Welcome to The List, The Edge‘s annual look at the best new musical talent for the year ahead. Check back daily over this week as we announce this year’s lineup in full, and revisit our picks from years past.
Shortly before the halfway mark of his debut OTHERtone show on Beats 1, Pharrell Williams described SG Lewis’ ‘Warm‘ as “awesome.” Although he and co-host Scott Vener had, like many, believed Reading-born Lewis to be the vocalist on the track – “He’s a 20-year-old white kid who just sounds like a 40-year-old black guy that’s had more than just a few relationship problems in life,” said one blog. “How cool is that?” – their references, spoken with Justin Timberlake across the table, to Lewis as an exemplary soulful musical being were not wrong. ‘Warm’ itself, which later drew acclaim when Vener used it in HBO series Ballers, actually features a pitched-down vocal from a mysterious recently-signed female vocalist, which a glance at the credits suggests is Sophie Cooke, whose debut album as Frances is imminent. Continue to gaze at the list of vocalists with whom he has collaborated – Louis Mattrs, Dornik, JP Cooper, RAYE, Liv Dawson, BBC Sound of 2017 victor RAY BLK, Gallant, et. al. – and the emergent trend is one of phenomenal young vocal talents who present astonishing warmth to accompany his sumptuous productions. He may not be quite the artist Williams, Vener, and co. believed they had fallen for, however his wholehearted synth-based tunes have resonated far beyond the electronic scene, leading to a sold-out KOKO show late last year.
Post-‘Warm,’ PMR-released EPs Shivers and Yours have developed its formula. Every production and remix (Disclosure, Flume, Jessie Ware, Michael Kiwanuka) is ethereal, slowly progressing from nought with intricate layers of instrumentation and melody woven between slow dance beats and, more often than not, impeccably seductive vocal turns. With nights as a resident DJ in Liverpool at Andy C club shows and evenings in revelling in the sounds of Bon Iver both evident contributors to his sound, Lewis is the only non-vocalist to appear on The List this year, although Yours‘ funkier swing number ‘Meant To Be,’ made with Williams’ longtime Neptunes colleague Chad Hugo and on which he sang at the recommendation of Disclosure’s Howard Lawrence, proved he is not averse to such a foray. Watching him reconstruct the tracks in a live context with a gentle grin and an instrumental compendium, as The Edge did at Lovebox last summer, is yet more blissful: the subtle basslines and occasional percussive jaunts that line looped vocal samples are nothing shy of captivating. With the finest vocalists 2017 has to offer already lining up to be in his grasp, Lewis’ as-yet-untitled album promises to be an embrace for even the steeliest of years.