Part of 20 Watts’ Best of the Decade Coverage!
PREVIEWS: CLICK on the links to check the bands’ MySpaces!
With each new issue, 20 Watts brings you The Five bands you need to hear now! Here they are: Sleigh Bells, Susie Ro & Ayla, Chiddy Bang, Cold Cave and PARLOVR!
Read it all below the cut!
Sleigh Bells [photo above]
Sleigh Bells, a dance-pop duo out of Brooklyn, may be the auditory equivalent of flying a kite into a power line. Vocalist Alexis Krauss and songwriter/producer Derek Miller (formerly of Poison the Well) scorch their tracks with heavy guitar slabs and laptop beats that sound like they’re blasting full-volume through a blown-out speaker. Picture The Ting Tings buying an eight-ball from The Cool Kids and sharing it with Matt and Kim, and you’ve pretty much got Sleigh Bells.
The duo stormed out of the gates with knockout performances at CMJ Music Marathon and a “Best New Music” nod from Pitchfork for single “Crown on the Ground,” so expect more big things out of them soon. While they’re currently unsigned, they can’t stay that way for long.
— Dan Creahan
If you ever wished that Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” was a bit less precious and a bit more danceable, then look no further than Chiddy Bang. The Drexel University hip-hop/electronica group has done Stevens and various indie bands a favor by sampling a range of singles from MGMT’s “Kids” to Passion Pit’s “Truth” to French starlet Yelle’s “Ce Jeu.” Beat-maker Xaphoon Jones’ dance sensibilities and lead emcee Chidera Amamege’s explosively witty rhyming lend themselves surprisingly well to the indie standards – well enough for Chiddy Bang to open for The Roots earlier this year at the Highline Ballroom.
Although currently unsigned, the group released a mixtape, The Swelly Express, at the end of October. So do yourself a favor and put them on your next party playlist, if only to see people’s faces when “Never” comes on – complete with samples from Mary Poppins.
— Jen Gramer
With the emotional haunt of a pre-Raphaelite painting, Brighton U.K.’s Susie Ro & Ayla pioneer their own style of neo-folk – an eerie blend of acoustic minimalism and traditional vocal harmony. The duo’s solid technical background in piano and guitar complements the mixture well, but it’s the vocal mystique that really makes their sound. These are tracks inflected with a kind of fairy-tale mysticism, like something you’d want to hear while wandering through the woods. If Frodo Baggins owned an iPod, the song “Silver City” would most likely be on it, right next to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”
Susie Ro & Ayla haven’t been signed yet, but their Web presence is getting stronger. They released their debut album She and I last January and were profiled on BBC Radio soon after. They’ve also just completed a follow-up EP, which is set to drop this spring.
— Dan Powell
There is something endearing about the eccentricities of Montreal indie pop trio PARLOVR (pronounced “parlor”). It may be the quirkiness of lines like “On the phone, you can be anything.” Or the oddity of their old, sometimes broken instruments. Or maybe the fact that the members of PARLOVR refer to themselves as “Festooned Hand Mirror,” “Tin Smoke Box” and “Red Oak Frame” – Louis Jackson, Alex Cooper and Jeremy MacCuish, respectively.
Whatever it is, there are plenty of reasons to love these Canadians. The band’s songwriting is riddled with crafty pop hooks and dirty – or as they say, “muddy” – guitars. And while it’s hard to compare their brand of self-professed “sloppy pop” to many better-known artists, shades of The Strokes and Arcade Fire creep into their frenzied anthems.
PARLOVR are currently touring Quebec and Ontario. They self-released their debut PARLOVR last year.
— Sean Cotter
The R&B-tinged electro-pop of bands like La Roux seems to rule the scene these days. You could argue that Cold Cave have jumped on the bandwagon, but somehow their peculiar brand of electronica sounds less like pop and more like noise rock.
Wes Eisold, Dominick Fernow and former Xiu-Xiu collaborator Caralee McElroy make up the Philadelphia- and New York-based band. Eisold, a former member of hardcore punk acts like Some Girls and American Nightmare, may have influenced Cold Cave’s heavy sound, which uses shoegaze-y vocals, punchy synths and dark overtones to veer away from the pop pack. Granted, “Life Magazine” will keep you bumping, but the echoed, breathy sound of McElroy’s vocals gives every song a sinister vibe.
Cold Cave’s debut, Love Comes Close, is an impressive introduction. Mixing and reworking a myriad of musical genres, they’re sure to gain fans across the spectrum.
— Alex Kish