From Beirut bluesmen to Brighton birdmen, the list starts here…
The Wanton Bishops
They are: Lebanon duo Nader Mansour and Eddy Ghossein, who bonded in 2011 following a brawl outside a Beirut blues bar, and have since fused their nation’s sectarian violence and crumbling infrastructure into a red-raw, Delta-inflected stomp. 2012’s debut EP Bad Rhyme infiltrated the blues scene of mainland Europe. Expect Britain to fall next.
They say: “As Lebanese, we’ve been having the blues for three decades. We’ve been living in this shit situation for so long.”
Why we’re excited: The dominance of the US and UK can make the blues scene feel like a staid two-horse race. Coming from off the map, with songs from the sharp-end, the Wanton Bishops are blowing away the cobwebs.
Watch out for: Debut album Sleep With The Lights On, due out in February/March.
Tax The Heat
They are: Blues-boom nostalgists from Bristol, Tax The Heat’s impeccable back-story finds former schoolmates Alex Veale and Jack Taylor reacquainting in a second-hand vinyl shop. The R&B touchstones are familiar, but in the Pro Tools era early tracks like Devils Daughter and Fed To The Lions scabrously evoke the fug and thump of a subterranean sweatbox circa 1966.
They say: “Our sound is influenced by the bands of the sixties – The Who, Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Hendrix – but we use these influences to create rock with a fresh and modern feel. It’s all about capturing that energy.”
Why we’re excited: The four taster tracks recorded with QOTSA producer Chris Goss in 2013 are exactly what the British scene needs: tight, lean, live-tracked belters. If they can manage a full album, they’re golden.
Watch out for: The untitled debut album, due summer 2015.
They are: Wolverhampton guitar/drums duo Thom Edward and Ash Weaver, whose scattershot citing of Nirvana, Pixies, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Page perhaps explains why their shows since 2010 have walked a tightrope between tinnitus and singalongs. With early EP Heavy Money likewise fusing feral energy and keen melody, dismiss them as noiseniks at your peril.
They say: “We’re probably the loudest band in Britain right now. But you can’t have heaviness without the lighter touch.”
Why we’re excited: As the spiritual stronghold of British heavy rock, the Black Country is due a band to blow the doors off. If angular, mob-chanted single Horus is any yardstick, we might have another one for the podium.
Watch out for: Debut album Vultures, due out in April.
They are: You might catch a whiff of indie-schmindie from this Camden quartet, but it soon evaporates on experiencing the ravenous chaos of a Wolf Alice show. Formed in 2010, this pack prowl the gap between grunge and jet-black folk, with Ellie Rowsell’s ice-maiden vocals jousting with the granite soundscapes of Joff Oddie (guitar), Theo Ellis (bass) and Joel Amey (drums).
They say: “We want to be a big band. We want to play to loads of fucking people.”
Why we’re excited: Second EP Creature Songs hinted at the band’s dizzying potential on gems like Moaning Lisa Smile. It’s patently time to pull the trigger on the debut album (name and exact release date TBC, but very much set for 2015).
Watch out for: A UK tour starting on March 23.
Les Big Byrd
They are: Stockholm burn-outs Joakim Åhlund and Frans Johansson, who joined forces in 2012 after respective bands Caesars and Fireside hit the rocks. The whimsical title and borderline-blasphemous sleeve of 2014’s full debut, They Worshipped Cats, suggested anything could happen in the next half-hour. And so it proved, on an album of woozy, electro-tinged Scandinavian melancholia and manic organ-hammering instrumentals like 1,2,3,4 Morte.
**They say: **The Swedish pair haven’t given many interviews, which obviously only adds to the mystique.
Why we’re excited: There’s a lack of enigmatic psych-rock eccentrics in the mainstream. If the second album does the business, these Byrds could fly.
Watch out for: The as-yet-untitled second album, due later in 2015.
**He is: **Britain has a proven track record for turning out cub gunslingers, and from the day he smoked the Charlotte Street Blues Club – aged 12 – the blues scene has pinned hopes on to Oxford’s Aaron Keylock. A rail-thin longhair with eye-popping guitar chops, the glib comparisons are to a young Rory Gallagher, but stinging recent single Medicine Man confirms this precocious talent is his own man.
**He says: **“I ask myself each night: ‘What can I do better?’”
**Why we’re excited: **Virtuosos are 10-a-penny, but last year’s support slots with Blackberry Smoke announced a songwriter with ambitions beyond the 12-bar. Keylock could be a name to conjure with.
Watch out for: Confirmed appearances at Download and Ramblin’ Man Fair festivals in the summer and a debut album due in autumn.
The Pearl Harts
**They are: **Even if you never heard a note of their music, the Pearl Harts would grab your attention. London warrior princesses glowering beneath spirit-level fringes, Kirsty Lowrey (vocals/guitar) and Sara Leigh-Shaw (drums/vocals) are more than a marketing department’s wet dream. More significant, of course, is their seismic brand of heavy blues. Recent release Skeleton Made Of Diamonds channelled Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Them Crooked Vultures, while early interviews have evoked the unguarded lip of Courtney Love.
**They say: **“Maybe we’ll kill ourselves on stage. That’ll be a good way to go.”
Why we’re excited: The duo’s shows have marked them out from the blues pack with a trailblazing use of loops and samples. Likewise, we’re hoping the debut album will breathe new life into the genre.
Watch out for: The as-yet-untitled debut album, due autumn 2015.
**They are: **Not so much a new band as a rebrand, Antemasque arrived in 2014 as the latest vehicle of the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-López. Unlike that band, Antemasque’s self-titled debut traded on spring-heeled alt.rock that Bixler-Zavala described as “what I’d listen to if I went out skating”.
**They say: **“We had all these ideas of what we thought it could be, and that always goes out the door once you actually start writing.”
**Why we’re excited: **In a world of box-tickers, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-López were always the rule-breakers. All bets are off for that second album.
Watch out for: A second album, due April 13.
The Midnight Barbers
They are: Ben Rowntree and Jack Pepper’s flair for dragging 1950s R&B into the here-and-now has seen the Chelmsford two-piece hosed with praise. Meanwhile, our Track Of The Week review of debut single Business name-checked “Bob Dylan, at his most primal, going dancing with Iggy Pop”.
They say: “We’re about making more noise than two people really should be able to.”
Why we’re excited: There’s a good chance their studio debut will bottle the mayhem of their explosive 2014 live shows.
Watch out for: Second single Delilah, due in March.
**They are: **Based in Brighton – but ostensibly from Middle Earth – the Giants are all about the immersive live experience. At venues from disused music halls to seaside bandstands, the pair take to the stage in tusks, feathers and warpaint, sawing at guitars with bows and splicing their ambient-with-attitude with short films. When asked if anyone knew their identities, the duo replied cryptically: “Only our mothers and fathers.”
They say:_ _“We have always enjoyed the concept of contradiction in the music to provide different emotions, from dreamy to scared, from elation to sadness, much like life. We are influenced by electronic ambience, soaring orchestras and battle anthems.”
**Why we’re excited: **For a band who place such emphasis on the multi-sensory experience it’s difficult to believe the Giants’ studio debut will be a ‘straight’ release. Look out for something that pushes the multi-media envelope.
**Watch out for: **Debut album A Séance Of Dark Delusions, due March 23.