Foals, Cats and Cats and Cats, Slow Club, Picture Books In Winter, Pete and The Pirates - GIITTV tips for 08 part 3.
In the third and final part of GIITTV's tips for 08, we delve deeper into this year's bands to watch giving you our final selection of eight quality acts: from unsigned outfits on the edge of recognition to those already harnessing a vital buzz both online and onstage.
First up James McDonald gives you three for '08.
Appearing abruptly without much prior warning towards the tail end of 2007, 5 Oxford under-graduates making music that speaks years ahead of their fresh faced facades. Presenting: Foals. 'We were surprised by how quickly everything happened' admits singer Yannis, talking to GIITTV amidst a chaos of sound guys desperately striving to find a fuse to repair the dated mixing desk. 'There are a lot of forgotten good bands - even the bands who we grew up around and took our influences from. When some of those bands got offered deals, we always hoped that that could, at best, happen for us. The move to Transgressive records, from Try Harder, was weird in the sense that we were all at university at the time, so it gave us a decent reason to drop-out!'
Foals had begun a year and a half previously, fronted by Andrew Mears, who departed from the project to focus on his other troupe Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies. Yannis, now vocalist, describes the change as 'embryonic'. 'The band had only played a handful of shows before I was asked to join, so really there was more a sense of a new band, as opposed to one which had already been established. Given that, I think the two words to describe my feelings towards our progress to date would be, pretty good.'
However, it is evident from previous offerings such as latest single 'Balloons' that 'pretty good' is also pretty understated. Their music combines the intellect of Oxford under-grads, with the harnessed pandemonium of an amplified blizzard. "We're trying to create something with a bit more heart to it. I hope people will respect our band for what it is; a journey. This is to say our music will change and progress and we hope people will embrace us more for that, as opposed to getting pissed off about 'Hummer' not being on the album!"
'Antidotes', having been completed last year with TV on the Radio guru David Sitek, is due for release in march of 2008. 'We're really pleased with how the album turned out, but it was hard work. We're never going to be completely happy, but we hope people will enjoy it. I think we'll make better albums, in fact I think over time we'll look back on this as our worst! But we are really happy with it, and I think under the circumstances it was the best we could have done.' Despite Yannis's modesty, it's safe to say that Foals, through the release of their debut full-length, will be one of the big hitters this year. So rarely has that dirtiest of dirty words, 'hype' served such a just purpose. They are at the forefront of an intelligent movement we're likely to be seeing much more of in the coming months, and if that's not something to get excited about, then I hear there's going to be a new Harry Potter film this year you can all go and see instead.
CATS AND CATS AND CATS
Introducing Ben, Doug, Tom, Adam and, of course, Eve - more commonly known among the masses as Cats and Cats and Cats. But these guys and gals are not your average animal collective. Far from it.
Cats and Cats and Cats started life with only 3/5th of its current line up, with founding members Ben, George and Doug self-releasing debut EP 'Victorialand' in 2005. The transition from those seemingly distant days to these, however, has been mammoth. 'We were all still at university when we started out, practicing and playing gigs where we could' explains Ben. 'Recording was a bonus!' Although far removed from present times, the six tracks documented on the EP lay the spiky post-prog blueprints for the band we know today. Jagged guitars running through clean channels, interlocked by time signatures as dizzying as a merry-go-round, all topped off with heartfelt vocals and ancillary violin texture.
The band undertake a 10-date European tour this April, cumulating in, erm, Farnborough - this being a clear example of the benefits they are recieving from being snapped up by indie-chic's pioneering label, Big Scary Monsters. 'Before BSM we were booking gigs and recording sessions on our own merit,' confesses Ben, 'so it's nice to receive this kind of support from the label'. And brighter pastures are on the horizon, as Cats have been locked away in a studio lately recording their first LP, the follow up to 2006's mini-album Sweet Drunk Everyone. 'It's going to be, interesting! We're writing the album based on a set of rules, which will determine things like song length, time signature, and of course, language!'
Still playing dimly lit and criminally sweaty venues across the country, this size of which would make a hermit feel at home, Cats have pulled themselves through the ranks through sheer love and devotion to the music they're making. If the band are destined to avail from work they've put in thus far, this will be the year it happens. A glistening diamond in the rough.
Foals and Cats and Cats and Cats illustrations by Hannah Meese.
Part of a now thriving south-London scene, Colour are four pubescent tykes showing the masses how it should be done. Making sounds as incandescent as the name would suggest, their songs harness diversity and intellect with remarkably professional aplomb.
Having battled through the turbulence that was 2007, Colour are now looking intensely bright and brilliant in the infancy of the new year. Despite their relatively short life-span, the foursome have already amassed an arsenal of hefty material, although it wasn't all plain sailing. 'Last year was difficult because we lost two members and the bass player spot had been hard to fill'. However, despite hemorrhaging members, the band produced their third recording, a three track EP entitled 'We Are All Over The Moon' . 'We were really happy with how it came out, and it also seemed to be our most well recieved recording so far which is always nice.'
Characterising their music as 'pretty guitars with sing-along choruses' their sound is the kind of intelligent pop Sigmund Freud would be making were he gracing the musical field today. 'We're really aiming to make music we're proud of, and simply hope people will listen to it...' Given that the band are currently unsigned, there are obvious limitations to how many people will ultimately be able to listen to them. However, in my opinion this in no way discredits the fact that the music Colour are making should be a staple in anyone's collection this year.
Next up GIITTV albums sub EP Mike Mantin picks out three acts to keep your eyes and ears on in the next year:
Indie-pop two-piece Slow Club are a band very likely to pick up both critical acclaim and popularity in 2008. They've been quietly impressing audiences by bringing sunshine to rainy mid-afternoon slots at festivals all summer, but they're starting the year by upping their game. With a string of showcase dates and an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall lined up, the capacities are getting bigger but the show remains delightfully intimate: a simple set-up of guitar and imaginative ideas percussion (a chair was the main source when I caught them). And it wouldn't work without an already-impressive collection of heartwarming folk-tinged songs. Catch them live on their first headline tour, I guarantee you'll want to give them a big hug once they've finished playing.
MARGOT AND THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO'S
The last thing you think of when you see a band name like Margot & the Nuclear So and Sos is gentle Americana, but this Indianapolis band are proof that names can be deceiving - or, in this case, thoroughly confusing. A nine-piece, none of which are called Margot, they sit alongside Bright Eyes and Okkervil River as masters of dramatic indie-folk, cello included. Check out the two songs currently streamable on their MySpace page for examples of their fine craft. They're due to follow their excellent but underrated 2006 debut 'The Dust of Retreat' in 2008, so they're worth keeping an eye on when that new material emerges.
PICTURE BOOKS IN WINTER
Another cello-heavy tip for 2008, Cardiff-based Picturebooks in Winter have only been active since last summer but already show huge potential. The pairing of sincere indie-rock and dramatic, virtuoso strings is reminiscent of Curisve, plus there's a hint of the glorious racket of fellow locals Los Campesinos! too. Plus you've got to pay attention to a band who climax a song by screaming for advice from Konnie Huq. If the likes of 'Horizontally I Am Champion' and 'Reykjavik' were, as they say, the result of a whim over one summer, imagine the epics they could end up making.
Finally GIITTV chief Bill Cummings gives you his selections for '08:
PETE AND THE PIRATES
Reading's Pete And The Pirates are indescribably good, but you know me, I'll have a bash. Forget the banality of the most of the mainstream guitar pop scene in this country right now. This is refreshing, well crafted, uncontrived spiky indie pop with a real throbbing tuneful heart. Last year's single "Knots" was the emotional rollercoaster ride of love in a three minute slab of an organically produced pop single: undulating jangly guitars, thick gut-thudding percussion, and a treble-barrelled, heart-bursting melody. While "Come on feet" is delightful, both danceable and intriguing rolling drums and shiny guitars augment the insistently harmonic choral vocals that inhabit both the rush of a night on the town, and the comedown afterwards. Comparisons are fruitless but maybe you could look to the skewed craftiness of Pavement or the fast handed informed jangle of the Wedding Present, but PATP are essentially an uniquely English band brimful of inventive tunes, intertwined melodies, and body popping rhythms. They played a small tent at Reading last year, let's hope they get to play there again, only this time on a bigger stage. Their new album Little Death is due for release through Stolen Recordings on the 18th of February 2008.
A mention too for other bands on the Stolen roster: the bittersweet (noise meets melody) art pop of Screaming Tea Party and the shambling C86 inspired garage punk of Let's Wrestle.
Those North American's have gone and done it again. Seattle five-piece Fleet Foxes, an act that only formed in the wistful summer of 2007, have already been snapped up by Sub Pop. On first listening their sound is classically American: epic song structures recalling the likes of My Morning Jacket, the psychedelic grandeur of Mercury Rev or the choral folk of The Hidden Camera or Neil Young, but it bristles with the kind of lush melodious adventurousness that marks them out right now. Their vocalist/lyricist Robin Pecknold leads the way as their intricate harmonies take shape; combined they make up a unique set of vocals that soar and ache with a longing that brings to mind the vast ranges of Mount. Rainier , the steam rising from oceans, or the midnight dark of abandoned woods. Unsurprisingly their songs are inspired by the nature and history of the Pacific Northwest, Pecknold talks about their musical direction on their MySpace page:"We are trying to be traditional with instrumentation and unconventional with song structure and vocals. Few songs have lead vocals, most are fully harmonized. There are elements from Trees, Judee Sill, Fairport Convention, Fleetwood Mac, the Beach Boys, and CSN." They are planning to release an 11 song self-titled album produced by Phil Ek (The Shins, Band of Horses, Modest Mouse), and a 5 song EP called Sun Giant through Sup pop this year.
Read GIITTV tips part one and two.