I’ve been trying to get a Pearl And The Puppets song on MAP since January, but the politics involved in obtaining permission to share a track by an artist signed to a major label meant my request went unresolved for most of the year.
While getting dropped by Universal Republic/Island Records this summer was obviously a bummer for Katie Sutherland, the good news is that it has allowed me to let you hear and exclusively download this recording of Little Diamonds, which she self-financed. Every cloud, eh?
Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a .zip file of the whole 35-track compilation via MediaFire.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Pearl And The Puppets – Little Diamonds
We join Pearl And The Puppets at a career crossroads, with Katie Sutherland having split from her record label this summer before she had the chance to release a debut album. While the Glasgow-based singer is better known for her radio-pleasing acoustic pop, Little Diamonds takes an altogether more refined approach, with Katie whispering her lyrics over gentle piano notes and subtle string work. The best is yet to come from this lass.
September 16, Abertay Union, Dundee
December 1, Oran Mor, Glasgow (tickets)
Hernán Martínez y Las Estrellas – Revolución En Verano
Hernán Martínez was the man behind Voltura, a magnificent but rather unkown indie-pop band from Buenos Aires’s underground music scene (they only recorded two EPs, which are free to download from here and here). Revolución De Verano is Martínez’s first solo album, released by Perinola Discos and recorded with his band Las Estrellas. As with previous EPs by Martinez and Voltura, his songs are both catchy and melancholic. Revolución En Verano is the first single from the album.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Royal Headache – Down The Lane
After a couple of years of drip-feeding 7″, CD-R and cassette releases, the time has arrived for the release of Royal Headache’s debut album. Down The Lane is a great introduction to Royal Headache and shows exactly why people are so excited about them.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
4instrumental – Não Mais
4instrumental is a band whose sound is influenced by the history of Sabará, a city founded 400 years ago, while permeated by that kind of constant search for renewal typical of rock and roll. They’re prog rockers, but also funky, jazzy and experimental, as you can hear in Não Mais, from their first EP, released two months ago. The quartet are activists of a way of life that believes culture is a means of social transformation. They travel through the country expanding this idea while making people feel some catharsis with their instrumental music.
Zoo Legacy – Shockwave
Is it hip-hop? Rock? R&B? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that Zoo Legacy create music that’s a genre-bending mish-mash, and they do it extremely well.
CHILE: Super 45
Fakuta – Aeropuerto
Fakuta is one of the best bets in the current Chilean musical scene. Behind that moniker, architect Pamela Sepúlveda builds introspective synth-pop songs filled with detailed soundscapes and warm textures. Aeropuerto (“Airport”) is the second single from her debut album Al Vuelo, available for free at her website.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Siamese Fighting Fish – A Liar Cried Wolf
In early 2011, alternative metal six-piece Siamese Fighting Fish released their grand debut album We Are The Sound, which this site’s metalhead, Thomas Brunstrøm, suggested you check out if you’d like to know “what it would sound like if Muse, System Of A Down and Incubus went on stage in a metal club in Sarajevo and tried to out-weird each other. Featuring a guy playing the violin.” At the end of August, the gang released epic new single A Liar Cried Wolf, which is a MAP download exclusive.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
Spotlight Kid – Haunting Me
Twenty years ago, there was grunge, and there was shoegazing, and that was pretty much it for the alternative rock scene. Spotlight Kid wonderfully evoke that era when My Bloody Valentine meant more than the Beatles and the Stones combined, and every young band was in thrall to the sound of MBV’s Isn’t Anything album and wanted to be signed to Creation – that is, Creation B.O. (Before Oasis), when it was all radiant guitars and ethereal, billowing, androgynous boy/girl harmonies. Spotlight Kid don’t come from the Thames Valley like their forebears (they’re from Nottingham) but everything else about them screams – or rather, sighs and shimmers – shoegaze.
Taavi Peterson & Üdi – Tibet Ocean
Singer Taavi Peterson got his first taste of fame in 2007 from the first series of the Estonian version of Pop Idol, coming third, but he decided to turn his back on the shiny pop world. The band Üdi (“bone marrow”) was formed in 2008 and their plan is to keep their hearts in the 60s but minds in the present day and make helluva good music. Is it possible for one band to change something? That’s what they are trying to find out.
The New Tigers – Pocketful Of Sand
From the west coast of Finland, The New Tigers are a guitar-driven pop band that might remind you of Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth or Galaxie 500. On their debut album, The New Tigers show an austere sound straight from the rehearsal room with no unnecessary embellishments. Loud guitars are all over the album and extend the songs with some good jams, but the band never forgets to include a good pop melody.
FRANCE: Yet You’re Fired
Pendentif – Riviera
These days you see “pop” in every review you read and, over time, it even had bad connotations, as if it was the simplest music you can create. In fact, we forgot we could be surprised by it, and Pendentif are here to remind us of how great pop is, not by reinventing it, but by offering highly enjoyable pop songs, using the best the genre has to offer. Signed to the same label as previous MAP band Young Michelin, Bulle Sonore Records, they are just as great and sing in French as well.
Dear Reader – MONKEY (You Can Go Home)
Dear Reader’s debut was subtle in a folky way; the second album, Idealistic Animals, continues this promising cachet in a more janiform way. South African Cherilyn Macneil decided after some soul-searching about conscience and religion that she needed a change and now lives in Berlin, continuing Dear Reader as a solo project. Although her lyrics are very intense and profound, the music seems breezy and effortless, which makes a great and lasting combination.
Your Hand In Mine – A Boy And The Birds
Your Hand In Mine present a deeply personal sense of chamber music and an emotive, atmospheric dreamworld through intricate arrangements, waltzing rhythms, fluttering accordions, mandolins, delicate glockenspiels, woozy laments and beautiful, melancholic melodies that conjure a cinematic romanticism. Their second album, The Garden Novels, is a testament to the versatility and adventurousness of their sound, where nine sonic novels, nine small stories told in a fictional garden, are transcribed into warm and intimate musical notes.
ICELAND: Icelandic Music Maffia
Samaris – Hljóma Þú
Samaris consist of singer Jófríður Ákadóttir, computer programmer Þórður Kári Steinþórsson and clarinet player Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, three students from Reykjavík aged 17-18 who came together in January 2011. The trio plays a mixture of trip-hop, dubstep and downtempo beats. This year they won the Icelandic battle-of-the-bands competition Músíktilraunir. Hljóma Þú is the title track of their first EP.
Jirapah – Crime
Jirapah duo Ken Jenie and Mar Galo are lovers, both Indonesian students who stayed in Brooklyn. But Ken is currently living in Jakarta, partly because of the good reception their music has received in the capital’s indie scene, where he has started playing live with several other musicians. Their music can be described as something dreamy, layered and lo-fi.
Alarmist – Giraffe Centre
Intricate melodies intertwine and search for ears in Dublin band Alarmist’s Giraffe Centre, taken from their brilliant self-titled five-track EP. Like Tortoise and Battles, this band are all about turbo-charged but beautiful instrumentation.
Three In One Gentleman Suit – Green Riots
Pure is the fourth album by Three In One Gentleman Suit, a band that keeps getting better and better. Moving from post-rock and math beginnings, TIOGS developed their own style – a kind of Modest Mouse epicness with more synth and samples, and with an incredibly strong live impact. You can download Pure for free from the band’s website.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
Miila And The Geeks – New Age
Miila And The Geeks grab familiar elements of rock music and contort them into slightly disturbing shapes. New Age, the title track to their recently released debut, uses simple repetition and jittery drumming to turn what could have been a by-the-numbers garage rock song into a captivating, no-wave-inspired number. Yet it is the saxophone popping up at various moments, seemingly blessed with a mind of its own, which really cements New Age as a fascinating listen.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta
Hunters Palace – Tal-Metall
Hunters Palace was initially an indie-folk outfit with a tendency to lay on some psychedelic improvisational grooves, but has recently evolved into a power trio playing abrasive free rock. Its core membership has always comprised two people, Peter Sant and Alex Vella Gera, but over the years others have contributed to the band’s sound including Adolf Formosa and Vinicius Duarte. The track on offer, Tal-Metall, is a krautrock-ish assault meaning to be a dance anthem.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
Juan Cirerol – Corrido Chicalor
Storytelling and improvisation are two qualities rarely seen among musicians nowadays, since abstract compositions and studio over-productions rule the landscape. Enter Juan Cirerol, a twenty-something guitar-yielding cantina troubadour from the desertic Mexico-U.S. frontier city of Mexicali, all-stereotyped with pointy boots, worn-out cowboy shirt and a Johnny Cash square-jawed grin. With a carefree, nomadic take on the music business, Juan is kind of an outlaw riding a black horse into the shy, dusty streets of the Mexican indie scene. Nobody saw him coming and now everybody is talking about this charming youngster. If you feel attracted to this stranger, download his debut from the Vale Vergas Discos site.
NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam
houses – Walk Away
This young Amsterdam-based quintet share in an unashamed love of North American indie guitar pop, spending the past decade absorbing the melodies and atmospherics of bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Stars and Broken Social Scene. It’s most noticeable in how their guitarist and keyboardist duel over shimmering riffs, while their choruses naturally soar as Ella van der Woude’s sweet and airy Feist-esque voice is lifted by the urgency of the rhythm section. Following plenty of local gigging and a self-released EP in 2010 that perked up the ears of local radio, their debut album Clean Life is released on September 19.
NEW ZEALAND: Einstein Music Journal
Jon Lemmon – Exodus I
When asked to make a summery pop song for a compilation, US-born New Zealand-based artist Jon Lemmon set about writing a tune about the end of the world. Exodus I is a lush and enigmatic opus, boasting everything from honky-tonk piano to squelchy synth bass and an incredibly catchy wordless vocal singalong in the chorus. Lemmon shows his breakout potential with this huge song from his forthcoming album that he’s aiming to release by the end of October.
NORWAY: Birds Sometimes Dance
Mikhael Paskalev – I Spy
Mikhael Paskalev is an astonishing young talent from deep within the fjords of Norway. He makes joyful folk pop that sometimes resembles Port O’Brien, Slow Club and other indie folk acts, yet also with a certain regard for the old ones, like The Everly Brothers. We can’t wait for his debut album due out next year.
Moldes – Trés Malade
Among the noise, psychedelia and experimentation, Moldes, a quartet formed by two boys and two girls in 2008, released their first album in August 2010 to good reviews. Trés Malade is a song that comes from a French poem written by Katia De la Cruz.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Iconoclasts – Stranger In A Strange Land
Iconoclasts first appeared on MAP in 2009 and they keep on rocking. At last, the band’s debut album, Mt. Erikson, is released this month. Stranger In A Strange Land shows just why they are one of the most promising acts from Lisbon. Pump up the volume.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
We Singing Colors – There When You Sleep
We Singing Colors is the side project of Andrei Hațegan from indie band The Amsterdams. The boy/girl vocals, the exploration of simple sounds and everyday noise, and the melodic themes approached from a different angle create a very intimate pop atmosphere.
RUSSIA: Big Echo
Synecdoche Montauk – Infinitely Many Primes
Summer is almost gone and now it’s time for calm and beautiful melodies, so I guess Infinitely Many Primes suits the weather perfectly. Acoustic guitar, violin and abstract lyrics create a complicated mood that mixes calmness, nervous, sweetness and melancholy. Synecdoche Montauk say their album is nearly finished so hopefully it will be available before the end of the year.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Hanging Up The Moon – Water Under The Bridge
Hanging Up The Moon is the self-titled debut album and solo project of Sean Lam, best known for fronting Singaporean band Concave Scream. After an extended hiatus, Sean’s return to songwriting has been welcomed by many, especially for his minimalist and introspective approach. The songs in this album, which you can pay as you wish for at his website, were birthed in the stillness of the night before dawn breaks. You can just imagine the quiet corner where these carefully-crafted songs were committed to recording, without a squeak or whimper; and when each track is done, only a still air lingering.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
EJ Von Lyrik, Isaac Mutant and Teba – Goldmine (Shockwave Edit)
The sounds of funky Cape Town hip-hop artists EJ Von Lyrik, Isaac Mutant and Teba shine through this month as they combine their talents on Goldmine (Shockwave Edit). Each artist brings their own unique South African feel and musical style which reflects the melting pot that is Cape Town. It’s fun, fresh and has a funky feel that is sure to get heads nodding and feet tapping.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Ninesin – Arena
Although competition is tough, Ninesin is one of the best hardcore acts Korea has to offer. Following the remarkable The Death, We Will Face from 2009, their second full-length album comes out this month. Arena is the first track revealed from the self-titled release. It has a shotgun beat and shows Ninesin’s characteristic grasp of good melody.
The Suicide Of Western Culture – The Italian Chapel
The Suicide Of Western Culture have become one of the most successful Spanish electronic bands. They have, so far, supported Animal Collective in their last visit to Barcelona and played at the most important festivals in Spain and even in Berlin’s Popkomm. With a post-rock soul, as epic and ethereal as Explosions In The Sky but as intimate as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, they have released an eponymous album filled with their thoughts and emotions; the final result is a highly visceral and passionate record.
Vampyramiden – Pyromanens Dotter
Vampyramiden are still serving up strangely appealing Swedish-language indie pop. The band’s new EP (which has a fantastic cover) is called Teenage Destiny and I can only guess the lyrics are some sort of combination of teenage angst, wizarding mythology and, of course, vampires.
San Marino – Strangers To Ourselves
Since there’s no music blog representing San Marino, we came across a nice substitute in the form of a Swiss band pleading the country’s music case. San Marino hail from Zurich and represent not only the small country in the heart of Italy, but do so as well for Switzerland’s surf-indie-pop conscience. Their debut album was released in May.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
THE-DRUM – Omar
Much like their Chicago brethren Supreme Cuts and How To Dress Well, THE-DRUM are catalysts for precognitive future-music, hybridizing molasses-slow R&B vocals against shockwaves of percussion and echoing synth melodies. The results are as vibrant and unique as they are compelling, and Omar, released just two weeks ago, is perhaps their best experiment yet.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Los Expresidentes – Te Rodeo En El Rodeo
It is impossible to listen to this band and not think of a film about the Old West and imagine American cowboys on their horses. Los Expresidentes make an interesting, enjoyable fusion of punk rock, country and rockabilly. Their debut album, Lanzados Al Rodeo, has fun lyrics and a really contagious rhythm.