10 British Artists You Should Know
You don’t have to be too much of a music fanatic to realize some of the greatest musicians of all time come from across the pond, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. British musicianship certainly isn’t a think of the past though, if Adele‘s dominance in 2011 taught us anything.
The now 25-year-old singer’s sophomore effort, ’21,’ was a massive success in the States and the United Kingdom. It produced three Billboard-topping singles (‘Someone Like You,’ ‘Set Fire to the Rain,’ ‘Rolling in the Deep’), won her six Grammys including 2012’s Album of the Year and even went diamond — a rarity in today’s rough record sales climate.
The post-Adele musical climate hasn’t seen any lack of musical talent from the United Kingdom. None have come close to meeting Adele’s success, but what these next artists lack in units moved they partially make up for in talent. These musicians don’t necessarily range from different genres; they combine multiple — like hip-hop and R&B — to form their aesthetic. The results range from highly catchy to deeply emotional. Check out TheDrop.FM’s 10 British Artists You Should Know.
AlunaGeorge snuck onto critics’ radars with the single ‘You Know You Like It.’ The duo — consisting of sweet-voiced singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid — impressed with their already apparent grip over pop songcraft. The effective chemistry between Reid’s efficient drum patterns and synths and Francis’ addictive singing only improved as the leaked singles. The warped vocals on ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ showed that AlunaGeorge was willing to experiment, while ‘Attracting Flies’ showed the duo was willing to switch up their at-times saccharine aesthetic for more bite. Their debut album, ‘Body Music,’ isn’t perfect, but it shows the duo has plenty of talent and chemistry to build upon as their career progresses.
Bipolar Sunshine hasn’t released too much material as of yet, but the ‘Aesthetics’ EP the singer debuted in July shows he has some promise. The 29-year-old, born Aido Marchant, offers an enticing blend of jazzy guitars, enthralling percussion and emotional lyrics on his EP, making for an easy, enjoyable for any listener with 15 minutes to spare. His buzz has been steadily building and he’s received another boost from A$AP Rocky, after he heard his R&B-flavored cover of ‘Long Live A$AP.’
This electronic duo — consisting of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence — is unique by how they incorporate a variety of influences into their craft. This isn’t simply a collage either, as the 2013 standout ‘Settle’ shows. On the record, singer Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge and a Slum Village sample all manage to find a home in Disclosure’s electronic playground. ‘Settle’ was truly an accomplishment for the duo, who’ve been steadily making noise with their series of EPs. It’ll be interesting to see how Disclosure continue to incorporate urban elements into their music, especially after their J Dilla tribute during their BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix in August. They certainly have time to try since neither is older than 22.
Justin Samuel goes by three personas: the rawer Ghetto, the refined and masterful Ghetts and the introspective J. Clarke. Each of them bring a superior level of lyrical talent delivered in blistering, dizzying rhymes. This is on full display in ‘The Cypher,’ a single released in July, which features all three personas locked in what can only be described as lyrical blitzkrieg. There’s a reason his next album, which is due at the end of the year, is so anticipated.
Ghostpoet is a change from the more direct artists on this list. His voice is distinctively wobbly and whispery, while his lyrics take a few repeat listens and readings to try to understand since they’re often so abstract. His difficulty shouldn’t turn away potential listeners because of how arresting a lot of his instrumentals are, especially on his sophomore album, ‘Some Say I So I Say Light.’ The listener has to decipher his work, but once they do, the rewards are there.
James Blake’s music can start off as cold and stoic, but as it progresses, the combination of the London artist’s fragile voice and various instrumentals — whether it be piano or violins — transform his pieces into experiences that can be both emotional and immersive. It’s a trick he’s used on his self-titled 2011 debut, which garnered critical acclaim, and this year’s similarly lauded ‘Overgrown.’ The 22-year-old’s electronic landscapes can be difficult to grasp for the casual listener, but it’s impossible to walk away listening to one of his albums without feeling his soulful intent. Blake also goes by the Harmonimix moniker when he’s making remixes like this one of D’Angelo’s ‘Left & Right.’
King Krule’s appeal doesn’t simply come from how far beyond his age he sounds in his records; there’s already too many artists with just that going for them. What makes him an artist to look out for is how he uses those talents to craft his aesthetic. With his heavily accented baritone and jazzy guitar chords, the 19-year-old Archy Marshall makes songs that are deeply melancholic, but not so much so that it abandons proper songcraft.
He sulks, he rants, he croons and through it all his songs usually have an emotional literacy that’s inviting for the listener. King Krule’s lyrics range from blunt in cuts like ‘Out Getting Ribs’ to poetic in ‘Ocean Bed,’ and the color within his instruments add soul to his song’s dark atmosphere. After starting out as a 16-year-old singer named Zoo Kid in 2010, King Krule has gained a solid following and released his debut album — ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’ — last month.
Michael Kiwanuka is Uundoubtedly the most classicist artist on this list. The 26-year-old Ugandan singer opened for Adele on her 2011 tour and has since released his solo debut, ‘Home Again.’ It’s an effort that could have very well come from a different time, as his vocal performance recalls Otis Redding’s and Van Morrison’s mix of emotional power and soul. ‘Home Again’ isn’t too much of a throwback, however, to feel irrelevant in today’s electronic-ruled era, and it easily makes for a refreshing listen. Can he keep this style captivating as his career progresses? We’ll just have to wait and listen.
Professor Green got his start coming up on Mike Skinner a.k.a The Streets’ record label (Skinner is a U.K. rapper who released one of the last decade’s greatest albums with ‘Original Pirate Material’) and has since established himself as a popular rhymer in his own right. Green’s songs have an element of catchiness to them — check out ‘Are You Getting Enough?’ from his upcoming ‘Growing Up in Public’ — but he can add some emotional substance. In ‘Forever Falling,’ he references his father who took his life by hanging himself. Interestingly, his career started off nonchalantly. He started rapping just because he was hanging around his freestyling friends at a party. After winning the JumpOff MySpace rap battle in 2008, he discovered he was actually pretty good at the art form.
Wiley is known as the godfather of the abrasive, drum-heavy U.K. grime genre, which has spawned many albums such as Dizzee Rascal’s classic ‘Boy in Da Corner.’ He isn’t just a pioneer; Wiley also has the hits. It’s hard to picture clubs all over the U.K. not going into frenzy whenever ‘Heatwave’ gets a spin. The rapper has been making popular tracks for a while, and he has a few more on his latest album, ‘The Ascent,’ released in April. Some of his songs are addicting, but there’s no harm in this kind of addiction.