Before the look back at 2012 starts, like so many others, a quick look forward to 2013, thirteen artists who we reckon are set fair for big years, maybe not commercially but almost definitely qualitatively.
The Belfast trio are named after a Johnny Foreigner lyric and cite Pavement and Los Campesinos! as main influences. So yes of course we were going to listen to them, but mere listed influences aren't despite appearances enough per se. What makes them such are their tightly wound ping-ponging riffs, angular interplay constantly seeming on the verge of collapse and tightly drilled variously wordily personal and call and response vocals.
The Mancunian trio have put out a couple of small scale over the last two years expanding on a branch of melodic, wiry post-punk which lulls the listener in with chiming guitars and harmonies before pulling its component parts right over each other, powerlifted by fractured post-hardcore riffs like Mission Of Burma taking on Tall Ships. An EP is due very shortly.
Fair to say the Cambridge originally-duo-now-quintet take their time over things, having taken fifteen months to follow up their first set of demos, coinciding with a tour alongside new band tip of lesser mortals Peace. Worth the wait, though, as while their sound is indubitably shoegaze it's one that tries to break down the doors rather than lean on them and wait, obliterative guitar runs and crashing drums, reverbing and warping in on itself amid sweet vocal harmonies.
Already showing a genuine breadth of ideas within a much covered framework, Farewell J.R is one man from Cambridge whose sparse, reverbed and self-harmonised itinerant airy folk may bring Bon Iver comparisons to mind but has the comfortable capacity to expand the sonic field into gloriously pained crescendo while maintaining space and intrinsic mystique.
Fear Of Men
The Brighton band started off on a swoonsome lo-fi tip, aided by the lovelorn vocals of Jessica Weiss, but over time they've become a more unsettling prospect, dreampop with warmth and classic wistful melody but with something a little bit off-centre at its heart, guitars building mini-sonic cathedrals amid daydreaming wooziness. Their early vinyl releases are being gathered into a compilation for release 12th January.
Not to be confused with Swim Deep or Wild Swim, Free Swim is essentially the project of Paul Coltofeanu, specialist in wordy, darkly elliptical rushes that often bridge the gap between post-Flaming Lips US psychedelia and oft whimsical British art schooled pop. Having released four full EPs in the last two years we never seem to be too far away from new, stylistically progressive material.
Lo-fi with its waves of feedback, tape hiss and half-buried slacker vocals isn't something we've wanted for much of late, but Cardiff-based youths JoGru do do it better than most, valuing the sort of excitable controlled noise prime Sonic Youth hacked a passage through, melodies lurking somewhere underneath the scuzz. 90s college rock indebted, true, but with a full-on spirit and undeniable verve.
The Wrexham outfit describe themselves as 'surf-punk' but that's not quite the whole story. Recent EP The Quiet Despair Of The Starship Enterprise unveiled a range that encompasses micro-psychedelia, Nuggets garage and lo-fi scuzz, pushing slackercore influences beyond the red limiter. After an impending split 7" it seems an album is the next move.
Not that they've been short of press in the eleven months or so since their live debut, but strip away the hype and observe the serrated John McGeoch-like guitars that occasionally roar into tidal waves of noise, the taut wire melodic basslines and Jehnny Beth's severe, disturbed voice from the verge. They're currently squirreled away on album recording duty.
Shy And The Fight
The Chester/North Wales septet are the sort of multi-handed indie-folk outfit who could hold their own among the Fence Collective or as a full band version of a cult American backwoods singer-songwriter. Their emotively centrifugal work pulls off better than most the quiet-to-rousing progression without tipping into the Mumfordian, knowing the value of a mass vocal hook crescendo and intensive release.
The work of Dublin singer Karen Sheridan, alongside producer Conal Herron, Slow Skies follows the example of the previously STN-feted Daughter not only in being a singer-with-others pseudonym but in creating languidly chiming, dreamlike atmospherics around which a female voice, an intriguing flutter with shades of Emiliana Torrini, tells stories of honest intimacy, lulling sailors onto the rocks.
Luke Donovan takes the 60s beat boom as his starting point, or at least the psychedelic end (Barrett, Zombies), in fidelity as much as sensibility. Then he makes things warped, spectral keyboards and Radiophonic effects burbling away and pulling the melodies apart. Expect to see Donovan emerge blinking into the live sunlight with a band in the new year, with an album to follow.
The Newcastle trio may only have released one track but it's so rare that a band emerge so fully formed in such entangled wonderment with so short a lead time. Electronics and strings bubble underneath and form tangible shapes and textures in their own shimmering, surging slow burning ambience. As well as some proper recording sessions, rather remarkably they've been working with Nick Mason on a track for the Roundhouse's 30/30 initiative set for February release. Wonder if they bagsied a lift in one of his supercars.