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10 shows not to miss at the Great Escape 2018

Finland's Alma, Britain's Tom Walker and America's Soccer Mommy are the buzziest acts performing at this week's festival, according to their Radar Station rankings

By IQ on 16 May 2018



If spring began at ILMC in March, today arguably marks the start of the music industry’s summer.

Yes, it’s that time again: The Great Escape (TGE), MAMA Festivals’ long-running Brighton conference and showcase event, enters its terrible teens today, welcoming more than 3,500 industry delegates to the English seaside for the 13th time.

Alongside a packed schedule of panels and parties and networking events, TGE offers a chance to see “the hottest names in British music before they hit the big time”, in the words of MAMA parent Live Nation.

Using data from the Radar Station (as seen in the latest issue of IQ Magazine) – which tracks the fastest-growing artists in terms music consumption, aggregated across a number of online sources – here, then, are the buzziest acts of the Great Escape 2018…

1. Alma (FI)

Alma is the 22-year-old, platinum-selling, BBC Sound of 2018 artist from Helsinki, Finland, leading the charge of a new generation of fierce, female-led pop music. Following the release of critically acclaimed singles ‘Chasing Highs’ and ‘Phases’ in 2017, Alma has garnered over 170 million combined streams, become a mainstay on radio playlists internationally and topped singles charts in territories around the world.

Currently writing her debut record – executive produced by Justin Tranter and Charli XCX – and with an extensive summer touring in play, 2018 is looking bright for the Finnish ‘cybergoth’.

2. Tom Walker (UK)

Sometimes, Tom admits to ‘pinch yourself’ moments and he knows that – while the hard work is only just beginning – he is finally living those childhood dreams: racking up 25 million streams for ‘Just You And I’ or being handpicked by Elvis Duran as artist of the month and making his TV debut on America’s widely-viewed Today show.

Typical of the man – an engaging northerner with a big heart of gold – he recently invited his father to the studio to watch him record ‘Angels’ with a 30-piece orchestra. “He stood at the back in tears. He couldn’t believe where I’d got to with my music, which all started with his encouragement and belief.”

3. Soccer Mommy (US)

Soccer Mommy is the project of 20-year-old Sophie Allison, a Nashville native. She cut her teeth in her local DIY scene, going to shows and hanging out with other musicians, though she kept her own songwriting secret. “I’ve played music since I was six,” says Allison, “and I always wrote songs just for myself. I did it for fun, posting songs on Tumblr, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud. I didn’t think anyone would notice.”

Clean presents Sophie Allison as a singular artist, wise beyond her years, with an emotional authenticity all her own. “It feels like my first real record,” says Allison. “It’s my first real statement.” It’s an emotional album, heavy on themes of growth, isolation, and change, but balanced by a lightness of touch, and with hooks to spare. Clean is a true step forward, a mature, powerful album from an artist just coming into her power.

4. Lewis Capaldi (UK)

When Lewis Capaldi’s debut single ‘Bruises’ exploded in mid-2017 it seemed from an outside perspective to have all the hallmarks of an overnight sensation. How could this 20-year-old with a soul-wrenching voice that sounded like it had been hewn from granite seemingly emerge from nowhere with a song of such emotional depth?

A stripped-back and almost painfully raw meditation on love and loss from a writer who seemed like he’d already lived several lives and had the scars to prove it, within weeks it had racked up an astonishing 20 million Spotify plays and topped streaming charts around the world.

5. Yellow Days (UK)

From NMEGeorge Van Den Broek, aka Yellow Days, is an old soul living in a young body. At 18, his musicianship and in depth understanding of music suggests a maturity that belies his years. In his lyrics he tackles complex issues like depression, anxiety and politics – all sung in a husky croon that evokes his diverse array of influences such as Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf and Mac DeMarco.

6. Saweetie (US)

Flaunting nineties rhyme reverence, fashion-forward fire and endless charisma, Saweetie – born Diamonté Harper – can go bar for bar with the best of ’em. Drawing on a passion for poetry and numerous years of rapping in the car, she turned her love for words into vivid verses.

Driven by a bulletproof flow and one clever line after another, her viral smash ‘Icy Grl’ racked up 10m YouTube views in under three weeks and over 5m Spotify streams and soared to #1 on Musical.ly. She also earned the early endorsement of gatekeepers such as Vibe, XXL, HipHopDX and MTV. With a new partnership with Warner Bros Records and Artistry Records for her label Icy, she’s rewriting the rule book and breaking the stereotype of the female emcee. As a new CAA signee, she’ll be touring nationally throughout 2018.

7. Dermot Kennedy (ROI)

There’s a sign on the house Dermot Kennedy has called home for 25 years. “Cois Coille”, it reads: Irish for “beside the forest” – a nod to the vast mountains and huge sprawl of trees not far from his front door in Rathcoole, a village nestled between the wilderness of County Kildare and the frantic bustle of Dublin. It’s a contrast that also exists at the heart of his music: rustic, tender singer-songwriter laments full of scenic beauty, set to urban, electronic beats.

“I really like that clash,” he explains of his acclaimed mix of intimate, guitar-led storytelling and hip-hop-inspired production. “Making those two worlds collide is really exciting to me.”

8. Gus Dapperton (US)

If Bowie and Mac Demarco had a lovechild, it would look and sound like Gus Dapperton. Dapperton, from the big ole Apple,  produces his own music: atmospheric, hazy and beautifully ’80s. Vogue said, “groovy sound and poetic lyrics resonated with all of us, despite our very different tastes in music; we had that song stuck in our heads for a week”, and Dapperton has also been featured in i-D and Wonderland.

9. Pale Waves (UK)

Having already been featured on the front cover of NME with only three releases, Pale Waves are on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in Britain.

Combining a joyous ’80s soundscape straight out of a John Hughes film with a gothic aesthetic, it’s easy to see why Matt Healy wanted to work with them. They have toured with the 1975 and played festivals such as Reading and Radio 1 BBC Big Weekend, among others.

10. Japanese Breakfast (US)

Michelle Zauner wrote the debut Japanese Breakfast album in the weeks after her mother died of cancer, thinking she would quit music entirely once it was done. That wasn’t the case. When Psychopomp was released to acclaim in 2016, she was forced to confront her grief. Zauner would find find herself reliving traumatic memories multiple times a day during interviews, trying to remain composed while discussing the most painful experience of her life.

Her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is a transmutation of mourning, a reflection that turns back on the cosmos in search of healing. “I want to be a woman of regimen,” Zauner sings over a burbling synth on the album’s opening track, ‘Diving Woman’. This serves as Zauner’s mission statement: stick to the routine lest you get derailed, don’t cling to the past, don’t descend. In fact, ascend to the stars; Zauner found artistic solace removed from Earth, in outer space and science fiction. “I used the theme as a means to disassociate from trauma,” she explains. “Space used as a place of fantasy.”

The Great Escape 2018 takes place in Brighton, UK, from Wednesday 16 to Saturday 19 May.


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