Friday, 2 January 2009

The Skinny's Ones To Watch in 2009

Last year our scribes foretold glories for the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Yeasayer, MGMT and the now omnipresent Noah & The Whale and, by Jaga's beard, were we right. But, rather than patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, we’ve come up with another batch of acts upon whom we’ll put our house. So, infused with more buzz than a crack addict in a beehive, these are ten of our ones to watch in 2009...

Crystal Antlers are more than a wee bit special. The Californian quintet’s debut EP is a cranium-compressing bruiser: skewering brutal guitars with whip-cracking drum thunderstorms to create a cacophonous frenzy of amp-blowing sound. As ravaging as this will no doubt be to hair-flicking indie hipsters, droplets of prog and classic rock can be found slithering between the sheets of every rambunctious number. And that's what makes Crystal Antlers such a pant-pissing proposition: by having one foot in what was proven righteous in the past they're about to catapult straight into the future.

Exalting colourful yarns of banana slugs and dinosaurs with seagulls’ wings, High Places' lyrical content bears more than passing resemblance to a Roald Dahl novel. But underneath the Brooklyn duo's quirky, childish disposition lies an ocean-sized penchant for lucid melodies, woven into a tapestry of highly strung calypso and jovial, swooshing synths. The sublime collection of EPs 03/07 – 09/07 first brought the pair to the Skinny's attention and the release of their luscious debut LP coupled with a hectic continent-hopping touring schedule will have this phosphorescent ensemble bending its way into your imagination soon.

Joe Gideon and the Shark are the kind of band your mother warned you about. With scuzzed-up guitars leering over nihilistic pummels of drum, theirs is the sound of writhing rustic blues. To call this 'electrifying' would do little to convey the surging energy created by this London based brother-sister duo whose debut longplayer is set to embed itself within the nation’s ear-sockets early this year. Think the Archie Bronson Outfit muzzled by Mark E Smith’s flaming growl: there’s absolutely no doubt about it – you need Joe Gideon and the Shark in your life this year.

Math Rock may have slipped from the pickled brainboxes of de rigueur-happy aficionados but Maps and Atlases are far from Foals-mimicking rehashonistas. Nestling between the algorhythmic rush of Cap’N Jazz and Battles' more inclusive moments, this fresh-faced Chicago quartet have already whetted palates with a brace of mindblowing EPs in Trees, Swallows, Houses and 2008’s melodically serrated You & Me & The Mountain. Armed to the gnashers with barraging, algebraic percussion and spasmodic guitar taps, 2009 should finally be the year this band not only pins itself on your map but the whole damn globe.

2008 saw Edinburgh’s musical subculture rise with a boldness not seen since the halcyon days of Josef K and the Fire Engines. And sitting proudly atop Auld Reekie’s perch of creativity is the alchemistic sonics of local quartet Meursault. A schizophrenic ogre of heart-pounding acoustic folk and shuddering synth, the ensemble’s debut longplayer Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues – our album of the month last December – plundered lugholes with vehement surges of electronica before soothing the mind with lilting strums and frontman Neil Pennycook’s reassuring crow. Already a favourite amongst the central belt’s more tuned-in dilettantes, Meursault look set to venture out onto more luscious pastures over the next 12 months.

In almost every sense Over The Wall are a typical Glasgow band. The duo of Ben Hillman And Gav Prentice makes charming, minutiae-detailing paeans that bleed twee pop sensibility while stoking the fires of transient electronica. Really, the only noticeable difference between this pair of west coast wannabes and many of their hometown adversaries is this: they’re good. Very fucking good. Without pretence or sneer, the captivating ensemble have built up a devoted following on the back of ditties like the impeccable Thurso and equally elegiac A Grand Defeat. Having recently made a successful play for the nation’s airwaves, these lads should this year prove just how untypical a 'Glasgow band' they can be.

Passion Pit ain’t exactly a band for all seasons. Toploaded with handclaps and synths, the Massachusetts-based quintet’s debut EP Chunk Of Change was built with one thing in mind: sunshine – and plenty of it. A firm sense of Hot Chip’s retro-tronica resonates throughout their gush-heavy reveries but below this floor-filling core is the good time pop sensibility of Phoenix and The Sleepy Jackson. Despite having only a handful of gigs under their belts, the group’s disco melodics and cuddling hooks have already wormholed their way through the blogosphere and with Frenchkiss Records spurring them on, this lot will bedazzle you with sunshine long before the summer does.

The hushed reverence of Rob St John is a sound to behold. The Edinburgh based troubadour’s cerebral tones and stupefying sense of atmosphere is always breathtaking, and at best the purpose of adjoining strum and voice as one. Tingling neck-hairs with his slow-handed brilliance, St John’s knack for a tune is similar to local luminary James Yorkston, but there’s enough autumnal despair in his finger-plucked trinkets to suggest Messrs Drake and Buckley have had a hand in developing his wispy, evocative laments. Either way, Rob St John’s a remarkable, uncut diamond soon to be dug up.

A rip-roaring stomp of indie-pop, Sky Larkin teetered on the brink of a crossover last year. With more gazump than Los Campesinos! and less whine than Johnny Foreigner, the Leeds-born trio seem perfectly poised to make that final step when their debut long-player is released through Wichita in the coming months. With hooks aplenty and the bolshie tones of Katie Harkin at the helm the group’s live shows have become a must-see spectacle of raucous, virulent energy, and if they can muster up a record half as exhilarating then the world is theirs for the taking.

Blessed with the most inspired moniker since Lesbian Dopeheads On Mopeds, We Were Promised Jetpacks have established themselves as firm favourites in these quarters. Now signed to the mighty Fat Cat Records via a nudge and a wink from Glasgow brethren Frightened Rabbit, the four piece wear the badge of Franz inspired indie-pop-pickery with brazen aplomb. Bulging with infectious riffage that rushes into you like a two minute knee-trembler round the back of the bikesheds, WWPJ have both the cheek and charm to launch beyond the stars in 2009.

First published here

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