The Midlands is an oft-overlooked part of the UK's musical map.
While so-called 'nationwide tours' tend to skip straight from London to Manchester - or perhaps Bristol, if they're feeling lucky - the Midlands is frequently missed from the schedule.
What that means on the ground, however, is that a series of DIY communities have sprung up to promote and platform new creativity. With a clutch of new groups, promoters, labels, and DJs pushing the envelope, it's clear that we need to pause, and give the Midlands its due as one of the country's main hubs for new music.
Simone Barton picks out a few acts to watch.
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Ace Ambrose (Coventry)
After being part of the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 commissioned project Front Room Sessions with track ‘Two Souls Apart’, Ace Ambrose has truly made herself known in the Midlands music scene.
Referring to herself as a “modern day minstrel”. Ace effortlessly flows through different sounds, from acoustic to synth heavy alt-pop, whilst presenting her soul and passion for music. This lack of fear to experiment with her sound makes Ace an ideal representation of the eclectic music scene thriving in the Midlands, as she manages to bring an array of pop influences together.
Latest single ‘The Coming of Age’ is a haunting, 80s inspired, track that highlights all the unique qualities Ace holds as a musician whilst also triggering so many memories of adolescence.
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Lady Sanity (Birmingham)
Lady Sanity represents the other end of the spectrum for Midlands based music. Her sound has made her one to watch by critics and rap purists alike, taking note of her expert lyricism, flow, and homage to classic hip-hop. Bringing together the flavour of US hip-hop but with the essence of British urban sounds is what Lady Sanity does best.
Although she is one to watch don’t be mistaken by thinking the Birmingham based MC hasn’t been making moves for years, with her previously performing at both Glastonbury and Wireless. Managing to encompass the sound of the musical and cultural diversity of Birmingham’s bustling city life, and creating a sound everyone can enjoy takes a level of talent and awareness that only stars possess.
Taking all of this into consideration, as well as the massive impact grime has had in British music, Lady Sanity is a name that should be on everyone’s radar.
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Bryony Williams (Wolverhampton)
With a voice like hers it comes to now surprise that Bryony Williams is an up-and-coming talent from the Midlands, Wolverhampton to be exact. Bryony’s buttery melodies add to her indie sound, creating songs that are both catchy but soothing. She has been making rounds across the Midlands, recently performing in emerging talents shows in Birmingham and Worcester.
Bryony has gathered a core local and online fanbase, due to the charm and personality that oozes out of her music and digital presence. With the motivation she clearly has and special tones to her voice it’s just a matter of time before Bryony bursts onto the larger scale, national indie scene.
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As December Falls (Nottingham)
Nottingham is notorious for many things, but perhaps pop-punk isn’t one of them. As December Falls it about to change that with their infectious mid-00s pop-punk era sound. The band are set to release their second album 'Happier' later this month and judging from the already released singles the quartet aren’t holding back and are ready to be part of the emo-revival.
As December Falls have a vibrant and energetic sound that represents the often forgotten, yet thriving, alt-rock scene that has been around in the Midlands for decades. A standout track is ‘I Don’t Feel Like Feeling Great’, a guaranteed earworm filled with nostalgia from your teen years, that brings attention to each member’s individual charm.
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Graywave comes with a truly one-of-a-kind sound, which she refers to as dream pop. A seamless blend of soft pop harmonies, often with a dark hint to them, and easy listening instrumentals.
A Bandcamp supporter perfectly sums Graywave up as “Birmingham’s best kept secret” – a statement that is easy to agree with. Her presence in the Birmingham music scene is undeniable with shows at iconic indie venues such as The Sunflower Lounge coming up soon. Graywave takes the Birmingham sound to a whole new planet, creating her own vibe and sound that is truly hers and isn’t comparable to other current Brummie talent.
With moments of blissful simplicity, and moments of dread, Graywave present it all with a velvety voice combined with expert production that transcends her music to a superstar stage.
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Two of the most iconic genres to come out of the UK are punk and Britpop – YNES brings the two together in a painfully relatable manner.
Single ‘Used to Be’ showcase YNES as an artist just like us, something that is endearing and provides more of a connection to her music. A distinctive feature of YNES’ music is the story telling – her tracks doing have extravagant production which allows for her lyrics to be heard, and a story to be told. This brings forward the essence of punk, which will always have a heart in working class, industrial cities like Coventry and surrounding areas.
In an industry with so much talent it pays to be individual, which YNES truly is and executes through all aspects of her artistry.
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Words: Simone Barton
Photo Credit: Tom Goddard