Here we go again. A new year, and so after the blogger poll has been cleared up it's time to crank out a third annual blank CD's worth of new talent for the new year, mostly unsigned at time of going to press. Just to make it clear, the only rules of thumb used were a) nobody who has previously appeared in a Class Of Covermount and b) we're not necessarily suggesting that the following 21 artists (all British, by the way - that wasn't intentional, but it speaks volumes for something) are bound to be enormous stars come 51 weeks' time, but at this moment we think there's a great amount of potential and we'll be hoping for them to do some very interesting things, chiefly in the field of recording and releasing albums, throughout 2009.
The Class Of '09
Thirty Pounds Of Bone - When She Goes Up
Debut album The Homesick Children Of Migrant Mothers came out to little immediate acclaim in late 2006, but it proved to be an early marker being laid down for Drift Records, the Brighton/Stroud-based attempt to light a rocket under modern English folk and see what curious places it led to. Johny Lamb and his shifting brethren came across an endlessly fascinating sound equal parts Sparklehorseish new Americana, the folk revival's delicate acoustic picking and southern sea shanties. A nautically themed EP, And They Go Down To It In Ships, is due imminently with an album pencilled in for the autumn.
Mumford And Sons - Liar
The famous ones, insomuch as they're this year's only band to do the STN Class Of/BBC Sound Of double. We're sure they'll treat both imposters just the same. Marcus Mumford was Laura Marling's drummer, albeit only by proxy given everything else he played live, and while his band have more than a toe in the same modern British folk waters their range is comfortably expanded into bluegrass, country and Appalachian mountain music, and Mumford likes an unaccompanied vocal start. Like Marling, Flynn, Fink et al, they sound at once weathered and entirely modern.
Blue Roses (Laura Groves) - I Am Leaving
Shipley near Bradford's Groves seems to have been around for a couple of years already, like an even slower burning Emmy The Great, whom she's recently supported. Maybe it's this that's as of late November caused her to rename the project Blue Roses ("I feel like I'm in a different place musically to when I started out, so it seemed appropriate to become something new") As of this moment the delivery is much the same, melancholy yet uplifting storytelling with Groves' clear voice front and centre and instrumentation used sparingly around it. Just signed to XL, April is the tentative album arrival date.
Nat Johnson - Judy's First Beat
Until the end of 2007 Johnson was singer and lead songwriter in Monkey Swallows The Universe, the Sheffield outfit whose teak-gossamer switching folk-pop was much admired around these parts. On her own, albeit with most of MSTU in her regular backing band, there's a harder edge with diversions into country and fuzzier tones but for the most part the delicate songwriterly balance is still intact, her writing always simple but effective. And of course there's that drop dead alluring voice. Don't think there's so much as a deal in place at the moment, although she's released a 7" through Thee SPC.
Gossamer Albatross - Bones
STN EXCLUSIVE! This is from their recent Jeremy Warmsley produced session, which frontman Lewis Gordon assures us is "about a million times better than anything else we've ever done". Baroque, rustic tales attaining a scale and ambition that befits much more lauded Americana bands, suggesting Beirut, Final Fantasy and Conor Oberst, if you were placing bets sight unseen on where Britain's answer to such worldly folk updating would come from a group of Hereford teenagers would be some way down the list, but here we are.
Copy Haho - Pulling Push Ups
From Stonehaven near Aberdeen, they take as their starting point the fractured dynamics of the US lo-fi brigade and put a very Scottish melancholic introspective while still expansive pop twist (think Teenage Fanclub, Vaselines, Postcard Records) spin of their own atop the broken riffs and counter-melodies. They're still pushing on with a vitality and elan well beyond their years, having spent 2008 supporting the likes of Sebadoh, Blood Red Shoes, Dananananaykroyd and Hot Club de Paris, and they're in good hands having signed to Big Scary Monsters for a February EP.
We Were Promised Jetpacks - Quiet Little Voices
Bands that are a bit reminiscent of the Cure and Joy Division? Hey, there's a brave new avenue for '09. What makes these 21 year old Glaswegians stand out is the intrinstic detail that goes into their songs, not afraid to both jangle brazenly and head explosively towards anthemhood. You can dance to it in the indie disco, but you can also unpick its impassioned layers should you so wish. FatCat won the signing race, they won't now be content with remaining on the Scottish support circuit.
Sunset Cinema Club - Hardcore
Purveyors of a T-shirt occasionally to be seen adorning the torsos of members of fellow Brummies Johnny Foreigner - and vice versa, actually - with whom they released a double A sided 7" in May 2007, SCC were bred on, yes, the American underground, this time the Fugazi/early Pixies/Minutemen/Mission Of Burma school of taut, rhythm section-led post-hardcore punk-funk with surprises and not a few pop chops. They've just released an album called Homina Homina Homina. In Japan. Like that, is it?
Picture Books In Winter - Zoom Pedals Make For Wanna Be Hendrix
We've been talking up this Cardiff outfit, friends of Los Campesinos! (you can tell how we find these people, can't you? One of them's in Neil C!'s other band Crimesss too), for a good year now and began to thought we were alone in doing so until Radio 1 asked them to play their Introducing stage at Glastonbury. There's something of LC! in the violin and looseness, but they can't really be pinned down to one identifiable main influence, ping ponging from Pavementisms to dance-math to low-key melodrama, athletically lithe and up for everything.
i concur - Build Around Me
Back to Cardiff in a moment, but first two bands from Leeds, which with Sky Larkin, Napoleon IIIrd et al is somewhere that's set for a big 2009. i concur (yes, lower case all) are an expansive outfit who bring to mind Broken Social Scene, The Twilight Sad and Explosions In The Sky, but also The National's nervous tension, Interpol's intense megalomania and Wilco's anti-stadium rock. With bands like this you're hoping the developmental stage will take them higher and further, but with this slow burning grandiosity they sound pretty much there already.
Grammatics - The Manageress
Meanwhile these prefer the more mesmerisingly melodramatic route, having a cellist on board adding to the affection of ambitious soundscapes. They like a bold statement, do Grammatics, not least in the way Owen Brinley's voice swoops and pirouettes around at top register while all around whip up a storm. Again, this is a band who refuse to be stylistically pinned down, juddering from electronic trickery to wistful acoustica to overwhelming bombast. Their debut is out on March 3rd; whether it can do justice to such dark drama can only be hoped.
Joy Of Sex - December, Month Of Plenty
Somewhat less exotically, Joy Of Sex are a Cardiff art-rock trio who share more than member numbers and locale with old STN favourites The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, that is to say a fondness for Wire/Pixies-esque skeletal post-punk dynamics, taut interplay, boy/girl three-way vocals and song structures all over the place. They like short songs, crashing already pretty jagged riffs into walls and dark lyrics, spiky and keen on keeping the listener alert just in case. They've just released an EP, beyond that we know nothing but are looking forward to finding out.
Minnaars - Essay Essay Essay
Even this Leicester band, featuring a founder member of fellow travellers Tired Irie, make references to sounding not unlike Foals, but it's as if some particularly intense people had been set the task of reconstructing Foals from constituent parts of Minus The Bear, Q And Not U, Cap'n Jazz, Owls and all that, only with a smidgeon of pop potential. ¡Forward Russia!'s Tom Woodhead produced their recent EP and it's quite reminiscent of his now hiatused band too. Maybe not immediately, but certainly as the year drags on we'd expect some wind to develop behind these.
Post War Years - False Starts
Originally from rock city Leamington Spa, Post War Years are one of those bands who strive to find a connecting point between indie guitar and synth dance. With most it'd turn into a shouty mess; what these do is make it work for them with no little poise, clever cross-faded keyboards, loops and samples for the purposes of both cutting a groove and reaching deep into the brain. With three singers/songwriters who swap instruments as much as lead vocals there's plenty of ideas to go round, but they refrain from packing too many of them into each song to good effect.
Wake The President - You Can't Change That Boy
A good eighteen months has passed since we first stumbled on Wake The President at Indietracks, and later watched a comfortably worse for wear either Bjorn or Erik Sandberg (they're identical twins) nearly stumble on stage and into Darren Hayman. Since then Radcliffe & Maconie have been all over them but at heart they're fundamentally unchanged, jangily bowing at the Scotpop altars of Orange Juice and Josef K via Belle & Sebastian and the Go-Betweens, refracted through Aidan Moffatt and Malcolm Middleton's notebooks.
4 Or 5 Magicians - Ideal Man
Longstanding favourites of STN, of course - we interviewed leader Dan Ormsby in our not too distant past - but word is that now their ever fluctuating backline has steadied itself labels are on the prowl and an album is in the process of being majicked. March, they've claimed. If you're new to them, then let's call them Lamacq and Huw Stephens-supported purveyors of only the finest slanted melodies touched by the spirit of the US lo-fi high priests but with their own peculiarly English swirlingly intense and lyrically wry slant.
Let's Wrestle - Music Is My Girlfriend
The self styled "most miserable and hateful band in north London" were recently arrested in the wake of Fucked Up supports (something vehicular, we're assured). Lest you get the wrong idea, this is not some set of rock'n'roll hellraisers but a wry, scrappy David Shrigley referencing trio who crash about and, in WPG's case, declaim in an amusedly blank fashion, all in the grand tradition of the Television Personalities, Subway Sect, Beat Happening, Art Brut and a little bit early Pavement. It's not musical rocket science, it's just damned good idiot savant indie as she used to be made. Album on the way, probably.
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Tabasco Sole
Up until recently at least, Stourbridge raised Rob Jones has been the quintessential one man band, working behind a full complement of instruments on his own and looping everything from vocals, guitar and keyboard to drums, kazoo and sundry noise makers to build up his peculiar opuses. And it's no small, unambitious sound either, nicking influences from all over the place from glam to cod-soul to tweepop, plus no small amount of likeable lyrical whimsy, all with due love, care and attention. We hope for much more in 2009.
Superman Revenge Squad - I'm Gonna Go To Bed And When I Wake Up I'm Gonna Be Someone Else
Croydon's Ben Parker, previously of trio Tempertwig and duo Nosferatu D2 before logically going solo, is one man strumming an acoustic guitar. Plenty of those to go round already. What there aren't too many of is songwriters who have so many thoughts and ideas their own song structures barely contain them, necessitating lapses into rapidfire spoken word littered with pop culture references. Darkly humorous and thought provoking, sharply spun, skin-crawlingly honest and self-deprecating to a fault, he's been compared to Jeffrey Lewis and admits a love of Will Oldham, should you require a ballpark figure.
Joe Gideon And The Shark - True Nature
Few noticed Bikini Atoll, who put out two albums on Bella Union, one Albini-recorded, which was a shame as they had plenty of ideas mostly involving dark imagery and discordant interplay. The duo formed by frontman Gideon and sister Viva continue down much the same route with even more sleazy intensity, often spoken word grim tales, sinister chants and wild-eyed fuzzy blues riffage playing off thumping drums and keyboards to create an effect akin to Nick Cave's The Firstborn Is Dead melded with Lift To Experience. Recent tour support choice of the aforementioned Cave, their debut should be out in spring.
Rose Elinor Dougall - To The Sea (demo)
Brighton-reared Dougall, who comes with British Sea Power and Brakes connections, drew in attention with the whirling psych-pop of her debut 7" and the slow burn blur of her demos, suggesting a decent range of influences from electronic retro-futurism a la Broadcast to sunny indie-pop via warmly folkily wistful vocals and Young Marble Giants-recalling haziness. Oh, alright, she used to be Rosay Pipette, but don't worry about that because in the short term it'll only put people off. Album in early summer.