So here’s this month’s international digest, a day late, but there’s good reason for that. Unlike previous months when I’ve been casting around for who to include, this month I didn’t have any doubt. Beth Jeans Houghton. Not only because she’s ace and because she did a recent Seven Songs for me, but also because she was appearing at End of the Road Festival where I finally got to see her last Friday. Read on for more about Newcastle’s current finest, as well as the other 32 countries.
Matilda - Vanidad
Matilda is an electro-pop duo based in Rosario (one of Argentina’s largest cities), consisting of Juan Manuel Godoy and Ignacio Espumado. Vanidad is the opening track from Para Ser Movimiento, their second album, which was recently praised by Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas on her Twitter page. It was released by the Planeta X label in a physical format and as a free Creative Commons licensed download (http://bit.ly/kNiJK).
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Deep Sea Arcade - Don’t Be Sorry
One of the more exciting new bands to come out of Sydney in the past couple of years, Deep Sea Arcade is blessed with a very captivating frontman in Nic McKenzie, who genuinely loses himself in every song they play. Don’t Be Sorry is the single they’re currently touring but the live shows indicate there’s a lot more to come from this Sydney five piece. One to put on your watchlist.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Cidadão Instigado - Doido
Acclaimed by critics, Cidadão Instigado’s third album UHUUU! is probably one of the three best Brazilian records of 2009. Their sound is a mixture of vintage ‘brega’, 70s rock and avant garde. The band is one of the most creative of the contemporary music made in the country and (besides its experimental and complex songs) has a growing fanbase. Doido, which means “crazy”, is a bit reminiscent of John Frusciante’s solo work with lyrics about paranoid hallucinations.
Dan Mangan - Robots
Robots isn’t a complex song, but it more than makes up for that by being insanely, incredibly catchy. I’d challenge people to hear it and not walk around with the closing chorus (”Robots need love too / They want to be loved by you”) in their head for days afterward… except I’m pretty sure it can’t be done.
CHILE: Super 45
Picnic Kibun - Drop Your Panties
If we could define Picnic Kibun in just one word, it would be “party”. A party in which a crazy Japanese sings about women getting rid of their underwear, where a couple of electronic musicians start rapping out of the blue and where a bass player with a surfer look makes rock songs. Fiebre Tagadá is the name of their first album and, just like the band, it’s a wild party in which you can dance and get drunk.
Tang Qie Nong - I Want To Go Through Your Body
In the summer of 2008, the experimental duo Tang Qie Nong was founded by Fangqi and Tangguo in Guangzhou. The single I Want To Go Through Your Body from their self-titled EP is about the long-cherished ambition of a person who faces death. He wants to go back to the origins and purity, but you must be careful what you wish for.
COLOMBIA: Columbia Urbana
Jhonblack - Sola Solita
Hailing from Pereira, Jhonblack is seducing women with his sexy music. His offer is based in electric sounds mixed with hip hop, R’n'B and pop music without forgetting his Pacific roots, to which he is adding a little bit of jazz and soul to create fresh and innovative sounds. Sola Solita is one of his most melodic songs and shows why he is known as one of the greatest urban music artists in Colombia.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Slaraffenland - That Great Love Sound (The Raveonettes cover)
This year, legendary Danish label Crunchy Frog - the first home of The Raveonettes among others - celebrate their 15th anniversary. To commemorate the landmark they asked 25 Danish non-Crunchy artists to interpret 25 songs by Crunchy artists and released the results on the double album Saluting The Crunchy Frog-a-logue. Here’s Slaraffenland’s excellent cover of The Raveonettes’ That Great Love Sound.
ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Beth Jeans Houghton - Golden
Beth Jeans Houghton is a glam folk pixie who injects her sweet acoustic songs with a high-grade dose of pure pop. She has killer tunes, energy, a curious taste in wigs and a certain boldness that’s only natural given her Newcastle roots. She rules. She has a new EP coming out this month where “all of of the songs are about a guy who looks like Roger Daltrey circa the deaf, dumb and blind kid days. Apart from I Will Return, which is about Wilson the football floating away from Tom Hanks in Castaway”. Golden isn’t from that EP but it’s still great.
Keramick & Lobo - Brown-Eyed Susan
Producers Jussi Mikkonen and Visa Mäkinen, aka Keramick & Lobo, combine their downbeat electronic layers with a wide array of musicians for a perfect blend of machines and real instruments on their new album The Braille. Nineteen artists, including singers Eeppi Ursin and Teemu Tanner, participate on the duo’s compositions and provide a smooth jazz beat with violins, trumpet, saxophone, percussion and a few other instruments. Brown-Eyed Susan is a dark and intriguing track, a real film noir piece of music.
Caravan Palace - La Caravane
Three sequence programmers - Charles Delaporte, Arnaud Via and Hugues Payen - with a love of electronic music and swing jazz, together with Toustou, Zoé and Chapi make one hell of a band. They will soon be heard at the famous Paris Olympia - proof that Caravan Palace are becoming rather popular.
Me Succeeds - My Main Discipline
This Hamburg-based trio is quite Janus-esque since they combine gentle melodies and preppy non-parallel vocals with a highly energetic synth-bass. That might sounds like normal indie-electro but both pillars stand on their own to create a quite unique sound.
Diafana Krina - Agnos
Diafana Krina is possibly the most brilliant and idiosyncratic band to emerge from Greece in the early 90s. Agnos is taken from Ki Agapi Pali Tha Kalei, an incandescent guitar-oriented album with superb, dark, poetic and heart-bruising lyrics. Long, swelling arrangements are organized cosily around Thanos Anestopoulos’ weathered baritone with blankets of keyboard and jarring bursts of exploding drums. Each song blends pure emotion and is expertly crafted, with an amazingly punchy set of melodies delivered by an extremely tight band. Unfortunately, after six records, Diafana Krina disbanded in June 2009.
ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Reykjavík! - Æji, Plís
Reykjavík! is a raw rock band in which most members originate not from Reykjavík but Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords. This is one of the loudest Icelandic bands, a collective of philosophy majors, shopmongers and social workers, with an exclamation mark partly as a reference to the vast amount of hyperbole Iceland’s capital receives. Æji, Plís is taken from their second album, The Blood. The song features a surf-rock guitar riff, rhythmic bass, kick-drum percussion and Bóas’ vocals fluctuating between grunting, chanting and falsetto.
Swarathma - Jamba
Swarathma plays honest, unpretentious folk-rock. This hardworking act from Bangalore was recently given the chance to record with renowned British producer John Leckie (The Stone Roses, Radiohead) and play a mini-tour of the UK. Jamba (meaning “pride”) comes from a compilation album produced by Leckie featuring Swarathma and a few other top new Indian acts. Sung entirely in Kannada, the song, like the band, finds its roots in Carnatic music and combines these sensibilities with orchestral pop trappings to create something that’s more a new direction than a middle path.
Koil - Aku Lupa Aku Luka
Koil are one of the greatest rock bands in Indonesia, their songs and style influenced by the industrial/darkwave/gothic/metal scene, with lyrics that tell stories about spiritual journeys, nationalism or just personal things which are easy to relate to yet have a deeper meaning.
Nakatomi Towers - Cut Me Out
This is the first real tune from Belfast-based boy/girl duo Nakatomi Towers and what a cool beast of electro-pop it turns out to be. From the “duh-duh-duh” nonsensical yet catchy chorus to the insistent disco bassline, this is promising stuff for all 2 minutes 47 seconds of its duration.
Giardini di Mirò - La Vampa 02
Giardini di Mirò is the one of the most important bands in the Italian indie scene. Formed in 1998, notable acts they have toured with include Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Karate, and they have been remixed by Styrofoam and Dntel among others. Their new album is an amazing soundtrack for Il Fuoco, a silent movie from 1915 directed by Giovanni Pastrone. La Vampa 02 (”The Fire”) is the second part of the central chapter, when the two lovers surrender to passion and their love burns away.
JAPAN: JPOP Lover
nhhmbase - 9/8
The latest offering from the Tokyo underground scene is nhhmbase (pronounced “ne-han base”). Formed in 2004, they have complex music frameworks with irregular beats and dramatic code which makes their sound innovative and pop. They have already opened for many foreign acts such as Deerhoof, Tyondai Braxton (Battles) and The Eternals in Japan.
MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Menuda Coincidencia - Sin Enganche
Hailing from Monterrey, Menuda Coincidencia is a ‘rap en Español’ trio that made feature appearances on records from some of the genre’s top figures - such as Bocafloja and Akil Ammar - before a long overdue but excellent debut EP, Ai Con Permisito. Lead single Sin Enganche is full of crazy and juicy, jumpy jazz hooks with playful swing samples that sustain an existentialist manifesto, ambiguous yet intelligently expressed by its two MCs.
NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Jordan Reyne - The Proximity Of Death (Blue Eyed Boy)
The Proximity Of Death is taken from Jordan Reyne’s fifth album How The Dead Live. A musician who has combined folk, electronica, soundscapes and industrial, Reyne has gained a strong following in the darkwave scene. How The Dead Live is her most contemplative work. The album was commissioned by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and was written in an artist in residence programme. The album fictionalises the life of an actual pioneer woman Susannah Hawes adding history as a character. Reyne has announced this will be her last album.
Sirkus Bjøver - Heavy Metal
The song is called Heavy Metal, but it’s as far away from heavy and metal as you can get. This is nice, happy and friendly pop music with a big heart. The members of the duo, Vegard Markhus and Bjørnar Sangolt, grew up as neighbours in a forest in western Norway. They held regular circus shows for their families as kids and called their performances “Sirkus Bjøver”. Now, 15 years later, the two have become neighbours in Bergen, and the old circus is revitalized as a band.
Plug-Plug - Tambores
The sound of Plug-Plug falls outside any conventional tag. Some people call them garage, others hardcore - the truth is that when you hear any description it is never enough. Plug-Plug makes acid songs which sometimes sound melancholic, but this band from Lima is more than a style, they’re a mixture of sensations.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Iconoclasts - Anything Will Do
Iconoclasts are a six-piece from Lisbon with Diogo and Pipa singing and screaming (not at the same time), Pedro doing freaky dances while playing bass, Ricardo hammering away on the drums like his life depends on it, Vitor playing guitar while pounding on every effects pedal imaginable, and Sérgio doing the same with every annoying thing he lays his hands on. They have a debut EP freely downloadable from here.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Sunday People - Win Your Face Back
The story of this particular band is not what you might call ordinary. It all started in the bedroom of very young Abu Dhabi-born brothers Sultan and Hasan. As they grew older, the bedroom became a recording studio where their dreams, influences and ideas were born. Two actors/musicians joined them later - Cristi Rigman (drums) and Ana Ularu (vocals) - and they found their sound: a mixture of riot, love and intensity.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
The Xcerts - Crisis In The Slow Lane
The Xcerts are the real deal - a rock band who come fully formed with an album of songs to believe in and a pop sensibility that will, at the very least, have you air-drumming to their choruses. Crisis In The Slow Lane perfectly sums up what they and their debut album In The Cold Wind We Smile are all about - every dial is set to ‘epic’ as it gradually builds to a soaring conclusion. If you’re a fan of Biffy Clyro, or good music in general, you’ll love The Xcerts.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
MUON - Cylons Dream Of Electric Sheep
Can cold, heartless, surgical machines ever have souls? Well, experimental dark electronica group MUON thinks they can. If the computer is dreaming inside, it dreams in ones and zeros, harsh squelches and inane beeps, each a little exegesis looking for proof of life. MUON have put together a creepy Frankenstein of deeply resonating drum loops, bleating sheep and what could pass as the theme from the Zelda videogame.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Jax Panik - Talking To Myself
A crazy, outrageous mix of electro-pop and a dash of rock ‘n’ roll is what Jax Panik’s music is all about. He started out as an ‘online only’ artist but the success generated from his activity soon led to a full-length album release. The album was named Cigarettes And Cinnamon from which Talking To Myself is taken. The song artfully showcases Jax’s winning formula which consists of catchy beats, meticulous production and lyrics that reveal a slightly dark edge upon closer listen. With a new album out in March, Jax Panik is set to become an even bigger hit, both locally and abroad.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Plastic People - B/W Picture
Folk-rock duo Plastic People has been around for many years, all the while successfully trying out various musical directions. On their most recent album Snap, released in July, the selection of songs is more diverse than ever with modern folk, some rock tracks, a bit of psyche-pop and C86-inspired twee. Choosing just one song when they’re all amazing in their own way proved a difficult task, but it had to be done so here’s the captivating slow-paced rock piece B/W Picture that inspired the snap-shot theme of the album.
Vikta Fåglar - Walk Along
Vikta Fåglar literally means “folded bird” in English. Loosely, I think it translates into the term origami. Musically, the band combines elements of the Swedish folk tradition with some classical and even experimental noise - such as when the cymbals come crashing in towards the end of Walk Along.
Solardip - Paralyze Me
Solardip is an electro-indie three-piece formed in Istanbul. After a couple of years successfully performing on the local scene, the band has just released their first EP, Dip Inside, and are about to make a big comeback with their new sound and concept. Solardip, often compared to The Presets, offers laser-like synths, danceable tunes and arousing vocals.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Holiday Shores - Phones Don’t Feud
Holiday Shores, Twosyllable Records’ latest discovery, continue to diversify the label’s output by creating equally messy and melodic indie rock that’s about as addictive as anything else of the same vein coming out this year. Their new album Columbus’d The Whim is available for consumption - sink your teeth in before the hipsters do.
VENEZUELA: Barquisimeto Musical
Nana Cadavieco - No Hay
Nana Cadavieco is a young Venezuelan singer full of energy and hype, which she reflects in each and every one of her performances. Exposé, her latest record, is undeniably influenced by rock, pop, indie and disco-punk and a few world music and electronic elements. Nana says of the song, No Hay: “It portrays a human reality, very close to Latin America. The message I want to send with it is the process I went through with my new CD. After all, I still smile, albeit with a little sarcasm.”
To download all 33 songs in one file click here