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ÁFRICA DO SUL: Musical Mover and Shaker!
Merseystate - Jersey Girl With a rock sound that has been compared to other stellar acts but is still uniquely their own comes Merseystate. They are the culmination of alternative rock at its best. Jersey Girl officially launched them on to the music scene last year. It's a deftly-crafted song that tugs at you then whirls into melodic pop euphoria.
Alvy, Nacho y Rubin Interpretan a Los Campos Magnéticos is the result of a singular process of research, translation and reimagining of Stephin Merritt's songs. The project was crafted by three talented musicians from Buenos Aires and Mr Merritt himself revised and approved the adaptation of his songs. El Galán De La Paternal (The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side) is the first single and you can download it here as a MAP exclusive. The whole album is available on iTunes.
AUSTRÁLIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
I'm excited that over the next six months we'll be getting both a mini-album (in January) and a full-length release from Sydney experimental/glitch/pop crew Ghoul. It's been a long wait, but Ghoul have grown a lot since self-releasing their debut mini-LP A Mouthful Of Gold in 2008. Both the production and the songwriting have taken epic leaps toward a more nuanced, crisp sound that relies less on jazz streaks and tangential arrangements to maintain attention and more on melody and detail. 3Mark is a sign of great things to come.
BRASIL: Meio Desligado
Epic, dark post-rock is at the core of Sao Paulo-based band Labirinto, whose first full-length album is already one of the best Brazilian releases of 2010 and is also remarkable due to its gorgeous artwork. Anatema is the main song on the album, which is available from their Bandcamp.
On the surface, Radio Radio may seem like a joke: a couple of hipsters from New Brunswick rapping in extremely slangy French about stuff like Kenny G, luggage and, on this song, penny loafers. Dig just a little deeper, though, and you'll find the band members are actually expert satirists, skewering just about every target they can find (except for Kenny G; their love for him seems serious). With brilliant lyrics and fun music, it's no wonder the band was included in this year's Polaris Music Prize shortlist.
CINGAPURA: I'm Waking Up To...
Nicholas Chim is a singer-songwriter who walks the thin line between being absolutely self-indulgent and giving every iota of emotion that he conveys through his music. What results is some of the most earnest songs that shine in their simplicity; yet, the complexity of his arrangements and lyrics come forth distilled and pure. Nicholas is in the middle of recording his second album, Forgiefan, but has kindly shared a contemplative, folksy offering from it entitled Midnight. He hopes you enjoy the music as much as he did writing it.
CHILE: Super 45
Originally from southern Chile, La Reina Morsa's members took up permanent residency in Santiago with their own music projects. But their common tastes brought them together to release their debut album Dónde Están Las Jugueterías? ("Where Are The Toy Stores?"), the brand new sensation for the current season. Fiesta Pequeña ("Tiny Party") is the first single, a great presentation card for this band which creates a pop sound that features acoustic guitar, bizarre animal visions and a sweet, child-like naivety. We strongly recommend you download the full album for free, directly from the Sello Cazador website.
JJay's ear-melting vocals coasting smoothly over dreamy soundscapes peppered with catchy, thudding beats and soaring synths have earned him a serious fanbase. JJay first moved from Beijing to Shanghai to study while also forming several post-punk bands. After earning a master's degree in science in the US, he returned to Shanghai and met B6 with whom he shared a passion for Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Royksopp. Once the voice of IGO with B6, possibly the first synthpop band in China, JJay is now pursuing solo work after the band split in 2009.
COLÔMBIA: Colombia Urbana
Sebastian aka El Tigre is a rapper from Medellin. His new crew, Los Extraditables, are actually giving the world a new theory: Drugs aren't the only thing that can be exported from Colombia - good music can be too. Quien Como Yo is a classic dancehall track with a nightclub vibe.
CORÉIA DO SUL: Indieful ROK
Autumn Vacation showcases the songwriting skills of Bobby Chung - the mastermind behind former MAP artist Julia Hart - and the warm, addictive voice of Gyepy, who could previously be heard as the female vocalist of Broccoli, You Too? The duo recently put out a self-titled album full of what they hope to be perceived as thought-provoking easy listening, providing the same sense of peacefulness as strolling in a park. As lovely as anything else from the band, Dreamy Even In Deception is a light and sweet pop tune that is bound to make you crave more.
DINAMARCA: All Scandinavian
Exactly one year ago I featured quartet The Kites and their very infectious pop-rock in the Music Alliance Pact. A month later they released the great four-track EP, The Kites Are On, and recently they followed up with this bittersweet gem, co-produced by neo-disco prodigy Vinnie Who aka Niels Bagge. Both the EP and Summer Missus are available for free at their website - so go download it.
ESCÓCIA: The Pop Cop
You should know fairly instantly whether Edinburgh's Bwani Junction are the band you've been waiting for when I tell you that they sound like a cross between The Libertines and Vampire Weekend. They are unsigned but, given the buzz that surrounds them, probably won't be for much longer. Two Bridges is already a singalong anthem among their rapidly increasing fanbase.
Formed in mystical Santiago de Compostela in 2003, 6pm are an electronic/indie duo that has found inspiration in ambient/shoegaze bands such as Sigur Rós, Múm, Styrofoam or even The Postal Service. Letters Play, taken from their rather uknown last EP called Tape Worms, is certainly a breath of air in the Spanish ocean of indie music, where we rarely find inspiring ambient electronic tracks. 6pm are working on their sophomore album, set to be released sometime next year.
ESTADOS UNIDOS: I Guess I'm Floating
San Diegan dudes TV Girl know how to make one hell of a pop song. On Land is quickly becoming one of our favorites of the year, matching the earnestness of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut with the hooks of MGMT's most memorable songs. Their debut EP is a free download on Bandcamp. Keep your eyes peeled for TV Girl in 2011, they're gonna dominate it.
INGLATERRA: The Guardian Music Blog
Exclusive acoustic version of the Oxford indie-dance trio's debut single, out on Moshi Moshi Records now. "Four minutes of limpid loveliness that suggests – with its gently insistent electronic pulse, swathes of shimmering synths and aching perkiness – Vampire Weekend playing New Order", says the Guardian's new band of the day writer Paul Lester. "It's our old friend, sad disco, something to dance to even as you ponder the vapidity and meaninglessness of frivolous self-expression."
With a gentle touch of female voices blending together and an elegant progressive instrumentation, 70vierailijaa create charming dreamy pop to melt the cold winter nights. Their recently released self-titled debut album is full of traditional Finnish themes and melodies, but with the refreshing twist of soft indie music, in an addictive mix of old and new and of local and global sounds.
A Forest definitely run the unfair risk of being overlooked. Their musical mixture of souly electronica does not want to paint the town red. Instead, they create cautious, almost fragile songs on their debut album, Leaves Leaves Fall Fall Rain Fall, that get under your skin. The featured single, A Stereotype, is a perfect example for this sound which is founded on jazzy rhythms and soulful voices, especially from Fabian Schuetze. A Forest will release a new, as-yet untitled EP in March.
Harmur Fuglsins, an atmospheric song with cinematic aesthetics that effortlessly creates images of tender, hearth-side warmth, is the bewitching outcome of a collaboration infused by the strikingly contrasting geographical and artistic backgrounds of Film and Rökkurró's Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir. Curling around an eloquently subtle arrangement armed with guitars, delicate noises, pounding drums, sombre sonic textures, melodic synth lines and electronic facets and combined with the marvelous, ethereal vocal touches of Hildur brings out its tremendous beauty with every listen.
ISLÂNDIA: I Love Icelandic Music
First we had Sykurmolarnir, known worldwide as The Sugarcubes. Now an Icelandic electronic trio of youngsters from Reykjavik goes under the alias Sykur ("Sugar"). Their shows are fun-filled, sexy and energetic and they collaborate with local rappers and pop and rock singers. Rocketship, which has guest vocals from Útidúr singer Rakel Mjöll, is taken from Sykur's debut album Frábært Eða Frábært, which was released a year ago on the Icelandic Record Records label.
Bangalore downtempo act Sulk Station define themselves as "mellowdramatic pop", a term that captures the essence of their ambient soundscapes particularly well. The young duo's minimal yet stark productions are powered by vocalist Tanvi Rao's lazy delivery. Contentment grows from a Zero 7-esque drone to a swirling dance track which wouldn't be out of place at an EDM club downtown.
Ode Buat Kota, which means "an ode to the city", is taken from Bangkutaman's latest concept album about hard life in Jakarta - the pollution, traffic, crime, house loans, etc. Their music is influenced by The Stone Roses, The Byrds and The Mamas and The Papas. They are one of the most well-respected bands in Indonesia.
Kasette consist of a trio of school friends who formed a music partnership while on a J-1 visa in Vancouver. They have just released their debut EP entitled A Mixed Tape which showcases the girls' brand of chamber folk-pop. Simple and soft, Kasette's music is in its infancy but it's already lilting and lovely.
ISRAEL: Metal Israel
Israel is comprised of many Russian-born people, some Jewish, some not. Lament For Soldier's Glory: Order 227 by Desert taps into Russian history, describing Stalin's cruel command that any soldier captured by the enemy was considered a traitor. Its haunting melodies and driving rhythms sonically depict pain and determination. And as all of Desert served (or are still serving) in the Israeli army, they know what it means to fight for survival. Vocalist Joakim Broden of Sweden's Sabaton (Nuclear Blast Records) lends his talents to the tale of war and blood.
You don't really want to know where this is going to end up. Kraut, post-rock, noise, Liars, Deerhunter... it's a scary, puzzling orgy of sounds. The amazing debut album of this young band from the town of Ravenna will fire up the imagination of anyone who has the guts to listen to it.
MÉXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Movus is a five-piece band from Guadalajara. Theirs is a very cinematic post-rock sound, filled with peaks and valleys of instrumental narratives. For their second album Maxa FireKeeper (produced by Jimmy LaValle from San Diego's The Album Leaf), they were inspired by the Huichol Indians' myths: Maxa is a deer that guards the mystical fire of the universe. Al Filo Del Origen (translated as "at the rim of the origin") is as epic as Explosions In The Sky and as evocative as a new soundtrack to the Dr Who sci-fi series.
HOLANDA: Unfold Amsterdam
This raw trio from the north of the Netherlands label themselves as "sexy garage dance". They're certainly sexy, glamming it up at times, banging out taut, fast, noisy grooves reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand or !!! - albeit with a female vocal on top. Particularly live, they're all about big beats, sweat and dancing. However, About Birds And Bees tunes into a summery Sixties garage-pop vibe instead. And they've delightfully avoided any tweeness precedent by writing a deliciously poppy, organ-driven ode to the one-night stand.
NOVA ZELÂNDIA: Counting The Beat
Disasteradio is Luke Rowell's one-man synthpop outfit. No Pulse comes from his second album Charisma. With this album, Disasteradio has shifted the balance a little more on to songs rather than sounds compared to past releases. The end result is an album with vocodered vocals and a crunchy new wave feel - part Devo, part Gary Numan and part computer game. Charisma is available on Bandcamp and you can watch the video for No Pulse on YouTube.
Young Dreams is a Bergen-based collective who make beautiful pop with equal doses of tropical flavours and Phil Spector/Brian Wilson influences. The project started in 2009 and now has as many as 10 members, including profiled musicians such as Matias Tellez and Chris Holm. Young Dreams will release two 7" singles in early 2011 and their debut album is in the making. They will also perform at the upcoming by:Larm festival.
The Satellite began their activities as a band in 2006 with a slight tendency towards post-rock, fusion and experimentation, using any sound that was available. In 2008, with a consolidated style, they released their second EP, 124, which contains El Sol. The band is currently composing more musical pieces and looking forward to making a debut album which they hope will come out very soon.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Emmy Curl lives in a northeast Portuguese town and has studied classic guitar in a music conservatory. However, her songwriting and singing is closer to a mix of ethereal and alternative folk than to anything classical. Imagine a blend of Lisa Germano and Suzanne Vega. She is one of a number of promising unsigned Portuguese artists and is due to have her first European tour.
ROMÊNIA: Babylon Noise
Daniel Dorobantu comes from Timisoara and is the mastermind behind this beautiful experimental/ambient project. A bit dark and somehow persistent, Thy Veils' music is that soundtrack you always wanted for your weird dreams. And if you have trouble dreaming, visit the official site, where a slideshow of the band's videos (The KnifeChild included) will help with the visuals.
Sneak Preview by Johan Hillblom may be underproduced but that doesn't mean it's amateurish. The trumpet solos are great, the odd beats cool, and Johan's crooning vocals clear and crisp. The lyrics are personal and clever without being pretentious. Examples include "you should see the gallery in my cellphone, you look like an angel from every angle" and "once when I was drunk I accidentally poked you on Facebook, and what's worse you didn't poke back". If you are looking for the next Jens Lekman or Montt Mardié (or the next cast member of Glee for that matter), look no further.
You say Nick Cave, I say Alban Ringli. Never heard of him? Alban Ringli is the singer of Swiss indie-folk outfit The Circle Brothers and he gives his two bandmates (who also happen to be his brothers) a special touch in a Nick Cave manner. They have just released their new record Love and Disorder. It sounds gloomy and anxious but still has a gleam of hope.
Venezuelan rock band Mochuelo are known for their electronic sounds and all of the members pour their influences into one unique concept. Their guitar distorsions, contagious rhythms and sweet female vocals saw this band walk away with first prize in the 2005 New Bands Festival. La Reina Del Lugar is from their second album, Un Tanto Mas.