This is the third anniversary edition of the Music Alliance Pact, the inter-blogging project I started in October 2008 to showcase the best of the globe’s music on the 15th of every month and tell the world about some of the finest up-and-coming artists Scotland has to offer. You can investigate the previous 36 selections via the MAP Archive on the right-hand sidebar – most of the free mp3s are still downloadable either individually or collectively.
This month’s pick is Panda Su. Raised in the Highlands but now living in St Andrews, the 24-year-old is a talent to cherish. Both Panda Su and I Begin were recently featured in an STV profile (from which the photo above is taken) – watch the 60-second clip here and be sure to buy some Panda Su merch.
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 34-track compilation via MediaFire.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Panda Su – I Begin
The title track of Panda Su’s second EP illustrates her appeal: dark, intelligent pop with all sense of vulnerability left intact. Apart from her occasional on-stage face paint, the Panda Su package is never black and white. Her music often draws on experimental sounds, but never at the expense of melody. Her lyrics, both fragile and cryptic, demand attention – I Begin finds Su repeating the poignant lines, “I should try to remember/I should try to forget”. It’s apt that Su Shaw named the outlet for her music after an endangered creature – songs of this quality really are rather rare.
November 13, The Tunnels, Aberdeen (tickets)
Flopa/Minimal – Atolondrón
A couple of months ago, the indie supergroup formed by Flopa Lestani, Mariano “Manza” Esaín and Ariel Minimal reunited for several sold-out concerts in Buenos Aires. The experience was so positive that Flopa and Minimal decided to step into the studio to record some songs, and the result is an EP called Reducción de Daños. Atolondrón was written by Flopa and is our favorite track from it, but you can download the whole EP for free from their website.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Option Command – Break Even
Option Command (who has previously released gorgeous music under the name Broken Chip) hails from the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. Where his former project often focused on texture and mood, Option Command is a more beat-oriented project. Break Even sounds like playing Atari in a canyon, and is a good blend of the two musical personas. Both are worth checking out.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Lirinha – Adebayor
Jose de Paes Lira, best known as Lirinha, is the former vocalist of Brazilian group Cordel do Fogo Encantado, who have produced some of the most consistent works in terms of updating regional sounds from Brazil’s northeast. In Lirinha’s first solo album, the results are somewhere between alternative rock and a new take on mangue beat. His excellent CD is available for free download at his website.
Sound Of Lions – Enders
Yes, Sound Of Lions borrow somewhat liberally from 90s trip-hop generally, and Portishead in particular. However, as Enders – and the rest of their debut, 11:44 – demonstrates, they’re so good at making the old genre sound fresh and new, it’s easy to overlook a little thievery when the end results are so incredibly listenable.
CHILE: Super 45
Nuevacosta – Todo Fácil
Four-piece outfit Nuevacosta released their debut offering, Costa Brava EP (available for free at their website) this year under the Casa Joven and Espacio Cellar labels. Through these six songs, the band explores new wave sounds and early 90s Chilean pop, creating dark, lo-fi, atmospheric soundscapes.
Eat Alien’s Brain – Sick Body Dance
Eat Alien’s Brain are an electro duo from Chengdu, who formed in August 2010. Loco and Umar, both in their early 20s, use music to express their attitude towards freedom. Their sound is hard to define – electro/dance with a bit of Nintendocore/chiptune/crunk. They were highly recommended by the NME, who described them as “Crystal Castle bound up with Burial and Sepultura”.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Laura Drescher – I Do I Will
I can’t really tell you much about Laura Drescher other than she was born in Spain, raised in Denmark, and that she released both an EP (Polyest) and an album (Hallucinations Of A Good Life) last year. Oh, and she’s not sore on the eyes either. It’s gloomy and groovy electronica – here represented by I Do I Will from Hallucinations Of A Good Life – and if you like what you hear, head for SoundCloud where you can download both album and EP for free.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
Daley – Smoking Gun
A new blue-eyed soul boy from Manchester, Gareth “Daley” Daley looks set to be the first genuinely interesting British artist to operate in that area since David McAlmont or Lewis Taylor. He was a nominee on this year’s BBC Sound of 2011 poll, has already tasted chart success, having sung on Long Way Home from Wretch 32’s top-5 debut album as well as on the Gorillaz track Doncamatic, which he co-wrote with Damon Albarn. Now he’s signed to A&M and working on his own debut album, due out in 2012, with Suede guitarist and Duffy producer Bernard Butler as well as Dre of Dre & Vidal (Alicia Keys, Usher) and Shea Taylor (Ne-Yo, Beyoncé).
Koria Kitten Riot – An Anthem From The 80’s
Koria Kitten Riot is the project of singer-songwriter Antti Reikko and it brings well-crafted pop songs, full of detail and ambitious instrumentation. It puts together the intimacy of the songwriter and grandiose arrangements in a manner that reminds us of Bright Eyes. An Anthem From The 80’s is a melancholic song about long-gone happy times and is taken from Koria Kitten Riot’s second album, The Lows & The Highs, out this month.
BOY – This Is The Beginning
BOY are a little hyped in Germany right now. Valeska and Sonja just released their debut Mutual Friends via Groenland Records, which features warm and cosy folk-pop songs. They are written and sung so well that you instantly forget summer was awful this year and start enjoying the Indian summer.
The You And What Army Faction – I Used A Blade To Carve Me A New Smile
The You And What Army Faction set their distortion pedals on stun and amplify each strummed string to produce a crushing, absorbing and raw wall-of-sound repetition where chaos and beauty ravish each other within the same song. Their artful contrasts and angular arrangements are imbued with instrumental dexterity and coherent ideas and balanced between formlessness and structure, melody and cacophony. Here’s a vibrating preview from their upcoming sophomore album.
ICELAND: Icelandic Music Maffia
Ruddinn – Cover The Distance
Ruddinn is one guy, Bertel Ólafsson from Hafnarfjörður, who has released three albums to date. Ruddinn works primarily alone but receives a helping hand occasionally. He mixes electro pop with indie guitar and a dash of 80s shoegaze. Cover The Distance, a track from his third album I Need A Vacation, features Heiða Eiríksdóttir of the band Hellvar on vocals.
BRNDLS – Start Bleeding
BRNDLS have helped shape today’s Indonesian garage rock scene with their harsh sound, raw attitude and foul-mouthed frontman. Also known as The Brandals, they have just brought out their latest album that stole the XTRMNTR concept and delivered their most well-produced release to date.
Tieranniesaur – In The Sargasso
Strutting disco-infused funky indie tunes that recall the experimental new wave pop visions of ESG and Tom Tom Club don’t come by every day. So Tieranniesaur standout. This Irish six-piece revel in fun, old-school danceable thrills and their self-titled debut album is one of the best releases Ireland has to offer this year.
A Classic Education – Forever Boy
Produced by Jarvis Taveniere of Woods, Call It Blazing is undoubtedly the most eagerly-awaited indie rock album in Italy this year, but not only in Italy. A Classic Education have released two EPs and a single, traveled the US, Canada and UK, played SXSW and CMJ, and are touring Europe with British Sea Power right now. They are definitely one of the best things to have happened to the music in my country in the past decade. Their sound is magnificent, warm, ambitious and timeless.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
Canopies And Drapes – Sleeping Under The Bed
Sleeping Under The Bed twinkles from the get-go, Tokyo solo artist Canopies And Drapes setting up a glowing dream of a song about hearts melting like ice cream and perfect lovers. Yet this, the highlight off her debut EP, conceals some darkness around the corners. The minimalist structure allows for some chilly synths to stand out, and then she steps back from all the gooey love talk for a frank final line: “Where should I go? I got lost.” It sounds gorgeous from the start, but grows more complicated with time.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta
Beangrowers – The Priest
Beangrowers are a rare and delicate breed of band – managing to be intelligent without being ponderous, fun without being silly, outrageously poppy without being cheesy, and rocking without being clichéd or predictable. This female-fronted three-piece are Malta’s biggest music exports, with a following on both sides of the Atlantic. This track is from their album Dance Dance Baby, which has just been re-released digitally.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
Robota – Troqueladora
Dystopian scenarios are inherent to industrial music, with narratives and textures well explored by artists on the Mute roster – from Throbbing Gristle and The Normal, to Suicide and Add (N) to X. Mexico City trio Robota particularly share Add (N) to X’s aesthetic based on a vintage electronic junk sado-fetishism. Troqueladora is taken from their “vibrant” second album, Vulgar Display Of Power. No, there’s no relation with Pantera other than pure cyber-punk irony.
NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam
Chris Kok – Sounds Of Sirens
Since studying ‘pop’ at the Amsterdam Conservatory, Chris Kok has spent the past couple of years working on songcraft and stepping out to play live at every opportunity – be it contests, open mic nights, festivals or art openings – all while freely distributing his music online. The graft seems to be paying off, and now working with a full band, even his most intimate acoustic troubadour pieces are taking epic turns. Sounds Of Sirens is the kind of atmospheric pop Snow Patrol should be making, and that’s merely one template from his sonic arsenal. Look out for a full album from Kok and his band Civil Union later this year, plus listen to his new self-titled acoustic EP (including a version of Sounds Of Sirens) on Bandcamp.
NEW ZEALAND: Einstein Music Journal
St. Rupertsberg – In Albania
Wellington octet St Rupertsberg began in 2009 when Kate Whelen assembled a group of female musicians to start a rather unique band. Now, after gaining rave reviews from critics and audience members at this year’s Campus A Low Hum festival, word of the group’s musical prowess has spread. Performing together like a multi-talented musical circus, the band members take turns playing various instruments, including trumpets, clarinets, trombones, synthesisers and percussion. But the main highlight is an all-inclusive vocal chorus. Their debut EP is available now from Bandcamp.
NORWAY: Birds Sometimes Dance
Autonomia – Steiner Å Stå På
Autonomia are a great and hidden gem from the large underground of Norwegian music, with members from veteran bands such as Freeshine, Dunderhonning and Far From Tellus. Singing in Norwegian, their music is eclectic and it can shift from sweet and rough indie-pop with Hüsker Dü guitars to long, slow and heavy post-rock/post-hardcore anthems reminiscent of bands like Envy and Neurosis.
Royalvalet – Escorpio y Rimel
Royalvalet is a project formed by musicians who had their beginnings in other bands. When it comes to composing a song, each member gives his contribution with full freedom, there are no creative limitations. Led by Salim Vera, Royalvalet began in March 2010 and have released three highly creative rock singles to date.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
The Klinton Kings – Rulin’
The Klinton Kings is the project of Lewis M, a recent graduate of Oporto College of Arts and Music. He has just a few songs available online. However, his most promising single, Rulin’, which was recently available on a CD of new Portuguese acts, transmits a maturity and creativity rarely heard in most first singles. A debut album is expected in 2012.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Moonlight Breakfast – Still
Self-characterized as a retro electro band, Moonlight Breakfast is one of the freshest presences on the Romanian alternative music stage. In only a couple of months after getting together for this project, they reached the top position in Romania’s alternative radio charts.
RUSSIA: Big Echo
InWhite – Sea
One of the cutest Russian indie-pop bands, InWhite is looking forward to their upcoming album. Sea is a beautiful piano-driven song that can carry you away from a seaside to the storm.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Etc – Big Girl’s Blouse
Etc is truly one of Singapore’s best-kept secrets. There are no fancy fashions or trends associated with the duo of Ben Harrison and Harvey Chamberlain, just well-written guitar-rock to a steady beat. Harrison’s jangle-raggedy guitar work is exciting and tasteful enough to balance perfectly atop Chamberlain’s near-primal approach to the beat, yet also easy enough for that slacker sway. They have an album in the works, but we’ll make do with their generous online singles in the meantime.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
140 – Say It Better
Meet your new favourite power-pop, tongue-in-cheek, somewhat satirical band. Meet 140. They recently released their debut single Say It Better, a synth-drenched pop song. But not to be stereotyped or confined, the band’s next single could range from indie-rock to anything they feel their listeners would like. With a unique, zany and out-there approach, 140 is band whose mantra is to do things differently. In fact, it’s experimentation that will keep everyone engaged and interested in this provoking new set of creatives.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Mighty Coala – Seoul
Indie-pop band Mighty Coala has been around for many years, but it wasn’t until this month that their first album For Bright And Healthy Mornings, mixed by Yeol Park of August MAP band Pigibit5, was released. With a preference for short songs that are both fun to play and listen to, Mighty Coala offer a rich sound with plenty of curiosities. Seoul is an uplifting tune dedicated to the city where they live and the city they love.
Las Tocayas – Hombres
Las Tocayas, despite their name, are not an all-girl band; they’re actually two girls and a boy who met through an internet forum dedicated to Spanish indie band Los Planetas. If we said that their influences include The Flaming Lips, Surfin’ Bichos, Nacho Vegas and The National, you wouldn’t believe us, but, yes, we mean it. Their music can be described as hedonistic and their lyrics are rather irreverent and joyful. Maybe, as they confess, they’re more inspired by everyday life, television, their gossiping neighbours and Jon Secada. Hombres is a hilarious ode to men and what we can and cannot expect from them.
Poor Lifestyle – These Times
Hardcore and punk should be immediate and Poor Lifestyle certainly is. You may argue that this song is breaking no new ground and I’d say you’re right – that’s the beauty of it. This song will be coming out in Sweden on a split 7″ with friends The Wallrides sometime soon.
Evelinn Trouble – I’m On Fire
Evelinn Trouble has, in her still very young career, gone through some major changes. The Zurich resident started off as an 18-year-old releasing a very intimate singer-songwriter record, alone in her bedroom. She was soon discovered and heartened by the Swiss indie scene and last month brought out her sophomore record Television Religion, which presents her as a ‘femme fatale’. It’s great pleasure seeing her grow.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Young Man – Enough
The compositions of Colin Caulfield, playing under the moniker Young Man, have come full circle on his latest LP titled Ideas Of Distance. An achingly beautiful album with more layers than an Arctic explorer, Enough is a track that boils up slowly like water left on the stove. Except each rising bubble is a different sonic explosion and instead of bursting on the surface in watery, translucent explosion, you can see the melodic colors dispersing in swirls of steam.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Limpiacabezales – Mérida
Limpiacabezales was formed in 1998 by Claudio Sanchez, Orlando Toro and Carlos Eljuri. After a few shows in several cities across Venezuela, they released their first EP this year, which features five songs that serve as a teaser for their album, expected to come out later this year.