Named for the ramshackle keyboards they first jammed on, Norwegian group Casiokids mix sparkling synths, Afrobeat, and techno for indie-pop that’s a bubbly and whimsical treat to the ears. The band carries a bit of mysteriousness around with them — for example, they only sing in their native language and their latest album Aabenbaringen over aaskammen (meaning The Revelation Over the Mountain) is about a hidden, almost mythical rain forest — but it only makes their pop hooks even more curiously infectious.
Discovered and signed by Peter Gabriel in the mid-’90s, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur has been a musician for over 15 years and has eight albums to his name. Arthur, who is originally from Akron, OH, is known for his poetic and melancholic songs. Whether done acoustically or with full, layered orchestration, his music feels intimate and poignant, as though it’s full of painful secrets. Also a distinguished painter and designer, his sleeve design for his 1999 Vacancy album was Grammy-nominated for Best Recording Package.
Glasgow-via-London foursome Veronica Falls blend aggressive garage punk with sweet Sixties pop, and morbid lyrics with sunny stories, making for unpredictable music that’s boldly ominous one minute and charmingly delightful the next. The dual moods give their songs an extra depth, but it’s their ability to straddle seamlessly between the haunting and the fun that makes Veronica Falls — especially singer Roxanne Clifford, whose vocal work calls to mind a more somber version of The Mamas & The Papas — stand out against other similar acts.
Electronic group Seekae create their music in the same way they’d put together a puzzle. The trio — made up of John Hassell, Alex Cameron and George Nicholas — take scores of sounds and piece them into a tapestry of music that’s hip-hop, indie-pop and ambient post-rock all at once. Each of their songs are like little soundtracks, moving through various moods as they sputter, crack, pulse, shine, and wind. Some sounds are actual live instruments, others digitally generated, and still others just everyday noises (they recorded random ruckus while in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and London).
Alamo Race Track are a quirky quartet from the Netherlands who’ve toured alongside Arctic Monkeys and have even been featured on the hit show Grey’s Anatomy. Incorporating a number of rock genres into their sound, their music has taken the form of dark indie-rock reminiscent of Interpol and more recently, stripped down, melancholy folk-pop in the vein of Fleet Foxes.
Jonquil is a young four-piece from Oxford, UK. Headed by falsetto frontman Hugo Manuel — who also happens to perform under the solo moniker Chad Valley — the quartet play the type of shimmery indie-rock that’s interlaced with pretty guitar noodling and coated with elements of Afro-pop, à la Vampire Weekend and Local Natives.
Los Angeles-based PYYRAMIDS is made up of OK Go’s Tim Nordwind and He Say She Say’s Drea Smith. Although they initially began their collaboration via email, sending scraps of music back and forth, their debut EP Human Beings comes together as a strong, 6-track collection of sad, dark synth-rock. Smith’s voice has an air of chill nonchalance mixed with a hypnotizing seductiveness, which complements Nordwind’s piercing riffs and the hauntingly pulsing beats in the background. Here they perform stripped down versions of some of those songs...
Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan infuses folk-rock with blooming, layered orchestration on Oh, Fortune — his first proper album on Arts & Crafts and the follow-up to his 2009 Polaris Prize-nominated Nice, Nice, Very Nice. His songs swell to become full-bodied, sweeping moments of textured arrangements and hearty vocals that are tinged with a roughness, sadness and even guttural power.
Denmark-based Icelander Snaevar Njáll Albertsson, the multi-instrumentalist mastermind behind Dad Rocks!, creates beautiful music that wavers between sparse, introspective folk and intricate, sonic bursts of orchestra rock. The straightforward guitar work is playful and the weaving arrangements are richly-textured — seemingly perfect for his songs, whose stories often reveal perspectives from both the naive, innocent child and the wise, serious parent. Similarly, his voice is tinged with a vulnerable tenderness, despite its deep and gravelly quality.