October 30, 2012
In indie music, there's undoubtedly a sense of retromania, a collective nostalgia for the past that's brought us the Classic Indie-Rock
revival and the phenomenon of annual ATP reunions. Yet, the reason that the rise of retromania resounds so clearly is because the natural state of indie-dom is one of constant, unbroken neophilia: the endless pursuit of the new. Whilst Rolling Stone
and their like tend to the Baby Boomer mythology, alternative-minded humans have always embraced what's-happening-right-now as opposed to what-happened-years-ago. And, for those with an eye on the horizon, 2012 has delivered plenty of impressive new acts.
London sister act 2:54 have toured with The xx and The Big Pink, but their own music is definitely more like the latter than the former. They're, in short, shoegaze
revivalists, indebted to the noisy, swirling, sonic-maelstroms of early-'90s indie. On their self-titled debut LP, the band enlisted the help of Rob Ellis and Alan Moulder, whose work with the likes of PJ Harvey, Laika, Shakespear's Sister, and Curve was, obviously, hugely informative on 2:54's sound. The band's dynamic frontman, Colette Thurlow, even has a voice that (on songs like "Got a Hold
" and "Sugar
") even sounds Polly Jean-ish. But, though they hew closer to nostalgia act than originators, 2:54 have command of their sound, and fans of dark, dramatic rock —or, um, the early-'90s— will find much to love.
After first catching our ears at CMJ late in 2011
, Californian sister act Bleached
came into this year as one of 2012's most likely to succeed
. After cramming 13 shows into four days at SXSW
, Bleached's brand of sunny-pop fuzz met all manner of buzz. With a run of killer singles —like the ridiculously fun "Searching Through the Past
" and the ultra bratty "Think of You
"— under their belts, the Clavin sisters (both former members of Kill Rock Stars combo Mika Miko) have shown prime form in their short career, thus far. With their debut LP due to be released before 2012 is out, Bleached have the undeniable feeling of a budding buzz band on their way to big things.
Chvrches only have two songs to their name thus far. But one of those songs is "The Mother We Share
." Which merely calling a 'song' is probably some form of injustice. It's... a pop explosion. A neon rainbow of melody. An earworm that's been soaking in the mezcal bottle. You get the idea. Gloriously sung by Lauren Mayberry and featuring fizzy, frothy synths a plenty, "The Mother We Share" is endlessly relistenable; something reflected by its hundreds of thousands of Soundcloud plays. Long before it'd ever been properly released, the jam found omnipresence on blogs, taking the Glasgow trio from anonymity to buzz-band, bidding-war entity in, seemingly, the space of a few weeks. Chvrches, obviously, still have a long way to go, but they've already made quite the splash.
Virginia Van Zandt
Los Angeleno outfit Cold Showers play menacing, glowering post-punk steeped in those titans of the early-'80s: Joy Division, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen. Frontman Jonathan Weinberg delivers, personally, on the two most defining elements of the Joy Division-inspired outfit: playing both the ringing, Hookian basslines and singing in that woe-betold Curtisian moan. It's offset against the trailing, ribboning guitars and soft backup vox of Jessie Clavin, who's concurrently a member of fellow Best New Band, Bleached. Cold Showers' debut LP, Love and Regret
, captures all this with a mix of sparkling clarity and cloudy dread; songs like "New Dawn
" both of foreboding mood and pop panache. It amounts to a band who can stand alongside similar-sounding peers like Cold Cave, Abe Vigoda, and Black Marble.
The former drummer of stoner-rock outfit Pearls and Brass, Daughn Gibson
found his solo callin' during stints working as a long-haul truck-driver. Driving through the American heartland meant, inevitably, an intimate relationship with country radio, and Gibson began making his own country cuts from cut-up samples from old Gospel records. As he wheels out a moaning baritone steeped in Scott Walker
and Lee Hazlewood, Gibson's music mounts an idiosyncratic take on the genre; contrasting the old-school narrative storytelling with 21st century, electro/digital tics. Armed with such a sound, his LP, All Hell
, is certainly one of the more interesting debuts of the year. And, if nothing else, Gibson ably earns a nomination as Best New Indie Hunk of the year...
Like Chvrches, Diana (who stylize their name as D I A N A, which I won't do) have only two tracks to their name. But that's more than enough to engender excitement. Both "Born Again
" and "Perpetual Surrender
" are glorious, goopy servings of sweet, synthy soft-rock, sung seductively by vocalist (and omnipresent Toronto figure) Carmen Elle. Here, she's singing in a crew assembled by Destroyer saxophonist Joseph Shabason, who blows suggestive sax all over the slow-mo, yacht-rock funk of "Perpetual Surrender." The touchstones are similar to those from Kaputt
—coked-out Roxy Music, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan— but they're delivered in a dreamier, hazier, chillwavier
Initial expectations for Diiv —née Dive
— weren't exactly huge. They were the home-recording side-project for Z. Cole Smith, the handsome guitarist from melancholy janglers Beach Fossils, a gent possessed with the most glorious of guitar tones. But given Beach Fossils themselves seemed a shade underrated by the world-at-large, Diiv seemed set to be a footnote. But a run of impressive singles and the project's evolution into slaying live-band turned the debut Diiv LP, Oshin
, from release-sheet fodder into hyped indie event, and fairly placed them on buzz band watch. The album is, of course, all about Smith's guitar; waves of chiming, jangling, ringing guitars resounding throughout a set of indie-pop songs that play like six-string workouts.
After the demise of Wolf Parade
, Dan Boeckner
didn't waste much time assembling another high-profile indie-rock act fronted by two distinct songwriters. Swapping out Spencer Krug for Spoon
's Britt Daniel (which some may see as an upgrade; I'd personally consider it a downgrade), Boeckner has essentially gone from one supergroup to another. Which, of course, makes one question whether Divine Fits belong on a list full of people who've just got a couple of songs on Soundlcoud; these are, after all, grown men far from the beginning of their career. But Divine Fits didn't exist as of 2011, and in 2012, here they are: their debut LP, This Thing Called Divine Fits
, a set of smart, swaggering, sonically-interested indie-rock jams from two of the best in the biz.
Edinburgh art-pop oddballs Django Django
are a singular proposition, making an idiosyncratic synthesis of '60s surf-pop, '70s art-rock, '80s synth-pop, '90s indie-rock, and '00s blog-house. But that doesn't mean they're not without forebears, as Django Django strongly recall a pair of erstwhile Scottish outfits: fondly-remembered genre-hoppers Beta Band and barely-remembered nerd-pop boppers Dogs Die in Hot Cars. Their debut, self-titled set houses a busy collection of bustling, complex, polyrhythmic pop, casually courting dancefloors even when at its most chin-scratchery. In the UK, the Django Django LP was —of course— met with a chorus of hype-making, but on foreign shores the quartet's arrival has felt more like product of excited word-of-mouth.
Post Present Medium
Dune have risen up from the same Los Angeles scene as fellow Best New Bands Bleached and Cold Showers, forged from the ashes of the very same band: Mika Miko. They feature Mika Miko's Kate Hall and ex-Talbot Tagora drummer Mark Greshowak, but come fronted by former Finally Punk singer Stephanie Chan. Their sound is a kind of sleepy-eyed take on psychedelic-tinged garage-rock; with lingering, dangling guitar lines laid out over fuzzed bass and echoey drums; the sunniness of the paisley underground submerged under smog, freewheeling swagger slowed to a solemn stagger. Their debut LP, Noctiluca
(issued on No Age
-run imprint Post Present Medium), plays best late at night, preferably taken as a kind of downer.