Hozier, Banks, Jamie xx and more - the best and coolest lone stars of the year
We're a bit over half way through the year (already? It seems like just yesterday we were failing to make any resolutions), so it feels like a pretty good time to assess the state of things.
With festival headliners almost exclusively bands (and mostly men, but that's a separate issue), we thought we'd take a look at some of the solo artists who are killing 2014 without the help of band mates.
From Lykke Li to Lana Del Rey to Jamie xx to Banks, here are the 15 solo artists who, be it through bursting onto the scene for the first time, or releasing new material that reminded us how great they already were, are currently winning 2014.
Banks: 'Waiting Game' is one of the best tracks of the past year, and though none of her subsequent singles have quite matched its depth and power, if there's any justice, Banks won't be waiting much longer for huge success. 'Cus she's a Goddess.
Lykke Li: She's just admitted that, six years on, she "cannot stand" her first album. We're fairly confident though, that come 2020, she'll still be pretty damn proud of I Never Learn. It's a beautifully bleak record which strips back the electronic pretence of earlier outings.
Sia: Sia is basically the polar opposite of an overnight success. She's got six albums under her belt, the first of which was released in 1997,and has written more pop songs for pop stars than you've had hot dinners. We couldn't leave her off this list though, because, despite her increasing reluctance to show her face (her and Shia La Boeuf should get together), her brilliant new album, 1000 Forms Of Fear, looks set to catapult her into the limelight she resists with such fervour.
George Ezra: If you've heard 'Budapest' or 'Did You Hear The Rain' on the radio, and not bothered googling Ezra, you probably think he's a 60 year old soul singer. The fuzzy vintage production helps this illusion along too. You should probably know that, actually, he's 21 years old. Ezra's in the very early stages of his career, but the confident power of what he's released so far suggests it's going to be a long one. He's got one hell of a falsetto too.
MO: Perhaps it's the difficult-to-pronounce stage name (it's meant to be said kind of like 'Moo', but not quite) that has put off radio DJs from playing MO as much as they should have. We certainly can't think of any other reason. MO's innovative brand of electronic pop is infectious, powerful and atmospheric, and deserves endless recognition. Go and see her live, and we can almost guarantee she will end up dripping with sweat, having thrown herself into the audience and onto the floor several times.
Sky Ferreira: It's possible you've been put off Ferreira by the fact that she started out as a model. Or because her album cover is a topless picture. Or because she went on tour with Miley Cyrus. If any of this applies to you, then please be quiet and listen to her practically perfect record.
Hozier: Following the success of the devastating, poignant, embittered 'Take Me To Church', Hozier has appeared on the shows of US royalty Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres, and penned a song for the new Zach Braff film. His music is gospel-infused indie blues which is essentially timeless. Lucky for us though, he's here now. Make sure you don't miss him.
Brody Dalle: Again, hardly new to the music scene, but up until now she's always been part of a band; most notably The Distillers and Spinnerette. With the release of her debut album Diploid Love this year though, Dalle proved she's more than got the chops to go it alone.
Sharon Van Etten: Basically, if someone doesn't put 'Every Time The Sun Comes Up' in a film soon, we're just going to have to write a screenplay and do it all ourselves. And we're quite busy as it is.
Jessie Ware: We've only heard one song from Jessie Ware's 2014 repertoire - 'Tough Love'. It's all we need. We're sold. Show us where to sign.
Jamie xx: Jamie was always the quiet, unassuming one from The xx. And that is saying a lot. It turns out he's pretty talented in his own right though. New song 'All Under One Roof Ravin'' serves as definitive proof that the producer knows a good sample when he spots one.
Kelis: The first track of Kelis's 2014 album Food opens with a child asking, "Hey guy, are you hungry?" If the answer to that is yes, we suggest you get a snack before you listen to 'Breakfast', 'Jerk Ribs', 'Cobbler' or 'Biscuits n' Gravy'. Kelis's recent Glastonbury triumph proved there's more to her than milkshake.
Damon Albarn: The former Blur singer has, wisely, taken his solo career in a new, fresher direction compared to his Britpop days. His forthcoming headline set at Latitude will show once and for all whether he can carry an audience on his own. We strongly suspect he can.
St. Vincent: Jangling electro jazzy rock-pop, since you ask. St. Vincent's recent performance with Nirvana for a cover of 'Lithium' was stunning, and proved she can compete with the greats.
Lana Del Rey: We're not sure we really need to explain why Lana Del Rey is one of the winners of 2014. If you didn't know about her, you probably wouldn't have made it this far into the list. Just in case though, we have one word: Ultraviolence.
Asgeir: Uplifting, enlightening and packed with promise, Asgeir is one of the most promising exports to come from Iceland in years.
Chet Faker: The Aussie musician more than proved there's more to him than a viral cover of 'No Diggity' with his debut album. Merging soul, electronica, R&B and indie to great effect (so great that it sounds like he's invented a brand new musical genre), Faker's beats lay the perfect foundation for his stunningly expressive vocals. Built On Glass is an intimate, personal album, but it's also immensely listenable.
Courtney Barnett: Totally unphased by the hype that surrounds her, Barnett's appeal lies in her natural charm and totally unguarded and non-contrived approach to music. Carefree as her sound and attitude may be, Barnett gives it her all and delivers every time without fail, as her showcase of whimsical and intelligent grunge-fuelled alt-folk points toward what could easily be an immaculate debut album. A huge future awaits her.
Photo: WENN, Charlotte Valletta, Jamie-James Medina, Face