If you caught Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny on New Year’s Eve, then you could be forgiven for thinking that music in 2018 was pretty bland.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of Nile Rodgers Chic as much as anybody, and I suppose on a general audience mainstream tv channel you need the likes of Michael Buble to keep the granny’s happy.  But there was just nothing to get excited about.  Comfortable slippers rather than palpitations!

Fortunately, the internet has made it easier than ever to discover music that suits your tastes.  Here’s a roundup of some tracks that grabbed my attention in 2018

Emika – Close

Emika used to be signed to Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label before setting up her own label.  For me, any association with Ninja Tune makes an artist worth checking out further.  She’s made some great quirky electro pop over the years, often requiring a few listens to fully “get” but to my mind this is her best single yet.  Superb stuff!  She was great live too when I saw her a few years ago at Glastonbury, I’m hoping to be able to catch her again before long.

Hands Off Gretel – S.A.S.S

Whilst having a definite nod to 90s music, they manage to sound fresh, exciting and relevant.  Fabulous live and great videos and songs make them well worth checking out.  I expect big things of them in 2019.

Ivory Wave – Kids

If Hands Off Gretel have a nod to the 90s, Ivory Wave are the 90s reincarnated!  Currently Birmingham’s best kept secret, I can see them going exploding on to the national scene this year.

The Correspondents – Who Knew

Anybody who’s seen The Correspondents live knows that they put on an incredible show, with Mr Bruce’s dazzling dance moves and energy.  This is another catchy tune from them, the whole EP is well worth checking out.

Swoone – This Bullet Never Kills

Featuring the impressive voice of Mono / Violet Indiana’s Siobhan de Maré, this is a superb track for anybody who like’s 60s film music.  The entire album is well worth a listen.

Chaka Khan – Like Sugar

If this one sounds familiar and very 70s, take a listen to “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop” by The Fatback band!

When “U can’t touch this” by MC-Hammer first came out I remember thinking that despite the silly trousers, jumping about and dodgy lyrics, it was a bit of a killer tune.  Then I realised it sounded so familiar because it was – Rick James’s Super Freak.  It was then hard to find anything positive to say about the record.  This one on the other hand, Chaka puts enough of her own ideas into it to make it sound fresh, and with some epic dance moves in the video, it’s well worth a watch!

The Blue Carpet Band – My Jacket (Is Better than your Jacket)

The standard of bands on the “introducing” stage at the Great British Alternative Music Festival this year was very high indeed, for me though, The Blue Carpet Band were the best.  Epic performance and great songs!

Explode – Emergency Tiara

Liverpool’s Threshold festival is always a great place to discover bands, and this year was no exception.  Emergency Tiara were great fun, and with impeccable singalong tunes.  Great name too!

Joe Bone & the Dark Vibes – Club Stigmata

Joe Bone is constantly reinventing himself and his bands, but always manages to come up with the goods.  Live, he can win over a room of people who’ve never heard of him with ease, such as his talent.  He always works with superb musicians too, so you can be sure of a great night watching any of his incarnations.  This is a superb single, and I can’t wait to catch the Dark Vibes live again.

Ovvls – Black Butterflies

Ovvls get better and better everytime I see them, great catchy single.

Foxtrap – Silent Deep

I saw Foxtrap for the first time at last year’s Threshold festival and I was blown away.  Incredible voice and great electronic beats.  Perfect.

Metronomy – The Look

The eagle-eyed / pedantic will point out that this song was released in 2011, not 2018.  Fair point, to be honest I went off Metronomy quite early on, so hadn’t really been paying attention, and totally missed this song.  However, it was used on the closing credits of an episode of Amazon’s Sneaky Pete – and after a quick shazam it was my new favourite song!

In the pre-internet era, songs were either massive and everyone knew them, or they were out for a while, then deleted and you never heard of them again.  The fact that you can “discover” a gem like this 7 years after the event is certainly a positive side of how the internet has changed how music is discovered and consumed.  Now if they could just find a way to make sure bands can make a living!

Zuzu – Can’t be Alone

Zuzu carries on making great music, and it’s getting noticed – with the likes of Steve Lamacq playing it on his show.  It’s only a matter of time before Zuzu are known to a bigger audience.

Have a great new year, I look fwd to photographing and discovering bands in 2019.