Five Bands to Watch
The best thing about scouring for music on the Internet is that you discover new bands and musicians constantly. Sometimes these are brand new outfits, lurking under the radar, like hidden treasure that’s waiting to be discovered.
- ‘British Sea Power’ are a highly underrated band…
At other times they are fairly established bands with a small retinue of followers and fans yet unknown to the rest of the world. Last year, I discovered dozens of new bands, singers, songwriters and DJs. While I must admit that more than a few of them ranged from being just bearable to intolerable, there were some that made me sit up and take notice.
Several of them became long-time residents on my playlists for most of last year; and many, I believe, will grow to become big blockbusters in the coming years. Here are five that rocked in 2008 and could be well worth checking out.
The first of them is a band that I discovered at the fag end of last year. ‘She Keeps Bees’ are as yet unsigned (although they have two self-released albums) and hail from Brooklyn, New York.
A two-piece band—Jess Larrabee on vocals and guitar and Andy LaPlante on drums — ‘She Keeps Bees’ is refreshingly not like the celebrated duo that makes up The White Stripes and their sparse use of instruments and tightly written, intelligent lyrics delivered in Larrabee’s powerful voice made me an instant fan.
The second band that became a near-permanent resident on my playlists last year is not exactly a spanking new, yet-to-be-discovered gem. ‘The Hold Steady’ are already a ripe four years’ old and their fan following is growing steadily.
Also from New York, ‘The Hold Steady’ are a quintessential bar band, replete with classic rock guitar licks and lyrics that tell a story. The stories are dark and singer Craig Finn’s harsh, raw-edged voice sometimes seems steeped in booze but all that adds to the band’s appeal. Last year saw the release of Stay Positive, their fourth and, arguably, best album yet. Story-dense lyrics and heavy, heavy, guitar riffs. Any rock fiend is bound to find it appealing. If you haven’t heard ‘The Hold Steady’ before, start with this album and then go back to ‘Separation Sunday’ (2005).
The third band on this list are ‘Black Mountain’, formed by five musicians from Vancouver. Canada, incidentally, has been producing excellent bands in recent times and ‘Black Mountain’ is one rising star. If you happened to have grown up in the seventies on a wholesome diet of the ‘Rolling Stones’, Velvet Underground, Animals, a bit of Floyd (okay, only a tiny dash of those guys!) and even some David Bowie, I can assure you, you’ll take to ‘Black Mountain’ instantly.
Bandleader Stephen McBean is a veteran of other Canadian rock bands and he and his four colleagues are at the cutting edge of Canadian indie rock. In The Future is their 2008 album, the second from a four-year-old band that has the potential of making it very big. I’ve mentioned ‘British Sea Power’ before in Download Central but although the four-piece from Brighton are among the oldest bands on this list (they’ve been around since 2000), they’re highly underrated.
‘British Sea Power’ are a throwback to ‘concept bands’ of the seventies. Their members often wear military-type uniforms and large stuffed birds are used as props on the stage during their live gigs, which can be quite wild. They’ve often been compared to Joy Division (1977-80) and count among their influences other wild gig-masters like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who many consider the godfather of punk.
The last band on this list is also the most commercially successful. Describing their sound as “Upper West Soweto”, New York’s ‘Vampire Weekend’ literally burst onto the scene in January 2008 with their self-titled debut album. Afro-pop, classical music and rock standards are the influences the quartet draws from.
The four clean-cut, preppie musicians all went to Columbia University and took their name from a movie that one of them made during his early college years. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa is the song to download, get hooked and then go buy the album. And if you really want an endorsement, Peter Gabriel recently did a cover of Cape Cod. Was it because his name features in the lyrics?
Listen to ‘virtual’ tracks: