Esser, Maths Class, Empire Of The Sun, Grammatics, Napoleon IIIrd - Tips for 09: Part Two.
In the second part of GIITTV zine's Tips for 2009, Sel Bulut and Simon Caitling delve deeper to bring you a selection of acts from potential mainstream breakers(Grammatics, Empire Of The Sun), to artists hoping to make a continuing push with new releases(Esser, Maths Class, Napoleon IIIrd) and a band just starting out with promise(With That Knife).
First up Sel Bulut gives us his three for 09:
With three massively catchy singles already released (one of which was a t-shirt, bizarrely), an everchanging but amazing haircut and holding bragging rights for having held support slots for the likes of Foals, Bloc Party and the Kaiser Chiefs already, Esser is looking to take 2009 as the king of indie pop. And why not? Every single he's released so far has been a gem, wonderfully offbeat tales of the awkwardness and frustration of love. Schizophrenic but catchy as hell, it comes in the same vein as Metronomy or Late Of The Pier but with a much more rounded and organised structure.
As one of the most memorable acts at this year's Leeds festival, it's well worth checking out Esser's unpredictable, energetic and mindlessly fun live performance on his headline tour this April.
As mathy synth punk goes this Brighton bunch have it down pretty much to a tee. Crazed and totally unpredictable, the noisy five piece are what acts like The Mae Shi, Lightning Bolt or Pre would be with a bit more structure and refine, whilst sharing the same mentalist DIY approach as webzine-favourites like Tubelord, we are THE PHYSICS and Dananananaykroyd in their individual approach to their music and releases. Although they're unlikely to gain any real mainstream attention, 2009 will hopefully grant them the attention from the underground they rightly deserve.
Generally considered a band you have to see live to truly 'get', you may be in for a trek to catch them - despite previously touring in Japan and having recently played in France and Holland, they're another band to sadly hold an irrational fear of The North, having only played a handful of shows further than London in the last year.
Empire Of The Sun
A psychedelic synthpop duo, both male, both photogenic and both sporting outlandish outfits...it's obvious that Empire Of The Sun will get a lot of flak and accusations of being a poor man's MGMT. And, whilst this is sort of justified, it is also a bit unfair. For one, these two Aussies aren't cheap imitators - Empire Of The Sun is a side project of Nick Littlemore and Luke Steele, of electro act Pnau and the slightly zany Sleepy Jackson respectively, both with quite developed back catalogues stretching as far back as the 90s. On top of this their songs are a lot more influenced by dance music, making the songs a lot more coherent and thought out than MGMT's. Although their album will never blow you away it is a neat little effort - even if their original projects are superior - and you can expect to hear these guys dominating the dancefloors of indie clubs all through 2009.
GIITTV's news sub Simon Caitling gives us his potential breaker, act pushing up, and new act just starting out.
Formed in early 2006 by former Colour of Fire man Owen Brinley (vocals/guitar/keys) and drummer Dominic Ord (drums), Grammatics are finally ready to make good on the undoubted promise shown on their opening trio of singles- 'Shadow Committee', 'D.I.L.E.M.M.A' and 'The Vague Archive'- with a sky scraping debut album of intent due out in March on Dance To The Radio.
Grammatics are a much needed breath of fresh air at a time when British bands seem comfortable enough either following in the footsteps of the Arctic Monkeys or tacking some hastily cobbled together synths onto their sound and trying to sound all 80s. In essence, the Leeds act are a post-pop group, but that is merely the cornerstone of what they're setting out to achieve; luscious strings courtesy of cellist Emilia Ergin and Ord's scattershot off-beat rhythms and chopping time signatures push Grammatics' into a rarefied avant-garde landscape of grandiose intentions. With bassist Rory O'Hara holding the whole thing together it allows the band to remain tight and concise whilst exploring experimental plains that other bands of their ilk wouldn't touch. Brinley is of course the glint in the eye of Grammatics, his soaring operatic vocals and live theatrics reminiscent of a youthful Brett Anderson at times; which is a good thing. In a time when groups are coming to the fore by treading tried and trusted patterns it's refreshing to see a band who could bulldoze the mainstream whilst trying to push their boundaries at the same time.
(Grammatics- The Vague Archive)
After the highly lauded 'In Debt To'- Napoleon's debut album- in 2007, the Leeds singer and musician will be back early this year with the mini-album 'Hideki Yukawa' and a tour supporting current bright young things Wild Beasts. Napoleon IIIrd is a captivating and engaging live performer whether on stage by himself (and his reel to reel tape recorder) or assisted by a band. His lyrics are sharp observations wrapped in wry humour yet containing enough resonance not to fall into the realm of the parody. Supplementing this is his wonderful eye for a catchy pop hook; it was this trait that helped 'In Debt To' gain such plaudits, and listens on Myspace to 'Hideki Yukawa' previews show that the man has only strengthened that attribute in the intervening eighteen months.
With so many solo performers playing it dead pan these days, Napoleon IIIrd stands out because he's not afraid to rely on his playful side and even allows it to run through into his material; it's this that could truly mark him out as a one to watch over the next twelve months as his star hopefully continues its ascent.
Just Starting Out
With That Knife
Manchester-based With That Knife met together at Salford University four years ago but have only really started “making a go of it”- guitarist Owen's words- in the last eighteen months, with a settled five piece line-up drawn from Reading to Blackpool. Perhaps then this is why With That Knife sound as far away from the stereotypical “Manchester band” as you could hope to get. Instead they seem to draw from an eclectic range of influences and construct them together like a puzzle; think Foals, but Foals jamming with At The Drive-In riffs, or The Clash's brash punk energy but played over the top of LCD Soundsystem's rhythms. They describe their sound as “quite danceable but with proper songs. Interesting yet energetic…[we like to] pick and choose from lots of different styles”. This certainly rings true, as frenetic punk can lead off into slow, atmospheric post-rock or just as likely volte face into hook-laden electronica rhythms; that they can hold all these ideas together without sounding overly jerky or schizophrenic is nothing short of impressive.
With That Knife are currently putting the finishing touches on their as yet untitled debut EP and aim to tour in the upcoming months after a 2008 which saw promotional work for the likes of XFM and Channel M (Manchester's regional TV channel). Any record deal would be “amazing, but we're well aware that is extremely rare, and for the moment we're happy on our own.” A cliché maybe, but With That Knife truly seem a group that are 'in it for the music', and their output seems something that they truly believe in; the next twelve months promises to be an interesting time for the five piece.
(With That Knife on Channel M)
More Tips to come.