Pop, drill and inhuman metalcore: new music to get excited about in 2024 | Music

Cristale

From Brixton, London
Recommended if you like Central Cee, Little Simz, Kwengface
Up next Mixtape later in 2024; Netflix drama The Kitchen

Without wanting to stoke the hype fires too carelessly, this Brixton MC has one of the keenest minds and sharpest tongues in rap music today, not just in the UK but across the world. Moment to moment, her flows are astonishing technical accomplishments, with words fiendishly darting into rhythmic space. Her rhymes rarely land on the word you expect: tinnitus begets Leviticus, and London traffic restriction Ulez gets rhymed with 90s romcom Clueless. But what’s perhaps most impressive is Cristale’s versatility and willingness to push herself across the rap production spectrum. She can do callous taunting or bruised introspection, twist the thermostat between cold trap and warm hip-hop, and bring her Jamaican heritage to bear on dancehall tracks (complete with withering accent and patois). Her core mode is the thrilling moped-swerve of UK drill – but even on these beats she revs the genre onwards, as she does with the minimalism of Roadents. It’s quite humbling to learn she’s only 22 years old, and can also act, taking a sizeable role in The Kitchen, a socially conscious dystopian drama co-written and co-directed by Daniel Kaluuya – it’s released on Netflix in January. BBT

Tara Clerkin Trio

Tara Clerkin Trio sitting around a cafe table, with a blurred effect
‘First-day-of-spring freshness’ … Tara Clerkin Trio Press. Photograph: Cloé Brunerie

From Bristol, UK
RIYL Mica Levi, Julia Holter, Broadcast
Up next Playing 100 Club, London, 26 February

This long-gestating bunch took root in the 2010 Bristol scene that orbited the label Howling Owl, blossomed through the city’s emerging improv community and was slowly whittled down from the eight-piece Tara Clerkin Band to this trio, so named as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to ECM record label-style jazz outfits. On their latest EP, On the Turning Ground, the titular Clerkin plus brothers Patrick Benjamin and Sunny-Joe Paradisos dub out glimmering, minimalist jazz (think the Necks were they from Avon, not Australia) and conjure field recordings of baroque string and lute reveries, all captured with first-day-of-spring freshness. In the middle of this captivating ambience sits a perfect pop song, Marble Walls: limpid and peaceful, with a sweet vocal “ba da daaa!” fanfare that might herald small, everyday delights. LS

Heriot

The four members of the band Heriot
‘Riffs swung like cudgels and vocals tearing open the sky’ … Heriot. Photograph: Harry Steel

From Swindon, UK
RIYL Knocked Loose, Rolo Tomassi, Deafheaven
Up next Debut album; Download festival set

The sound of metalcore – that’s roaring heavy metal done at the speed of hardcore punk, often with startling dynamic shifts – is in rude health, and Heriot are one of the genre’s heaviest bands, with riffs swung like cudgels and vocals tearing open the sky. Technically they have been around for nearly a decade, but are very much in version 2.0 after Brummie vocalist-guitarist Debbie Gough joined and they deleted all their pre-2020 music. Since then there’s been the Profound Morality EP, where dark-magus incantations and demonic roars are given an extra inhuman quality with a touch of distortion, followed by the single Demure – a big streaming success thanks to its cleansing, blood-filling, totalising noise. BBT

Discovery Zone

Discovery Zone AKA JJ Weihl
‘Magnetically uncanny’ … Discovery Zone AKA JJ Weihl. Photograph: Neelam Khan Vela

From New York
RIYL Air, Japanese city pop, Laurie Anderson
Up next New album Quantum Web released on RVNG, 8 March

There is almost PhD-level thought behind the music of Berlin-based producer JJ Weihl – cybernetics, AI, the late Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan – but the music she makes as Discovery Zone is featherlight, if magnetically uncanny. Through a similarly warped filter to Oneohtrix Point Never (and with a shared taste for retro ad breaks), Weihl makes gleaming, startlingly catchy dream-pop dappled with boogie and electro that resonates with the wonder of old technologies experienced for the first time. It’s high on charm, a feeling that only doubles seeing Weihl play live as she teases her high-concept art out of a simple theremin. LS

a.s.o.

From Berlin, via Australia
RIYL Massive Attack, HTRK, All Saints
Up next A return to the studio

What with the massive resurgent popularity of shoegaze and trance, the nostalgia machine has been primarily focused on the 1990s of late – and you might quake at the prospect that the post-trip-hop sound of Morcheeba, Lemon Jelly et al could be next for a revival. This plodding chillout-compilation fodder was some of the absolute worst music of the decade, and yet a.s.o. – the duo of singer-songwriter Alia Seror-O’Neill (AKA Alias Error) and producer Lewie Day (AKA Tornado Wallace) – magically made a virtue of it on their recent self-titled debut album, one of the great dispatches from the underground in 2023. My Baby’s Got It Out for Me, Falling Under and Rain Down all have William Orbit-style production flourishes and loping beats straight out of a Goan hippy retreat – but also whacking great Massive Attack-style basslines and thick ambient texture, while Seror-O’Neill has a knack for hooks (her voice sits somewhere between FKA twigs, Carla dal Forno and Lana Del Rey). Thinking, meanwhile, is like Air doing dub reggae, and Love in the Darkness and Cold Feeling could be great lost coldwave seven-inches. Big labels are no doubt sniffing around. BBT

The New Eves

The four members of the New Eves
‘Invigorating and disquieting’ … the New Eves. Photograph: Publicity image

From Brighton, UK
RIYL The Raincoats, the Velvet Underground, the Roches
Up next More singles, festivals and touring from spring

The only band with a taste for flouncy white dresses that you need to pay attention to in 2024, the New Eves are another part of the indie-folk Broadside Hacks collective (and cite Daisy Rickman, another of our ones to watch in 2024, as a favourite artist of theirs). Less trad than their comrades, however, Nina Winder-Lind, Kate Mager, Ella Russell and Violet Farrer wield cello, violin and flute alongside traditional band instruments to ply a take on punk that is equally invigorating and disquieting, extending an arm back to the sound of self-discovery blazed by the Raincoats and the Roches. They’re just as funny as those forebears, too: Original Sin harks back to their biblical namesake and concludes: “I’d say if God denies you apples / Grab the apples and make pie / The serpent is your ally / Your witness is the sky.” LS

Ceechynaa

Ceechynaa reclining wearing a red, white and blue bikini
‘Extremely good’ … Ceechynaa. Photograph: Publicity image

From Hertfordshire
RIYL Cardi B, City Girls, Loski
Up next New single in January

“Ngl watched this as a joke but it lowkey slaps.” This was the general tenor of online comment after Ceechynaa dropped her pair of extremely viral, extremely good UK drill tracks, Legal Baby and Last Laugh, in 2023. Plenty of people came to the video of the bikini-clad rapper performing the latter in Leicester Square either to gawp or mock her heavy (somewhat adopted) cockney accent, but ended up nodding along and gasping delightedly at her “no she didn’t” lyrics and skill. Still in her teens, she regards men with audible contempt: “Every man I link has a wealthy aura / the mandem are getting scammed / they think I can heal their childhood trauma.” It’s all done with a knowing wink: “What if I did embody this thing everybody kept on saying I was, and actually decided to make music about it?” as she explained on TikTok. BBT

MJ Lenderman

From North Carolina, US
RIYL
Neil Young, Wednesday, Waxahatchee
Up next Fifth solo album expected 2024

Almost overnight, MJ Lenderman has gone from underground Asheville concern to cult indie obsession. His album Boat Songs – think Neil Young burning up a garage or Jason Molina beholding the world from a ranch – blew up in 2022; he has spent the last year touring with Wednesday, the band led by his girlfriend Karly Hartzman; and 2024 promises his inevitable wider breakthrough, plus a high-profile (but still TBA) collaborative role on one of the year’s most anticipated indie rock records. It’s well deserved. Lenderman puts a new spin on southern rock with his blissful knack for guitar work that’s gnarled yet breezy, and a lyrical style that is as sincere as it is sardonic, as mythic as it is mundane, as he finds the beauty in frailty. LS