[sic] Magazine

Tasting Notes 2021

OK, so first things first. 2020 hasn’t been the year anyone wanted, musician or otherwise. Clearly a lot of plans have been curtailed due to the year’s unfortunate events, new material shelved, recording plans on hold etc. Who knows what 2021 will be like at this stage, so let’s remain optimistic it’ll be better than 2020 for now.

With that in mind, here’s our annual feature that really ought to be sub-titled “bands/artists that don’t yet have an album, but from whom we’d like one soon”. We kick off each year by appraising the progress – or otherwise, given the above caveat – of last year’s chosen few; even with all that’s going on, what, simply, is the point of a list like this if we’re ultimately not held accountable for it?

So, first up on last year’s list was neo post-punks Blanketman who still sound and also – crucially – look the part to be next off the conveyor belt of disaffected Brit bands. To back-up the claim, 2020 has seen them let fly two new, digital-only singles that pick up where the wiry guitar parts and rumbling percussion of their predecessors left off, “Taking You With Me” even heading off for the funkier hunting grounds of David Byrne as it goes. Splendid in their isolation, Tasmanian garage-rockers A. Swayze & The Ghosts are undoubtedly this list’s success story of the year though, tabling a whole full-length debut. And, it’s a cracker at that, a tight and breathless tumble through itchy, strutting punk that lands somewhere between Bodega and Institute. See how it fares in end-of-year lists soon. Manchester dream-pop duo KYŌGEN are, however, still sitting on their treasure trove of electro-fired indie, keeping their powder dry for a new release rumoured to drop later this year or early next. And you suspect it’s a similar story for deadpan, London post-punks Dry Cleaning, who while they have been hoovered up by 4AD this year, are also yet to treat us to any new tunes. Already masters of wry takes on modern malaise, you can expect the album to be a belter when it does arrive though. Sitting somewhere in the middle of this pile finally comes Le Marina, the cutting-edge pop producer managing a decent digital-only EP this year to further her adventures in future beats and Bass. It’s hard all the same to put your finger on exactly why it doesn’t excite more though. C’est la vie.

Anyway, with that round-up done and dusted, let’s head on over to the main event. Make of the below what you will, considering the mixed bag above. Here goes nothing then; in spite of everything, 2021’s ones to watch are:

Document – Manchester-based normcore heroes Document drew from all the genre’s best contemporaries on their thrilling debut EP earlier this year, these flagbearers of the “modern post-punk revival” writing tense tracks as character-driven stories, anti-frontman Alex Evans (equally of Leeds band Lumer) holding a mirror up to an angry, and sometimes naïve, youth. Key track: “Pity”

Molly Payton – 19-year-old New Zealander and London resident Molly Payton is a singer-songwriter megastar in waiting, her two excellent EPs this year delivering on both hyper-intimate promise and more rounded storytelling, the smoky chanteuse pitching herself towards the Sharon Van Etten crowd on crunchy new single “How To Have Fun”, her pin-drop acoustics just as beguiling. Key track: “Corduroy”

Witch Fever – With just two singles to their name (but with B-sides just as strong as the As), Witch Fever are a Manchester band short on material but big on noise. Fans of feedback, their slashing guitars wind themselves into a sharp, feminist post-punk fury, doomed basslines, and vicious artsy stomps keeping things very interesting. COVID dependent, catch them on the 2021 IDLES tour. Key track: Bezerk(h)er

Do Nothing – Nottingham neo post-punks Do Nothing already have the wry delivery of a band like Ought in their back pocket, so too the ability to spit blue-collar despondency like Protomartyr’s Joe Casey via arch frontman Chris Bailey. It’s the near-spoken, Talking Heads-style funk, though, that really makes you take note, their new EP a killer combination of all three sounds. Key track: “Contraband”

Gaygirl – the final entry on this list of tips, South London’s Gaygirl’s new EP really builds on their first few singles, their taught, alt-rocking grunge/punk starting to mellow with the addition of shoegaze shimmer and fizzy noise-pop. What’s better is that these feel like stepping stones onto something even better, melodies and songs becoming stronger, a band evolving before your eyes. Key track: “Mikkel”

Got a new band/artist you want to see make an album in 2021? Want to slag my choices off? Know something we don’t about any of the artists mentioned above? Let us know your thoughts using the comments below.