How fresh are these five artists? So fresh that they make ‘90s Will Smith jealous. So fresh that your organic farm lettuce wilts in defeated dismay. So fresh that they’re still in the bubble wrap. So fresh that… you get the point. On this latest offering from Top Five Records, a sensitive young lad from Nottingham competes for space with a Japanese Britpop band and a Copenhagen soul-pop star. Sound interesting? Read on.
My Kind of Woman, by Mac DeMarco
On first look, Mac DeMarco looks far too ordinary. Dressed down in an old-fashioned plaid shirt and flashing a stoned, buck-toothed grin, he looks like the sort of guy who’d rather chill, relax and have a good time rather than embark on an ambitious road to musical success. And surprisingly, this assessment is not too far off the mark. Mac DeMarco is a laid-back, down-to-earth and ordinary guy who makes laid-back, down-to-earth and extraordinary music, directly because of the way he wields his sincerity as a musical Midas Touch of sorts. On “My Kind of Woman”, Mac writes a beautiful, simple, timeless song about being in love with a woman even though she drives you crazy, sounding a bit like Wilco featuring (non-melancholic) Broken Social Scene in the process. Mac DeMarco (and his music) is old-school, charming and easy-going; a more prolix description of his talent is unbefitting.
Day and Night, by Diamond Rings
Canadian-born artist and frequent fire-setter of the hipster blogosphere Diamond Rings (aka John O’Regan) first came to prominence with the manically catchy “All Yr Songs” way back in September 2009. In the subsequent music video, O’Regan sparkled like his moniker suggests – because of his infectious energy as well as because of, well, the glitter that might’ve been embedded in his make-up. Banter aside, “Day & Night” is a track from his upcoming sophomore album, Free Dimensional, with beats and synths so happy that you can almost see the rainbows. It’s a bit like Passion Pit with a marked Ok Go verve, but you can just call it dance-pop. “1, 2, let me love you/ 3, 4, love you more/ 5, 6, 7, 8, 9/ 10, 11, 12 all day and night,” goes the glittery, memorable chorus. You can’t not love this song.
Dude can dance.
Someone Told Me, by Jake Bugg
On the YouTube page for a song by Nottingham native Jake Bugg, VEVO tried to shove us into watching the latest video by Justin Bieber. We recount to you this dubious anecdote of VEVO-based irony because that was the moment that provided us a perfect perspective on Jake’s genius. Unlike his Canadian counterpart, this eighteen-year-old JB from across the pond does not collaborate with Nicki Minaj in cocky songs meant for teenage girls. Instead, Jake Bugg writes lovelorn songs about girls in a time-honored vibe that’s older than both him and Nicki. On the delicate and poignant “Someone Told Me”, the most obvious approximation of young Jake’s music would be a youthful Bob Dylan, but Nick Cave and Elliott Smith figure in the formula, too. Listen closer, though, and through the endearing Nottingham accent and naïve, well-penned lyrics, one cannot help but think of Submarine-era Alex Turner. “Someone loved me, but not today/ Will you show me a way how to love?” he asks, a teenager who grew up a little too fast. Don’t be fooled by his Facebook-profile-picture-esque album cover: this one’s a keeper.
Pilgrim, by MØ
MØ (“virgin”) is the stage name of young Danish singer Karen Marie Ørsted. Recently, she’s released a couple of brilliant tracks, “Pilgrim” and “Maiden”, which are as clever and minimalist as her choice of stage name. “Pilgrim” is the more confident and restrained of the two, and that’s why we have decided to cover it.
Slick, sparse hand-claps provide the backbone for this off-beat soul-pop gem; a riveting, lean brass section provides the meat; and MØ’s sinuous vocals the lifeline-blood. The best thing about her is the way she sounds a little like a three-way Battle of the Artists between Santigold, the xx and, say, Brandy. Another awesome thing about her is the way she pulls off the aesthetically-troubled hipster singer shtick; it’s usually impossible to do without arousing scoffs and derision. On the chorus of “Pilgrim”, MØ wails, “All the time I just want to let go, and go/ All the time I just want to fuck it up,” and somehow, you’re intrigued. Even if her troubles are for aesthetic purposes only, she sure as hell knows how to make it work. Oh, and “Pilgrim” comes with a nice visual accompaniment: not since Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” has a music video brimmed with so much quirk, genius and synchronicity. It’s worth a watch almost as much as the song is worth a listen. Check out both below!
Flower Chain, by Taffy
We were piqued from the moment that the hectic bass-and-drums affair on “Flower Chain” set our feet tapping. We were hooked almost immediately after the cool-as-hell guitars kicked in. And by the time vocalist Iris started wordplaying between ‘deny’ and ‘don’t I’, we were giddily in love. Taffy is a band from Tokyo that sounds a little bit like Blur, Pulp, Suede and all that, while dutifully reflecting a bit of the concurrent Seattle grunge scene that those bands themselves were influenced by.
The funny thing, though, is that Taffy has actually gone on record saying that they’ve never really listened to Britpop at all! Peculiar. However, we certainly aren’t the only ones that see the resemblance. Taffy has been signed on to London label Club AC30, and is embarking on a UK tour this very month. As an added bonus to this brilliant song, the effortlessly- blasé video features the band rocking out both in their human and anime avatars. Taffy is delicious; please do listen to them.
Agree with our top five? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section.