Welcome to our first fortnightly DiScover column, where from now on we'll be introducing you to the new sounds that have been filling our contributors' ears and eyes with joy on a regular basis.
This slot is intended to fill the void left by the DiScontinuation of individual feature articles on up-and-coming bands (aka 'DiScover pieces'). A lot of you have said you miss them, and we hear you, but our thinking is thus: not many people - us included - want to read long Q&As from bands they've never even heard of.
So these combined pieces are intended as your 'first listen' introduction to new acts instead: where they're from, what their story is and what they sound like, principally. And those who warrant it will then get a more in-depth treatment at a later date.
That way, you get all our recommendations in one handy place and can contribute your own suggestions for future DiScoveries in the gap below the text. We're really keen to hear what you think of our picks - be nice though - and will be putting on the cream of the crop at our monthly DiScover showcases in Manchester and Sheffield, as well as at the odd festival or two this summer...
Without further ado, then, say hello this week to The Deer Tracks, Still Flyin' and Urgent Talk.
The Deer Tracks
The Deer Tracks are boy-girl duo David Kehnberg and Elin Lindfors, who hail from Gävle, Sweden and make music of a quintessentially Scandinavian inclination. That is to say, it’s of a nature as ethereally suggestive – and just plain gorgeous – as you could imagine. Lindfors’ delicate, breathy vocals merge with that of Kehnberg’s admirably, resting atop an electronic canvas where instruments of a more organic nature thrive, occasionally bursting into rousing cacophony; often remaining lullaby-sweet throughout. To describe this band without coming over like your standard Sigur Rós album review is difficult (certainly not a bad thing) – the one adjective I keep reaching for is ‘twinkling’, which in this case seems entirely pertinent. The debut album goes by the name Aurora, and as well as being recorded under the shadow of a gargantuan straw goat (a Swedish Christmas tradition, apparently), it endeavours to create – and arguably achieves – a soundtrack worthy of the majestic Northern Lights. Formerly of moderately successful underground acts, the pair are aided by a host of musician friends who offer contributions of the clarinet, trumpet, piano and cello variety, showcasing a rich and inviting musical world. And it is a ‘world’ more than anything else, from the startled deer imagery used to the swelling compositions they trade in, it's the blissful mood – the serenity evoked – that sticks here, more than any one song or melody. Topical soundbite? Surrender yourself to The Deer Tracks’ panoramic swirl and it’s like the best bits of the cold snap all at once, minus the sopping shoes, late buses and surprisingly heavy snowballs. Indeed. James Skinner
- Aurora is released on March 9th via Swedish imprint Despotz. They play a couple of London shows later this month:
22 London Old Blue Last
23 London The Social
24 London Pure Groove
Video: The Deer Tracks 'Slow Collision'
Still Flyin' laugh in the face of the economic crisis facing music. This is a band that - in a world of 95% illegal downloads and money dripping from the industry like blood from a stone - have fifteen members. Fifteen?! That's a whole rugby team or three 'normal' bands. Still Flyin', however, are no ordinary band. Coming on like a combination of Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and their audio forefathers Architecture In Helsinki the San Franciscan troupe extol a joyous brand of surf-and-sunshine indie-pop, brimming with energy and happiness whilst barely masking weeping emotional sores. The band are signed to Moshi Moshi in the UK and we don't have to remind you of the label's past success stories for you to know they are in good hands. The limited 7" 'Good Thing It's A Ghost Town Around Here' slipped somewhat under the radar when it was released in late 2008, which is a surprise as its fun vibes could lighten up even the darkest winter's day. Latecomers will get a second chance, however, as a follow up single, 'Forever Dudes', is being lined up as we speak. A brass-bound twee-pop treat with sugar sweet playground chants and a Cali-slacker attitude, the song encapsulates all the key ingredients of Still Flyin'. Sure, they might resemble a gang of supply teachers and make Stuart Murdoch look like Kerry King in the twee stakes, but Still Flyin' are an insulin injection straight into the arm of a freezing cold country gripped with misery and enraptured with faux-gloom mongrels White Lies. Let a little light in, go DiScover Still Flyin'. David Renshaw
- 'Forever Dudes' is released on February 23rd via Moshi Moshi.
Video: Still Flyin' 'Good Thing It's A Ghost Town Around Here'
It's been quite a while now since the average band coming out of Sheffield sounded like a post-closing time kebab shop brawl. Champion Kickboxer, Pygmy Globetrotters and Smokers Die Younger are three enduring examples of something way more interesting that spring immediately to mind - there are loads more, of course - and now, thankfully, we have another to add to those ranks: Urgent Talk. Two-thirds of them - Warren Myles and Jack Fabian - put out an album on Thee SPC as Heart Yeah in 2007, but a swift name change and the addition of a viola player (Roo O'Hare) later and we're talking about an entirely different project. Because where Heart Yeah sounded a bit like a rougher-edged Crystal Castles - whom they preceded - only with extra shouting, UT take their cues more from M83's blissed-out take on shoegaze/electronica ('I Love Our Network)', or The Unicorns at their most bleepy and playful ('Octopii'). Vocals this time are carefully layered rather than bawled, and even at their more abrasive ('Winter Olympiad '88'), there's a poppier edge here than those familiar with their old work might ever expect - due, perhaps, to the vast array of instrumentation they've thrown into the studio mix. The live show, by contrast, actually has plenty in common with everybody's favourite 8-bit sample thieves: chaotic, noisy and eminently danceable, it's the kind of music that really comes to life when you're seeing it being produced in front of your very eyes. Expect nearby surfaces to be utilised, and your ears to be put under considerable threat... in a good way. Less kebabs and more keyboards, then: the future of Sheffield music looks bright. Rob Webb
- Urgent Talk launch two EPs (called, confusingly, & and &&) at next Wednesday's DiScover Sheffield with support from Brontide and Ghosts, or get them online from Dear You Records.
11 Sheffield The Harley (DiScover)
18 Sheffield The Shakespeare (with Parts & Labor)
27 Manchester Kro Bar
10 Manchester (DiScover with The Invisible)