It feels rather bittersweet to be writing this preview in yet another year we won’t get to experience Eurosonic live. This impossibility wouldn’t sound so dramatic if it weren’t part of a bigger breaking point in the music industry; after all, if there’s anything two years of a global pandemic have managed to unmercifully expose is that the current model isn’t serving us anymore—especially artists, whose main source of income and promotion comes precisely through touring. “Music is about togetherness and a live show is interaction between an audience and a band,” The Vices tell us. “Now that this, amongst many things, is not possible you gotta stay fresh and inventive. To survive in this industry but also to keep yourself mentally sane.”
For over 30 years, Eurosonic has been a cornerstone for the new blood entering the music industry in Europe, as well as a privileged ground for networking and exchanging ideas. The annual conference allows for the convergence of a series of discussions on the state of the multiple facets of the industry, with an extensive and diverse selection of players reflecting on where we are and where we want to go next—be it in terms of structures, events, business models, or even ideologies.
Rethinking the impact and strategy of the industry is more than imperative right now, and this subject is expected to be addressed in the opening keynote by executive vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermann, who will also be discussing the Green Deal and how sustainability has become much more than a buzzword for festivals worldwide. The theme for ESNS 2022, Building Back Better Together, fits like a glove in a time when we either embrace a much-needed transversal change or crumble under dépassé systems that are no longer satisfactory or even viable.
But Eurosonic is also (if not mainly) about the numerous showcases that each year demonstrate how rich and versatile the new sounds coming from Europe are; remember this is the festival that helped launch Black Country New Road, black midi, Dua Lipa, Arlo Parks, Fontaines D.C., Hinds, Pip Blom, Melenas, and many other acts that are now (well, maybe not now-now) gracing festival line-ups worldwide.
So even though the digital edition will have you going from stream to stream instead of actually walking several miles under the damp and freezing Dutch winter, here are a handful of acts you should check out as soon as possible at a venue near you.
Feng Suave (NL)
After a couple of years playing sister event Noorderslag, Dutch duo Feng Suave have finally graduated to the big leagues—and about time too, since they’ve been putting out amazing bits of ’70s-tainted dream pop-rock since their self-titled debut EP came out in 2018. Their latest offering was last year’s So Much For Gardening, which they should be bringing to a stage near you sometime soon if the pandemic allows.
The love project of Austrian-born London-based Anna Friedberg, this all-female quartet was catapulted to worldwide visibility when their 2020 single “Go Wild” was included in the FIFA 2020 soundtrack. Don’t think it’s all about the hype, though—the credit goes entirely to Anna’s incredible songwriting and her solid backing band, of which 2021 EP Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah is indelible proof.
Irène Drésel (FR)
In a country that (rightfully) prides itself of its electronica, it’s sometimes discouraging to see how the genre is still largely dominated by men. Enter Irène Drésel, one of the most exciting musicians/producers of the last few years, and her exquisite approach to French Techno. Her first LP Hyper Crystal came out in 2019, and despite last year’s discouraging landscape she still managed to put out another album and compose the soundtrack for Éric Gravel’s film À Plein Temps.
Monsieur Doumani (CY)
They may not be exactly newcomers, but after a decade of awards and duly recognition in their home country of Cyprus, Monsieur Doumani are now ready to reclaim a (much-deserved) bigger visibility from the rest of the world. Drawing inspiration from traditional Cypriot pieces, their contagious sound is both refreshingly different and instantly addictive. Their most recent album, Pissourin, came out last September; and if all goes according to plan they’ll play Glastonbury next Summer.
The Vices (NL)
The Vices were responsible for the very last concert I attended in full innocence (aka before the pandemic hit Europe), and I wouldn’t change it for the world since they’re one of the most exciting live acts I’d seen in a long time. Their first LP Looking For Faces was released last March and hit #1 in the Dutch vinyl charts, so now the only way is up; hopefully they’ll resume touring as soon as possible because this is a band you really need to add to your “to watch” list.
Théo Charaf (FR)
After Ryder The Eagle, Théo Charaf is probably the most American of all French artists. With vintage-sounding folk and blues at the core of his music (even the logo on the cover of his debut album is a reference to Neil Young’s Harvest), Charaf invokes an honesty that is often lacking in this sort of transatlantic approaches while rocking us like a long-distance train throughout the countryside. His take on Bob Dylan’s “Oh, Sister” is *chef’s kiss*.
Bruno Pernadas (PT)
International recognition for Portuguese musician Bruno Pernadas hasn’t been necessarily absent, especially after the release of his 2021 LP Private Reasons which caught the attention of myriad publications, from Japan’s Popeye to USA’s SPIN. Raised on an extremely nutritious jazz and folk diet, Pernadas has also dabbled on record production and has recently composed the soundtrack for Netflix series Gloria, showcasing his versatility but also his incredible expertise in all things sound.
The Haunted Youth (BE)
The most appealing and interesting way of using musical references often lies in evoking two or more very different vibes almost simultaneously—which is something Joachim Liebens-led The Haunted Youth seems to have mastered to perfection. In single “Coming Home,” for example, you can detect the harmonious co-existence of MGMT and The Cure, as well as an impeccable songwriting that is obviously all Liebens’. An album is awaited impatiently.
Gathering two extraordinary sonic forces (Norwegian Farao and Icelandic Special-K), Ultraflex possesses the aura of a super group and the drive of a thousand drum machines. Their sound is simultaneously retro-disco and electro-futuristic, as showcased by 2020 debut LP Visions of Ultraflex, and is set to invade dance floors all over the world as soon as the word spreads adequately.
Smoothboi Ezra (IE)
Coming from the land of a million enchanted tunes is Smoothboi Ezra, whose delicate yet poignant songwriting enchants on a first listen. Composing from a perspective of a non-binary person on the autism spectrum, their approach is not only unique but also necessary; this emotive outpouring along with a captivating vocal expertise lies at the core of their debut EP Stuck, which was released last June.
ESNS 2022 takes place online on January 19th-22nd. Tickets for the conference are now on sale and can be purchased here.