October Music Review part 2 – Dog is Dead, Rachel Sermanni, Lucy Rose, Efterklang and Kasey Musgraves (phew!)

After last week’s mega bands let’s look at some of the lesser known and promising artists who also released albums recently.

Rachel Sermanni is a young Scottish lady with an amazing voice that can sound soft and sweet then effortlessly switch into something a lot more raw and emotional. On her debut album, Under Mountians, there are reminders of Laura Marling on tracks like Bones, but there are elements of soul, even a touch of jazz in there as well as folk and pop. She doesn’t sound quite of this generation, but she’s getting interest from Radio 1 and her youth, personality (based on a self-depreciating but charming performance at Reading Festival) and, let’s be blunt, her looks (she’s not exactly unattractive), all bode well for her future.

However, whilst her voice is actually more flexible than Marling’s, her songwriting is not quite up to that standard yet. She has interesting ideas (lyrically and musically) but could do with a bit more focus on memorable tunes – some tracks meander somewhat. But it is a lovely album from a very promising artist. Here she is at Reading on the BBC Introducing stage – I’m in the crowd somewhere!  7.5/10 for the album.

When Dog is Dead,  a young band from Nottingham, started out, they sounded indie-quirky, but their first album – All Our Favourite Stories has gone for a more highly produced pop-rock sound. That’s not a criticism, as on songs such as Teenage Daughter, the big chorus, change in pace and chiming guitars bring to mind Coldplay.  There’s a more indie feel at times, when bands like the Maccabees in particular, Mystery Jets and Air Traffic are referenced.  (Air Traffic – there’s a band who should have made it big...)  Like the Maccabees it may take 2 or 3 albums for them to hit the really big time, and they may need to develop a bit more of an edge – there’s a sweetness to much of their work  which they’ll have to watch doesn’t get overdone (although others such as Scouting for Girls haven’t done too badly). But they clearly know how to write a big tune, and this is a very enjoyable album and another to add to our list of excellent 2012 debut albums.  8.5/10 and here is Glockenspiel Song (which reminds me of Haircut 100)!

Let’s stop being so parochially British, shall we? Efterklang were formed by three friends from the tiny Danish island of Als, who then joined up in Copenhagen with two others to form the band. Piramida is their fourth  album, and very good it is too (released a little while ago, sorry, slow to pick up on it). Inspired by the band’s visit to Spitsbergen, a deserted island between Norway and the North Pole, it has a cool, arty feel with both orchestral and electronic underpinnings, but a liberal use of brass and the warm tenor vocals of Casper Clausen mean it doesn’t trip over into the iciness I find in some similar bands.

And despite that all sounding a little pretentious, it also has tunes! Tough to find a good comparator – Animal Collective and those smart US indie bands perhaps, touches of 80s top-end British art-rock (Tears for Fears, Blue Nile), hints of the Wild Beasts in their quieter moments? It sure ain’t what we call rock ‘n roll, and the intellectual music websites love it, even if NME doesn’t! But it’s growing on me and I have a feeling it is going to end up high in my best of the year list. 8/10

Lucy Rose has been best known for her work singing with Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC), live and on record. But she’s now got her own album out, Like I Used To.

The vibe is laid-back indie, with some of the tracks quite BBC in overall feel and sound, but others are much softer and more folky in feel. She’s got a lovely voice, again, quite folky in tone, and not totally dissimilar to Rachel Sermanni actually, but perhaps a little less strong, although her tunes are more instant than Sermanni’s.  She’s being pitched as a sort of female Ed Sheeran, and her performance at Reading Festival this summer showed she’s already got a strong fan base – songs like Bikes were already getting the sing-a-long treatment even pre album release.

It can be a little bit polite for me at times, perfect homesick fresher bed-sit music (if you know what I mean), and  a little more oomph wouldn’t go amiss perhaps. But it’s another enjoyable album and she’s an artist who will develop I’m sure. Actually, I’ve had a stunning insight. A steel guitar, maybe a bit of banjo on these songs, and she could be a US country star – she’s obviously a talented songwriter and the lyrics are a cut above the norm too.  Some of these songs could easily fit the modern country / Americana, and she looks the part too. Get yourself to Nashville Lucy, a great future awaits you!  But 7/10 for this.

Talking of country, I have a guilty pleasure type affinity for that genre. But occasionally a song or an artist comes along who you wouldn’t be ashamed to champion in mixed company, and Kacey Musgraves  is one of those. Merry Go ‘Round  is one of the best songs – of any type – I’ve heard in a while. Great tune and performance, but listen to the words to get the full effect.

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