[sic] Magazine

2016 Tasting Notes

Near as dammit we rebranded this annual feature last year as “bands that don’t yet have an album, but from whom we’d like one soon” and we see no reason to change that now. Forecasting those for the very top is a mug’s game anyway. Choose the obvious and where’s the satisfaction? Choose the less obviously chart-ward bound and you’re inevitably left with egg on your face more often than not.

That said, each year we kick off the feature by appraising the progress of the previous year’s chosen few. What’s the point of a list like this if we’re not held to account for it? So, first up, it was with much confidence we tabled Leeds lads Autobahn, surging post-punkers with whiplash delivery, whose two 2014 EPs were almost too good. And, as desired, follow them up with a 2015 LP they did! Dissemble wasn’t quite the hot stripe across the buttocks we’d hoped for though, rehashing as it did their best moments and blurring them into historical angles and gloom. Better than most all the same, which can equally be said of touring machine Bloody Knees. To their credit they are currently in the studio, but have yet to share any results. When that session does drop though, you can most assuredly expect more emo-grunge pogoing aplenty.

Renaming since our 2014 feature, scruffy C86 janglers Deers are now Hinds and their hotly anticipated LP arrives in January 2016. The scrappy tasters the dreamy Spanish chicas have been banding around these last few months hint at it being a fun-time feast as well. Best of the chosen bunch and make no mistake, however, were Girl Band, who not only managed a spectacular LP on Rough Trade this year, but also put forth some of the most serrated, pulsating noise 2015 had to offer. Find out where they feature in our albums of the year soon. Manchester post-punk ladies ILL only pushed a couple of new tracks our way this year as a result of a heavy live schedule though, one a trademark, shouty blend of oddball organ and itchy rhythms, the second a lengthier, ever-intensifying and aggressively psychedelic dirge.

It’s been all quiet on the Horrid front though, their masked, “mystical, sonic psychedelicism” largely shelved in 2015 save for a much-celebrated space-kraut support slot alongside Moon Duo. Elsewhere, Goddam Nobody remains Matthew Oliver’s solo project and the singer-songwriter wisely thought his lo-fi recordings weren’t broke this year and thus didn’t need fixing. His new Spectrals-esque EP on Super Fan 99 proves it, again sounding like Conor Oberst demos captured in a room adjacent to an overflow of doo-wop harmonies. Jupiter-C’s slo-mo-pop on the other hand rattles like HTRK and their excellent downbeat dream-pop came to a head in 2015 with but a cassingle release on Ramber Records. There are rumours nevertheless of an EP to come in 2016, as well as talk of a new direction, meaning they very much remain ones to watch. Not a peep, sadly though, from lo-fi garage-poppers Ma this year, neither, surprisingly, anything to report from camp Natalie Bang Bang, who seems intent on curating her social media presence over furthering her repertoire of coquettish bedroom pop.

Anyway, with that round-up done and dusted, let’s head to the main event. Here therefore are this year’s ones to watch:

Nao – In the bass-pop corner is sassy Londener and surefire hitmaker Nao, who defies you not to be impressed as she pitch-shifts her funky neo-soul around minimalist futurism and wonky rhythms, stripping the cheese out of the PC Music collective to boot and giving it all a velvety dose of post-FKA Twigs, low-end Art ‘n’ B. Key track: “Apple Cherry”

The Big Moon – London all-girl four-piece The Big Moon have just a handful of bittersweet singles to date, fuzzing up indie-pop with alt-rock angst, surfy scales and spidery bass as they go. Borrowing mantra from the likes of PINS there’s a lot of restraint too, dignified but powerful and bringing someone like Waxahatchee to mind when there’s a message to be hammered home. Key track: “Sucker”

Diet Cig – Everyone’s got a soft spot for poppy slacker-punk and Diet Cig’s comes with a tender, yet grungy edge. They call NY state home and this year’s material has hints of [sic] favourites Eternal Summers only with rougher production, their impassioned blasts delivered heart-on-sleeve and a with sharp eye and a sharper tongue. Key track: “Dinner Date”

The Parrots – Spanish garage-psyche troublemakers The Parrots entered the fray this year on a split with Hinds, who, as above, featured on last year’s list. Just like those girls, these boys are ramshackle too, rowdier though, their creaky, unhinged take on Black Lips on this year’s solo EP complete with swampy stomp and sunny shades that give way to chilly, bad-trip vibes. Key track: “White Fang”

Sheer Mag – Philadelphia’s Sheer Mag are an odd one, running classic 70s rock, soul and pop through blown speakers and Royal Headache’s own meat-grinder. Their catchy choruses are pure Jackson 5, their lyrics social commentary, their riffs Thin Lizzy – the whole covered in static and by Christina Halladay’s broken vocal. Retro-leaning rock like this supposedly doesn’t exist anymore. Key track: “Fan The Flames”

Milk Teeth – Coming January 2016, Stroud’s finest four-piece have an album ready to go, their incendiary scuzz-pop to date bursting with melody-heavy nostalgia. Riding rolling waves of riffs and dynamite fuzz, wild choruses are built on pure adrenaline and Becky Blomfield’s unleashing of her inner grunge goddess, which all helps put a smile back on the mush of po-faced rock. Expect more of the same. Key track: “No Fun”

Keroscene – London-based four-piece Keroscene offer a melodic take on late-80s noise/alt-rock (think J&MC/Sonic Youth). Bathed in atmospheric synths, harsh snares and guitar chimes, their steady stream of misanthropic 2015 singles promise much, David Troster’s Southern accent creeping out into the mix like prime-era Bloc Party. Here’s hoping an LP lands soon. Key track: “Cotton Candy”

Total Love – Toronto isn’t the most obvious of surf hubs, but that hasn’t stopped Total Love. This year’s easy-going S/T EP is full of fuzzy Wavves-like pop, its vocal reverbed out like The Drums, but, you know, better. Punk precision and sharp Ramones choruses abound while FM friendly indie riffs fill in the gaps. If you missed the summer of Total Love this season, don’t sleep on it the next. Key track: “I Don’t Wanna Work”

Black Channels – Sharing an aesthetic with Jupiter-C of last year’s list fame, Black Channels are another British, male-female duo brimming with atmospheric synths and nightmarish electro-pop, as well as a penchant for worn tape loops and echo chambers. Balanced with fuzz-bass and wheezy drum machine, what material is out there is sultry, arty and led evocatively/disinterestedly by vocalist Becky Randall. Key track: “Oracles”

Søren Juul – Søren Juul, formerly of tasteful outfit Indians, has been striking it out alone this year and his new eponymous project is the best we’ve ever heard him. With sparse piano and a cinematic swell, “Denmark’s Bon Iver” is tender when acoustic and rousing when electronic. He’s also very Scandinavian in a post synth-pop kind of way. A 2016 LP could be rather special. Key track: “Ambitions”

Got a band you want to see make an album in 2016? Want to slag my choices off? Know something we don’t about those featured above? Let us know your thoughts using the comments below.