It’s been a good while since I last guest-blogged… but here’s me and four other panellists (including SwissToni and JonnyB), giving five current recipients of so-called “A&R buzz” a Juke Box Jury-style Blind Tasting, over on the collaborative music blog The Art Of Noise.
Last time we did this, a full 18 months ago, we found ourselves waxing lukewarm over such future luminaries as The Ting Tings, Laura Marling and, er, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong. So take heed: here’s where The Stars Of Tomorrow are made!
1) Kid British – Sunny Days
This didn’t begin well – bouncy, breathless, Blur-derived Britpop revivalism not exactly being at the top of my wishlist for the Future Sound of 2009. Hell, even the chuffing Ordinary Boys were never quite this obvious. Then again, “Sunny D” (as I have wittily re-titled it) isn’t aimed at anyone much over the age of fourteen – and as such it’s a clear step up from the witless clod-hopping of Scouting For Girls. And while not exactly subtle, there are some encouraging signs at work here. The incessant staccato pounding, with its faint whiffs of ELO (specifically “Horace Wimp” and “Mr Blue Sky”), has a certain merciless charm, and I’m particularly taken by the overstuffed “badada, badada” backing vocals which run throughout. Meanwhile, the chipper geezer-ishness of the refrain would swiftly grate, were it not offset by the melancholy of the spoken-word verses, in which the band’s Skinner Junior (possibly quite promising) takes over from its Albarn Minor (probably quite irritating). Of the five songs on offer, this is the one which I could most readily see charting.
2) Rod Thomas – Good Coat
There’s no point in pretending otherwise for the sake of conceptual purity: I know this one! Why, it’s only “Good Coat” by Busking Indie Troubadour Rod Thomas and his Loop Pedalled Clappity-Claps! This came out as a single just over two years ago, and it’s good to make its acquaintance again – although I still prefer Rod’s 2007 single “Your Love Is A Tease”, which has notched up 36,000 views on YouTube as opposed to a measly 3,500 for “Good Coat”. No matter; there’s a fetchingly open-hearted breeziness and insouciance to all of Rod’s vocal performances, and his instinctive gift for a catchy tune is bound to bring him to wider attention sooner or later. And in the current post-Marling, post-Noah and the Whale climate, I’m thinking “sooner”.
3) Mumford and Sons – White Blank Page
Hmm, there’s something about the vocals – clenched, histrionic, overwrought – which I don’t quite care to buy into. And there’s a plodding earnestness to the songwriting which makes me want to take the piss out of its pretensions to Great Portent. (I sense that we’re a short step away from folderol-milady-Guinevere, forsooth-I-do-beseech-thee territory.) All of this is particularly exposed at the start of the track, before the unexpectedly agreeable folk-influenced backing arrangement kicks in, all mandolins and squeeze boxes and rippling pastoral lushness. By the time we get to the multi-tracked choral coda, I’m really quite the convert.
4) Detroit Social Club – Black And White
More so than its predecessors, I sense we should treat this as the rough working demo that it must surely be. There’s a strong central thrust to the song, whose dogged march-like tempo suits it well, and there’s a serviceably ragged, throaty quality to the singer’s wounded declamations and recriminations. (“You! Are! NOTHING without me!”) However, it’s not yet quite enough to sustain interest, the general lack of detail rendering the track laborious where it could be anthemic, pedestrian where it could be cathartic. Hopefully, this is nothing that a decent dollop of studio time and a sympathetic producer couldn’t cure.
5) We Have Band – Oh
Doomy indie-dance with pronounced post-punk influences, you say? And hark, is that the syncopated tinkle of the LCD/!!!/CSS/DFA cowbell? Now look here, you dour bellowers of the disco-pocalypse, hasn’t 1981 revivalism been done to death yet? And isn’t this all a little bit, well, Spring 2005? True enough, true enough. And yet, and yet… somewhere along the production line, punches have been packed. The bassline rumbles, the chants accumulate, the looped and layered “ow ows” build the mood – and by the last minute or so, we’re steaming along quite nicely. Eighteen months ago, the Ting Tings’ “Great DJ” blindsided me. Maybe this track is its logical successor?