Just when you think there’s little left of the ’90s electronic music scene to mine, along comes Real Lies, a hotly-tipped London trio who manages to tap into a less-referenced part of the ’90s. Comparisons so far include Mike Skinner (The Streets), Pet Shop Boys, Underworld. Their poppiest single to date is “World Peace,” which sounds like ‘normcore’ Hurts meet Unicorn Kid (RIP). It’s amazing how it sounds so fresh, considering it was first released in 2013!
“Seven Sisters” is their latest track, certainly one for a lads’ night out. It contains this great line: “No first kiss could explain love, in a decade with no name.”
It really feels like the band is on the cusp of something exciting. They make music that can appeal to both NME, tastemakers and pop bloggers; cool, but not at the expense of melodies. Real Lies are totally the type of band that can be key players in the next BBC Sound Of poll, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long for new music!
The hype surround Cloud Nothings‘ second album “Here and Nowhere Else” was so big I had to check it out myself. While the album as a whole wasn’t entirely to my taste, I can’t deny this irresistible punk-pop gem “I’m Not Part of Me”. Let’s not beat around the bush, this belongs in a ’90s teen flick soundtrack. Proper jump on your bed, sing into your hairbrush, dance like nobody’s watching stuff. The music video even features teenage girls having a weird slumber party. They’re in on it.
It helps that the frontman Dylan Baldi openly talks about his appreciation for Taylor Swift’s songcraft. Check out the Ohio-based indie rock’s single below, and good luck getting it out of your head.
On paper, The Horrors are the kind of band I wouldn’t be bothered with, and yet I keep liking bits and bobs of their output. Plus Cat’s Eyes, Faris Badwan’s side-project with Rachel Zeffira, was far from terrible. With their fourth album “Luminous” arriving soon, it’s safe to say they have become reliable mainstays for panoramic post-punk shoegaze goodness. Their latest single “So Now You Know” is what I’d call one of their accidental pop songs, and I can confirm it sounds fantastic on a sunny day. Turn on the volume!
STREAM: The Horrors – So Now You Know
Watch the desert-based music video for the track here. New album drops May 5 on XL Recordings.
From the Soundcloud vaults of Arbutus Records (Grimes’ label) comes this lovely little gem, a lo-fi acapella cover of The Beatles classic “And I Love Her” by Eola aka Brooklyn-based musician Edwin Mathis White. Surfaced in October 2012, it’s just a simple take drenched in reverb and tape loops, but it’s the naked simplicity that emits a sort of moonshine hypnotism. He even made the effort to riff on the “Meet The Beatles!” cover!
STREAM: Eola – And I Love Her (Beatles Cover)
One year has passed since I raved about Oscar’s “Never Told You”, and the London-based bedroom pop artist is back with another perfect pop song. “Sometimes” is instant love at first play, generous with riff-laden hooks and the scruffy charm of the lo-fi indie pop ethos. Wearing its Blur-isms on its sleeves, the track harks back to the golden days of early-’90s Britpop. Oscar Scheller certainly has a way with catchy melodies, and he doesn’t hold them back. On a sunny spring day, I ask for nothing more. Irresistible.
STREAM: Oscar – Sometimes
Oscar is now signed to Smalltown Supersound’s new sub-label Brown Rice, and his debut EP “146b” drops next month.
Brooklyn-based trio Little Daylight is next on the list of synth-pop hopefuls, right beside my other faves like St. Lucia, CHVRCHES, Haerts, Ellie Goulding, and deservingly so. Initially cutting their teeth by doing remixes for the likes of Passion Pit, Niki & The Dove, Ra Ra Riot and The Neighbourhood, they moved on to producing originals and uploading them on Soundcloud. The band makes glossy, twinkly electronic pop with sticky hooks and toe-tapping beats, the type that would set blogs alight (and indeed they have in droves). Their current EP entitled “Tunnel Vision” is a great collection of danceable, infectious songs that fully showcase their potentials. “Restart”, “Glitter And Gold”, “Name In Lights” are among my favorites, but “Overdose” is the big one. Seriously, that one’s been in my head for days.
STREAM: Little Daylight – Overdose
I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for Bastille last week and it was great fun. Lead singer Nikki put on a confident, flirty and playful performance, flicking through songs from their EP, as well as test-driving new tracks. One called “Mona Lisa” particularly stood out, I can’t wait to hear it again in studio form. Saving the best for last, they ended the impressive set with “Overdose” whose bassline really came alive. They have many shows coming up for CMJ so if you can make it, I highly recommend seeing them live.
STREAM: Little Daylight – Restart
Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun managed to bring out the subtleties in Beyoncé‘s gargantuan ballad “Halo”. Her chamber-folk rendition is a pared-down, understated acoustic affair with Swedish cellist Linnea Olsson on strings duty. It’s a nice break from the drum-heavy bombast of Ryan Tedder’s original production.
You can find “Halo” on her latest double album “Rarities”, collecting her rare tracks from over the years.
Lately the music scene has witnessed the inevitable antithesis to EDM. A small wave of new acts makes music that is more likely to gently stroke a listener’s chin, rather than shout at one’s face threatening to ‘drop’. London Grammar are UK’s brightest new hope. Already scoring a #2 album across the pond, the band is making their way to America. A mix between The XX, Florence & The Machine and Sia, London Grammar’s sound is really as stately and deceptively modest as the name suggests. At times they also remind me of Trespassers William too.
I first got hooked on early single “Metal & Dust”, a gorgeous trip-hop throwback that knows when to hold and release. Follow-up single “Wasting My Young Years” is one of those ballads that might send a lump down your throat in an appropriate mood. It might actually rival the grandeur of Sia’s “Breathe Me”, and I don’t say that lightly. However, “Strong” is the one with mass appeal, landing them their first Top 20 single in Britain. The old-school drum-and-bass High Contrast remix confirms that they sound just as good over block rockin’ beats.
As nice as the electronic embellishment around their production is, it’s Hannah Reid’s powerhouse vocals that took center in every song. Her guest vocals on Disclosure’s “Help Me Lose My Mind” is a thing of sunset-in-Ibiza beauty. For such a new band, they’re really building up a solid discography.
STREAM: London Grammar – Metal & Dust
Check out their US tour dates after the jump.
Say hi to your new favorite emerging electro-pop starlet! Aussie Chela is attracting blog buzz left and right with her debut single “Romanticise” for reliably hip French label Kitsune Maison. “Romanticise” (English spelling and all) is a rollicking, electric ’80s pop number, in the tradition of CSS meets La Roux. Yes it’s a bit 2008, but who cares when it’s so damn catchy. Watch her throw some dance moves in the lo-fi video below.
Dancey guitary synth-pop is not her only mode though. She also showcased her softer side on midtempo nighttime ballad “Vegas Nights”. It’s chill and wistful in an ’80s adult-contemporary/quiet storm way, not unlike the output of Say Lou Lou. If you closed your eyes, you could almost see palm trees gently swaying by your windscreen. It really is quite lovely, not to mention it’s a freebie too!
FREE DOWNLOAD: Chela – Vegas Nights
Moving away from the lush, dreamy soundscapes of her second album, Oh Land returns with something a little more adventurous. For her third full-length entitled “Wish Bone”, the Danish songstress works with producer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio). Her relocation to Brooklyn really shows in the new batch of songs. Lead single “Renaissance Girls” is a fun celebration of female empowerment in the form of an infectious synth-pop tune. The girl-power sentiment is cool in a post-Lilith-Fair way, and the immaculately choreographed music video is AMAZING. She really put her ballet dancer skills to good use!
There’s also a lovely new video for the quirky “Pyromaniac”. She’s really nailing it down on the visual side this era. Her hair alone is divine, I can’t tell what exact shade it is (light blue greyish blond?), but she rocks it.
You can now stream the entire album on New York Times. FYI, the track co-written with former tourmate Sia is “Green Card”.
My favorite Norwegian Erlend Øye has returned with his first solo outing in 12 years. It’s a single called “La Prima Estate”, it’s in Italian, and it’s amazing in the most unexpected ways. Let me count the ways of its amazingness:
- THAT ARTWORK. Loud is the new quiet!
- How amazingly random it is. Apparently, the one half of Kings of Convenience is now living in Italy, and the song is his homage to ’70s Italo easy-listening folk-pop, popular in Norway at the time. He did his research, and it showed. It’s a totally unexpected re-introduction, but for a man whose past repertoire ranges from acoustic folk to Berlin indie techno, I shouldn’t be so surprised.
- Even though I don’t understand a word, it still sounds like the giddiest piece of jet-set-ready summer music. Jens Lekman would be proud.
- THE VIDEO, shot on location in Siracusa Sicily. Who are all these twee geeks dancing like fools, bursting with unadulterated joy? Prepare to grin like an idiot.
As a bonus, here’s a video of Erlend Øye casually performing a cover of Pet Shop Boys‘ 1996 single “Se a vida é (That’s the Way Life Is)” on an abandoned rooftop. So chill.
We might not’ve been exactly vocal about this in the past (apols) but we love Summer Camp, aka UK power duo of Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley. They wrote some very listenable pop tunes.
Now that they’re back for another round with album no. 2, the band has stepped their game up. Current single “Fresh” is what you get when you put the following ingredients in a blender and press “Mix”: Disney string samples, Beach Boys ghost harmonies, funky disco bassline, ’90s Britpop, Tumblr irony, and of course, ’80s John Hughes teen angst. A delicious smoothie, you’d agree.
The charming and colorful music video directed by Lucy Needs is one of those performance videos where the artist has to learn to lip sync to their song backwards. Watch as Elizabeth reiterate Jarvis Cocker’s question “Do you remember the first time?” (can you spot the other Pulp reference?).
Postiljonen is the next big Swedish export, and they have delivered a stunning debut album in “Skyer”. I can only describe the Stockholm-based trio’s music as panoramic, multi-textured road-trip synth-pop. The ’80s synth and sax riffs are larger than life, while wispy, murmuring vocals are mixed like an afterdream, hazy and unobtrusive, interspersed with dialogue samples from unidentified, possibly non-existent films. As is the case with shoegazing dream-pop, due of its unique construct, you probably won’t remember much of the lyrics or melodies, but there’s enough ear candy to keep coming back and peel at the layers. The 10-track album is short and sweet, with the more upbeat numbers (Supreme, We Raise Our Hearts, Skying High) sequenced in between ambient, filmic ones (Rivers, Plastic Panorama). There is also an unlikely, spectral cover take on Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, gloomily retitled as “All That We Had Is Lost”. “Atlantis” – the current single – makes a perfect album closer, thanks to its monster saxophone action and a nocturnal, melancholic back-of-a-taxi-cab mood. If you like M83, or The Naked And Famous, then Postiljonen’s widescreen after-hours pop is for you.
Check out the music video for Atlantis below, and album highlight “We Raise Our Hearts”.
STREAM: Postiljonen – We Raise Our Hearts
Cloaked in mystery, Solomon Grey is the latest signing to Black Butter Records. There’s next to nothing about him/them online, but that he’s on the hottest UK dance label right now is a coup in itself. The gorgeous artwork depicting nighttime cityscape just piqued my curiosity even more. So I clicked play.
And I hit repeat, again and again.
“Gen V” is an exquisite piece of widescreen downtempo electronica. With cascading synths and soulful vocals, the beautifully produced track operates within a nocturnal solitary world. “Inside it’s raining… always”, the male protagonist sings in melancholy. The song is a cross between Rhye, Air, and the Drive soundtrack. It’s a total stunner.
STREAM: Solomon Grey – Gen V (Edit)
Here are SIX facts you need to know about our latest Popforward act Rebeka.
1. Rebeka are Iwona Skwarek and Bartosz Szczęsny. Those happen to be Polish names. You can see why they settled for Rebeka instead.
2. Their current single is “Melancholia”. You can’t go wrong with a song called “Melancholia”.
3. If you quite like Goldfrapp, Ladytron, The Knife and other bands from Europe that make modern/spooksome synth-pop, you will like this.
4. The music video features some very nice plants.
5. You can grab a FREE mp3 of the track right here!
Actually, you can download a free Moullinex remix too.
6. Their debut album “Hallada” is available to buy in all the usual places. If you’re more of a streaming type, find it on Spotify.
Not complacent about “Motorway” being one of her finest tracks to date, British disco siren/DJ Little Boots has expanded the atmospheric Nocturnes opening track to a swirling 7-minute epic joy ride. Billed as the “Little Boots Discotheque Edit”, the eargasmic extended version should please any fan of disco beats, bongo drums and vintage synths. To sweeten the deal, Victoria is kind enough to offer it up as a free mp3 download, so you can sync it to your iPod, add it to your getaway playlist, blast it in your car and driiiive away.
Seriously loving this.
And just in case you haven’t heard the original, it’s still available as a free download too!
White Lies are back with a brand new beat! Nah jk they’re still the same old demure chaps. In fact, the frontman’s sporting a new beard so they’re probably even more serious about their craft this time around etc.
Jokes aside, as far as stadium rock bands go, they’ve had a pretty strong listenable single run, and now that Muse are inching further towards self-parody territory, we need new bleak-but-catchy British indie rock to fill up our quota. “Getting Even”, the first track from their upcoming third album “Big TV”, introduces the addition of synths, which make it sound not a mile away from The Killers’ output. I find the “I can forgive/ And we can forget” bits irritatingly catchy too. Best of all, it’s a guilt-free download!
The proper lead single is called “There Goes Our Love Again”, and it’s not half bad either.
STREAM: White Lies – There Goes Our Love Again
Perfect summer indie pop alert!
The Proper Ornaments are my new favorite Soundcloud discovery. Their new single “Waiting For The Summer” is everything I wanted in a song with that title. The UK band lovingly crafts that timeless jangle-pop sound: dreamy, short and sweet, and more than ideal for a sunny day in the park. This was so good I immediately searched for all their past releases to listen. Apparently, one of the band members James Hoare is also in Veronica Falls, another favorite English indie band of mine, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Take my word for it, press play and enjoy.
STREAM: The Proper Ornaments – Waiting For The Summer
And here’s the equally lovely b-side “Candy”:
STREAM: The Proper Ornaments – Candy
Bonus points for the band name, which I presume to be an homage to a Free Design song of the same name.
“Waiting For The Summer” is out now on Lo Recordings. Their album is expected for a late summer release. In the meantime, grab a free download of a track from 2011, “Shining Bright”.
Way back in 2005, British duo The Boy Least Likely To released “Be Gentle With Me”, a perfect indie pop song with an adorable video featuring animal puppets playing instruments and a pre-Office Rashida Jones playing the manic pixie dream girl. 8 years later, for their third studio album “The Great Perhaps”, Owen & Pete Hobbs are still hopelessly twee, quietly chucking out little pop gems about the woes of love and growing up. New single “It Could’ve Been Me” is one of its (many) highlights. A duet with the ever-lovely Gwenno Saunders from The Pipettes, it finally got a suitably meet-cute music video which you can view right below. Just try not to grow anime eyes all over afterwards. You’ve been warned.
I love it when a song/artist came out of nowhere and elicited a strong response in me. The mysterious London-based Oscar Scheller only has 3 songs on his Soundcloud, but “Never Told You” is the one to check. By first listen, I was taken aback by how it all feels so instant and familiar, down to the rave piano chords. It took me right back to 2006, the height of my twee pop phase, during which there was a resurgence of these fey indie kids making catchy C86-inspired bedroom pop with Morrissey and Sarah Records as their blueprint. I still have fond memories of discovering that scene for the first time, and “Never Told You” sounds just like it came from that period, like it belongs on Labrador Records beside Suburban Kids With Biblical Names. Twee-pop has that nostalgic yet ageless quality. You can try to grow up, but the twee it stays, waiting for a nice sunny day to pop back in for a cup of tea. Lovely, lovely stuff.
STREAM: Oscar – Never Told You
DJ Koze is a name I’m familiar with, having listened to his countless remixes and productions during my IDM phase a few years back. Apparently, the German DJ/producer just released his first solo album in 9 years entitled “Amygdala” (bonkers artwork above), with help from an all-star cast of featured vocalists like Dan Snaith of Caribou, Matthew Dear, and crooner-du-jour Milosh of Rhye fame. However, much to my surprise, track 6 featuring Ada is actually a cover of Kings of Convenience! “Homesick” is a lovely cut on their 2004 album “Riot on an Empty Street”, and Koze’s version does not stray too far away from the original. Just don’t expect any radical rave-up, for it’s a simple, laidback groove with mellow hip-hop beats and robotic, yet organic vocals. It’s already at the top of my essential summer playlist. Check out the breezy cover below.
STREAM: DJ Koze – Homesick feat. Ada
Ironically, on another cool track called “Track ID Anyone?”, Caribou actually sounds a lot like Erlend Oye!
STREAM: DJ Koze feat. Caribou – Track ID Anyone?
Safe to say I need to queue up this album on Spotify, then. Love me some oddball European electronica.
Laura Marling is the Rihanna of folk. On to her fourth album in 5 years, the prolific Brit folk darling just unleashed her new single “Master Hunter” last week, and it’s a change of wind for her. It’s been a while since I heard something this upbeat from Laura, but that trademark visceral melancholy in most of her songs is not lost here.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Master Hunter
“Where Can I Go?” is another strong cut from her forthcoming album “Once I Was An Eagle”. After 3 solid albums, I have no doubt this next one will be yet another challenging but rewarding listen. Her albums always take time to marinate and grow, but once they do, oh boy do they do.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Where Can I Go?
You can also watch a nice trailer for her upcoming short film for another track, “When Brave Bird Saved”:
Leave it to Empire of the Sun to build up a proper comeback. After an ridiculously epic next-level-Indiana-Jones-shit trailer, the Aussie duo has finally premiered their new single “Alive”. Effervescent and uplifting, the stomping track is the perfect re-introduction to Luke & Nick’s brand of youthful, summery electro-pop. And if the trailer is any indication for the music video, we’re in for a real treat. So get ready to soak up the sun, jump in the pool, and look out for the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort “Ice on the Dune” due in June.
STREAM: Empire Of The Sun – Alive
Watch the album trailer:
Empress Of is the moniker of Lorely Rodriguez, Brooklyn-based songstress signed to Terrible Records, label home of Solange and Chairlift. Considering the label’s pedigree, it should come as no surprise that her new track “Hat Trick” is a total dream-pop choon. It’s subdued, ethereal ’80s synth-pop at its smoothest, with slick production and silky sweet vocals. In a nutshell, it sounds like St. Vincent produced by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange). The only flaw I can find is that it’s too damn short! With this, Empress Of has unofficially joined the like-minded crystal-ball pop league of Twin Sister, Class Actress and Glasser. Now excuse me while I go hit repeat one more time.
STREAM: Empress Of – Hat Trick