By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Three sisters from Los Angeles producing fun and infectious folk-pop could be the tonic that chart music needs to lift it from what some experts are calling a creative slump.
As music channels, journalists and record labels step up their search for the "next big thing" in 2013, the Fleetwood Mac-inspired Haim sisters have appeared in a growing number of lists produced at the start of each year.
They include MTV's "Brand New for 2013" survey, the band topped BBC's "Sound of 2013" poll on Friday decided by over 200 experts and also appeared on the cover of music magazine NME's new music edition out this week.
Matt Wilkinson, New Bands Editor at NME, was upbeat about indie music in 2013 because up-and-coming acts like Haim had the attitude to succeed unlike more "reluctant" stars of the past.
"The difference (from recent times) is that they want to be pop stars, want to be on the front of NME, want to create their own scene and want to be No. 1," he told Reuters. "It's been quite a long time since bands really wanted to do that."
Haim is made up of Este, Alana and Danielle, all in their early- to mid-20s - as energetic as they are photogenic and signed to the Polydor label in Britain.
Dorian Lynskey of the Guardian praised their "fantastic, inventive songs", and said they were part of a revival from "the current sickly condition of chart pop" dominated by familiar faces like Rihanna and producers David Guetta and Calvin Harris.
RETURN OF GUITAR HEROES?
Sharing NME's new music cover with Haim is Palma Violets, a London-based indie quartet also longlisted on the BBC's annual survey whose past winners include chart queen Adele and 50 Cent.
The death or otherwise of indie guitar rock has been discussed almost obsessively by the British music press over the years, but George Ergatoudis, head of music on BBC's Radio 1, bravely predicted: "Rock and alternative guitar acts are going to find public taste swinging their way" in 2013.
If that is true, those set to benefit include two Birmingham acts - quartets Peace and Swim Deep - two London bands - female post-punk foursome Savages and alternative rockers Bastille, and two Irish acts, Kodaline and Little Green Cars.
As in previous years, one area with the biggest potential for topping charts around the globe is the single female act.
Whether or not inspired by the likes of Gaga, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and beyond, a new crop of female performers-with-attitude has emerged ready to take on the world.
Creating the biggest stir so far is Angel Haze, a U.S. rapper whose sexually explicit lyrics and self assertive manner have put her on a path to stardom, helped by the success of her EP "Reservation" which draws on her Native American heritage.
"I will say to anyone's face I am the best out there right now," she said in a recent interview, with typical bluntness.
At the other end of the musical spectrum comes Gabrielle Aplin, a singer-songwriter who built up an online following by posting acoustic covers before signing to a major label.
Underlining the increasing crossover between merchandising and musical success, Aplin has already scored a No. 1 single hit in Britain with her cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "The Power of Love" which was used in a John Lewis commercial.
Somewhere in between falls Laura Mvula, whose powerful voice has earned comparisons from acts as diverse as Billie Holiday and Adele, and MTV has selected Ebony Day as its unsigned artist to watch this year.
There are precious few single male artists on the radar in early 2013.
Tom Odell appears on MTV's Brand New list, the BBC's Sound Of survey and won the BRITs Critics' Choice award for up-and-coming talent, while London rapper K Koke is included on Digital Spy's "Ones to Watch" column and MTV.
ACCENT ON AUTHENTICITY
Duos are de rigueur in 2013 with British brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure delighting with their house music including new single "Latch", and MS MR from New York the enigmatic pair who have music critics drooling.
"Prepare to be blown away," wrote Paul Lester in the Guardian. "This duo could be the first superstars of chillwave."
London electro pop pair AlunaGeorge have been championed by the same newspaper and were runner-up in BBC's poll this year.
The surveys have a patchy track record in predicting chart success, and are crammed with dozens of acts already signed to record labels and so well on the way to success.
But they are closely watched by a music industry facing falling sales and desperate to spot the next Rihanna, Lady Gaga or One Direction.
While no one is suggesting the chart reign of Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift is over, there is growing optimism about a new crop of acts who have commercial ambition as well as musical ability and originality.
"I think across all genres there is a thirst from the audience for authenticity, whether it's from folk acts or rappers or dance artists," said David Mogendorff, digital media director of talent and music at MTV International.
He was involved in drawing up the music channel's "Brand New" list of 10 artists destined for greatness overseen by Anna Karatziva, head of talent and music at MTV UK. Voting for the winner is open at www.mtv.co.uk/brandnew from January 14-31.
Outside Britain and North America, K-pop sensation Psy will seek to build on his global hit "Gangnam Style" which became the first video on YouTube to reach one billion views last month.
Whether he can prove more than a one-hit wonder in the West remains to be seen, while other South Korean acts including Girls' Generation are gearing up to follow in his footsteps.
NME has singled out Australia's indie-dance duo Jagwar Ma for special attention, while Russian-German dance music producer Zedd has begun to make inroads in the U.S. market.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)