BBC RADIO 1’S FUTURE FESTIVAL, Maida Vale Studios – Evening Standard, 20 Jan 2016

The endless lists of music tips for 2016 may be an exercise in bet-hedging – there has to be one arena filler among the dozens of new names being flung around by Spotify, MTV, the BRITs and so on – but certain round-ups can’t be ignored. Radio 1’s Future Festival, broadcast live and filmed for the iPlayer, is an annual gig so forward-thinking that it featured Jack Garratt a year before everyone else said he was a star. James Bay, Royal Blood and Sam Smith have also graced the tiny Maida Vale stages, so there must be big things in store for at least some of this year’s eight guests.

The three hour show was a broad mix. There was fun, noisy grunge from the northeast’s VANT, complete with American accent, all the way to old school hip hop beats from rapper Loyle Carner and gentle acoustic balladry from Billie Marten.

If there was an overriding theme, it was youth. Marten is a mature-sounding 16. Raging Welsh indie band Pretty Vicious looked foetal enough for her to be their mother. Guernsey producer Mura Masa also seemed far too fresh of face to be conjuring such exotic electronic sounds, while the wall of voices that was rough-and-ready rap crew Section Boyz seemed designed to repel anyone out of their teens.

The real highlights were two unique voices: the high, feline tones of NAO, and the powerful soul of the extraordinary Rationale, who belatedly snatched my vote as the man to make the biggest impact in 2016. If he doesn’t end up being heard and loved by millions, we’re doing this tips thing all wrong.

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