Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.
This week I’ve just returned from The Great Escape festival in Brighton, where I got the chance to see live performances by many of the acts I’ve featured here in Future Pop. Below are the top five that impressed me the most…
I can't resist featuring Swedish indie-pop girls here in Future Pop, even though I know they won’t all make it big. When I first wrote about Tove Lo (before she signed to Polydor) I wasn’t sure if she would be the one that did it, but I knew she deserved to. I’m not sure if Stay High’s top 10 success is enough to make her a big star, but she has her foot through the door and she’ll give it her best shot. Her performance on Thursday was energetic and well-received, with the audience singing along to Not On Drugs and Out of Mind as much as Habits (the original version of Stay High, which she still performs live).
As a gruff, bluesy singer-songwriter, Hozier’s music isn’t my usual taste, but I was so impressed by his single Take Me To Church that I’ve been on a mission to get it more exposure ever since, even convincing Neon Jungle to do a cover. After two failed attempts to see him live, I finally got the chance, in the suitable setting of the Spiegeltent. He wasn’t a very interesting performer to watch, and only a few songs in his set came anywhere close to Take Me To Church’s level, but his voice made up for it. It was effortless, strong and distinctive. And there was one poptastic moment, a surprise cover of Amerie’s One Thing!
This year’s Great Escape had a theme for me: pleasant surprises. There were several acts I went to see just out of curiosity, and left the gig as a new fan. The biggest surprise of all was Irish indie-folk-pop duo Hudson Taylor, who I called “irritating” and “excrutiatingly affected” in Future Pop last year. Their live set was unexpectedly enjoyable – the affectations were gone, replaced by sweet, catchy songs and lovely harmonies. My favourite was the Beach Boys-esque Care, a single I totally missed in 2013. I’m always willing to be proven wrong after giving a bad review – being a fan is much more fun than being proud!
Another surprise of the festival, though in this case I had no expectations rather than low expectations, was Jess Glynne. She may have had two no.1 hits this year, but there was no queue to get into her show. Nonetheless, she used the opportunity to prove that she’s more than just a voice, and she’s actually a good performer with some great pop songs. She’s more likely to be the next Katy B than Katy Perry, but that’s fine as long as the music’s good. She performed her next single Right Here, a dance track that follows on from her past hits, but it was another song with a gospelly, sing-along vibe that I want as a studio version ASAP.
The most entertaining set of the weekend had to be Kiesza, who used her short slot to put on a proper pop show. She had two male dancers, and performed vigorous, OTT dance routines, as well as a couple of covers. One of those was an upbeat version of Hallelujah, which attracted some offended gasps from the indie audience, but she just about pulled it off. I’ve often mocked the (now removed) early videos that expose her as a sort of Canadian Lolly, but her live show brought together that side of her with the cool electro-pop artist. She was so brazenly ridiculous and unselfconsciously retro, it actually was pretty cool!