St. Lucia is what happens when the long and bleak winters of New York recede and summer emerges; giving birth to memories of childhood holidays, faded photos of exotic places and the dream of recapturing this. Inspired by his homeland of South Africa, his journey through the UK and relocation to Brooklyn, St Lucia could reference the sonics of Temper Trap, or the infectiousness of Empire of the Sun, but ultimately it is a wall of atmospherics crafted with an inordinate amount of time-consuming precision.
Mr. Little Jeans
Unlike yesterday's new band, here is an artist who patently does not telegraph what she is about with her name. Monica Birkenes, a Norwegian living in London, took her recording alias from a character in Wes Anderson's film Rushmore, which is about an eccentric teenage schoolboy who falls in love with his teacher. So ignore what we just said: Mr Little Jeans telegraphs Birkenes's offbeat yet commercial sensibility just fine.
Imagine a less idiosyncratic Lykke Li, or Annie ... just Annie, basically. Now, Annie is one of many Scandinavian musicians who have for a while been touting a sort of latterday version of the "new pop" with which ABC and the Human League et al colonised the charts in the early 80s: intelligent, sophisticated, ideas-driven, "subversive" yet accessible electro-pop. But Annie, like many of her peers, has never caught on in the UK, despite releasing several excellent records, maybe because pop doesn't need, or rather utterly resists, subverting nowadays. Indeed, is there a place for intelligent, sophisticated pop in the charts? Certainly, Scandinavian purveyors of the form – and there are plenty who excel at it – have routinely failed in the UK, pace, briefly, Alphabeat, and of course the Cardigans and, most recently, Robyn.
In fact, Robyn's success totally trashes our theory about this clever, notional pop not working in Britain, and Birkenes should take heart from it. Her songs are great, and we'll pretend, at least for today, that that is enough. Her single Rescue Song has the immediacy of a TV commercial (it's been used to advertise computers) and sets out MLJ's store quite neatly, sounding like an 80s performance of a 60s song with a 10s production. Not tense, 10s. It ends with a Peter Hook-y trebly bass hook and fingerclicks, as though to emphasise our point. Stones in the Attic is 60s girl-group doo wop with a Bowie/Queen Under Pressure bassline (not strictly a technical term) while Angel is more 80s girl-group in a Belinda Carlisle/Bangles sassy pop-rockin' sense. Demolition is a gorgeously quirky melodic delight with a breathily affecting vocal that is Debbie Harry-ish in its Warholian knowingness.
This is pop, basically, albeit in a hip 1978-82 new wave kind of way. Birkenes is currently in LA working on material for what promises to be an excellent debut album with "a bunch of cool producers" (is Greg Kurstin still cool?). We're not sure if Valentine, one of her MySpace tracks, will be on it, but it should. It's electro-poppy and features what sounds like a Heart of Glass sample. Faking Gold is rockier, like New Order fronted by Kylie in rock-chick mode. In all her chameleonic guises, Kylie never did do rock chick, did she? She should – that disco dolly routine is getting old. Careers advice, we've got it. Birkenes, at five foot nothing, is the new Kylie, or an über-Kylie because she writes her own material, has a hand in its production and can boast a clutch of songs better than anything La Minogue has done in years. She doesn't need any advice, career or otherwise, just a receptive, open-minded Radio 1.
Beat Club is a Los Angeles based band consisting of Jeff Kite (keyboards/vocals), Jon Pancoast (bass), and Anthony Polcino (guitars/vocals).
The music draws from an eclectic palette of influences ranging everywhere from hip-hop to punk rock to world-dance. Armed with an arsenal of songs often driven by searing, rhythmic guitars, funky Afrobeat bass lines and vintage synthesizers, layered over a booming blend of acoustic and electronic beats, Beat Club has become a fresh and unmistakeable musical collective.
Most of 2012 was spent writing and recording material as well as playing a slew of boisterous shows in the Los Angeles area.
The debut Maxi Single from Beat Club featuring "Something Better", "Dirty Disco", and "Globetrotters" is out now via PCM | Mom + Pop's Boombox.