Saturday Sampler for February 20th goes retro – well, mostly retro. Hear ten great songs from artists in Sweden, Greece, France, the UK, Canada, the US, South Africa, and Australia.
Anderson .Paak – “Celebrate” (Oxnard, CA)
The young singer/songwriter and rapper Anderson .Paak is getting a lot of deserved attention lately. His fresh R&B sound has reached audiences across multiple genres, not just because he’s worked with Dr. Dre on Compton last year or with Idris Elba on the upcoming Macklemore & Ryan Lewis release. His universal appeal lies in the personal way he delivers the gift of his talent, not preachy or egotistically, but with an everyman’s charm and wisdom: “I was under the impression that we all want the best of life / So let’s celebrate while we still can.” Sage wisdom from a smooth-voiced talent.
Malibu released January 15 via Steel Wool Records; it’s the follow-up to his 2012 LP, Venice.
Cocovan – “Mirage Of Us” (Paris, France)
While Paris-based artist Cocovan‘s debut single, “Mirage Of Us”, was released a couple of months ago, it’s too good to ignore. This glam-pop number is outrageously fun, filling your speakers with the delirious and infectious pop of the ’80s. So get up and dance along to “Mirage Of Us” and start spreading the name Cocovan around because this young woman has the chance to be her generation’s Madonna. She’ll get to proof this soon when she’ll release some new music.
Field Music – “Disappointed” (Sunderland, UK)
British indie art rock veterans Field Music are back with another tune that will take up residence in your head space for weeks. Brothers David and Peter Brewis formed the band in 2004, but their various side projects have kept them busy and limited their output with this project. “Disappointed” is a three-minute instant classic of a gem, full of smart ’80s-inspired pop-funk goodness. One listen is all it takes to understand why Prince is a fan of theirs. It’s from their sixth album, Commontime, which released February 5 on Memphis Industries.
j.normal – “FIRE” (London, UK)
It takes a rare breed to not be concerned about one’s image and only focused on her art. Such is the case with London-based j. normal, a singer-songwriter who is out to make retro hip again. Her debut single, “FIRE”, is unabashedly ’80s (and would have been perfect for our unabashedly retro list). This power-pop ballad would have been perfect on the soundtrack for St. Elmo’s Fire, but instead thirty years later we get reminded of how great the ’80s were with this terrific track.
LOWLA – “Reckless” (London, UK)
They might be awfully young (still teenagers), but Lo and Lara – a.k.a. LOWLA – are changing how we perceive indie-pop music. Their debut single, “Reckless”, isn’t the rah-rah, formulaic pop song we’re use to hearing. Instead, it’s a rhythm-driven, cataclysmic tune that will have you moving to the intense percussion and beats. “Reckless” just isn’t a song; it’s one spectacular affair. We can’t wait to hear what LOWLA have in store next.
Prism Tats – “Pacifist Masochist” (Los Angeles via Durban, South Africa)
This time last year, Prism Tats was gearing up to play SXSW Festival in Texas. Armed with his self-released debut EP, the Los Angeles-based South African musician (whose real name is Garett van der Spek) created a stir among music industry insiders. Fast-forward a year, and now he’s back with a proper release on a well-known label. This first uptempo single with impossibly catchy hooks is from his self-titled debut album, due April 15 on Anti- Records.
Sofia Härdig – “Sitting Still” (Sweden)
Swedish artist Sofia Härdig has rightfully been compared to Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon for her edgy indie-rock sound, but on her new single “Sitting Still” she heads in a slightly different direction. While the track retains her cathartic rock sound, it’s a little darker and heavier to give it an apocalyptic feel. In other words, Härdig is like a more bombastic Chelsea Wolfe.
The single is taken from Härdig’s forthcoming album, And The Street Light Leads To The Sea, which is expected this spring or summer.
Spookyland – “God’s Eyes” (Sydney, Australia)
Australian indie rock band Spookyland is a force to be reckoned with, so prepare yourself for their bold sound. These four Sydney rockers have been making waves since last year when they released their first EP. This led to touring in the U.S., including a slot at Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago and eventually a recording session with Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst. That’s where they recorded their full-length debut album, Beauty Already Beautiful. Spooky land is 24-year-old singer Marcus Gordon, his brother Liam Gordon (guitars), Nath Mansfield (drums), and Nic Malouf (bass).
Beauty Already Beautiful drops May 6 via Play It Again Sam.
Σtella – “Works For You” (Athens, Greece)
Last year, Greek singer Stella Chronopoulou – a.k.a. Σtella – amazed us with her ’80s-inspired, eponymous debut album. She’s now getting ready to release her sophomore album, and the lead song is “Works For You”. Whereas her debut album centered on ’80s synth-pop and dreamwave, “Works For You” sees Σtella head more towards a contemporary electro-pop vibe. However, there are still noticeable ’80s elements, specifically new wave and dark wave, to give the track a dark and hypnotic feel. It’s a pleasant turn from Chronopoulou, who is set to make huge waves abroad much like Annie Lennox did three decades ago.
Σtella’s forthcoming album is due out later this year via Inner Ear Records.
Wild Rivers – “Already Gone” (Toronto, Canada)
Dual female-male harmonies have become commonplace, where it seems every indie-folk band needs to have them. Many of them are often unnecessary, drowning the song in ennui. But Toronto band, Wild Rivers‘ new single, “Already Gone”, are recapturing the emotion in the genre. The interplay between Devan Glover and Khalid Yassein is intimate and sincere, like two lovers who are worlds apart and whose hearts ache for the other. The song recalls the energy and power of Houndmouth.
Wild Rivers are Devan Glover, Khalid Yassein, Andrew Oliver, and Ben Labenski.