Saturday, 9 January 2010

Get a pen - it's tips for 2010

Right, I've gone and done it - as if you needed another list of hot! up and coming! fresh! new bands. Well sod that, here's a few that I like and that you might too.

Esben and the Witch

I saw Esben and the Witch supporting Josh T. Pearson at Cargo in December, and despite only catching the second half, I was genuinely captivated by this odd little Brighton trio.

Using guitars, laptops, DIY drum kits and various percussion instruments, Esben… (named after a creepy Scandinavian fairytale) create a dark, romantic atmosphere of nocturnal journeys, wild creatures and black magic, without resorting to obvious Kate Bushisms or twee lyrics. In their live set especially, they use electronics and heavy drums and bass to prove they’re not aiming for folky and delicate but dark and stormy – much more Snow Queen than Snow White. Fans of Bat for Lashes and Patrick Wolf will definitely be enamoured.

Their track ‘Eumenides’ is, according to an interview with the band, inspired by Aeschylus’ Oresteia via a Francis Bacon painting, with lyrics influenced by Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Yikes. If that sounds too pretentious for you, they also do a cover of Kylie’s ‘Confide in Me’ (see above). They mostly reminded me of Portishead, with their use of bass-heavy electronics and singer Rachel’s expressive and very English voice bearing a resemblance to Beth Gibbons’. Her note-perfect performance managed to completely hush the audience without any stage gimmicks – in fact, they’re still finding their feet on stage and struggling a bit with the amount of instruments and things going on around them. Given a bit more time and a brave producer (Geoff Barrow would be the obvious safe bet), I think they could be pretty special.

The band’s EP,
33, can be downloaded for free here


Warpaint is three girls (and, I think, a fourth changeable member) from Los Angeles playing smoky, strung-out post-rock topped with wispy, velvety harmonies. Imagine if the XX had misspent their youth on the beach smoking pot around campfires instead of setting alight skate park bins – add a splash of gothic psychedelia, and you’re there.

More importantly, Warpaint are exactly the kind of band I’d love to be in, although clearly they have a pretty strict America’s Next Top Model-approved application process. Never mind. They blatantly have ‘shroom-fuelled sleepovers watching The Wicker Man and running amok in the neighbourhood, hatching plans in their treetop clubhouse and sneering at boys.

Their exceptional debut EP
Exquisite Corpse was released by Manimal Vinyl and now they’ve been snapped up by Rough Trade and are touring with Yeasayer and Akron/Family. Going by tracks like ‘Elephant’, with its twisted vocals, shuffling drums and bouncy post-punk bass, we can expect an excellent debut long-player in 2010. Check out the video, above – girls, guitars, wind machines, awesome. I also like how the camera keeps zooming in on their instruments – look! They can play! No, really! Ha. Lots more good tracks on their Myspace.

Gold Panda

Next up is producer and sound collager Gold Panda who, aside from being my ideal man in oh-so-many ways, produces dreamy splice-ups of charity shop records and video tapes over Four Tet-style percussion clicks and bleeps. Which is interesting, ‘cos he’ll be playing with Four Tet and James Holden at Fabric in a couple of weeks and – oh! I’m going to be there. Stalking him.

‘Quitters Raga’ (no apostrophes, apparently, but brilliant title nevertheless) is a choice cut, if you’ll excuse the MixMag terminology, with a muffled bass drum underpinning cut-up raga sitar and singing while the beats blurt in and out in a very Border Community-approved manner. However, he's also been making his name at the controls for Little Boots and Bloc Party remixes, ensuring him some real crossover potential.

Hilariously, Gold Panda has made it on to the
BBC Sound Of 2010 list, which probably does him no favours and only serves to boggle the minds of 50-quid men hoping to update their record collections. A five-track CD-R, entitled Miyamae and released on electronic and dubstep label Various Production, will set you back the meagre sum of £5. Check out his other tracks on Myspace, too.

Ellie Goulding

I’m just going to say a little something about Ellie Goulding because she’s appeared on all the major tip lists and has clearly been lined up as the next in a seemingly endless line of washed, prepared and ready-to-serve electro starlets.

One thing to love about Ellie Goulding, regardless of how you or I might feel about this seemingly endless line of ready-to-serve electro starlets, is that she’s clearly on the Little Boots end of the spectrum – obviously gorgeous and young and blonde and all, but also a bit…rubbish? In the way that Little Boots, though pretty and zippy and zappy with her glittery eyes, sparkly pop and Matthew Williamson frock, is still very much a lass from Blackpool who’d out-rave you all night and then be sick on your shoes.

vid for the single ‘Under The Sheets’ (not allowed to embed it, but the vid above is from Jools Holland), a really quite decent pop song helped out by oh-so-now production (massive drums, catchy electro chorus), sees her wandering around the set slightly awkwardly wearing a very 2010 outfit of slouchy hoodie over spangly top. Sometimes one Ellie will have a little go at dancing, and then other Ellies sit in the corner strumming guitar and looking much less uncomfortable, and then there’s a fuckload of splashy crashy glitter coming out of the drums at the end. Joyous.

I give her my total support, but somehow fear that she’ll do a Little Boots over the next 12 months, with annoying
Marina and the Diamonds taking Florence’s spot as the favoured starlet.

A moment to mention Marina too – now, I’m *sorry*, but: So awful! So horribly produced! She’s described as ‘quirky’ and ‘flamboyant’ and yet,
according to the BBC Sound of 2010 poll, she gets her inspiration “by studying DVDs of Britney Spears,” and she also “covers Gwen Stefani on stage.” She’s not Kate Bush-kooky, she’s Katy-Perry-kooky – all hot and tight and cheerleader-y and ironic and backed by a major record label. That kind of kooky.

Other shit tips from the BBC poll include
Owl City, with an absolute lolocaust of a track which at first only reminded me of Nizlopi until I realised it was Maroon 5 doing nursery rhymes as community service. Is he using autotune or is his voice that disgusting without any help from a machine? It’s the kind of song that makes my friend Sam wince like he’s pissing blood.

The Drums

The Drums however, I can kind of dig. In case you haven’t heard them yet (it won’t be long – they’re on the cover of NME), think Girls and Washed Out and that whole chilled, surfy, Californicated fuzz that’s been coming out of the US lately, but make it a tad more ‘accessible’ and ‘tastemaker-friendly’.

Check out this commendably simplistic video for commendably simplistic track ‘Let’s Go Surfing’. Sadly, some of their other songs strike me as Cure rip-offs and not really that good, but that’s the joy of our disposable digital culture, eh? You can ignore them. Oddly, the BBC website seems to think that there’s something “unconnected” about a song that sounds like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed covering a 60s girl group (which none of The Drums’ songs do anyway, shame), as though Mr Pop and Mr Reed would turn their noses up at that kind of music. Dumbasses. Who gets paid to write
that shit? Have a look at The Drums' Myspace for more.

And a final tip, thankfully not on the BBC list:

Perfume Genius

Apparently Perfume Genius, otherwise known as Mike, lives with his mom in Seattle and paints furniture for a living. He’s been compared with Antony Hegarty, for reasons that will become clear when you listen to this, as well as Neil Young, but I think Daniel Johnston is a good reference point too.

He’s clearly recording at home, on his own, his high-pitched voice sounding even more fragile breaking through the lo-fi murk. He’s signed to Transparent, home of Washed Out, and apparently makes his own videos too. Almost certainly he’ll finish the year as the least known of this little selection but, to be quite honest, I think he – and we – will be absolutely fine with that. Listen to more of his stuff