MCR Live Radar: Acts to Watch 2018
2017 has been an incredible year for new music. With the resurgence of legends like Jamiroquai bringing back disco to the ongoing takeover of a new wave of Hip-hop influenced beats, it’s been anything but dead. We get sent tonnes of music every week, and there are thousands of tracks and artists uploaded to various streaming sites every day – of course, it’s SO easy to get lost in everything and listen to your trusty old playlists, missing out on some brilliant up-comers until they hit the mainstream. As an early Christmas we want to make this easier for you. Presenting: the MCR Live Radar: 2018.
Sure, lots of lists will reel off the same acts but with Music in our name we want to provide something different and distinctly underground – artists with a huge live presence and with word of mouth alone are picking up all of the coolest ears. Our contributors have come together to compile the ultimate guide to new acts in 2018, follow the playlist below and read more in-depth our top picks below.
RADAR ACT 1: The Slow Readers Club
The Slow Readers Club already stand on the edge of big things. For the past few years they have been grafting relentlessly, building up a passionate and loyal fan base, particularly in their hometown of Manchester. Their two studio albums to date, especially 2015s “Cavalcade”, have been received to great acclaim, and have been championed by indie legends James, who they’ve supported on several of their arena dates. Their sound evokes the dark, brooding indie vibes of Interpol, The National and Joy Division, but with a neat electronic twist that pushes them into their own space. Their lyrical content can often be brooding and introspective, but overall there’s an uplifting vibe to their music, such is the passion and craftsmanship that goes into these numbers.
In the last couple of months alone, they released their fantastic new single “Lunatic”, the first material from their eagerly anticipated third album, due for release in early 2018, and completed a triumphant sold out run of dates across the UK, culminating in their biggest headline date so far at Manchester’s Albert Hall. For a long time now they have been touted as one of the next big acts to break through, and the next twelve months certainly looks like theirs for the taking.
Chosen by: Callum Mitchell-Simon
RADAR ACT 2: Berry Blacc
Being the son of two DJs might be a daunting prospect for some, with the pressures no doubt coming from being born into a life mounting with expectation to follow in similar footsteps – living, breathing and creating music. This doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Berry Blacc. Berry is a part of the exciting (and very upcoming) hip-hop collective Cul De Sac alongside Layfullstop (more on her in a bit), Truce and Kid Katharsis. He also recently linked up with Blind MIC to form the duo Azalea Avenue – busy guy. With various performances at Band on The Wall under his belt, friends in the the likes of Manny legends LEVELZ, Chimpo and The Mouse Outfit to cyphering with Kendrick Lamar and even running community based projects for young people, it won’t be long til’ Berry is on everyone’s books.
On his name Berry has stated that it ‘comes from [him] wanting to stand for something that represents black people and their struggle… [Blacc] originally used the name Blacka Tha Berry. It was supposed to mean something to people, a symbol of hope and voice for the voiceless.’ This guy barely has any social presence (0 tweets) and my bets come that it’s totally deliberate – don’t let that put you off him, it’s all without hype and strictly back to music. Go see him.
Chosen by: Tom Hughes
RADAR ACT 3: Smerz
Recently signed to the notorious independent label XL Recordings to join the ranks of FKA twigs, Adele, and Arca it won’t be long before Smerz are a household name. Shorthand for the German phrase for ‘heartbreak’, the pair should be commended firstly for their lyricism; they have a knack for taking modern phrases and themes like “basic bitch problems” and ghosting and give them their own twist, highlighting the heartbreak of the 21st century and making it seem like their own creation. With music trends following ballads of love-lost loneliness, Smerz are totally owning the other-side with a wholly unique sound – inspired by modern R&B, footwork and techno the Norwegian duo twist everything on it’s head and make heartbreak empowering and incredibly danceable as you’re thrust into an otherworldly atmospheric dimension, or maybe a basement venue at 2am.
Henriette and Catharina combine heavy production with honey-sweet feminine vocals whilst maintaining a refreshing minimalist feel. Smerz are clearly a force to be reckoned with, undoubtedly on the ascent: this is the beginning and I can’t wait to see how much they grow.
Chosen by: Jess Campbell
RADAR ACT 4: Her’s
Liverpool-based duo Her’s present a new sultry, nonchalant sound like that of the ever captivating, Mac DeMarco but with a sleazy Northern English twang. The pair have their own unique swinging scuzz that mixes well with their memorable performances which highlight how completely not shy or retiring either member is. Having recently released their first album, titled Songs of Her’s, Her’s are set for bigger things and only aspire for the best that they can be, bringing dream-pop firmly on to the map. Their talent has been shown with commendable appointments such as their recent slot supporting the acclaimed Gengahr in their hometown of Liverpool. Each track has their jangly lyrics of youthful thoughts and frolicking frivolity backed up by the beat of their drum machine as well as the masterful guitar strings plucked by each member throughout every record.
Having been picked up a bit more lately and word of their talent passed across the counties, Her’s have got plans for a 2018 that will help them pick up the pace and are playing Manchester’s Night and Day in February.
Chosen by: Hannah Tinker
RADAR ACT 5: Pink Kink
Imagine a hurricane of sound, energy, glitter and fun – that’s Pink Kink. This rip-roaring five-piece has been causing a stir across the North West for a while now, all off the back of their live shows.
The band describe their sound as ‘psycho-tropical-bubble-what’. You’ve heard of it, right? Well basically, they’re pretty hard-to-define; shifting between gothic-disco-punk, art-pop and psychedelic rock. Pink Kink might have been around for a while building a name for their energetic live performances, but the group only released their first recorded tracks a few months ago. Playing at this year’s Off The Record festival, the music industry are starting to take some serious note of the band – with only a few tracks available to gorge on at the moment, we’ve got our fingers tightly crossed for much more next year.
Chosen by: Kimberley Brown
RADAR ACT 6: The Snuts
If you’re a sucker for a smooth, gentle Scottish accent that rolls of the tongue and sends shivers down the spine, you need to get yourself to a Snuts gig pronto. Hailing from Whitburn, West Lothian, Scotland, The Snuts have already built up an impressive and loyal fan base in their home country, recently performing at the sold-out (and iconic) King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut with their own brand of indie rock that’s quickly gaining them popularity further afield. Their performance at Manchester’s Off The Record festival last month was deeply immersive, frontman Jack Cochrane singing his heart out to a deeply captivated audience at a packed out Gulliver’s; the set was nothing short of moving. Their first single Glasgow was a particular highlight, equal parts heartbreaking and empowering, tearing you between wanting to ugly cry into a tub of ice cream and wanting to run away with your secret lover on a whirlwind adventure… probably to Glasgow.
Aside from OTR and King Tut’s, 2017 saw The Snut’s support The View at Perth Festival of the Arts, release their debut EP ‘The Matador’ and get added to the line-up for the next Live at Leeds Festival. Watch 2018 be their year.
Chosen by: Abi McGeady
RADAR ACT 7: Vera
Looking at my music tastes, music from Denmark seems to be making the biggest impression on my listening habits and dominating my Spotify top-plays for years now. You might have heard of electro-pop bands like Liss, Off Bloom and Goss (all of which are on rotation on MCR Live) and so it came as no surprise that as soon as I heard Vera I’ve been a HUGE fan. Why did I mention those previous? Well, Vera is the master-mind producer and co-writer for many of the tracks of the aforementioned – and now MØ’s mos6 recent EP ‘When I Was Young’ – and has been responsible for making the Danish city’s emerging artists so bloody hot. From the floaty R&B vocals harmonising with plenty of distorted synths you’ll hear something different with each listen throughout the Copenhagen-based producer’s debut EP ‘Good Job No Conversation’ – Vera has clearly saved and refined his ideas from touring with Liss, showcasing his talent as a producer and tying everything together with a cheeky saxophone solo cherry-on-top.
Attempting to soundtrack growing up in Copenhagen in the 90’s, Vera is undoubtedly cool – he’s got jazz horns, he’s got latin-style guitars and he’s got every element to produce some seriously smooth melodies in absolute bundles. Warm up and listen to Vera if you want to be transported from the bitter UK weather.
Chosen by: Jess Campbell
RADAR ACT 8: Miller Blue
Miller Blue has been on my radar for a year or so now and he needs to be on yours too. His vocals are stunning and raw and every so often he treats us to his rap skills which are unexpected but welcome. His latest single, Pieces, came out in May and it’s slightly different from his earlier stuff but I love it all the same. If you’re looking for someone who’s self aware, does a bloody good cover and writes proper music, Miller Blue is the ONE.
And if I haven’t sold him enough already, Gordon Ramsay follows him on twitter so in the words of Gord “Hey, Panini head, are you listening?!”.
Chosen by: Charlie Perry
RADAR ACT 9: Sports Team
Sports Team have been around for a while now. Although Vinyl Revival in Northern Quarter has given them their seal of approval, the band are most frequently spotted live in London, where they are based. The group-members met whilst studying at Cambridge University years ago, and are embarking on a marathon journey from festival circuit favourite to mainstream recognition. Sports Team’s debut record ‘Stanton’ was introduced in November but since then, the track has reached wide acclaim and attention with features on BBC introducing, NME’s Under the Radar and Spotify’s New Music Radar. With this same song, the band even found itself ‘somewhere between Mariah and The Pogues in Spotify’s UK Viral 50’.
Since the group all graduated long ago, they have run into the realms of young professional city living. They have also graduated the typical flavours found in indie rock, taking hold of a heavier and more “knock-out” sound as they explore the rarely-explored experiences of commuter life. With percussion as sharp as knives, Sports Team’s sound truly reflects that its members have spent their precious free time honing in on a host of unique and clearly practiced tracks. This is true to the point of no wonder that the band’s fan-base is growing. The saying goes that slow and steady wins the race, but young and professional, this team is heading straight for victory in 2018.
Chosen by: Sophie Billington
RADAR ACT 10: Shy Luv
It’s likely you won’t have heard of these guys, but we’re sure that’s about to change in the very near future. We’ve recently compiled a list of artists to look out for in the new year ALL based in Manchester and with a brief mention come these guys. Shy Luv are the new Manchester sound based in the city of whom have caused some serious waves thanks to recent track “Joyrider.” The duo consist of Sam Knowles (a.k.a. Karma Kid) and Jake Norman (a.k.a. producer Armeria) of whom have joined forces to create some seriously different, house infused, disco-tronica of which you’d be a total liar to say didn’t at least make you tap a toe (or ten). With the death of disco in the 00’s,
Shy Luv are incredibly refreshing – we’ve had these guys on our playlist since the start of MCR Live in February and as each release thus far has been a sure-fire banger – you can guarantee that pretty much every single has picked up play here. Their relative anonymity and letting their music do the talking makes them have a somewhat mysterious element – we’re pretty sure they’re going to release an album in the new year so watch this space for something huge in the future of music.
Chosen by: Rhys Hancock
RADAR ACT 11: The Blinders
The Blinders have gone from strength to strength in 2017, their triumphant indie rock anthems suit the scene perfectly and their onstage performances have captivated many an audience. This success shines through their many milestones, including signing with a label and supporting the likes of The View and Cabbage on their own tours this year. With whispers of a debut album, their upcoming UK tour has already been met with high demand and their Manchester show has already completely sold out. This shines a light on the bands’ adoration from the city they live in, with a slot playing at the notable Off the Record music conference and festival, as well as a performance for Fred Perry within the Manchester store.
The flash of black ink marking lead singer Tom’s face at a set and the sticky, sweaty performances that they give are common knowledge amongst Manchester’s music lovers and even those further afield, which I’m sure will lead to bigger performances in 2018 garnished by strong festival performances and new music that’s eagerly anticipated and would suit The Blinders to announce just ahead of 2018’s festival season.
Watch our stripped back session with The Blinders here.
Chosen by: Hannah Tinker
RADAR ACT 12: Layfullstop
With IAMDDB. quickly picking up pace garnering a lot of eyes and big-eared fans in the past few months, gracing the covers of various big-name publications (and even a slot in the BBC’s Sound of 2018 list) you’d be mad to say that Neo-Soul isn’t having a resurgence of sorts. Neo-soul will definitely be a big genre playing a part in the music scene in the coming years and Manchester is at the forefront of this. Another artist following suit, yet wholly different, is Layfullstop (of whom we featured in our ‘New Sound of Manchester‘ post). Upon a first listen it would be easy to mistake the two musicians – for the narrow minded comes the limitations and struggles as a female soul-singer from Manchester and the question as to whether there is the space for two in the same ranks, but Lay is something else entirely. Blending soul from past era with UK hip-hop and with a clear influence taken from the Manchester scene, Layfullstop is holding her own and doing her own thing amongst a scene flooded with male MCs and indie bands alike. You can tell she’s worked on this for some time.
To mention Kendrick again, not only can Lay can hold more than a tune but can spit bars like no other upcoming woman in the industry – bubbly in person and soft, yet fierce when performing creating a seamless and exciting concoction. There’s something incredibly special about what she’s doing, and it’s totally her own thing – even Kendrick Lamar has taken note on a excursion to the city and when she performs it’s almost like you’re watching multiple people.
Chosen by: Leila Brown
RADAR ACT 13: The Moods
Anyone thinking of putting Rage Against the Machine, The Prodigy and The Happy Monday’s together into a grime-soufflé will be pleased to hear that the album cover for Manchester’s The Moods has a toy soldier throwing a ‘mic’ instead of a ‘grenade’. The world has politicians that are putting out an aim of trying to fix the world in their own way, instead continuing to divide. As a back-lash to this, the offering from the group of 10 convey message after message on the state of the world, war, life, death and everything in-between with some serious attitude attempting to deliver with huge impact and a wholly resonant live experience.
I found about the Moods only 2 weeks ago and in my opinion represent the city of Manchester perfectly, ones to watch next year and onwards.
Chosen by: Russell Hope
RADAR ACT 14: YUNGBLUD
Don’t be fooled by the name, YUNGBLUD is the North’s answer to Jamie T and RATBOY put together in a blender. YUNGBLUD aka 19-year old Dominic Harrison burst into our ears in late 2017 with his debut single ‘King Charles’, pulling no punches, aiming the system’s jaw and landing a knockout as impressive as Connor McGregor’s left paw. Fuelled by chaotic and fizzy punk energy, there’s a lick of early Alex Turner in his whimsical lyrics that feel youthful and alive. The Doncaster native is not afraid to change things up with ‘I Love You, Will You Marry Me’ a penned ballad to Northern life and on ‘Tin Pan Boy’ with its ska-punk backdrop harks back to The Specials.
Some people will call YUNGBLUD’s music protest music but I’d prefer to call it a true reflection of young living in modern Britain. If you dig Arctic Monkeys, Jamie T or RATBOY this is your guy.
Chosen by: Richard Samuels
RADAR ACT 15: Danger Incorporated
Music trends are incredibly enjoyable to follow – more urban influences are truly dominating the charts and fashions in recent years and the rise of grime and hip-hop has really taken over; sportswear is stocked in every high-street store and you’d be barmy not to include artists fromThe Weeknd to Stormzy as the sound of mainstream UK culture right now. With the sudden death of up-comer Lil Peep sparking a somewhat unprecedented reaction within not only the music industry but a wealth of loyal fans comes a highlight on the downtempo and more underground side of the genre; in my opinion, one of the next in a line of trends that will certainly see a surge is that of the emo-rap genre.
Speaking of emo-rap, the front-runners who aren’t getting the push they deserve are the enthralling ‘Soundcloud rappers’ Danger Incorporated. The Atlanta based duo – consisting of Louie Dufflebags and Boothlord – continue to excite me with every release and have had labels biting at them from the offset. Personally it comes as no surprise; the pair have a unique sound blending Louie’s dreamy R&B vocals with Boothlord’s distinctively dark rap flow to create something effortlessly cool – romantic melody is interjected with something much more cutting, it is heavy on synths and falsetto vocals making their sound as compelling and impassioned as they are. With their name taken from the Goosebumps TV series, listening to their music and chemistry it’s no surprise that these guys have been friends since Kindergarten; with very different sounds, they’ve made their act work. Making music since age 15 and drawn together by their need to push boundaries, innocent themes are carried throughout their music including plenty of reference to plenty of Disney Original films and child-star Ashley Olsen (of which I imagine they used to watch together) – this is a factor I particularly commend. Their lyricism is relatable yet not a world away from talk of ‘girls’ and ‘money’ and your typical rap themes yet holds much more innocence and authenticity. The friends have been refining their collaborative energy for some time now – you can tell their music comes from a place that they both know and have discovered together, each egged on by the other to push themselves creatively and stylistically; the musical results creating a sound you would have never heard. Check ’em out – I’m anticipating some UK shows soon and you’re going to want to be on it.
Chosen by: Jess Campbell
RADAR ACT 16: Hak Baker
Hailing from London’s Isle of Dogs, Hak Baker picked up a guitar and changed his life forever. Inspired by Daughter’s track ‘Youth’, when he attended the Levis Music Project last year (mentored by Skepta) he started writing his own material and it wasn’t the grime that he’d been making as part of B.O.M.B squad either. Cockney ballads and sing-a-longs with social observation at their heart. Vivid and full of emotional content and packed full of life. Like King Krule, but way more real.
Hak Baker tours in 2018 so catch him before he explodes, but not before you check the Misfits EP – it’s BIG and this guy is going to be just the same.
Chosen by: Pablo Blanquito