Who: Five über-presh gals from a suburb of Stockholm play smoky-sweet twee-pop—as if the Concretes were fronted by Duffy. Or if the Pipettes cooled the girl-group shtick and picked up some of those guitars and Hammonds backing them—and jammed.
What: Lead singer Linnea Jönsson is most confident when bouncing off the spazzy, backseat synths featured heavily on the album. “Run Run”—a possible single—has the singer harmonizing over a jangly guitar. “Hitten,” which translates to “hit” in Swedish, is a textbook New Wave ballad with sunny keyboard chorus. “Shuffle” and “Home Sweet Home” are more upbeat, the latter causing an uncontrollable urge to tap toes, and browse the online Ikea catalog. You Swedes and your mind tricks.
Made for: Girl group groupies bored with synchronized dances and polka dot minis. ABBA fans holding out for the second coming.
X-Factor: The band takes their name from Led Zeppelin’s 1973 song “Dancing Days.” – MR
Who: Formed in Tehran, Hypernova earned a following playing underground clubs and private parties around Iran, which became increasingly difficult when the country adopted stricter religious and moral standards toward music in 2005. But after receiving an invitation to play the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin (see below), the band earned a barrage of feel-good press (NPR, Playboy, Wired, NY Times) and an opening slot on the recent Sisters of Mercy tour. A full-length debut, “Through the Chaos,” is coming this spring.
What: The disaffected youth of Iran apparently dig New York. Hypernova’s music is filled with the gloomy soundscapes and deep vocal intonations of Interpol (“Lost in Space”), the dance-rock rhythms of the Bravery (first single “Fairy Tales”) and, on “American Dream” a bit of the jangly guitar-pop of the Strokes. But unlike their NYC brethren, frontman Raam foregoes irony for both bluntness (“I will not bow to your God…your neo-fascist ideology”) and unabashed optimism (“One thing I am sure of: love is universal”).
Made for: Fans of White Lies, Interpol and Editors who wonder if the brooding there is a little too forced. Hipster New Yorkers hoping for something a little more real—but sonically palatable. Hollywood; we’re waiting for the inevitable “based on a true story” movie.
X-Factor: Due to strained U.S.-Iran relations, Hypernova were forced to travel to Dubai to obtain visas for their first SXSW showcase. They were initially denied, until the embassy received a written appeal from New York senator Chuck Schumer…who apparently thought NYC was lacking in moody alt-rockers. Sadly, the visas did not come in time for the group to play, but the story sparked so much interest that Hypernova got invited back and will play their first SXSW showcase this year. – KM
Who: British DJ/producer Andy Carthy, a.k.a. Mr. Scruff, had his 15 minutes of U.S. fame in the early ‘00s, when jazzy electronica was briefly in vogue (think St. Germain, Mocean Worker, some of Kruder & Dorfmeister’s various side projects) and his sublimely groovy “Get a Move On” became a hit with the NPR/wine bar crowd. After laying low for a few years, he returned last fall with “Ninja Tuna,” his fifth full-length release, which gets reissued this month with an extra disc’s worth of new tracks called “Bonus Bait.”
What: Carthy’s sound hasn’t evolved significantly since his “Get a Move On” days, and it hasn’t really needed to; for fans of jazzed-up house and throwback breaks, he remains one of the most skilled producers in the biz, and happily immune to EDM’s trend-chasing habits (sorry, scenesters—no electro here). “Music Takes Me Up,” featuring Brit-soul songbird Alice Russell, rides jazzy piano licks and a mid-tempo groove; “Hairy Bumpercress,” with its rubbery acoustic bassline, is the kind of head-nodding house you can dance to without spilling your martini; “This Way,” with its soulful vocals and handclaps, sounds like a lost ‘80s Chicago house track. If your happiest memories of clubbing date from around the turn of the millennium, “Ninja Tuna” is a nostalgia trip well worth taking.
Made for: Aging househeads and highbrow club kids. The Sunday afternoon pool party following the wild Saturday night on the town. Anyone who’s ever used the terms “nu jazz” and “broken beat” to describe their listening habits.
X-Factor: Carthy’s long list of job titles (DJ, producer, remixer) also includes artist and tea-maker. His primitive “potato style” drawings adorn all of his album covers and various pieces of merchandise, and he makes and sells his own line of specialty teas under the name Make Us a Brew. – AH