Instead of praying that the likes of Rihanna or Cardi B bless us with new albums, a more sensible way to get excited about new music this year is familiarise yourself with the new kids on the block. So here we present you with the vanguard of Miami club music, K‑pop, lo-fi indie, neo-soul and post-genre mulch. Enjoy.
Nick León has been steadily building an underground club scene in Miami, one that shatters preconceived ideas about the city’s nightlife: bottle service, cheesy bros and crap tech-house. With a production credit on Rosalía’s Motomami track Diablo and his red hot rave anthem Xtasis topping both Resident Advisor and Crack’s best tracks of 2022, you’ll see León’s name climb up festival bills and club night flyers this summer. The Colombian-American producer/DJ’s tracks are powered by dembow rhythms, often fusing Latin genres like reggaeton and perreo with ambient, IDM, Miami bass and electro. Don’t miss your chance to see León in the club this year. DR
Fun fact: In his early years as a producer, León made beats for Florida rappers Denzel Curry and Rob Bank$.
Best tune to start with: Xtasis ft. DJ Babatr
Bar Italia are the best new band in London, but they’ve been pretty quiet about it. Since releasing their first EP in 2020, they’ve not yet done a single interview. And, as is typical of artists affiliated with Dean Blunt (who’s put out a lot of their stuff via his World Music label), Bar Italia’s identity is partially concealed with grainy, lo-fi visuals. Redditers were quick to spot that Bar Italia is based around the core trio of Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik and Sam Fenton, who also form the post-rock duo Double Virgo. Together they make jagged art rock and grey-scale dream-pop, while their ghostly vocals conjure a sad and alluring world that feels just out of reach. DR
Fun fact: Bar Italia’s song Killer Instinct morphs into a cover of Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure.
Best tune to start with: Banks
Call it divine timing or the work of a savvy Island Records exec, but when FLO dropped their debut single Cardboard Box in March last year, it was precisely what British pop fans needed. Two months away from Little Mix’s final show, here was a girl group that looked poised to fill the gap that would soon be left in the industry. And its three members, Stella, Jorja and Renée, had clearly done their homework. They paid homage to Sugababes’ Overload in Cardboard Box’s music video, channelled No Scrubs energy in their lyrics and delivered Destiny’s Child-worthy harmonies during live performances. On their EP The Lead, FLO only solidified their Y2K sound (a smart move, considering that was arguably the heyday of girl bands), with more anti-fuckboi bangers such as Immature and Summertime. By the end of 2022, they’d performed on Jimmy Kimmel, become the first band to win the Brit Rising Star award and were reportedly being considered as the opening act for Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour. The great British girlband lives on. OP
Fun fact: They’re not fans of Rishi Sunak. As Stella puts it, he “got through via clearing.”
Best tune to start with: Immature
Originally from Southern California, NYC-based rapper Blake Ortiz-Goldberg has been drip-releasing music since 2018. More recently, the 26-year-old caught a buzz due to his association with Manhattan’s Dimes Square scene – a contentious, two block-wide area sandwiched within the Lower East Side that spawned countless memes and think-pieces last year. There’s only a handful of Blaketheman1000 tracks out, but they’re compulsively replayable. Tunes like Blake 2, Dean Kissick (named after the well-known writer and editor of Spike magazine) and Ibuprofen twinkle with glitchy, hyperpop-influenced production. The lyrics, often about the mundanity of day-to-day life, are dripping with irony. But listen closely and you might hear glimpses of sincerity in Ortiz-Goldberg’s pitched-up vocals. JW
Fun fact: Ortiz-Goldberg starred in a high school rendition of Legally Blonde as a teenager.
Best tune to start with: Dean Kissick
Tendai has made it his mission to build his career on integrity, focusing on his slow-burning, soulful style instead of pandering to the algorithm or depleted attention spans. The gamble paid off: the 22-year-old Londoner signed to 0207 Def Jam, the British Arm of the legendary Def Jam Recordings label, and has since been credited as an executive producer on Stormzy’s third album, This Is What I Mean. With its cinematic atmosphere, tendai’s most recent song Time In Our Lives suggests big ambitions. JW
Fun fact: Tendai’s parents once recorded a gospel album in their home country of Uganda, which still gets played on the radio to this day.
Best tune to start with: Time In Our Lives
Skaiwater was born and raised in Nottingham, but they just sound like they live on the internet. “I feel like categorisation is very odd,” the 22-year-old said in a recent interview. “I think things should just exist as they are.” Sure enough, their recent mixtape Rave – which “‘focuses almost entirely on love and drugs” – is as post-geographical and as post-genre as it gets. It mostly features co-producers Skaiwater met via Instagram, who helped cook up an unusual blend of tranquil electronica, emo, drum’n’bass and an AutoTuned vocal style reminiscent of melodic rap star Lil Uzi Vert, who hopped on a remix of the viral Miles. Skaiwater’s free-spirited approach also impressed Lil Nas X, who hired them as the support for his recent UK and EU tour. Play Rave for anyone who needs to hear something that feels new. DR
Fun fact: In order to get over their fear of dogs, Skaiwater got a tattoo of a particularly scary one on their arm.
Best tune to start with: Miles
Clip first turned heads in 2020 with Sad B!tch – a synth-laden, slumber party anthem which she dropped on SoundCloud at 1am after dropping out of her journalism degree. Since then, the 23-year-old has gradually built her rep with nonchalant delivery and a love of scuzzy, leftfield rap production. Having recently collaborated with the chic producer CouCou Chloe, starred in a campaign for Marc Jacob’s Heaven and appeared on the cover of Paper mag, it’s safe to assume Clip’s profile will continue to rise in 2023. JW
Fun fact: Clip’s artist name was coined by her friends, who always saw her wearing clips in her hair while hanging out in Manhattan and smoking the “itty bitty” bits of joints – also called, you guessed it, a clip.
Best tune to start with: Calvin K
Äyanna’s discography may be slim, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimpressive. Last year, the 23-year-old British-Jamaican reached heights that artists with double her experience would only dream of, providing vocals for Stormzy’s Hide & Seek and collaborating with Summer Walker, SPINALL and DJ Snake for single Power (Remember Who You Are). Oh, and she also performed at the MTV European Music Awards. Not bad for an artist with only four singles to her name, eh?
When it comes to her solo work, Äyanna’s vocals are what stand out. Take her track Alone, for instance, an introspective single that sees her confidently blend breathy high notes into a resonant, show-stopping belt. Then there’s Party Tricks, a master class in contemporary R&B, with melodies from the school of SZA and creative harmonies reminiscent of Chloe x Halle. Hungry for more? You’re in luck. Äyanna is set to release a new project this year, which is full of more soulful tracks to unwind with. OP
Fun fact: Some strangers overheard Äyanna filming TikTok in Central London and asked her to sing a song. She did At Last by Etta James.
Best tune to start with: Party Tricks
Strandz has something every new artist wants right now: he’s mastered the art of TikTok. The Germany-born, Nigeria-raised, South London-based rapper’s 2022 track Us Against the World is a trapper’s take on the Bonnie and Clyde story, with illicit but romantic bars (“She lookin’ finer than a key of coke”) set to a Smokey Robinson-sampling beat that recalls 50 Cent’s golden era. To promote the track, Strandz posted constant TikToks with his girlfriend – their weekend in Amsterdam, their trip to Winter Wonderland, Strandz gifting her with DJ decks – encouraging people to pair the song with their #couplegoals videos. Early signs suggest he’s no flash in the pan either. Tracks such as 4 The Money and Don’t Let Them See You Cry are just as good, proving Strandz can make funky neo soul and boom-bap production sound fresh and contemporary. DR
Fun fact: One of Strandz’s favourite artists is Canadian indie-folk songwriter Feist.
Best tune to start with: Us Against The World
How does a music video get 1.3 million views within 24 hours when no one has even heard of the artist? Ask K‑pop’s fastest rising stars NewJeans, who stormed the charts in South Korea last summer with their debut single Attention. It probably helped that they were the first band to come out of ADOR, the new and much-hyped subsidiary of Hybe Corporation (formerly Big Hit Entertainment), the company that gave the world BTS and, as such, introduced a lot of people to K‑pop. But NewJeans’s sound stood out, too. A flirty bop with a noughties RnB groove, Attention was decidedly more chilled than the intense, genre-merging sound of a lot of their peers, laying the groundwork for a style that sits somewhere in between All For You-era Janet Jackson and Kaytranda. Currently, NewJeans are still holding the top spot in South Korea and on Billboard’s K‑pop chart, this time with Ditto, a breezy single that pairs airy synths with breakbeats. The next gen of K‑pop has arrived. OP
Fun fact: NewJeans are already smashing K‑pop records. Their self-titled EP received 444,000 pre-orders and sold 262,815 copies on its first day of release, the highest figures ever seen for a debuting girl group. Now, they’ve broken their own record with their single album OMG, which was pre-ordered 800,000 times.
Best tune to start with: Hype Boy