In honour of the AW15 POP issue (out now) PHOENIX rounds up a selection of the best little-known and emerging female artists for your listening pleasure…
1 ZELLA DAY
This ultra-cool Arizona born singer-songwriter has something of the untouchable about her. She first caught music bloggers’ attention with her simple, sultry cover of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army and since then her laid-back, poppy tracks overcast with sensual vocals have inevitably led to comparisons with Lana Del Rey. True, the subtle backwater twang of her South-western accent and feigned Lolita innocence (barely masking raw sex appeal) are familiar, but her vibe – unlike Rey’s – is overwhelmingly upbeat.
2 KATE MILLER
Fortify is so sexy: Kate Miller’s voice is basically warm dripping honey set over a low, funky thunder of basses and chilled, but totally on-point, drums. It isn’t hard to pin down this 19-year-old’s inspiration; glimpses of Lianne Le Havas, KT Tunstall and Lissie all surface in Miller’s vocal and song-writing techniques. Her debut EP, Neophyte, is like sinking into a bubble bath: relaxed vocals, slowly floating melodies and warm, comforting harmonies. Miller is a singer-songwriter who isn’t afraid of modernising her trade; unlike KT Tunstall, there is a soft blur of studio production which transforms Miller’s intimate ballades into tender electric-soul masterpieces.
3 ELLA ON THE RUN
Berklee College of Music graduate Ella On The Run is a essentially a mash-up of all our fave electro-pop female artists: BANKS, Foxes, AlunaGeorge, La Roux. She clearly knows her way around a studio as the production on her latest single, Cavalry, is flawless: clean, close-mic’d, and immaculately balanced. Edgy and versatile, Ella’s haunting voice carries the weight of her artistry, set against a revamped eighties synth-pop backing; this musical signature, evident especially in Cavalry, is so brimming with laid-back attitude and cult alt-pop potential that a remix just has to happen. Please?
CuckooLander, AKA Charli XCX’s ex-bassist, Holly Hardy, has had quite an introduction to soloing: she’s already supported The Libertines, collaborated with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij on her debut album and worked with prolific indie-pop producer, Daniel Ledinsky. CuckooLander has all the effortless vocal quality of Rae Morris thrown together with refreshingly edgy bass riffs and pulsating rhythms.With a powerful and moody voice, her punchy song What’s Out There is a lip-bitingly sexy ode to nineties grunge; bare electric guitar riffs, unmic’d pulsing drums, and a darkly post-punk vocal technique all revamped for the new indie femininity of the noughties. This is, incidentally, perfectly complemented by the strikingly original cinematography for the single’s music video. On a completely different plane is her latest offering Mother Nature; the video is eighties TV nostalgia genius.
5 LAUREN RAY
A delicious cocktail of country, Americana and pop-folk (served in a smoky downtown piano bar) is how we’d describe London-based artist Lauren Ray’s deftly executed EP Paying For Love. We’re totally sold on the scrapbook-style storytelling and nomadic quality of Ray’s material – the result of a childhood spent relocating between South Africa, Austria, Poland and the UK. Fittingly, this EP is just as migratory, having been penned across LA, Nashville, Spain and Germany. Honing her songwriting craft has led Ray to collaborate with the likes of hit-makers Ian Dench (Beyoncé, Jordin Sparks) and Martin Sutton (Leann Rimes, Lu Lu), and stand-out track Come To Me pays testament to her innate ability to interweave bittersweet lyrics with a soft, textural acoustic. Her vocal has a natural lyrical warmth and velvety smoothness, giving nods to Alison Krauss, Carole King and Norah Jones. She’s a regular on The Troubadour’s stage and has performed at several boutique festivals – check out her stripped back version of David Gray’s Babylon for Ont’ Sofa, we’re big fans.
6 JERRY WILLIAMS
In the 19-year-old self-confessed song-writing addict, Jerry Williams, we can see what might happen if the endearing lyrics of Kate Nash were imbued with all the tragic angst of London Grammar. Melodically, her break-through song Boy, Oh Boy is derivative but still totally catchy, and the accompanying strings and guitar are infectiously toe-tapping – and in desperate need of an epic remix. William’s songwriting know-how, matched with her simple, clear vocals (with the most beautiful Shakira-like bends) all point towards big things for this Portsmouth girl.
Finally, 2NYO – a NY-born sister trio – has stepped up to fill pop music’s long-standing Destiny’s Child-shaped vacuum. High-energy and old school, teenagers Kia, India and Tiyanna have combined their diverse musical talents (Missy Elliot-derived rap, high-flying Mariah Carey vocals and a rough-edged but powerful Mary J. Blige lead singing style) to create their single Roll with Me. It is literally like stepping back in time to school discos, scrunchies, Space Raiders and double denim, but who doesn’t miss sassing out to Kelly, Beyoncé and Michelle? Next year will see the release of their brand new EP Nyopolitian.
8 JOHANNA GLAZA
Johanna Glaza’s debut album Silence is Kind (2013) is simultaneously surreal and intimate. Her songwriting technique merges baroque counterpoint with, as strange as it sounds, a definite English folkiness. The results are how we imagine Guinevere: The Musical would sound: epic, ethereal and ageless. She even looks like a pre-Raphaelite painting. Winter Song has a haunting Kate Bush quality, while the more upbeat shimmering piano interludes are so evocative of Christmas bells that they beg to feature in your festive playlist. Her swirling vocals and trilling instrumental accompaniment are akin to the electroacoustic landscapes of minimalist Max Richter, or the reflective choral hum of Sigur Rós.
The quirky – think Grace Helbig – Py was first brought to our attention through a brilliant collaboration with Odeza; her sultry Little Dragon vocal vibe, shot through with a pure Londoner’s accent, was strikingly intimate and immersive. Ghost Dance, her 2015 EP, is an electric bloom of contemporary coolness. The low mechanical roar of studio effects, interspersed with clicking, snapping and track looping, overlaid with that voice makes for the edgiest of dance music.
Native New Yorkers Heather Boo and Emma Rose are building on their signature blend of smoky blues and ethereal 70s folk with new track Mosquito. Shot through with poetic angst, the nostalgic arts and crafts vibe of this duo’s sound signposts the likes of Patti Smith, Joni Mitchel and Steve Nicks, with a rough-around-the-edges authenticity that brings it bang up to date. This two-piece band is part beatnik romance, part urban bite. Plus, they look like extras from the cast of Girls. Their debut album That Thing Reality will be out via Kitsuné/Sony Red in March 2016.
Words: Sabina Dewfield (@sabinadewfield)