and talented band that we know today. Signed to hip UK independent label Moshi Moshi, and with perfect indie influences including The Smiths, Joy Division and The Wake, The Drums both look and sound perfectly aloof and clever, and create a good mixture of old world new-wave and new indie pop. Lyrically, their music is typically a mixture of either cautious optimism or matter of fact melancholy – which is very fitting for what has been a continuingly tough year for a lot of people – young people especially. Their music has the perfectly measured mixture of US surf and baroque pop and cold UK post punk which creates a quirky take on the usually indie post-punk revival scene, sounding fresh, modern and now. With their spot on fusion of jangly guitar and poppy synth, they are the best version of a burgeoning new area of indie talent.