The anticipation is building ahead of the announcement of the first ever Scottish Album of the Year Award winner on June 19 – look out for extensive live running commentary from the ceremony on The Pop Cop blog on Tuesday.
Twelve months from now, it’d be hard to imagine Olympic Swimmers not being on the shortlist for the prize (remember, the SAY Award is about albums released in the previous calendar year) with their just-released debut record, which confirms the Glaswegians as one of this country’s most appealing new bands.
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 through Ge.tt here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Olympic Swimmers – Father Said
Olympic Swimmers’ debut album No Flags Will Fly triumphs in every path it treads, pushing exquisite, dreamy melodies through genres not typically associated with pop accessibility such as slowcore and post-rock. Star of the show is frontwoman Susie Smillie, who makes every lyric feel indispensable in her thick Scottish brogue. Here’s an exclusive free download of album opener Father Said – let it seep into your soul as it bubbles to the surface in a procession of searing crescendos.
June 24, Oran Mor, Glasgow (tickets)
July 20, The Wickerman Festival, Dumfries & Galloway (tickets)
July 23, King Tut’s, Glasgow (tickets)
August 26, Doune The Rabbit Hole, Carron Valley (tickets)
August 31, The Tunnels, Aberdeen (tickets)
Valle De Muñecas – Dos
Dos is our favorite track from Valle De Muñecas’ third album, La Autopista Corre Del Océano Hasta El Amanecer. This is their best work to date, with 10 songs that leave behind the folk-rock vibe of their 2007 effort, Folk, and return to their original rock and ballad-driven sound. You can listen to and download the whole album for free from Bandcamp.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Seven Year Itch – Ern Champion
This young Melbourne quartet have their obvious musical heroes done right up to the top polo button. Ern Champion takes the popular concept of four white guys making calypso and throws in some restless treble guitars, counter-beat drums and echoed vocals, all in the Surfer Blood/Vampire Weekend vein. Clean, twee surf pop at its best. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, make sure you drop this on your summer playlist.
Likewise – Hope Upon My Heels
There must be something in the water in Upper Austria’s Kremstal region. Part of a collective of remarkably talented young bands, five-piece Likewise released their full-length debut Prometheus Run earlier this month. Covering topics ranging from Greek mythology to wanderlust to romance (obviously), the 12 songs on the album oscillate between folk and Americana.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Os Skrotes – Estupro Dos Cisnes
They look like three surfers from the city of Florianópolis, south Brazil, but when you listen to the sound of Skrotes (a deliberate wordplay on Strokes) you could get a real surprise. Their music goes through influences of progressive rock, 70s funk, dub, jazz, classical music and even punk rock. Estupro Dos Cisnes shows their progressive rock approach and some virtuosity in the use of synths.
CANADA: Quick Before It Melts
PS I Love You – Sentimental Dishes
The thing that sets PS I Love You apart from other guitar-and-drum-based duos is the combination of Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson. There is an instinctive interchange between Saulnier’s fretwork and Nelson’s taut rhythms that doesn’t come from drill and practice. Theirs is a natural partnership that works to serve the song. And they play with such fervency on Sentimental Dishes that I’m overcome with the desire to air-drum every time I hear it.
CHILE: Super 45
La Golden Acapulco – Da La Beleza Dab
Ervalizer, Poli Jah and Dr Leinad make up the trio La Golden Acapulco. Through the use of machines and sound effects, the band have been experimenting with dub and Jamaican music, starting with the sonic expansion of reggae and its processed and remixed forms. Da La Beleza Dab is taken from their album Encuentra Las Joias Del Dub, available for free download here.
COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo
Resina Lala – Mi Salto Mortal
When you hear the sound of Resina Lala there is little option but to move your feet and feel this contagious, addictive music. Their first release is called Influjos Plásticos, a six-track journey through experimentation in a genre they call post-nuclear visual punk. But better than their music is the live show, where lead singer Cristina is quite the performer.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Penny Police – As Long As You Watch My Heart
The purchase of an electric autoharp in 2009 was the beginning of what was to become Penny Police – the alias of singer and songwriter Marie Fjeldsted – and a lauded first album titled The Broken, The Beggar, The Thief (released in Denmark earlier this year), from which the excellent As Long As You Watch My Heart is offered here as a MAP exclusive download.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
Alt-J – Fitzpleasure
This Cambridge four-piece have just released a debut album called An Awesome Wave that has received an awesome wave of glowing reviews for the band’s superb musicianship, excellent quirky songwriting and generally off-kilter approach to pop. Fitzpleasure – based on a chapter from Hubert Selby Jr’s book Last Exit To Brooklyn, so you already know this is going to be a notch or two above standard indie fare – is a typical example of what they do, in that it’s utterly unclassifiable, seemingly belonging as much to the world of dubstep as it does to folk.
July 7, T in the Park, Balado (tickets)
Big Wave Riders – Waiting In The Wings
There’s no better summer song than this one. Big Wave Riders will deliver their long-awaited debut album at the end of the summer, but before that we can enjoy the refreshing first taste of it. Waiting In The Wings is two-and-a-half minutes of modern-day surf pop.
FRANCE: Yet You’re Fired
sHEPARD electrosoft in public garden – A Tribute
sHEPARD electrosoft in public garden studied classical music and played organ before he decided to break free from classical rules while making his first album, Chroma, to compose electronic tunes. Influenced by the likes of Air, The Chemical Brothers, Björk and Aphex Twin, sHEPARD makes dark, ambient tracks that slowly build up to a peak that makes you eager to hear the sequel, like a movement in a piece of classical music would do. A Tribute is an excerpt from his latest album of the same name, released this month.
Ursprung – Kalte Eiche
German artists are finding nature again. Lots of bands have started to include organic sounds and noises in their acoustic or electronic music – you may call this ‘new kraut’, pun intended. The newest and perhaps most elaborate piece comes from Ursprung. The self-titled debut of Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince, and Stephan Abry, a member of Workshop, was released in May via Dial Records.
Psychedelic Trips To Death – Within My Head
With moments of breathing room and stripped melodies, Psychedelic Trips To Death delve into their psychedelic wall-of-sound identity and explore the conflict between noise and harmony. For all its familiarity and formula, debut single Within My Head sounds great. Here’s hoping they carve their own unique sound out more in the future. Their upcoming release, Malibou, is definitely something to mark on your calendar.
Múgsefjun – Sendlingur Og Sandlóa
Sendlingur Og Sandlóa is a song about relationships in which one partner spends long periods of time away from home. The lyrics paint a fairytale picture of a sedentary bird (the sendlingur) who’s in love with a migratory bird (the sandlóa) and the cyclic shift of emotions he goes through each year as the couple is reunited and then separated again. This song is from the highly-anticipated sophomore album from Reykjavík-based Múgsefjun.
Semakbelukar – Be(ren)cana
Palembang-based Semakbelukar add some attitude to this local, melancholy Malayan tune and push the boundaries of folk music. The title of this song about fate is a wordplay of Berencana (‘planning’) and Bencana (‘disaster’).
Faws – Whitney
Another to add to the growing ranks of talented Irish electronic producers, Faws has wisely chosen to remain anonymous so that the local scene would judge his music on its own merit first. But the wider world has also noticed and sites like XLR8R, Truants and Disco Naïveté have posted about his music since appearing with the downtempo Antonym EP in December 2011. New track Whitney seals the deal, slowing down Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right But It’s Okay and shrouding the R&B track in an industrial cloud.
The Tunas – The Autumn Stoned
The Tunas started as a garage rock band, and a damn good one. With their self-titled third album, out now on the excellent Wild Honey Records, their songwriting has become more open to psychedelia, 60s beat and folk. But they still sound as powerful as ever. Rock in its purest form.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
LLLL – Because Of My Eyes
Tokyo project LLLL exists in a Japanese scene crawling with bedroom-based acts making shadowy electronic music. What makes LLLL stand out, though, is their refusal to shy away from pop sounds. Because Of My Eyes features skittery drum programming and swirling electronics, but also puts pop-worthy singing high up in the mix, making this inward-looking song very accessible.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta
Monobrow MP – William
After relative success as guitarist and vocalist in now-disbanded local band The Imagery, Lukas Grech and Jorje Bosios continued writing together. Having invested in some home studio equipment, they recorded the songs that had been written up to that point and released them individually – each with a video – over the course of a few months (2010-2011). This is the project that became Monobrow Musical Produce (MMP). The band has just released their debut album, Carpet Clown.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
Mexican Institute Of Sound – Es-toy
Mexico is living election-time turmoil. On July 1, a new president will be elected for a six-year term. Students have risen to stop an imposed candidate, from the party that ruled a smooth dictatorship from 1929-2000, and now has plans to strike back. The so called ‘Mexican Spring’ couldn’t be a better time for Camilo Lara’s Mexican Institute Of Sound to release his fourth studio album, appropriately titled Político. It’s a work full of ironic cumbia, rockabilly and tropical-tronica tunes, with a straightforward commentary on the zeitgeist of our beautiful but convulsive country.
Nouveau Vélo – What To Do
“I wanna be like Marvin Gaye, sexual healing every day.” The words of What To Do don’t just call out some of this band’s more and less obvious influences (Morrissey, Josef K), they might also give you some clue as to why these boys from Helmond describe their sound as ‘healing pop’. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that you’re bound to feel better after hearing Nouveau Vélo’s sunny, reverb-heavy tunes.
The Basurers – La Desdicha Del Perro Salchicha
It’s time to show off one of 2012’s best new bands, The Basurers, a quartet who define their music as rock-blues, although this doesn’t do justice to the energy of their songs and their exceptional lyrics. La Desdicha Del Perro Salchicha is taken from debut EP, Váyanse Al Tacho, which you can download for free here.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Wraygunn – Don’t You Wanna Dance?
Wraygunn (named after legendary guitarist Link Wray and the Blake Edwards character Peter Gunn) are a band formed in Coimbra who mix rock ‘n’ roll, blues and soul. MAP exclusive download Don’t You Wanna Dance? is taken from their just-released fourth album, L’Art Brut.
PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie
Tachdé – Lotus Eaters
Tachdé is an experimental ensemble that delights in exploring the juxtaposition of psychedelic sounds with ambient and noise. Formed in 2006, the group has earned a reputation as one of the best sounding live groups in Puerto Rico. Lotus Eaters is a track from their sophomore effort, Deluge. This track showcases their ability to create a strong sense of beautiful longing.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Cycler – Broken Mirror
Cycler’s Polymath is an outstanding example of the glitch genre: beautifully layered, glitching and clicking in all the right places, flowing well and topped off with some very crisp production. There’s chaos and structure, chill and energy.
RUSSIA: Big Echo
Everything Is Made In China – Brittle Crystal
Being one of the most popular indietronica bands in Russia, Everything Is Made In China never stops looking for new sounds. Brittle Crystal is a broad musical canvas with complex patterns and contrasts, and has a surprisingly good video which makes fun of Pitchfork, Stereogum and Gorilla vs. Bear, showing the usual path of a consumer from iBorn to Cool Cool Death.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Basement In My Loft – Just Desserts
Basement In My Loft’s second album, Subject To Change, features some of the most heartfelt and emotive rock music we’ve heard in a while. Maybe it’s got something to do with frontman Adrian Jones leaving Singapore and returning to Wales, or that urgency from recording and producing the entire album in five days. The band sounds exceptionally tight, with guitar lines and intense riffing shearing through the mixes with white-hot clarity, and Jones providing the purest and most painfully honest of vocal deliveries.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Tristan Waterkeyn – To The Hills
Tristan Waterkeyn has been around. He was born in Tanzania, moved to Kenya, then on to Zimbabwe and finally South Africa. It was here that he learned to play guitar, resulting in his debut solo album, Hay Day. His music has been described as “a combination of languid lyrics, effortless acoustic guitar, jazzy rhythms and gentle vocals”, which perfectly sums up To The Hills. This mellow song makes for easy listening.
SOUTH KOREA: Korean Indie
MukimukiManmansu – Andromeda
MukimukiManmansu is one of the most interesting acts in Korea right now. The two young girls dub their unique acoustic sound “supranational intelligent punk” and they scream and shout according to temper. Their debut album, 2012, came out recently and it opens with Andromeda, a perfect introduction to the awesomeness of MukimukiManmansu. The title is Korean slang for something weird, crazy or stupid – and that’s exactly what this song is in the very best way possible.
Reina Republicana – Que Cunda El Pánico
Reina Republicana are a a five-piece band from Pamplona and, together with Kokoshca (with whom they even used to share a member, Maite), they are Navarran noise-pop flagship bands. Formed in 2009 by Israel Medina, Reina Republicana are taking off in Spain’s indie scene, playing all around the country and becoming the talk of the town. Clearly influenced by noise acts such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, their lyrics can be romantic as well as melancholic and very dark. Que Cunda El Pánico is a love song set at when the world comes to an end.
The Drops – Eleanor
Up-and-coming indie act The Drops, from Basle, are a safe bet when it comes to a Swiss contribution to a playlist with summer hits. Their first single Fire On Your Feet (see video) was already a catchy tune, and now they drop their second haunting melody with Eleanor.
She Past Away – Sanrı
She Past Away is a new wave / post-punk band from Bursa, the opposite shore of Istanbul. Gothic lyrics with buzzsaw guitars, allegedly broken vocals and sensory drum effects, the band evokes the cavernous experiments of the darkwave era with the likes of The Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus and Suicide. The band recently released their debut album, Belirdi Gece.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Tropic Of Pisces – Symmetry
Brooklyn’s Oberhofer affiliate Tropic Of Pisces make Graceland-inspired hi-life, complete with lushly plotted atmospherics, bubbly harmonies and buoyant, summery melodies. They’ve released a few songs so far, all of which could easily wind up on a best-of-summer playlist, and all taken from an upcoming EP out soon.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Melancólicos Anónimos – Tonto
Melancólicos Anónimos is a collective formed in Caracas in early 2011 who describe their music as “angry rock for gentle people”. Earlier this year they released their first album, Inscripciones Abiertas, which comes with four music videos that can be viewed on the band’s website. They are currently working on their second album.