The American music scene is full of fresh acts to be excited about, but we’re usually a little late when it comes to the European talent. We always hear about these new artists out of England, France, Sweden, or Iceland, and by the time we’re catching on in the States, we’re months beyond the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because we’re egocentric Americans, interested only in hearing our own voices. Luckily, we’ve got a secret weapon. P&P contributor Constant Gardner is from London and currently living in Paris. He’s European, so by nature he’s inferior to Americans, but he happens to know a lot about music.
It’s not always easy to keep track of what’s going on in another country, let alone another continent. With this in mind, CG has put together a list of some exciting European acts across a range of genres. Some are just starting out and some are well-experienced. Some have the weight of a major label behind them, and some are striking out on their own. Here are 12 European artists that you should know about.
Note: This is our test-run of the new gallery function. We’re still working on developing it, so give it a go and expect some improvements soon. For now, navigate through the slides by hitting shift + right or using previous/next on the top left.
Indie-Rock Stalwarts: The Maccabees
The Maccabees are one of my favourite active indie rock bands, and it has been great to see them grow artistically and commercially from 2007’s jangly, youthful Colour It In to their more polished and mature, but no less individual, recently released third LP – Given To The Wild. The album has been really favorably reviewed and well supported, and second single “Feel To Follow” reflects the mellower side of the band as well as having an atmospherically beautiful video. If you’re not familiar, definitely check out the band’s two previous albums, starting with debut album standout “X-Ray” and the superb second-album highlight “No Kind Words“.
Classic Rock Updated: Spector
London based band Spector are much newer than The Maccabees, but are making a dent in the charts with the huge choruses of “Chevy Thunder” (released February 27th) which sounds like a young English band’s take on classic Springsteen. In a good way. These guys are currently working on their debut album, so be on the lookout for that this year, and catch them on tour when they come to a town near you.
Party Animals: The 2 Bears
Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, and DJ Raf Daddy of Ministry Of Sound are mere mortals apart, but together they become The 2 Bears, purveyors of some the most unpretentious, upbeat and purely fun dance music you’ll ever hear. Their recently released album Be Strong takes from disco, house, techno and UK Garage, layers on Joe Goddard’s calming vocals, throws in lyrics about positivity and love, and ends up as a heartwarming bear hug of an LP. Go ahead an listen to the whole album below, but please, please, please, before you do anything else, sit back, listen to “Bear Hug” and smile.
Urban Lullabies: Delilah
Delilah is an artist living somewhere between the worlds of UK bass music and a smoky late night city soul sound. Having worked with Chase & Status and Skream she’s proved that her vocals can complement harder production, but with the smouldering “Go” she shows that they work best over sparser backdrops. Her debut album is being co-produced by LV from groundbreaking dance music label Hyperdub, so we can probably expect more of this forward thinking urban influenced neo-soul. Delilah, who was born into a family heavily involved with the London music scene, has a free 8 track EP available for download over on her website which I suggest you go an get your hands on right about now.
Simple Folk: Ben Howard
Returning to the realms of guitar music, but stripping it back a bit now, Ben Howard is a singer/songwriter who is getting a US marketing push, with his label re-releasing debut album Every Kingdom in America in Spring, and backing this up with a tour which includes SXSW performances. “Keep Your Head” is a joy filled song with a gloriously fun video, while new track “Oats In the Water” showcases a darker, sparer side of his folk-rock sound.
Ben Howard – “Oats In The Water”
Multi-Talented Frenchman: Woodkid
Yoann Lemoine is one of those bloody annoying incredibly multi-talented people. What do you do mate? “Oh nothing much, just direct videos for Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, create an advert that’s been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube, remix for Lana Del Rey’s single, oh and in my spare time I make deceptively simple, but wonderfully produced orchestral folk music as Woodkid, singing in my second language of course.” Oh, err, well I blog sometimes. The beautiful video for “Iron”, which features Agyness Deyn, is a swelling horn filled epic, while personal favourite “Brooklyn” is a truly heartwarming love song to his new home. Both are from the 4 track (plus 2 remixes) Iron EP which is really worth adding to your music collection.
Godfathers of Grime: Wiley & JME
One of the top 5 best things ever about the UK is the grime scene. It’s so vibrant that to reduce it to two artists is close to ridiculous, but if you’ve heard Dizzee Rascal and want to a further tentative step into the world of grime you can’t do much better than Wiley and JME. Both men have shaped the scene as producers (Wiley with his Eskibeat sound and JME with the Boy Better Know label) and both release material at an astonishing rate, but first and foremost these guys are top-level grime MC’s. JME dropped “96 Fuckries” about a week ago, and from the ridiculous name, to the gritty beat, to the stream of consciousness wordplay it just straight up bangs! Wiley continued to push things forward with the release of his 12th studio album (his third in less than a year!) in January and you can download the title track below.
Wiley – “Evolve Or Be Extinct”
Heartfelt Soul: Lianne La Havas
The quality of Lianne La Havas’ performance on long running UK late night music show Later…With Jools Holland was something that most certainly wasn’t debated. In fact it was so good that not only did time actually stand still but Bon Iver, who were playing the same night, immediately invited her to support them on their next tour. Her debut EP Lost And Found is five tracks of soulful bliss, backed by simple arrangements that allow Lianne’s sexy voice to pull you into the heartbreak and passion of her love songs. She’s on tour at the moment in Europe, with one show booked for New York on March 20th, and has released a second EP which features the song based perfection that is “Gone”. Without a doubt Lianne Le Havas has the skills to make it big, sooo, jog on Adele I guess.
Lianne Le Havas – “Gone (Live in L.A.)”
Dance-Rockers: Django Django
This Scottish four-piece are bringing excitement, experimentation and most of all fun back into the fairly stale indie-rock scene with their recent self-titled debut album. Django Django is awash with exciting ideas and influences, rushing, whirring, clicking and clacking its way past in a flash of spiky riffs, synths, propulsive percussion and chanted choruses. Parallels have been drawn with label mates Metronomy, and while the two bands share a love of totally danceable indie, Django Django have made a collection of songs which are stylistically varied, but unmistakably their own. “Default” is a super-catchy, hyperactive piece of work with an equal hectic video, whilst “Waveforms” showcases a slower but still highly infectious side to this band.
Singing The Blues: Jamie N Commons
With a growling, gruff voice that would make Cash and Waits proud, and imagery of prairies and preachers, it is hard to believe that this young bluesman is a 22 year old from Bristol. Jamie N Commons (actually a five piece band) are not trying to offer a new sound and instead use the past as a direct reference, but when it’s as well executed as Rick Rubin produced “The Preacher” that’s no bad thing. His debut EP The Baron, which made a fan out of Elvis Costello, is a romp of righteous howling and gritty whiskey soaked tales, with enough variety and creativity to suggest that his debut LP could be pretty stunning. You can stream The Baron EP here, and enjoy the rollicking “Devil In Me” below.
Club Kingpin: Redlight
As if the commercial appeal of dance music, and more specifically bass music, needed highlighting anymore, London via Bristol bumberclaat badman producer Redlight reached a high point of 18 in the UK Official Top 40 with the house music at a carnival sounds of “G.O.M.H.”, featuring Nicole Jackson on vocals. Long may UK bass music’s assault on the charts continue – you’ve got to love seeing guys who have been playing in dark clubs to underground fans for years suddenly having their music played alongside Kelly Clarkson and Pitbull on mainstream daytime radio. If you’re feeling this tune, listen to this monstrous Redlight banger and love life some more.
Dark Swedish Pop: Niki & The Dove
I know Confusion will be angry to have had been forced to click, panting and wild-eyed, all the way to this slide the first Swedish artist, but I assure you, this band is well worth the wait. We’ve posted Niki & The Dove before on P&P and they deserve all the exposure they can get, as they have the perfect combination of pop sensibilities and weirdness. Lead singer Marin’s soaring, often Karen Dreijer-esque, choruses are backed up by pounding drums and tumbling waterfalls of electronic goodness, never more than on “The Drummer”, from the 7-track Sub Pop released EP of the same name. “The Fox” is also on that EP, and you can download it below, to help get you excited for the release of their debut album this Spring. SWOOP! SWOOP! Big up Sweden.
Niki & The Dove – “The Fox”