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21 to watch in 2021

It’s been .... a year. I’m not gonna sit here and talk about how we’ve had to adapt and change how we view live music and so on, because I’m sure you, like me, are tired of hearing it by now. With the holidays just around the corner, I’ve sat down and made a couple playlists, one to highlight my favourite songs of the year and one to bring the bands and artists I think people should keep an eye on in the new year into the spotlight.

Today I’m doing a deep dive into the latter, sharing with you the musicians I think you should know about going into 2021. Hopefully you’ll find something you like, in no particular order, here we go:

Indie rockers Vansleep released three beautiful singles in 2020, completing their EP ‘You Should Have Said Something’ just in time for the new year. The four boys from Aberdeen bring heartfelt, relatable lyrics to life with guitar driven melodies and vocals sure to tug on your heartstrings. Their single ‘Chambers’ is one of my personal top 5 songs of 2020 and with no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Vansleep’s definitely a band worth keeping your eyes peeled for.

The Kent based indie-rock quartet are currently building up to the release of an EP in April 2021, releasing singles every 2-3 months, starting with ‘Viola’ back in July. The single, being the first song I heard by the band, immediately pulled me in and left me longing for something I never even knew. I think I remember they said a fan with synaesthesia had told them their music was yellow, and being a fellow synaesthete, I completely agree (my favourite colour also coincidentally happens to be yellow). Castells has been one of my favourite bands of 2020 and I’m so excited to follow along the journey in 2021.

Leeds based indie-pop band Ava in the Dark is definitely a band worth checking out. The first time I listened to them I automatically got Pale Waves and London Grammar vibes, but as I sat down and really listened, I found that they’re much more than a band to be compared to others. The 80s inspired beats and synths makes my 80s loving heart warm and ready to boogie. Lead singer Kiera lures the listener into a dream like, hazy and brightly coloured world, one sure to leave you longing for more. With the freshly released EP ‘Delete Us Forever’ wrapping up this year, I’m buzzing to see what 2021 brings.

Describing themselves as ‘4 young lads from England who enjoy making fast paced, melodic indie anthems with big choruses’, this band definitely was a fresh breath of air after I got into a rut in 2020. I remember listening to their single ‘Be There’ and immediately thinking ‘fuck, I wish I could hear this live’, a feeling I don’t often get when listening to bands I’ve just discovered. The gritty voice chanting ‘wanna know now, wanna know now if you’ll be there, if you’ll be there to take me into the night’ made me feel like I was dragged straight into a wee venue, packed with sweaty people and the smell of booze, can you tell I miss gigs.. Anyway, back to real life - their new single ‘Getaway’ will be released with a music video in January 2021!

I heard about this band from couple friends and I didn’t quite know what to expect when I pressed play, but let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. Their song ‘Enemy’ shattered my heart and put it back together in the span of 6 minutes. If you don’t speak Norwegian, ‘Enemy’ is a song exploring the vulnerable parts of growing up, specially where you’re expected to always have your shit together and be there for others as well as yourself. Their sound is a mix of rap and rock and it really keeps you on your toes in the best way possible. In my humble opinion, this band’s one of Norway’s more interesting bands and I’m excited to see where 2021 brings them.

I randomly stumbled upon Chilean native, Leeds based Gabby back in October when she released her debut single ‘Back to Sleep’ and was immediately captivated by the funky bassline and heavenly vocal. As I listened to it again and again though, I noticed how dark the lyrics were compared to the catchy melody. The song, being about a toxic relationship where you only find relief in daydreams, makes for a very interesting listening experience as you can listen to the song over and over and still find things you missed the previous times. Whether it’s a new lyric or a slight change in Gabby’s voice you didn’t notice before, and it leaves you wanting to know more. She’s currently working on her debut EP and has a couple singles up her sleeve for next year, so keep your eyes peeled everyone!

Dundee-based singer-songwriter Charlotte has gathered a loyal fanbase through her catchy, upbeat pop music, but what really drew me to her music is her unwavering honesty through her songwriting. To me, pop music can often be quite void of that edge that really tugs at your heartstrings, but there’s something about Charlotte’s way of putting feelings into words that leaves me feeling seen every single time. A friend recommended her music to me back in the spring of 2019 and I listened to ‘Do Not Disturb’ while I was going through a breakup with a friend. Everything I couldn’t put into words was now being served to me on a silver plate from a (then) stranger. That feeling still lingers in my chest whenever I listen to her music. Her latest single ‘Back to Life’ shines a light on feeling tired and knowing that you’re not genuinely happy with yourself, but it’s also a nudge in the direction of acknowledging that you’re capable of finding your way back to life (pun not intended, but hey!). With an album in the works and singles lined up for release, 2021 is going to be an exciting year for Be Charlotte.

Canberra based singer-songwriter Vendulka’s project AYA YVES (pronounced I-yuh Eves) completely blew me away when I first saw her perform live (or as live as a livestream can be) back in August as a support act for Hands Like Houses. I didn’t know what I expected when she appeared on stage, but damn, the second she started singing my body was covered in goosebumps. I sat glued to the screen wondering how the heck I got so lucky as to experience this, each note more captivating than the last. Her last release of the year is the breathtaking ‘Dear E.’, an intimate ode to her family, shedding a light on loss and grief, announced with the caption «let yourself feel whatever you need to. I would say this song belongs to you now, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go. We can hold it together.❤».

Leeds’ cooking up some class bands at the moment, rock band Real Easy definitely being one of the more interesting. With two singles leading up to their debut EP ‘Poundland California’, released on October 16th, they’ve already started carving out their own solid sound, and with pounding drums and catchy melodic hooks, they’re exploring finding your identity in working class England. They’re currently working on new music including headbangers on the lure of social medias and a country thrown to the dogs by an incompetent Tory government, so we’re looking at new music from the Real Easy lads in 2021!

If you’re Norwegian, the chances you remember Celine from the kids talent show MGP jr. are huge, but the Orkanger native, Oslo based singer-songwriter’s far from that naive kid singing about summer breaks anymore. Having settled into an alternative pop sound, she wraps up darker, macabre lyrics in beautiful, dream like melodies. The only way I can describe the feeling her music gives me is a mix of utter romance and spine shivering darkness, and as strange as that sounds, it’ll make sense when you take a look at her music videos and really dive into the lyrics. You’ll feel like you’re peeking into a private journal, exposing the anxiety and tension lying beneath the surface in all of us.

The four indie rockers from the UK south west brought out lots of fab content this year, leading up to the EP ‘Dreamlands’ in November. Their nostalgic sound and comforting nods to pop culture such as Star Wars and Back to the Future is a welcome change to the fast paced, challenging times we live in. Currently in pre-production mode on a few songs, people can definitely expect to hear singles from them next year with the first one hopefully dropping in spring (a little, you know, covid dependent). In the meantime, they’ve just released a cover of Band Aid with a bunch of their friends to raise money for Save The Children (available on soundcloud). As if that isn’t enough, they’re also working on covers and songs for their youtube channel which will be coming out early next year. In other words, the EP was just the beginning!

Glasgow based 5 piece indie-punk band Gallus have earned a reputation for relentlessly energetic live shows and music with an in your face attitude, rapidly building a keen fanbase around their homeland. I’ve only seen them play live once through a live stream, where they performed without an audience. Even when playing a virtually empty venue, they performed with such a loud, infectious energy that I, sat in my room in Norway - watching them via a screen, sat banging my head and bouncing with them. When the world eventually goes back to a more normal state, Gallus’ definitely one of the bands highest up on my ‘to watch live’ list.

Riff-heavy Hertford rock band The Late Aprils released their gorgeous debut single, ‘What Remains’ in November, recorded entirely at home during lockdown. Despite 2020 being a tough year, specially as a band finding footing in the music scene, they’ve done very well, connecting with a steadily growing fanbase and building up momentum. Their next single ‘Dying For A Future’ will be available on all streaming platforms on January 8th, starting off the new year with a bang!

Newcastle’s indie pop quartet Deep.sleep brought out three amazing singles this year, ‘Mathilda’ kicking off the year, followed by ‘You and I’ and ‘Her and I’ in November. When writing songs, they look for something that’ll be stuck in the listeners head, and that approach to songwriting is evident in the finished songs. Creating a dreamy soundscape, adding captivating vocals and lyrics to the mix and you’ve got an arena like enormity. Despite the difficulties of this year, they’ve seen success across northern England with three sold out shows post-lockdown. Let’s see what 2021 brings.

I first saw Ryan performing on the Sam’s Night livestream hosted by Get Oan Wae It Podcast back in October and was immediately captivated by his comforting voice accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar. His debut single ‘Happy Place’ holds the same atmosphere, with just the slightest hint of anxiety as the lyrics explores finding your happy place, an escape from the worries and tension daily life brings. Whether it be a person, a place, a hobby, a song - everyone’s got a happy place and this is the perfect ode to finding a clear headspace in a hectic, overwhelming world. ‘Happy Place’ landed a spot on my top list of 2020 and I’m hoping to hear more from Ryan in 2021.

This cinematic electro-pop project led by Edinburgh based songwriter Louise Anna McCraw draws inspiration from the likes of St. Vincent and Beach House. The dark, almost hazy vibe sent shivers down my spine back in 2019 when I first listened to ‘Hollow God’. There’s something about the thought provocative, mysterious lyrics stuck with me through the entirety of 2020 and I found myself going back to the song regularly through the year. With three singles out so far, I’m absolutely buzzing to see what 2021 brings.

Some of you might’ve read the interview Emmi did with the Norwegian DJ and producer previously on Disrupted and I’m here to keep the hype up. I know Mats from school and if I had to describe him in one word, it’d be hardworking. The dude seriously never stops creating. MVIUM is an electronic project, perfectly melting together genres like psy-trance, house and riddim into something akin to dropping mentos in a cola-bottle in the best way possible. Finding his footing in the Norwegian underground scene, he’s already gathered a keen following, not only in Norway, but around the US as well, and there’s no signs of stopping anytime soon. With new releases lined up for the new year, and a sound proudly standing out from the crowd, you should keep an eye on MVIUM.

Like Ryan Phillips, I first heard of Joshua on the Sam’s Night livestream in October. I’m in no way claiming to be Scottish, but it is my favourite country in the entire world, and Joshuas music gives me that warm feeling of familiarity I feel whenever I’m visiting the country. You know that feeling when you get back to your favourite place after being away for a while? That’s the one. ‘Edinburgh’ reminds me of walking around my favourite city, exploring the wee nooks and crannies around town.

This indietronica four piece from West Lothian stole my heart when I shot a gig of theirs in Edinburgh back in October 2019 and let me tell you, I haven’t really shut up about them since. I got their handwritten lyrics inked on me for my birthday this year, that’s how much I love this band. Releasing their first single, ‘Anthem for a Doomed Youth’ in November of last year and have since then brought out two brilliant singles and a collaborative project with Volka, the bands putting their own twists on each others songs in an effort to raise funds for Trash Panda's mental health support activities in West Lothian. Even with this year being… well, kinda shit, they’ve connected with their followers on social media, done livestreams and even collaborated with their followers on writing a song via instagram stories (their patience and dedication is applause-worthy, really). I can wholeheartedly say that Dictator’s made my year much more entertaining and I’m buzzing to see what the new year brings.

Hønefoss-based death metal group Ruun released their debut EP in October 2019 and have spent 2020 building up momentum and growing their fanbase. I’ll admit, I’m not the most avid listener of death metal unless it’s in a gig situation (it’s probably my favourite genre to experience live), but I’ve found myself going back to their EP ‘Atheos’ regularly through this year. If you have the chance to see Ruun live, please do so - their explosive, in your face energy made for one of my top 3 concert memories from 2019 and I’m hoping the world will go back to a state where irl gigs are possible again next year so I can see them live again soon.

The tangerine queen from the Scottish Highlands, now based in Glasgow, got seriously stuck in my head with the song ‘Perfect Stranger’ this autumn (I caught myself singing and dancing around to this song for about a week straight..). The colourful, catchy melodies and her equally comforting and energetic voice create a lovely soundscape you’ll find yourself drifting back to. And oh! The reason I saved Alice for last is because I wanted to wrap this up with some words of wisdom from her: "One of my favourite things about all of the artists that influence me is that they always look like they are having the best time when they perform live. I think sometimes that’s forgotten in music now. Image is obviously so important in this day and age but I think sometimes people forget that making music should be fun."

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There it is! 21 bands and artists I think you should check out going into the new year. Please check out their music on your preferred streaming service as well as their social medias. I wish you all peaceful holidays and a happy new year, fingers crossed!

Listen to the playlist here:

Written by Eirunn Oppheim


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