I’ve been a huge admirer of Kevin Harper’s work since he was in Little Eskimos, who, apart from winning the Best Rock/Alternative award at the 2011 SAMAs, never quite got the attention they deserved. Hopefully this new direction will be the making of the man from Alloa.
Here’s an exclusive track from his new album (which is excellent, by the way) as well as the rest of the world’s favourite songs in this month’s Music Alliance Pact.
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 full 39-track compilation through Ge.tt here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Kevin Harper – Kingdom Of Wires
Influenced by warm, fuzzy guitar bands of the American West Coast, Kevin Harper first appeared in the Music Alliance Pact in March 2011 under the guise of Little Eskimos, a solo project that evolved into a group. He’s back on his own again, not that you could tell from this talented multi-instrumentalist’s canny knack of sounding like a full band is at work. Mr Harper is probably one of the most accomplished pop songwriters in Scotland, yet he’s still little-known in his native land. If there’s any justice, his forthcoming debut solo album Kingdom Of Wires should change all that.
The Omelettes – Perfect Wave
The Omelettes’ sophomore album seeks to part from the 60s British sound of their first work and the result is something much more psychedelic and introspective. Perfect Wave is one of our favorite tracks from the new record, The Drawing & The Traveller. You can also watch a video of their song Mondays here.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Them Swoops – Too Fast For Love
Never trust a happy song, right? While Tame Impala are still trumping the globe with Lonerism and Gotye’s break-up song is STILL unfortunately stalking us everywhere, we do make mood-lifting songs here in Australia. Indie-pop ain’t a dirty word, especially when bands like Them Swoops make tracks like this. Too Fast For Love will probably sound like the first time you heard The Shins. Felt good, hey? We’re not such a sombre bunch after all.
Sex Jams – Shark Vs Apple
The alternate girl/boy singing on Shark Vs Apple and its saucy, playful lyrics make it an instant favourite. Basically, the first single from the new Sex Jams album Trouble, Honey is what Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta would have sounded like had Grease been a noise-rock musical. Half of Sex Jams also play in May 2012’s MAP band and this year’s Eurosonic favourites Mile Me Deaf.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Sambanzo – Xangô
Sambanzo is one of the projects of saxophonist Thiago França, also a member of Metá Metá and collaborator of artists such as Gui Amabis and Romulo Froes. Xangô is taken from the album Etiópia, which features some experimental music with strong influences of jazz, Candomblé, Afrobeat and rock.
CANADA: Quick Before It Melts
Barbarosa – Sinking West
The title track of Barbarosa’s debut EP calls up images of the Wild West – rugged, romantic, ruthless and without rules. Sinking West’s menacing undertone is brightened by modern pop sensibilities, and the playing is fast and fierce. The full EP is available now on the band’s website.
CHILE: Super 45
Perrosky – A Mil Millas
Perrosky, a duet formed by brothers Álvaro and Alejandro Gómez, offer a local interpretation of the music styles that gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll in the USA. Their fifth album Vivos is swarmed by distorted guitars, vocal effects and, of course, a great set of songs. Our highlight is the touching blues ballad A Mil Millas (“A Thousand Miles Away”), which depicts a man searching for himself but whose possibilities seem blocked to him.
Tengger Cavalry – War Horse
Deeply influenced by the nomadic culture of north Asia, Tengger Cavalry’s music evokes ancient times when wandering warriors, steeds and wolves danced across the great grasslands. The melody of horse-head fiddle, the rhythm of heavy drum, the echo of Mongolian throat singing and the distortion of guitar all create an expressive scene of pagan culture.
COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo
La Pulpafonic – Camelia
Jam for the ears, that’s how we can describe the sound of La Pulpafonic. A project born in Bogotá, it aims to present Colombian folklore within a new context and a new flavor: the taste of the fruit pulp. Electronic sounds literally extracted from fruits, mixed with an eclectic explosion of dance rhythms from this century. From their first work released in 2012, we squeeze out the song Camelia.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Freja Loeb – W.O.M.D.
Earlier this month Freja Loeb followed up her 2011 debut album Odyssey with the release of a new EP titled W.O.M.D. Where the album stood on the shoulders of the 1980s pop scene, the EP finds its sources of inspiration in the same decade’s rock scenes. Here’s the title track as a MAP exclusive.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: La Casetera
Las Acevedo – Cena En La Terraza
Love is still in the air, after a Valentine’s Day full of fresh romantic tunes brought by several Ibero-American bands. Las Acevedo, the hippie twin sisters of folk, present this breezy love song about dining in terraces, chasing fireflies and packing away your significant other inside a trunk with flowers in their hair. Download the complete Valentine’s mixtape for free here.
ECUADOR: Plan Arteria
Marley Muerto – Dorado Salmon Violeta (featuring Frances Possieri)
Marley Muerto is led by Daniel Pasquel, a musician and producer who was born on the same day that Bob Marley died. This project sees him play with a range of electronic sounds and collaborate with some important local artists. Pararmar is his debut album released while his band, Can Can, takes a break.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog
GNOD – Visions Of Load
Taken from GNOD’s forthcoming album Chaudelande (released on February 25 by Rocket Recordings), Visions Of Load captures neatly – that is to say, powerfully and sprawlingly – the krautrockin’, shoegazin’, prog-metallic sludginess of this Salford band at their most freakily magnificent. “It recalls Can’s ga-ga go-go music while the singer yelps like Alan Vega doused in even more echo,” said our New Band of the Day writer, who nevertheless promised that, notwithstanding the far-out sonics and instrumental melee, you could still dance to it. He just didn’t specify what type of shoes you might need.
Candy Empire – Lucky
Candy Empire is a new band founded late 2011 by restless multi-instrumentalist Ervin Trofimov of acclaimed experimental rock band Opium Flirt. Trofimov has previously recorded in various genres such as instrumental prog-rock, acoustic folk and electronic pop, but Candy Empire’s sound can be described as a futuristic version of Blondie with Neil Young on guitar. They have unveiled their new single Lucky with a colorful animated video.
Hexvessel – Woods To Conjure
Inspired by the mysticism of Finnish nature, Hexvessel mixes an acoustic folk vibe with psychedelic and electric doom sounds, creating dense, spaced-out atmospherics. Woods To Conjure is included in the band’s second album No Holier Temple. Hexvessel will be heading to the SXSW festival in Texas in March.
Pollyester – Concierge D’Amour
The most advanced band in Munich’s music scene is Pollyester. Although Polly Lapkovskaja and Manuel da Coll play in several other groups, the duo found a unique and remarkable style on their latest record Earthly Powers. Relying heavily on a groovy rhythm section with drums and bass, the rediscovered synths and Polly’s vocals add up to something between disco and New Wave, and has been met with critical acclaim.
Morgan Kane – Nine
Nine is a song about a guy trying to get to a girl to tell her that she was right and strong, when he was wrong. Morgan Kane’s songwriting is influenced by Serge Gainsbourg.
Apu And The Dentist – No Messages For Rumi
Apu And The Dentist is the experimental rock project of Mumbai-based duo Saurabh Roy and Achint Thakkar. With this track, which also features local musicians Suraj Manik, Jeremy D’Souza and Krishna Jhaveri, they have created a psychedelic rock soundscape. A debut EP is slated for release in 2013.
Backwood Sun – Seven Shadows
Backwood Sun is one of the most promising indie acts in Jakarta. The band are often described as an Indonesian version of Fleet Foxes, but even if they are heavily influenced by them, it doesn’t stop Backwood Sun making humble, honest music.
IRELAND: Harmless Noise
Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage
Few could predict a post-punk version of a techno track that took its vocal sample from a hip hop song. This cover version, however, was recorded for the third and final Quompilation album of Irish bands’ favourite songs. Blawan’s original Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage is a psychotic, six-minute stamp through disturbia and the four males of Dublin’s Girl Band managed to eke out almost two extra minutes, using that time and their canny production values to flesh out and reanimate bare bones, breathing life through a spirited reiteration of the vocal hook.
Brothers In Law – (Shadow II) Leave Me
Brothers In Law is a young three-piece band from Pesaro, on the always surprising Italian east coast. The dirt of the sea has sneaked dirty sounds into their songs. File under: dream-pop bandits, C86 catchers, Captured Tracks lovers. Brothers In Law just released their debut album Hard Times For Dreamers and they have been invited to play at next month’s SXSW. A dream coming true.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies
Hotel Mexico – A.I. In Dreams
Hotel Mexico, hailing from the historic city of Kyoto, have been one of the most chirped about bands in the Japanese indie scene for several years now. Many cite them as the first chillwave group in Japan, but that label does them a disservice. A.I. In Dreams, taken from new album Her Decorated Post Love, is laid-back but never lazy, the guitars creating a lush sound while voices dart by in the back. It is a song rich in detail, something this outfit excels at.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta
The Suburbanite – Blow My Mind
The Suburbanite is the project of Maltese-Canadian Robert Pisani, backed by a floating collective involving a number of other local band members who have helped shape their sound. A Field Guide To The Suburbanite is a seven-song collection which embraces the spirit and naivety of the past; a frolic on the beach, the first love, Saturday nights indoors… all with hummable melodies. Listening to that debut EP is like taking a walk through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, without the Oompa-Loompas chanting those annoying moralising ditties.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika
60 Tigres – Picoso
One of the country’s best live acts, 60 Tigres started as a six-piece in 2005 in the northern city of Monterrey and has had many member variations since then. They mix Latin grooves with great melody lines, sparkling keyboards and the heritage of early-90s strident indie guitars. Take a chance with their anthemic, danceable new single Picoso.
APRIL – The Rise And Fall Of A Beautiful Bird
Last year I had the privilege to witness APRIL’s first ever gig. Amidst the seedy rock ‘n’ roll crowd this enigmatic duo generated plenty of attention – both frontwoman and man rockin’ high heels while channelling Bowie-esque vibes like it was nobody’s business. On stage it soon became clear that their originality did not stop at their taste in fashion, combining drum computers with reverberant guitar melodies, groovy basslines and intricate, contrasting vocals. With their new single, due to be released on February 23 via Subroutine Records, APRIL has replaced their drum machine for a real drummer and their melodramatic side for a sound that embodies the same confidence they project in a live setting.
Rafo Ráez – Los Regalos Del Viento
Rafo Ráez has been creating songs since high school, with his catchy compositions making him one of the most beloved musicians in Peru. With eight albums under his belt, Rafo’s music has gone through rock, trova, punk and Peruvian folklore. And with a penchant for poetry, they have also been part of theater plays.
POLAND: Łukasz Kuśmierz Weblog
Południce vs. Liquid Molly – Dolina, Dolinuszka
Południce are a female vocal group who sing traditional, folklore, Polish and Ukrainian (sometimes Belarusian) songs. On their album Południce / Elektronice, they couple these with modern electronic productions from guest musicians – Dolina, Dolinuszka features heavy bass beats from Liquid Molly. If you think about it logically it should result in disaster, but it is in fact majestic.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Little Friend – Sunken Low
John Almeida is not a freshman as a musician or a composer. Before this first solo single, he played with some major Portuguese indie artists (The Weatherman, We Trust) who, as a sign of friendship, have returned their gratitude by appearing on his first solo record. The video for Sunken Low was directed by Lewis Arnold and has Jo Hartley (This Is England, Dead Man’s Shoes, The Young Victoria) as the protagonist.
PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie
Los Pepiniyoz – Entre Las Paredes
Los Pepiniyoz have been making their brand of high-energy, melodic punk for more than a decade now – writing songs that reach for the heart without losing any attitude. Throughout the years the band has served as a sort of workshop for a lot of local rockers and now, after a long hiatus, have returned to the boricua scene with a new line-up and a solid three-song EP. Entre Las Paredes is the catchiest tune of the bunch and will probably make you lust for new material from Los Pepiniyoz.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Subumbra – Good People Are Rainbows
Subumbra started like an art audio-video project, a punk band made up of three brothers who recorded their lo-fi songs in a poor home studio. Recently, the project took a new direction as they began to use more electronic instruments and sampling. Subumbra is about taking the core of punk music and merging it with contemporary influences such as chillstep, dubstep and hip hop.
RUSSIA: Big Echo
Dasha Shults – Kite
Dasha Shults, a 16-year-old wonder from Saint-Petersburg, has taken her first steps from covering her favorites by Ellie Goulding and Laura Marling to making her own simple, beautiful songs. She sings about kites, nightmares and, of course, love.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Halcyon – Building With Sticks
One of the artists we’ve got on our radar this year is Halcyon (Zhong Ren Koh), who’s managed to come out just a little more broken in Singapore’s cookie cutter society. We love the singer-songwriter, and we love even more that Halcyon has broken out from that particular mould to become an emerging multi-instrumentalist. His arrangements are delicate and achingly heartfelt – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but it’s more real than most of the crap out there.
SOUTH KOREA: Korean Indie
From The Airport – Colors
Electro rock duo From The Airport formed in 2012 and they’re not afraid to throw other genres in the mix. Second single Everyone’s Alright was released last month but here we get to hear them as they first came out with electro-pop debut single Colors, which brought the two producers plenty of positive attention when it was unleashed in October.
Megaafonía – Señor Gutiérrez
Formed in 2005, Megaafonía have been active until this month, when they decided to split due to creative differences, although they will remain friends. They released two albums, Despechado and Tutto, and we will certainly miss their fresh pop (influenced by the likes of ELO, Xavier Cugat and Bom Bom Chip) and their irreverent and highly ironic lyrics.
SWEDEN: Ja Ja Ja
Dödens Dal – Bakom Stjärnor, Bakom Tiden
Dödens Dal is a duo with a fingertip feel and fondness for gloomy, instrumental and really rather mind-boggling electronica. They first came to our attention last year with their brilliantly dark debut single Det Står Skrivet, and now they’re back with the pitch-black follow-up Bakom Stjärnor, Bakom Tiden. Both tracks come from the album Gå Ensam Förbi Horisonten, released this month via Flora & Fauna.
Last Leaf Down – Fake Lights In The Sky
Last Leaf Down is a shoegaze outfit from Solothurn. Heavenly, ethereal sounds and distinct, dreamy vocals make them deserving of your attention. Here’s their new track Fake Lights In The Sky.
Baykuş – Gel Yeter
Baykuş (once known as Kaotik) comes from the grey city of Ankara where our grunge acts always sprout fertile. Anatolian tunes bound up with post-grunge styling are common but Baykuş succeed in making their sound more solid and more garage-like. Gel Yeter is catchy enough to start a pogo party on its own.
UNITED STATES: We Listen For You
The Long Wives – The Hollow Fin
The Long Wives’ standout track The Hollow Fin is deceivingly gentle. The softly-plucked guitar and the eased restraint of the vocals invite the listener to get close to the speaker and its warm, wispy, radiant sounds. But there’s more to this track than meets the ear. Like most great pieces of art that explore the juxtaposition between surface appearances and the evils that can lurk below, the power comes from an unidentifiable element onto which the listener just can’t seem to put their finger.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más
Los Paranoias – No Hace Falta
After almost two years of absence, Los Paranoias return to the scene with No Hace Falta, a single released last month and the first cut of their next studio album Que Se Activen Las Alarmas, scheduled to come out in the coming months.