New Sensations: An M83-Approved Dance Duo, Welsh Drama Pop & More Finds
New Sensations is our semi-regular roundup of emerging acts you oughta know.
Deep into a recent road trip, during a mind-numbing traffic jam, my friend had a moment of inspiration and decided to pull up Spotify and just start playing the top songs for random countries. And suddenly, we had stumbled on a fun game for music nerds to play next time they’re stuck in a car and running out of playlists.
Once you get into the global shuffle experience, your first reaction will probably be mild surprise at how many far-flung nations have a thriving English language-pop scene. Then you may start wondering which of those artists are Americans, and what led their songs to catch on overseas but not Stateside. But the best part is when you find a gem that you want to hold onto after the car ride. That’s how I found this one (when in doubt start with Scandinavia).
This isn’t how I came across the five new artists below, but I just had to tell you about our new game anyway.
Austria’s answer to Phantogram released their debut, Spanish Disco, last year. But the album got a US release in May which included two new songs — “Butter” and “Worthy” — that truly demonstrate the duo’s range. The former is the type of hooky digi-pop that even has synth parts that’ll get stuck in your head, while the latter is an exercise in stillness.
This London-via-Uganda singer pairs her towering voice with graceful gospel-pop. And on her latest single, “Trouble,” she has the radical-for-the-2010s idea of doing that alongside a screechy guitar lead, and the result is a rough and smooth anthem that exists outside of any era’s trends. “Freedom,” on the other hand, firmly plants her voice in the turbulent political climate of today.
Casi’s debut single “Lion” also serves as the Welsh singer’s first music video and the directorial debut of photographer Maisie Cousins. That’s a lot of firsts, but you’d never know from the striking visuals and the accompanying piece of self-assured drama-pop, a cross-pollination of Lorde and Florence. The single is out July 22 on London’s Chess Club Records, home to the debut singles for MØ, Wolf Alice and Jungle as well.
Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern’s project falls on the warm end of the dance music spectrum, all bouncy and bubbly — as song titles like “Awoo” and “Drinkee” might indicate. The M83-approved New York duo has a pan-cultural sound, but not in the Major Lazer global rave-up way. Their melting pot is more about a tasty groove than a turnup. Both these tracks are off their just-released debut EP Soft Animals.
“Versatile” is a word frequently used to sugarcoat “inconsistent” in music-writerdom, but for Nakaya it’s the truth. Her latest single has an electronica/trip-hop vibe, but her earlier stuff from 2015 has a campfire strum quality. She’s equal parts Sade and Ed Sheeran, and as a student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute, it’s only a matter of time before she figures out how to meld those two sides.