If you’re heading to the Olympics, or just want to get in the mood, here are 10 tracks from 10 of the country’s best new artists (okay, some of them have been around for awhile, but still) that will help transport you to England.
1. Muse – “Survival”
“Survival” is an “official song” for the Summer Olympics. Songs written for an event like this often fall short, but not this one. It’s everything a song for the Olympics should be — dramatic, powerful, EPIC. Muse has been around since 1994, but they still keep us guessing. Look for their sixth album, The 2nd Law, in early September. (On Twitter @muse)
2. Michael Kiwanuka – “I’ll Get Along”
The son of Ugandan parents who escaped Amin’s deadly regime, Kiwanuka grew up in Muswell Hill, North London. Unless you’re tone-deaf, you won’t have any trouble grooving to his unique voice and soulful delivery. If Bill Withers and Jack Johnson had a baby, he would probably sound a lot like Michael Kiwanuka. (On Twitter @michaelkiwanuka)
3. NZCA/LINES – “Okinawa Channels”
Michael Lovett is the brainchild behind these electronic, syncopated drums, and soft, layered vocals splashed with strategically placed rhythmic synths. If you like Hot Chip, you’ll probably love NZCA/LINES. (On Twitter @NZCALINES)
4. TOY – “Motoring”
You’ll have to wait until October for Toy’s self-titled debut album to hit the shelves, but here’s a preview of what you can expect from this hot new band. Combining the best of New Wave and Post Punk with a pop feel reminiscent of The Cars, their tripped-out rock guitar will have you tapping your feet for days. See them live this summer at the Leeds (August 24-26), Bestival (September 6-9), and Reading (August 24-26) festivals.
5. Shawn Lee – “Head Up”
This Kansan is an unofficial Brit, having lived in London since 1995. His signature brand of electronic funk features a bold array of instruments from all around the world. If you’re taking a road trip in the near future, add this track to your playlist. Especially if you need to stay awake. (On Twitter @iloveshawnlee)
6. Lianne La Havas – “Forget”
This chanteuses’s take on edgy soul calls to mind Joss Stone and the late Amy Winehouse, but you’ll agree that she’s her own ball of wax. Raised in South London by a Greek father and Jamaican mother, La Havas wrote her first song at age 11 and opened for Bon Iver during his 2011 North American tour. Expect great things. Catch her live show at the Bestival (September 6-9) and Wilderness (August 10-12) festivals this summer. (On Twitter @liannelahavas)
7. The xx – “Angels”
This somewhat brooding, soft-spoken minimalistic track — the first single from the forthcoming Coexist, the eagerly awaited follow-up to the acclaimed “xx” album which went platinum in the UK and was first on The Guardian’s list of 2009′s top albums – echoes Beach House with its arpeggiated guitar. The band met at the Elliott School in London, the same school that produced Hot Chip. See them live at Bestival (September 6-9). (On Twitter @thexxfans)
8. Stooshe – “Black Heart”
This three-piece R&B group has that smooth sound of Motown‘s best girl groups with a generous dash of brassy sass mixed in (maybe that’s why Nicki Minaj picked them to open up for her on the UK leg of her Pink Friday tour). Their self-titled debut album is slated to come out in early September, but here’s a little taste to tide you over. See these ladies tear it up at the Bestival (September 6-9) and Sundown (September 1-2) festivals. (On Twitter @stooshe)
9. Tanya Lacey – “Greatness”
This Brit with Caribbean roots grew up in Bristol’s St. Paul’s district. After penning Loick Essien’s hit single “How We Roll” and providing back up support for Bruno Mars on a recent tour, Lacey is finally pulling out into the fast lane to shine on her own. Her neo-soul R&B has a fresh sound and a refreshingly positive message. (On Twitter @TanyaLacey)
10. Blur – “Under The Westway”
This is one of two new songs Blur wrote specifically for the Summer Olympics. The band that helped put Britpop on the map received the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at this year’s BRIT Awards, and rightly so. Blur will be headlining the Olympics’ closing ceremony on August 12 — which, with The Specials and New Order rounding out the line up, is sure an epic, and thoroughly British, affair. (On Twitter @blur)
– By Justin Elliott, one of National Geographic’s superstar audio engineers. Follow his story on Twitter @j5elliott.