Friday, January 16, 2009

New sensations

With the end of a weekly Weekender it at least means we don't have to desperately trawl every week for something half-decent to give undue prominence too. It also means we've been able to go through our backlog of Myspaces we've been advised to check out with a calmer ear and eye and only bring up the most promising artists you may not yet know but may well grow to love.

You almost don't want to mention how Wintermitts make prominent use of glockenspiel and accordion just in case. Maybe it'd help if we said they're from Vancouver, because they do sound very Canadian with their tumbling instruments yet keeping wide open spaces in the music, ability to vary their style and a communal spirit which gives it that extra joy. Plus singer Lise Monique sings bilingually in French as well as English, which always impresses us dunces. They're a little Broken Social Scene, a little Delgados, something that reminds us of Cardiff's retro girl-pop heroes The School, handclaps, trumpets, melodicas... there's plenty to come past the recently released domestically album Heirloom, certainly.

God knows what we were doing at the time - sitting in the tea tent wondering why nothing was happening on the outside stage, probably - but we didn't see The Good Natured at Indietracks last year. Perhaps it was the description that left us cold, being as it is 17 year old Sarah McIntosh of Newbury armed with merely an old Yamaha keyboard rescued from her grandmother's house. It seems to be de rigeur on the blogosphere to label her "Kate Nash meets the Postal Service", but balls to descriptive orthodoxy. Often her songs involve lo-fi homemade dance beats and yearning lyrics like The Research gone disco-pop, sometimes shimmering keyboards and quietly affecting while unaffected, effortless seeming vocals, accomplished at creating a subtle melodic pop hook that sticks. Sometimes it's tempting to review the age rather than the output and with age and gigging experience, at which she's putting in the hours, she has plenty of room to develop this sound into something fuller and more mature, but as long as she doesn't dump too much on top of the jewels therein she's in good stead. RIYL: Au Revoir Simone, Rose Elinor Dougall, the idea of a bedroom recorded Ladytron. Speaking of that sort of thing, Burning Hearts are a Finnish duo, the instrumental side also being drummer with the great Cats On Fire. Their warm female vocal over layered keyboards and indie-pop melodies with sophisticated arrangements is in the lineage of fellow Scandinavian adventurers such as Club 8 or Sambassadeur, with hints of Broadcast retro-futurist electronics.

Favours For Sailors have been talked about as being in the JoFo/Danan mould - indeed they've played with the latter recently. Much as their biography references Pavement, Gang Of Four and Television they're not as much of an explosion in a pedals factory as that would suggest, being more in thrall to classic power-pop in the Raspberries/Badfinger/Rubinoos/Records/Cars lineage (which Malkmus has been known to dabble in in his solo career, of course). It's looking a little like we could have a revival on the underground of this kind of straight up three minute hook, power chord and harmony heavy, verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus arrangement on our hands in 2009, and F4S seem well placed with the odd nod to - witness the tricksy Kinsellacore guitars of Shy Times and the Modest Mouseish noodling round the perimeter of melody of Connoisseur Of Sunsets. If you wish the Wombats could have worked on the off-kilter pop alchemy from their early singles instead of chasing the commercial dollar, or want to witness a British version of the Apples In Stereo in development, step this way.

Enough frivolity. Shield Your Eyes are a trio chiefly notable to date for featuring Toby Hayes, formerly singer with much-loved complicated post-hardcore heroes Meet Me In St Louis. On bass, mind. Noisy and awkward like a bastard, it's one more graduating from the schools of Don Caballero and Dischord Records, all cross-threaded shouting, math precision colliding with post-rock searching for its own thoroughly diced Higgs boson particle, shifting time sigs and stop-start turning on a sixpence, a trio featuring needling, acrobatic guitar, heavy driving bass and implausible drumming. Despite not featuring a synth, it also reminds us of Three Trapped Tigers' passive-aggressive avant-gardeisms. They're touring forever. With the rest of his time Hayes is Shoes And Socks Off, just him and an acoustic guitar, oblique observations and driven by a necessarily more compressed form of the energy that pulsed through his two other bands. An album, From The Muddy Waters Of Melitzer, came out at the end of the year on Big Scary Monsters, while Shield Your Eyes self-released a self-titled album last autumn.

Also restricting himself to the basic blocks of voice and acoustic is Nicholas Stevenson, originally from Cambridge, now resident in Hereford. Iron & Wine and Elliott Smith are among his suggested influences which is a very good place to start, but we're also detecting Daniel Johnston fragility, Andrew Bird's obtuse storytelling and a certain gothic folkiness at times that could if developed, especially now he has a band around him, lead into very interesting places.

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