Friday, 26 December 2008

Sound of 2009

Time for an Unsung "special" everyone, just for Christmas. Recently, the BBC announced the long list for their "Sound of 2009". It's quite an influential list, and a good judge of what's going to be popular. If you're not entirely sure, here's the 2008 top 10. I don't really need to explain where they are now.

1. Adele; 2. Duffy; 3. The Ting Tings; 4. Glasvegas ; 5. Foals; 6. Vampire Weekend ; 7. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong; 8. Black Kids ; 9. MGMT; 10. Santogold

The winner will be announced in early January. But I'm going to get in early and check out all the acts now.

I am calling this an "unsung" special, but - as you'll see - it's not strictly true. Unsung normally features unsigned acts, all of these acts are now ready to head out into the world. The test is who's going to be the biggest breakthrough act over the next 12 months. But, I imagine that a lot of readers won't have heard of the most of them, so in that respect it's unsung. Anyway, on we go, and further comments are very welcome.

The Big Pink

There's a lot of talent behind this duo. And the output is very different - even between the tunes. Too young to love is catchy, energetic; Dominos is almost anthemic. Personally, I think that the output is a bit too different to become that popular. And I too only like it in small doses - I can't imagine me ever going out to buy the album. They're good - but they're not going to be the Sound of 2009. (Asp)

Florence and the Machine

The mighty Flo. What can I say about her that I've not said before, when she featured in the very first "Unsung" in March; or the TOTW mentions since then. Well, I can say that - after hearing more and more recorded tracks - she's not a raw as she once was. Sometimes, this can be a bad thing - losing the passion and power. But this hasn't happened with Florence and her powerful Machine. Even on the smooth tracks like Girl with 1 eye the tone of the vocals matches the tone of the lyrics - brutally harsh. Exceptional lyrics, and a definite talent. Maybe it would be more accurate to show her as a Sound of 2008 - of maybe 2009 will bring her to widespread acclaim instead of the slight niche she occupies now. We'll see... (Asp)

Post-Script: Since writing this paragraph, it's been announced that Flo is the winner of the 2009 Critic's Choice BRIT award. The one that Adele won this year. Proof of her talent, I hope

Little Boots

Comes complete with a free download "mixtape" starting with a Goldfrapp remix. But enough, how's her own music? Well, a missmatch is the best way to describe her I think - there's a hint of Madonna, but mixed up with unusual institutionalisation and catchy melodies. Like everything I'm liking in this list - different, and in a neat sub-genre of her own. Clearly talented, and with the influence of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard behind her, that synth-pop should go far. (Asp)

The Temper Trap

The Temper Trap hail from down under with their leading track, Sweet Disposition.  The distinctive lead singer appears to be the love child of Elliot from Hollyoaks and Moss from the IT Crowd, but I won't let that affect my judgement.
Sweet Disposition is an interesting record.  A combination of haunting falsetto vocals, Edge-esque guitar riffs dripping in delay and a persistant shuffle on the drums creates a subtle but immersive, moving sound.  The apparent influences are abundant: Bloc Party, The Killers and Sigur Ros amongst many others.
My initial criticism upon hearing the record was that it sounded a little uncomplex and ingenuous, however I soon realised that this contributed to its charm.  In a time when most of the afore-mentioned bands are sacrificing the grace of their music for over-produced dance floor movers, it is refreshing to return to a more naive sound.  Although I struggle to get excited by Sweet Disposition, the aussie quartet have succeeded in creating a tune which is sweet, enjoyable and danceable.
All in all The Temper Trap are likely to be a memorable band of 2009, and with producer Jim Abbiss on their side success on some scale is virtually guaranteed.  However I await their album with some anticipation - it is not immediately obvious whether Sweet Disposition fully reflects the depth of their music, or whether it is a loss-leader to sell an album with more interesting, intelligent tunes.  Hopefully, it will be the latter. (Wrecks)

Asp's note - quick listen myself, someone was listening to U2 before they wrote that song, weren't they?

Mumford & Sons

The name rung a definitely bell before listening to them, but I couldn't place where. Then I just read their bio - they're Laura Marling's backing group! And it doesn't take much listening for you to spot to common link. It's that simple folk music with that just slightly modern twist that's about now with Noah and the Whale and Marling herself (spotting a common link here?) It's mild and inoffensive - so I like it. More please. (Asp)


Another name that's actually about at the minute. I watch the video for 3 Little Words though, I keep thinking I'm watching the latest from Scandavian-Sprightly Pop-Combo Alphabeat. With the exception of the attractive women, obviously. And the music isn't that far removed either.

He is more of a DJ, and has done plenty of remixes for plenty of big names. See the Keane remix on his myspace. But he can clearly write as well - with that fast dance beat meaning that they're great pop records, just like Alphabeat in a really strange sort of way. Plenty of vim and vigour - and a sure fire pick for the music to be popular in the clubs in 2009. (Asp)

La Roux

Catchy one this isn't it? La Roux [apparently French for "The Redhead"], also known as Elly Jackson, and Ben Langmaid, are new on the block only turning up late in 2008. And with their new electro funky beat sound too. As happens with lots of new pop music, Radio 1 picked it up with Sarah Cox playing it solidly for a whole week, resulting in it now circulating at great velocity around my head. It's very catchy, but not similar to anything else at the same time. I might not get the slightly odd Video, but I do like the music... Why not give it a listen?  (The Stig)

Empire of the Sun

An Australian MGMT. The vocal tones are almost identical, and the music is very similar. So, whilst I like MGMT, and thus have no objections to this music - I've heard it all before. There's nothing revolutionary to really wow the crowds, and the net result is "good background music". Not enough to make it big. (Asp)

Kid Cudi

You hear the name, and you think you know what's coming. You read the blurb on the beeb's website, and think you know what's coming. Now very worried you click through to the myspace and wait for the music start. And this strange childlike non-singing appears. And then someone else starts swearing.

It's well documented that I don't like hip-hop. I can't find the tune most of the time, and I don't see the point of some of the lyrics. So, I'm probably the worst person to review Kid Cudi. He could become big - supporting Kanye West is a good start, and I've heard of West. But, even if he did, I wouldn't notice. And, I'd rather he didn't in any event. (Asp)

Passion Pit

I thought I was going to be saying similar to Empire of the Sun when I reading the BBC blurb. But, I'm not. And I really like it. There is that warped electronica - but it sounds good. Different. Sleepyhead is particularly bewildering - and that infantile background singing could be the hook required to let them make it big. (Asp)

White Lies

A few contributors were prepared to stick something together for these set of London Rockers - they're already notable. To Lose My Life and Unfinished Business in particular are getting a fair bit of airplay. Death even featured on TOTW. I like all the songs as well, which is good - in the same way that I like Editors. Which is the problem, they're very similar - and they could so easily be interchangeable. I'm sure that they're going to go from strength to strength in the new year, they're already on their way there. But, I can see themselves falling short of being "the" act of 2009, as we've been there and heard it before. (Asp)

VV Brown

I didn't recognise the name, but as soon as I heard Crying Blood the memory kicked into overdrive and I was able to recall the "Later..." session. Unfortunately, the myspace is one of these without full tracks (save for a few remixes) to base an opinion on, so I'm really left to the one track. Thankfully, it's a great one - funky, retro, yet with a modern beat to mean it still appeals. I can only hope that the rest are similar! (Asp)

Lady GaGa

Disco-funk, and I'm afraid not really my cup of tea. It's got a decent beat, and I'm sure I'd find myself dancing to it on those rare occasions I drink enough to end up in a club. And on that basis, could make it well in '09. Unfortunately though, I won't be the one out buying the records. (Asp)

Master Shortie

"British Hip-Hop". Another one where I've made-up my mind before the record turns. Especially after seeing the myspace page - weird. I can say some good things about young Theo though - I wasn't completely driven from the room. Dead End is particularly a less shouty record than many. I really can't comment much on Hip-Hop, so can't predict if Shortie is going to be a hit or a miss. But, I am minded to say that he's better than most - which probably counts to something. (Asp)

Dan Black

Another name that's been making it popular already with this year with Yours, that I've even mentioned on TOTW. If you ask Adelle, I'm sure she'll say that starting to make an impact just before the New Year helps your chances of being "the" act for the forthcoming 12 months. However, you should never judge an act on a solitary song, but I'm pleased to report that the entire myspace set is the same futuristic mysterious tones. It took a few listens for me to start enjoying Yours, but now I've got used to what to expect, it's good stuff. So, I think Dan Black does need tempering with the disclaimer that if you don't like him first time round, try again for a few times before you immediately dismiss him. (Asp)

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