Blog Sound of 2016

The Blog Sound of 2016 is a poll of UK-based bloggers to determine the most popular and favourite emerging acts among those polled. As a UK-based blog, Record Rewind Play was invited to take part (well, it was an open invite, and we jumped at the opportunity) this year and we submitted the names of three artists we love and for whom we wish nothing more than success, riches and critical acclaim in 2016. Nothing more.

And the exciting news is that none of our picks made it onto the longlist. Ho-hum.

And so, on to the list anyway, with some introductory words from Robin @ Breaking More Waves, who created and runs the poll:

The aim of the Blog Sound of poll is identical to the BBC Sound Of list; it attempts to showcase new and emerging artists, but it differs in so far as many of the voting bloggers do not work in the music industry, they are simply fans who have a passion for writing about the music they love. In previous years the Blog Sound poll has identified a number of acts such as Alt-J and Bastille that didn’t feature on the BBC list, and has been slightly ahead of the game, featuring the likes of Wolf Alice a year before they appeared on the BBC Sound of list. Each year there is also some cross-over with the BBC list and this year is no exception. For the 2016 poll 58 music blogs each voted for their 3 favourite acts and the top 15 of those acts form the Blog Sound of 2015 longlist. To qualify for a vote any act chosen must not have had a UK top 20 single or album, either in their own right or as a named collaborator prior to 6th November 2015.

Here’s some of the data from the voting:

  • This year 142 acts received at least 1 vote from the 174 total votes cast, showing that the UK music blog scene has a wide range of taste.
  • This years voting was the closest and broadest ever – the winning act only received votes from 8.5% of the 58 voters.
  • The vast majority of acts chosen were UK based even although the bloggers could choose acts from any part of the world. There are no American acts on the list, although there are acts from other European countries.
  • One of the acts on this years longlist (Mt Wolf) already featured on the the Blog Sound of 2014 poll, but then promptly split up. Now reformed they find themselves once again on the Blog Sound of 2016 list.
  • 5 of the acts on the BBC Sound of 2016 also appear on the Blog Sound of poll, namely Billie Marten, Loyle Carner, Mabel, Mura Masa and Nao.
  • Jack Garratt, winner of the BBC Introducing Award, Brits Critics Choice Award and a nominee on the BBC Sound of Poll didn’t receive one vote from the voting blogs, even although he qualified. However, last year Garratt almost made the Blog Sound of 2015 poll, missing it by just one single vote and finishing in sixteenth position. This is probably because bloggers no longer consider Garratt as emerging.

You can listen to a track from each artist on the longlist above. To help you filter, we’ve appraised them all:

Aquilo – The kind of Oh Wonder-like downtempo electropop that we’re rather partial to, as it happens.

Aurora – Norwegian singer who you shouldn’t hate for being involved in the creeping John Lewis soppification of Christmas.

Billie Marten – Yorkshire based acoustic singer songwriter.

George Cosby – The next big “oh, you’re into this sort of thing, aren’t you?” thing.

Haelos – Remember Temptation by Heaven 17? This is that, millennialised. Not saying that’s a bad thing, you understand.

Liss – The bad thing. The song you always skipped on early Now! compilations.

Loyle Carner – Sweary spoken-word. Potty-mouthed poetry.

Mabel – Slick. Neneh Cherry’s daughter, doncha know.

Mura Masa – Sorry, I popped into the other room to make a coffee while this was on. There were bleeps and a violin, though, I’ll tell you that.

Mt. Wolf – featured on a previous poll, split up, reformed, and now have their second Blog Sound nomination. To my eternal shame I was supposed to cover this single recently, but time has not been my ally. Simultaneously my favourite on the list and the least likely to be headlining the O2 this time next year.

Nao – Capturing with perfect precision the twenty-first century penchant for writing and recording a perfectly decent song and then fucking with it until it’s more or less unlistenable if your ears are old enough to drive.

Pleasure Beach – When they first popped into my inbox they were described as Bastille vs The XX, which was enough for me to move on. I was right. See George Cosby, above.

The Big Moon – Proving that I’m a big fat hypocrite, this shares traits with acts I’m happy to be casually bitchy towards, and yet it reels me in. Maybe it’s a female vocal thing. Maybe it’s a gently understated undulating melody thing. Maybe it’s not a thing at all.

The Japanese House – For a moment I thought I was going crazy – so sure I’d posted about The Japanese House, but found nothing on the website. And then I remembered I’d included a track as an early newsletter exclusive (Sign up, by the way). The track featured here, Still, was Zane Lowe’s last ever “hottest track” before he left Radio 1. One for the fact fans, there.

Yak – Raucous pysch rock. The good stuff, even if it’s not something I’d reach for very often.

The most voted for and top 5 acts on this longlist will be revealed on the 5th January 2016.

So there you have it. Fifteen acts I didn’t vote for, none of which make me think I should have thought harder. But that’s my problem, not yours. And not The Blog Sound of 2016’s. Maybe I’m very far behind the curve. Maybe I’m very ahead of it. Or perhaps I’m just to the side of the curve, looking askance.

The most striking feature of the vote is this: the spread is very thin. 174 votes were cast, for 142 different acts. The winning artist received votes from 5 blogs. This is a very similar picture to last year, when 62 blogs cast 186 votes, and 148 artists picked up votes. In a draft post I wrote twelve months ago but never published, I crunched the numbers and decided:

It seems overwhelmingly possible, in fact, that some of the longlisted artists received just two nominations.

I even made a spreadsheet with a projection of how many votes each artist might have received.

I know.

This year, it’s a similar story. In the spirit of those books of logic problems you used to buy from WH Smith in railway stations, we know that 174 votes were cast, and 142 artists received votes. We also know the winning artist received 5 votes. This means that a maximum of 29 artists received more than one vote, and at least 113 received only one vote. That’s pretty diffuse – and this is no Ballon D’or either, it’s not like you have a potentially wide voting spread but a small number of obvious front-runners. On the plus-side: Breaking More Waves is no FIFA: a corruption scandal seems highly unlikely here.

It also means, I think, that at least two of the fifteen artists in the longlist received just two votes. What I’m saying is that there’s a cigarette paper between some of the names on the longlist and all of the top choices of the bloggers now sitting at home reading the longlist and wondering why their picks aren’t on it.

In a narrow sense, then, the Blog Sound of 2016 longlist doesn’t really represent the 58 blogs that voted. Last year I concluded that at least 23 blogs voted for artist no-one else voted for. The same is probably true this year. Going against my logical grain, and hazarding a guess, I’d suggest that no more than half of the voting blogs voted for one of the artists on the longlist.

But please don’t take this as a moany criticism. I’m certainly not suggesting the rest of us might as well have not bothered. In a wider sense, we are all represented by the poll. If not in the names on the longlist, then by the remarkable number of artists we all voted for. To me it doesn’t show that there’s a vast ocean of mediocrity out there, it shows that there’s a vast ocean of possibility: just as the Best Album Of The Year lists flooding the internet at this time of year represent a chance to discover albums you’ve overlooked or never heard of, the votes from all the blogs listed below, when they are published, will give everyone a chance to discover some new names. And, in the closing words of last year’s unpublished post, updated by a year:

You might like them, and want to write about them, and before you know it they’re getting a little bit more known, and maybe they’ll end up in the Blog Sound of 2017 longlist, in whatever form it happens to take.

The blogs that voted in this years poll were:

A Pocket Full Of Seeds, A World Of Music And Madness, Across The Kitchen Table, Alphabet Bands, Beat Surrender, Bratfaced LDN, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Buzz Unlimited, Cruel Rhythm, Chord Blossom, Daisy Digital, Dive, Details Of My Life, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Digital Shuffle, Echoes And Dust, Electronic Rumors, Encore Northern Island, Even The Stars, Faded Glamour, Get Into This, Get Some, God Is In The TV, I Love Pie, Just Music I Like, Kemptation, Killing Moon, Little Indie Blogs, Love Music: Love Life, Metaphorical Boat, Monkey Boxing, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, Music Umpire, Neon Filler, Not Many Experts, Popped Music, Pursuit Of Sound, Rave Child, Record Rewind Play, Scientists Of Sound, Some Of It Is True, Spectral Nights, Sweeping The Nation, Synth Glasgow, The Blue Walrus, The Devil Has The Best Tuna, The Electricity Club, The Evening’s Empire, The Mad Mackerel, The VPME, This Must Be Pop, Thoughts On Music, Too Many Blogs, What If I Had A Music Blog, When The Gramophone Rings