Friday, January 20, 2006

As The Bloggers Affirm: Bands To Watch In '06

Calum Marsh

2005 is, well, a thing of the past, and so I thought it time to take a nice long look at the tentative shape of the coming year. A load of bands seemed to come right out of nowhere last year - most notably the great indie darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, which nobody outside of NYC saw coming - surprising us all with solid albums and enthusiasm for making their presence in the indie world known.

As such, I thought this year I'd aim for something of a preemptive strike, highlighting a number of artists who as of right now are recording and performing under the hipster radar but who are worthy of your attention nonetheless. You're sure to hear a whole lot more of these bands in 2006, so feel free to listen; who doesn't love being able to say "I heard them when..."?

5. Hi Lo Trons
Despite what The Killers will tell you, wearing a thin tie while performing does not make your group 'New Wave'. No, believe it or not, there's more to the eighties than neon colors and cooky sound effects - there's substance behind that synth, pal, and without it you're just glam-rock wannabes in mascara, mashing keyboards till somebody listens. Sigh.

Thankfully, though, there are bands like the Hi Lo Trons who know exactly how to bring New Wave together with indie rock without sounding contrived. They've got the eighties sound down-pat, alright - synth-sound effects and spacey guitar are put to use quite regularly - but what sets the Hi Lo Trons apart from the crummy knock offs is their gleefully endearing spirit. They can belt out space metaphors or throw in robot voices with surprising seriousness, avoiding a slip into try-hard sarcasm or downright sillyness. For the most part, though, they put the all-out eighties stuff on hold in order to write more compelling and straight-forward indie rock songs (which isn't really a bad idea, if you can do it well - and these guys certainly can). It's an impressive feat to sound so convincingly eighties without being gimmicky and, most importantly, without sounding like The Killers.

Oh, and if that wasn't convincing enough - they opened for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in September last year, so they must be good.

4.Roman Revutsky
Based out of Siberia, Russia, Roman Revutsky is a kind of musical oddity: situated in an area with no hip music scene whatsoever (I'm not generalizing here, people - he assures me there is nothing), and producing music that seems to do its best to avoid categorization, Roman seems to be stuck in a kind of temporary limbo. I'd wager that as soon as he has a release that he can market - currently he's albumless, but according to his myspace page there's an EP on the way - he'll be able to find that niche crowd he needs. It seems as though, in a city with a more prominent music community or with a style that could be easily pegged, Roman would have been creating all kinds of indie buzz ages ago.

That isn't the case here, which is terribly unfortunate considering the incredible amount of talent this guy has. The tracks he has recorded and made available are irresistably charming (his voice, prominantely accented, is reserved but strangely moving, like a Siberian Stephin Merritt), and though its impossible to be sure of how his album will sound once completed, I have a hard time imagining it being anything less than stellar.

3. Minus Story
Though already much bigger than Roman Revutsky and The Hi Lo Trons (they've released a number of EPs, both of which received fairly positive reviews from you know who), Minus Story seems to still be short of the attention they should be getting. I got really excited about the indie pop group after hearing their latest EP, No Rest For Ghosts, which was released in 2005 - but it was when I heard their second most recent recording, Captain Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance, that I was hooked. Like The Unicorns before them, Minus Story craft songs that brim with gleeful joy but resonate with deep, dark sadness. On 'Open Your Eyes', especially, Minus Story show that they, unlike most indie pop acts, can write a song of intense emotional depth without resorting to gimmicks like chessy lyrics and thick strings.

My only real qualm is that they might not be able to focus enough to pour their energy into a solid full length recording; the fact that they've released 3 EPs but seemingly haven't considered anything longer signals to me that they might not be ready for it yet. I suppose I'm thankful that they have the sense to not get ahead of themselves, but I'm greedy and don't want to wait much longer. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens, but I have a good feeling about 2006 for Minus Story.

2. Adam Saikaley
Electronica artists so frequently sound 'futuristic'; from industrial cracks and hisses to spacey beeps and buzzes, music made primarily on computers typically sounds like the instrument with which it was created which, though often compelling and dynamic, feels strangely limiting when compared to what else can be done. Maybe that's why the music of Adam Saikaley sounds so refreshing: situated primarily in electronica, Adam generally sounds as far from electronic as you can imagine. His music distinctly evokes music of the mid-twentieth century, rich with the sounds of 30s radio and 50s TV. Sampling the forgotten sounds of early jazz and pop and cleverly combining it with his own breakbeat percussion, Adam's final product is addictive and brilliant (though practically impossible to categorize).

1. . . . As The Poets Affirm
Though both their first two LP releases, I Want To Tell My Heart To You But I Cannot Say English and The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch were good in their own ways, Ottawa favorites ...As The Poets Affirm's forthcoming release is undoubtably going to be their breakthrough. The two demo tracks from the album which they currently have available (through Myspace only, unfortunately), are absolutely astounding, and are a sure sign that The Poets have come a hell of a long way in such a short amount of time.

It's not that The Poets weren't good before: their debut LP in 2004, I Want To Tell My Heart, was fairly solid post-rock, but making a name for yourself as just another post-rock group in Canada is damn near impossible unless your band has 'Godspeed!' in the title. The group's second LP showed some movement away from the genre, most notably in their reservation, keeping songs super-consise at no longer than 5 or 6 minutes (please remember that most post-rock songs, clocking in at 10-20 minutes a piece, can be reasonably pretentious or self-indulgent). Regardless, despite the members' insistence that they are not particularly interested in post-rock music, they were still lifting their skinny fists to heaven a tad too often.

It seems that now, though, on their third release, the group has found a musical style they can call their own. The slow but steady shift away from post-rock into something more dynamic and unique is not unlike Canada's most notable musical ensemble, Broken Social Scene, who was hidden in obscurity until they decidedly abandoned their post-rock roots in favor for a more fresh sound.

The Poets have expanded their range to include, for the first time, vocal tracks, but not as one might expect; instead of letting the vocals become the focus (as the case is for most vocal-oriented music), the group has opted to implement vocals as merely another intrument within their richly layered works. This ends up working surprisingly well, as in 'Suburbs Of A Secret', where only a few sparse lines are delivered in key climatic moments. The result of their new direction is a marvellous new sound that will likely establish them in 2006 as one of Canada's top indie talents and will almost definitely garner them with much-deserved attention.

And that about wraps it up. Be sure to watch these guys carefully, as they're sure to go far this year. Also, we all know that The Subways and We Are Scientists are already on the road to mega-notoriety, so I opted to disclude them this time around (sorry guys).

Hi Lo Trons - Astromen
Hi Lo Trons - Science Fiction Music
Roman Revutsky - Hurry Up
Roman Revutsky - Incomplete
Minus Story - The Happy Activist
Minus Story - Open Your Eyes
Adam Saikaley - Stolen Kisses
Adam Saikaley - Of Garden's Yesterday
...As The Poets Affirm - A Lie Told Before Breakfast
...As The Poets Affirm - A Voice Recited The News On The Radio

Minus Story - No Rest For Ghosts
Minus Story - Captain Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance
Broken Social Scene - Feel Good Lost

Comments on "As The Bloggers Affirm: Bands To Watch In '06"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (21/1/06 5:13 am) : 

. . . As the Poets Confirm are the latest on Adam Aikaley's myspace friends list - coincidence?


Blogger missionlessdays said ... (22/1/06 8:36 pm) : 

Adam Saikaley is in the poets...coincidence? ah


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (22/1/06 9:06 pm) : 

He is indeed - but only as of recently, and after his solo project was established. Both deserve individual recognition.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (23/1/06 3:22 am) : 

Hey, is missionlessdays the bass player for poets or am I having another acid flashback?


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