Attending Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) is like being on the playground on the first day of school. You’re excited to see the people you already know, a little nervous to meet the new kids, and you wonder who is going to be in the popular group. That is pretty much what ESNS feels like. Only at ESNS this playground is Groningen and it’s filled with musicians. From January 13th through January 16th 2016 the city fills up with music lovers from all over the world, looking for the newest talent. In the past it showcased artists such as Hozier, James Bay, and Bastille and it set their careers flying. It is almost guaranteed that, if you play your cards right (because there is so, so much to see), you’ll catch the next big thing. Where ESNS still gives you small and intimate, chances are, months later you have to wait in line (the electronic one) to get your ticket for an arena show of the same artists. That is what ENSN can do for your career.

ESNS carefully composes her line-up using different categories to be able to pick the best of the best. With over fifty names already announced, and more to come, Rockstone has chosen some of her favorite entries from the different categories.

The CEETEP Picks

Every year, Eurosonic Noorderslag, together with their own initiative, the European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP), picks a focus area. Last year it was just one country, now we have thirteen. By choosing Central Eastern Europe (hence the CEETEP), the organization hopes to lay a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. With first few focus-country acts announced a few weeks ago, we can assure you that a lot of good stuff is coming from Eastern Europe.

We at Rockstone really enjoy the mystical synth-pop of Bokka. This Polish initiative is the Daft Punk of Eastern Europe: nobody knows who they are. The masks they wear on stage obscure their identities and their names are nowhere to be found. Bokka is all about mystery, or rather, all about the music. Their songs feel dreamy and cinematic. The perfect soundtrack for a gloomy afternoon.

The EBU Picks

There is not only talent from Central Eastern Europe. The first announcement of artists also always includes the radio station picks. ESNS partners up with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and lets 27 radio stations in 25 European countries pick their favorite up-and-coming artist.

If you fancy a dance party, the eight-pieced band Ocho Macho has everything you need. Their catchy mix of reggae, punk, sky and a hint of rock-and-roll will bring back summer in the dead of winter. Ocho Macho sings in English, Hungarian and Spanish and proves that having a good time is universal.

The French multi-instrumental producer Tom Fire makes catchy songs with influences from funk, electro, dub. Fire produces his music not only by using his computer to compose, but also a micromoog synthesizer, the piano and the bass. His latest album Low Fidelity shows off Fire’s talent, as there are traces of reggae, ska and hip-hop.

France’s next-door neighbors introduce us to Tout Va Bien, and we are super happy about that! The solo project of To took off when he released a hauntingly beautiful cover of Ne me Quitte pas in English. Van Gestel’s voice is subtle and dreamy and his songs both clam and electric. The first album, Kepler Star is filled with songs that honor the title; they float like in outer space.

We also cannot help but be in love with the voice of the 19 year old Axel Flóvent. His songs are like a cozy winter night, mystic and hauntingly beautiful. Kind of like his home country of Iceland. Flóvent’s latest EP Forest Fires is full of lyrical and poetic songs and kind of feels like the music of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.

The Noorderslag Picks

There is more good stuff coming from the ESNS front. A while ago it announced the first artists to play at Noorderslag, the leg of the festival that promotes new talent from the Netherlands.

Chances are you’ve heard Causes’ mega hit ‘Teach me how to Dance with You’ or ‘Walk on Water.’ Beautiful melodies and a heavy British accent are part of the charm of Causes, whose front man is from London. He moved to the Netherlands, where he got discovered while playing a tune on the streets of Utrecht. So if you were surprised about Causes being part of Noorderslag, here’s your answer.

If you watch television you might have heard a tune by HEAVN, as it featured in a Volvo commercial. This collaboration between a film music composer and a singer-songwriter produces beautiful songs that feel cinematic and grand, but are simultaneously grounded by the use of gorgeous electronic beats.

The Eurosonic Picks

Electronic is definitely dominating the festival so far. A lot of the names released so far find their sounds by using a little technology. And if you ask us, there are only good things that can come out of that and the first list of Eurosonic artists proves this. The artists that want to play Eurosonic have to enroll themselves online and a lucky few are asked to perform during the festival. Imagine the pool of talent that must be present somewhere in the ESNS database. A Willy Wonka-like factory full of new music.

The collaboration between a Danish band and a Finish percussionist resulted in a glorious experimental band called Liima. They play with electronic sounds and improvised beats, creating a dreamy and experimental sound. It is like adventure and mystery, glued together to form musical art.

The Spanish initiative BeGun makes gorgeous electronic music and is already highly acclaimed by many international music lovers. The music is described as influenced by dreampop, dubstep and electronic landscape. But whatever category you want to put it under, it is experimental and beautiful. We think.

The last thing you should really check out before you of course let us know what ESNS artists are of the don’t miss category, is the artist Mura Masa. The 17-year old behind the beats does not only use his computer to produce R&B infused electronic music, but also plays drums, guitar, piano, and synths.

With about fifty acts announced, there is so much more to come. And we cannot wait to see what other talent ESNS will bring to the stage. Ready your countdown calendars and we’ll see you in January. Until then, let Rockstone be your ESNS go-to-guide.