For the first time in 2011, here’s some fantastic music from all over the world selected by the members of the Music Alliance Pact.
Representing Korea for the January edition is Swimmingdoll, whose self-released debut was picked by Mark Russell as one of the best releases of 2010. Finding myself enjoying the band’s sound quite a bit my first instinct was to ask permission to share 8 with the world, but changed my mind after having a listen to Korean Homesick Blues 25. For more on the band, check out this interview with Swimmingdoll if you haven’t already done so.
To download all 35 songs in one file click here
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Swimmingdoll – Last Take
After a year in the making, experimental shoegaze band Swimmingdoll were finally ready to present their first album, 8wimmingdoll, in the last weeks of 2010. Last Take is a gorgeous layered production with a sound well suited for “the infinite world of the spacewalk” the band wish to portray.
Les Mentettes Orchestra – Cosmic Sidewalks
Les Mentettes Orchestra is the augmented version of Les Mentettes, a psychedelic pop band from Buenos Aires that features more than 20 musicians live on stage. A couple of years ago we featured one of their early recordings, but now it’s time to unveil a great song from their first and self-titled album. It was recorded live at ION, a legendary studio that still works with tape and analog equipment. The album is available on iTunes and there’s also a video of Cosmic Sidewalks.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Spartak – Nightshift (Version)
Spartak were one of many great bands I discovered on the recently released compilation, The Sound of Young Canberra, which is full of exciting music from the oft-forgotten titular city. Spartak’s tune stands out amongst a very strong set that makes a solid case for reevaluating Australia’s capital as something of an emerging cultural hub. Nightshift (Version) reminds me of a Spoon demo, bringing together Spoon’s knack for effortless songs draped in subtle studio trickery. I look forward to more from these guys.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Apanhador Só – Maria Augusta
Contagious and catchy, Maria Augusta is an indie semi-hit from Apanhador Só a band from the cold south of Brazil who released a good album last year that can be downloaded for free via their website. They’re part of a new scene of bands who sing in Portuguese, of which they are considered one of the greatest revelations. Maria Augusta quietly shows a group that do not take the easy route – they explore alternative ways of making music, such as using a bicycle wheel as an instrument.
Hooded Fang – Laughing
Think of The Strokes. Now think of The Strokes if they slowed things down considerably, but still managed to retain all their cool and catchiness. Got a picture/sound in your head? Then, as Laughing shows, you’ve got a good idea of what Hooded Fang sounds like.
CHILE: Super 45
Elefante Mecánico – Génesis
Génesis heralds the comeback of Elefante Mecánico after their celebrated Memorias De Un Elefante album, self-released in 2008. In this record, Bame, Jota and DJ Antioch pick up on old school hip-hop sounds, throwing inspired rhymes about cosmos, love and eternity.
Pet Conspiracy – Beyond
Beijing-based Pet Conspiracy plays funky, danceable electronic music that takes influences from punk-rock, new wave and disco. The band consists of two female singers, a guitar/synthesizer player and a drummer. Lead guitarist Hu Zi is already an established artist in the Beijing underground scene as an electronic musician. Pet Conspiracy is known for their high-energy live performances and the array of toys and costumes they bring on stage. They have just returned from a successful tour of Europe.
COLOMBIA: Colombia Urbana
The Colombian Party Cartel – La Murga De Colombia
Two Colombians and one gringo make up The Colombian Party Cartel. The crew resides in the United States, where every weekend they mix the best Colombian music. Carey James is the lead vocalist and principal producer of CPC. La Murga De Colombia samples a Willie Colón song and creates a new fusion of Colombian cumbia and urban style.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
CODY – The Light
The vessel for frontman Kaspar Kaae’s musical output, alternative country and americana seven-piece CODY hit it big in Denmark in 2009 with their excellent debut album Songs from which The Light is taken. Come March they’ll play both Canadian Music Fest and SXSW, and if you’re around Toronto March 9-13 and/or Austin March 16-20 (no specific dates or venues yet) be sure to check out CODY – they’re really a great live band as well.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
Anna Calvi – Suzanne And I
If you’re only going to pay attention to one name on all those Tips For 2011 lists then let it be Anna Calvi. Her influences – from Morricone soundtracks to doomy goth and opera – suggest her music could be preposterously overblown, yet Calvi is clearly an expert when it comes to dynamics and restraint. Cavernous drums open proceedings on Suzanne And I, then ominous, twanging guitar lines ring out before Calvi steps up to the microphone. Each new addition ratchets up the tension a notch, drawing you in so that, by the time Calvi’s wailing away on top of thundering riffs, crashing cymbals and a couple of spare kitchen sinks, you’re too involved to notice. Her self-titled debut album is out on Domino on January 17.
Galvanic Elephants – Rum Rumble
Galvanic Elephants hail from Tartu. They came together in August 2010 and have released only one single so far, but that one song has earned them praise from critics and music bloggers and created anticipation for new material that should be released soon. With no concerts announced so far either, Rum Rumble is the only chance to enjoy the rough sound of Galvanic Elephants right now, but it definitely makes you want more.
On Volcano – Acceleration Of Heartbeat
On Volcano is one of the best underground bands in the Finnish indie scene. They play obscure post-rock songs with long instrumental movements and intense dynamics and atmospherics. Their latest EP is available for free on their website.
Sizarr – Fake Foxes
Sizarr are lucky guys. Yet to finish school, they have already played big festivals in Germany such as the renowned Melt! without being signed to a label yet. These three guys from Landau have a very distinctive style, especially singer Fabian Altstötter, whose voice is very dark and uses a memorable stretching technique. Together they create modern electonica landscapes inspired by many other genres. They plan to record their debut album this year.
drog_A_tek – In_No_Sense
The movie Homeland, directed by Syllas Tzoumerkas, is an explosive parable of Greece coming apart at the seams, shown through the spectrum of a dysfunctional family, which decides to give up one of its members for adoption to a richer relative. The original music score, a compelling concoction of styles that continually surprises, reflects precisely those feelings. drog_A_tek, a band that records moments in real-time and produces temporary audiovisual environments, uses objects, analogue and digital musical instruments, typewriters, frequencies, recording archives/waste and technology landscapes to depict the film’s mood. As a result of this, no moment of Homeland is left unfilled with sparkling music ideas. Listen to In_No_Sense, where their ingenuity shines.
ICELAND: Icelandic Music Maffia
Miri – Góða Konan
Miri began at the LungA festival in the east fjords of Iceland in 2003. The debut EP, Fallegt Þorp, was recorded live one night during this festival in 2005, produced by Curver Thoroddsen. The band plays almost wordless, progressive noise mixed with beautiful guitar work. Góða Konan is featured on their 2010 full album Okkar.
Adam And The Fish Eyed Poets – Little Monkeys
Adam And The Fish Eyed Poets is the solo project of Kishore Krishna from Chennai. His music finds a place between the lush industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails and rootsy American rockabilly. Little Monkeys comes from his debut album, Snakeism. Featuring several clinky electronica bells and whistles, it is a resounding tune that is over almost as quickly as it starts. It’s a builder in a hurry; a chorus-heavy singalong that’s emphatic and imminently memorable.
((Auman)) – W.K.G.G.
Auman means “animal’s roar”, and their music is wild, dirty and full of energy – like a tiger deep in the Sumatra jungle that is ready to eat its prey. ((Auman)) is the latest group worth hearing in the local headbanger scene.
Retarded Cop – Copvan
Formerly of Dublin punk rockers Moutpiece, Gaz Le Rock has expanded his repertoire into an amazing 30-minute radio show called The Loving Room Floor and is now releasing tunes at a blistering pace as Retarded Cop, a project which has the catchiest pop-punk tunes you’ll hear all year. A debut LP is forthcoming.
ISRAEL: Metal Israel
Yerachmiel – Yom Shekulo
Yerachmiel “Rocky” Ziegler is an international musician who owns Little Apple Studios in the trendy Jerusalem artists’ enclave Nachlaot. He is an authentically indie artist, though his work is distributed worldwide and features on several albums. Yerachmiel’s music spans several genres but this specific song, Yom Shekulo, is a trance-rock rendition of ancient Passover liturgy that speaks of Messianic times (and it really picks up quite nicely in the middle).
Young Wrists – I Want You To Disappear
Alberto and Letizia come from the coastal town of Pesaro and there is definitely a breezy, summery shade in their jangly, noisy pop. Behind their C86 abrasive guitars and shining melodies you can hear a bright ode to adolescence and nostalgia, in the vein of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart or Dum Dum Girls. Well, you can decide not to trust me because I am too involved and helped them release their debut 7” (on We Were Never Being Boring), but just listen to this bittersweet bonus track and fall in love right now.
MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Disco Ruido! – Amorfos
Although Disco Ruido! has made its name in Mexico City’s hipster nightlife as a non-stop party combo, their debut album delves into a neon-blurred nostalgia from lost childhood afternoons watching pop stars miming on TV. Mercedes sings like a doll high on ephedrine (no doubt this song’s title is translated as “amorphous”), while the band explores the enormous legacy of harmonies that dwell in the Mexican collective memory. I wish Thalía and Paulina Rubio (the glamour-pusses from seminal 80s teenybopper group Timbiriche) could be doing this kind of sophisti-pop.
NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam
Lola Kite – Everything’s Better
At times pop trio Lola Kite can’t resist the playfulness of lo-fi, losing themselves to retro electro-pop tech and washes of hazy, melodic psychedelia – which undoubtedly reminds you of Animal Collective when combined. However, their debut album Lights, finally released this month following loads of gigging promise, shows they’re more than a quirky and charming proposition, upping their game with upbeat and snappy dance-pop gems such as Everything’s Better.
NEW ZEALAND: Einstein Music Journal
Golden Axe – Telephone
There’s nothing like the enthusiastic waveform tones of Golden Axe. Named after the Sega game, Chris Cudby and Daif Kent’s keyboard-based band has been making party-friendly psychedelic music since late 2001. True to their fun and eccentric form, the July release party for their latest album, Fantasy Footwork, saw them play inside a giant paper mâché igloo that they made themselves. Download the Telephone EP and buy Fantasy Footwork from their Bandcamp.
NORWAY: Birds Sometimes Dance
Aristillus – Dying, Keep Dying
The members of Aristillus are aged 17 and 18 but, in spite of their youth, they sound much more mature than many other hardcore bands. With heavy drums, sharp guitars and lyrics as dark as their sound, I believe they’ll soon get a lot more attention. Their influences are Norwegian hardcore bands such as Snöras, JR Ewing, Kollwitz and Rumble In Rhodos, and they’re releasing their debut album, Devoured Trees & Crystal Skies, on January 24 on the Norwegian indie label Fysisk Format. Aristillus is playing at by:Larm 2011 and I’m quite sure that won’t be the last you’ll hear from them this year.
Voz Propia – Lentes Amarillos
With a career spanning more than 20 years, Voz Propia is still current, their sound having been renewed to the demands of each time. El Manifesto is their eighth production and it could be the definitive work of this mature band. Post-punk is the essence in their sound again so hold on, Voz Propia is back.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Balla – Equilíbrio?
Armando Teixeira, who has been playing in bands and as a solo artist for more than 25 years, is one of the most talented contemporary musicians and producers of modern Portuguese music. He is a creative multi-instrumentist and sought-after producer for labels and studios. Balla is one of his solo projects and we wish to thank Armando for letting MAP make Equilíbrio? the first free, worldwide downloadable track from latest album Equilíbrio.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Nebulosa – Trains
Nebulosa is the music space child of three people living on different continents: Noamme, Andrei and Vladimir. The sound is dreamy and sincere, using very simple chord structures and lyrics. Their debut EP, Chimes, can be downloaded from their website, a free ticket to the stars.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Aaron Wright & The Aprils – Go On Yer Self
Aaron Wright & The Aprils‘ self-titled debut album, due out conveniently enough in April, features guest vocal contributions from Camera Obscura‘s Tracyanne Campbell and Teenage Fanclub‘s Norman Blake as well as instrumental ones from Belle & Sebastian duo Stevie Jackson and Mick Cooke. Those influences certainly makes themselves heard on Go On Yer Self, which mixes a classic Scottish folk-rock sound with a strong helping of Beatles-esque melody-making. The 24-year-old shaggy-haired Edinburgh singer and his band will be heading out on tour in March as support to The Charlatans. The ingenious video for their new single, Trampoline, is also worth a look.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Kevin Lester – Rockstar 2.0 feat Vanessa Fernandez
Hip hop isn’t something one associates with Singapore’s music scene, but it exists, usually even more underground than rock, metal or hardcore. Ironically, it’s in response to rampant commercial radio that the local music community, regardless of style, has become a close-knit family. In his debut, Kevin Lester brings out the collaborative and experimental strengths of hip hop, forging a sound with slashes of rock and soul, and working with some of the country’s best singers to put out a record with incredible heart and talent.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Thieve – Champion
Thieve are a trio hailing from the hub of Cape Town, whose motto and reason for picking the band name comes from the fact that “nothing is original – everybody steals”. While you can hear that sentiment heavily influences their song, Champion, they maintain a unique feel with their melding of swirling pop rhythms, a soft rock sound and a nostalgic lovestruck feel to their lyrics. With the experience of all the members being involved in previous well-known bands, they’ve turned Thieve into a tight-knit group that is set to take over the rock ‘n’ roll scene.
Oblique – Without Making Noise
Oblique‘s music and aesthetic could remind us of 80s electro-industrial music (or even EBM) bands and, certainly, their biggest inspiration comes from dark synthpop acts such as The Human League or Ladytron. Without Making Noise, the second single taken from the eponymous album of this trio from Barcelona, features dark atmospherics and, of course, a catchy chorus. It’s got what it takes to be a perfect futurepop track.
Klifton Filente – It Takes A Thorn To Remove A Thorn
Klifton Filente is one of the underappreciated, unsigned and relatively unknown artists from Sweden that I am keeping my eye on. On the song It Takes A Thorn To Remove A Thorn, taken from their Common Ground album, you can hear echoes of Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as the lilting folk-pop of early Paul Simon.
Aie ça Gicle – Whisper Jet
Sonic Youth is the keyword when it comes to Aie ça Gicle‘s musical universe. But the band’s debut album S.Y.R.U.P. offers more than just a blueprint. Their influences range from post-punk to grunge to post-rock. They pile guitar layer upon guitar layer, interlace some catchy refrains and try to be as laid-back as possible.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Smith Westerns – Weekend
Chicago’s Smith Westerns break out of the relatively dull and dispassionate tunes of their first record and, in the upcoming Dye It Blonde LP, give us 2011’s first truly great album. It’s a wonderful construction upon the flashy glam rock that gave careers to David Bowie and T-Rex, endlessly listenable and replayable, particularly opening track Weekend.
Greasy Grapes – Candles In The Rain
Greasy Grapes are a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll band formed in Caracas in early 2006. Their music is influenced by American traditional southern music, which also inspired legendary bands in the late 60s and 70s such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Faces, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the The Allman Brothers Band. Candles In The Rain is taken from Greasy Grapes’ 2009 debut album At The Back Of The Hill, which blends a vintage vibe with rock, soul, blues and country sounds.