If there’s one bit of info which perfectly sums up English rapper Slowthai – real name Tyron Frampton – it’s the revelation that he records all his vocals in just one take. It might seem insignificant, but actually it’s this commitment to spontaneity that also makes the 23-year-old MC such a thrilling prospect – as capable of whipping through grime tracks like a whirlwind as he is taking a The Streets-like sideways glance at contemporary culture (‘Doorman’). Live, he conducts pogoing, circle-pit-forming crowds into frenzies that only artists who love and live what they do fully can construct.
Listen to: Doorman, Rainbow
Garage Noord // 20 March // Tickets
Since releasing her eponymous debut in 2012, Jessica Pratt has released a string of albums full of lilting folk songs so comforting you can easily miss their darker edge. Delivering deftly spun songs about loneliness and bereavement in her otherworldly voice, live Pratt captivates audiences with spellbinding performances that perfectly marry her strange melodies and otherworldly mystique.
Listen to: This Time Around and Back, Baby
Sharon van Etten
Since releasing her last album – 2014’s ‘Are We There’ – Van Etten has spent time studying to be a counsellor, acted in Netflix show ‘The OA’ and had a son. Fans who might have seen these forays into other disciplines and questioned whether she would return to making music needn’t have worried, as on new album ‘Remind me Tomorrow’ Van Etten produces some of her best work yet. Clearly evolved, it adds surges of synth and sparse production to her still emotionally-charged (and raw) sound.
Listen to: Jupiter 4, Our Love
Having risen through the ranks of the poetry-adjacent Chicago rap scene that’s probably best-known as the movement that gave us Chance the Rapper, Noname is undoubtedly now a proper star. In fact, she’s managed to reach that level despite having little social media presence and releasing her music independently. How? By writing intensely personal tracks where her soft, almost spoken word raps marry perfectly to the jazzy, neo-soul beats, usually contributed by frequent collaborator Phoelix.
Listen to: Self, Ace
After reemerging on to the scene with her own independent label, and with a score of bonafide bangers under her belt, Robyn has literally redefined what pop can be. She’s a pop artist that indie kids can like and a pop artist who made pop lovers reassess just what their favourite genre is capable of. Her sound – one that makes you want to dance through the pain of life and lost loves rather than wallow in it - has influenced everyone from Rhianna to Taylor Swift and Lorde.
Listen to: Dancing on My Own, With Every Heartbeat
Melkweg // 4 April // More info
Watching Nilufer Yanya perform live offers pretty much everything you could want from a gig – the opportunity to see a songwriter delivering on the potential that has put their name at the top of so many ‘one to watch’ lists for 2019. Caressing her guitar like a lover and armed with an extraordinary voice capable of provoking both pure pleasure and awe, if her last gig at Paradiso last year is anything to go by, this should be very special indeed.
Listen to: Keep on Calling, In Your Head
I will tell you right now – loudly and with no shame – that I am a massive Drake fan. It’s all well and good to be one of those people that turns against artists when they reach a certain level of mega-fame, but I defy anyone to argue that Drake hasn’t been one of (if not the) most consistent artists of the last decade or so, while also staying true to the ethos that originally made people love him in the first place. Plus, live he really is great, a proper performer who isn’t afraid to play hit-heavy sets guaranteed to leave fans feeling satisfied despite the (admittedly ridiculous) ticket price.
Listen to: Honestly too many great tracks to mention!
A proper poet, the brilliant Kate Tempest writes songs that are stories, using her rat-a-tat delivery to weave together tales that ruminate on love, class and life with an observational eye that only the greatest writers offer.
Listen to: the album Let them Eat Chaos in full
Bitterzoet // 7 May // More info // Tickets
Of all the bands I saw at Lowlands festival last year, Confidence Man might just be the best. Why? Because they are basically the perfect summer festival band, mixing their massive party tunes with dance routines seemingly thought up while watching Eurovision while under the influence of something strong and exotic. But as much as their sets are hilarious, Confidence Man also have the tunes to back up my earlier claim of perfection, mixing the sounds of some of Madchester's most beguiling bands with the hooks of more modern contemporaries like LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip. Go, dance and be merry.
Listen to: All the Way, Out the Window
I am unashamedly a big fan of Elton. Not just because he wrote 'Tiny Dancer', giving me the opportunity to try and recreate the coach scene from 'Almost Famous' whenever it comes on in the car (or anywhere for that matter - my friends love it!). But also because he wrote so so many simply spectacular songs, from 'Rocket Man' to 'Nikita' and blub-fest 'Daniel'. A peek through his back catalogue reveals so many wonders. After more than 50 years playing live John is visiting Amsterdam as part of his final 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' tour, so if you want to see him live, it has to be now.
Listen to: All the songs
Ziggo Dome // 15 May // Tickets
For more great events in Amsterdam check out I amsterdam's Weekend Guide.