Fight for Best New Band Pits Haim Against Django Django
For those looking for bands of the future, two words. Django Django.
The group has just started its U.S. tour after headlining concerts made up of stars-to-be in its U.K. homeland.
When not indulging in awards ceremonies (a final reminder to buy those albums you didn’t receive for Christmas), the music industry spends the traditionally quiet months at the start of the year talking up those acts that may win prizes in future.
Lists are made and exclusive gigs featuring the likes of Django Django are packed with excitable taste-making hipsters, primed to go out and spread the word.
In the U.K., the BBC “Sound of 2013” polls industry professionals who weigh the music they like and knowledge of what sells.
Django Django released its self-titled debut album in 2012. Mixing off-kilter dance grooves and prog-rock tendencies, it gained decent reviews and modest success. A year of touring has paid off. Live, the quartet now has the dorky dynamism of LCD Soundsystem at its prime with the added appeal of early Pink Floyd-style experimentation.
The geek-funk fun is driven by David MacLean’s drumming, aided by additional cowbells, wood blocks, bongos, scrapers, pingers, zingers and a ludicrous number of tambourines. Keyboards riff and gurgle while the vocal harmonies and guitar lines recall the psychedelic otherness of the Incredible String Band. Grab a ticket for the American tour while you can.
Other acts to watch include Haim, which won the 2013 BBC poll. The Los Angeles band is made of three multi instrumentalist sisters with a healthy Fleetwood Mac fixation. Possessing the musical technique to please the purist muso, the easy melodies to catch the pop aficionados and the sassy charisma to fill the blogs and magazines, Haim may yet give the newly reformed Mac a run for its money.
Compared with Haim’s brilliance, the other bands on the BBC list appear a little parochial. Chvrches makes weighty synthpop full of fuzzy sounds and Gothic gloom. Lauren Mayberry adds breathy vocals and a pretty face. The much vaunted melodies try extraordinarily hard and fail to convince.
Far more enticing is Alunageorge, whose kooky take on R&B is as light and delightful as a Tim Burton-baked meringue. A recent London gig showcased Aluna Francis’s vocals. Her playful style is a welcome relief from the belter-weight hollerings that dominate soul.
All sparkling white and exposed midriff, she doesn’t quite manage to make the tiny stage her own, leaving instead bandmate George Reid, dressed in a checked shirt, to get the hipsterly-contrary cat-calls. Prodding away at a keyboard, Reid conjures up deft pop hooks and beats like the XX on anti-depressants.
Peace and Palma Violets are two bands whose suggested future successes have already been proclaimed as evidence that 2013 will see a resurgence in guitar-based music.
Such predictions looked far-fetched when both bands recently played on the same bill. Peace occasionally transcends the cliches of its skinny jeans and leather jackets to sound like a moody Coldplay with Keith Moon on drums.
Flashes of inspiration, a Michael Jackson disco beat and some Vampire Weekend guitars, suggest Peace may yet do something interesting.
London band Palma Violets has received potentially lethal amounts of hype thanks to a combination of devilish youth, raucous gigs and a scuzzy garage-rock sound. It has all the hallmarks of a cult group: “Chicken Dippers” sounds plucked straight from the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino South-London escapade.
What works in hormonally overloaded basements is noisily vapid in the larger O2 Brixton Academy. For all the shouty vocals and punk swagger, the songs are as bubblegum as they come.
The Django Django North America shows this month continue at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight and also include dates in Chicago and Los Angeles. Information: http://www.djangodjango.co.uk/live/
Haim has just announced concerts in the U.K., Germany and the U.S. in April and May. Information: http://haimtheband.com/
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include London Weekend by Farah Nayeri and Mark Beech; Warwick Thompson on London theater; Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.