[Elevator 2014] :: Bands On The Rise
In a semi-annual feature on this website, we predict bands and artists who are primed to erupt in the following calendar year. In terms of critical batting average here, we've been both too early, too late, and also not at all. This game is more art than science. What follows is a list of acts that have a chance to make a major impact in 2014, though if you end up reading this after the fact, you've already heard them on the radio or in a commercial/film sync - most of these bands already have or will have publishing deals in the near future. The game isn't what you know, but when you know it, a fractious pseudo-celebrity culture as limited as it is stupidly exciting. Indie rock is a weird term, and an even weirder world as some bands get held aloft, Simba-style, as the next heirs to some brief and silly throne. But all of this is a bit inside baseball, and more importantly, the following bands and artists represent what pop might well sound like in the coming months.
This is less prediction than absolute certainty given their aesthetic odes to the Killers and Passion Pit's arena-sized hooks. Already toting a deal with a Columbia Records imprint and a respected publishing outfit, Magic Man's 2014 LP is going to be everywhere. With the right push, these guys will be doing some version of the Capital Cities game this year, achieving Top 40 ubiquity based on strong, memorable pop songs. If it happens in March, it will be one year to the day they played for about six people in our mutual hometown of Providence, RI. If indie rock was a stock market, and I were your stupidly exuberant broker, I would be encouraging you to leverage yourself to the hilt on Magic Man this year.
With a newly inked deal to Polydor in the UK and Capitol Records in the US, and this was largely based on the strength of one song, Broods is poised to transcend the slow-drive, neon burn of even a popular Internet band like London Grammar. Sure, at some point consumers are going to short the living life out of the R&B market in indie rock, but for now majors are attracted to the sound and will push the world James Blake built three years ago on unsuspecting music consumers in the United States. None of this takes away from the strength of "Bridges," a sexy parabola of a chorus and all the fecundity that producer Joel Little (of Lorde fame) marshaled with shrewdness on a track like "Ribs". If slow jams make a break this year, it could well be in the body and sound of Broods.
Sounding like a consecrated combination of Foster the People and Local Natives, Thumpers, a recent Sub Pop signee, craft life-affirming pop-rock almost type-cast for a filtered Levi's ad. On breakthrough, "Unkinder (Tougher Love)," the band stutters and leaps toward a spinning chorus. The implications: We are all young, and yes, life is hard, and, sure, love is harder, but we're all going to be fine in the end. This combination markets equally well to the young and the not. As long as the sparklers light our lives, forever around this fire in our skinny jeans, shirtless with boundless energy for the next thirty-or-so-seconds until we arrive, breathless, at a beach at sunrise. Wilderness, wild, life, youth and love, Thumpers provide a lyrical and sonic image of this self, and this self sells as beautifully as it sounds.
Prides was the male version of Chvrches in 2013 and find themselves poised to make a break in 2014. With UK and US label deals in place or in the works, Prides could well come storming out of Scotland with as much energy as the purveyors of "The Mother We Share". "Out of the Blue" likely isn't the song that will break them in 2014, though it was an absolute burner in 2013, which means it all comes down to their next single, tied to their forthcoming EP, setting the stage for an LP later in the year. As they sang on their only single of this year, "You break the surface, take the lead" which is about what we expect them to do in 2014.
Rainy Milo charmed with "Deal Me Briefly" in 2013, and though she doesn't seem to make it into the conversation with the other would-be starlets of 2014 - and here Chloe Howl comes to mind, someone already famous enough not to make a list of this type - Rainy Milo has the vocal chops and connections to make a big impact on the coming year. In our year-end list, the comparisons to Lorde are there, though it will take a mountain of organic momentum, or a song like "Royals" to seize blogs and heavy-rotation radio alike. She may seem like a reach for 2014, but the A&R gut says otherwise.
Easily the hardest of this bunch, Wolf Alice, seem more interested in making great rock music than achieving popular fame. For instance, their decision to include topless cover art on one of their 2013 singles indicated a cavalier approach to commercialism that may hamper their ability to crossover into mainstream circles - though it didn't hurt Sky. Wolf Alice, we suspect, doesn't care. "Bros" proved enormous in 2013, "Blush" and "She" backing the initial offerings with 90s alternative radio sonics. If it works for Wolf Alice in 2014, it will be a mixture of the Joy Formidable and the Silversun Pickups plan, a big single sometime in the early part of the year that begins to crest by the summer festival season, just in time for major media outlets to pick up on their sound as an "alt-rock revival". The most optimistic view has them on Alternative radio by the end of the year if they can pen their "Lazy Eye" to riches.