Welcome to the 40th edition of the Music Alliance Pact, which takes a monthly snapshot of the world’s best new acts according to music blogs from their countries of origin.
For the first MAP of 2012, I’ve gone for Make Sparks, who have been getting stronger and stronger with every release and have a penchant for making attention-grabbing promo videos (see The Pop Cop feature here). Keep an eye out for their new Part Of The Masquerade EP which comes out on February 28.
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 36-track compilation here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Make Sparks – Your Heart’s On Fire
Scotland’s rock scene is firmly in the spotlight thanks to the wildly successful exploits of Biffy Clyro and young pretenders Twin Atlantic. For those looking for the next band to follow in their footsteps, two contenders stand out: Make Sparks and LightGuides (featured in the July 2010 edition of MAP). Catchy choruses are fitted as standard on Make Sparks, who are making all the right noises with their relentless touring and recording ethic, slick promo videos and a vivacious pop sensibility.
Nubes En Mi Casa – Aceleremos
Nubes En Mi Casa is an indie-pop band led by singer Josefina Mac Loughlin. Aceleremos is a preview from their upcoming second studio album, Me Suelto y Vuelvo. The song sounds like an instant hit and we’re sure it will become one of our favorite tracks of 2012, so we can’t wait to hear the rest of it.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Sures – The Sun
The Sun is a short burst of sunshine from Sydney duo Sures. It sounds like a Beach Boys outtake, which might sound boring given the number of bands out there paying homage to Wilson and Co. Fortunately, The Sun is just two minutes of harmonising over a dull melody – it’s a catchy tune that will have those of us in the southern hemisphere pressing repeat throughout summer.
Diver – Illusions
Quiet is the new loud. Diver, a folky trio from various places in Austria and Germany and now based in Vienna, play beautifully melancholic songs with three acoustic guitars and lyrics that go “everyday reality is an illusion of possibilities”. Illusions is the opener of their first full-length album Kites, which will be out later this month. In the meantime you can listen to their self-titled debut EP on Bandcamp.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Bixiga 70 – Balboa Da Silva
Bixiga 70 is what happens when you combine African beats, jazz and Brazilian swing in a city as hectic as São Paulo, where they’re from. Their first CD was released last year and is available to download at the band’s website.
Honheehonhee – We Only Go
There’s more than a hint of early Arcade Fire to We Only Go but, as someone who misses early Arcade Fire, I don’t see why that’s a strike against Honheehonhee. Besides, this song (not to mention the rest of their debut, Shouts) is exuberant, unhinged fun, and the world can always use more music like that.
CHILE: Super 45
Los Embajadores – Peso
From all the tips made in the Chilean music scene for this year, Los Embajadores is one of the most interesting. Romantic goth-pop songs reminiscent of Cocteau Twins as well as the darkest hours of Miguel Bosé. Faisanes is the name of their soon-to-come new album, and Peso (“Weight”) is its first single.
Elenore – Psycho Man
Beijing-based Elenore formed in late 2009 and have developed a sound influenced by bands such as Oasis, Kasabian and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The single Psycho Man fuses 60s swing drum loops, fuzzy guitar riffs and a Middle Eastern instrumental chorus which became a hit on China’s popular site Douban. In February, Elenore will release their first EP both on CD and the band’s own digital distribution site.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Nelson Can – Apple Pie
Danish girl-trio Nelson Can release their eponymous debut EP this month as part of a triple EP release with The Freudian Slip and Echo Me. Punk aesthetics spoon with pop flair and hipster cool on their first single Apple Pie, which reaffirms that apples are indeed a good thing. Like the girls on Facebook and check out the video for Apple Pie on YouTube.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
Money – Who’s Going To Love You Now
A four-piece based in Manchester, Money are part of that city’s tradition of earnest young men, “the weight on their shoulder”, as Ian Curtis once sang. They quote Austrian poet Rilke, while their Facebook features a “eulogy for the death of everything”. A recent Guardian New Band of the Day article contended that they “have a similar air of mystery and cerebral intensity to Wu Lyf, with a vocalist who can do enigmatically gruff as well as fervid and angelic”, positing them as the Mancunian Manic Street Preachers, with a shared sense of the sacred and intense.
Zebra Island – Falling Through
Mysterious Zebra Island rocketed into blogs and social networks at the very end of 2011 and everyone in Estonia seems to love them, although no-one knows much about the band. Zebra Island is led by Rasmus Lill from Kosmofon (featured in the March 2011 edition of MAP) and beautiful vocals are provided by Helina Risti. Falling Through, their first and only song so far, is a lovely, pulsating electro-pop masterpiece that keeps you wanting for much more Zebra Island.
Greymouth – The Boy
Singer and songwriter Elisa Husu founded Greymouth in the summer of 2011 to recreate her folky songs with a full band. The Boy is the first taster of this project and highlights Elisa’s beautiful voice on top of epic acoustic sounds with a marked Fleet Foxes influence.
FRANCE: Yet You’re Fired
Concrete Knives – Brand New Start
A perfect title for the first song of the year, Brand New Start is a highly enjoyable pop song, so good it’s featured in a commercial, and so fresh with its choir and upbeat sound, I would name it song of the year. Very good proof that the French indie scene is better than ever.
Apparat – Ash/Black Veil
This month we’ve got one of the most discussed German artists of last year. Apparat’s 2011 album The Devil’s Walk took the concept of Sascha Ring, the man behind the moniker, further. The soundscapes created feels like a cairn, carefully layered and poised, yet built to last; but Ring has decided to use his falsetto, which has caused controversy with reviewers. Decide for yourself if this concept works well on Ash/Black Veil. I think it does!
Hristos Lainas – H Thlipsi To Brady
Hristos Lainas’ first solo album, I Agapi Tha Lampsi (“Love Will Shine”) is stuffed to the brim with alluring pop melodies, drenched in skittering 12-bit samplers, filtered vocals, warm and luscious analog synths and infused with a pleasant aura of drowsiness. Lainas assembles an array of sounds and textures, adds sporadic splashes of static atmosphere and in the process creates a magnificent listening environment of rose-tinted optimism and disenchantment. H Thlipsi To Brady (“Sadness In The Night”) submerges a sense of intense feeling within its 80s fantasy electronic ether and instantly takes hold of your ears.
Toggi – Let Them Bleed
This catchy little song, taken from the Iceland king of pop’s second album Wonderful Secrets, should be the anthem for any self-respecting Occupy movement. Feeling a need to protest? Then let Toggi’s tune occupy your mind and fire you up.
Belkastrelka – Pujian Ekspatriat
Belkastrelka are an eccentric electronic duo who sample sounds from various sources – windows, the library, television, nature and everything else. Combined with the tiny but wild vocals of Asa Rahmana, they create feral dance music.
Collie Collins & Monto – How Does?!?
A collaboration indicative of Ireland’s growing insurgency against genre borders, Keep Her Lit is an EP which was released last year from Dublin rapper Collie Collins. Teaming up with producer Monto for four tracks of electronic-infused rap, the result is something wholly Irish yet globally progressive. It’s a free download too.
Esperanza – Aliante Giallo
Three skilled musicians and DJs put together a project devoted to an idea of music with no barriers. The sound ranges from chillwave to house, from trip-hop to psychedelia, and becomes a wide landscape. Featuring a collaboration with Banjo Or Freakout and released on the prestigious German label Gomma, this album works magic when the bpms slow down and the electronics becomes warmer and warmer.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
Praha Depart – Portrait Man
Praha Depart demand attention, the Tokyo band mixing constantly morphing guitar with drum smashes to create mesmerizing tracks that reveal new sonic details with each new listen. All of those elements appear on Portrait Man, but the highlight of the song is lead singer Mai and her jittery voice. Over the course of Portrait Man, her vocals bring to mind Lydia Lunch before zigging towards a style reminiscent of Sue Tompkins of Life Without Buildings.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta
Dolls For Idols – Run
Dolls For Idols are an electronic band underpinned by indie and pop sensibilities. Their music embraces 80s-inspired synthesised sounds and the 90s rave generation, all served up with an attitude that is very much rooted in the here and now.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
Los Mundos – Ni Un Segundo Más Sin Música
Los Mundos is a long-distance collaboration that perfectly speaks about musical memory and desertic solitude. The title of this lush pop-shoegaze song means “Not a second more without music”. Indeed, it’s the urgent need of a music lover: to spend all their time in a record store (how nostalgic), living their days wearing headphones with an obsession for everything that spins – very accurate for a band whose name in Spanish translates as “The Worlds”.
NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam
Hospital Bombers – Traditional Maori Fight Song #9
This self-proclaimed stadium-folk outfit have been in hiding for too long, sitting on a wealth of new material that they’ve struggled to shape into that ‘difficult second album’. Thankfully, this month they’ll finally release the sequel to 2008’s Footnotes – the grandly titled At Budokan. Their lovingly lo-fi folk-pop is always rougher and rawer in the live setting, but this new collection again shows them up to be masters of careful songcraft, albeit unashamedly quirky songcraft that’s emblazoned with handclaps and violins.
NORWAY: Birds Sometimes Dance
Billie Van – On My Knees
Billie Van’s music makes me reminisce back to the 50s and the 60s, when country music was good and Nancy Sinatra was the one; when rock ‘n’ roll meant four chords and terrific songs; when guitar solos were mandatory and slapback echo came from the amps. Her music is all of this – great pop songs, tearful country ballads and hip-shaking rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s also new and done in a refreshing way.
Chico Unicornio – Triángulo
Once again, it is the independent scene that gives us another interesting musical proposal. Chico Unicornio is a one-man project that combines acoustic folk sounds with a nice Andean instrument called a charango. The music that this young man makes is new to our local sound, giving it a freshness and novelty.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
We Trust – Time (Better Not Stop)
We Trust is André Tentugal’s one-man band. In 2011, Time (Better Not Stop) was one of the most-played tracks by a new independent artist on Portuguese radio. We are proud to have it here, exclusively, for download for MAP readers. You can also find it on We Trust’s debut album, These New Countries, which was released in November.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Coughy – Precambrian
Coughy are an experimental duo residing in Bucharest, featuring former and current band members of The Amsterdams. Therefore it is regarded as a creative playground where everything is accepted as a form of expression without the self-censorship required when playing in a regular and quite popular indie-rock band.
RUSSIA: Big Echo
M A Y Г L E Y – Farfour
M A Y Г L E Y are getting ready to strike Russia’s cruel winter with an ancient God’s spell, drowned in a wall of sound. Religion, symbolism, adrenaline, isolated genres and the naked language of post-Stalin 60s influence this psychedelic shoegaze project, who have made a great record.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Riot !n Magenta – CTRL
Do androids dream of electric sheep? One thinks of such things when the contrast between the organic and inorganic meld together into a primordial blur of passion. Riot !n Magenta gently slip into the stream of your thoughts with Hayashida Ken’s dark, pulsing rhythms and Eugenia Yip’s wispful and forlorn vocal delivery. There’s tension in every stem as the words haze through: “I try to take it slow, you go faster…You need control…”. Definitely hoping to hear more from this special duo.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Jeremy Loops – The Gypsy Opera
Jeremy Loops is not a traditional band. He creates music on the spot with his gamut of loop pedals and impromptu collaborations. With The Gypsy Opera, he brings together his delicate mix of folk, hip-hop, bluegrass funk and blues all by using his guitar, ukelele, harmonica and beatboxing skills. It is something rather magical to behold.
SOUTH KOREA: Korean Indie
Galaxy Express – As Time Passes, Always Been Good
Galaxy Express is one of the best rock bands in Korea and have been for quite some time. During their Wild 30 project in 2010, a 30-day quest during which they recorded a piece of music for their Wild Days album every day, they showed that they put on the best of performances, even just going to karaoke. In late 2011, Galaxy Express released split EP Naughty Boy with Korean punk pioneers Crying Nut, which contained a re-recording of the somewhat atypical but gorgeous and engaging As Time Passes, Always Been Good from those wild days. Look out for more from Galaxy Express in 2012 as they’re heading for a US tour in March and playing SXSW for the second time.
Dolores – Volcán
Dolores are four, they’re from Madrid and they are certainly one of the best hopes for noise-rock made in Spain. Post-punk and shoegaze are two of the genres Dolores mix for achieving their sound (which is also spiced up with a touch of good ol’ pop and loads of energy). A good bit of that power can be heard on Volcán (“Volcano”), whose stunning rhythm will invite you to dance the hell out of yourself. And you won’t be able to refuse.
Blanket – Hailey Fought The Law
Want to watch a video starring the runner-up of the figure roller-skating world championships dressed as a rabbit? Here you go. Given that Blanket’s accompanying song is a fragile and psychedelic piece of awesomeness, we obviously have a win-win situation.
Haossaa – Holgar Godoni
Last year, Ozan Aktuna, Enis Özbek and Tolga Güldallı, three-pieced avant garde noise band Haossaa, became legends in the indie scene of Istanbul, mostly for their extraordinary live performances. And when their debut LP came out last September, their reputation finally got crowned.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Fantasy Island – Avenue
One of 2012’s more promising American groups is Fantasy Island, a Los Angeles duo responsible for a pair of intriguing, soulful jams since their formation in late 2011. They’ve got a new single out on UK label Stroll On Records and a debut album on the horizon. With a song like Avenue (and the equally fantastic Breaking A Heart) it’s hard to keep wild expectations in check… guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the rest of the year cooks up.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Okills – Nube
Okills is a band that started in mid-2010 and fuses alternative indie-rock with other genres, resulting in some fun music. In September 2011, they released their Iniciando Transmisión EP for free via the web in a pack that includes six songs, illustrations and photos of the band.