Welcome to The List, The Edge‘s annual look at the best new musical talent for the year ahead. Check back daily over the next fortnight as we announce this year’s lineup in full, and revisit our picks from years past.
It may be over three years since Will Joseph Cook picked up his first mention in The Edge courtesy of a spot on the lineup at Blur’s Alex James’ farm’s Big Feastival event and was finding himself too young to attend the gigs he was supporting, however a run of releases spanning 2016 saw the 19-year-old’s sound take on a livelier gamut of instrumentation and backing in partnership with his well-honed songwriting abilities. With unquestionable energy and humour in his delivery and performance, the pop moments that followed were among the year’s snappiest and have laid a foundation for a tremendous leap in the year ahead.
The premise that catalysed this shift was quirky and clear. On the launch of the ‘Girls Like Me‘ video, Cook told The Independent, “In the middle of a north sea storm on an overnight ferry to Rotterdam, warmed only by the dim glow of an I’m A Celebrity repeat showing, the idea of speed-dating myself in drag finally came to me.” Serving this imagery with a la-laden chorus that urges recital and tickling riffs beneath saw the colourful package receive BBC Radio 1’s support, paving the path for the sanguine ‘Take Me Dancing‘ and the eccentrically reconciliatory ‘Sweet Dreamer‘ (“Sometimes I’m a regular, well sometimes I’m not / Got six deep into tarantulas so there’s no going back anymore”) to follow it onto their daytime playlist as the year (and critical acclaim) progressed.
Hailing from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Cook’s signing to Atlantic Records in 2015 came sandwiched between You Jump I Run and Proof Enough, the two four-track EPs that comprise the bulk of his headline sets currently with their largely acoustic groundings. Whereas the more recent singles (and end-of-year Talking Heads cover ‘Once In A Lifetime‘) rely on a lighter vocal tone and more constant sound from his band, the likes of ‘Catalyst,’ ‘Message,’ and ‘Beach‘ display an enchanting variety that well suits any context.
His first shows of the new year will be supporting Sundara Karma on their album tour, including a date at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms on February 22nd. Regarding that as-yet-elusive album? Don’t be surprised to see it maintaining his lyrical nous whilst veering yet deeper into his embrace of #stupidlyfunpop. “Pop usually doesn’t hide what it is and that’s refreshing,” he said last May. “If someone calls you a pop act, it’s like being told that you write good songs.”