2015 proved a winning year for independent Welsh voices in New Music; artists such as Trampolene, Pretty Vicious, Gwenno, H.Hawkline and The Anchoress all highlighting the diverse and vibrant talent from across the nation.
Looking forward to what 2016 might offer, we began our search in Cardiff, and quickly realised that the capital’s influence was far reaching. As such, our top 20 bands include talent from all over Wales, each with a connection to the city.
Our list only scratches the surface and demonstrates how deep and diverse local pockets of new music can be. Definitely worth checking our top 20 out if they are in your area.
Kicking things off, ESTRONS (see main image above), a powerful Cardiff guitar band, fronted by bilingual Canadian-Swede, Taliesyn Kallström. Their name 'ESTRONS' is a Welsh translation of the word 'ALIENS', reflecting their mixed national heritage. Huw Stephens and Annie Mac are already fans and their live reputation is already concrete, with a UK tour set for February 2016. Their debut EP 'Whoever She Was...' was released in December 2015. Watch their video for 'Make A Man' below:
Very different in style to ESTRONS, but supplying their own form of high energy, Cut Ribbons make boy/girl fronted euphoric indie guitar/synth pop that echoes at the slick tunes of the later New Romantic era. Cut Ribbons recently recorded a session at Maida Vale for BBC Cymru's Horizons / Gorwelion scheme, designed to develop new, independent music in Wales, in partnership with Arts Council Wales. You'll love watching their video for recent track 'We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn':
You could be forgiven for thinking Tibet are from Sheffield, sounding like a mellowed mix of Arctic Monkeys and Pulp. Tibet are tipped for big things in 2016 with a UK tour in February taking in Brighton, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Leicester, as well as their native Cardiff. Their debut EP 'Fridge' is out now.
'Ffug' translates roughly as 'fake' but this band seem anything but fake. Ffug make impossibly catchy indie with a great youthful punk sensibility running through everything they do. Think of a Welsh language Teenage Fanclub and you'll be in the right ball park. The unique melodic delivery of Welsh lyrics is so deftly accomplished by their young front-man, Iolo Selyf, that you should give this a listen, irrelevant of whether you speak the language or not.
Their song 'Llosgwch y Ty i Lawr' is a perfect place to start:
A bilingual resident of Merthyr Tydfil, and only 19 years old, Kizzy Crawford is quietly reinventing folk music for a new generation. With songs such as 'The Starling', inspired by the Welsh myth of Branwen, the Welsh Princess who trained a Starling to carry messages to her brother Bran, asking to be rescued from a cruel husband, this is some of the finest acoustic singer-songwriter new music around. Skilled with voice, guitar, fiddle and loop pedal, this is another lush artist who must be listened to. Start with this live video of 'Caer o Feddyliau':
If you're into bands like Swim Deep and Peace, then you should definitely check out We're No Heroes on their UK tour in February. There's still time to catch them in Manchester, Wrexham, London, Bournemouth and at their Cardiff homecoming gig. But if you miss out on them live you can still grab their double A-side Vinyl 'Voodoo / Stay Weird' - out now:
South Wales' Voes possess a very powerful far ranging female vocalist and some imaginative instrumental flourishes. The resulting combination is a lively and vital musical landscape of outstanding pop songs that could be easily mistaken for futuristic Nordic pop. All that said - here is a stripped down performance of their song 'Forever' which demonstrates that vocal range:
Siôn Russell Jones is another quietly successful Cardiff artist. As a live performer he's supported The Webb Sisters in Austria, Holland and Belgium, and his recorded material has enjoyed airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and as you might expect BBC Radio Wales. An acoustic singer-songwriter guitarist with a sting in the tail, this should please fans of Jake Bugg and Frank Turner. Check out his latest song 'Diamonds and Gold' below:
Another excellent Cardiff band, The Cradles are one for fans of The Kinks, Arctic Monkeys, and Richard Hawley, though that said, The Cradles are hard to liken to any single one of those artists. With a refreshingly warm guitar sound and some really clever production that puts the soaring vocal way above the backing, The Cradles have a timeless sound that could have come from the 1960s, 2000's or now. Their new single 'Ideal Girl' is out on 25th March 2016:
Sŵnami are a five-piece band from Dolgellau in North West Wales specialising in crowd pleasing, pumped up, guitar/synth pop. Another band proving that the Welsh language is alive amongst the young - here is a live video of them performing their track 'Gwenwyn':
Joni Mitchell meets Massive Attack. Stark pop music with female vocals set against lower register electronics and bass may not be a new genre anymore, but Violet Skies is certainly making waves with her huge haunting nocturnal radio-friendly songs, that have also won her features in Hunger magazine and NME. To see what we mean watch 'Liar' below.
Al Lewis is another singer-songwriter who embraces the bilingual possibilities of working out of Cardiff. Al also finds time to be half of Americana outfit, Lewis and Leigh. Keeping it Welsh though, here's Al Lewis' touching song 'A Child's Christmas In Wales' taking its title from the famous Dylan Thomas prose of the same name:
From Dylan Thomas references to the 8 bit backed rap of Astroid Boys. Listing their location as 'Cardiff/London' Astroid Boys set out on a UK and German tour at the end of February (kicking off in Cheltenham on 26th Feb). Challenging the preconceptions about both their chosen genre and their home city, their track 'Posted' ends "We have certain things that only Cardiff people understand...". Watch below and judge for yourself:
Possibly taking their name from Anglesey Sea Zoo, Seazoo are already planning a busy 2016 with live slots supporting The Wave Pictures and Gwenno throughout Spring. 'Telephone Jones' is their most recent single (out 22nd Feb) and displays their use of organs of all shapes and sizes, hat tipping to Super Furry Animals, this is wonderful technicolour Welsh indie pop in the vein of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Not surprisingly they've clocked up a Marc Riley session and Maida Vale BBC session too.
Wrexham's Baby Brave have supported Bo Ningen, Stealing Sheep, H.Hawkline and Slow Club among other headlining artists. Fronted by mesmerising lead singer/guitarist Emmi Manteau, their art-rock songs are dynamic, diverse, fun, punchy and quite addictive. Rock Paper Scissors (see below - contains strobe lighting & flashing images!) is the latest song from Baby Brave's second EP ‘Tacky Birthday’, which was released in November 2015.
A five piece post-hardcore band from Brigend/Newport South Wales already attract huge audiences with their videos from loyal post-hardcore fans. Whilst their blistering bass drum assault will not be to everyone's taste, When We Were Wolves are further proof that the Welsh music scene is very diverse. Here is their recent track 'Vile':
Reaper in Sicily describe themselves simply as "Welsh Rock 'n' Roll". Whilst not a new band (they won Kerrang's Best Live Unsigned Act in 2009), Reaper In Sicily are one of the strongest representations of young rock coming out of Wales. Their latest offering 'Into The Grey' is solid fare for fans of Lower Than Atlantis, Mallory Knox and Don Broco. Check it out here:
Hailing from South Wales, Glass Giants are five young lads that make feel-good rock tunes about having a good time (their 2014 EP was somewhat hedonistically titled 'Cocktails & Bikinis'). It's been a winning formula so far, winning a loyal crowd and getting featured on Kerrang TV in 2014. Their latest single is titled 'Up All Night' following their partying theme:
Another alt-rock offering from South Wales, Clear The Auditorium have a more electronic element to their sound than the previous two artists listed, describing themselves as 'electronicore'. Their track 'Dead Behind The Eyes' demonstrates their Numanesque metal stylings to great effect. Big fans of Enter Shikari, the band recently played a whole set, as Enter Shikari on New Year's Eve in tribute to them.
Returning to Cardiff, our next band identify as indie post-punks, though it's fair to say that aesthetically and audibly they come over more indie than punk, making warm heartfelt tunes like 'Capable Of' (see below) which uses some excellent trumpet to round off its corners. Their album "...and After That The Dark" is available now.
Saving one of the most promising bands for last, Candelas' second and most recent album, 'Bodoli'n Ddistaw' pairs up some perfectly gutsy indie guitar sounds and puts them alongside beautifully sung welsh lyrics. A band that would have not been out of place in the time of Cool Cymru's response to the hype and headlines of Cool Britannia circa 1995. Have a listen below:
This could have easily been a list of 30 or 40 bands, so with that in mind, here are another 20 bands we came across whilst making this list, all of which are worth checking out and following, to find out when they are playing in a town near you: Prints Jackson, The Hearts, Mellt, XY&O, Ysgo Sul, I N R E Q U I E M, Project, Tree Of Wolves, Beach Fatigue, The Barry Horns, Y Cledrau, Ywain Gwynedd, Plu, Yr Eira, Houdini Dax, Connah_Evans, Y Reu, Accü, TRWBADOR and I Fight Lions.