Vs. The (Pop) World

By Juan Manuel Freire

Acrylics, from Oberlin but residing in New York, shares the twang of Fleetwood and “crystallised 70’s pop” in general, but also late-60’s psychedelics, “Cosmic American Music,” Badalamenti, The Chills, Cocteau Twins, Elliott Smith, disco and house... Molly Shea and Jason Klauber are pop music geeks, investigators of old references, obsessive collectors. And if everything they put out is as good as the EP “All of the Fire” –released on Terrible, the label of Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor—some day they will be the ones being collected with religious fervour. Their first album, “Lives and Treasure” (Hot Sand), will be out on the 25th of this month, and promises the moon.

James Blake

The post-dubstep artist, not the tennis player, of course. Some people will be gnashing their teeth and thinking that Blake should appear on a proverbial Silicon Implants list of prime bets, but the incredible cover of Feist’s “Limit to your Love” was one of the pop epiphanies of 2010. And few artists who have the potential to dictate the direction that more adventurous popular music will be taking in the near future come to mind. His debut album is really something special, the same distance from dubstep and neoclassicism, The xx and Bon Iver, and with loads of personality. A shining light.


Not much is known about these guys. Or gals, of course. The dance group is staying in the shadows, although their productions are burnt by the Balearic sun, and play ironically with titles like “Paula Abdul Drinking a Pepsi, October 17th, 1987.” The song itself is no joke, but rather a creamy, exuberant exercise in electronic nostalgia, with the class of Saint Etienne and The Avalanches and the glitches typical of Games. The promise of a brighter (retro) future.

CSLSX - Paula Abdul Drinking A Pepsi, October 17th, 1987


Thanks to, or just because of the Internet, secrets aren’t what they used to be anymore. They don’t last very long at all. And if it seems like just yesterday that we were all wondering who Cults was, today we know who they are, what their faces look like, and who they’ve signed with: Columbia Records, and that’s it. The producer of the expected album is Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells), who is supposed to respect their indie charisma, preserve their spectral charm, and enrich their sound without shrillness. We also hope that Madeline Follin doesn’t let them touch her up. She’s fine just as she is.


Can such a thing as maximalist lo-fi exist? Of course. Heroic, epic, magnetic, DOM is one of the young alternative groups with the greatest possibility of really becoming famous in 2011. After collaborating with Gucci Mane, in February, a remixed and re-mastered version of their EP “Sun Bronzed Greek Gods” will be re-released. If there is any justice in this world, they will be the background noise for the next Mardi Gras, instead of Ke$ha or Katy Perry. And with that almost patriotic hit that is “Living in America”, they would encourage the troops more than Perry wrapped up in stars and stripes.

High Highs

From euphoria to melancholy, although without becoming too dejected, High Highs is a New York duo that dedicates its strength—or rather, its fragility—to cultivating a pop that is acoustic and a bit down in the dumps, but not too much, with lovely arrangements, ideal harmonies, and a delicacy that is uncommon in the age of Cheryl Cole. Their first album might save our skins. Until the miracle takes place, we’ll just have to play “Open Season” on repeat mode or check out their cover of “Live in Dreams” (Wild Nothing) on their MySpace.

Hooray For Earth

And now coming back from melancholy to euphoria, now with the well-connected Brooklynites Hooray For Earth, friends of Twin Shadow –the limited version of “Forget” (2010) includes a song, “A Place We Like”, written by Hooray For Earth and performed by both groups– and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Surfer Blood, with whom their Chris Principe covered Lit live. Like Twin Shadow or Violens, Hooray brings back 80’s pop influences without crossing over the line into pastiche; in reality, they start from old synthesiser sounds to approach something that looks like the future. In the spring there will be a first album. Until then, it’s good to continue frolicking in the total happiness of songs from the EP “Momo” like the one below.

Hooray For Earth “Comfortable, Comparable”

Is Tropical If in days of yore, Kitsuné’s compilations were a non-stop pleasure, but more recently, you have to overcome some obstacles (pseudo-hits) to find a real hit. But that’s not to say there aren’t any, because there are. In the recent volume 10 ( “The Fireworks Issue”) we have, for example, “South Pacific” from Is Tropical, described very well by The Guardian as “a Yazoo/Beach Boys crossover.” Well, that imagined mix would have sounded even better probably, but there’s no need to take away from the merit of this brilliant pop that is friend to guitars and machines.

Katy B

If James Blake is the best possible example of an intimate dubstep, explorer of internal space, the stupendous Katy B would be the other side of the coin: the more inclusive, expansive, accessible side. And we all may need solitude, but we also benefit from contact with the masses; this is why, for example, we continue to go to festivals with our eyes closed, in search of a communal feeling. Katy B has taken on the mission of pulling us out of our depression through bass music for the masses. The album (with the title to be confirmed) will be out in March. And then the planet will be more inhabitable than it is now.


Lately, the group that the most new groups remind us of –begging your pardon, Fleetwood Mac– is the tribal, psychedelic Animal Collective. And of this offspring, one of the brightest is MillionYoung, an electronic “bedroom” producer located in Florida, as skilful at song-writing as at sound-writing. The debut album, “Replicants”, will be appearing digitally very soon–on the 11th– with the physical launch planned for the 15th of February. You can listen to the single “Perfect Eyes” here below.

MillionYoung . Perfect Eyes.mp3
Porcelain Raft

Another gifted bedroom composer: Londoner with Romanian roots Mauro Remiddi, a.k.a. Porcelain Raft. He left the psych-pop band Sunny Day Sets Fire, loved by the critics, but a bit ignored by the public, and he shut himself up in his bedroom to create such magical songs as “Tip of your Tongue” ( Here you can download three remixes of the song by Blackbird Blackbird, Blood Diamonds and Keep Shelly in Athens, along with a remix of “Gone Blind” by Nowa Huta). His next release: the EP “Going Blind” (Acéphale), with four songs that are already known from his Bandcamp, but re-mastered. I wish that last bit still mattered to anybody. Are there any audiophiles left in the world of “everything for free”? Elizabeth Sankey (occasional writer for New Musical Express) has already cured herself of this ill with this quietly triumphant indie pop project, with music-lovers’ eyes on it and adored by the critics, in spite of the possible envy. This year they are supposed to offer a cute-as-fuck opera prima. Here is one of their first classics.

Twin Sister

No, no, even though it might seem like it –exalted reviews of concerts and EPs, mentioning them every time I have a chance to– I am not the manager of Twin Sister, nor do I have shares in the label Infinite Best, nor is Andrea Estella my girlfriend. It is simply very hard to find groups as sensitive and intelligent as Twin Sister, the best surprise of 2010, which will probably be the best confirmation of 2011. Hopefully thanks to an album, although the group works as slowly as Kevin Shields during the period of “Loveless.” The delay might be exasperating, but it is also a sign of the love that this group somewhere between Cocteau Twins and Stereolab puts into everything that it does.

Wires Under Tension

The new project from Christopher Tignor and Theo Metz (ex Slow Six) shows, like the latest from Mogwai, that there is still life in post-rock. Their imminent album “Light Science” builds bridges between contemporary music and math-rock with an exuberant imagination and an expressive, emotional flow that can stand up to any stoicism. Battles jam with Philip Glass in “Mnemonics in Motion”.


Still without an album under their arm, they were already an eagerly-awaited presence at Primavera Club. And those who saw them talked about them almost like the Virgin Mary. Like Avi Buffalo, they are some astute youths who came of age with the best indie rock of the 90’s and who are now bringing it back with an extra dose of freshness and vitality, not to say technical expertise. Their greatest achievement so far must be “Rubber”, accompanied by an unusual video clip. The album “Yuck” will be out on the 15th February, on Fat Possum.

Next: Geri Halliwell’s line of swimwear, the New Year’s Eve mixtape from M.I.A., the workaholic Natalie Portman, new castings of “Fame”,the end of time, or a handful of completely different things.

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